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"What can you tell me about Judge Spencer since he moved here?" Van asked his friend as they hitched the horses to the wagon.
"Why are you so interested in the judge? I'd think you'd want to stay out of his way." Brett buckled the harness on his side and walked around the front of the team.
"Things Tessa told me don't add up. And I just saw him talking to Crane. A man who should have went to prison, not me." Van's anger surged the more he thought about the judge sentencing him when he obviously was in cahoots with the robber.
"What's provin' the judge is friends with Crane goin' to do? You're out now and can start a new life."
He stopped in front of his friend. "Vindication for Tessa and myself."
"You been out to see your family yet?" Brett crossed his arms and watched him.
"This weekend. As soon as I get the shop set up. Then I can invite Ma and Pa to town to see what I do."
"And your little sister."
"You're ma had a baby a couple years after you left. I'd reckon she's eight, now." Brett nodded his head.
Van fell back on his heels and stared at his friend. He had a sister? After all those years of yearning for a sibling he finally had one and didn't even know it. "A sister… What's her name? I'll have to get a gift for her and ma."
"Gloria. I can tell you that little girl has sweetened your pa." Brett shook his head. "It's the darnedest thing to see how your old man smiles and talks with her."
A pang of jealousy sliced Van's gut. His pa only gave him the time of day to give him orders or chew him out. Now more than ever he wanted to ride out to the ranch and see this new family member and if his pa had really changed.
"Guess I'll see for myself on Saturday." He climbed onto the wagon seat. "I better get this over to Tessa, she's one woman who likes to work. She had that shop spotless in no time yesterday."
"Beth told me you two were working well together."
Van shot a glance at his friend. A knowing smile creased Brett's round face.
"What does that mean?"
"Nothin'. You two work well together. Say, any idea where Tessa's stayin'? Beth wanted to send her a note."
"Just have her stop by the shop. Tessa will be there every day." If Beth started asking around about Tessa someone was bound to figure out she wasn't staying in the hotels or the boarding houses and eventually put two and two together.
"You even work the girl on Sunday?" Brett stared at him.
"No. I don't know what she'll be doing on Sunday." He decided to get out of there before he had to lie to his friend about not knowing where Tessa stayed. "See ya. Thanks for holding this for me. I'll bring the horses and wagon back at the end of the day."
Brett nodded, and Van snapped the reins over the horse's backs. The animals pushed against the harness and pulled the loaded wagon out of the livery and down the frost hardened street. He stopped in front of the shop. The door opened immediately, and Tessa stepped onto the boardwalk.
"What took so long?" She stood back while he climbed down and started untying the rope holding down the tarp and the load.