Here’s another excerpt from the book that sits on my hard drive, half completed, mocking me daily. It picks up where this post left off.
Rowell could feel his face flush with embarrassment. How could she be so bold as to invite the neighbor in to meet her lover? Had she no sense of shame? Hearing her speak glowingly of Lynch stabbed him with pain. Holding his breath, he stepped quickly to the stairway, and began to climb again before they returned to the kitchen to prepare tea.
The upstairs was dark in the evening gloaming. Rowell stepped lightly down the upstairs hallway, and entered the spare bedroom that Jennie had used for sewing. He was sure to be able to hear everything from the parlor, and Jennie would have no need to be entering this room. He stood quietly by the doorway, listening to Jennie and Harriet as they busied themselves in the kitchen. Hands in his pockets, he turned the cold stone over, and over in his hand. How round and smooth it was, like a egg in its shape and texture.
He tried to picture in his mind how he would surprise them in the dark, and rub black pepper in Lynch’s eyes. He imagined Lynch howling with pain, and thrashing about on the bed, as he raised the rock to smash him. How could he rub the pepper with one hand while holding the rock in the other?
If he couldn’t hold it in his hand he must find something to hold it in. So he stepped into the girl’s bedroom, and drew a long white stocking from the dresser. Sliding the rock inside of it, he put it back into his pocket and returned to the sewing room. He could hold the stocking in his hand as he grabbed Lynch, and blinded him with the pepper. Then he could easily use it as a sling to knock him out. If he came to, he would use the gun to hold him until Palmer and the men arrived. Then they would strip him, and send him out naked into the streets, to humiliate him, and teach him a lesson.
Now there was only waiting. In a few moments, he heard the sound of footsteps on the front porch, and then the ringing of the bell.
In her excitement, Jennie fairly ran to the door. Looking through the glass panes, she could see the tall silhouette of Johnson Lynch standing on the porch. Opening the door she welcomed him inside
“Well Mr. Lynch, I see that you have come bearing gifts.” She said, seeing a bouquet of Lilies in his hand.
“For you my dear, though they are but the merest reflection of your beauty.” He responded, removing his hat.
Jennie laughed, taking the flowers from him, and leaning forward to give him a kiss upon his cheek.
“Please come in, and allow me to introduce you.” She told him as she took his coat. “There is someone I would like you to meet.”
Raising his eyebrows in surprise, Lynch followed her into the parlor.
“Mrs. King, please allow me to introduce my dear friend Johnson Lynch.” Jennie said. “Mr. Lynch, this is Mrs. Harriet King, my closest friend and neighbor.”
“Pleased to me you, Mrs. King” Lynch said bowing low, and taking her hand.
Blushing, Harriet responded, “Please, the pleasure is mine. I have heard so much about you Mr. Lynch.”
“Lies, I am sure.” Lynch replied, “I am not half the scoundrel, as Jennie has made me out to be.”
“Oh, quite the contrary.” Jennie interjected, “You are at least twice as dangerous as I have told her.”
Turning to Harriet, she cautioned “Be on your guard around this man Harriet. He has been known to ruin the reputation of many a good woman.”
“You sound as if you speak from experience?” teased Lynch.
“You should be so fortunate.” Jennie shot back quickly.
Harriet giggled with embarrassment as she watched the two of them, the blood rising in her cheeks.
Placing the flowers in a vase upon the mantle, Jennie invited them to sit down while she fixed the tea, and food.
“So Mrs. King, Jennie has told me what a dear friend you have become since she moved to Batavia.”
“Please, call me Harriet.” She replied. “Jennie has told me much about you as well.”
“Yes, we have known each other for quite awhile.” Lynch said, adding “We do miss her in Utica. It hasn’t been the same since she moved away.”
“I am sure of it.” Harriet replied. “I must say that I am the one who has benefited most by her move. Life here was so dreadfully boring before Jennie came to town.”
Jennie returned to the parlor, carrying a tea tray, and a plate of Oysters. “Oh dear, what has he been telling you while I was gone?” she asked.
“I was just telling Harriet that our loss has been her gain” replied Lynch.
“And I was agreeing” smiled Harriet.
The light outside was fading, as Jennie lit the oil lamp on the table. In the late autumn air, the house had a slight chill to it.
“Are you warm enough Dear?” Jennie asked, “or would you like me to start a fire to take the chill out.”
“No, I am quite comfortable” replied Harriet, before realizing that Jennie was looking at Lynch as she spoke.
In the light of the lamp, Jennie though that his features were even more pronounced. The curve of his mustache, the waves of his hair, he seemed to be ten years younger than the last time she had seen him.
Sensing her eyes upon him, he smiled and returned her gaze. Harriet blushed an even darker shade of red, hoping that neither Jennie nor Lynch would notice.
