The rest of the week went badly. Andi gave up trying to pretend everything was all right. Her entire family knew it wasn’t. She also had a sneaking suspicion that Mr. Henderson knew her family hadn’t been fooled. This terrified Andi even more.
As the date for Zeke Blazer’s trial grew nearer, Andi’s bellyache grew worse. Why, oh why had Justin taken on the job of defending that old man?
Because he’s the best lawyer in the valley, she answered herself.
She slouched against the stall wall and slid down into the thick, crackly hay. Taffy nibbled her hair, but Andi pushed her mare’s nose aside. She sighed. Perhaps Justin could convince the jury that Zeke hadn’t killed Phil Barnes.
If that happened, all would be well. Mr. Henderson would leave her alone for good when he saw that she hadn’t stepped forward. He would believe her when she said she hadn’t told anyone what she’d seen.
And Zeke Blazer would not die on account of her not speaking up.
But then again . . . maybe Justin was only defending him because he felt he had to. Maybe he didn’t really care if he was found innocent or guilty.
Maybe—she gulped—maybe Justin really thinks Zeke killed his lawyer friend. Maybe—
“No!” She jumped up.
Taffy snorted and shied away.
“Sorry, girl.” Andi patted her half-heartedly.
“Andi!” Chad’s voice sliced the morning air. “Breakfast, and be quick about it. Justin’s halfway out the door, and I sure don’t want to take you to school this morning.” He poked his head into the barn. “Andi? Did you hear me?”
“How could I not?” Andi snapped. “Your yelling is upsetting every horse in this barn!”
Andi let Taffy out into her paddock behind her stall, went inside, and sat down at the table. She couldn’t eat even one bite. That dad-blasted trial is tomorrow. Her stomach churned.
She shoved her breakfast away.
“All right, Andrea,” Elizabeth said patiently. “This is the end of the matter. If you’re too ill to eat breakfast, then you’re too ill to attend school. I think you’d better go on up to bed for the rest of the day.”
Andi’s head snapped up. “What?”
“Up to your room, please,” Mother said. “And that is where you will stay until you decide to talk about what is bothering you so much that you’re pale and ill.”
“Yes, Mother,” Andi whispered, relieved. She would not have to go to town. She would not have to peer behind her shoulder to see if Mr. Henderson’s henchman, Gordon, was stalking her again.
Andi spent the whole day in her room. She read and slept, and read some more. Every hour or so, she peeked through the balcony doors. She half-expected to see one of Henderson’s hired thugs prowling about. Worry skittered up and down her neck.
I might as well tell Mother or Justin everything, she mused, That ol’ Mr. Henderson probably suspects I have, anyway.
Afternoon turned to evening. Andi choked down a few bites of beef stew and scurried back to her room to avoid more questions. Her head ached.
A few hours after darkness fell on the ranch, Andi made a decision. She couldn’t sleep at all. A little voice kept nagging at her mind. Justin would be going into the courtroom the next day, and he would try to defend a man who had supposedly murdered Justan’s friend and colleague.
Justin’s good, the little voice whispered. But he can’t win this case. Not without . . .
Andi swallowed. Everybody knew Zeke was guilty—everybody but Andi, Cory, Jack, and Rachel. Would one of them speak up?
She shook her head. That would be “hearsay.” The prosecutor would knock hearsay down quicker than a frog on a fly. Tears welled up. Zeke Blazer was going to hang, and it would be Andi’s fault for not stepping forward.
Coward! Her mind screamed. She would be allowing an innocent man to die for a crime he didn’t commit.
As for Zeke Blazer, he no doubt sat in his cell wondering how in the world he had managed to kill a lawyer. One minute he was drinking. The next minute he was in the alley with a gun in his hand and a dead man at his feet.
Against her will, Andi crawled out from between the covers. She was shaking so badly she could hardly walk. The words of her friends “you gotta tell your folks” tumbled around inside her head while she made her way out of her bedroom, across the balcony, and down the wide staircase.
The clock struck eleven as she crossed the foyer and stood at the threshold of the library. She watched Justin. He stood by the fireplace and stared into it. His legal papers were spread all over the desk and on two other small tables besides. An empty coffee cup sat nearby.
He looked deep in though and very troubled.
Andi didn’t move. She stood still and watched her brother. She didn’t make a sound. She didn’t know how she was going to say what she knew she must say, but her conscience had finally gotten the better of her. She could remain silent no longer. She had agonized and suffered over it long enough, and though it made her sick, she knew Justin had to know the truth.
Suddenly, Justin sighed and turned around. His eyes opened wide at the sight of Andi standing in the shadows.
I must look miserable, she decided. Poor Justin. He looks miserable too. For probably the first time in her entire life, big brother had not been able to draw out from his sister what was bothering her.
Justin smiled. “Good evening, Andi. What are you doing down here at this time of night? You look like an angel, all in white.” He motioned her to come closer. “It’s very late, you know.”
“I can’t sleep,” Andi whispered, taking a few steps closer. “I thought maybe you’d still be up.”
“You’re right. I’ve a few last-minute things to go over before the trial tomorrow.”
“So, why the late night wanderings?”
Andi could tell he was trying to make his voice sound welcoming.
Justin snapped his fingers, and Andi jumped. “I know. You were hungry and knew I’m always a willing party to a raid on the icebox.”
