Today's Reading

As sheriff, Daniel was supposed to handle any miners who caused
property damage or committed other crimes on Ross Mining land—which
encompassed all of Rossville. But the rest of Bronwyn County was
also under the sheriff's jurisdiction. With only a part-time deputy,
Daniel had grudgingly accepted Luther's decision to bring in hired
police agents from the Pinkerton agency, as restlessness grew after
the Widowmaker deaths.

Lily has overheard Daniel complain to Martin Weaver, his deputy,
that the Pinkertons are desperate men who can't get work elsewhere
either because of their own dark pasts or lack of skills or because
they are immigrants no one wants to hire outside of mining.

"You know, I been watching you, and not just 'cause you're a pretty
thing. You're fixing up that cell, but there's two cots in here. So
why not just have your 'husband'"—somehow, he turns the word
lurid—"toss the new fella in with me? Easier on you. I figure
either you got a woman prisoner coming, and that's mighty unlikely,
or the prisoner ain't someone you want mixed in with me." He widens
his grin, wolflike. "I reckon the sheriff got himself a coal miner."

With that, he spits a foul wad through the bars, into the cell Lily
has just cleaned.

For a long moment, Lily stares at the man. He'd pieced together a
good bit. For last night, after they'd locked up him up, they'd had
a surprise visitor come during suppertime. Another Pinkerton man
whom Daniel talked to in the parlor.

When that Pinkerton had gone she asked Daniel, 'What does he want
with you?', and he muttered, 'Gotta fetch a new prisoner from
Rossville.' Usually Daniel just drove to Rossville a few times a
week to collect any miners held for violations of the law, but when
she said, 'Why did a Pinkerton come here? That's never happened
before ...' he'd uncharacteristically snapped, 'Enough!' Then Daniel
had been quiet through supper with Lily and their two young
children, leaving Lily to muse how agitated he had seemed for the
past week.

Now Harold lunges to the cell bars, as if he wants to squeeze
through them and come for her. "You think mixing me and a dirty-dog
coal miner up in one cell would be bad? Well then, you better tell
your husband to start coming down harder on those miners. Everyone
knows he harbors a soft spot for 'em since the Widowmaker."

Lily keeps her expression placid. She's learned, over the years,
that silence invites the guilty and the nervous to talk too much.
Sometimes that yields only gibberish. Sometimes it yields vital
information.

"It's gonna be 'war.'" The glint in Harold's eyes turns from lusty
to needful. He's world-weary, but she estimates he's younger than
her, too young to have served in the Great War. Like too many who
romanticize battle, he thinks it would be exciting.

Lily could tell him it would not be. Daniel doesn't speak about his
time in the army. But even seven years later, he still occasionally
calls out at night from some terror-filled war dream. As a good
wife, she'd learned to calm him and then not speak of it in the
brightness of morning.

"A real war," Harold says. "And then, rule of law won't matter.
Those miners who resist, why, we'll put 'em down like rabid dogs."

Lily returns the prisoner's card to its proper place in the "J"
drawer. Then she walks back to Harold's cell door. "Hand me the
plate."

Instead, he reaches his good hand through the bars to grab for her.
But Lily seizes his wrist before he can touch her breast and yanks
him so hard into the bars that one side of his face smashes into the
iron. He glares at her through his narrowed, bruised eye, like a
walleye fish. He tries to jerk away, but Lily, stronger than her
five-foot-three frame suggests, holds tight. He brings his sprained
arm around to grasp a bar, but pain stops him.

Still, he gasps: "I'm telling Mr. Ross!"

She twists his wrist. He quiets, except for whimpering.

"Tell 'Mr.' Ross anything you like. I'm only defending myself, as is
my right," Lily says. "You and your kind will not bring war down
upon my county. 'Sheriff' Ross will see to that."

For a moment, he is a trapped, wounded animal waiting for its next
opportunity to strike back. Lily had seen that, hunting with her
daddy. Lily calculates: she will need to jump back and let go of his
wrist at the same time. She counts to three and does so.

Harold stumbles backward, falls to the floor. He scrambles over to
the tin plate and slings it at her through the bars, missing widely.

"When the sheriff returns, you will clean that up. And you'll scrub
the other cell's floor."

He curses her as she lifts the key ring off the peg by the jailhouse
door. Quickly, she steps out and then closes and locks the door,
sliding the ring over her narrow arm like a bracelet.
...

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