“Please excuse my manners” Lynch said, as he helped himself to the food. “I am ravenously hungry after the train ride.”
“By all means.” Harriet replied, relieved that neither seemed to remember she was even in the room.
“How was the trip?” Jennie asked, taking her seat at the table.
Upstairs in the darkness, Rowell could hear their conversation, and the sound of Lynch’s voice coming from the parlor pierced him like a knife blade. His hands were sweating, and he hardly dared to breathe, as he felt that even the slightest noise would betray his presence.
Footsteps echoed outside on the front porch, and Rowell’s heart leapt. What was the time? Surely, it couldn’t be Palmer already?
The bell rang, and Jennie rose to answer it.
Rowell placed his hand on the pistol, and prepared to step out into the upstairs hallway.
“Well good evening Hiriam” Jennie said from the foyer.
“I beg your pardon, Jennie, but I was just coming to get Harriet” Hiriam King apologized.
“Please, won’t you come inside?” Jennie invited, stepping back from the door.
“No thank you, I just came to get Harriet. She’s needed at home” He said, standing outside on the porch.
Harriet walked into the front hallway, and seeing Hiriam asked “Is everything all right?”
“Aside from the children waiting to see you, and the housekeeper wanting to go home, yes, everything is fine” Hiriam responded.
Harriet’s eyes glared at him.
“I’m sorry, it’s my fault.” Jennie interrupted. “An old friend of mine from Utica has dropped in to visit, and I had insisted on introducing him to Harriet.”
Please, why don’t you come inside and join us for dinner. I’m sure we could give a call to the Showerman girl, and have her stay with the kids while we visit. I have a deck of cards, and we need a foursome anyway for Bridge.”
“Yes, please come inside” Harriet repeated, glowering at Hiriam.
“No, really. We must be getting home” Hiriam said, meeting Harriet’s gaze.
Gathering herself, Harriet turned back into the parlor, and said “I’m sorry Mr. Lynch, but I have to run. It was a pleasure meeting you.”
Lynch stood from the table, and replied, “Yes, it was a pleasure to meet you. I hope we see you again soon.”
“Goodnight, Jennie” Harriet added, “I apologize for our rudeness.”
“Oh dear.” Jennie replied, “there is no need for apologies. I understand.” Reaching out and squeezing Harriet’s hand, as she stepped through the door.
Upstairs, in the sewing room, Rowell’s hands shook, and his heart is pounded. Taking a deep breath, he wiped his brow with a handkerchief.
“Is everything all right?” Lynch asked.
“Yes.” Jennie responded, “although I am afraid I have gotten poor Harriet into a bit of trouble.”
“Hmm… I see that nothing has changed” Lynch teased “You still have your talent for stirring up trouble.”
Jennie’s eyes lit up with the reflection of the lamp as she approached him across the room. “Now, for a real kiss” she said, putting her arms around his shoulders.
Lynch lowered his head down to meet her mouth, and she tasted the salt from the Oysters upon his lips. She held that kiss for a long moment, letting go of all the worry and tension that had been building as she waited for him to arrive.
“I suppose I promised you dinner.” Jennie said, “perhaps I should get busy in the kitchen”
“Jennie, you are the only sustenance I need.” Lynch replied with a smile.
She went to the windows, and closed the shades against the darkness outside. The glow of the lamp’s frosted globe lit up the room in a warm yellow light.
Lynch walked up behind her as the she drew the last of the drapes, and put his arms around her, cupping her breasts with his hands, bending down and kissing her neck.
Her eyes closed as she surrendered to his touch, and she turned to meet his lips with hers. Lifting her gently, he carried her to the sofa.
Rowell listened silently from upstairs, straining to hear their voices in the silent house. There was only the noise of the wind outside, rustling the leaves. The silence was maddening, as his mind raced to picture the scene.
Jennie lay upon the couch, with Lynch on top of her, her arms around his neck, feeling the brush of his mustache against her face as he kissed her. She ran her fingers through his matte of thick, curly hair.
“Oh, how I have longed for you.” She sighed, his kisses working down along her neck, to the collar of her dress.
Wordlessly, he kissed her, as he ran his hands up the curve of her waist, and pressed them against her breasts. She lifted his head, and kissed him, taking his tongue into her mouth.
His hands worked to undo the clasps of her dress, and she whispered in his ear “Let’s go upstairs.”
She took his hand and led him up the steps to the bedroom. Once inside she removed her dress and turned to him. He untied her corset, as her hands moved from button to button, down the front of his shirt.
As her corset fell from her body, she felt his fingers, slowly working up her spine like the keys of a piano, kissing all the while.
