Read The Shining Badge Online

Authors: Gilbert Morris

The Shining Badge (9 page)

Jenny had no time to protest, for Kat sailed out the door followed by the huge dog, who sounded like a horse galloping across the floor. Jenny smiled and shook her head. “Those two are a pair.” She picked up the cloche hat and pulled it down over her hair. Then she stepped in front of the mirror again, giving her appearance a final check. She used very few cosmetics, but she had tinted her lips slightly. “My mouth’s too big,” she muttered. “And my hair’s too red. Well, Counselor, you’ll just have to put up with it.” She turned and walked down the steps and found Kat standing in front of Dixon, asking rather impertinent questions. As Jenny approached, Kat turned and said, “I already told him he couldn’t kiss you on the first date.”

Jenny flushed and could not speak for a moment.

Luke Dixon grinned broadly and said, “I told your sister here that I promised my mother I would never kiss a young lady on the first date.”

“Well, that’s all settled, then,” Jenny said.

“But you can kiss her on the second date,” Kat piped up and nodded sagely. “She’s already told me that.”

“I did not tell you that!” Jenny objected. She knew her skin was so fair that when she blushed it was very obvious, and she hated that fact. She was saved from further embarrassment when Lewis came in carrying a baby. “This is my father, Lewis Winslow. Dad, this is Luke Dixon.”

“Glad to know you, Luke,” Lewis said, nodding. “And this is Michael.”

“I heard about your good fortune.” Dixon smiled, then turned as Missouri came in and was introduced, with a baby in her arms as well. “And which one is this?” Dixon asked.

“This is Sam,” Missouri said. Dixon admired the two
babies, and then Clint and Hannah came out, Hannah with Temple in her arms. After they were introduced, Dixon said, “Well, three babies all at once. That’s quite an undertaking.”

“And that ain’t all,” Kat said. “Hannah’s got another one right inside there.” She pointed to Hannah’s stomach, and Hannah flushed scarlet. Clint, however, was delighted and shook his head. “You’ll have to forgive Kat. She doesn’t believe in keeping any secrets.”

“I think we’d better go, Luke, unless you’ve changed your mind after being subjected to this crowd,” Jenny said.

“Not at all. It’s been a pleasure. Congratulations to you both.” He smiled at Lewis and Missouri, then turning to Clint, he asked, “Are you expecting three as well?”

“Not this time,” Clint said quickly. “We’re just going to start out kind of easy.”

Jenny turned and Luke nodded, then followed her outside. “That’s quite a family you have there.”

He opened the door to the Oldsmobile. When she got in, he shut it carefully, then walked around and got in behind the wheel. He had left the engine running, and now he said, “This thing doesn’t always start right, so I don’t turn if off until I’m sure of where I’m going.”

“And where are we going?”

“You like barbecue?”

“Barbecue? I don’t know as I’ve ever had any.”

“You’ve never had barbecue?” Luke stared at her with surprise. “Well, you’re in for a treat. Hang on to your hat, lady.”

****

Luke opened the door, and Jenny got out of the car. “I didn’t have a chance to tell you how nice you look.”

“You look nice too. I guess lawyers have to dress in suits all the time.”

“Not really. I just wanted to impress you.” Luke was wearing a gray herringbone suit, with a double-breasted jacket
and close-fitting trousers with turned-up cuffs. “Well, if I drop dead, they won’t have to do too much to me,” he said.

Jenny laughed and then turned to look at the building. “They don’t go much for decor, do they?”

“Nope, you have to go somewhere else for that, but I guarantee you they have the best barbecued ribs in the world.” He hesitated and said, “We could have gone to a fancier place, but I’m just a poor, struggling lawyer.”

“Well, I’m poor and struggling too, so this looks fine.”

The two stepped inside, and Jenny surveyed the large room with tables covered in red-and-white-checked cloths. The place was half full, and a short, muscular man came over and said, “Ah, it’s good to see you, Mr. Dixon. I got a good table for you.”

“This is Miss Jennifer Winslow, Hank. She’s never eaten barbecue before, so I’ve given you a good recommendation.”

“Never eaten barbecue!” Hank rolled his eyes and said, “Where you been that your education has been so neglected?”

“New York,” Jenny smiled, “but I’m expecting great things from what Luke’s told me.”

The proprietor hustled them over to a table, sat them down, and Luke said quickly, “Just bring us the barbecued ribs. What would you like to drink, Jenny?”

