ANDREA CARTER AND TROUBLE AT THE LINESHACK
Lost Scene #15
Duke watched Andi leave to bring back his sacks of bank money. Then he turned back to Mitch and grinned. “That sister of yours. She’s a keeper.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a stub of fresh chewing tobacco, bit off a hunk, and replaced it. “You know I can’t just leave you here, don’t you, Carter? I can’t stay either.” He sighed. “I know that where’s there’s one Carter, there’ll eventually be more. Your family does manage to be all over the place. I’m gonna have to light out of here—probably tomorrow.”
He paused, pondering his next move. “I plan to take the girl with me when I go.”
“No, you aren’t,” Mitch forced out between clenched teeth.
“There ain’t one solitary thing you can do about it,” Duke said. “Consider it payment for killing my kin.” He chuckled. “Don’t worry none. I won’t let nothin’ bad happen to her. She’s worth too much to your family. I figure about five or six thousand dollars.” He grinned. “What do you think? Maybe more?”
Mitch glared at him.
“It’ll be a pleasure finding out.” He laughed. “If you were in better shape, I’d think about taking you along, too, but with that bum leg, well . . . I reckon I can get more than I need from your sister.”
“You won’t live long enough to enjoy the money, Dylan,” Mitch warned.
“You think not? What? You gonna stop me?”
“Oh yes. Somehow I will.”
“Sure.” He turned as he heard movement by the door, and smiled broadly when Andi came inside with the sacks. Duke set his pistol down on the table and helped with the heavy sacks. He piled them next to his weapon and plopped down in satisfaction. “Good for you, Angel. Looks like it’s all here.”
Andi stared at the floor. “Can I please go sit with my brother?” There was no answer, so she looked up into Duke’s unreadable face. ‘‘You’ve got the gun. There can’t be any harm in letting me—”
“Because I said so.” He laid his fingers lightly on his gun. “I don’t trust you, Angel, and I trust your brother even less. It’s best I keep you apart. Safer that way.” He indicated the chair. “Now sit down and shut up.”
* * * *
“Okay, you two.”
Duke’s voice startled Andi, and she lifted her head from the table in surprise. She had been forced to sit across from the man all evening, watching while he counted the money, chewed tobacco, and drank coffee.
She looked at Mitch. He lay on his side, his eyes open. It reassured Andi to know he was forcing himself to stay awake on her account.
“I guess it’s time to turn in.” Duke stood up, stretched, and yawned. “I’ve got me a big day tomorrow.”
He pulled Andi out of the chair. “Come on, Angel. You’re falling asleep.” He gave her arm a yank. “You said you wanted to sit by your brother. Well, now I’m going to let you.”
He pulled her across the room to where Mitch lay fighting against sleep. “Get up there,” he ordered, “and put your hands through the headboard.”
Duke pulled her hands through the iron railings and wrapped them tightly with a length of cord. “Sorry, Angel. But I’ve got to tie you up. I have this funny feeling that if I left you loose, you’d run off in the night, and maybe take big brother with you. Can’t have that, you know.”
He tied one more knot and stepped back. “There. I guess you won’t be going anywhere tonight. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable.”
He motioned to Mitch. “Now, Carter, you’d best sit up and join your sister at the headboard. Sick or not, your hands are also going to be tied.” He pulled Mitch’s arms through the railings and tied them, clearing enjoying the look of pain that crossed Mitch’s face. With a flair, he knotted the rope tighter than necessary.
Duke stepped back to observe his handiwork. “Well, you two, enjoy the night. Try to get some rest.” He chuckled and stood up. Then he blew out the light. The cabin was plunged into darkness.
Andi tried to relax, but she couldn’t. Instead, her prayers went around and around in her head. But she couldn’t put even two words together intelligently. Just, please, God over and over.
“Andi?” Mitch whispered sometime later. “Are you awake?”
“Of course I’m awake. How can anyone sleep tied up like this?” She tried to make her voice sound brave, but it came out shaky.
“How are you doing otherwise? Are you okay?”
