by Grasshopper

Chapter 17

Wes brought the picture back in his pocket and waited in the barn for Cole and Mercy. They returned about twenty minutes later, Mercy gripping the two earrings tightly in the palm of her hand. She brought the small bible back with her too. Bedding the horses down, they headed back to the house and Cole's bedroom.

"See, they're exactly the same," Mercy said excitedly.

"They look just like the ones in the picture too. So, one was in your mother's things in a truck in the attic of your house and the other one was um .... handed to me in that pit," Cole frowned.

Cole, I want to show you something. Look at the bible; it was our mother's. Look how she wrote Billy, Billy, Billy all over these pages."

"So? She must have had a boyfriend," Cole speculated.

"William is Wesley's middle name, Cole. You know that. Don't you think that's odd?"

"Maybe William, ummm .... Billy, was her first love and she dreamed about him, so she put his name into my name," Wes murmured.

"Hey, we really need to stick to the facts here. Your father pushed me in that pit AND smashed my head with that shovel. I was probably having all kinds of hallucinations lying there in the dirt."

"But, why would you think about my mother? Why in that pit?" Wes questioned, "You're sure she didn't say anything else?"

Cole closed his eyes and sat still thinking. "At the very end, Yeah, at the end, I asked her who she was ..... that's right. I asked her who she was and she said her name was Cat."

"Like that? She said 'My name is Kat?'

Cole thought hard, "No, her exact words were, 'My name was Cat.'

"That means .................," Mercy sighed, her voice wavering, "That means she's dead." She crawled over and Wes held her as she cried.

"But," Wes asked, "Why did she speak to you in the pit? Why not me? Or Karl? I'd been in many times and so had Karl." Cole cringed at the thought.

"If she really did somehow speak to me," Cole thought out loud, "Then maybe she had been there too."

"Oh my God," Mercy sniffled, "Do you think Father threw her in there like he did you, Wesley?"

And then, quietly, Wesley said aloud what they were all three thinking, "Maybe she's still there."

Sheriff Nolan shoved his Stetson back on his head and scratched his retreating hairline. He'd thought for sure the bad trouble was over with the Straihan's, and now this. Karl Straihan had been the first murder in McLaren County in seven years and now add on the Reverend.

Wesley, Cole and Mercy weren't telling him the whole story, he felt sure. They kept glancing at each other as Wes talked and interrupting. They gave him this tale about Katherine Straihan's earring and how Cole had found one in that pit to match one Mercy had found at the house and they showed him an old photo of Katherine Straihan wearing the little stars. It was enough to make the hair on the back of his neck stand up and speak to him. Thing was, he remembered beautiful Katherine Straihan wearing those very earrings back when he was senior deputy. The few times she'd come to town, he could remember staring at her and wondering how the hell someone as beautiful as she was ended up with the Reverend.

The deputies had lifted out an old rusted lawnmower, bagged up rotting fertilizer bags and collected all of Wesley's old drawings off the walls and from under an old rotting tarp. The tarp itself was half buried in the moldy dirt. "You want us to dig this stinkin' thing up?"

"Yep, that's why you're in there. Clear the ground area and start diggin'."

They loosened the edges of the rotten tarp, and began to dig under it,

digging down about three feet before Marty's shovel hit something solid and made a sharp clunking sound. "Got something here, Sheriff."

"What? What did they find?" Wes cried, pushing to edge of the hole.

"Stay back, all of you. If there is anything down there, your place is up here. Let us do our jobs."

"Sheriff, you better come take a look."

Sheriff Nolan climbed down the ladder they'd brought with them and Wes, Mercy and Cole crowded around the edge to peer down into the gloom. They could hear the sheriff and the deputies muttering softly, then, stepped back as Sheriff Nolan climbed back up to them. "I want you to take Mercy on home now. I'll be out to the house in a while to let you know what we've uncovered."

"But, Sheriff .......,"

"Now, kids! I promise I'll come as soon as I know something to tell you." He stood firmly and nodded his head toward the car.

As they drove to Cole's house, no one spoke. It was no good guessing. No good because if they hoped it was Mother, then they knew for sure she was dead. If it wasn't, then she left them with Father all these years. Neither way was a happy resolution.

