“Just because he has friends at the copper mines won’t help. You don’t dig copper out of the ground and put it straight into your telephones,” he said.
“They have smelters in Cobre,” I told him. “Those are the things with the big chimney towers, right?”
“The copper still has to be made into wire. And it has to be made to spec.”
He explained. It sure sounds complicated.
“Well, you never know,” I said. “It’s worth asking, isn’t it?”
He agreed that it couldn’t hurt anything, and said he would send my message. I would’ve liked to have hung around while he sent it. I still have a sentimental notion that if I could only hear the voice of someone in the long chain of voices leading to Robert, it would be almost as good as hearing him, myself. But that’s dumb, and I know it. Besides, I needed to get back to the farm with the mail.
I got to Northwind just as a courier from Frankfort came trotting up on a shiny black gelding. The man was in a hurry and when I asked him at the gate if I could help, he looked me up and down like I was a nuisance.
“Looking for Lee Jameson,” he said. He didn’t even bother calling me “Miss,” as most of these Kentucky people do when addressing a young woman.
“If you’ve got something for him, I can deliver it.”
His tone was so haughty I was tempted to hit him. But that wouldn’t have been a wise move, and at that moment, Flecha decided she didn’t like the black gelding any more than I liked the rider, and she lunged at him.
“Control your beast, would you?”
I jerked on Flecha’s reins. Who the hell did this man think he was? “Wait here,” I snapped. “I’ll send Lee to you.” I kicked Flecha hard and took off at a canter.
I found Lee at one of the new barns we're building along the tree line.
“There’s someone at the gate for you,” I said. “I don’t know what he wants, but he’s a real primitive and I hope it’s important.”
Lee had been doing something with a level, but he set it down and gave me a curious look. “What do you mean, a ‘real primitive?’ He wasn’t rude to you, was he?”
“He wasn’t no Southern Gentleman, that’s for sure. I’ve met snakes and coyotes with better manners. So like I say, I sure hope it’s important.”
Lee’s eyes narrowed. He thanked me for getting him, and went to the gate while I delivered the mail around the farm, trying to forget the incident.
Lee was absent from supper, and I didn’t see him afterwards when I went to study on the porch. I studied with Patrick for awhile, and then visited with Erica. She’s still suffering a terrible crush on Sven, and by the time we got through plotting crazy fantasies for how she could entice him to give up his roaming ways, I had forgotten all about the stupid courier from the afternoon. So I was surprised when Lee stepped out of the shadows as I walked toward my barn to go to bed.
“Can I talk to you?” he asked.
That was a silly question. “America is a free country again, isn’t it?”
“You know what I mean.”
He followed me into the barn. My room was a little small for talking, and in spite of his words from this summer when he said his intentions toward me were honorable, it seemed a bad idea to have him sitting on my bed. So we sat on rickety work stools near Flecha’s stall, instead.
“I want to start by apologizing for the behavior of the courier this afternoon,” he said. “He. . . Well, let’s just say he wasn’t brought up right and had some confused notions. But I set him straight. He won’t ever talk to you like that again.”
This surprised me. “I’d been hoping I wouldn’t have to see him ever again.”
Lee looked at the dusty floor, picked up a stalk of hay and slowly shredded it. “Actually, if you’re still in on the copper plan, you’ll be seeing him again real soon.”
“What copper plan?” I said. “You keep talking like there’s a plan, but you won’t tell me what it is. I can’t—“
He waved a hand. And then he told me everything. When he was done talking, I didn’t say anything at first. But he looked at me for so long that finally I said, “You’re talking crazy. Are you sure it’ll work?”
He reached for my hand. “You’re the first girl I’ve liked in a long time. You think I’d get you involved in something like this if it wasn’t going to work?”
“But what about the police? The government? They won’t appreciate us taking matters into our own hands like this. What if--?”
“Don’t you think I know what I’m doing? I was born in this region and I know the local politics and prejudices a lot better than you.” When I didn’t answer, he went on. “You said a couple days ago I could count on you. Is that still true? You’re not scared, are you?”
I pulled my hand out of his. “I was doing scarier missions than that when I was fifteen years old,” I said. “I could do what you’re asking blindfolded and with nothing but a BB gun. Of course I’m not scared.”
He stood up, smiling. “Good.”
He helped me to my feet and gave me a quick hug, pulling away before I could wiggle free. “I’ll let you know when we’re ready. Be prepared to go sometime in the next few days.”
“How about we ask Patrick to go with us as a lookout?” I asked. When Lee hesitated, I added, “I trained him to ride, you know. He’s capable. And it’s his phone company, too.”
Lee was reluctant, but agreed that he could join us if he wanted to. “But he’ll have to keep up. If we need to make a run for it, there’ll be no going back for stragglers.”
“Of course not. I’m not stupid. I’ll make sure he understands.”
Lee picked up his hat and scrunched it on his head. For a moment he looked like he wanted to take my hand again, but instead he shoved his hands into his pockets. “Wait for my signal, then. The mayor of Lexington will have a working telephone by Christmas.”
Lee went out the door, into the cool September night. I sure hope he’s right!