The devil grabbed him again, twisting his insides in agony, searing him with fever, searing him with desire. It held him in its grasp plying and molding his mind, seeking to strip him of his last shred of dignity, his last shred of human decency.
Distorting his thoughts. Distorting his emotions. Distorting events in his life. Taking away the feeling of family, the feeling of love. Replacing his strongest emotions with fear, hunger and darkness.
He fought vainly against the hold of the devil. He strived to break it’s grip on him, the hold which had been forced upon him by others. Never would this man have willingly ventured into a path which left him at the mercy of the devil. Never would this man have willingly subjected his inner being to all that was evil in this world.
Repeated forcible tastes of what the devil offered was tempered with longer spans in between. The pain which overtook everything in him during these spans of denial had him wishing he were dead. He wanted the pain to stop, to cease, to be taken away at all costs.
The ritual of his caretakers was ruthless and cunning. This man had blood of steel. This man was on a path that could not easily be undone.
Shaking and moaning at the hunger in him, the man cried and cursed at his weakness. He screamed and cursed at his caretakers when they gave him back into the devil’s hold.
The drug worked its way slowly through his system and bliss spread across his face. The euphoria was tempered with his inner self screaming out to not give in, not give in to the questions they asked.
He didn’t know how much longer he could hold out against them, against the repeated interrogation, another’s life was held in his hands. His hands in the bonds of iron which shook constantly now clenched in fury at his captors.
The door opened and light streamed across the gaunt, bruised face of the man chained to a wall. His eyes blinked against the brightness and he turned his face away, only to cry out in pain when his chin was grabbed. The large hand twisted his head on its neck, pushing the back of his head into the wall and forcing him to look upwards.
Smiling, the woman knelt down and purred, “Why fight? No one can help you, just tell us the place where he is and you can go home.”
‘Home’ echoed through his mind conjuring up images of a group of smiling people, love in their eyes. The hunger for a way out of the darkness and the love of his family almost turned his blood of steel to blood of water. The home he loved and longed for in the darkness overrode the hunger for the devil’s brew.
Suddenly flashing before him were two pairs of eyes, hazel and blue. The eyes censured him into silence. He could not give up another to save himself. They would not and he was one of them, so he would not.
“Go to hell!”
“YOU’RE A FOOL!” she screamed angrily holding his face in her hands. “No one’s coming for you. You’re all alone! You’ll die here and be forgotten”
The fear of being forgotten flashed momentarily in his eyes before reason took over. They would never forget him, they would be looking for him.
“Leave us!” she ordered waiting until the door closed.
“Tell me where he is. Soon you will be addicted to the drug, you need it more and more, you want it more and more, soon you will tell us everything. But if you give me the answer now, I will take you from this place. Tell me!” whispered the lilting voice while she stroked her fingertips over the red streaks in his face, her tone soothing and promising. He knew she was only promising death and nothing more, evil was her twin sister.
“I’m gonna kill you with my bare hands!” he shouted bringing his head forward and smashing it into her delicate face.
Crying out in pain, she fell back onto the floor and the door was flung open. Holding her hand over the bruised eye, satisfaction ran through him and he laughed at the small victory.
“Hurt him, but don’t kill him!” she ordered leaving the room.
Blue eyes looked up at the massive man glaring down at him and he swallowed the lump of fear in his throat. Taking a breath, Jarrod Barkley, attorney at law, readied himself for the pain he knew would be his only companion against the darkness he was rapidly falling into.
Two strong willed brothers’ faces flashed in his mind, Jarrod grinned in the darkness and moaned from the pain it caused. He survived another round, another subjection to pain, another session of questions. Leaning his head back against the wall, he fought to control the fear and desolation rising up within him, weakness from the beatings and the drugs were taking their toll.
His body hurt everywhere, no place had been left untouched. The pain was a constant reminder which he latched on to keep his strength, to keep from breaking. Using the throbbing of the pain, he forced his mind to remember the importance of not betraying the location. The location of the man had to stay hidden at all costs.
Closing his eyes, he sought the faces of his family, their faces strengthening his resolve and his soul in preparation for when the desire for the devil would infest him again. He felt the strength of the two men he called brothers and willed it to empower himself as he sat against the wall, arms held out by chains, the desire to shed tears like a baby blinked back as he listened to their voices in his head. They urged him to hold on and stay strong, they hadn’t forgotten.
‘We’re coming Pappy.’
