Cory hurried across the street for a better view, and Andi and the others followed. All during her confrontation with Mrs. Evans, Andi had all but forgotten about Zeke. He came swiftly back to the forefront of her mind as the saloon doors swung open.
The rumpled old man staggered backward through the doors and landed with a thump on the boardwalk. Mr. Philip Barnes was right behind him. A crowd formed around the two men.
“I hated to do that, Zeke,” Mr. Barnes said, shaking his head. He towered over Zeke. “But I’m only going to tell you one more time to stop dogging me. The charges against your son are legal and will stick. As district attorney, I have no choice but to go through with the prosecution.”
Zeke moaned and held his head. He’d clearly had too much to drink. “But—”
“I suggest you get your son a good lawyer,” Mr. Barnes broke in. “And go about this in a legal and civilized manner.” He hauled Zeke to his feet and steadied him. “If you don’t leave me alone, I’ll have the sheriff arrest you on charges of harassment and defamation of character.”
“Defamation of character!” Zeke growled. “Now ain’t that some fancy words comin’ from a fancy lawyer! What about Toby? What about his character? All them charges against him are lies! Lies, I tell you!”
He jabbed a fat finger into the lawyer’s chest. “You know I ain’t got money to hire the kind of lawyer I need to get Toby free. This is just a sample of how this hoity-toity town tries to get rid of people who they don’t think are as good as themselves. Well, I got news for you, lawyer. I won’t be begging no more. Why I—”
“Cool your heels, Zeke.” Sheriff Russell Tate broke through the old man’s ranting. He pushed his way through the crowd and came face to face with the old man. “This will all come out at the trial next week. Toby can tell his side then. No good comes of riling folks up with foolish talk.”
The sheriff addressed the crowd. “You all break it up. Go on about your business.” His eyes narrowed. “You kids,” he barked. “What in tarnation are you doing hanging around here? This is no place for you. Get out of here.”
A chorus of “yes, sirs” erupted from the four young people. They scurried back to the relative safety of Goodwin’s mercantile.
“Whoa,” Jack managed in a low voice, “Zeke’s sure got it out for Mr. Barnes. What’s all that stuff about Toby?”
“Who knows?” Rachel shrugged. “Toby’s been in and out of trouble for years.”
“I told you something fishy was going on with that old man,” Cory said.
“So what?” Jack chirped up. “Zeke Blazer is sort of crazy, and drunk most of the time. The whole town knows it. Why have you taken such an interest in him?”
Cory shrugged. “I dunno. Old Zeke usually keeps to himself, but lately—”
“That’s true enough,” Jack said with a laugh. “When he’s not panhandling at my pa’s store, he’s lying around in the alleys with his bottle.”
“Zeke hasn’t been keeping to himself lately,” Cory said. “He’s been wandering around the streets looking for work. He even showed up and asked Pa for a job.”
“Did your pa give him one?” Andi asked, curious.
“For a couple of days,” Cory replied, “but we don’t have much extra work.”
“So what?” Rachel chimed in. “Old Zeke’s looking for work, wandering the streets, and bugging Mr. Barnes about Toby.”
“It’s strange,” Cory insisted.
“It’s not strange to me,” Andi said. “Zeke’s looking for a job so he can hire himself a lawyer, I bet.” She shook her head. “But like Sheriff Tate reminded us—it’s none of our business.”
Cory turned to Andi. “Why don’t you ask your brother about Toby and his father? Justin must know something.”
“He probably knows more than something,” Andi agreed, “but whether he’ll tell me or not is another question.”
“Aw, it’s probably public knowledge.”
“What does it matter, anyway?” Andi shrugged. “Toby’s going to trial for something, his father’s mad about it, looking for work, and blaming the D.A. It gives the town something to talk about. That’s all.”
“You’re no fun.”
“I know.” Andi grinned then gave in. “I’ll ask Justin, just for you, so you don’t have to lose any sleep over not knowing.”
“Thanks, Andi!” Cory winked at her and sprang off the boardwalk. I’ve got to get to the livery.”
Andi looked at the town clock. “Yikes! And I’ve got to get down to Justin’s. See you all tomorrow.” She waved good-bye and scurried down the street for a ride home.
READ CHAPTER 3
READ CHAPTER 3