by Grasshopper

Chapter 3

Jase was gone when Cody woke up. He didn't quite know how he knew but the house just seemed happier somehow. He lay listening to the sounds of the old house, the familiar old creaks and groans. Wondering if Davy was still here, he climbed out of the warm bed, feeling the cool in the floor left over from the night. Padding to the kitchen for coffee, he saw the bedclothes all folded on the sofa. Looking at the clock, he realized that at 9:00, Davy was long gone to school. Sighing, he noticed that the coffeepot was still on 'warm' and there was a cup sitting beside it with a note propped up:

"Schneider called. Wants to see you today. The old truck out in the barn runs. Call him 654-3729." No signature. No nothing. But what was he expecting anyway?

After a quick bite of toast and a few swigs of caffeine, Cody wandered back toward the bedroom to dress. Only one door was closed along the hallway. It had to be his. Cody stood with his hand on the knob. This was so wrong. His fingers didn't seem to care. Opening the door, he saw a room devoid of human attention. The bed sat by the window, a gray and black Indian blanket thrown over as a quilt, two pillows on the floor. No rug, just cold bare wood and the only other piece of furniture a bureau, the only items on top, a pile of coins and a picture.

Walking over, Cody thought he already knew what he was going to see. Lifting it, he found that he was very wrong. This was not a copy of the photo in Davy's room. This was something very different.

Three children, so different, yet their happiness gleamed from the old photo. A boy and a girl, about eight, squished into an old tire swing, flying out over the water of an old river bed. A boy, his mouth open in a joyous laugh, stood on the bank, his arms still outstretched from pushing. The children in the swing, one blonde, one brunette, arms holding tight. The boy on the bank, long coal black hair streaming to his shoulders, strong lean young body, calling to his friends.

Cody stared, hoping the old photo would talk. Jase and Charity, there in that swing. There was a very handsome native American boy, obviously their friend. All three faces carefree and laughing. Why this picture? Why not the one in Davy's room?

He carried the picture over to Davy's room and picked up the other photograph. Holding them side by side, he looked from Jase's young face to his older one. He could feel the closeness of these three beautiful children. What had gone so wrong?

Sighing, he replaced both pictures and lifted his bag up onto Davy's bed. Pulling out worn stonewashed jeans and a soft turquoise cotton shirt, underwear and his old scuffed riding boots, Cody turned to the bathroom for a shower.

As he dressed, he looked at himself in the mirror. Brushing his long black hair back and shoving the long strands behind his ears, he watched his own eyes turn a darker shade of brown. He had never been ashamed of his Indian blood. People always told him how sexy, how mysterious he was. He dismissed that with a snort. In New York, he was a novelty. Here in New Mexico, he was nothing new.

Cody's grandfather had told him all about himself and his ancestors as he would hold the young boy in his lap at night, swinging in the old creaky porch swing out front. Cody had asked why he and his twin, Elijah, didn't look the same. Why Elijah had soft brown hair and green eyes, while his was thick as a horse's tail and his eyes the color of melted chocolate.

Grandpa had tried to explain that his grandmother was a full-blooded Navajo but he was white. So, Cody's dad was half Navajo and his mother was white. That made Elijah and Cody a quarter Navajo and three quarters white. He had just gotten the Navajo blood and Elijah didn't. Grandpa whispered that he was the lucky one. That he was the beautiful one. He told Cody to stand beside Elijah and look in the mirror. When he did, he saw his own dark glowing skin, deep flashing eyes, smokey hair and Elijah's pale skin, washy green eyes and soft hair. Cody smiled. "You're right, Grandpa," he thought and turned to hug his brother because he wasn't as lucky as Cody was. He still felt the same today.

Elijah's wife, Becca was expecting soon. It was a girl. Cody and 'lijah had a bet going as to whether she would look like Grandma or Grandpa. In another two months, they'd know.

As Cody stared at himself in the mirror, a thought popped into his head. Maybe Jase hadn't known. Maybe since Grandpa was white and Grandma died before Jase came here, maybe he didn't know. Was that why he reacted so harshly at the airport? The link between his reaction to Cody and the fact that his son had pure Indian blood in his veins could not be a coincidence. God, he really hates Indians.

Calling Mr. Schneider's number, the secretary told him that if Cody could come in now, the lawyer could tell him whatever he needed to know about selling the place and receiving his inheritance. Cody walked out to the barn, laughing at the chickens running from him in a panic and found the old truck, keys in the ignition. His lips curled up in amusement. "I bet he doesn't think I can even drive a stick," he laughed. Climbing in, he reached for the seat belt. None there. "Too old to have them, I guess," he shook his head. It smelled musty and old. Surprisingly, the engine turned over quickly and he pulled out into the barnyard heading towards town.

Drifter was a small town, not much going on this Friday morning. A few people moving around but mostly dust and heat and still air. Cody parked the truck by the curb and looked up at the sign hanging above the door.