“Nick, that horse can’t be broke!” drawled Heath. “There are some animals so wild, you can’t take that outta ‘em.”
Nick shook his head, “Nice try. I think you’re just mad cause I spotted him first.”
“For pete’s sake, how many times do I have to tell ya’ I don’t care about that horse!” snapped Heath waving his hands in disgust and banging a fist on the corral fence to emphasize his point. “Sometimes you are too stubborn even for me!”
Looking away, Nick bit the inside of his cheek to stop his laughter. He knew Heath wasn’t interested in the horse and he knew this animal was one that couldn’t be broken. Any man with enough horse sense could see it. He just found it highly satisfying to aggravate the younger man with his stubbornness.
“Hey Jarrod!” called Heath in greeting as he made his way to the rider entering the yard with Nick dogging his heels. “You’re home early!”
“That I am brothers of mine.” replied Jarrod with a smile, his eyes twinkling at the sight of the two men. “What are you two up to?”
Snorting, Nick wrapped an arm over the suited shoulder, “What do you think we’re doing? This ranch doesn’t run itself you know!”
Heath smirked, “Gotta tell ya’ Jarrod, it’s a good thing I came along when I did. Nick needs all the help he can get! His ranching skills are sorely lacking.”
Jarrod laughed loudly at the look of outrage on Nick’s face before he snapped. “Smart ass!”
“Twit brain!” snorted Heath propelling the attorney away from the dark clothed rancher with one deft move.
“How’s the legal profession? Got any openings for Nick?”
Jarrod laughed at the question, his blue eyes glimmering when Nick growled and grabbed at the blonde who dodged his hands.
Shaking his finger at his irate brother, Heath smiled, “Uh uh, remember what happened last time you grabbed me.”
Nick paused for a moment and retorted, “The only reason you get the upper hand is cause you fight dirty, Heath!”
“I do not!” exclaimed Heath stepping in front of the taller man.
“Yes you do! You always use those holds nobody else knows! That’s not fair!” informed Nick glaring down at the shorter man, nose to nose, neither budging an inch.
Chuckling, Jarrod put an arm over each shoulder and squeezed tightly, “It’s a good thing you two are brothers, otherwise you’d more than likely kill each other with your competitive natures.”
Winking, Heath flashed a lop-sided grin, “Nah, Pappy. I’d only hurt him a little.”
Laughing, Nick grabbed the back of the blonde’s neck and shook him slightly, “Dream on, boy!”
Patting the strong backs, Jarrod walked back to Jingo and took his briefcase out of his saddlebags. Ciego took the faithful animal to the barn as the brothers walked to the house.
Victoria and Audra were in Denver taking time to visit with the newest Barkley member born to Uncle Jim’s son, Ted. A bouncing baby girl named Victoria after Ted’s favorite aunt, albeit, his only aunt.
Cleaning up, the three brothers ate a quick dinner before heading to the study for drinks and pool.
“I got a wire from Eugene today. Seems a friend of his needs an attorney.” said Jarrod handing Nick and Heath drinks.
“What kind of trouble is his friend in?” asked Heath curiously.
Shrugging, Jarrod said, “I don’t know yet. He only said a friend of his needed an attorney and Gene set up an appointment for him in my offices on Thursday in San Francisco.”
Scowling, Nick shook his head, “What kind of people is that kid hanging out with down there in Berkley? Maybe you better speak with him about the company he keeps, Jarrod.”
Rolling his eyes, Heath shook his head, “Nick, don’t go jumping all over Gene’s case. Hell, you don’t even know what the kid’s done or why he’d need an attorney. Just cause he does, doesn’t mean Gene knew anything about it!”
“Well, it must be something bad since he needs a lawyer and one as good as our brother.” stated Nick firmly.
“Why thank you, Nick.” smiled Jarrod.
“For what?” puzzled Nick, glaring at his two laughing brothers.
“For being you, Nick.” winked Jarrod setting his glass down. “Good night, boys. I have to catch the train early tomorrow.”
“Night Pappy.” replied Nick automatically searching his mind for why Jarrod thanked him.
“Jarrod, I’ll ride with you in the morning. Grandfather’s leaving for the east coast tomorrow for a visit and I’m gonna see him off.” smiled Heath. “Night Nick.”
“Yeah, night.” gruffed Nick.
Walking out of the study, Heath grinned, “Sometimes its just too easy, isn’t it?”
Clapping his younger brother on the back, Jarrod agreed whole heartedly as they climbed the staircase together.
