by Paty Jager
Van dressed and stomped around hoping to wake, Tessa. After tossing half the night with thoughts of her in his head, he didn’t have the control to walk down the stairs and perhaps find her sleeping or dressing. Either way he wouldn't be able to keep his hands off her.
The clang of the door on the stove below echoed in his head like the starting pistol at a horse race. He jogged down the stairs, happy to see her pallet all made and her belongings tucked away. He couldn't wait to see her as he entered the shop.
"Good Morning. I'll get us some breakfast and then bring the wagon over to unload." His hand shot out and rubbed her arm.
She glanced at his hand then up into his face. "Good morning. I'll get some coffee brewing." She moved away from his touch, but not before he saw her cheeks darken a shade.
"Good." He moved to the shop door. "I'll be back as quick as I can."
"There's no rush. I drank the milk this morning and could do quite well with that till noon."
"I'm going to win our bet and fatten you up." He winked and hurried out the door before he found some other thing to say to remain. If this kept up, he'd remind her of a randy young lad and scare her off.
Whistling, he headed to the restaurant on the corner. The dinner he'd purchased there the night before had been good.
He stopped when a man a block down looked right and left before darting between two buildings. There was something familiar about his build and gait. Van passed the restaurant and hurried to the spot where the man had disappeared. He walked by slowly, glancing between the buildings. Nothing. He hurried along the edge of the building and stopped at the corner. Voices, both familiar, were raised in an argument. Cautiously, he peeked around the corner. Judge Spencer and, he stared hard to get a look at the face under the wide Stetson. The man threw back his head and laughed.
Why was the judge talking to Crane? A known bank robber. He couldn't get close enough to hear what was being said. But it was clear the judge wasn't happy. Crane shrugged his shoulders and started Van's direction.
He hurried back to the main street and into the restaurant. If the judge knew the bank robber now, did he know the man twelve years ago? Was that why he tossed me into the prison for so long to keep me from finding out? But what about his declaration Mr. Harrison was one of the robbers? Why was he adamant about that? Crane knew better.
Van ordered a large meal again.
"You should be as big as old Paul over there the way you eat, mister," said the waitress who helped him the night before.
"I work hard."
She nodded and disappeared. Within minutes she returned with his plate piled high.
"I'm going to take this with me, again. At noon I'll return the basket and the plates."
The waitress nodded.
Van hurried back to the shop. He'd leave the food for Tessa and head to the livery for his wagon and have a talk with Brett.