After the Colonel stole the land grant he fenced off the roads and trails, cutting off access to thousands of acres families had been using for a couple hundred years. Later most of it was bought by the feds for National Forest and everyone blamed the "government" for everything.
Sadie used air quotes and tossed the spiral bound notebook onto a nearby table. She chose another from an ungainly pile. Cat raised her eyebrows and glanced into the dark corner of the bar where Chocky was sitting in the booth he used as his office. Smoke curled into the light of a desk lamp. He had on sunglasses. It was hard to tell if he was listening.
Sadie was fast, turning pages noisily, looking for portions of her writing she'd previously highlighted, reading then tossing. Cat tried to put discarded notebooks in order but Sadie kept aiming at the tidy stack she'd made, knocking them all to the floor. Sadie seemed oblivious which made it funnier to Chocky who laughed aloud when she managed a direct hit.
Villagers’ herds were starving when he offered to buy them at discounted prices. That’s when people got mad. Then he turned them against each other, telling nasty rumors about this or that. He started a little civil war that lasted right up until World War II. That gutted the population of angry men. He died soon after that.
Sadie paused and looked up from the notebook. Cat braced to catch it. But Sadie set it down carefully and began speaking slowly and clearly, not looking at notes.
Aunt Connie poisoned my father after he raped her the third time.
This hung in the air like a strong scent, hard to identify, pungent, intriguing. Chocky looked up. Cat's chin dropped. Sadie continued, quietly.
She told Rosa she started putting rat poison in his coffee and that it took longer than she thought it would. He died at the poker table in the back room of his bar after winning a big hand.
Chocky took off his sunglasses.
They said it was a stroke.
They never did an autopsy.
Cat just stared. Sadie continued reading.
A professor at the University wrote a history of the land grant called, “The Thief Who Was a King.” He was like the Dan Brown of Escadero with his nuggets of half-truths carved to fit his fairy tale. It centered on the ridiculous claim that the Colonel was a descendant of an original land grantee, making him a legitimate heir to the grant. He was the son of a woman who was thrown out of the village for being a witch, according to this fiction. That was more interesting than the truth - he was just a wanna-be Santa Fe Ring white-collar crook.
She paused to take a swallow of water and glanced at them both, then went on.
The professor later said he’d taken cash from Annie to promote the myth. Then he made the fatal mistake of trying to blackmail her with the fact that the Colonel wasn’t a Colonel. She hired a young body guard to beat him up and he died of a stroke a week later. Ace, the bodyguard, got promoted to assistant ranch manager.
Sadie threw this notebook, deftly hitting Cat's pile, scattering them like playing cards. Then she lit and took a long drag on a little hand-rolled cigarette.
What was that about poison again?