Cold Steele---and Icebywoodmanone©
Another adventure with Matt Steele There are no descriptive sex scenes in this story.
Constructive comments, critiques, and emails are welcome and very much appreciated.
"I thought you grew up in the country," Abigail Stewart said laughing at her companion.
She pulled her horse to a stop next to a small spring seeping from under a crumbling granite wall. The small dell was surrounded by large trees, oak and hickory, and the ground was covered with vegetation; moss grew on the rocks, ferns dotted the area, and deep green grass grew all over the floor of the opening in the hills.
"Doesn't mean I want to play Roy Rogers," Matt Steele answered. "Abby, let's get down and stop for a few minutes," I requested in my best pleading voice and then added, "hopefully for the rest of the day." I sawed on the reins of the big over grown dog I was riding, bringing the horse to an abrupt halt; I almost fell off trying to get down.
My antics brought another peal of laughter from Abby. She quickly dismounted and grabbed my horse by the halter before it could bolt.
"Thanks," I said. "Course, if you let it run away maybe it will just run back to the stable or something. Then I wouldn't have to ride the damn thing."
"How would you get back?" Abby asked; again almost doubling over with laughter.
"You could ride back, get a four wheel drive truck, and come pick me up."
"I can't believe you don't like horses," Abby said in disbelief. "You like hunting and fishing and camping well enough."
"Never spent much time with the horsey set," I replied. "I was always too busy running a boat up and down Current River or hunting back in the hills. Besides, horses are dangerous."
Abby laughed again and stroked the neck of her horse and fed it a sugar cube. "Dangerous? How so?"
"Yeah, dangerous. Like this beast here," I motioned toward my mount. "He weighs what, about 1100 pounds?" She nodded. "And he's got a brain the size of a small apple. Something all wrong there about the ratio of size to brain power."
"What if you wanted to get way back in the woods to hunt or to a remote part of the river to fish? Wouldn't a horse be just the thing?"
"If I can't get there by boat, ATV, or hiking, I don't need to go." It seemed I was Abby's entertainment for the day because she started laughing again. I grabbed her, pulled her close, and stopped her laughter by kissing her.
Abby and I met three months previously at a cocktail party given by her godfather, Jason Worth, who was my client at the time. I was working and she thought I was funny. When I finished the job, I called her and we went to dinner at my favorite St. Louis restaurant; Rigazzi's on the Hill.
On that first date, I, er we, were confronted and accosted by the guy I'd sent to jail for trying to blackmail Mr. Worth; Ralph James, the blackmailer, was out on bail waiting for his court date. After the confrontation, I sent him back to jail; again. Abby wasn't put off by the fight and with a big grin said, "You sure know how to show a girl a good time." Our relationship flourished from that point.
After that night, Abby was off the dating market as far as I was concerned; she apparently agreed with me. We saw each other three of four times a week and even had a sleep over at her place or mine a couple of times. This was our first full weekend together.
According to Abby, we were at the, meet the parents' stage. We'd left St. Louis and joined her folks at their vacation home in south central Missouri; it wasn't my idea of the best use of her limited time off, but hey, I wanted Abby to be happy.
I could understand why her folks kept a home in this area. Jack's Fork River ran past the south part of town and on down the valley between the hills where the small town of Eminence stood . It is a clear, spring fed stream much like the Current River that I grew up playing in and on; in fact Jack's Fork is a tributary of Current River. The hills surrounding the town and its valley were too tall to be called hills and not tall enough to be real mountains. They were tree covered mostly in oak, hickory, and white or red pine, and full of wildlife.
This area had been a hotbed of moonshiners since just after colonial times; but the stills really blossomed during prohibition and for years afterwards. The people were a walking, talking example of the old "Don't Tread On Me" mentality of revolutionary times. Most of the farmland in the area was along the river basin or in the small valleys. The farms were mostly family owned and worked; no big impersonal agricultural companies here.
Before our trip south, Abby had asked me when she was going to meet my folks. I answered that I didn't think that was going to happen.
"Why not? Aren't I good enough?" Abby asked. She was kidding but seemed to be a little hurt and upset.
