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High on a Hill
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This book is a work of historical fiction. In order to give a sense of the times, some names or real people or places have been included in the book. However, the events depicted in this book are imaginary, and the names of nonhistorical persons or events are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance of such nonhistorical persons or events to actual ones is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2002 by Dorothy Garlock
All rights reserved.
Warner Books, Inc., Hachette Book Group, 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
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The Warner Books name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
First eBook Edition: June 2002
BOOKS BY DOROTHY GARLOCK
A Gentle Giving
After the Parade
Love and Cherish
More than Memory
Ribbon in the Sky
River of Tomorrow
Sins of Summer
The Edge of Town
The Listening Sky
The Searching Hearts
This Loving Land
Wild Sweet Wilderness
Wind of Promise
Henderson, Missouri, 1925
SHE HAD NOT SEEN THE HOUSE IN THE DAYLIGHT, as they had moved in in the middle of the night. But she knew that it was high on a hill and as remote as all the other places where they had lived during the past five years.
"I know ye're disappointed to be movin' again, darlin', but this time we be stayin' for a while."
"It's all right, Papa. I'm just tired."
"Boone and Spinner will be bringin' in the furniture and helpin' ya get settled."
"Are you leaving?"
"I'll be back by noon tomorrow." He put his arm across her shoulders. The lamplight shone on his worried face as he peered into hers. "Ye're not afraid, are ye?"
"No," she said with a tired heave of her shoulders. "I'm not afraid."
"Boone and Spinner will be here and ye're not to be worryin'. Boone will be keepin' a sharp lookout."
"Why should he do that?" she asked sharply. "Are you expecting someone?"
"No. I'd not leave ya if I thought that there would be the slightest chance that ya'd be in any danger. Look over the house and see where you want things put. Boone will be settin' up yer bed."
An hour later Annabel lay in her bed with the covers pulled up to her chin and listened to the sounds of the men unloading the furniture from the two trucks. They worked without speaking, but one time she heard one of them swear.
"Dammit to hell! This cabinet's heavy!"
"Ain't as heavy as them boxes with the jars of canned stuff and that damned iron cookstove."
"Horse hockey! The dang icebox ain't no feather bed."
Annabel gazed out the window at the star-studded sky and tried to count the number of times she and her father had moved since her mother's death back in 1920. She knew the moves were necessitated by the circumstances of her father's business.
Soon we'll be havin' enough money to buy a fine house and ya can live in style. I always wanted it for yer mother but couldn't swing it while she was alive. But I'll get it for ya. I swear that I'll get it for ya.
Her father's words echoed in her head.
I don't have to live in style to be happy. I want to live in a place long enough to feel that I belong somewhere.
How could she make him understand? He was one of ten children born to a poor couple who had carried the stigma of "poor Irish trash." Hard work had sent them to an early grave. Murphy was determined that that would not happen to him or to his daughter. He knew the risks he was taking. The federal marshals would love to get their hands on him.
Annabel had told him a hundred times that she would rather be dirt poor with him than rich without him. What would she do if something happened to him? There was money put away so that she would be able to get by; her father had seen to that. But she would be without another person in the world to care if she lived or died, except maybe Boone.
Annabel drifted off to sleep worrying, as she had done almost every night since she was sixteen years old, about what tomorrow would bring.
The house looked better in the morning light, even though it was badly in need of a paint job. It was a frame building with four large rooms, a loft, a small porch stretching across the front and one in the back. From the porch Annabel could see not only the winding road going south to Henderson, but in the distance, over the treetops, a portion of the mighty Mississippi River. Behind the house, beyond the barn, a shed and another ramshackle building, was a thick forest of trees.
The two trucks that had transported their belongings from Ashton to north of Henderson were nowhere in sight, nor were Boone and Spinner. While she slept, their furniture had been put in place. Her kitchen cabinet was set up against the wall, and the boxes containing dishes, utensils and food were sitting on the big square table waiting for her to sort and put in their proper places. A bucket of fresh water sat on the wash bench beside the door. She had no doubt that her father's bed and bureau were already in the other bedroom.
As she was getting out of bed, she had heard the chimes on her clock striking the hour. It was a comforting, familiar sound. Knowing how much she treasured the clock, Boone would have put it in its regular place on the library table, leveled it, set the correct time and started the pendulum swinging.