About seven that evening, Mercy heard the Sheriff's car pull up at the Hewett's door. She heard Sarah Hewett invite him in. Then she heard her call their names. Mercy had been sitting alone in the guestroom staring out the window at the cold blustery wind bending the bare tree branches.

"Wes! Mercy! Cole! Sheriff Nolan's here."

They all sat down in the living room; Mercy, Cole and Wes close together on the sofa, Sarah and Albert together on the loveseat, Sheriff Nolan in the recliner and Callie perched on the window seat.

"We found the bones of a woman in her early twenties. The bones have been in the earth approximately fifteen to twenty years. The cause of death seems to be a blow to the back of the head with a flat object. We'll compare the dental records with that of Katherine Straihan, but there's every reason to believe that this is your mother, Wesley, Mercy. I'm so very sorry."

Mercy turned her face into Wesley's chest and sobbed softly. Cole slung his arm around Wes's shoulders and pulled him close, whispering in his ear.

Callie watched the three young people, so close, so together and felt totally left out. Wesley needed to be with her, not them. She watched as Wesley finally lost that stillness, that control and cried quietly and her brother wiped away the tears with his finger.

Albert watched too. He'd known it for all these years, just kept hoping it would go away, that it was just a phase. But, it wasn't. It was Wesley! How many times had he heard his son say those words ..... "But, it's Wes, Dad!" He hoped they knew what they were in for. He loved his son more than anything else in the world and, he realized at that moment, he had accepted Wesley years ago.

Cole looked up and caught his dad's eye. They looked deeply at each and Cole saw the understanding. He didn't see anger or fear; he only saw compassion and willingness. That was enough for now. He tried to tell his dad that they'd talk later and smiled when his dad nodded his head.

"Oh," Sheriff Nolan said, as he reached in his pocket. "We need to talk about this later, kids, but we found this clutched in her hand." He walked over to Mercy and dropped a tiny earring into her outstretched hand.

"But, we have ..................," she gulped as Wes and Cole stared at the silver star as if it were a snake. All three jumped up and ran for Cole's room. He unlocked his desk drawer and pulled out the white handkerchief they'd wrapped the earrings in earlier. One shiny star twinkled out at them from the white cloth. One star! The star Mercy had found in the trunk!

"How did we .........?"

"I know I saw .................!"

Cole thought for a minute. "Mercy, Wes wouldn't remember, but, do you remember what your mom's eyes looked like?"

Mercy drifted back, back to her earliest memories. The only happy memories she had. Her mother! quilt flapping in the wind on the clothesline; Mother singing of sailing on the silver sea; the smell of lilacs, Mother laughing and singing when Father was gone. "Her eyes," she answered dreamily, "Her eyes were dark chocolate brown, like mine."

"Do you remember anything about the day that Wes was born?"

"Not really, just what Karl would say about sounds in the night."

"What do you mean?"

"I'd get scared in the dark after Mother um ... left, and Karl would tell me that it was monsters under the bed. I was always too afraid to get up at night to pee. Karl would say that he heard terrible noises the night after Wes was born."

"I guess we know what those noises were now," Wes sighed. "Why would Father have done that?"

"He was probably insane even then, Wes."

"And we were all too little to know anything about it. But, I want to know what made him do it THAT night? Not some other night. I guess we'll never know. Karl said he was going to tell me something, but now that won't ever happen either."

"Too many secrets."

"Thanks for letting us stay here with you, Mrs. Hewett," Mercy said again. She and Wes had decided to go back to their home. Everything they had been afraid of was gone now and they needed to sort out their lives.

"Thank you, Mr. Hewett," Wes repeated. "We appreciate everything you did."

"You're welcome here anytime. Come over in a couple of days for supper," Sarah invited.

"We will, thanks again." Mercy climbed into the camaro and she and Wes both waved as they headed home.

After Lily's phone call, Callie saddled Firefly and rode over to the Campbell's. The fresh crisp cold air painted her cheeks rosy and almost made her feel normal .... almost. She walked into Lily's bedroom to find her friend throwing clothes right and left and even getting a few things in the suitcases.

"I'm off to St. Bart's," she laughed. "I've had enough of this cold dismal place."

"But, what about Cole and Wes and our plan?"

"That's booooorrrrrrrrrring, girl. I need some fun in the sun. The pictures and the video are over there in that backpack if you want them. Maybe you should put them in the McLaren Gazette. Shake this stupid burg up."

