Page 11 of Hadley

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Taking his hand into his, he felt his fear like it was a blanket over the younger man. He’d been beaten by his family so much that it was ingrained into his mind that no matter where they were when they saw him, he was going to be hurt. That was his fear right now. That his father and brother were going to hurt him badly this time.

“Look at the big dummy up there crying like he’s two instead of fifty.” Donny told his dad that he was only forty-one. “So what? You’re still acting like you’re only a baby.”

Levi started making baby noises at his son. It wasn’t until a loud growl from the back of the courtroom had him closing his mouth. While he didn’t know which one of the brothers or their wives did it, he was willing to bet that it was Rachel, Finn’s wife.

“I have you, Donny. You don’t have to look at them when the judge or the attorney asks you a question. You just answer them truthfully.” Donny nodded and turned in his chair so that he was facing the judge. He still had a tight grip on his hand, but he didn’t seem as afraid then. Judge Templeton had to be ninety years old, but he knew the law better than anyone he’d ever met. “You answer the questions and don’t pay the others any mind. I’ve got you.”

“Mr. Judge, they hurt me bad all the time.” Templeton asked Donny if he had any paperwork on it. “Paperwork?”

“I have it, your honor.” Imp made her way to the front and handed it up to the judge. “The hospital and his doctor dropped it off at my home after Donny had left to come here today.”

“Thank you, young lady.” Under normal circumstances, Imp would have torn a man apart for calling her that, but she was being on her best behavior. Right up until she stumbled into the table where Dipshit and Levi were sitting and knocked them both, chains and all, to the floor. “Are you all right, miss. My goodness. Did one of them try and trip you up? I’ll have none of that in my courtroom. You two behave or so help me, I’ll bring the hammer of the law down so hard on your head that—I might just do that anyway. From all the things I have before me about the two of you, I’d just as soon as see you in prison than just out roaming the streets where decent people are.”

“We didn’t do shit to her.” Dipshit was fined five hundred dollars. “If I had five hundred dollars, I’d not be here. I’d of just paid off a couple of people and done what I—what I wonder is why come I can’t just do what I’ve been doing since I was a kid? I mean, beating on Donny is getting harder. The big dummy is stronger than I remember, but shit, I gotta have me some fun.”

“That’ll be another thousand dollars on your fine. You keep it up, young man, and you’ll be mowing my lawn until you’re my age. Won’t that look just about right?” Templeton laughed, then turned to Donny. “All right, Donny, you tell me what happened the day that your brother knocked you around so that you needed twenty-four stitches.”

“He was all upset that I was living on the farm. I like it up there. I can drive the tractor really well now, and putting the ground to sleep so it can rest is my favorite part.” Levi asked him what the hell he meant by putting dirt to sleep. “We put all the poopie from the animals on it, then I turn the ground over so it can…I can’t remember right now. But the dirt uses the poopie to make it stronger for the next planting season. Ain’t that right, Mr. Hadley?”

“Yes, you said it perfectly.” He nearly laughed when Donny stuck his tongue out as his brother and father but held onto it at the last minute. After Levi was fined five hundred dollars, Donny continued with his story about how he’d gone into town with Miss Colby to pick up some things for dinner.

“They never tell me that I ain’t allowed to sit with them at the table. None of them ever treat me bad either up there. GGMa said that I was flourishing. I didn’t know what that meant either, but Mr. Hadley told me that I was getting stronger and smarter. I like that. I feel better, too, having a place to sleep too. I love the smell of the clean sheets. They hang them out to dry in the wind, sir. It smells like the—”

“What the fuck are you going on about?” Another bang of the gavel, and Dipshit was fined more money. “You gonna let him go on and on about this crap? I want you to make it so that until he has something important to say, and I mean stuff that I like, then he has to keep his trap shut. I want to get out of here. I do have a life beyond this place, you know?”

“You have other people to beat to snot, young man? Or is it stealing what you’re thinking you need to get back to? Either way, you’re going to be here a while. You have racked up some fines in addition to the ones that I’ve given you.” Templeton pulled up another sheet of paper. “Since Donny was declared unable to hold down a job and needed constant care, it’s your responsibility, Mr. Mitchel, to take care of all medical bills that he incurs. Also, you were to provide him with adequate housing and education as well as the essentials that he needs daily for his well-being. According to the paperwork that I have from the inspection of your home, not only is there no place for the young man to stay and live, but your home was devoid of any kind of indication that he was living in the house with you and your other son at all. Would you like to know that amount as it stands right now? I don’t care if you do or not. It’s well over sixty-thousand dollars. Most of which I’m to understand that you and your son have caused by sending Donny to the hospital.”

“I don’t have to pay anything for him. He’s got his checks coming—” Dipshit kicked his father under the table. “Oh yeah, I forgot. Heusedto have checks coming in that paid for that sh—crap, but they don’t send them anymore. So that’s why I’m not paying them.”

“It says here that you’ve been the one cashing the checks that are provided to him from the state and government. And as of this year, you’ve been claiming him as your dependent when he doesn’t even reside at your home any longer. Is that about right?” Levi admitted that he had no idea where his son was living. It was Donny that said he’d been living in a shed that his daddy had built for him behind the closed-up grocery store. “Is that right? Well, that sounds like abuse if you ask me. What did you hope to gain by putting your son out, Mr. Mitchel and still cashing his checks? Did you think that no one would notice?”

