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Keeping What's His

By:Jamie Begley

Prologue

Tate yawned as he went into the kitchen to turn out the light before going to bed. His hand was on the switch when a sound he hadn’t heard since he was eighteen reached his ears. A chill stiffened his spine at the distinctive melody only a few members in his family tree had been gifted to hear.

Changing directions, he went to the front door, taking the shotgun off the rack, opening the door to stride out onto the lit front porch. It was still muggy and the summer night was eerily silent. Tate’s eyes surveyed his land, looking for anything out of place. He pumped his rifle, waiting to shoot anything stupid enough to move. Tresspassers would recognize the distinctive sound.

“What’s wrong?” Greer’s low voice alerted him to his presence as he moved to stand next to him, rifle held expertly in his hands.

“Don’t know,” Tate answered, not taking his eyes off the trees bordering their house.

Greer didn’t question his instincts. In their profession, their lives and those of the ones in the house depended on their staying alert to possible danger.

Dustin’s shadow was the next to join his brothers, his rifle pointed at the dark woods.

“Want me to go check the field?” Dustin asked.

“No,” Tate answered sharply. “I will. Greer, you keep an eye outside. Dustin, you go back inside with Holly and Logan.” He took a step off the porch, pausing with his back to his brothers. “I heard the death bell.”

“Shit! How many times?” Dustin’s sharp question held worry for his son sleeping in the house.

“Once.”

Each of the Porters were gifted, or cursed, depending on which one you talked to. Rachel was the most powerful of the four, having inherited most of their grandmother’s gifts. Tate’s own power wasn’t a gift, but the curse of knowing someone was going to die. He never knew whom Death was going to strike. It could be a family member or someone he had been near recently. The first toll was a warning that Death was coming, the second meant Death had found his victim, and the third was Death’s arrival. He had heard the bells intermittently during childhood. He had asked his grandmother about the sounds that no one else seemed able to hear, and she had looked at him sadly, explaining how the death knells were a warning.

“How do I know who’s gonna die?” he had asked.

“You don’t.”

“Then what good is it?”

“It’s a warning to keep your family safe. Don’t let Death sneak in the backdoor to steal what’s yours.”

Tate had taken his grandmother’s words to heart. Whenever he heard the bells, he became vigilant, watching over his family until Death’s next victim was revealed. However, only once had he known whom the bells were intended for, and that was his grandmother. She had been ill for some time. He had gone to her late one night when he had heard the second bell, giving her the warning she had known was coming.

“I’m ready.” Her weary voice had been filled with pain as she had taken his hand and held it while he sat by her bedside. “Tate, one day, you’re going to be head of this family. It’s your job to make sure everyone’s kept safe. Don’t let me down.”

“I won’t, Grandma,” Tate had promised.

He had failed in that promise with his mother and father, neither listened to his warning to stay home the day they had gone fishing. It had taken a week of dragging the river to find their bodies. Since then, he hadn’t heard the death knells.

He took the last step off the porch, striding across the yard to head into the dark woods. He knew the mountain like the back of his hand, so he easily maneuvered through the thick brush for over a mile, avoiding the traps set to catch trespassers who wanted to steal what they had spent all season growing, which was worth a small fortune. He listened to every noise, trying to pinpoint whether anything was moving, but could hear nothing.

Crouching, he scooted under a heavy patch of briars until he came out on the other side, looking around the massive field of marijuana he and his brothers had planted. Next week, they would cut it then dry it out in their homemade drying shed. It was their winter supply. They wouldn’t start growing again until next spring.

Tate wished now he hadn’t listened to Dustin to give it an extra week to grow. They should have cut and processed it last week, but Dustin wanted Logan out of the house while they processed the pot in the barn. In three days Logan would be leaving to stay with his great-grandmother in town. They could get the weed dried out and bagged before he returned from the two-week stay.