“That’s why we keep him, Heath.”
San Francisco, California was bustling with movement each hour of the day, every day of the week. The city was growing, the metropolis thrived with businesses, good and bad. Jarrod Barkley was as comfortable in the fine restaurants in San Francisco as he was in the bunkhouse on the Barkley ranch or the inside of a courtroom.
He was a rare person who could fit into two different worlds, each vastly different from the other. Sophistication was not foreign to him as it was to some who had grown up on a ranch. His attire was suited for the environment he was currently in. His suits made of the finest material, his boots highly polished, his hat freshly brushed.
He was the epitome of a successful lawyer. Suave and polished, his mind sharp and inquisitive, his nature caring and generous could turn to ruthless and determined when on a trail of a criminal, seeking the truth.
Very few citizens inside the city limits of San Francisco knew the steel which was in the man. His name was well known, his skills as a defender of justice highly respected. But the steel within the man was hidden beneath his suave exterior. His good looks and light blue eyes swooned many a maiden in the city and country. He was a man who socialized but never took advantage of the fairer sex.
Entering the building which housed his office, Jarrod took off his hat and hung it on the coat tree. The office building was no more than twenty minutes from his comfortable house, the location for the office selected by his Father and the first month’s rent paid as a gift to start his eldest son out on his own in the legal profession. The site of the building was now considered prime realty and hungered after for it’s proximity to the business district, surrounded by the wealth of the city kept in banks and prestigious restaurants playing to the upper class.
The office was spacious and warmly decorated. The wood throughout the office highly polished like it’s tenant. Two walls were lined with books from floor to ceiling. The furniture was the latest style and decorated in the latest fabrics.
In this office which spoke of success but not glory seeking, people from different walks of life were welcomed equally and listened to equally. It was in this office his journey began.
“Mr. Barkley, your ten o’clock is here.” stated his secretary, Mrs. Felding.
“Thank you, Mrs. Felding.” smiled Jarrod, closing the file he was working on. Standing, he put his suit coat on and walked around the desk.
A young man of Gene’s age entered the office and quietly thanked the older woman before she smiled and closed the door. Brown eyes glanced quickly around the office before landing on the man in front of the desk.
“Mr. Barkley, I’m Tad Jenkins. Eugene wired you about me.” hesitated the younger man, his voice shaking with nervousness, his fingers rubbing a circular pattern on his pant leg.
Holding out his hand, Jarrod smiled when the young man reached forward after a moment and grasped it. “Nice to meet you, Tad. Why don’t you have a seat?”
Walking around his desk and taking a chair Jarrod asked, “Do you attend Berkley also?”
“No, sir. Well, I did but had to quit to work after my pa died. I have two little sisters at home and my ma couldn’t afford the tuition.”
Jarrod sighed, “I’m sorry about your father. It must have been very hard for you to give up your education.”
“Nothing much could be done about it, sir.” shrugged Tad, “Family comes first.”
Smiling, Jarrod agreed, “Yes, they do. That’s a personal motto for my family also.”
“Gene’s a good friend and I’d like to thank you for seeing me, sir.” hesitated Tad biting his lip, unsure of how to start.
Leaning back in his chair, Jarrod suggested softly, “Take your time, I’m not going anywhere.”
Smiling nervously, Tad looked into the intense blue eyes, “Sir, if I tell you something does that mean you can’t tell nobody else.”
Nodding, Jarrod said, “If you retain me as your attorney everything we discuss is subject to attorney-client confidentiality.”
“Okay. I’d like to retain you. How much does an attorney such as yourself charge?” inquired Tad, his eyes frightful of the fee.
Leaning forward, Jarrod smiled, “Do you have a dollar?”
Surprised, Tad nodded and pulled a silver dollar out of his pocket. Placing it in the outstretched hand, he watched as Jarrod put the coin in his pocket.
“I’m retained.” said Jarrod holding out his hand. Nodding, Tad smiled and shook the hand sealing the deal.
“Thank you, Mr. Barkley.” replied Tad gratefully. “I’m sure you charge more than that.”
Waving off the remark, Jarrod smirked, “I’ll collect it from Eugene next time he’s home.”
Chuckling, Tad’s brown eyes lit up with amusement before they settled back into seriousness.
“Mr. Barkley, if I had a job that was maybe not quite legal and then saw another crime being committed while I was doing my job, can I be arrested if I report the other crime?”
