The Holts… Chapter 4.
Chapter 4, Boarding House
Carlton looked up from the plate of stew as a star-shaped badge caught his eye. The badge on a brown leather vest which in turn covered a thick, powerful chest. A man who had a several years of hard work behind him but obviously still very capable. The man with the badge strode purposefully to the table where the Holts were just starting their evening meal. Luke, Kelvin, and Donni were now looking at the lawman too, having noticed Carlton’s pause and following his stare. The lawman had fastened his gaze on Carlton the moment he walked in and neither was willing to be the first to look away. By the time he had reached the table Carlton knew what he needed to about the man. This, like his earlier conversation with Sheriff Spense Morgan, was not going to go well. Marshall Thurston already had a head of steam on and was looking to set things straight before they even went sideways. Maybe cut him off with kindness and do it on his own terms, if he was lucky.
Carlton had positioned himself facing the door to the dining room at an oval-shaped table with 5 chairs around it. His brothers and Luke had sat to his left around the table, leaving an empty chair on his right. Kelvin was closest with Donni and Luke next, facing him across the table. Carlton picked up his napkin and wiped his mouth. Standing, he extended his hand. “Evening, Marshall Thurston”, he said pleasantly.
The Marshall had to walk around the table to shake Carlton’s hand. “Evenin’ Mr. Holt,” The Marshall scowled as Carlton motioned to the empty chair beside him and reseated himself.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but it has been several days since I’ve had a hot meal, and it would be a shame to let Mrs. Bisby’s stew get cold,” Carlton put his napkin in his lap and retrieved his spoon from the bowl. The lawman hesitated for a moment then sat down.
“Now, Mr.Holt,” the Marshall started firmly, “I don’t know a lot about you and your brothers here, but from what Morgan tells me you’re just the kinda drifters we’d rather see drift right on out of our little town.”
Kelvin groaned as he thought about the doctor and the fun he’d been planning to have at his expense. He had also played dumb to Carlton when he asked if anything had happened at the bar. Just told him that they had one beer and Donni stared at the girl. Carlton wasn’t happy about that, but he thought it got Carlton dragging Donni and him to the boarding house before he could talk to the bartender.
With a pained expression Carlton opened his mouth to reply, but the Marshall kept going. “I’m not the type to throw a man outta town just for the way he looks or talks,” everyone at the table was listening closely now, “so I’ve sent a wire to Tucson to find out about you boys.”
Donni’s eyes narrowed. “Seems like a pretty unfriendly way to greet a man,” Donni said through clenched teeth, “slinkin’ around, checkin’ up on people behind their backs.” Donni had earlier put down his spoon and his hand had moved down below the top of the table.
Carton gestured sharply, taking note of Donni’s hands, “Now settle down Donni, the Marshall has every right to find out what kind of people are staying in his town,” Carlton turned to look the Marshall in the eye “however impolite it might be.”
Luke tossed his napkin on the table “There’s nothing keeping us here, Carlton. Why don’t we blow on out of this two-bit wagon rut.”
Kelvin set down his glass and looked at Carlton. “No way I’m leavin’ this town now, not till I have my fill of it.” Carlton could feel the mood of the room shift slightly. There was a taste of fear in the air and it was not a good atmosphere. His brothers were not helping the situation and this would not do. He flashed both of his palms up to his brothers and Luke, catching each of their eyes quickly to let them know not to do anything unless he did first.
The Marshall, feeling the change too, stood, his scowl making deep creases in his forehead as he scanned each, settling his eyes on Donni, “You might just get your fill a little faster than you’re figurin’ to.” directed at Kelvin but never moving his eyes.
The whole room was quiet now. Breaking his stare he turned to Carlton, “I’d recommend you keep a tighter reign on your ‘little’ brothers, Mr. Holt.” The Marshall turned to leave, then paused “In case you don’t know, my name is Matthew Thurston and as U.S. Marshall it’s my job to keep this territory safe for the good people who live here,” the Marshall glanced around the room at the worried faces of the townspeople. “so you can expect me to be riding herd on you four till you’re gone or I’ve got reason to do otherwise.” He finished up staring straight at Carlton, punctuating his last words by directing them straight at him.
Thurston stalked out of the dining room and into the lengthening shadows of early evening. As he stepped off the sidewalk he was thinking about how glad he was that those three Rangers were due in tomorrow. He finally felt a cool sweat start to drip down the small of his back. That could have gotten ugly he realized. Very ugly.
Carlton smiled thinly at his brother. “Donni, I think I’m just going to start sending you out of the room when I have to talk about anything important.” He shook his head and drained his glass of water.
“But what fun would that be?” Kelvin asked, as he jabbed his brother Donni in the ribs. Carlton took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Donni grinned at Kelvin and shook his head his head no. Warning Kelvin to be quiet while Carlton calmed down and thought. Luke finished his stew and dropped the spoon into the bowl.
“Never did get that whiskey I promised myself,” he said and stood, reaching for his coat.
Carlton eyed him distrustfully,”Watch yourself, Luke.” He would have rather they all had gone to the rooms Luke had got for them earlier, but he knew that wasn’t going to happen. It never did.
Luke nodded and pulled on his coat,”Just want a whiskey, cousin. Simmer down.”
He left and Carlton turned to Kelvin and Donni, “You two go with him. And stay out of trouble. I have some business to attend to… a few wires of my own to send. Remember stay out of trouble for one night at least.”
Donni and Kelvin meandered out after Luke.