Fox Tracks

Fox Tracks by Rita Mae Brown

Book: Fox Tracks by Rita Mae Brown Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rita Mae Brown
do it?”
    “Oh, I will. I’ve known both brothers since the earth was cooling. We’ll have to see them both on the same day, too, or one will inflame the other because he was chosen first.”
    “Exactly. You know my schedule. I’m ready when you are.” He thought for a moment. “We probably won’t hunt tomorrow, right? It’s at the old Lorillard place and those back roads will be treacherous in this weather. They’re calling for more snow tonight.”
    “I’ll cancel. I do so love to hunt in the snow, but I don’t like hauling horses in it. We should be roadworthy by Saturday, though.”
    “Walter, forgive me for spewing fury. Old Paradise has been a fixture of this hunt club for over one hundred years. Since 1887.”
    “I know. You’re right that all of us should sit down and identify what landowners might be shaky.”
    “We will. Next week if all goes well.”
    “February is starting off like its usual dismal self.” He laughed. “It’s the longest month of the year.”
    “Actually, I like it. But this landowner thieving, I sure don’t. You know, I had what Raymond used to call a volcanic moment and then I had to remember he’d say: ‘Resentment is taking poison and expecting the other person to die.’ ”
    Walter thought about it, then laughed. “A volcanic moment?”
    “His term, not mine.”
    “Women are supposed to have volcanic moments.”
    After she hung up, Sister didn’t know how to take that.

    D riving into town on Thursday, Sister was glad she had canceled the day’s hunt. Although it had been well ploughed, Soldier Road, a two-lane east–west road, proved slick in spots. The sun lit up the eastern side of Hangman’s Ridge. It loomed a quarter of a mile to Sister’s right. She was by the western side, still dark. Angled on a northeast, southwest plane, it rose one thousand feet above the rolling wild meadows surrounding it. With the sun behind it, shining through the black branches, she could clearly see the enormous old hanging tree.
    Forever windswept, if foxes ran up the ridge they always gained at least ten minutes. Also, generations of foxes had expertly dug rangy dens up there, some impressive, others just places to duck into when pursued. She wondered if these present-day foxes were descended from foxes who had seen the hangings. In the early days of the Virginia colony, a corpse would be left up there to swing and decay as a warning. By the mid-1750s, the relatives were allowed to cut down the criminal and give him a proper burial. If he had repentedprior to his hanging, his body could be buried in consecrated ground.
    A rational person, seeing the hanged, eyes plucked out by greedy birds, might reconsider his plans to clean out a bank. But the impulsive human, probably not terribly bright, would blunder on, despite such gruesome public displays. There appeared to be no truly successful deterrent to crime.
    Then again, why rob a bank? The easiest way to rob a bank is to own one.
    Laughing to herself, she slowly made her way into Charlottesville, up 29 North to Seminole Shopping Center. Parking was no problem. Hardly anyone was there. She popped into Dover Saddlery for a gel pad, after which she decided to stop in the small tobacco shop.
    The daughter of the owner, Elizabeta, an attractive woman with lustrous black hair, greeted Sister. “Hello. Are you looking for yourself, or picking up something for someone else?”
    Leaning across the glass top counter, Sister admitted, “Actually, I’m hoping you can tell me about American Smokes.”
    “The murders?”
    “Have other people asked? I suppose they might. It’s been in the papers.”
    “Come ’round here and sit.” She warmly invited Sister to join her behind the counter. “Given the weather, I suspect we will be uninterrupted.” She sighed. “You’d be surprised at how weather affects sales of almost any product. Anyway, have people asked us about it? A few, but mostly we’ve read

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