Sighing and not relishing the job ahead, Annabel dressed and slipped her feet into her shoes. When she went to the kitchen, she carried with her the oval framed mirror from her bedroom and hung it over the wash bench.
Looking at herself critically, she saw a woman who had celebrated her twenty-first birthday last Christmas day. Her dark brown wavy hair was cut to just below her jawline, one side held back with a silver barrette. She thought that her green eyes, large and thick-lashed, were probably her most attractive feature. She was unaware that her mouth, with its short upper lip and full lower one that tilted up at the corners when she smiled, had caused many a man's eyes to follow her.
Annabel had resigned herself long ago to the fact that she was not a beauty, but she also remembered her mother saying that beauty lay mostly in expression and attitude, not God-given structure.
The cookstove had been set up in the large square kitchen and the chimney fitted into place. Boone had started a fire and the coffeepot was sending up a delicious fragrance of freshly ground coffee beans. The doors of the empty icebox stood open. Annabel washed in the warm water from the reservoir before she combed her hair and helped herself to the coffee from the granite pot.
Annabel glanced toward the back door. The man with the dark stubble of beard on his face was the only person in the world, other than her father, who she was sure truly cared about her. Spinner, she knew, was fond of her but, unlike Boone, kept his feelings to himself.
"Morning, Boone. Have you had breakfast?"
"Me'n Spinner had a bite or two. If ya want anythin', we'll be in the shed."
"Did I see horses behind the barn?"
"Yeah. The mare's real gentle."
"Maybe I can ride her … later."
"No reason why not."
"How far are we from Henderson, Boone?"
"Probably five miles as the crow flies. Ya wantin' to get somethin' from town?"
"Not just now. Later I'll need some groceries and ice."
Long before noon, the kitchen was organized and Annabel was ready to cook a meal. It would take a while for her to get used to the arrangement in the kitchen. It was much larger than the one in the house they had lived in for the past eight months.
At noon her father returned and following him was a truck loaded with hay. He stopped his car beside the house, got out and waved the driver of the truck on toward the barn.
He came into the kitchen, looked around and smiled.
"You're a wonder, darlin'. You're already settled in."
Murphy Lee Donovan was a handsome man in his late forties. He was slightly taller than average, built solidly, with a head of thick dark hair. He didn't mind hardship or discomfort. The only things in the world he loved were his daughter Annabel and, to a lesser degree, outwitting the revenue agents. It was a game to him. He sometimes wondered if he would play at it even if there weren't a great deal of money involved.
"Whose horses are those out there, Papa?"
"Ours. I've brought hay for them. I'll be in as soon as I help unload. The driver wants to get back."
The words were unspoken between Annabel and her father, but she knew that beneath the false bottom of the truck was a load of whiskey that had come down the river from Canada. Murphy Donovan was just one of a half dozen men along the river who warehoused the illegal liquor until it was dispensed to the bars and speakeasies throughout the states of Missouri and Illinois.
Annabel knew the reason for the horses was that they would need hay, and the hay would cover a load of liquor.
Murphy was too clever to store the contraband here at the farm. A couple of cases would be left in the barn to act as a diversion should the marshals arrive. Finding it would lead them to believe Murphy was a small-time trafficker, and after disposing of it, they would be on their way. The bulk of the load would be stored in a cave or an underground storm cellar with a hidden door.
"Are the horses broken to ride?" Annabel asked as her father turned to go out the door.
"Gentle enough for you, darlin'. Just make sure Boone goes with you so you won't get lost." Murphy still, on occasion, reverted to the lilting brogue of his Irish parents.
Her father's dangerous business was never far from Annabel's mind. Murphy knew that what he was doing was illegal, but he sincerely did not believe that it was wrong.
"Darlin', the government ain't got no right to be tellin' folks what they can drink and what they can't. Prohibition is a stupid law. It can't last," he had said time and time again. "Folks is goin' to be havin' their drinks one way or the other. 'Tis best they be drinkin' fine liquor than swillin' moonshine made from rotten potatoes."
"But it's against the law and I'm afraid you'll be caught."
"Don't worry your pretty head, darlin'. I'm not hurtin' anybody or stealin' from them. How can it be wrong to help some poor workin' devil ease the ache in his back with a glass of spirits at the end of the day?"
Annabel had heard the same argument over and over, and now it was seldom mentioned. Now and then her father drank some of the alcohol he distributed, but she had never seen him really drunk. He was generous to the men who worked for him and protective of her. She could have anything she asked for that he was able to give to her. She was careful, however, not to ask for anything except the necessities.