Alan Schneider - Attorney At Law

He walked in and over to the secretary's desk. "Hey, I'm Dakota Taylor. I called about seeing Mr. Schneider."

A very friendly woman looked up from the papers she was typing, blinked and her smile widened. "Hey, Sugar. Glad to meet you. I'm Bessie Calhoun. Mr. Schneider can see you right now." She stood up and Cody felt like a midget. Bessie was over six feet tall and towered over Cody at his 5'8. Cody was used to men towering over him but not too many women grew this tall.

He was ushered into Mr. Schneider's office. The lawyer stood up and walked toward him quickly, his hand out. Reaching for it, Cody liked him immediately. He was about sixty years old, round with a happy face and a huge welcoming smile.

"Mr. Taylor. I'm so glad to finally meet you," he said warmly. "Here, sit here," he requested as he pulled out the chair that faced his desk and offered his hand.

Shaking firmly and replying, "Call me Cody," he sat down and looked quickly around the office. It was decorated in the usual southwestern colors and artwork. He smiled at the huge steer horns on the wall above Mr. Schneider's head. Glancing up, the lawyer laughed. "My wife always wanted to be married to a cowboy, I think."

Opening the folder lying on his desk blotter, he cleared his throat. "We have some business to take care of and then maybe I could show you around Drifter. It's not New York but it is a good place to live." Cody smiled and nodded his head.

"Your grandfather, Edgar Taylor, a dear man and a good friend, left you half of his property and a sizable amount of money. He left the other half of the property to Jase and Davy McBride. He gave Jase ownership of the house thinking you would never come back here to live."

"What do we do about sharing the land?" Cody asked.

"Well, and I know it's all right for me to say this, Jase can't buy it from you. He would dearly love to as your portion contains the water rights. He will have to lease out and pay the new owners to use his own water. But he doesn't have that kind of money. Vets don't make much around here. I'm not sure how we can work this out to everyone's satisfaction but you are, of course, the true family member. Jase knows that."

Cody needed to think. If Jase McBride had been the slightest bit nice, they could probably work out some kind of an arrangement. But he wouldn't even look at him, much less speak to him in a civil manner. How do you have a conversation with someone who hates you, not because of who you are but because of what you are? This wasn't Cody's first taste of prejudice but this was about his heritage, his birthright; not his sexual choices. He realized, sitting there that, even though he'd always known it, all prejudices are the same; hurtful and unfair.

"I'm more than willing to work something out, as you put it, but I seem to rankle Mr. McBride. He has a problem with me," he said quietly, no trace of anger in his voice.

Alan Schneider looked over at the handsome young man seated across from him. Dakota Taylor was the spitting image of his grandmother, Soft Wind. Lordy, she had been a beauty. If Edgar hadn't won her, he would have tried himself. Alan wasn't sure how much he could tell Edgar's grandson without betraying Jase's confidence but most of it was town gossip anyway.

A voice came through the open door. "Tell him, Alan. He needs to know so he can judge Jase fairly." Bessie appeared in the doorway. "I always listen," she didn't apologize. "Sometimes he needs a prod."

Cody laughed, then sobered. "Can you tell me why he hates me so?" 'And his own son', he thought.

"It's a complicated story," the lawyer said. "Jase moved here when he was a newly wed, fresh out of Vet school, he and Charity and Davy. The boy was only a baby then. They were a beautiful family, so happy, always smiling. Jase started to build his practice and Charity began teaching out on the Navajo reservation at Four Corners." He hesitated, took off his wirerims and polished the lenses. "This part is tragic. Four years ago, on a day just like this, hot and dusty, Charity left for work, driving the 30 miles to the reservation school in that beautiful black jeep of hers. They found her late that night, her body crushed under that jeep after having fallen to the bottom of Wild Horse Ravine.

Jase was beside himself with grief and anger. It appeared to be a horrible accident. But then, when the body was recovered, the constable found that she had been murdered, her throat slit and then the jeep pushed over the cliff to look like an accident. She had been um......abused and then thrown away." Mr. Schneider's voice had grown soft, even after all these years, the tragedy of the whole story was fresh, hurtful.

"When Jase learned this, he totally lost his mind for a while. Davy stayed with his friend Ty Grayson's family. Jase was not fit to watch him. He drank until he made himself sick and then he became what you see today. He can still laugh with his friends, we all still love him but he has changed, become so bitter."

"But................," Cody gasped, his heart broken for these three hurt people. Who did that? Who killed her?"

"That's the worst part. They never found the murderer. A knife was found up on the cliff, covered in her blood, but no fingerprints. It was a Navajo ceremonial knife." The lawyer looked at him gently.

"Oh My God," Cody groaned. "I'm a Navajo. Oh God. He didn't know, did he? No wonder." His hand flew to his mouth. It was too much to take in. His wife murdered by an Indian, his son is an Indian................Wait!!