“They hadn’t caught on so far. Why don’t you put that on the back burner for a while? I sure could use some of that money now that I’m stuck in here and you banging that hammer around every time you want to make a little more off of us. We, my boy here, and I didn’t want the retard around. I don’t see what the big deal is about that.” In the back of the room, he saw his wife stand. Everyone, including the two Mitchel men, turned to look at her. Levi looked pissed off. “This is all her fault, too, if you think on it. If she’d done right by my family, we’d not be in this here sh—crap. Levi wanted to marry her, but she went off and married that man there. Why, I ask you? Levi wouldn’t have treated her too badly. He might even have given her a bit of a project or two while he made the place out there what it should have been a long time ago. Mine.”

“You mean mine. Don’t you, Dad? You mean the land would have been mine.” Levi waved off Dipshit. “Your honor, that’s a good point my dad made. Make them divorce so that I can get her hitched up to my wagons. I asked her first. Every damned day I asked her, but she was forever turning me down. What I should have done was just take her to my bed, filled her with my kid, and that would have been—”

Hadley hadn’t been looking at Dipshit, so he didn’t see what had happened to him to cause him to fall over on the table. When the blood started to slip over the edge of it, no one moved. Not until Levi, his father, realized that blood, his son’s blood, was getting on his hands. The screams that the man made would be something that would haunt his bad dreams if he ever had any.

As Levi was taken away when the ambulance arrived to take away the body of Dipshit, no one, not anyone from his family, said anything to anyone. Hadley had no idea who had done it for him, killed the man that would dare think that raping Colby would be all right. As soon as the judge called it a day to have the courtroom cleaned up, he helped Donny to the car they’d come in and held onto him while he seemed to struggle to understand what had happened to his little brother.

“He was mean to everybody. I know that people wanted him to be gone, but I don’t know who would have done it right there, do you?” Hadley said that he’d not seen anything. “Me neither. I don’t think I’m going to miss him hurting me all the time, though. And being mean. I think I’m sort of glad that whoever did it didn’t hurt me too. I’m not mean like Levi was all the time.”

“You’re not. You’re a good man.” He had a moment of fear that GGMa was going to confess to killing Dipshit, but all she did was tell Donny that he was better off without his brother hanging around all the time. While he didn’t know who had killed the man, he knew too that they’d done the world a big favor. At least this little town, anyway. Reaching out to his family, he asked them what they knew.

“None of us did it. We were just discussing it, and while not unhappy with the end result, not one of us had a thing to do with it.”Finn looked around the limo as he and Rachel were with him and his little family.“I’ve contacted Aunt Carson to see if she can see anything on the single camera that I noticed. However, to be honest with you, Hadley, I don’t care who did it other than I’d like to shake their hand.”

“I don’t want to know.”The decision just came to him at that moment, and he knew it to be exactly what he wanted in this.“No. I don’t want to know who did the deed. Like you, I’m happy, but I don’t want to know who did it. Whoever it was, they did us a favor, and I’m going to not let it bother me that he’s dead. If they want to tell us, then that’s fine too. But for now, let them have their privacy until it becomes a problem. Not that I think it will, but for now, I’m all right with that.”

“I am as well, now that you put it like that. All right. I’ll tell her what you decided and let it go. I don’t know what she’ll do or say, she is looking into it, but I will tell her that we don’t want to know.”Hadley thanked his older brother.“You’re so very welcome. And so you’re aware, the rest of them are on the same boat as you. They don’t want to know at all.”

Everyone met at his home for dinner. He enjoyed their company a great deal but wanted them to be gone, like now. When Colby came up to him and smacked him on the chest, he asked her what that was for.

“You’re scowling at everyone. Not only that, but we can all hear you grumbling about shit. Get over it. We have forever to make love, but if you keep acting like a child without his binky, I’m going to invite them all to spend the night here.” He told her that he’d be good. “Then wipe that shit off your face before I do it. And trust me when I tell you, you’d be better off doing it on your own.”

“I love you.” She growled at him, and Hadley had to laugh. “You’re a spitfire when you want to be, aren’t you? All right. I’m going to be good. However, this good behavior is only going to be here until they’re all gone. I want to make love to my wife, and everyone is fucking that up for us.”

“I know.” She leaned her head on his chest, and he held her, unsure what had seemed to upset her. “I’m worried about someone getting into trouble about Dipshit. I don’t know who did it, and I’m not sure I want to know, but I’m worried that someone is going to blame you, and you’ll end up in prison for the rest of your life. That would be a long time too.”

“I didn’t do it.” She said that she’d not thought that he had. “And I really don’t think that anyone really cares. We weren’t even questioned when his body was taken away. They didn’t ask us anything about seeing what happened. I think that they’re either too shocked right now or, like I said, don’t give a shit. After we started looking into their lives, I was shocked to see how much they’d been getting away with for so long. Aunt Carson said that there were even a couple of murders that were attached to their names.”