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Bitter Pills (Part 3)

Posted on Fri Jul 8th, 2022 @ 9:48am by Addy Stone & Quinlan Barrett Poe

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Weysmith Farm, Sweethome
Timeline: Mission Day 35 at 1330

Previously...

He peered at Poe, eyes narrowed, then looked beyond him to where his daughter stood, clearly frightened, but with an unfamiliar steel to her. "You're either incredibly stupid or you've a bigger pair than I remember," he called addressing Poe coldly before his eyes skipped back beyond the man to Addy. "Adorabella, stop this nonsense and come inside."

Stupid," Poe said as he came forward, crossing the distance between them in a few steps, "is aiming a gun in the general direction of your children." He pulled the weapon out of the man's grasp with a sharp tug and started emptying it as he spoke, pocketing the ammunition. "And let's be clear here, you don't get to order her around anymore."


Now...

Addy stood frozen as she watched the exchange unfold. It had been less than thirty seconds, total, she was sure. And somehow it had stretched long as if she watching what was happening rather than participating in it. When her body finally caught up and her feet stirred into movement, Quinn was already unloading her daddy's rifle. Emptied of ammunition, he turned, and as if they had practiced and planned this, she took the gun from his hand, holding it with the barrels cocked open, business end pointed at the ground next to her feet.

Peter was the last to move, eyes wide as saucers while Poe disarmed his father. Never in his life had he seen his father removed from the highest place of power on his own farm and it rattled him in a way that he hadn't expected. Suddenly, the man who loomed so large in his mind -- a force that a body didn't dare trifle with -- seemed smaller, shrunken in. A shell of an angry man, glowering like an animal caught in a trap; helpless and yet unwilling to yield that he had lost.

"How can I help?" he asked quietly as he came up behind Addy and Quinn.

"Get Juliet and have her take the kids in to Farmstead. Henry Campbell will give them a roof for the night if Juliet tells him I sent them. Tell her they can come back in the morning," Addy said softly but firmly. It looked like Peter might protest her instructions, but she stopped him with a look. "I don't want them to hear what needs saying. Not the young ones. And I don't want him trying to use them to get to me," she explained, expression pained as she willed him to understand. "You can stay. And Mama. But that's it."

Peter held her gaze a moment, indecision clear on his features before he nodded and shifted to look at Poe. "Anything else?" he asked.

"Are there any other weapons in the house," Poe asked.

Peter nodded, calculating. "There's a shotgun under his bed and Addy's rifle is still in her room, though I can't say if it's loaded." His eyes shifted uncomfortably then, but his voice didn't waver as he added, "I keep a 22 in my closet along with my hunting rifle." It didn't feel comfortable offering up where his own firearms were, but his father knew as well as he did that they were there. And after seeing the man move to train his gun in the direction of his own daughter he didn't know if he could trust him, even if it meant leaving himself unarmed. "If there's others I don't know if 'em," he finished waiting to see if there was more before going in search of the rest of his siblings.

"Come with me," Poe said. "That way, we'll both know all I did was take the ammunition." He nodded toward Addy. "I'll be back in a minute or two. You going to be alright?"

Her heart ached just at the thought of Quinn stepping away, but her gaze held steel and she nodded. "Yes," she said softly with more confidence than she felt.

Addy watched as Quinn and Peter both stepped into the house and then she shifted, moving to lean on the rail of the familiar wrap around porch. She didn't dare move away. Doing so would simply signal her fear in the face of her father. Even then she could feel his gaze on her, calculating, and she was sure he was figuring a way to get back in control of things.

"So you found the bastard," Hank said, tone snide. "You let him fuck you yet or have you still got some sense left in that head of yours?"

It was only two sentences, but in those two sentences the rage had returned. She felt it start to boil in her gut even as her neck burned red with the learned desire to duck and hide. "Ain't none of your business what I do or don't do. No more than it's your business who I choose to take to bed," she said a dangerous calm settling over her while her voice turned cold against the anger's heat.

