DARK TRAIL HOME

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CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

Sunday breakfast was pancakes, one thing at which Manny excelled. Mark was talking about the card game the night before and the stories that Kenny had been telling. He had some fascination with outlaws, mostly from his dime novels, but he’d heard a name or two the night before that Tyree worried would slip off his lips. He caught Tulsa eyeing him across the room. The last thing he needed was Tulsa getting a bee up his shirt over with whom he and Mark were keeping company. Tyree let his elbow slip, and Mark’s plate fell off the edge of the table, right into his lap. Pancakes, honey and bacon bounced from Mark’s shirt to the floor, making a racket and a mess.

“Holy shit porch dog. I’m sorry. My arm just slipped.”

He stood up and helped brush food off Mark’s clothes. Snickering came from across the room. The daggers from Tulsa’s eyes pierced him as Mark jumped up wiping his pants. He threw the towel down on the table. “I gotta go change clothes.”

Tulsa followed Mark out the door. Tyree hoped it was because he was done eating and had nothing to do with spilled pancakes or breakfast conversations.

Tyree grabbed the broom from the corner to sweep up the mess, and Manny came over, holding his hand out. “gih mih de blasted ting nah! I sh bonx ya fo dat,” the man said as he snatched the broom away.

The jackasses snickered at Mark. All but Lonny. Lonny looked at Tyree like he just noticed him for the first time. Lonny seemed to be looking at him more often, where he had only been focused on Mark.

“Think your slick, don’t you?” Lonny commented. “You got anymore slick moves half-breed?”

Tyree shrugged. “Try me and see,” he invited. Lonny was a blow hard. Tyree had no friends here, but Lonny was the one who reminded him of that constantly, though he was just a minor annoyance. It was Tulsa who was waiting for him to slip up. Tulsa was watching him like a hawk, setting Tyree’s teeth on edge. Tyree stepped out the bunkhouse door and rolled himself a smoke. Two minutes later Mark came up behind him, and poked him hard in the back.

“Tyree.”

Tyree spun on Mark, his arm sweeping as he turned, his fist cocked back to strike.

“Goddamn it, Porch dog.” He stomped off across the yard, leaving Mark with his mouth open. Tulsa patted Mark on the back.

Behind him, Tulsa was talking to Mark. “You should stay away from that saddle tramp. He’s not your friend.”

Mark looked from Tulsa to Tyree. “Why you say that, Tulsa. He’s just a jackass. I’m teaching him some manners. Give him a little time.” Mark snickered.

“Just keep your eyes peeled, kid.” Tulsa told him. “That ain’t just a jackass, that’s a coyote.”

“You’re awful jumpy.” Mark said later.

“Don’t walk up and poke me. I already told you I don’t like being touched.”

“You’re like a damn spring-loaded trap lately. Is that what happened with Joel, he walk up and poke you and you pulled your gun on him?”

“Something like that.”

“I was just gonna tell you my sister is coming today. Joel went to get her off the train.”

Tyree shrugged him off. His nerves had been jangling since early that morning when he’d seen Tulsa pull Pete aside and have a long talk with him. Tulsa had deliberately turned to stare at him as he’d gone by. Pete gave him a once over as well. He hardly paid any attention to Mark.

“That’s them.” Mark said, pushing past him as the buckboard came down the lane.

Mark was practically dancing in the dooryard as they came up. Tyree shook his head in disdain and leaned in the doorway, rolling his smoke as Malone drove the buckboard to a stop in front of them. He lit his match and looked over as a girl climbed out, letting Mark catch her as she stepped down. Her hat, caught by the wind, went sailing to the ground at his feet, and he bent quickly to pick it up. He froze as he handed it to her.

Red hair, the color of a prairie fire, spilled down around her shoulders in long curls. Her green eyes danced above a rounded, freckled face. Tyree’s mouth fell open and his cigarette fell unnoticed in the dirt.

“Tyree, my sister, Marcie, Marcie, this jackass is Tyree Allison.”

She stepped toward him with her hand held out, and he stared straight into her eyes and couldn’t say a word. She took her hat and put her hand out to him, giving him a quizzical look when he didn’t shake it.

“Tyree.” Mark flipped his ear.

Tyree brushed at Mark’s hand like it was a mosquito, then realized he was just standing there with his mouth open.

“Howdy,” he squeaked, and she laughed. His face was hot as fire, he was holding her hand, and she was letting him, though he’d held it so long he flushed again at his stupidity.

“It’s good to meet you, Tyree,” she said.

“I um, It’s my um pleasure,” he managed to spit out as she pulled her hand away and gave him a look like he might have a second head growing from his neck. He regained some composure and grabbed one of her suitcases from Malone, so he could carry it in for her. But he was too late to make a first impression, she hardly even looked at him as he sat the suitcase inside the door. Malone cut him a strange look and pushed by him to carry three more bags into the house.

“Boy, somebody’s going step on your tongue. Go on and sit down, somewheres.” Malone told him.

Tyree stared at Malone and clamped his mouth shut, sliding out the door as he saw he had no business being there.

At the risk of making himself sound like a yappy little kid he followed Mark around the next morning asking after the red-haired girl.

“Mark, how old is your sister. You say her name is Marcie? Where you been keeping her. Why ain’t I ever seen her before?” Tyree fired questions at Mark as he came in to do chores the next morning. Pete walked by him and shook his head.

“Lord have mercy. Your tongue got loosened up by something. You running a fever boy?” Pete asked.

Tyree tightened up a latigo and led Lonny’s horse out to him.

“She looks like a boy,” Lonny said from behind him.

“Something wrong with your eyes, cow humper? You been looking at the backside of steers too long,” Tyree snorted. “There ain’t no angle I looked from that made me think of a boy.”

From her pale creamy skin, full dark pink lips to the way she filled out that shirt to the curve of her wide hips, she was all girl, even though she was dressed in denim pants and a cotton shirt. From her flat-brimmed hat to her snake skin boots she was all girl, and he was in love with every inch of her.

Lonny cut him a cross look, “I know she ain’t no goldurn boy, I just meant she wears boy clothes. I noticed your neck twisting. You don’t even need to bother. She ain’t looked at you twice since you drooled all over her hand.”

Tyree stepped out back to roll a smoke. He watched Lonny leaned against the gate talking to Marcie. Mark came out and snatched the tobacco from his hand and Tyree swung and punched Mark in the shoulder, knocking the bag from his hand.

“I’ll stomp your ass Porch dog.”

He shoved Mark away and grabbed the bag off the ground.

“So touchy. What you so intent on?” Mark rubbed his shoulder. He looked across the pastures and snorted. “Oh, I see. All you gotta do is go talk to her.”

“What’s she see in that toad? He’s ugly as an old sock,” Tyree growled.

“He brought her flowers.” Mark shrugged.

“Flowers, huh?” Tyree glared toward him, “Piece of worm infested dog …”

“Now, now. He got there first, is all. Go talk to her. She don’t bite.”

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