"But, Mr. Schneider, Davy........?"

Alan had known he'd get there. "That, we don't understand at all. Jase is purely white and Charity, well, Charity was a beautiful blue-eyed girl. No one ever had the nerve to ask either of them where Davy came from and they both loved him so much that it didn't matter."

"I even looked up his birth records to see if he was adopted," Bessie whispered, embarrassed at what had been pure nosiness. "He was born to Charity and Jase McBride on November 23, 1994 in Gallup, New Mexico at the Trinity Memorial Hospital. It is a total mystery and Jase has never said. Davy used to be the center of his world but after the "accident", he could barely stand to look at the little boy. He's never been cruel or abusive. He just took his love away. He knows there's an Indian out there that killed his Charity and he has no place in his heart for brown skinned, black-eyed people, whether a child or a handsome young man."

Cody was devastated. What had he walked into? His heart went out to both of the McBride men. Jase was the adult but he was lost in his grief and his hatred had grown. Cody wanted to go find Davy and hold him tight. Did he know? Oh God, did Davy know? He tried to remember his face last night as he told him about the rabbit. Surely, he didn't know the details. All he had said was his mom had died in a car wreck.

Standing quickly, his eyes wet with empathetic tears, he excused himself from Mr. Schneider and Bessie. "I'll call you later," he said quietly. "I have to think all this through. I have to help somehow." He turned, trying not to run for the door.

Bessie stood at the window, watching the old truck swing around and kick up dust on its way out of town. "I think......I hope.........," she sighed. "I pray he can find a way to help them. Maybe he can get past those towering walls Jase's built. He deserves to be happy and Davy deserves every bit of love his father has stored up over the past four years."

Cody just wanted to go to the school and gather Davy up. He wanted to find Jase and hug him until he softened. He could do neither thing. What could he do? He could go home and cook a nice dinner for Davy, be there when he got home and go riding. Let him talk. Cody almost laughed, remembering his roommate Mike's declaration that food's the way to a man's heart. Well, that was almost what he said.

Cody realized he was avoiding thinking about Jase. Davy was one thing. He was starved for affection. Jase was walled up tighter than a vault. And the way Cody looked didn't help. Well, that was just too bad, Jase McBride. You are going to have to accept me if you're going to run my half of the ranch.'

Realizing what he just said to himself, he knew he had crossed over a line. Cody was letting himself finally look at Jase as a man, not some stranger that hated him but a man who had so much hidden pain that he couldn't even channel it anymore. Cody remembered how he had come to get him last night, saying, 'Come home, Dakota'. He remembered the coffeecup waiting for him this morning. Jase wasn't unaware of him.

Jase was cleaning the gash on Gary Terrell's paint pony's leg. He was antsy and didn't know why. Usually, he was only at peace alone with the animals but today he couldn't seem to concentrate. He knew if he stopped, closed his eyes, that face would push its way behind his eyelids. God, he was beautiful. Jase had always loved men with dark shiny hair, dark eyes and that sun-kissed skin. He felt his body tighten remembering how he had looked when Jase had looked in the bedroom door this morning before he left.

The sheet had fallen off the side of the bed and Cody's legs had been tucked up almost the way a child sleeps. Jase had stood immobile, staring at the smooth slide of his leg, his hip rising gently with each slow breath. His long black hair was spread all over the pillow, inviting a touch.

Jerking himself out of the daydream, he had pulled the door shut quickly but not before his body had given him away. It had been so long since he'd felt this way..........not since..........He slammed the door on that thought.

'Ah, Charity,' his mind flew back to her crystal blue eyes, 'You always told me this would happen again when I wasn't looking.'

And now, here he stood, cleaning a horse's leg and drooling like a kid. Trying to shake it off, Jase bandaged the wound and cleaned his hands at the faucet. He needed to go home and feed Davy.

Davy........Jase knew what he was doing, how cruel he was being. He wanted to fix it but he didn't know where to start. He had always loved Davy but the weight of everything, the anger, the absolute fury of not knowing, of no resolution, was eating him up.

Charity had been able to balance the three of them out but she wasn't here anymore. She was dead, murdered by someone who was just walking around free. He felt the anger rising but then he did something he hadn't done in four years. He clamped it down. He turned it away.

What was different? Why was he fighting it suddenly? He shifted into 5th and headed for home. Damn, he knew why. He wanted something in his life again. He wanted to laugh. He wanted to make love to a dark eyed man. He wanted to love something......someone. Soft brown eyes swam in front of his mind. Maybe it was time to raise his face; let someone see into his eyes again.

Davy rode his bike really fast. He hadn't wanted to get home so fast in a long time. If he finished his chores really fast, he and Cody could go riding. He couldn't wait to see him. He stood up on the pedals and held his arms out wide. Davy laughed out loud for the first time in four years.

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