Callie grabbed up the backpack and knew exactly how she would use them. One more wedge ..... One more doubt. Cole would never have Wesley...Never!

"Sheriff?", the deputy stuck her head in his office door.

"Yeah, Jackie?" He motioned for her to sit down.

"You know how you're always telling us to work on a hunch if we really think it's a good one?"

"Yep, you got something?"

"Well, I sat up last night thinking; trying to piece this all together. Mrs. Straihan was killed by a blow to the head, very much like Cole's injury. She supposedly ran off, we know now that's wrong, the same night that she's just given birth to Wesley. We know she didn't run very far, if at all."

"What're you getting to?"

"Okay, for a husband to be that angry, I just have to guess that she was foolin' around. Now, I've heard a whispergossip all my life that there was something' going on between Mrs. Straihan and that young art teacher at the high school, the one that took off for spring break without a word to anyone. So, I went by the school office and spoke to Mrs. Garrison, the principal. She wasn't there in 1990, that was old Mr. Dodking, but Mrs. Porter, the secretary was. She remembers the whole thing well."

"Go on," Sheriff Nolan listened carefully.

"Okay, the teacher's name was Will Carver. He was from Utah and was a very good artist. He drew sketches of the teachers and the students. He had been teaching art here for two years and had given no indication that he was unhappy or that he wanted to leave. He just left for his spring break and never came back."

"It wasn't reported?"

"Well, they assumed he'd found a better job. It was odd that no one ever requested a recommendation, but things like that happen a lot, Mrs. Porter told me."

He already knew, but didn't want to spoil her excellent detective work. "And, this leads you to suspect what?"

"That if Mrs. Straihan didn't actually leave McLaren County, maybe we better dig a little deeper in that pit."

Wes and Mercy were sitting on the front porch talking about whether to fix the house up or burn it to the ground. Wes was all for torching it and watching it burn, but Mercy felt like they could make it a pretty place if they could walk away from the memories.

A Land Rover pulled off the main highway and came to a stop in front of them. When Craig Harold climbed out, Wes stood up and, after saying 'Hey' left to check on whatever needed to be checked on.

"How are you, Mercy?"

She blushed. "I'm fine."

"I couldn't wait until you came back to work to see you and find out if you were okay." He reached back in the car and handed her a huge bunch of lavender Sterling Silver roses. "Oh, and Ms. Ellie, at the diner, said to give you a big hug." He leaned over where she was still sitting on the steps and awkwardly hugged her.

"Is there anything I can do to help you? I can't even imagine what you're going through right now."

Mercy looked up into his concerned eyes. "Actually, please don't think me horrid, but all I seem to feel is relief."

"Well, I guess I better be going then ......," Craig said softly, obviously not wanting to leave her.

"No, sit," Mercy answered, patting the step. "I have something to tell you. I want you to know why I refused to go on that walk."

They talked and talked. Craig put his arm around her shoulders and she leaned into his chest. She left out the worst, but he was quick enough to see that she had been protecting him from her brother.

"Mercy," Craig said gently, "Let me protect you now. It's all I've wanted for the longest time."

Wesley looked out the bedroom window and smiled. Sweet Mercy, maybe she was going to find her happiness now.

Cole walked in the kitchen door yelling, "Wes?"

"Be right there." Wes clammered down the back stairs and into Cole's arms.

"I kinda need you to myself for a while," Cole grinned. "It's been too long."

"Mmm, the cave?"


"Mercy, I'm leavin'. You be okay?", Wes yelled from the back yard.

"Yes, be careful."

And Craig added, "I'll stay with her til you get back."

Cole looked at Wes and they grinned.

"About time," Cole said.

The winter chill was still hovering over Wyoming. It might snow; it might turn warm as spring and then change in the blink of an eye. The cave was cold and dark and, as they had grown, it had shrunk. But, it was still just the right size for two boys who needed to be together.

Wes brought in some tinder and a few wood chunks. They built a fire and waited for the cave to warm by staring at each other over the flames. They had kissed so many times before, touched and stroked and teased.

"Your eyes will always hypnotize me," Cole sighed. "They just kind of pull me in, taking my breath away."

