Later that day the boys walked out of the jail with their father and headed out for their home. Some of the townsfolk stood in small groups watching them shake hands with Sheriff Cole, one or two shouting out messages of support. Most didn’t though. Mr Bowen, the schoolteacher, went up to Minister McGinley and shook his hand. They stood for a few seconds talking but they was too quiet for me to hear. The boys didn’t say anything.
Turned out, according to Clint anyway, that the boys were sent away to a special school somewhere.
And that was that.
And then the weather changed.
From the slicing wind and ice driven rain that ripped your face, the sky changed as the clouds moved on and the sun reappeared. The mud dried out fast due to the parched wind that came up from the south, leaving hard rutted tracks everywhere. Then the wind left, too, and people began leaving their doors open. It may still have been cold but it was fresh, dry and almost pleasant.
I saw the Marshall leave Roylsden. There was no goodbyes, no nothing, just upped and left, rode out quiet with the sunrise.
Me and Clint did our best to find out what was going, but all we got was "Behave!" or "Grow up" or "This don' concern kids, now behave, grow up and mind your own business."
But it was our business. In spite of the way they behaved to me, Samuel and Zeke were still my friends. I know they hated me, but I felt I owed them. And anyway, they was still Clint's friends.
All this talking. All this not seeing them. All this grown up business hidden away like we were fools, or useless, or I don't know what.
But that didn't happen.
The Marshall was here a couple of weeks, doing a deal of talking at the jailhouse and the McGinley place. All talking, a lot of riding between the jail and the McGinley place, but no sign of a judge coming to town.
People got themselves agitated.
They said stuff like if they aint gonna get taken away maybe they'll hang. They said who else would kill two women but mad kids.
They said maybe there's some reason they aint gonna hang. And they looked at Minister McGinley and began trading frowns and whispered accusations amongst themselves.
Folk stood talking on corners or in shop doorways and there was whispering and pointing as they talked of how Samuel developed a real bad temper and how Zeke got touched by a bad moon, and there was no smoke without fire and it was Mrs McGinley people felt sorry for, and how them kids should go to prison because honest folk aint safe with them devils around.,
Everybody thought both boys was going to prison, seemed inevitable somehow. There'd be a trial and talking and in the end they'd say "too young to hang".
Then they'd be taken away.
Clint's face was red.
"I know he's got weird, but why'd he kill her?"
I had no answer.
"He'd no reason to kill her," I said.
"Just like he'd no reason to kill Mrs Prendergast!" Clint quickly rubbed tears from his eyes.
I hugged him. I wasn't much for hugging, but it seemed right. He held on tight, just saying "Why?" But all I could reply was "I don't know" and then I let go inside and the dam burst and I cried and cried like a baby and all the time I wasn't sure of why I was crying
News that both of the McGinley boys were in jail spread quickly. Sheriff Cole said they found something of Zeke’s in Taya Two Horses house and that’s why he was holding them. That, and they wouldn’t say where they’d been or what they'd been doing.
Minister McGinley spent a lot of time in the jail. A lot to talk about I guess. I tried to get in to see the boys but they wouldn’t let me. But I overheard Sheriff Cole saying they was sending a Marshall down from Carney and then there’d be nothing anybody could do for them.
So next time they disappeared I knew it was because of me. I guess it was to make a point. Trouble is, I'd no idea then that when they come back they would lie about Taya Two Horses.
Sheriff Cole rode out to the McGinley place on a freezing cold and wet January night. He wanted to speak to the boys because they’d both told Mr Bowen they’d seen Taya Two Horses that afternoon, riding near her ranch. Trouble is, the night before, Sheriff Cole had ridden out to her place with Doc Morris and the undertaker. She’d been strangled.
Anyway when Samuel and Zeke got back I told them I’d been looking for them. Samuel shouted at me and said don’t you ever follow us again, Cody! Don’t you ever do that, you hear me?
Zeke just turned and walked away, he didn’t say anything. That’s what hurt the most.
I hated crying in front of people but I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t say anything, I just nodded and stood there shaking, head bowed, tears dripping off my face. They were mostly tears of hurt, but maybe there was some tears of hate, too. Maybe. I couldn't tell.
They went away again, but this time something was different. Like a change in the wind you don't notice straight away.
I looked for them, even went out as far as Taya Two Horses’ ranch., and nobody ever went there. It was a bad place, scary but exciting. There was bones roped to the fence next to the entrance, feathers tied round them in the old traditional way. Some said they was children's bones. Like she killed children who come trespassing on her land.
Samuel and Zeke weren't there.
But I touched them bones before I left, just for luck.
We asked Mr Bowen but he just said Mrs McGinley be really worried too, for they don’t speak at home neither. But let ‘em be, maybe they just been through too much, just let ‘em be.