“Yes, Tad, you could possibly be arrested.”
“I see. Just like I thought.” whispered Tad.
“Sometimes a district attorney will grant a person immunity from prosecution if they have knowledge of a greater crime. But in order to get immunity, the person would have to be able to prove the greater crime occurred and have knowledge of who committed it.” offered Jarrod.
Standing, Tad sighed loudly and paced the length of the office for several minutes, before he stopped, his eyes wide seeking the appraising blue eyes of the older man.
“I have knowledge of a greater crime, sir.”
“What crime is that, Tad?” inquired Jarrod curious at the fear which jumped into the young brown eyes.
“I saw who murdered John Fargas.” stated Tad bluntly.
Startled, Jarrod sat up straight in his chair and gestured for Tad to retake his seat.
“Tad, start from the beginning and tell me everything.”
Nodding, Tad sat down and cleared his throat, gratefully accepting the glass of water Jarrod set in front of him to wet his parched vocal chords, tighten with nervousness and tension.
“After my pa died and I moved back home, I took a couple jobs to help out my ma. But even after working eighteen hours a day, the pay I got and my ma’s pay barely made ends meet. I couldn’t get nothing more than a stock boy or a dish washer. Good jobs are kinda scarce.”
“What did you Father do to make a living?” asked Jarrod.
“He worked down at the docks and loaded ships. It was dangerous work but he made good money. That’s how he was killed. I would’ve worked there but my ma was scared I’d wind up dead like him, so I promised her I’d find other work.”
Compassion and understanding looked back at the young man when he glanced up into the ocean eyes. “I don’t mind hard work, Mr. Barkley. I was raised doing lots of stuff to keep up our house when my pa was working. The problem is the money I was making was not enough.”
“So, then what happened?” prompted Jarrod with a small smile.
Taking a deep breath, Tad shook his head, “You know that saying ‘if it’s too good to be true’”
“Yes, I do.”
“Well, it’s true. One day when I was heading to my second job, I saw a guy I knew from high school. I hadn’t seen him in a couple years and we got to talking. I told him I had to go to my other job and he laughed saying I’d be an old man by the time I was twenty three if I kept up working two jobs for nothing.”
“What was this friend’s name?”
Shifting slightly in his seat, Tad said quietly, “Do I have to tell? He didn’t do anything wrong.”
Putting his pencil down, Jarrod replied, “The district attorney is going to want to know when he starts an investigation, Tad. His office will have to verify the validity of your claim.”
Thinking for several minutes, Tad nodded and pointed to the paper in front of the attorney, “Can you write he didn’t have anything to do with the killing?”
“I will make a note of it.” assured Jarrod picking up his pencil and writing. Pausing, he looked up into the brown eyes and said quietly, “His name?”
“Bert Haines. His dad’s the owner of the Grand Hotel.”
“So, did Mr. Haines suggest a different line of work?”
“Yeah. He said he was delivering packages and other stuff. He said his boss was looking for someone else to help out who was real familiar with the city. Bert said he’d introduce me after I got done with work that night and if I got it, I’d only have to work one job.”
“Did he tell you how much it paid?”
“Yep and I thought he was exaggerating. I couldn’t imagine making more money with just one job. I agreed to meet Bert after work and to talk to this man. I figured what would it hurt.”
“Talking isn’t against the law.” smiled Jarrod.
“Heck, knowing what I know now, I wish it had been against the law.” retorted Tad sighing deeply. “If it wasn’t for my ma and sisters at home, I’d have never went to that meeting.”
Stopping his writing, Jarrod nodded, “Sometimes even the best intentions cause problems, Tad. It’s human nature, I’m afraid.”
“Yeah, guess so, sir.” whispered the young man before continuing.
“Well, I met his boss. He hired me to deliver packages to places. I didn’t have to collect money or anything, just leave the packages at the address written on them. The only rule he had was the packages were never to be opened by me.”
“So, this man hired you and told you not to look in the packages.” summarized Jarrod receiving a nod of agreement. Looking up, he smiled when Tad responded with the name before he asked.
“Hmm, I’ve heard that name before or read it somewhere.” mumbled Jarrod, making a mental note to search his mind later. “Go on.”
“After I’d been working about five months for him, the night man who was wrapping the package didn’t tie it right and when he handed it to me, it came open and the stuff inside fell out. It was opium, Mr. Barkley all tied up in smaller bags.”
“How did you feel when you saw it was opium?” queried Jarrod curiously.