“Iced tea would be fine.”

“Make that two.”

After the proprietor left, Luke leaned back in his chair and said, “Well, I’ve been giving Noah’s case a lot of thought.”

“Do you think you can get him off?”

“It’s not going to be easy, and it’s going to be a pretty nasty fight. It always is when there’s a black involved with a white. Especially if those whites happen to wear uniforms.”

They talked about the case until a pretty black girl wearing a red-and-white uniform came over carrying two enormous platters. She set one down in front of each of them and smiled shyly. “How are you, Mr. Dixon?”

“I’m just fine, Emma.” The girl started to turn away, but
Luke said, “This is Miss Jennifer Winslow, Emma. She’s going to help your brother. As a matter of fact, she’s the one who got me involved.” The girl turned back quickly. She had creamy, chocolate-colored skin, and large liquid brown eyes. “Oh, I thank you, Miss Winslow! Noah ain’t done nothin’ wrong. Them police just been after him since he once got in trouble.”

“I hear you’ve been having some trouble yourself with those deputies,” Luke said.

“Deputy Arp, he’s been after me,” Emma said, dropping her eyes. “It ain’t right, and when my brother Noah caught him tryin’ to put his hands on me, he grabbed him and pushed him away. I thought that policeman was going to shoot him.”

“Well, maybe we can do something about that too, Emma.”

The young woman turned her eyes on Dixon and smiled shyly. “Thank you, Mr. Dixon. Ain’t many people would go out of their way to help folks like us.”

After the waitress left, Dixon said, “Well, I’d guess you ask blessings at your house over food.”

“Yes, we do.”

“Do you want to do it or shall I?”

“You go ahead, Luke.”

Luke bowed his head, and Jenny followed suit. Luke said simply, “Thank you, Lord, for the food, for every good blessing you’ve given us. All good things come from you, and we thank you for them in Jesus’ name. Amen. Now,” he said, “let’s start eating.”

Jenny looked at the huge slab of ribs. “But . . . how do you eat them?”

“Watch me.” Taking a knife, he sliced off one rib, picked it up with his fingers, and began eating it like corn on the cob. “You’re gonna get yourself greasy, but it’s the only way to eat ribs.”

Following Dixon’s method, Jenny sliced off one of the ribs and took a bite. Her eyes flew open wide. “It’s delicious!”

“Here, put some of this barbecue sauce on it. It’ll make it even better.”

The two ate with enjoyment, Jenny delighted by the food. Emma brought them a plate of fresh-baked corn bread, which Luke insisted Jenny butter liberally. She also brought them some collards with pepper sauce, and Jenny laughed at herself, grease dripping all over her hands and her face. Luke had to order extra napkins so they could clean themselves up, but finally they sat back and drank coffee and nibbled at the blackberry cobbler Emma had brought them.

“You intend to be a successful lawyer, I suppose, Luke,” Jenny said, tasting the delicious cobbler.

“Oh, sure,” Luke shrugged. “I’m going into politics when I get a little steam. No reason why I can’t be governor one day, and then after that, there’s always the senate.”

Jenny stared at him. “Are you serious?”

“I’m as serious as a man ever got. But I don’t have any money or any powerful friends. The only way I can make it is to get myself a reputation. I guess that’s one reason why I’m helping Noah. To get a reputation as a fighting lawyer taking on lost causes. I’ll have to win the common people’s votes.”

Jenny said, “Well, in any case, I’m very grateful to you for helping Noah.”

“I’ll warn you again,” Luke said, shaking his head. “You’re going to be a target if you testify in favor of a black man against a white man.”

Jenny smiled at him. “You’ll take care of me, Luke.”

He leaned forward and took her hand. “I’ll do my best, lady. Now, we’re going to go to the movies.”

“What’s on?”

“I’m not going to tell you.” He left a liberal tip for Emma, told her what a good job she had done, and then the two left. Fortunately the Oldsmobile started, and he drove them to the Palace Theater. When they stepped up in front of the marquis, Jenny stopped suddenly. “Why, this is that horrible monster movie!”

“Sure. Frankenstein. Everybody’s talking about it.”

“I’m not going to see a thing like that.”

“You mean after I filled you full of good ribs and blackberry cobbler, I can’t get you in to see a little movie? Come on, be a sport. It’s only make-believe.”

