Hanging On: Chapter Eight
Luke cringed in his chair after hearing Sam mention a hanging. He wasn’t at all sure if Sam meant for him to join this posse or not. He’d never in his life committed a crime, as far as he was concerned. White lies don’t count, and that one time he ‘borrowed’ a tool, he returned it, so there was really no harm done on his account. Luke didn’t see himself as being particularly capable of helping Sam carry out a plan like that, and more than likely it was showing on his face. He thought, “Sam doesn’t know me all that well. I should speak up.”
After hearing Sam’s pointed question, the deputy’s heart started, and his pulse quickened. His first response was physical. His fear and anxiety made him straighten up in his chair. His first thought was, “Sam’s going to ring my neck, if I say no.” Therefore he hesitated, and silence permeated the air. Now everyone was on edge, and nervous. All except for Sam, that is. He was always sure of himself, and he thought he knew beforehand exactly what the deputy was going to say. The deputy knew Sam was waiting to hear, “Yes. It’s okay. Go ahead. It’s fine with me. Do what you want, sir.” But our fine officer also had a future to consider. He wished to be a sheriff some day, Lord willing, so he didn’t want to get his hands dirty. He wanted no part of this, even though it was sort of his job to enforce the law, and catch the bad guys. To calm himself, the deputy decided to give Sam what he felt was a reasonable answer, one that was in line with his badge. ”Sam…sir, I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear you say that.”
Sam raised his voice for the deaf man, and repeated himself, “Can we? Can we hang the murderer if we catch him? Yes or no.” Sam paused ever so slightly, then grinning he shouted, “Wait! You’re right. After we catch that sonuvabitch, we’ll bring him to you, deputy. We’ll bring him back safe and sound, and you can lock him up in your bedroom, and teach him some manners. Is that what you want?” Sam didn’t give the deputy time to answer. Instead, he turned to Luke who was sitting close by. Sam changed his angry facial expression to one of a more sympathetic nature. The tone of his authoritative voice transformed into one of a more consolatory fashion. “Luke…listen, I can see your troubled by this. No need to be. I never said I was going to hang anyone. As you heard, I was only asking the deputy a question.” Sam turned and glared once again at the deputy, “Hold your tongue for a minute, and think about it!” But Sam was the one who needed a minute. He figured Luke had heard enough of this conversation. Perhaps, too much. It was time to send him on his way.
Sam had never intended on taking Luke along with him and his men. After the interview of the night before, Sam could tell Luke was an honest young man. The type of man who attempted to stay true to his faith, and act accordingly. Sam desperately needed someone he could trust back at the ranch. He saw no reason to try to teach him otherwise. But there were several factors weighing in on his decision. On the one hand, Luke was the lone witness, and they couldn’t afford to let anything bad happen to him. On the other hand, Luke wasn’t cut out for such a thing as aggressive enforcement of the law. And frankly, it appeared to Sam that Luke was still in recovery. His face was pale, his eyes were watery, and his gestures slow-moving. Lastly, and possibly the most important reason of all, was that Sam hated being upstaged, especially by someone like him.
Facing Luke once again, Sam prepared to give him a good send off. It was high time for Luke to begin a daylong sentimental journey. “I wasn’t planning to take you along, so relax. You had a very rough night, and probably didn’t get much sleep. You may take your leave now. Go on home. Enjoy your wife. Enjoy your kids. I bet everyone in town wishes to talk to you. Go bask in your glory for a day, if you know what I mean.” Sam winks at Luke. “You’re a hero because of what you did last night. No need to take on another challenge so soon. These here men, along with me of course, we can and will take care of this. Don’t you worry about it. I want you healthy, and in tip-top shape come Monday when you report for your first day of work. Now, go and take care of yourself, and your family. They’re probably worried about you. Go and comfort them.” As a code of honor, and a sign of their agreement, Sam walked up to Luke for the fellowship contained in a handshake.
Luke was perfectly relieved by the news. He stood up smiling and grabbed Sam’s hand with a fairly strong grip, and lifted it up and down. Luke tried to conceal his current state of exaltation. “Well, okay, sir. If you don’t need me right now, I’ll do as you say. I am pretty tired. Goodbye, and good luck with…whatever it is you decide to do!” Luke nodded to his future co-workers with a look of optimism on his face. Then he turned back to look at the deputy. Luke put on a face of acceptable resignation, and silently waved to him as if to say, “Oh, well.” Opening the exit door, he turned back to the rest of the men in the room, and waved, “See y’all later!”
Sam would have one more tiny favor to ask of Luke that day, but he hadn’t realized it quite yet. No sooner than Luke had shut the door, Sam turned back to the deputy and calmly said, “Your turn.”