She turned her head, fixing her gaze on the man who had raised her. "I've sense enough to know you lied to me," she said plainly. "Did you think I would never find out?"

Hank's answering scoff was condescension in a single sound. "So you have let him," he said. His tone was disgust and disappointment. "Shame. Though I think Matthias would take you anyway."

Addy whirled, eyes blazing at that. "Did you not hear me?" She asked, incredulous. "Ain't your business and it most certainly ain't Matthias Stone's."

A lazy shrug was Hank's only answer as if he was dealing with a much younger version of herself. As though anything she would say didn't matter. "You've always been my business," he said as if he were discussing a prize heifer and not his own daughter. "No wayward wandering changes that. You'll see."

Poe returned to the porch, deliberately turning his back on her father, and walked over to Addy. "You alright," he asked. He didn't bother to lower his voice but the tone when he addressed her was tender. "Peter is bringing the others out so's they don't have to hear the filth their father spews ... at least for one night anyways."

She was shaking, and her expression must have looked murderous, but at the gentleness in his voice she stilled, meeting his eyes as sadness flowed in to douse the burning anger. "No," she said honestly, "but I will be."

She looked to the door then, fixing a look of calm composure on her face that belied any concern as Juliet stepped out of the house. Lori Jo was right on her heels, eyes wide and scared with her small hand tucked in her older sisters. At the sight of Addy, though, she dropped her hand and ran, flinging herself bodily into her arms. Addy wrapped her in a hug, one hand going to her hair and smoothing it. "Hey baby girl," she murmured against her hair. "Juliet is going to take you and Gary on an adventure."

The seven-year-old squirmed in her grasp, pulling back. "But you just got here," she protested.

Addy nodded solemnly, looking beyond her sister to the older three. Gary stood next to Juliet, hands balled into fists, while Juliet stood stone faced. Peter stood behind them all, a hand on Juliet's shoulder and be nodded, confirmation that what she had asked would be done. Her eyes came to Quinn last, holding his gaze for a long moment before she turned back to the youngest Weysmith.

"I need to talk to Daddy and Mama and Peter," she explained. "But I'll still be here when you come back."

The little girl looked as if she might argue, bottom lip stuck out slightly, but instead she nodded. "Promise?"

"Promise," Addy said and then leaned in and kissed her on the forehead before turning back to Peter, Juliet and Gary.

"Henry will help," she said quietly to Juliet. "You're better off there tonight than here."

Nodding wordlessly Juliet held her gaze a long moment, doing her best to look brave. Gary, though, wouldn't meet her gaze when she turned to him. He simply turned and followed when Juliet stepped off the porch.

"He'll be ok," Peter said as he passed. "Don't worry."

Poe followed the family out to the truck and helped them get settled in the old truck. Comforting a scared kid was something he'd gotten good at over the years; while he and his twin were the same age, in truth, he'd always felt centuries older than Win.

And then like that they had stepped away and Addy could hear the truck's doors opening and shutting.

With a deep sigh she turned back to Quinn. "Shall we go inside?" She asked.

He watched the family drive off, safe for the night, and returned to the porch where the elder Weysmith smoldered and calculated. Poe could almost see it going. He heard Addy's suggestion and nodded in response; he waited until the three of them had gone inside and then followed. He was the outsider here. Security for Addy and though he didn't know it or want it, for Peter as well. He waited until Addy got settled and then went to stand behind her and to the right. Ready. The image of her siblings stayed with him. He remembered those feelings of fear and shame and anger, corrosive to a soul too young to really process what was going on and wished he could offer some comfort. The idea came to him, as he stood there, that maybe he could arrange a safe harbor for them, a place where they would be free of the old man's tactics, and he made a mental note to speak with Addy about it later on.

Addy settled on one side of the table, Peter to her left and Quinn standing over her right shoulder. A part of her wanted him seated beside her. He had as much right to answers as she did as far as she was concerned. She understood why he stood, though, and she didn't question it. Her father sat across from her and a moment later her mother stepped into the room from wherever she had been hiding away. She wondered for a moment where that had been, but there was no surprise on her mother's face and so she surely knew what had been going on. Mayhap she was even watching as her husband tried to level a gun in the direction of his eldest child.