The things she longed for he could not give her at this time. She was lonely and yearned for friends. The few young people she knew back in Ashton, where they had lived before moving here, had been friendly, but she'd had to keep them at a distance for fear they would grow curious about her father's activities.
In her mind she considered this a holding period in her life. She was waiting for her father to do what he promised, give up this dangerous business when he had enough money to set them up in a house. It was hard to remember now that when she was younger and her mother was still alive, they had lived in Duluth, Minnesota, and her father had worked on the big ships that hauled freight on Lake Superior.
One morning, a week after they had moved to the house on the hill, Murphy told Annabel to be ready in half an hour if she wanted to go to town. She was ready in fifteen minutes and climbed happily into the car when Murphy brought it around to the front of the house.
"Ya know what ya want from town?"
"Of course. I've been making a list."
A light breeze was blowing from the south. Annabel held on to the brim of her small hat and enjoyed the feel of the wind in her face.
"We have neighbors," she exclaimed when they passed a crooked lane leading to a house set far back in the woods.
"There's no one there ya be wantin' to know," Murphy replied sharply. "I wasn't told they were there when I bought the place."
"Why wouldn't I want to know them? It would be nice to have neighbors."
"'Cause they're hill trash, that's why." His mouth snapped shut, and Annabel knew he didn't want any more questions about them.
Henderson was a quaint village on the banks of the Mississippi River, with white picket fences and cobblestone streets. A white church spire rose high above the town. Murphy parked the car in front of the mercantile. Annabel went into the store while he walked on down the street to the barbershop. The man behind the counter greeted her with a friendly smile.
"Morning. I have a list for you to fill." She placed a sheet of ruled paper on the counter. "Do you know where in town I can buy gramophone needles and violin strings?"
"I have the needles and maybe you can get the violin strings from Arnold Potter down the street at the drugstore. He's the conductor of our municipal band and he might keep a few on hand."
"Play, do ya?"
"For my own amusement."
"Arnold will latch on to ya right quick." The store-keeper's eyes twinkled when he laughed, and his belly jiggled beneath the apron tied about his ample waist. "He's the beatin'est man for music. Lives for it."
"I enjoy it myself."
"I … ah, ain't heard of any new folks movin' to town."
"My father bought the Miller place five miles north of here."
"Ah … the Miller place. Ah … hummm. Not much land there if he's goin' to farm." The man stuck out his hand. "Luther Hogg."
"Annabel Donovan." She put her hand in his. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Hogg. Add a package of gramophone needles to my list. I'll be back as soon as I see Mr. Potter about the violin strings."
Arnold Potter was a man with a head of thick white hair and equally white eyebrows and mustache. He was as curious as Mr. Hogg about a stranger in town; and after Annabel told him about moving to the farm, she asked about the violin strings. Mr. Potter's blue eyes sparkled as they talked about music. He spoke at length about his band and he eyed, with pleasure, the slim girl in the blue cotton dress and the small-brimmed hat.
"I'd be most pleased to have you audition, my dear."
"Thank you, but I've never played with a band. I was taught by my mother and play only for my own amusement."
"We have a concert Sunday afternoon in the city park," he said while accepting the money for the violin strings, then added, "Need rosin for your bow?"
"No, thank you. I have some."
"I'll look for you at the concert," he said as she went out the door.
Annabel crossed back to the mercantile. Mr. Hogg had just finished setting the items on her list on the counter and was totaling the bill.
"Did Arnold have the strings?" he asked.
"He did. Thank you for sending me to him."
Mr. Hogg chuckled. "Bet he talked your arm off."
"Yes, sir." Annabel smiled. "He got pretty wound up talking about his band."
The bell on the screen door tinkled when Murphy came into the store. He spied Annabel and came to the counter.
"Find everything you need?" he asked, pronouncing the words carefully lest his Irish accent show.
Annabel nodded. "Papa, meet Mr. Hogg. Sir, this is my father, Murphy Donovan."
"Howdy." After the two men shook hands, Murphy spoke to Annabel.
"Look around, darlin', and see if there's anythin' you want on that table of dress goods over there. I'll be here gettin' acquainted with Mr. Hogg."