“I wasn’t picked out of the pumpkin patch yesterday, Mr. Barkley. I had kinda already figured I was delivering something illegal otherwise why would he have the rule to not open the packages. I was shocked though and couldn’t move, I didn’t know what to do. The guy was swearing up a storm and trying to refix the package when she came in the room.”
Nodding, Tad swallowed the lump in his throat, “Mia Ling. Sam’s daughter. She’s the most beautiful woman, I’ve ever seen. I don’t know why, but everytime she’d look at me I’d get the heebie jeebies.”
“Did she know you were there?”
“Sure enough. She said something in Chinese to the guy and then she looked at me. Said I’d best forget what I’d seen cause bad things happen to good people.”
“I nodded, took the package and delivered it. They’re bad people. I hear rumors all the time about the Ling’s. People are scared to death of them.”
“What happened when you saw the murder of John Fargas?” asked Jarrod. “You were making a delivery, correct?”
“Yes, Bert asked me to deliver a package to the back of the Goldrush Saloon cause he couldn’t make it. I made the delivery and came back to the Ling’s warehouse. I heard a scream and went in the back way. They was arguing bout something.”
“Who was arguing? Do you know what they were fighting about?”
“Fargas and Sam were arguing. Mia and this huge guy was there too. Anyway, Sam was screaming at Fargas and stabbed him with a knife. I don’t know what they were fighting about though.”
“Did they know you were there?”
“No, I was hid behind some boxes and was real quiet when I left. I went to a restaurant down the street and came back thirty minutes later.”
“Tad, why did you decide to come forward with this information?”
“Mr. Barkley, I know delivering opium is against the law. At first, I was scared to say anything but then it started eating away at me. I’m not a bad person and nobody deserves to be killed like that. When I was at Berkeley, Gene always listened so I took the next train down there. I only told him vaguely I may have seen a crime taking place. He said you’d know what was best to do.”
Standing, Jarrod looked out the window briefly and walked back to sit on the corner of his desk. “Tad, you did the right thing. Sometimes doing the right thing is the hardest thing in the world.”
“I know, sir. That’s what my ma says too.” admitted Tad quietly. “I’m real scared, Mr. Barkley. If the Lings find out I saw what they did, they’ll kill me and my family. It wouldn’t bother them one bit.”
“First thing I will do is see the district attorney. When I speak with him, I won’t mention any names. I’ll just tell him the story leaving out some of the details. It would help if we knew how Fargas and Ling were connected.”
Shrugging, Tad sighed, “Sorry, Mr. Barkley. I don’t know but with Fargas being a councilman, it probably had something to do with his position.”
“Just what I was thinking.” replied Jarrod. “Have you been making deliveries since you saw the murder? Do you think the Lings have any reason to be suspicious?”
“I’ve been working every day except Monday when I went to Berkeley. I told Bert I had to go see an old college friend who came back from abroad. I don’t think they suspect anything.”
“Good. Give me your address, Tad. I’ll come by later tonight and let you know how my meeting goes with the district attorney.” stated Jarrod handing the young man a paper and pencil. “Tad, your mother will have to be told what’s going on.”
Guilt caused tears to spring into the brown eyes before the young man wiped them away. “I know, sir. My ma’s a hard working, decent woman. When she finds out what I’ve been doing, it’s gonna kill her.”
Squeezing the young man’s shoulder, Jarrod sighed, “If she’s anything like my mother, she’ll be disappointed but proud you made the hard choice to do the right thing.”
“Jarrod, there’s nothing I can do.”
If the district attorney, James Fetterson, reached over and slapped him off his chair, Jarrod knew he wouldn’t have been as shocked as the flat out denial which rang out to his ears.
“What do you mean Jim? I’m telling you there’s an eye witness!” declared Jarrod in disbelief. “You have to reinitiate an investigation! At least check out what is being claimed!”
Shaking his head, Jim Fetterson sat back in his chair and regarded the angry man across from him. Jarrod Barkley was one of the finest attorneys in the state, a colleague with the utmost integrity who was honest and above reproach. An intriguing opponent in the courtroom, his mind a veritable spider web of knowledge of all points of law, his thirst for justice would never be quenched.
“The case is closed Jarrod. I have an official filed report which states John Fargas died of a knife wound received in an attempted mugging. It was fully investigated and no discrepancies were found to suggest otherwise.”
Jarrod was certain flames shot out of his eyes and hit the other man across the desk. He could feel the temperature in the room rise from the fire within him and he stood.
