The Reading Corner: novels by Lichelle Christensen

Returning Home

Chapter One

Bromley’s face turned red. He pinched his lips together, lowered his head, and bulldozed straight into Jethro’s back. They toppled to the ground, and Bromley threw wild punch after punch. Their bodies rolled toward the stream. Jethro tried to block the continual blows flying at him, but it was as if the wrath of several Bromleys was unloading into his gut and face. They tumbled over the embankment and into the water. Jethro got up and began to drag his soaked body away from the stream.

“You’ve gone mad, Bromley,” Jethro panted. He fingered the blood coming from his lower lip. “Mind your own business and get back to the front desk. Now I’ll have to get cleaned up before I can . . .”

Bromley flew at his face once again, and with one punch, Jethro landed in the stream on his back. He turned over on his hands and knees to stand up, but Bromley shoved him from behind, propelling him face down into the water. As soon as Jethro surfaced, Bromley jumped on Jethro’s back and shoved his face under water. “You’ll regret the day you ever set foot on these grounds,” Bromley said.

Jethro struggled to get free of Bromley’s weight and came up momentarily. He gasped and yelled, “Bromley, stop! You’ll ki . . .” Bromley shoved his knee into Jethro’s back, immersing Jethro’s scream under the water. Jethro desperately splashed his arms and legs and tried to turn his head to the side for air. Slowly the splashing subsided and Jethro’s body was still.

Bromley released Jethro and stood up. Wide-eyed, he stared down at the motionless form.

Mr. McKastner and two other men appeared through the trees. “What’s all the commotion . . .” All three men ran to the stream. They waded out to Jethro’s body, and Mr. McKastner turned him over. “What’s happened here, Bromley?”

Bromley looked around into the trees and behind him over the bridge. He was an animal, trapped and outnumbered.

“Grab him!” Mr. McKastner ordered. The other two men grabbed Bromley’s arms as he began to trudge up the embankment.

Mr. McKastner patted Jethro’s cheeks. “Jethro! Jethro! Come to, boy!” There was no response. Mr. McKastner tucked his arms under Jethro’s and dragged him up the embankment.

Roseanna appeared, her arms full of wedding gown skirt. Two little girls ran behind her, clutching at Roseanna’s train. “Slow down, we can’t keep up,” one of them whined. Several others trailed behind them.

“Get her out of here,” Mr. McKastner ordered to the group that assembled behind Roseanna.

Roseanna gasped and stopped abruptly. The little girls, straining to see what was ahead, didn’t notice Roseanna’s halt, and bumped into her. She dropped her skirt and stared down into Jethro’s pale blue face.

Mr. McKastner’s voice was harsh and demanding, “Now! Get her out of here, and the children!” The crowd quickly organized themselves and hustled the children away.

Mrs. McKastner rushed forward and put her arm around Roseanna. “Come, dear.”

“Mother. He’s . . . look! Mother . . . Jethro’s . . .” Roseanna screamed and rushed toward Jethro. “Jethro-o-o!”

“No, Roseanna! No!” her mother yelled, running after her. A man from the crowd pushed forward and pulled Roseanna back, and together they dragged her away.

“See if there’s a doctor in the wedding party. If not, see if there’s one in the house,” Mr. McKastner yelled to the retreating crowd.

In a few minutes, a white-haired, thin man with a large black bag rushed toward the bridge. “I’m sorry I took so long. I had to run to my car for my bag.”

The doctor turned Jethro’s hand over and pressed his wrist with two fingers. He pressed at the nape of his neck. He opened his bag and retrieved his stethoscope. The doctor bowed his head and listened as he moved the stethoscope a couple of times on Jethro’s chest. “I’m sorry. I’m afraid nothing can be done. He’s gone.”

The two men still detained Bromley. Mr. McKastner stood and faced him, their faces only inches apart. “Why Bromley, why?”

“He knows why.” Bromley turned and spit in the direction of the lifeless body.

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