Andi awoke by Troy roughly shaking her. She sat up, wishing she could rub the sleep out of her eyes. But with her hands tied behind her back, it was not possible. The clear morning air was fresh, and a fog covered the hillside. Andi shivered slightly then realized that someone had dropped a blanket over her shoulders during the night.
Troy was standing over her, an impatient frown on his face. “Well, I gave you time. What is your answer?” he said, his arms folded.
Andi gulped, her mind racing. Heavenly Father, give me wisdom. I can’t make this decision alone. Her brother in law was waiting. Suddenly, a ray of sun pierced the dark fog, and at the same time, Andi felt a ray of hope pierce her darkened mind.
“No!” she shouted, startling herself as well as Troy and Johnny. “No, I can’t deceive my family. Do anything you like, but I won’t write a letter for you. You can do your own dirty business.” Andi was so relieved that her decision was made, that she had stood strong against temptation, she smiled.
Troy’s face was a study of rage. His look was so similar to a spoilt child that didn’t get his way that Andi nearly burst out laughing. She felt so free, even though her hands were actually tied behind her back. He forced her to look into his face, his grimy hands pushing her head up. Their faces were close—so close Andi could smell his cigar and liquor filled breath, his unwashed body, and the weeks of grime building up. She nearly vomited, the smell was so revolting.
“You will pay for this!” he hissed, shoving her back onto the rock. “Your whole family will pay for this!”
Andi, for the first time that morning, felt afraid, afraid for her family, afraid for the ranch, and afraid for herself. She realized she didn’t know what her brother in law was capable of. Troy, still fuming, stomped out of the camp and left Andi alone with Johnny Wilson again.
Andi watched Johnny with careful eyes, and when he realized that she was, he came over. He didn’t do anything. He just stood there, returning Andi’s stare. It went on for a few minutes, until Andi had to blink. That broke the ice, and Johnny sat down on the ground like he had the first time they talked.
“Thank you for the blanket,” she said.
Johnny looked up, startled, from where he had been watching a beetle’s slow progress up the hill. “How did you know it was me? I thought you were asleep.”
Andi shrugged. “It was a guess. I didn’t think Troy would do something like that, and after our talk yesterday, I thought you were the most likely.”
Johnny looked hopeful. “Do you believe me then? Do you think I’m changed?” he asked eagerly.
Andi shrugged again. “Are you?”
Johnny thought. “Do you think so? Do I act different?” he asked again, more clearly.
Andi looked at him. “You act different, yes. But I don’t know whether you could actually be different or not, Johnny Wilson. You’ve been my sworn enemy, and my friends’ and family’s sworn enemy, for a long time. I can’t believe you just like that. It’s going to take time.” She paused, looking down over the valley. “My question is: Why did you kidnap me if you are so changed?” She returned her gaze to him. “Why did you help T.J. carry out his plan of blackmail?”
Johnny looked down to the ground again, his lip between his teeth. “Well, it’s kind of hard to explain,” he finally said.
Andi sighed. “Could you try?” she asked.
He thought again, his brow furrowed. “Alright,” he said at last. “I’ll try to explain myself, and how I got into this messy business. I guess it started with me arriving at the military school infuriated with you, with my father, with Peter, with all lawyers in general, and most of all, with myself. I felt like I had somehow betrayed my family, and I was ready to do anything to get it right. My father always liked Peter better; he was the ‘good kid’ of our family. I always wanted to equal him, so I tried to get Father’s attention by trouble-making. That didn’t do anything but get me in the habit of it and give my name a bad reputation. When my brother’s case came up, it was the perfect chance for me to be honored by my Father, but our plan didn’t work, and Father tried to cover it up by sending me to the military school.
“To make a very long story short, I was reading a Bible one night that a comrade had given me and realized what a sinner I was, and still am unfortunately, but also found that Jesus had given his life up for me. I had gone to church all my life, but never fully understood, and usually spent the sermon terrorizing the people in the pew in front of me. I apologized to God, and apologized to every one of my family, but I couldn’t figure out how to make you, the one person in the town I had really hurt more than physically, realize I was changed.
“When I got off the train in one of the towns, your brother in law, Troy, came up to me. Before I had time to think, he had me involved in getting you captured for a blackmail letter. He’d heard from lots of people that you didn’t like me, so he thought he knew I would be willing to help. I almost resisted, but suddenly it came to me that this was the perfect opportunity to have you hear my side of the story without your brothers or Cory or Jack breathing threats down my back.
“I helped T.J, and we got you at the perfect opportunity. It was hard to see you still mad at me, but, by trying to be nice in any way I could, I tried to communicate that I was sorry.” Johnny finished his somewhat long story with a sigh. “And here you are. I will try to get you away soon, and I hope you believe me after all this trouble I’ve gone to.”
Andi was still somewhat in shock. She tried to let her mind process this story, but she was still thinking about it when Troy came back again, and their conversation was interrupted.
Her brother in law was still fuming, and he did not look happy. Andi swallowed a few times when he came up to her, trying to keep herself from betraying the fear in her face.
What was he going to do?