Leaning across the desk, he would not have been surprised he sounded like Nick when he growled in anger, “I’ve never known you to be a man who would sit on his laurels and let an injustice pass by. The case can be reopened, so do it!”
“No.” stated Fetterson quietly, surprised he wasn’t seeing steam come out of the lawyer’s ears from the redness flaring in his face. “I can’t do that Jarrod.”
“Fine!” snapped Jarrod, picking up his hat and turning away. “I will see what I can find out myself to cause you to reopen the case!”
“JARROD!” shouted Jim halting the furious man with his hand on the knob of his closed door.
“DAMMIT, BARKLEY! CAN’T YOU EVER JUST ACCEPT WHAT I SAY?”
“I do when I know you’re right.” snapped Jarrod after he turned back to his colleague. “THIS TIME YOU’RE NOT!”
“It’s that damnable Barkley temper and stubbornness! Someday it’s gonna get you killed!” mumbled Jim Fetterson pouring drinks and handing one to his peer before sitting on his desk, motioning for Jarrod to take a seat.
Taking the peace offering, Jarrod sat in the chair and took a sip of the whiskey, his eyes never leaving the others. He could see the district attorney was hesitating and his instincts went into overdrive.
“You already know it was something other than a botched mugged, don’t you?” asked Jarrod, his blue eyes prickling with curiosity.
Inhaling a deep breath of the office air, Jim shook his head in agreement. Setting his glass on the desk, his hands clenched the wood overhang of the desk.
“I can’t go into it with you but, yes, we already know Fargas wasn’t killed in a mugging. The report was filed that way to create more time for us.” said Jim “Jarrod, I’ll have to see if we will want to use your witness. If we do, we will grant your client immunity.”
“See with whom?”
“I can’t tell you, Jarrod.” stated Jim firmly.
Studying the other man, understanding spread across the lawyer’s face and he sighed, “Why is the government involved?”
Surprised at the question, the truth reflected in the district attorney’s eyes before he replied nonchalantly, “Who said anything about the government?”
“Jim, I hope you don’t play poker. Your eyes tell me all I need to know.” smirked Jarrod smugly. “Do you want to tell me why the government’s involved or should I find out myself?”
Clenching his jaw, the district attorney jumped down from his seat on the desk and walked to a picture. Opening the safe behind the picture, he pulled out a file and brought it back to the desk.
Slamming it down before the blue eyed defender of justice, he snapped angrily, “It’s a damn good thing I like you or else I’d let you walk out of here and make you find out the answers on your own! Then you’d wind up just like Fargas!”
Tilting his head slightly, Jarrod conceded his thanks to the other man without saying a word. Sitting on the edge of his seat, he waited til Fetterson sat back in his chair and opened the large file.
“All of this is about the Lings?”
“Yeah, they’re not what we call your average citizens of San Francisco.” replied Jim sarcastically. “The scum of the sewers is even too good a title for these people.”
“Well, I know they’re drug runners and murderers. What else?” suggested Jarrod glancing over some of the pages of the file.
“Extortion, blackmail, slavery, kidnapping, number games. You name it, they more than likely have a hand in it. They’re a very enterprising family and very dangerous. These people will slit your throat quick as you can blink. They’ll do at their own dinner table and finish their meal while you bleed to death.” insisted Jim.
“How long have they been under investigation?”
“Since the murder of Judge Randall two and a half years ago. His murder made it a federal case since he was a federal judge.” stated Jim.
“The papers said Judge Randall died of a drug overdose.”
“With a little help from the Lings, he did. Randall’s death started the ball rolling. The judge was a man they couldn’t bribe or scare. The feds have someone on the inside and its taken them two years for their agent to build up his credibility and slowly bring in evidence. There’s more than hauling Sam Ling in for Fargas’ murder riding on this investigation, Jarrod.”
Closing the file, Jarrod’s face was thoughtful before he asked, “So, I take it Sam Ling has some important people in his pocket, huh?”
Nodding his answer, Jim Fetterson stared into the ocean eyes and stated firmly, “I don’t want you investigating or even asking one question. Promise me, Jarrod!”
“Jim, I won’t investigate since you’ve given me the reason as to why I can’t.” admitted Jarrod. “What about my client? He’s very worried the Lings will find out about him and take after his family.”
