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Coal Dusters – Chapter LVII
Birk and Clancy came back to the Nelson’s with their fish.
“What is it?” his mother asked. “I can tell by the look on yer faces that something happened.”
“That Miss Lillian caught me and Clancy horsing around. We was bare naked.” He blushed as he told her.
“Why did you do that with her there?” Maddy asked.
“We didn’t know she was there.” Clancy said.
“That stretch of Blue Lake empty most of the time. Even more so this time of the year.” Birk said. “It was warm enough and we wanted to cool down.”
“We had been in for a swim when she came up over the path and spotted us.” Clancy said.
“Started in screaming at us. Calling us Godless and then ran off as if she had seen something awful.”
“Guess a naked, hairy, thing such as yourself might scare a young Catholic gal.” Birk’s mother started to laugh. “She’s been through enough as it is without seeing you two.”
“She wasn’t scared.” Clancy said. “She was in a true rage about how about it wasn’t right for men to be together the way we was. Playing around as if we were kids in the sun.”
“We got dressed as quick as we could but she was gone before we could …”
“Could what?” his mother asked.
“I don’t know.” Clancy said. “Explain.”
“She didn’t want to hear anything from us once she’d made her mind up. So, we come back here with the fish.” Birk put the fish into a wash basin.
“That’ll teach you.” His mother hit him with her wooden spoon. “You aren’t children anymore. Stop behaving that way.”
“Yes Ma.” Birk flinched.
“And you Clancy Sinclair. I figured you being a bit older would have enough sense. Neither of you are children anymore. You are men. Keep that in mind. It’s not as if the lake is the miner’s wash up room. Now is it?”
“Yes ma’am.” Clancy said.
Birk and Clancy were in the back orchard gathering dead wood when Maddy came out to them.
“There’s policemen at the house come looking for you two.”
“What!” Birk said wiping sweat of his brow.
“Ma says to come directly.”
“We’re coming.” He pulled on his shirt.
“What you think it is?” He asked Clancy.
“Fishing out of season? Maybe this is what that priest’s niece said she’d get us in trouble.”
Birk shook his head. “You think she’d do something that mean? I figured she’d go to her uncle, the way she went on about the scriptures.”
“Perhaps’n he got the the police after us then. I wouldn’t put that past him.”
When they got to the house there were three constables waiting for them.
“Birk Nelson? Clancy Sinclair?” The tallest of them asked sharply.
“Yes.” They each answered.
The other two constables stepped forward and grabbed them roughly by the arms.
“You will come with us. Peaceably.”
“What is this about?” Birk’s mother said.
“These bastards know well enough what they’ve done. Ma’am. I can’t want to speak of it in front of children.”
“Maddy you go up to your room.” She stood at the bottom of the stairs till Maddy was in her room. “Now shut your door.”
Birk and Clancy glanced at each other but kept still.
“We done nothing wrong, officers.” Clancy said. ‘Cept get caught by the female with our drawers off to take a swim.”
“That’s not how she tells it.” The tall officer spoke directly into Birk’s face. “Putting your disgusting hands on the good Catholic girl. You got your nerve.”
“We didn’t touch her.” Birk tried to pull away.
“You’ll regret what you did.” One policeman pushed Birk’s face to the wall and shackled his arms behind him.
Birk struggled to get free.
“Keep that up boy. Resisting will only take use more force to keep you in line.”
The officers did the same to Clancy.
They pushed Birk and Clancy along the street. There was another pair of constables waiting at the corner.
“They give you any trouble?” One them asked.
“Not enough. Sarg.” The one with Birk said.
“They fess up?”
“What do you think?”
“You two take the tall one to the ferry. While we have a word with this one.”
The two officers pushed Clancy onto the boat.
“Now. So its Blackie’s son is it?” Sarg said pushing his face close to Birk’s. “Your Da’s a mighty superior man.”
“How’s that?” Birk asked.
“Engineer, that’s how. Working when the other’s isn’t. He was too busy to teach you the difference between right and wrong though. I know what you did to that Boston gal. Filthy Christers like you aren’t above the law. Now you are going to find that out.”
“We didn’t do nothing to her.” Birk had barely finished when the Sarg punched him hard in the face.
“You saying that girl is a liar. Her with her uncle a priest.” He punched Birk again sending him staggering.
“She’s …” Birk’s mouth was full of blood.
“She’s got us now to defend her honour now. So don’t think you can play innocent.”
Sarg shoved Birk toward the boat, kicking him in the hip. “Keep moving.”
Birk struggled to get his hands out of the handcuffs.
“Keep still boyo.” Sarg whacked Birk across the ear with the palm of his hand. “Resisting arrest and tryin’ to escape is all we need. Keep that up and there’ll be no need for a trial.”
“The sight of him is making me sick.” Sarg said to the other two officers. “Take him over there out of my sight.”
The officers shoved Birk past Clancy to the other side of the ferry. In passing Birk saw that Clancy’s nose was busted and bleeding over the front of his torn shirt. He sat on a bench and glared out over the water.
The constables escorted Birk and Clancy to the police station in New Waterford and put them each in their own cell in the holding rooms and left them.
“What you think she’s gone and told them?” Clancy asked quietly.
“I don’t know. She didn’t come near enough for us to even talk to her. Maybe she saw more than we know.”
“Saw more? What more, us sporting in the water. She was too far away to see much o’that anyway.”
“She called us things I don’ understand half of what she said about us being unwholesome. Being forna – something?”
“She’s more educated than sensible, if you ask me Birk. I don’t know what she was trying to say except she didn’t much approve that we were having a good time while she was being unhappy about her husband dying like he did in the mines.”
“The constable said that we interfered with her. That means we … put our hands on her.” Birk reddened.
“That was what she meant. That we had forced our attentions on her, on her body.”
“What! She never even came that close to us. Why would she say that?”
“To get us here. She promised to make us as unhappy as she is.”
The door opened and Lillian came in followed by two of the policemen, Father Patrick and Clara O’Dowell.
Birk grabbed the bars of his cell. “Tell them Miss, that we didn’t interfere with you in anyway. Tell them!”
“Interfered?” Lillian asked.
“That’s right ma’am.” The constable that had bloodied Birk’s nose said. “These are the boys you said attempted to have their way with you when you was at the lake.”
“I see you’ve already taken into your hands to punish them.” Clara said.
“No ma’am.” Another of the officers grinned. “They was tossed around by the waters as we brought them over.”
“I regret you have been mislead constables. I said nothing of that sort of anyone. They did my person no harm but what I saw will be forever burned into my memory.”
“But you said they were naked.” The constable said.
Birk backed away from the bars.
“You see.” She gloated. “He knows what they were doing.”
Clancy explained, again, about the pissing on his hands. Birk showed them his damaged palms and fingers. He kept his eyes on Lillian’s face hoping her looks would make more sense to him than her words. The words were angry with that undercurrent he’d heard in his sister’s voices when they found something that they didn’t approve of, like the time they came across a dead dog out back of their house.
His eyes went from face to face as they talked more to each other than to him and Clancy. They were trying to find out exactly what it was that got Lillian so distressed.
“Buggery?” Father Patrick glared at him then Clara. “Forgive me for saying such a thing in your presence, Miss O’Dowell.”
Birk didn’t know what the priest was talking about. He felt even more lost as Father Patrick became red-faced as he began to quote scripture.
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