After a moment of hesitation, almost as if they couldn't bear to stop looking at each other, Wes's mouth opened for Cole and his tongue slid inside. As soon as they felt the heat and the wet, they were lost.

"I need to taste you," Cole moaned. "Drink you in. Fill myself with you."

He dove down, opened Wes's jeans urgently and took him in his hot greedy mouth. It was only seconds and he felt Wes's first spasm. "Give it to me."

Cole raised up and kissed Wes so they shared the taste. Wes rolled Cole onto his back and straddled him. "Wrestling?" Cole gasped.

"You can call it that," Wes managed.

Arching his back, easing down on Cole, Wes rode him, squeezing the juices from his body. When Cole would have pulled out, Wes clung tight and smiled down. "This is when I feel like we're one person. This is when I feel like I can do anything, be anything. You make me strong, Cole. I love you."

"I love you back more."

"I guess that's not a fight either of us win," Wes eased off Cole's sweating body and rolled to his side.

"We need to talk," Cole pulled Wes closer.

"Do we have to?"

"Yeah, we do. You know about your mother now, Wes. You don't have to leave, right?"

"I guess not. Mercy and I were still talking about going to Provo to tell her family. They've never come here to see us, but we kinda would like to meet them. Maybe I have a grandma or grandpa out there."

"But that doesn't have to be tomorrow or the next day, does it?"

"No, I guess not."

"So, what about school?"

It seemed like a million years since Wes had talked to Callie about college. So much had changed. Cole's parents knew about Cole and Wes and hadn't thrown either of them out. And then there was the other, bigger problem still to be solved. Callie!

"Let's not talk about that now. I think we have a much bigger problem."

Wes had decided that Callie's pregnancy was not something she could just throw away on her own. He still couldn't understand why Callie had come to him and not to Cole.

"I gave my word I wouldn't tell you this, but things have changed and I really need you to know, so we can help her."

"Help who?" Cole sat up and pulled Wes between his legs so they could watch the fire.

"Callie." Wes waited for the explosion.

"What? Callie? What has she done? What happened? Why didn't she tell me? God damn it!"

"Shhh, maybe cause you'd have a shit fit kinda like what you're doing right now."

Cole took some deep breaths. "Okay, I'm quiet, what is it?"

Wes took hold of his hand and said carefully, "She's pregnant, Cole."

Cole's mouth dropped open. Of all the things he'd not expected to hear, that would have been #1 on the list. "Pregnant? Callie? How? When?" and then his voice got louder, "Who?"

"This is the really unfuckinbelievable part," Wes groaned. "She says that my brother Karl raped her out at the Blue Moon."

Cole was silent for a few seconds trying to bend his mind around what Wes had just told him. "Callie would never go there. She .....................," then he cut off his words and his face grew flushed with anger.


"One night about three weeks ago, I found her drunk in Mom's car out in the driveway. She said she hadn't had sex and I believed her. No, wait! She said she didn't remember having sex."

"That's why I went to see Karl at the garage the night he was killed. I wanted to know what he had to say about it."


"He said that he didn't rape her, but that we'd never believe him."

Cole jumped up, "I want to talk to her right now!" He pulled on his clothes and began to bring in snow to wet down the ashes. Wes was caught between telling Callie's secret and Cole's anger.

"Maybe you better go alone. She's your sister. She's gonna be purely pissed when she finds out I told you."

"Okay, I want to talk right in her face anyway, so maybe it's better if I do it by myself. What did you tell her to do about it, Wes? This is gonna kill Mom and Dad."

"Especially with who the father is ..... was," Wes sighed. "I hope they don't hate me for it."

"My mom and dad are better than that. You're nothing like your brother, Wes. It's like you two weren't even related. You're as good as he was bad.

Trust me on this."

Okay. See you later on?"

"Yeah, and Wes ....... We're gonna straighten all this crap out, I promise."

Sheriff Nolan trained his high beam flashlight on the three deputies working down in the pit. Ed was digging, Marty was carrying the bucket of dirt up the ladder and Jackie was dumping it out on the ground next to the shed. The hole was getting deeper and they had recovered what appeared to be the remaining bones to complete Katherine Straihan's skeleton.

Ed wiped his face against his shirt sleeve. Marty took over the shovel and dug silently for a few minutes. Then, "Found something, Sheriff," Marty called up. "A second skull; this one has a bullet hole in the back."

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