"Don't get your panties in a bunch," I said. "It isn't you. My parents and I haven't talked in better than three years. Ergo, I won't take you to meet them. Just let it go, okay?"
"Why haven't you talked in three years?" Abby wasn't going to accept my answer at face value; or let it go until she knew the whole story.
Abby was and is, in my mind, a beautiful, interesting, desirable woman; we go good together. She's 5 feet 8, with an athletic body that pushes toward voluptuous; strawberry blonde hair, green eyes, and a few freckles scattered across her nose and cheeks complete the package. .
Abby is a lot like me. I don't mean we look alike; I'm 6 feet 3 with a fairly hard muscled body and weigh about 200 pounds. I have black hair and gray eyes. What I meant when I said we were a lot alike was that we both enjoy the outdoors; like hunting, fishing, and camping. But the real similarity is that she can be as sarcastic and as big a smart ass as me.
Abby can be so sweet to someone that butter wouldn't melt in her mouth and then turn around and cut them down if they deserve it. I do the same thing although I don't bother with the sweetness part. As I said we go good together.
"Why haven't you talked to your parents in three years?" Abby's repeated question broke into my thoughts.
She's like a dog with a bone, I thought. She'll gnaw and worry at something until she gets the answer or the result she wants. I had to laugh to myself; just like me.
"Well, you know I'm divorced?"
"You told me that the first time we met."
"My parents didn't take the divorce well. Blamed me for everything; so we don't talk anymore."
"You never explained what happened with your divorce." Abby looked directly at me instead of the scenery. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Not really. I mean I'm not hurting or sad or even angry anymore and I don't still carry a torch for my ex." I grinned at Abby. "I got closure a long time ago." Abby nodded and turned back to the scenery. "But, I guess since we're involved, you've got a right to hear the story."
"It happened before we met so it's really none of my business," Abby replied. But I knew better; most people want to know as much about their partner as possible; except for me.
I'm just conceited, or shallow, or self centered enough to believe that someone's past isn't important. This works for my few friends and even fewer people I really care about. The people I work for or try to find or catch the bad guys doing something wrong are a different matter but that's business not personal. As for friendships or relationships, I feel that their past, before they met me, isn't important; because it didn't include knowing me. Our interaction is what is important. Not really the complete story, but that is close to the way I feel.
"You know I was a detective with the St. Louis Police right?" She nodded and I continued. "It was like a cliché from stories that you read. I came home unexpectedly, found my wife, Johanna, and my boss doing the nasty in my bed. I proceeded to beat the hell out of him."
I smiled a little, remembering, with a great deal of satisfaction, the beating I put on Captain Joe Harper. "Wouldn't have been so rough with him if he hadn't of gone for his pistol. Anyway, Johanna jumped in to protect her boy toy or to stop me before I could kill him; never did know the real reason. Anyway she caught a punch, but believe me I didn't mean to hit her."
"I know you can be a tough guy, but I don't believe you'd intentionally hit a woman," Abby remarked.
"Oh I would if circumstances called for it. Like she was trying to attack me or someone I care about, but not in anger. Anyway, I lost my job with the department and lost my wife and lost what I thought was a good life. Johanna tried to talk to me during the divorce proceedings, then she talked to my folks and they tried to talk to me."
I gave a short laugh. "Everyone thought I should talk to her about our problems, you know try and get past the 'incident' as they called it. I told Johanna and my parents that I was past the 'incident' and I was past my marriage too."
"Didn't your parents understand?"
"Mom's was raised Catholic and according to her divorce is not an option. So I was wrong in her eyes."
"What about your father?"
"Dad had always liked Johanna and I guess he thought if he came down on me hard I'd get back together with her, in spite of what she'd done." I wasn't smiling or laughing when I added, "Dad was wrong; big time wrong. So we haven't talked in three years. Any time they call, I hang up. They couldn't stand with me then and I don't need them now."
Abby had a sad look and started to speak. "Don't," I said. "For once don't push it Abby. I'm good."
She nodded, smiled and said, "So you don't like horses?" Abby giggled at the look on my face. "Come on, as slow as you ride, it will take us all afternoon to get back to the barn."
