Read Truth Be Told Online

Authors: Carol Cox

Tags: #FIC042030, #FIC042040, #FIC027050, #Women journalists—Fiction, #Corporations—Corrupt practices—Fiction

Truth Be Told (2 page)

BOOK: Truth Be Told
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Chapter 2

S
etting her reticule on a stool next to the nearest type cabinet, Amelia walked toward the storeroom. When she reached the closed door, she paused a moment to brace herself, then pushed it open and stepped inside.

In the dim light she could see that the shelves used for holding bundles of paper were gone, and a set of file cabinets had been pushed up against one wall. A bed took up the opposite side of the room, where smooth, white sheets and a matching pillowcase framed her father's tired face.

Amelia's breath caught in her throat at the sight. His hair, once as thick and dark brown as her own, was now gray and wispy. He looked so small beneath the bedclothes, almost shrunken—a mere shadow of the man she'd said farewell to at the end of her last visit. His eyes were closed, but his chest moved up and down in a steady, reassuring rhythm. Amelia crept closer to the bed. “Papa?”

His eyelids flickered open, and his thin lips parted in a smile of welcome. “You made it. How was your trip?”

Relief washed over Amelia when she heard his voice. Though his body appeared worn, the deep baritone still sounded like
her father. She closed the distance between them and reached out to brush a strand of hair back from his forehead. “The trip was very pleasant, especially the last part. The new roadbed they put in last year made the final stretch from Ash Fork much smoother. There isn't much they can do to straighten out all those twists and turns, though. No wonder they call it the Peavine.” She smiled as she reached for his hand, and his fingers twined around hers.

“I'm glad you're here, honey.”

“So am I. Spending time with you is always the high point of my year.”

“Mine too.” He patted her arm with his free hand. “We've had some grand times together, haven't we?”

Amelia felt her throat constrict at the wistfulness in his tone, and she sought for some way to lighten the mood. “We'll have more of them this summer, just as soon as you're back on your feet again.”

“That would be nice.” He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “But if not, we can look forward to some great adventures when I meet you at the Eastern Gate.”

A flutter of panic rippled through her at his often-used reference to a reunion in heaven. “It will be a long time before that happens.”

His expression softened. “For you, certainly. But I—”

Homer bustled into the room, carrying a green glass bottle and a spoon. “Time for some of that medicine Doc Harwood left for you.” He poured out a spoonful as he spoke and held it out.

Her father swallowed the dose, then grimaced as he settled back against the pillow. “If a bad taste is any indication of curative properties, that concoction ought to work miracles.”

The bell to the outer door jangled, and a voice called, “Anyone here?”

Homer set the bottle and spoon on the small table beside the bed and hurried out to the printing office. “I'll take care of it. You two enjoy your visit.”

Her father watched him leave, then turned back to Amelia. “This illness of mine has put a heavy burden on Homer. He's an expert at keeping the presses running, and he has a way with words. But having to set the type, print the paper, and do all the writing, too—not to mention nursemaiding me on top of it all—is more load than any one man should have to shoulder.”

He scooted up higher on the bed, and Amelia hurried to arrange the pillows so he would be more comfortable. He gave her an appreciative smile. “Now that you're here, you can take over most of the writing. If Homer only has to deal with the machinery, that will ease his burden considerably, especially since the Peerless has been a bit cranky lately.” A dry chuckle rattled in his chest. “It's getting old and on its last legs—like me.”

As Amelia opened her mouth to protest, Homer darted back into the room. “That was Martin Gilbreth. He wanted to talk about his next advertisement, and he said to tell you—” He broke off when the outer door opened again and footsteps sounded on the pine plank floor.

He stepped toward the sickroom door and stiffened when he caught sight of their visitor. “It's one of those fellows from Great Western. What can he want?” He walked back to the printing office, closing the door behind him this time.

Amelia heard the murmur of voices when Homer greeted
the new arrival. As she turned back to her father, Homer's voice grew louder. She couldn't make out the words through the closed door, but his agitation was evident.