She leveled her gaze on her father then taking in the unexpectedly smug look on his face, as if he hadn't just been disarmed on his own front porch. "Well Adorabella," he said almost congenial in his tone, "can't say I expected you back so soon, but you're welcome." The older man's eyes flitted upward to Poe for just a second. "Or course he ain't, but you know that already."

"I've got questions, Daddy," she said quietly. "And I've come for my things "

Hank Weysmith spread his hands wide on the table as if this was nothing more than the four of them sitting down to discuss the next season's planting. "Ask away," he said, a slow sly smile settling on his face.

She glanced once at Peter then back, unnerved by how easily her father could make this seem like no big deal. "Start with the letters," she said.

"What about them?" Hank asked as if she weren't inquiring after the something he had lied about for the last decade.

"Why'd you hide 'em?" She shot back, anger at his nonchalance coming through in her tone.

"Didn't need you distracted by some boy," he said with a shrug.

"I was distracted anyway, so what difference would it have made?" She shot back, annoyed.

Another shrug. "I'm your father. It was my call and I didn't think you needed him in your life anymore than you already had."

She gaped at him, annoyance turning to incredulity before she turned to her mother. Eleanora Weysmith's face held the look of someone mortified and desperate to get out of the circumstance she found herself in. "And you agreed?" Addy demanded.

Her mother's expression shifted at that turning to defiance, her chin lifting. "We thought it was best you forgot him," she replied, fire in her voice.

Addy shook her head as if doing so would somehow shake some sense into this. She turned to Peter then, eyes hopeful. "Did they open them or were they sealed," she asked.

"Opened 'em." Hank's voice again, interjecting as if he hadn't just spoken for Peter. "Read every one of 'em." His eyes flashed with something dangerous then, as if he knew his next words could provoke a response. "Awfully sentimental this one." His chin rose to indicate Poe where he stood behind her. "What a terrible thing to be made so weak by a 16-year-old girl."

Poe said nothing. Having grown up with a violently abusive alcoholic, he knew how to stand his ground, how not to be baited. His expression though was contemptuous, dismissive, and directed now at both parents. He didn't care particularly how abusive parents justified their actions nor did he care what they thought of his letters. There was, however, one thing that did matter to him and he addressed that now. "And the money," he asked with a quietly lethal tone to his voice. "What happened to that?"

Hank was quiet, mulling for a moment as if he had to think about what Poe had asked. He considered lying; claiming the money never made it. Certainly plenty of things went missing about that time after the war. But the lie hardly seemed worth it. Instead he directed his answer to Addy, eyes gleaming like a man about to eat a particularly tasty morsel.

"Addy should know," he said with a cruel grin. "She did the negotiating after all. That was... what... the first animal you purchased on your own? Or was it the second? Can't recall anymore." His eyes flicked up to Poe again, fixing him with a grin. "She was right proud of herself too."

Her gut churned as her father spoke. She knew exactly the animal. She'd asked, specifically, where they'd gotten the money and he'd told her not to worry about that and do ask her asked.

"A bull," she said, voice flat. She felt sick at the memory. "He had me buy us a new bull for breeding. Negotiated the whole thing myself." She twisted to look at Poe then, expression mournful. "Had to put him down a year ago. He nearly trampled Lori Jo and had gotten too mean to handle and then got his leg caught in a ground hog's hole. Not a one of us could get close enough to free him without losing our own lives. I did the putting down myself. He said it was only right I should put the creature out of his misery seeing as I brought him here."

Poe's expression gentled for a moment as he regarded Addy and then returned to the poor excuse of a man who ruled the Weysmith farm like the petty tyrant he was. "You stole the money," he said. "Used it to your own benefit and took personal pleasure in involving her in the purchase." His gaze flicked the length of the man. "You should never gamble; the sick pleasure you took in the transaction is plain to see, even now. Here's the thing. You stole that money from her and what you stole, you have to return. Now."

 

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