EXPLORING FOR TREASURE – PART 4
Lynn ran with all of her might and cut across the railroad tracks taking a path she used to knock a couple of blocks off the walk back the hotel. It was not only faster but closer to the river, a view her eyes were always ready for. The sun was so bright and she squinted to see where she was going, her tennis shoes throwing up gravel as she ran, but hitting a loose pile her ankle twisted and down she went into the ditch that ran beside the tracks. She had barely landed when she looked up and saw Jesse scrambling down the side of the ditch and she stood, trying to put weight on her ankle which was beginning to swell immediately. She was too slow and he had a hold of her arm in no time and started dragging her back up towards the tracks.
“Everything all right there?” A couple carrying fishing poles and a tackle box had seen the chase and her fall and decided they’d better check out the situation.
“Oh just fine,” Jesse lied, “My niece has a temper and ran from her parents but I’m taking her back there now. Unruly child, this one, a liar too, I’m ashamed to say.”
The man was ready to walk away not wanting to get between family but his wife didn’t like the looks of the man and the girl’s eyes were telling a different story as she was trying desperately to get out of his grip.
“Little girl” said the woman, is this your Uncle?
“NO! He is trying to steal my book and had me cornered in the feed mill. You jerk!" she added and kicked him in the leg.
Jesse winced and tried to apologize for her behavior, restating the lie he had told and adding that she had something wrong with her mind and was not just a willful child.
“Well, I guess we’ll be walking back with you then,” the woman answered, ”and making sure this handful doesn’t get away from you. Come here little girl. What’s your name, anyway? I don’t think I’ve seen you around the neighborhood. Who are your parents?”
Jesse loosened his grip with a final squeeze he hoped was hard enough to convey the message she’d better not open her mouth. Lynn gratefully ripped her arm out of his hand and stood on the other side of the woman. She wanted to just take off running in case they started believing all of the double talk that was coming from this jerk’s mouth but her ankle was starting to hurt like fire and she had to accept the arm of the nice lady to hobble along. Jesse disappeared with the excuse he had dropped something a ways back and walked briskly back toward the feed mill, saying he would catch up with them in a minute. With him gone Lynn poured out the truth and said if they’d just get her to the hotel she could take it from there. They wanted to speak with her parents but she explained that her mom would be working til after six o’clock that night but said she had a friend at the hotel that would tell them there was nothing wrong with her mind and she wasn’t no LIAR!
Old Joe breathed a sigh of relief when he spotted the kid and a couple walking slowly up the sidewalk and went out to meet them. The kid was limping, had a skinned knee which was dripping blood down her leg and onto her shoe. She was covered in dry grass and sweat beads ran down her forehead and into her eyes, causing her to wipe them hurriedly least someone thought she was crying. He had her sit down on the stoop and the adults walked off a few paces and started discussing what had taken place, near as they could figure. Lynn saw the veins sticking out on Old Joe’s neck and figured she was in for it from him and a whipping from her mom when she heard about it. She’d never get to go exploring now she thought and almost started crying for real. Her new book had pages coming out from the death grip she’d had on it and the tumble into the ditch but it was all there, still readable, just a little worse for the wear.
Back inside the hotel, Old Joe told her to go clean herself up and use extra soap on her knee. He said to add a band-aid if they had any and let her know they needed to talk when she came back out to the lobby. Lynn did as she was told, except for the extra soap part cause the first of it stung like crazy. She put some ice on her ankle, a trick she’d learned from her mom when something the woman smacked on Lynn’s body started swelling. She knew how to apply her mom’s powder to hide bruises from nosy teachers too. Her mom hadn’t had one of her spells in quite a while now and it had seemed life was getting good. Now, unless she could make up a story to tell her mom and talk Old Joe into not telling, her days of freedom were gonna come to an end. She just couldn’t bear being cooped up in the room all day. There was nothing to do and school would be starting soon enough anyway, putting a real crimp in her fun.
Her cat, Whiskers jumped up into her lap and nuzzled her neck like he always did when she was starting to cry. Silent sobs shook her young body and tears streamed down her almost clean face as she hugged her dear friend close. “I made a mess of things this time, Whiskers. A real mess. Gotta think on this one some and I have to get back out there and have a talk with old Joe too. You be a good kitty and go back to sleep now. I’ll be back pretty soon." Lynn checked his food and water and finding them both full she hobbled out to face the lecture she knew was coming.
As things turned out Lynn didn’t get into trouble after all. She and Old Joe had a talk about that jerk and he told her that man and some others like him were not after her book at all but wanted to hurt her ways she’d have to talk to her mom about, but Old Joe wasn’t gonna squeal on her. He told her the guy was staying right there in the hotel but he’d be moving on real soon like. In the mean time she was to stick to Old Joe like glue and stay in for a couple of days, that he made her promise for not telling her mom.
As for Jesse, he was seen hopping a freight late one night, a lot worse for the wear than Lynn’s book. Word had it he was sporting a couple of new deep slices down his face that would make most kids run from him as soon as they caught a look at him … but you know, those kinda things are hard to prove.