HENDERSON Dingess worked at a large still up Hog Pen Branch, past the orchard. Hugh Dingess stood nearby holding a rifle, assisting his father, watching over him. Ordinarily, the young man kept books for the family business; lately, he served as a bodyguard.
“Someone’s comin’, Paw,” Hugh said.
Henderson turned from his business and saw a large, black-bearded man limping toward him.
Paris wore his usual black suit. In his hand: a jar of red liquor.
Henderson threw up his hand and waved, but waited until Paris came closer before speaking.
“I see Charlie set you up down there at the house,” he said.
“He sure did,” Paris said. “Apple brandy. About the best I ever tasted. Good as anything down in Guyandotte.”
“Well, I’m happy to hear that,” Henderson said, pleased. He liked Paris. Both were federally-licensed distillers by trade.
“Yes sir,” Paris said. “Makin’ liquor comes natural to you Dingesses. It’s in your blood.”
“I reckon so,” Henderson said.
Paris took a swig. It was time to discuss another type of business, the awful matter at hand.
“So you got any idea who shot Al and Hollene?” he asked.
“We got some names, we do,” Henderson said. “But that’s it.”
”You think it was Hall?” Paris asked.
”Doubt it,” Henderson said.
“We’ll figure it all out soon enough,” Paris said. “A man usually knows his enemies.”
“Yes sir,” Henderson said.
“How you all holdin’ up?” Paris asked.
“Can’t hardly bear it,” Henderson said. “First Floyd, now Hollene.”
He looked at Hugh.
“Now I’ll be the first to admit,” he continued. “My boys ain’t perfect. They ain’t no saints. But Floyd didn’t deserve to be killed. He’s got five children.”
“Now it’s a sad day when even a woman can’t ride the creek without havin’ to worry about gettin’ waylaid by men hidin’ in the bushes,” Henderson said.
“That’s the truth,” Paris said, taking a swig. “Only a damned coward would shoot someone that a way.”
“Ever body knows I try to keep the peace, I do,” Henderson said. “But I’m tired of people hurtin’ my family. I ain’t been this motivated to see blood since the war.”
Paris’ eyes lit up. This was a side of Henderson Dingess he had never seen before. It delighted him to think the old gentleman would unleash the fury of his clan.
“Well, I’ll tell you what,” he said. “That’s a strong young man you got standin’ with you there.”
Paris nodded his head toward Hugh.
“And you got more of ‘em down there at the house. And I got a few down at my place. And we got a lot of friends and family in this neighborhood. Now when it comes out who did this, and it will in time, we want to be sure people know: this won’t never happen again.”
Hugh shook his head in affirmation of Paris’ words, but said nothing.