Not a very good one, I’m afraid, but it’s a busy busy weekend!
by Marian Allen
She folded the letter she held and tucked it into her tunic pocket.
I shouldn’t have read it in front of a book. They have themselves to think about.
The “books” of a living library were people who, in an excess of enthusiasm for a particular tome, delighted in memorizing it and reciting it on request. A living library consisted of dormitories, a dining hall, and, of course, an administration.
“You got me worried, now,” the book said. “But if you don’t care to confide in me, that’s up to you.” He turned away.
Holly wanted to apologize, but she couldn’t remember his title. She didn’t spend much time with the Westerns.
She remembered and called him back. “I’m sorry, Shane. It’s just unprofessional of me to burden you with my problems.”
“We’re kinda like family here, Miss Holly. Your problems are our problems.”
“Not really, but it’s kind of you to say so.” She sighed and gave in. “It’s my mother. She has three acres of prime pratty grazing land that a local pratty baron wants to buy. My mother doesn’t want to sell. He’s trying to pressure her.”
“Oh, the usual tricks: He goes into bars and cries and tells people she insulted him.”
“He call any witnesses?”
“He has five henchmen who all tell the same story. She may be forced to sign the land over to him in reparation for hurting his feelings.”
“Well, ma’am, that sure is troublesome.”
“I’m taking a few days off to go stand by her.”
“O’ course you are. Best of luck.”
“Thank you. – Oh, and Shane, don’t tell any of the others.”
He touched his forehead in a sketch of a hat-tip.
It was only later that Holly realized it was a gesture of respect, not of agreement.
Holly was glad she took the pedal train instead of driving her hovercar. The hovercar would have made the trip from Council City to her home town of Boonieburgh, but helping pedal the public conveyance kept her mind off her mother’s dilemma.
As the train neared the Boonieburgh station, the conductor’s voice came over the loudspeaker. “Slow down, now. Slower. Slower. Please remove your feet from the pedals to avoid injury when the engineer sets the brakes.”
A moment later, the squeal of metal on metal accompanied the jerk-and-bump of the train coming to a halt by the station’s wooden platform.
Beyond the station was a chilling sight: Bigman Moneybags, the pratty baron, with his five henchmen, stood spread across the main street of Boonieburgh.
Before she disembarked, the stationmaster, an old friend from school days, came aboard to find her.
“He heard you were coming. He’s waiting for you, Holly. He plans to …. Well, word is, he plans to file a formal complaint. His boys will back up anything he says. Maybe you’d better go back to the city.”
Holly wrapped her signature purple feather boa around her neck and squared her shoulders.
“A Jahangiri never backs down from a formal complaint.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you!”
Holly stepped out of the train showing more courage than she felt. Her legs were weak, and not just from the exertion of pedaling the train through the countryside.
She heard another train car door open and close behind her, but thought nothing of it until Moneybags and his boys shifted uncomfortably, the henchmen all looking to their boss for a signal of what to do.
Holly looked over her shoulder, and saw seven men spread out to mirror Moneybags’ five. All seven men nodded to her. One of them was Shane.
He said, “I rounded ’em up, ma’am, every one I could find in every branch living library in Council City. We’re all Shane by Jack Schaefer.”
A man in the blue tunic and white sash of Boonieburgh’s law enforcement organization came between the two groups.
“Now, then,” he said, “can’t we settle this thing reasonably?”
“Yes,” said Holly. “He can stop harassing my dear old gray-haired mother.”
Moneybags said, “I’ve got five boys who’ll all tell the same story.”
“And I’ve got seven who’ll tell a different one.”
“Well,” said the sheriff. “There you go, then.”
Moneybags snatched the hat off his nearest minion’s head and threw it on the ground, stamping on it in pique.
Holly said, “My mamma did not hurt your feelings, did she? She did not insult you, did she? She does not have to give you her three acres, does she?”
“No, no, no! Curse you, you troublemaker!”
“Excuse me? Was that an insult? Sheriff, did you hear that?”
“I did. Mr. Moneybags, you owe Miss Holly an apology.”
“And drinks at Rodrigues’ Bar for me, my mother, and my boys.”
The sheriff drew his official cricket clicker and rattled off a series of ticks and tacks to signal an end to the negotiations. “So be it! Case closed!”
The celebration went on until the wee hours in Boonieburgh, for Ma Jahangiri was popular with most residents and Bigman Moneybags was not.
By the next afternoon, Holly and all the Shanes were back at their libraries. Holly made it a point to thank her branch’s Shane for what he’d done, even though he’d gone against her express wishes. Westerns were just like that.
Why is this weekend busy? I was at the Howard Steamboat Museum’s Art and Antiques Jubilee selling books with the other Per Bastets and we got rained all over. But we’re going back today. Yay, us!
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write about a false accusation.