Andi didn’t forget her promise to Cory about asking why Zeke’s son, Toby, was in jail. As soon as supper was in full swing—and before the boys could launch into a boring discussion of cattle prices—Andi popped the question.
Silence fell. Five pairs of eyes turned in her direction.
Andi glanced from Justin to Mother, then at her other brothers and sister, then back at Justin. “Did I say something wrong?”
“No,” Justin answered, smiling. “It just seems an odd question coming out of nowhere. What prompted your curiosity about Toby?”
Andi shrugged. “I promised Cory I’d ask you. He’s interested in everything that goes on in town. He noticed that Toby’s father, Zeke, has been following your lawyer-friend Mr. Barnes around a lot lately.”
“Very observant, that boy,” Chad put in with a scowl.
“Yes,” Justin agreed. He turned back to Andi. “What else?”
“Oh, nothing much. A bunch of us watched Zeke get knocked through the doors of the saloon across from Goodwins, and then we heard Mr. Barnes and him exchanging words.”
“I believe it,” Chad said. “Zeke Blazer is a—”
“Never mind, Chad,” Justin cautioned.
“So, what’s the big secret?” Andi wanted to know.
“There’s no secret, Andrea,” Mother spoke up. A brief look of sadness passed over her face. explained. “Ezekiel Blazer hasn’t always been a drunk and a drifter. Twenty years ago, in fact, he was a neighbor. But when the fire destroyed his place and claimed the life of his wife and two of his sons, he changed. He wouldn’t accept help from anyone. Bitterness took hold. Then when the bank took his ranch, well . . .”
Mother sighed. “It’s not a pretty story, and one that certainly is no concern to you or your friends.”
“Oh, Mother.” Andi shook her head sadly. “That’s too bad.”
“Mother’s being generous,” Chad commented as he speared a piece of meat. “Zeke and that boy of his have been trouble for as long as I can remember. He’s had plenty of opportunities to pull himself up, but he chose to drown himself in drink instead. He or Toby—”
“My memory is much longer than yours, Chad,” Elizabeth said firmly.
“So,” Andi persisted, “why is Toby in jail?”
Justin sighed. “For assault and robbery.”
Andi opened her mouth to ask for the details, but Justin raised his hand to silence her.
“That’s all you need to know.” He leaned back and wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Actually, it’s a very low-profile case, as far as Phil Barnes is concerned. Nothing out of the ordinary. Phil can’t figure out why Zeke is making such an issue of this.”
I guess Cory and I will never know either, Andi thought.
“It’s too bad Phil can’t get Zeke to leave him alone,” Justin added, shaking his head. “As district attorney, he’s got himself a whopper of a case coming up in a couple of weeks.”
“Which case is that?” Elizabeth asked.
“The Henderson scandal,” Justin replied. “Phil has enough evidence now to convict Marvin Henderson of fraud, extortion of government funds, and murder in that land deal.”
“Will it really be enough?” Elizabeth wondered. “Marvin Henderson is pretty shrewd.”
“Phil’s been working on this case for months—slowly, painstakingly—and I think he’s got a very good chance of a conviction.”
“I certainly hope he can pull it off,” Chad said. He pushed back his chair. “Marvin Henderson is a worse pest than the Blazers of this town.”
“Really, Chad,” Melinda said. “When Mr. Blazer isn’t under the influence of his bottle, he’s actually quite nice.”
“Oh, is he? I’m glad you think so.” Chad turned to Mitch. “Come on, let’s check up on those calves while it’s still light.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Mitch threw down his napkin. “I’m coming.”
“I’ll come along,” Justin offered. “I need a little fresh air.” He turned one final glance on Andi. “And you, young lady, mind your own business in town. That’s my advice for you and your friends.”
Andi shrugged. “Sure, Justin. I was just asking.”
And—as usual—she’d been given no satisfactory answers.