The Law of Moses
Author:Amy Harmon

“Sackett got excited,” I said, shrugging, not wanting to rehash the incident. I knew the sheriff knew who Sackett was.


The sheriff grinned a little and pointed to a knot on his own forehead. “I wonder if Tonga was excited about the same thing. She got me good, damn horse. You can never get too comfortable around animals. Just when you think you’ve got ‘em figured out, they’ll do something completely unexpected.”


“Yeah. People are like that too.” I said, without thought.


And it was true. Tonight, more than ever. I felt the fear flood my mouth immediately and wondered how in the world I would be able to sleep tonight . . . or ever again. The sheriff nodded sympathetically and stood to go, but he reached out and patted my shoulder.


“I’m sorry, Georgia. I am. Whether it was a prank or something a lot scarier, I’m just grateful you’re okay. We’ll follow up with Terrence Anderson and Haylee Blevins and see if they know anything about it. We’ve got your statement and the pictures too. And of course, Mr. Wright’s statement as well.” The sheriff looked at Moses nervously, and I almost rolled my eyes. Everyone was afraid of Moses. I was pretty sure if I hadn’t been absolutely adamant it wasn’t Moses who tied me up before he untied me, he would be the number one suspect. He just looked wicked.


The sheriff stepped toward the kitchen door.


“I’m glad it’s the last night of the stampede. People get a little crazy. Hopefully, life will settle down a little around town and we’ll figure out what happened. We’ll be in touch.”


With that, Sheriff Dawson let himself out into the early morning darkness and we all sat, staring at the table, deep in our own thoughts, too tired to move just yet.


“Well.” Kathleen Wright sighed. “Sheriff Dawson is a nice boy.” He was almost forty, but that was apparently boyish to an eighty-year-old. “Moses, he and your mother used to be sweethearts. He was so in love with her. I thought maybe she would come back to Levan and marry him. He tried. Went after her over and over again. Lord knows he did. But she was too far gone, I guess.” Mrs. Wright patted Moses’s cheek again and stood up from the table. His face was tight at the mention of his mother, and I wondered how often anyone talked about her. I had the feeling Moses never did.


My parents stood as well, but Moses, surprisingly, looked at me. We were the only two still sitting, and for a minute, the adults weren’t watching.


“You wanted me to paint your room. I’m here. I might as well have a look.”


My mom tuned in right away.


“It’s almost three a.m.,” she protested.


Moses lifted his eyes to hers. “It will be hard for Georgia to sleep tonight.”


That’s all he said, and everyone fell silent. But my heart sounded like a drum. I stood and led him down the hall. No one objected, and I heard Mrs. Wright leave and my parents move to their bedroom down the hall.


“It’s summertime, Mauna,” I heard my dad murmur. “It’s fine. We’re here, just a few doors down. Let it be.”


And they did. They let us be.


“Tell me the story,” Moses demanded after I told him what I wanted painted in my room. He stared at the blank white wall I had cleared two weeks ago in hopes he would agree to do the mural. My tastes were basic, plain even, and I prided myself on the lack of frills and the rows of books that lined the shelves, all westerns except for Where the Red Fern Grows, Summer of the Monkeys, and another long row by Dean Koontz. After Louis L’Amour, he was my favorite.


“Do you like to read?” I asked, pointing at my little shelf.


Moses eyed my books. “Yes.”


His answer surprised me. Maybe it was his reputation as a gang banging delinquent. Maybe it was because of the way he looked. But he didn’t seem like the type who enjoyed sitting quietly with a book.


“What’s your favorite book?” I sounded suspicious and his eyes tightened.


“I like Catcher in the Rye. The Outsiders, 1984, Of Mice and Men, Dune, Starship Troopers, Lord of the Rings. Anything by Tom Clancy or JK Rowling.”


He said JK Rowling quickly, like he didn’t want to admit to being a Potter fan. But I was stunned.


“You’ve really read all those books?” I’d read The Outsiders and liked it, but hadn’t read any of the others. I wondered if he was lying to me.


“No Stephen King or Dean Koontz?” I added, trying to find something we had in common.


“Green Mile and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. But nothing else by Stephen King. And Dean Koontz knows too much.”


“What do you mean?”


Moses shook his head, not explaining.


“I can’t imagine you holding still long enough to read.”


“I can hold still when my mind is occupied. TV makes me crazy. Usually, music does too. But I like stories.” His eyes found mine again. “You were going to tell me yours.”


“Oh. Yeah. The story. It’s a story that my grandpa used to tell my dad when he was a boy, and my dad then told me. I don’t know where it comes from, actually. But it always felt real to me.”


“Your grandpa. The one your dad mentioned the other night? The one he thought I painted?”