Kat had actually begged their father to take her to this movie months ago, and he had refused, saying it was depraved. Clint had finally volunteered to take her, saying, “I’ll put my hands over her eyes so she can’t see the bad parts.” Then he had grinned and said to Hannah, “And you can put your hands over mine.” Remembering this, Jenny laughed and said, “All right, I can stand it if you can.”

Luke bought the tickets, went inside, and found two seats halfway down. The lights went out soon, and soon the two of them were entranced by the problems of the monster, portrayed by Boris Karloff. Jenny was very much aware of Luke’s shoulder pressing against hers, and once he put his arm around the seat back and then laid his hand gently on her shoulder. She stiffened, but when she glanced at him, she saw that he was really more interested in the monster than he was in her.

Finally the movie ended, and they left. After they got into the car, Jenny said, “It’s late. You’d better take me home.”

“All right. How’d you like the movie?”

“It was scary.”

“Next time I’ll take you to see Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or Dracula. That one’s even worse.”

“No thank you! That’s enough monsters for me. What did you think about that movie?”

“Well, to tell the truth, I liked the monster.”

Jenny turned and laughed at him shortly. “You liked the monster?”

“Sure.”

“Why in the world would you like him? He killed that little girl.”

“He didn’t mean to. He was just looking for companionship. Think about it, Jenny. Here he is the only one of his kind. Where is he going to find a lady monster? So he’s doomed to
a life of loneliness, and every time anybody sees him, they start screaming. That’d be a horrible way to live. No, I’m in favor of the monster. He was lonely.”

They talked lightly about the movie until they reached the house, and he left the engine running while he escorted her up to the porch. She turned to him and said, “I had a wonderful time, Luke.”

Luke was standing in front of her with a strange light in his eyes and a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth. “I’ve got a confession to make.”

“A confession? What is it?”

“Well, I’m a pretty good fellow, but I do lie sometimes.”

“Well, so do I, I suppose,” she admitted.

“But,” he grinned, “you wouldn’t lie to your own mother, would you?”

Suddenly Jenny saw where he was heading, but she found him so charming she could not help but smile. “Let me guess. You’re about to break your promise to your mother about never kissing a girl on a first date?”

“Got it right!” They stood facing each other, and Luke waited to see if she would turn away. She did not but seemed deeply engrossed in studying his face. He studied hers as well and was drawn to the beauty and goodness he saw in her. Something strong and vivid ran between them, and Luke Dixon pulled her into his arms. He kissed her then, and she responded. He sensed something soft and shining in her, her strength and loyalty, and when he lifted his lips, he found himself more shaken than she.

“Well,” Jenny chuckled, her eyes bright, “I guess now I know how much I can trust you.”

“Remember what Kat said. I can have a kiss on the second date.” He smiled, then grew serious, “I’ll see you in court tomorrow. Have your father there.”

“I will. Good night, Luke. It was fun.”

“Good night.”

Going inside the house, Jenny went to her room at once.
She undressed, put on a gown, and then slipped under the sheet. It was a warm night, and she did not pull her blanket up. She lay for a long time thinking of the evening. She had been kissed before, but she found herself liking Luke Dixon tremendously. She admired him for his willingness to take on an unpopular cause, but she knew that as a man he interested her greatly. Her last thought was,
How in the world will I explain that kiss to Kat in the morning? She’ll be sure to ask!

****

Jenny and Lewis found that Luke Dixon had reserved a place for them on the front row in the courtroom. Jenny felt as uncomfortable as she ever had in her life, for she knew nothing about courts and lawyers and judges. She glanced around nervously, looking up at the big ceiling fans that turned slowly, stirring up the hot air more than anything else, then turned her attention to where Luke sat beside Noah Valentine, the big man dwarfing the lawyer. Luke was wearing a white shirt and a maroon tie and looked calm and collected. Noah, on the other hand, was sweating profusely, and as he held his hands in front of him, Jenny could see that he was clasping them tightly, perhaps to keep them from trembling. There were no blacks in the courtroom that she could see, not even Noah’s family. Turning her glance, she saw the district attorney, Alex DeRosa. Luke had pointed him out to her and informed her, “Alex and I are both ambitious. We fight it out in a courtroom, but so far he’s a client or two ahead of me. Of course, he’s got even more ambitions than I have.”

Jenny turned to her father and said, “I wish all this had never come up, Dad.”

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