Getting on my horse, I said, "Not my fault I'm slow. I think my horse is broke. He won't go faster than a bone shaking trot." I put my heels to the beast and said, "C'mon Dog Food, let's get back so we can get away from each other."
I saw the look on Abby's face. "Yeah, I called him Dog Food; cause that's what he'll be in a few years." She laughed again as she rode down the trail with me trying to keep up with her. You'd think I was a stand up comic as much as I made her laugh.
That evening at supper, Abby's dad, Darren, again gave me the look. You know, the one that says I don't like you sleeping with my daughter. He'd given me that look from the minute that Abby put both our suitcases in a guest room. Her mother, Mary, just laughed and told him to join the 21st century. In spite of her own beliefs or upbringing she accepted what she knew she couldn't change or control. Smart woman, I thought.
After supper, while Mary and Abby cleaned up the kitchen, Darren motioned me out to the front porch. He offered me a seat in one of the Adirondack type chairs.
"I know it is sort of old fashioned and old school, but what are your intentions toward my daughter," Darren asked as he lit a cigar. He offered me one but I shook my head.
"Well Mr. Stewart, I 'intend'," stressing that word, "to love her and take care of her and spend as much time with her as she'll let me," I replied. My first thought was to tell him it was none of his business; my second thought was to tell him to go to hell; however neither of those would have gone over very well. The next thought was a surprise; I guess I do love her.
"Do you plan to get married?"
"I don't know; we haven't discussed marriage. But, if and when we do, it will be our decision and no one else's." I looked him in the eye with a sort of challenge. I was trying to get a handle on the little bit of anger that came from someone was questioning me about my private life. Then I thought; it's only natural that he is worried about his daughter. The fact that she'd been married and divorced didn't change the fact that Abby was still his little girl. He was taken aback by my answer and the look in my eyes; but I have to give him credit, he didn't back down.
"I'm sorry if I've insulted you, but my concern is for Abigail; not your feelings," Darren replied with conviction. "I'll not stand by and let her be hurt again." He paused and then asked, "You know she was married before, don't you?"
"Yes sir. I don't know the circumstance of the divorce other than Abby took back her maiden name. I figure it's none of my business. If Abby wants to tell me she will; if she doesn't, I really don't care. I will say the guy that let her get away or forced her away is too stupid to even breathe."
That brought a smile to his face. Right then, Abby and Mary joined us on the porch. Abby looked back and forth at her father and me, but saw him smiling and was reassured that we weren't about to come to blows. The discussion turned to the vacation home, the area and their family.
I learned that Rebecca Stewart Conroy, Abby's younger sister, lived in St. Louis and was caught in a bad marriage. Her husband, Brad, drank a lot and when he drank he often got physical with Rebecca. She'd even had to go to the emergency room once or twice. Each time Brad sobered up, he'd cry and apologize to Rebecca and promise not to do it again. He'd keep his word until the next time he tied one on.
James, Mary, and Abby tried to talk Rebecca into leaving Brad; but each time she believed that he would change and forgave him. When the Stewarts talked about Rebecca, the mood got somber. The whole situation bothered the family very much.
"I've confronted Brad a couple of times," James said. "It works for a few weeks or months and then he's right back in the same place." Turning to me, he said, "I'm sorry for airing our dirty laundry in front of you Matt."
I shook my head, indicating it didn't bother me. The Stewarts were nice people and I didn't like the sadness I heard when they talked about Rebecca.
"Maybe if an outsider had a talk with Brad, he'd change his ways," I offered. "I maybe could get one of my cop friends to have an unofficial word with him, if you think it would help."
"The police have visited their home several times," James replied. "Brad apologizes and Rebecca won't press charges so there's nothing the police can do. The latest occurrence had happened yesterday. He backhanded Rebecca and cut her cheek bad enough that she had to get stitches."
"If you change your mind give me a call," I said and handed James one of my business cards. The card read,
"There are a couple of guys on the force I know who have had success in domestic cases."
After seeing the look on Mr. Stewart's face when we arrived, I then moved my luggage into another guest bedroom. Abby and I had respected her father's wishes and slept alone while we stayed with them. That evening, about midnight, my bedroom door opened. Abby quickly crossed to the bed, dropping her robe just before she climbed under the covers with me.