Tate didn’t see anything out of place. None of the traps had been touched. He walked around the perimeter of the field, unable to explain the uneasy feeling. If it was daylight, he would climb a tree and look out over the area, but the darkness made that option useless.

Quietly, he went back through the opening in the briars, coming out the other end where he carefully removed any signs that he had passed through. Standing, he made his way back to the house.

“Find anything?” Greer asked when he was back on the porch.

“Nothing. You see or hear anything?”

“Nope. Think the bells just got you spooked?”

“No, someone’s out there.”

“Want me to take watch?” Greer’s own eyes searched the woods surrounding the house.

“No. Go inside. I’ll keep watch until morning. At daylight, I want Holly and Logan out of here. Take them to Mrs. Langley’s a few days early.”

“I’ll tell Dustin.” Greer turned to go inside. “He won’t be happy. He misses him when he’s gone.”

“I’m not taking chances. The Hayeses and Colemans are still pissed off no one’s buying the shit they’re growing, and they’re taking more chances selling it to out-of-town buyers.”

“I saw Asher and Holt in town the other day talking to Shade.”

Tate stiffened. “Do you think The Last Riders are buying from them?”

The bikers were his best buyers, but between them and selling to the people in the county and across the state line, they sometimes ran short.

“I’ll talk to him and find out.”

“If the Hayeses have been selling to Shade when we run short, they could be thinking about taking us out to get the whole fucking pie.”

“That’s what I’m thinking. I’m not worried about the Colemans; they couldn’t stick a finger up their own ass, much less take us out.” Greer’s scorn for the Colemans was deep rooted. Tate often found himself breaking up the fights Greer had started with them.

“Asher and Holt, on the other hand, can do some damage. Asher is a mean asshole, and Holt’s a sneaky son of a bitch,” Tate reminded him.

“I’ll get in touch with Shade first thing in the morning.”

“Do that. I’m going to call Cash and tell him to watch Rachel.”

“You think someone would be stupid enough to make a move on Rachel to get at us?”

“I’m not taking any chances,” Tate said grimly.

Greer nodded. “Night. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Night.”

When Greer went inside, Tate sat down on the porch. He couldn’t relax while waiting to see if one of their enemies would strike. It was times like this he wished he had listened to his mother and Rachel. The other dealers in their area were envious of their crop and connections, and would do anything to bring them down, even if it meant taking out his entire family. He would probably have stopped dealing already, but Greer wasn’t ready to give it up. They had accumulated too many enemies over the years, and his brother believed if they stopped providing product, their customers would go with another dealer who would push them toward harder drugs to fatten the dealers’ wallets.

They had managed to keep blue heroin out of Treepoint, but it was becoming a deadly struggle that he wasn’t sure they were going to win. He heard a rumor the Colemens were dealing Spice, a synthetic marijuana that fucked up those who used it. The effects lasted longer and were much stronger than marijuana, which had the buyers wanting to buy more from their dealer. Many of those buyers were in high school and often ended up in the emergency room. He and his brother had two rules when selling: don’t sell to kids, and make damn sure they weren’t a Fed. The constant demand for their product put them in jeopardary from the other dealers in the county. As head of the family, it was his job to protect them. So far, he had succeeded, but constant worries were leaving him uneasy.

His premonitions were never wrong. Like a massive storm brewing, no one could know the devastating effect until it struck. Tate’s hand tightened on his shotgun. He had been born and bred on this mountain, and no one was taking what was his without a fight.





Chapter 1



“When do you leave?”

Sutton looked up from the document in her hand, placing it back down on the desk before answering her friend. “As soon as I clear the rest of my paperwork,” she said wryly, looking at the large stack of papers still waiting for her signature.

“I still can’t understand why you’re going to Treepoint, Kentucky for your vacation. You could go anywhere.”

“I have been everywhere. Besides, I miss Treepoint, and I need to figure out what I’m going to do with my grandfather’s house.” She would use the time she was staying there to decide whether she wanted to fix up the run-down property or sell it, breaking the last connection to her hometown.

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