“And they’d kill them all, Jarrod if they even got a hint something wasn’t right with your client. I’m sure the Feds will want to question him and use his testimony when the time comes. I think they’re close to issuing arrest warrants but until then, well, I’d suggest he and his family get out of town until your client’s testimony is needed.” sighed Jim putting the file back in its haven.
“Just watch yourself, Jarrod. I don’t wanna hear they found your body floating in the bay.”
“I’ll be careful. Thanks, Jim.” smiled Jarrod, holding out his hand. “You had me going there for a while when you wouldn’t reopen the investigation.”
The district attorney took the extended hand and winked, “And people think Nick has the worst temper in the Barkley family.”
Stopping his horse in front of the small house, Jarrod climbed down and tied the reins to a post of the fence. Opening the gate, he walked up the short pathway and climbed the two steps, knocking firmly on the door.
Smiling, Tad held out his hand and greeted the older man, “Evening, Mr. Barkley. Come in.”
Taking off his hat, Jarrod returned the greeting and entered the house. A small living room was the entrance point of the house, immaculate would not have been the word to describe the condition of the room. It was clean beyond spotless and fairly glowed.
Tad took the attorney’s hat and gestured for him to sit in a chair which was across a small table from the settee. “I’ll be right back with my mother, Mr. Barkley. I told her everything this afternoon while my sisters were in school.”
“I’m glad you did, Tad. I can imagine how difficult it was for you.” replied Jarrod placing a strong hand on the young man’s shoulder. “It’s not always easy for people to face up to doing the right thing.”
Blushing, Tad shrugged, “Well, if I hadn’t been so money hungry, none of this would’ve happened.”
“Tad, you were not money hungry.” scolded a warm voice as a woman entered the room. “Mr. Barkley, I’m Faith Jenkins.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Jenkins.” smiled Jarrod, bowing slightly over the hand she extended.
Observing mother and son, Jarrod’s eyes were curious at the age difference between the two. She could not have been more than thirty or thirty two years old, too young to be the mother of a twenty year old.
“You were only trying to follow in your father’s footsteps and take care of your family, Tad.” assured Faith. “He would have been proud of you for making such an effort.”
“Ma, there’s no excuse for it.” stated Tad shamefully. “I’m sorry for all the trouble.”
Patting his arm, Faith shook her head, “Tad, would you bring the coffee in?”
“Sure.” nodded the young man heading through the living room to an inner door.
“Please have a seat, Mr. Barkley.” instructed the young woman sitting on the settee.
“Mrs. Jenkins, how old are Tad’s sisters?” queried Jarrod.
“Eight and five. No, I am not Tad’s birth mother but that doesn’t mean I love him any less.” assured Faith firmly.
“I suspected as much from the age difference between you and your son. He was very upset with having to let you know what he’d gotten himself into.” said Jarrod quietly.
“Tad’s a fine boy or rather a fine young man. I’m proud to be his mother. I met his father when I was seventeen and we were married two weeks later. Tad was only eight when we married.” explained Faith. “His father’s untimely death unfortunately has placed us in a position of needing Tad’s income. It’s sad because he would be a wonderful doctor.”
“He’s young and could still return to college someday. There is no age limit on learning.” smiled Jarrod watching the young man of their conversation carry in a tray and set it on the table.
Pouring coffee for all three, Faith informed the attorney her two younger children were spending the night at a friend’s house so they could speak freely. Taking the center stage, Tad and his mother listened carefully to Jarrod’s meeting with the district attorney.
“I think it may be best to follow his suggestion of leaving town.” stated Jarrod. “I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you or your family. When the time comes, the district attorney will notify me and I will send for you, Tad.”
“Mr. Barkley, this is our home. We have no where else to go.” frowned Faith. “I’d have to give up my job and everything Jack and I worked towards for the children. Maybe these people won’t find out what Tad saw.”
Jarrod smiled sadly, “I understand what this would require of you and your family, Mrs. Jenkins. It is not my decision to make, however, I’d like to help in any way I can.”
Nodding at his words, Faith thought for several minutes and turned to the down trodden young man sitting on her left. The guilt and shame was laying around him like a blanket.
Tad lifted his head and looked in his mother’s eyes, “Yes, ma?”
“How bad are these people? Do you think they’d actually be capable of hurting your sisters?” inquired Faith, her voice low, blue eyes intently searching the brown ones.
Swallowing the lump in his throat, Tad felt his stomach twisting at the terror the Lings created in his mind. “I’m sorry, ma for all of this. It won’t matter to them Hope and Charity are little girls. They won’t care and I think they’d kill us all.”