"I thought you deserved a reward for offering to help my sister," she said.
There wasn't much discussion for the rest of the night. Oh, and I enjoyed the reward very much.
The next morning was Sunday so Abby and I headed back to St. Louis after breakfast. She had to get back to work and I had to see if anyone wanted or needed my services as a private investigator. I really didn't need the work, thanks to a settlement from the police department for wrongful termination, but I did like to keep active if possible.
I dropped Abby off at her place. On the way to my apartment, I thought about the situation that Rebecca was in. James and Mary Stewart were nice people and of course I cared very much for Abby; they were very worried and sad about their younger daughter. Maybe I can do something about that problem, I thought. When I got home I did a little investigating and found out where this Brad asshole worked and what bar he hung out. I planned to pay him a visit; the police couldn't do anything officially but I wasn't the cops. The solution didn't have to come from an official act; it just had to work.
It didn't take many days to find out Brad's routine. He worked as a mid level manager at a manufacturing plant in North St. Louis. At least two nights a week he would stop at a local tavern after work; he usually left for home after an hour or two; his Friday night's were a little different. Two weeks in a row he stayed until closing; staggering his way to his car and then weaving his way on home. He was too drunk to be walking, much less driving but he never got stopped.
Brad stopped on a Tuesday night and I followed him into the bar. He met with a small group of guys at the bar and had a couple of shots and a beer. When he left the tavern, I followed him to his car. He stopped to light a cigarette and I walked up behind him.
"Brad," I called out. He turned; I bitch slapped him and then backhanded him. He fell to the ground, looking up in pain and surprise. ""Hurts, don't it," I said in a playful voice. "Now you know how Rebecca feels." That line wasn't playful.
"Who are you?" He asked as he stood.
As he got to his feet, I backhanded him again and again he fell.
"Doesn't make any difference. Let's just say I'm an interested bystander." I knelt next to him and slapped him again.
"God, stop," Brad pleaded, putting up his hands to protect himself.
"I want you to remember our little talk Brad." I grabbed his hair and turned his eyes toward me. "If you ever hit Rebecca again, I'll come back to see you. The next time you'll never get up. Do you understand?"
"What? You'd kill me?" He asked in disbelief.
"If it were up to me, I would have put a bullet in your head tonight," I answered. "I have a lot respect for the Stewart's and I won't hesitate to put you down if there's a next time." Standing up I said, "Calling the police about our little talk won't do any good. You don't know who I am and even if you could find me, I have an airtight alibi for this evening."
Brad slumped back down, shaking his head and spraying blood from his nose all around. He looked up at me and I could see the fear in his eyes. He was going to have a couple of shiners.
"Remember Brad, if you ever hit Rebecca again, your body will end up in the Mississippi, floating down stream. Who knows, maybe you'll make it all the way to New Orleans." I turned and walked around the building. That ought to hold him, I thought. I don't normally like to bully people but in this situation I actually felt pretty good.
"Rebecca called me today," Abby told me. We were at Rigazzi's again; seems like we ended up there about half the time when we went to a movie or something. It had been three weeks since my meeting with Brad.
"How's she doing? I'll have to meet her one of these days," I replied.
"She's doing well. She said Brad has stopped drinking and even gone to a couple of AA meetings."
"Well that's good, isn't it? Maybe he saw what an ass he was being after he hurt Rebecca the last time."
"Rebecca said that Brad came home a few weeks ago with his face all beat up. He told her he got into a fight at the bar and it made him stop and think. He hasn't had a drink since that night."
I nodded and tried to keep a self satisfied grin off my face. Job well done sir, I thought. Abby looked at me with a suspicious smile.
"You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"
"About what?" I asked innocently while trying to hide a smile.
"That Brad had a fight at the bar and decided to quit drinking."
"Who me?" I asked and waved at our waiter for another beer. "Why should I know anything about Brad?"
"You seemed very interested when we talked about Rebecca and Brad while we were with Mom and Dad." I shook my head and Abby continued. "Things are so much better she's invited us for dinner Saturday night. That is, if you don't have plans." She watched my reaction to the invitation.