Andi shook her head.
“Sure you are!” Justin reached out his hand and drew her into the large room. “Goodness, your hands are ice cold.“ He tightened his grip. “Come on. I’m sure there’s some leftover beef out there. And some fresh bread. How about a sandwich?”
Andi shrugged. “All right.” After two bites of supper, her belly was in full agreement, even though her spirit was not. She held her brother’s hand as he led her into the kitchen and pulled out a chair for her.
“Sit down right here, honey. I’ll get all the fixin’s.” Justin pulled out the bread and butter, the meat, and a huge pitcher of milk. He sat down and proceeded to cut two slices of bread. “Here you go.” He grinned. “Just like a party, right?”
Andi raised her head and looked at Justin. Tears swam. When she blinked, the tears dribbled down her cheeks.
Justin fell into the chair across from Andi and reached out for both of her hands. “What’s troubling you?” His voice was barely a whisper.
“He . . . he didn’t kill him.” It was such a relief to say the words at last, that Andi felt a huge burden take wing and fly away.
“What?” Justin wrinkled his forehead. “Who didn’t kill whom?”
“Zeke Blazer didn’t kill Philip Barnes,” Andi said. She let her tears come.
Justin shook his head, clearly stunned. “How in the world—”
“I was there. I saw who did it.”
A dead, shocked silence fell over the dimly lit kitchen.
Justin took a deep breath. “Why didn’t you tell the sheriff?”
“I was scared. They said such dreadful things. They threatened to—”
“Who?” Justin demanded.
“Mr. Henderson and his hired guns. One of them caught me in the alleyway. He jammed a gun in my face and told me he’d kill me if I said anything . . . anything at all.” Her voice caught in her throat. “He said he’d kill you, too, Justin, and I’ve been so scared.”
Andi shook. Scared was an understatement. More like terrified. “Mr. Henderson’s hired help has been following me around since then to make sure I keep quiet.” She shook her head and swiped at the tears running down her face. “And I was going to keep quiet. I really was, but tonight . . . well, I just couldn’t let an innocent man hang, not when I know who really did it. Not even to save my own life.” She paused. “Or yours. It would haunt me forever.”
Justin groaned his dismay. “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry you got caught up in—”
Andi staggered up from her seat and threw herself into her brother’s strong arms. She gripped him and sobbed against his chest. “And now that I’ve told you, Mr. H-Henderson’s going to come after m-me, I know it. He’ll kill you too.”
Justin rubbed her back and held her close. “Don’t worry about that. It’s going to be all right. Everything’s going to be fine. You did the right thing by finally telling me.”
For a fraction of a moment Andi really believed that. Justin had always been able to fix everything. Then reality crashed into her thoughts. Not this time. She squeezed her eyes shut and suddenly wished she hadn’t told him anything.
Everything was not going to be all right. Not ever again.
A new voice broke through Andi’s crying. “Well, that explains a few things.” Mother sighed and entered the room.
“You heard?” Justin asked.
Mother nodded. “I’ve been standing by the door for the past few minutes. I certainly didn’t want to interrupt the possibility of finding out what’s been going on around here.”
Andi lifted her head and looked at her mother.
“Come here, Andrea. Let’s head for the sitting room and talk.” She pulled her daughter to her in a tender embrace and led her back to the settee.
By now, Andi had cried all the tears she had. She just sat in her mother’s warm presence.
Justin sat across from them, rubbing his forehead. “Andi . . .” he began.
“Don’t ask me, Justin,” she interrupted. “I can’t do it. I can’t.”
“Can’t do what?”
“Testify tomorrow. I just can’t.”
“You have to. How else will I get him off?”
“How were you going to do it before?”
Justin flinched. Her brother’s unbidden gesture told Andi the truth louder than if he had spoken. He could not prove Zeke’s innocence. “Honey—”
“He’ll kill me. And you too.” Andi sat up straight. “Don’t you see? He’ll never know I told you unless you do something with it—like getting me up on that witness stand. If he hears me testify, he’ll know.”
She started shaking. “I’m too scared to do it. I’m terrified.” She threw her arms around her mother. “Don’t let Justin make me testify, Mother. Please!”
Elizabeth looked at her oldest son and shook her head. “I’m sorry, but she can’t. I know Marvin Henderson and his tactics. He’s scared her into quite a state, and I won’t let her endure anymore.”
“Mother,” Justin replied quietly, “you and I both know that Zeke is not going to be acquitted tomorrow. I had a pretty lousy defense until now. Andi’s testimony will clear him. Without it, he’ll be found guilty. It’s as simple as that. What you’re asking me to do is to allow an innocent man to hang.”
He turned to Andi. “Let me ask you to do one thing before you decide for sure not to testify.”
Andi sniffed back her tears. “What’s that?”
“Come to the jail tomorrow morning before the trial and talk to Zeke. That’s all I ask. I won’t put any pressure on you to testify, I promise. Just talk to the man.”
Andi looked up at her mother. “Mother?”
“I think you ought to do what Justin asks.”
“All right, Mother. But I don’t think I’m going to like it.”
“I guarantee you won’t like it,” Justin agreed, “but it’s something you have to do.”
READ CHAPTER 13
READ CHAPTER 13