They wandered off a few days before Christmas. The first few times they didn’t come back at night Minister McGinley and Sheriff Cole took a few men and went looking, most times coming back with them. Nobody said anything about where they’d been, not to me anyway. People got used to it soon enough and they always come back safe so that was that.
Winter came. Zeke and Samuel had taken to spending a lot of time on their own, and as the cold bit harder this sure got worse. They’d wander off alone and not be seen for a day or two. They refused to come with Clint and me to our favourite haunts, they just weren't interested in climbing or fishing anymore. Sometimes, Zeke especially, he'd talk to Clint but not talk to me.
Me and Clint wanted to speak to someone about it, but we couldn’t exactly ask Minister McGinley for advice. Confused and hurt, we didn’t know what to do.
It was hard to say what happened to them.
They got quiet. Hardly said a word. Never smiled. Always looked down, both of them.
"Look at your feet, miss a treat!" my grandmother would say to me. I used to look down a lot. But not in a bad way, not like them.
"Maybe stuff's still happening to 'em. Inside, like." Clint tried to explain to me and I sort of understood and sort of didn't. Course Zeke never killed anybody, so why would he change? And why was him and Samuel so different now, if he hadn't done it?
By the end of the week Zeke come back to school. On Saturday Mrs Prendergast was buried and then on Sunday Minister McGinley did more sermonising on forgiveness and said that whoever done it was seen by God and their punishment would come when God saw fit.
After another couple of weeks Sheriff Cole also seemed content to leave the matter in the hands of the Good Lord Himself.
And nothing else happened.
Time passed and the fear that walked amongst us slipped quietly away.
Everything returned to normal.
Like nothing had changed.
Except Samuel and Zeke, and their eyes.
All that week we waited for something else bad to happen... but nothing did.
Samuel returned to school and said Zeke took it real bad and couldn’t stop shaking. When them Newgale kids said that was because of guilt I wanted to make their faces look like rockfall, but Samuel and Clint dragged me away and said "You ignore it, Anna Cody, them Newgale kids aint worth a pot of flies." I would have though. They really deserved it.
Samuel still hung around with us, but he didn't talk much. He'd grown dark inside, like he was caging a storm.
Sure, someone else done it, because someone else must have done it, Mr Bowen whispered. His eyes were watery, and I guess he didn't want to show us kids he was crying because every time he caught our eye, he looked away, looked up at the ceiling or out the window.
He shook his head slowly, before continuing.
So, two things children, two things you must remember. Don't blame Zeke for this terrible thing, the poor lad's suffered enough; and keep your doors bolted, children, we don’t know who really did this awful deed, keep your doors bolted tight shut.
That night Zeke was released from jail and taken home to the McGinley place by Sheriff Cole. At school next day, Mrs McGinley and the boys wasn’t in, so Mr Bowen got us together and said we knew what had happened to poor Mrs Prendergast and how, just because he was there, suspicion pointed to Zeke. But there was nothing to say Zeke had done it.
We all know Zeke, children, Mr Bowen said, we know he wouldn't do such a terrible thing.
He stopped and rubbed his hand over his face.
Someone else done it, he said, nodding wisely.
“Don’t stare so, child” Clint’s mother leaned across Clint and slapped me on the leg.
She then commenced to stare at Minister McGinley as he gave his sermon. It was all about forgiveness. How even good people make mistakes. How the only real judge is the Good Lord, who sees all and knows all and is therefore the only one in a position to make a judgement. We all err, we all stray. The Lord knows us, knows best how to deal with us so we may return to the narrow path, the right road, the true path to salvation.
That Sunday, Minister McGinley took the chapel service as usual. Despite the sudden storm that sent rivers of swirling brown water cascading through Roylsden, the small chapel was packed. Even old Taya Two-Horses had come to town - first time for thirty years, I heard Doc Morris tell Mrs Clyde.
It was the first time I’d seen Taya Two-Horses. She seemed old and evil, her face carved and lined like canyon rock, her movements slow and laboured. I smiled at her but her face was hard and, though she met my stare with eagles eyes, she didn’t smile back.
"What's happened?" I asked.
Unfamiliar faces looked down at me. None of them spoke.
Then I saw Sheriff Cole and some other man marching swiftly out of Mrs Prendergast's house. Between them walked, or rather stumbled, Zeke. When I heard someone say Zeke done it, then someone else say Mrs Prendergast's been murdered, I turned and ran as fast as I could.
I didn't know what I was running from, because my mind refused to believe that Zeke had done anything. He couldn't have! Just couldn't! Zeke couldn't kill!
But three words spun relentlessly behind my tears.
Zeke done it.