The sight of her father's taut expression and the way his fingers picked at the bedcovers sent her hurrying out into the newspaper office, where she found Homer squaring off with a man she didn't recognize. She laid her hand on Homer's arm. “I'll tend to this. Why don't you go see if Papa needs anything?”

Homer's mouth worked as though he wanted to say more, but he settled for a dismissive shrug before stalking off toward the makeshift bedroom. “Nothing much to tend to,” he muttered. “He was just leaving.”

Amelia turned to the stranger, a tall man a few years older than her own twenty-three years. He stared after Homer, turning his hat in his hands. Amelia took advantage of the moment to study him more closely. Wavy, russet hair topped off a pleasant face and an athletic build. To her mind, he didn't appear threatening in the least, but Homer's obvious dislike and her father's reaction were enough to set warning bells clanging in her mind.

She addressed him in a cool tone. “Was there something you needed?”

He turned back to her, a puzzled look in his hazel eyes. “I'd like to speak with Mr. Wagner, please.”

Amelia arched one eyebrow. “Are you a friend?”

He shook his head. “My name is Benjamin Stone. I'm on business for my company.”

“And that would be . . . ?”

“The Great Western Investment Company.”

The note of pride in his voice only served to set Amelia's
teeth on edge. Was that name supposed to mean something to her? “Did you wish to place an advertisement in the
Gazette
?”

“No.” His brow furrowed. “I wanted to talk to Mr. Wagner about some articles he's written.”

Amelia nodded briskly. “Thank you, Mr. Stone. I'll be sure to let my father know you were here.”

His eyes widened. “You're his daughter? I didn't realize—”

“I'm afraid he isn't well,” Amelia continued as though he hadn't spoken. “He can't see anyone right now, other than close friends.”

“I'm sorry to hear that.” He took a step back toward the outer door. “I'll come back when he's feeling better.”

Amelia watched him leave, then pivoted and went back to her father's room.

“I'm sorry about that.” Homer eyed her with a sheepish expression. “I didn't mean to let my temper get the best of me.”

She pasted on a bright smile. “It's all right. I was happy to take care of it.”

Deep furrows formed a groove between her father's nose and his downturned lips. “Don't let it bother you, Homer. A visit from Great Western is enough to upset anyone.”

Homer nodded his thanks. “I'll go get supper started and do some more work on that piece about the two-headed calf that was born out at the Grinstead farm.”

“Brood of vipers,” her father muttered when Homer had gone.

“Who? The people at Great Western?” Amelia sat on the edge of his bed and took his hand in hers. “It's a new company in town, isn't it? I don't remember hearing that name before. But we don't need to talk about them if it's going to upset you.”

He shook his head. “Probably just as well. Might help get some of it out of my system. They're unhappy about a couple of stories I've written about their intention to start hydraulic mining in the area.”

Amelia tightened her grip on his hand. “That man said he wanted to talk to you about some articles.”

Her father grunted. “They've asked me not to print any more like that, warning the people of the impact it will have. In fact, they want me to print a retraction.”

“A
retraction
?” Amelia sprang to her feet. “Why would they ask for that, unless what you printed wasn't true? And I know you too well for that.”

One corner of his mouth quirked up. “Thank you, my dear. That's why I chose John 8:32 for the
Gazette
's motto.”

“‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'” Amelia quoted from memory, her eyes misting when she thought of the words that had appeared on the
Gazette
's masthead for as long as she could remember.

Her father nodded. “That's what we print, Amelia. It's what I've always stood by, and what I hope this newspaper will always stand for.”

“That's what Clayton Sloan says he admires most about you—your dedication to print the truth, no matter the cost. It's what sets you apart from many other newspaper publishers.”

The tight lines of her father's face softened into a smile. “How is Clay? He's been a good friend, letting you help out at the
Denver Journal
from time to time.”

