Jan Rubes, born June 6, 1920, in Volyne, Czechoslovakia (Now the Czech Republic), died June 29, 2009, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Excerpt from KINDRED, Copyright 2009 by Lori Benton
The mule lowered its head, puffing plumes of breath. The peddler gaped at Ian.
“You—the nephew of Hugh Cameron—would rob me?”
Ian reached for the man. Gottfriedsen set the brake and scrambled off the far side of the wagon with such haste his round-brimmed hat tumbled to the mud. Ian vaulted from the saddle in pursuit, but there was no need. Gottfriedsen had scurried to the rear of the wagon, unbolted and flung wide its painted doors. Lifting placating hands, he took a step back from Ian, who towered over him.
“You look for these things on the paper. You won’t find.”
“I had better find, or have their price back in coin.” Feeling absurdly like a highwayman, Ian withdrew his pistol and gestured with it. “I want ye in there, with me.”
The man ducked his balding head and complied, joints creaking as he hoisted himself into the wagon. Ian climbed after him into a narrow confine of hanging tin and rag-wrapped stoneware, of crates and chests with innumerable drawers. Light from the open doors fell across the clutter to a corner where folded blankets rested on an upturned crate. Ian took a seat on the crate, keeping the pistol aimed, and consulted his list.
“Right then. First item.”
Halfway through Rosalyn’s lengthy description of the brooch, the little man bobbed his head, eyes trained on the pistol. “Ringed with the seed pearls, ja, with the leather casing. To the pretty daughter I sell.”
“She claims she paid your price—”
Ian held up a hand. “And after ye went to the stable for the night she had second thoughts, thinking to make a different choice from your wares come the morning, so she left the brooch on the table in the dining room, with the things my aunt purchased. And then,” he drew breath in the midst of the recital, “in the night ye entered the house and took back the brooch, and a mold for six candles, a snuffer—” He glanced at the list. “And a pierced-tin lantern, and were gone ere the theft was discovered.”
Color flushed Gottfriedsen’s lined and sagging cheeks. His breath made an indignant puff in the chill air. “A false accusation against me. I will show.”
With small, half-flinching motions, he took down the nearest chest, stained dark with age, removed his mittens and began rummaging within. Gottfriedsen’s hands were bird-like, red with chilblains, and shaking. Ian watched the man, in case he got it into his head to snatch for some object suitable for attack.
The first chest was stocked with soap. When a heap of the scented stuff lay on the floorboards, Gottfriedsen turned the chest up for Ian’s viewing. “You see a brooch? No brooch.” He swiped a coat sleeve beneath his nose, and reached for another chest.
There were countless places in the wagon to stash an item as small as a brooch, places the uninitiated might never find—without dismantling the conveyance down to kindling. A search in this mode could take the day.
“Mr. Gottfriedsen,” Ian began, but noticed that the man had stopped pawing through the second chest, and stilled. He couldn’t see the peddler’s face, but there was light enough to see the color rising up the back of the scrawny neck poking from a frayed coat collar. Slowly, Gottfriedsen turned, blinking at the thing in his hand. He moistened thin, chapped lips and gently placed the brooch he’d sold to Rosalyn between them on the wagon’s planked floor.