“I don’t know why Deddy even gives a shit about that little prick.”
“Because he’s our brother, Buckley.”
“Not to me he ain’t. C’mon, Hal, we both know it was his whining’ ass that run off Mama, and then he straight up betrayed us. He took a big steaming dump all over the family, and Deddy still takes up for him. I just don’t get it. Hell, don’t know why we put up with it.”
Halford took his eyes off the road for a moment and watched Buckley wiggle restless in his seat. “To be honest, Buck, I don’t see how we put up with you, and Clayton was just a baby when Mama took off, so stop talking outta your ass.”
“You keep tellin’ yourself that, Hal, but as for why Deddy puts up with me? I’ll tell you why. It’s ‘cause I earn my keep. I’m loyal. That’s why. Clayton walking out and putting on that traitor’s badge like some kinda bitch is ten times worse. Come on, Hal, he pissed all over our name. There ain’t nothing worse than that. Nothing. Nada. Not shit.”
“You think so, huh?”
“I know so,” Buckley chewed at his raw bottom lip.
Halford put his eyes back on the road but caught something in the rearview mirror and stopped the truck. He pulled over near a ravine less than a mile shy of where Gareth had instructed them to go. He hard shifted into park and got out, leaving the engine running, and the heat blasting. A soft orange glow from the north was beginning to show through the tree line.
“What the hell is that?”
“I dunno,” Buckley said, barely interested. “Who cares? Come on, it’s freezing.”
“That might be coming from the house. It’s the same direction.”
Buckley climbed out from the truck and looked back. “No way. We’re miles from the house. That’s a lot closer. It’s a bonfire or something. Damn, Hal. Let’s go. I’m freezing my nuts off.”
“Who lights a bonfire before an ice storm?”
“I dunno. Other people freezing their nuts off?”
“Do you even know what causes an ice storm, Buckley?”
“Um, Ice? Seriously, Hal, who gives a shit? Look over here.” Buckley scooted a foot or so over to the small ravine. “This gap is perfect. We can dump this prick right here.”
“Rain, dumbass. Freezing rain causes everything to ice over.”
“Halford—I—don’t—care. Let’s dump this guy down that crack and go home.”
Halford took a look. “No, That’s not what Deddy wanted. Get in.”
“C’mon Hal, it’s fuckin’ cold.”
“So get in the fuckin’ truck, Buckley.”
Buckley got in and slammed the door. “You’re such a follower, Hal. Deddy says ‘Jump,’ and you jump right over and suck his dick. You need to take charge for once.”
Hal climbed into the truck and swung his arm over the seat. He grabbed his little brother by his coat, and yanked him up completely off his ass. He pulled Buckley toward him until they were so close their beards touched. “If you take one more fuckin’ shot at me, you disrespectful little weasel, I will snap both your goddamn arms and throw you in that fuckin’ ravine. I’m sick of your mouth runnin’ a mile a minute about shit you don’t know nothing about. That body back there goes in the dirt, and then we are going to personally go put some eyes on our little brother, who, by the way, is ten times over the man you think you are. That’s what Deddy said he wanted, and so that’s what we’re gonna do. Now shut your fuckin’ mouth.”
Buckley squeezed his lips together and twisted an imaginary key in front of them. Halford tossed him back hard across the seat, and he slammed into the door. Hal shifted the truck into gear and headed away from the growing orange light in the rearview.
The two of them dug a hole, and dumped the remains of the man Buckley accused of stripping copper from one of the old stills into it. Buckley had actually stole the copper himself for some off-the-books cash and Halford was sure his father knew that. This ridiculous grave digging was punishment. Not just for Buckley ripping off their own copper, or for killing an innocent man, but for Halford’s having known it, too, and not taken the responsibility of dealing with it. They tossed the tightly bound dead man into the shallow grave and scraped dander and leaves from the iced-over forest floor to cover him. The order was followed. It was half-assed, but it was followed. Hal would come back and take care of it proper in the morning. He pulled his collar in tight around his neck and looked at his frail wild-eyed younger brother who truly believed he’d done nothing wrong.
“You know, something, Buckley, one of these days, it’s going to be you. You’re the one that’s going to get us all killed.”
“Whatever.” Buckley didn’t even look up at his brother. He scratched at his arms and then at the base of his skull. “Let’s go.”