Newt stood in the darkness across the hallway. He had heard the footsteps on the stairs, and he dared not breathe. Now he could hear the sounds of their breathing, and the rustle of their clothes. It seemed as if the scene was floodlit on a stage before him.
He heard their squeak of the bedsprings as they lay down on the bed, and his hands squeezed harder on the gun in his pocket until it seemed to burn against his flesh.
With his free hand he reached for the bag of black pepper.
His head ached, and his eyes strained to make out their forms in the darkness. Moving quickly across the room, he reached out into the darkness with a handful of black pepper, and felt hard flesh against his skin.
Rowell fumbled madly with the pepper, trying to find Lynch’s face in the darkness. Lynch rose from the bed, and leaned his shoulder into Rowell, sending him flying backward against the wall. The gun went off, and the room was lit with a flash like lightning.
Wood splinters flew through the air, and rained down upon the bed. With Jennie still screaming, Lynch pushed past Rowell, and ran out of the room towards the stairs. Turning, Rowell followed, and raised the gun again. He saw the silhouette of a man on the stairwell, and pulled the trigger again.
One shot rang out, and then another, and the footsteps on the stairs were replaced by the sound of a body tumbling down the steps. Lynch landed at the bottom of the stairs with a dull thud, and then all was silent.
Standing at the top of the stairs in the darkness, Rowell could only make out a dark lump at the bottom of the stairs.
Jennie pushed past him, and ran down the steps to where Lynch lay in the foyer. “Johnson!” she cried.
Running her hands across his body, Jennie felt his head twisted awkwardly to the side. She ran her fingers though his hair, and they came away wet. “No… no, no!” Jennie cried
“I had no choice” Rowell mumbled, “I had no choice.”
“Johnson! Johnson!” She screamed again, but his body lay still beneath her hands. She struggled to turn him, and lift him into her arms, as Newt descended the steps, and walked outside.
She heard voices outside, as she wiped her hand against his temple, and felt the hole in his forehead. “Why? Why?” she repeated as she broke down sobbing.
“Come quick! I shot a man.” Rowell yelled from the front porch steps to the voices in the distance.
Returning into the front hallway, he stepped over the widening pool of blood, and lit the oil lamp on the table. Jennie sat on the floor beside the body, half naked and crying. She looked up and him and screamed again. ‘Why?!”
Turning, Rowell headed down the hall to the kitchen where he filled a bowl with water. When he came back into the entry way, Jennie was gone, and Mr. Swanson, the neighbor from two doors down, knelt beside the body.
Setting down the bowl of water Rowell said “I found this man seducing my wife and I shot him.”
Swanson looked up at Rowell, his eyes wide with shock.
Taking a rag Rowell bent down and began to wipe Lynch’s face. Swanson reached out and stopped him.
“Is he dead then?” asked Rowell. Swanson nodded.
“I was afraid of it” Rowell said, and then repeated “I found him seducing my wife and I shot him.”
John Reed came through the front door, and into the hallway. He looked down at Swanson, who nodded at Rowell, then he noticed that the gun was still in Rowell’s hand. Putting his arm around Rowell, he calmly said, “Here Newt, why don’t you let me hold that for you.”
“Yes, yes…” Rowell muttered, sitting down upon the steps.
Turning again to Swanson, Reed instructed, “Run next door to the King’s, and call the Sheriff.”
Rowell sat quietly on the steps, his head in his hands.
“Tell me again, what happened?” Reed asked him.
Pointing at the lifeless body on the floor in front of him, Rowell said “I came home and found this man seducing my wife and I shot him.”
“Where is Jennie now?” asked Reed.
Rowell sat on the steps and looked up at him as if he didn’t understand.
“Is she all right?” Reed asked.
Nodding silently, Rowell turned and pointed up the stairs towards the sounds of Jennie sobbing.
“They were in the bedroom. I found them there, and then I shot him as he fled” Rowell explained, “I didn’t mean to kill him.”
Reed nodded, and said “Just sit still and try to relax. We can sort things out when the sheriff arrives.”
Jennie stepped out of the bedroom, wrapped in her robe, her eyes swollen and red from crying. “How could you?” she screamed at Rowell, “You murdered him! You’ll hang for this.”
Rowell nodded and quietly said “I suppose I shall.”
Jennie came half way down the stairs, then turned and walked quickly back to the top. Running her fingers through her hair she said “Why? Why did you shoot him? Why couldn’t you just beat him with your fists like any other man would?”
Rowell just stared at her.
“You’ve brought shame and humiliation upon us. We shall never be able to show our faces again” she said.
“I warned her against him” Rowell said looking at Reed, “I warned her.”
Lowering his head into his hands, he repeated it again, “I warned her…”