Annabel moved to the other side of the store and sifted through the bolts of material. She found a blue-and-white-checked gingham she could use to make a curtain for the kitchen door and the bottom half of the two kitchen windows. The ones she had brought from the other house would do for the top panes.
While she spread out the cloth to examine it she noticed that her father had moved close to Mr. Hogg and that they were deep in conversation. She lingered at the table of lace, ribbons and buttons, allowing them time to visit, then selected a spool of thread from the thread cabinet. As she approached with the bolt of material, Murphy stepped back.
"Curtain material. How much is it, Mr. Hogg?"
"Twelve and a half cents a yard, miss. It's top quality. There's some five-cent goods over there, but I can't guarantee the colors won't run."
"I'll need four yards. That'd be half a dollar. I'll look at the cheaper—"
Murphy lifted the bolt from her hand. "She wants this."
"No buts, darlin'."
Mr. Hogg unrolled the material from the bolt and measured it against the notches carved along the counter.
"I'll give ya good measure, Miss Donovan."
"I'll load this and be back in to pay." Murphy picked up a box and carried it out to the car.
On the way out of town, Murphy told Annabel that he was leaving that afternoon and wouldn't be back for a week or ten days.
"Boone will be here," he said when she turned to look at him.
"Boone isn't you, Papa."
"I'm hopin' this'll be the last year, darlin'. Maybe then we can buy a house in St. Louis." When Annabel didn't say anything, he continued, "In the city ya can be the lady ya are; go to shows, parties, and maybe meet a nice young doctor or lawyer …" His voice trailed when Annabel laughed.
"You're the limit," she teased. "You know I would be perfectly content to live in a town like Henderson. I'm not the type for parties or meeting nice young doctors or lawyers."
"Ya be thinkin' ye're not good enough?" His voice rose in irritation. "Yer blood is good as any in the whole damn country. Yer mother was a fine woman—"
"Calm down. I didn't mean that. I meant that I'm not interested in that kind of social life. I saw enough of the jockeying around among the husband-hunting crowd in school to convince me that I'll never do it."
"I want ya to be havin' a home and a man to care for ya."
"I'd hitch with a doctor or lawyer about like a donkey would hitch with a Tennessee walking horse."
"Which bein' the donkey?" A scowl covered Murphy's face.
"Not me, Papa." Annabel's eyes teased him.
He drove another mile before he spoke again.
"I ain't goin' to always be here, darlin'."
"I worry about you being in this dangerous business."
"It won't be for much longer."
They passed the lane leading to their closest neighbors. Clothes were flapping on the line and a flock of white chickens searched for tidbits in the grass around the house. A woman wearing a bib apron stood at the corner of the house and watched them pass.
"I'm thinkin' I shoulda put ya in a boardinghouse somewhere."
"Papa, you forget I'm a grown woman. If you put me in a boardinghouse, I'd not stay. I want to be where you are."
Not another word was said until he stopped the car beside the back door.
"I'll have a word with Boone before I carry in what we brought from the store."
After the noon meal, Murphy took his suitcase to the car, then went to the barn, where he spoke at length with Boone before he came back to the stoop where Annabel waited.
"Boone or Spinner will be here. Ya got the pistol if ya should be needin' it."
"I'll be all right. Don't worry."
Murphy pulled out the choke, stepped on the starter and the motor started. The powerful engine rocked the car. Murphy adjusted the throttle and put his hand out the window to clasp hers.
"'Bye, Papa. Be careful."
Murphy squeezed her hand and drove away.
Annabel walked around the house and watched the car until it was out of sight. Then loneliness settled over her like a dark cloak. She went up onto the front porch and sat down in the porch swing. The worry was always there. Whenever he left, she always feared that he would never come back.
She heard the jingle of harness before a wagon pulled by two large mules came from the back of the house with Spinner on the seat. He was a tall, thin man with a face that reminded Annabel of a hound dog, and he had the disposition of one: He was kind, gentle and was silent unless he were riled about something.
Boone came from around the house and stood with his hands on his hips, watching the wagon go down the lane the car had traveled just minutes before. He turned to put a booted foot on the edge of the porch.
"Boone, will we be here long enough for me to plant a garden?"
"Should be. Want me to dig ya a spot?"
"Whoever lived here before had a garden south of the house. I wish I had some chickens to tend."
"That's easy. I'll get ya some."
"We don't have a pen. A fox would be sure to get them." "That's easy too. I'll throw up some wire next to the shed."