“No. I’m not okay. I’m scared. I’m so scared I want to scream. What’s going to happen to us?”
“I don’t know,” Mitch confessed. “It’s pretty bad all the way around. Just don’t panic.”
“But, Mitch,” Andi whispered, “What’s he going to do with us? He can’t stay here and tie us up every night. Sooner or later he’s going to figure out you’re getting better—”
“He told me he’s leaving in the morning,” Mitch whispered in Andi’s ear.
“For good?” Hope rose.
“Yes,” Mitch answered. “He’s leaving me here, but . . .” His voice trailed off.
“Duke is taking you with him.”
Andi gasped. Chills raced up and down her arms, clear to her fingers. “He can’t. I want to stay here with you.”
“It hasn’t happened yet, Sis,” Mitch reassured her. “And I won’t let him take you without a fight. I’ll think of something. Don’t worry.”
Don’t worry? Andi bit her lip. Her brother was trussed up tighter than a calf for branding. Even if he was free, he couldn’t walk a dozen steps without falling over. But he wouldn’t let Duke Dylan walk out the door with his sister?
Andi squeezed her eyes shut to hold back her tears. Mitch was just saying words.
The minutes ticked by.
“Andi?” Mitch finally said into the darkness. “I have an idea.”
“I hope it’s a good one.”
“It’s not, but it’s the only one I’ve got.” He took a deep breath. “You’ve got to get Duke’s gun away from him.”
Right. Just like that.
“Andi, did you hear me?”
“Do you think you can do it?”
“What do I do with the gun if I manage to get it?”
Mitch’s body shook with what Andi could only guess were chuckles. “Shoot Duke, of course.”
Andi took a quick breath. Was her brother crazy?
“If you can’t shoot him, then bring me the gun.”
“What do you suppose Duke will be doing all this time?” Andi asked in a low, frightened whisper. “Waiting around until I make up my mind?”
“No, of course not. You’ll have to point the gun at him, anyway. Can you do that?”
“I guess I’ll have to. It’s the only thing to do.”
Andi nodded in the darkness. “I’ll do it, but I don’t want to. I’m scared to death, but it’s worth taking the risk, rather than being dragged away from here by that oaf.”
Mitch didn’t respond for a few minutes. When he did finally talk, his voice was softer than before. “Andi, I want to tell you something.” He paused.
I hope it’s something good, Andi thought, but she kept her mouth closed. Mitch sounded . . . well, serious.
“In case things don’t go as we planned tomorrow, I want you to know something. Don’t let anyone ever again tell you that you need to grow up and act like a lady. Not Chad. Or Justin. Or even Mother. You have grown up enough these last two weeks. Nobody could have done a better job saving my life. You did what had to be done without falling apart, and heaven knows it was a job for an adult.”
A warm glow spread through Andi. “Thanks, Mitch,” she whispered.
“I’m sorry, but I have more to say.” He drew a breath. “Now, all you have to do is keep on doing what you have to do. If our idea goes sour on us and turns out badly, you will be in for some pretty rough times. It will not be like the last time, when Jed grabbed you. We had a posse on your trail before Jed could blink.
“Not this time. No one will know what’s become of you, not for a long time, and only if Dylan is telling the truth that he will ransom you back to your family.”
Andi cringed. This is very bad.
“I’m sorry I have to tell you these things, but you need to keep up your courage and never give up. Always remember God has your best in mind, even though it looks dark. Like that ‘valley of the shadow of death’ the Psalms talks about. But you don’t need to fear any evil, because God is with you. And remember. You’re a Carter. We always pull through.”
Mitch leaned over as far as his bound hands would allow and planted a heartfelt kiss on the top of Andi’s head. “I love you, little sister. Don’t ever forget that.”
“I w-won’t,” came Andi’s muffled reply.
She let her tears come, but she didn’t let on that she was crying. She knew her brother felt badly enough as it was.
I will be brave, no matter what. And I’ll make my family proud.
Go on to Lost Scene #16