Chapter 6 – Killing Thing
Aurora shuddered. They came to the stable and grandfather lowered his voice.
“So, I lay there in that bed until I felt better. When he went out to use the bathroom, I hid behind the door with a bench. I hit him over the head when the man came back in. I was weak and didn’t control the blow very well. Hit him harder than I meant to. He fell forward and slammed his head into the corner of the bed like a dumb fool.”
“It’s okay, Grandfather. You were just trying to protect yourself. You shouldn’t be sad about killing him.”
Grandfather chuckled and said, “I’m not sad about killing him. I just wanted to know why they were after this thing.”
“You don’t know what this is?” Aurora asked, tapping her pocket conspicuously.
Grandfather shook his head. “Found it while I was out hunting last weekend. I showed it to a few of my buddies, but no one seemed to know what it was for.”
“You think one of them was after it?” she asked.
The old man shook his head. “Nah. They probably just went blabbing to all their friends. Word must have gotten out to someone who knows what it is. But I don’t know why they just didn’t come ask me for it. I probably would have just sold it to them. Instead, they poisoned me and tried to kill me for it. It doesn’t make much sense. Unless something happened that I don’t remember.”
Grandfather rang the bell impatiently for the third time before a stable boy came racing in through the door.
“A thousand pardons, sir. Someone opened the front gate and let the horses out.” The young man smiled apologetically as he asked what he could get for them.
“Did all of the horses escape?” Grandfather asked, with a worried glance at Aurora.
“Oh, no, sir,” the boy said proudly. “I did manage to close the gate before they all got out. I have three that are immediately available. And Theo is out rounding up the rest. He should have them back shortly if you don’t like the ones that are here now.”
Grandfather nodded and said, “We’ll take ‘em. Whatever you’ve got is fine. As long as they both have four legs and can carry us to the other side of the Penminster Valley and then across the Shimmering Plains.”
“Of course they can, sir. We only have the best horses. I’ll fetch them for you.” the stable boy said with the confident boast of a vendor selling his wares.
He glanced over to Aurora and said, “What can I get for you?”
The girl started to explain that she was with grandfather when she realized that the stable boy and been talking to someone standing behind her. She turned to see the same two men who had followed them into the store earlier. One of them leaned against the door frame. The other took a step inside the stable.
“Nothing,” said the man leaning against the wall. “We just want something from this old man here.”
He spat onto the ground and kicked some hay to cover it before taking another step forward to stand beside his partner. These weren’t the boys who had run off with the backpacks. Aurora realized they must have been the ones who sent them. She took a step closer to grandfather.
“Uh-huh! No, ma’am. Step away from him,” the man said, brushing his long, brown bangs out of his eyes. “We saw what you did to those boys. So, you just stay back.”
The man pulled something black and menacing from his waist. It was about the size of her forearm. He pointed it in her direction. Aurora didn’t know what it was, but she didn’t like the acrid smell that hit her nostrils. She did as the man said and took a small step back.
“Now, I know you all don’t know what one of these here things is in these parts. So, I want to demonstrate this for you because I really don’t want to hurt you. If I do, it’ll be your own fault. Okay?”
Neither Aurora nor her grandfather responded. The men were still too far away to hurt them. The man pushed the hair back from his forehead and grasped the thing he was holding with both hands.
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