Annabel judged Boone to be only a few years younger than her father and an inch or so shorter. He had crisp black hair, a stubble of black beard and black eyes. She had seen his face cleanly shaven only one time during the years she had known him. At that time she had asked him why he let it be covered with the whiskers. His reply was that he didn't have time to shave every day.
"Papa said to tell you if I wanted anything. Well …" She paused and smiled at him. "I want a cow to milk and … some hogs." Her eyes teased him.
"Whoa, now. Ain't no smiles ever goin' to get me to get ya any hogs. A cow … maybe."
"I'd feel more settled here with chickens and a cow. But when we move, I'll hate to go off and leave them."
"It ain't been easy for ya, movin' ever' whip stitch. This ain't a business for a family man."
"I wish Papa would give it up."
"He's thinkin' on it."
"It's what he says every time I ask him."
"Keep askin'. Maybe he'll do it."
"Boone, do you know the people who live down the road?"
"What's to know about them?"
"Papa said they were hill trash and not anyone I'd want to know."
"He's … 'bout right. They got a still up in the hills."
"They? I saw a woman standing in the yard."
"Three brothers live there. I don't know if the woman is a sister or a wife to one of them."
"It would've been nice to have a neighbor."
Boone had come onto the porch and was relaxing against the side of the door, his hands tucked beneath his armpits.
"I've seen them watchin' us. If one comes 'round here at night, he'll get a load of buckshot." He shoved himself away from the wall and went to the edge of the porch. "I better shake a leg. Got thin's to do."
"I got dried peaches while we were in town. I'll make a peach cobbler for supper. We need cheering up." Annabel slid from the swing.
Boone's quick laugh broke with throaty vibrancy and his dark eyes shone with admiration.
"I can't think of a better way to do it than tyin' into a peach cobbler."
Boone was good company. He amused her during supper and while she washed the dishes with tales of his lumberjack days in Michigan. When the kitchen was tidy once again, they went to the parlor. She took her violin from its case, and Boone settled back in a big leather chair. She played for him but mostly for herself. An hour passed as she filled the room with music. Boone could have sat there all night and was sorry when she put the instrument back in the case.
He patted her on the shoulder and went to his sleeping quarters in the barn.
Annabel sighed and went to bed.
BOONE, DO I DARE LET THEM OUT?" Annabel proudly watched a dozen big white hens and the cocky rooster strut inside the tight fence.
"I think so. Spread some of that chicken feed around. They'll not wander far from the feed."
"Here, chicky, chicky—" Annabel pulled back the section of the fence used as a gate and threw out a handful of feed from the bucket she carried. She laughed with delight when the rooster, exerting his dominance over the hens, marched out of the opening first and began to cram himself with the unexpected offering scattered in the grass.
"Thank you, Boone." She smiled lovingly. "When will we get eggs?"
"It ain't ort to be long. The man said there was some good layers in the bunch."
"I'm going to name him Peter the Great."
"Who're you namin' that?"
"The rooster. Peter the Great was big, almost seven feet tall. And he was rude and arrogant like that rooster."
"Never heard of him."
"He was the czar of Russia back in the early 1700s."
Boone snorted. "One of my history teachers in school was fascinated by Russian history. She sat on her desk and told us stories about Peter the Great. When he went to France, he jumped from his carriage and picked up King Louis the Fifteenth, who was a child, and kissed him. The French about had heart attacks. No one was ever allowed to touch the king, but Peter, in his arrogance, didn't care about that."
Annabel saw the bemused look on Boone's face and, realizing the subject was of no interest to him, changed it.
"What do you think Papa will say about the cow?"
"He'll snort. I'll get 'er in the mornin'. Spinner will be here. I'll ride in and lead her back. It'll be a slow walk."
"It'll be a long walk for the poor thing."
"I'll stop and let her rest now and then."
"It's going to be grand having fresh milk and eggs."
"And a chicken once in a while."
"Not one of my hens!" Annabel glanced at Boone and saw the teasing look in his eyes. "You'll have to teach me to milk, Boone."
"Yore pa won't be wantin' ya milkin'. He's wantin' ya to be givin' teas and such."
"I want to learn to milk my cow. What color is she?"
Boone's answering chuckle was dry. "Color? Hell … I reckon she's brown."
- On Sale
- Nov 16, 2008
- Page Count
- 400 pages
- Grand Central Publishing