Closing her eyes briefly, Faith patted his hand before squeezing it tightly and sighing, “Thank you for being honest, Tad. I certainly will not stay where any of my children are in danger. But I’m not sure where we can go.”
“I’d offer to take you and the children to my family’s ranch in Stockton, however, if the Lings discover Tad’s my client, they would think that is one of the first places he could be.” pondered Jarrod outloud.
“I don’t have any relatives and my friends are all here in San Francisco.” replied Faith. “When would we have to go?”
“I went to work after our appointment and nothing seemed funny.” informed Tad with a hopeful look in his brown eyes. “Maybe we’re getting all worked up for nothing.”
“We could be, Tad.” admitted Jarrod with a slight nod, “But until the Lings have been arrested, do you want to take the chance?”
Looking into the blue concerned eyes, Tad smiled and shook his head, “Not on their lives, I don’t and I won’t.”
“My brother is a former marshal. He knows people who are not connected to the Barkley name. I’ll send a wire tonight and ask him to come to San Francisco. He may be able to help us out.” offered Jarrod.
Faith nodded at the offer, “Thank you, Mr. Barkley. I believe this is more than your job as Tad’s attorney requires and we appreciate it.”
Waving off the thanks, Jarrod stood and held out his hand, “If Tad’s testimony can alleviate our city of these types of people, society on a whole benefits, Mrs. Jenkins. I do suggest each and everyone of you conduct yourself in a normal manner. I’d only pack what is necessary and have it ready in case we need to leave at a moment’s notice.”
Agreeing, they saw Jarrod to his surrey and bade him a good evening. Heading directly to the telegraph office, Jarrod sent a wire and drove back to his residence.
Later that evening, sitting in a chair and reading his newspaper, a smile crossed his face from the thought of the woman whose heart matched his mothers and was full of unconditional love.
Early the next afternoon, Jarrod greeted his younger brother with a firm hug on the depot of the train station. “Heath, thank you for coming on such short notice.”
Winking, the blonde grinned, “Well, Jarrod next time you’re home, Nick’s gonna give ya’ an earful.”
“He wasn’t too happy with my wire, huh?” winced Jarrod.
“Boy howdy, I’d say not too happy was an understatement!” drawled Heath clapping his older brother on the back before they walked to the surrey. Putting his bag on the floor, he climbed upon the seat.
“I had to listen to Nick all night growling and mumbling in my ear. For a while I thought I’d have to gag him to get some peace and quiet. I better not be here in this city just to pick out some draperies.” stated Heath with a lop-sided grin.
“For pete’s sake is that what Nick said I wired you for?” groaned Jarrod, red creeping up his neck. “I needed another opinion and that wasn’t the only reason he was in San Francisco either. I don’t think he’ll ever let me live that down.”
Shaking his head, Heath chuckled and leaned back, “He told me last night about it. He said he’s afraid I might wanna decorate the study instead of working the ranch when I get home.”
Joining the blonde in laughter, Jarrod stopped the surrey in front of his building and lead the way to his office. Heath followed his brother and greeted the older woman sitting outside the door to the attorney’s office.
Entering, Jarrod took his brother’s bag and set it down by the sofa. Walking over to the small bar, he filled two glasses and handed one to Heath who was busy studying the interior of the office.
Spying the draperies on the windows, he cocked an eyebrow at his brother, causing Jarrod to sputter his whiskey from the question in the sapphire eyes.
“No, those are not the draperies.” smirked Jarrod sitting on the sofa and saluting his brother with his glass.
“This is a very nice office, Jarrod. Not too showy and very comfortable.” smiled Heath as he sat in a chair and put his hat on his knee. “So, why’d you need to drag this poor country boy to the city, big brother?”
“I need your help to hide a family far enough away to keep them safe but close enough to hop on a train and return at a moment’s notice. A place not connected to the Barkley name, brother Heath.” informed Jarrod quietly.
Heath put his glass and hat on a nearby table and leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, the amusement in his eyes replaced with cold seriousness. “Jarrod, you best start from the beginning. Does this have to do with the wire about Gene’s friend?”
Nodding, Jarrod explained the reason for the wire and all the events which happened since his meeting with the young Tad Jenkins.
Heath stood up and paced around the office. Stopping, he sat on the corner of the desk, his voice quiet, “Jarrod, have you ever heard of a Chinese tong?”