“He's doing well. So is the paper. In fact, he's let me write several stories lately. Nothing earth-shaking, but at least I'm getting to put the lessons I learned from you into practice. I
wouldn't want to let my writing skills get rusty between my trips to Arizona.”

A chuckle shook her father's shoulders. “I can imagine how your mother must feel about you working for a newspaper—even on a casual basis. How is she, by the way?”

Amelia flinched at the change of subject. “Mother is . . . doing well.” She tried to keep her tone neutral. From her father's expression, she knew she had failed.

“Still caught up in her social whirl?”

She nodded, hating to see the glimmer of pain that crossed his face, a pain she knew was due to something more than illness.

“Maybe I should have given in and gone back to Denver with her when she left, but I doubt it would have made any difference—except for seeing more of you, of course.” His eyes took on a faraway look. “She wanted a better life for you, and I can't blame her for that. But her ideas of a ‘better life' and mine couldn't be further apart. I never could fit in with that snobbish social set of hers . . . not that I ever tried very hard.”

His breath came out in a long sigh. “I expect she's happier back in her old circle of friends, with her parents' money to keep her in the style she was accustomed to before she married me.”

Amelia nodded again, wishing she could say something to take away the hurt in his voice. But he had only spoken the truth. Instead of encouraging her mother to return to her husband when she turned her back on their marriage ten years before, Amelia's grandparents had welcomed her back to Denver with open arms and no recriminations. They had not, however, encouraged divorce, so though living apart, her
parents were still man and wife. She wondered—not for the first time—how she could be so closely related to her mother's side of the family and yet share so few of their interests.

She pressed her lips together, holding back the words she longed to say about her mother's social life—and Thaddeus Grayson, who had spent the past few months flitting around her mother like a bee around a flower. She wasn't sure which sickened her more, the sight of him acting that way with a married woman, or the fact that her mother—the married woman in question—didn't make any effort to repulse his attentions.

With her grandparents giving tacit approval to that troubling situation, she had hoped to discuss the matter with her father and seek his counsel. But looking at his gaunt form, she couldn't bring herself to do it now. She would have to wait until his health improved.

Her father hitched himself a little higher up against the pillows. “What are your plans when you return to Denver? Any young men I should know about?” His attempt at a smile didn't quite come off.

“No, there isn't anyone.”
Though not for lack of trying on
Mother's part.
Amelia leaned forward and stroked his head. “But let's not talk about me going home. I just got here, after all. And I'm not leaving until you're much better. I'll stay as long as you need me.”

Homer stepped into the room, wiping his hands on an ink-stained rag. “Doc Harwood is here.”

Amelia felt her spirits lighten for the first time since setting foot in her father's sickroom. Finally, someone she could press for answers about his condition!

She rose and patted his hand. “I'll step out and give you
some privacy.” She nodded a greeting to the doctor, a tall, gray-haired man, who moved aside so she could exit before he closed the door.

Seeing that Homer's attention was occupied in setting type for the
Gazette
's upcoming issue, Amelia busied herself straightening loose papers and neatening some of the clutter that typically littered the printing office. From time to time, she darted a glance at her father's door, but it remained stubbornly closed.

She looked around, needing something productive to do. Her eyes lit on the door to her father's office, and she hurried to his desk. Pulling out a fresh sheet of paper, she reached for pen and ink and started jotting notes about the foreclosure she overheard the two women talking about at the station.

She had been scribbling only a few minutes when she heard the sickroom door open, and Dr. Harwood stepped out. Amelia scurried from the office to intercept him.

“I have some questions for you,” she began.

“Why don't we talk in the office.” Without waiting for a response, he strode into the room she'd just vacated and waited for her to join him. He folded his arms and measured her with a long look. “I don't know how much your father has told you about his condition.”

“He mentioned not feeling well several times in his most recent letters, but I didn't realize he'd gotten as sick as this.”

BOOK: Truth Be Told
9.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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