The Man He Used to Be, ch. 4

by: Marty Chrisman

           

The Dukes spent a pleasant evening visiting with Shelby. All of them thanked her for her part in saving Luke’s life when he had been hurt. Jesse told stories about his days running shine with her granddaddy and Shelby admitted that she and Cory still ran shine using her granddaddy’s recipe. When she decided that it was time for her to leave, Luke quickly offered to walk her to her car before Bo could volunteer.

As they walked outside, Luke said “Ya know, I tried to find you after I got out of the hospital but I never could find your cabin.”

“Yeah, granddaddy had a thing about people knowing just where he lived. You can’t find the cabin unless ya know exactly where to look and how to get there.”

They paused by her car and Luke moved closer. In a quiet voice that only she could hear, he said “You’ll have to show me someday.”

“Maybe I will.” Shelby said with a grin

“I’d like to see you again.” Luke told her “I still haven’t had a chance to thank you personally for saving my life.”

“What did ya have in mind?”

“This.” Luke whispered, as he wrapped his arms around her waist and gently kissed her lips. For the first time since Kelly’s death, he felt a strong attraction to another woman. Part of him felt relieved but part of him also felt guilty.

Gently pulling herself out of his embrace, Shelby smiled and said,

“Goodbye, Luke.”

Luke stood there watching as she climbed into her car and drove away. He wondered if and when he would see her again. He still didn’t know how to find her. That meant if she wanted to see him then she would have to find him. Still unsettled by the strong attraction he had felt towards her, he decided to take a walk before going back inside. Without even thinking about where he was going, he started walking towards the Duke Cemetery on the hill behind the barn.

Ten minutes later, he knelt in front of Kelly’s grave. His eyes welled up with tears as he read the inscription on her stone : Kelly Marie Duke  Born June 19, 1970  Died July 21, 1995. Beloved wife of Lukas K. Duke  Our love will never die. Forever in my Heart. Luke reached out and gently ran his fingers over the surface of the stone.

“I miss you, Kell” he said, swallowing hard past the lump that always rose in his throat when he came here to talk to her “And I always will. Nothing will ever change how much I love you. But I guess Jesse and everybody is right, I need to get on with my life…….even if it has to be without you.” A single tear fell down his cheek as he slowly rose to his feet, turned and walked away.

Bo was in the room the boys shared getting ready for bed when Luke opened the door and came into the room. He didn’t ask Luke where he’d been. Bo knew that when Luke took one of his late night walks, he usually went to Kelly’s grave. As Luke started to undress, Bo looked at him and smiled “You like that Shelby don’t ya?”

“I don’t even know her, Bo.” Luke said not really wanting to have this conversation right now.

“But ya still like her. I can tell.” Bo said “Too bad I didn’t see her first.”

“Well, next time you can go camping and get your foot caught in a bear trap.” Luke said with a grin

“Did she tell ya how to find her again?”

“Nope.”

“Well, that ain’t no way to get to know her, cuz.”

“Drop it, Bo and let’s get some sleep.” Luke said, the tone of his voice warning Bo that he didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Luke finished undressing and climbed into bed, pulling up the covers as Bo reached over and turned out the lamp on the nightstand between the two beds. Soon Bo was sleeping soundly but Luke was still wide awake, staring into the darkness. His body was tense with a frustration that he recognized even if it had been awhile since he felt it.

Finally he gave up trying to sleep and went downstairs. Turning on the kitchen light, he got himself a glass of milk and a piece of apple pie. He glanced up as Jesse came into the kitchen. “Couldn’t sleep?” Jesse said, getting himself some milk and joining Luke at the table.

“Nope.”

“Ya got something on your mind you wanna talk about?”

“Nope”

“Ya know, Luke” Jesse said “There ain’t nothing wrong with feeling like you might want to get to know somebody else……it’s been a long time.”

“Yeah, I know that Uncle Jesse.” Luke said, more irritation sounding in his voice then he intended. He sighed softly “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap.”

Jesse suddenly had a flash of intuition. Instinctively, he realized what was bothering Luke. “Well, you just go on to bed when you’re ready.” He said, emptying his milk into the sink and rinsing out the glass.

Luke couldn’t help but smile as Jesse left the room. Whenever anything was bothering any of them, Jesse always seemed to know exactly what it was even if they didn’t tell him. Even if it was too embarrassing or too personal to talk about. Finally Luke went back to bed where he fell into an uneasy sleep.

The next couple of weeks passed quickly with little break in the normal routine. The boys helped Jesse get the crops planted, a hard job that left them too exhausted to do much more than fall into bed at night. Friday and Saturday nights still found them at the Boar’s Nest having a good time and flirting with the ladies. At times Luke found his mind drifting to a girl with sun streaked hair. A girl he didn’t even know how to find.

*   *   *  *

Billy Porter and his brother, Bobby watched as the two young men climbed into the orange car and sped away. The two brothers were parked in the back of the parking lot at the Boar’s nest. They had been trailing Bo and Luke all day, careful to keep out sight so they wouldn’t be spotted. “That’s him” Billy said “The dark haired one”

“When are we supposed to take him?”

“First chance we get to catch him alone.”

*   *   *   *

“We’re gonna need some more wire.” Jesse said, critically eyeing the section of fence that the boys were mending. “One of you boys wanna run into town and get some?”

“I’ll do it.” Luke volunteered. He picked up his shirt which was lying in the back of the pickup and slipped it on.

“Don’t go stopping at Boar’s Nest or nothing…” Jesse ordered “Git that wire and get back here.”

“Yes, sir.” Luke said with a grin.

“Yeah,” Bo told him with a grin “I ain’t finishing this job by myself if you get side tracked.”

Ignoring his cousin’s banter, Luke slid behind the wheel of the pickup and turned on the engine. He drove into Hazzard and picked up the wire for Jesse, charging it to the Duke account. On his way back to the farm, he was driving along Hunter’s Ridge road when he noticed a gray sedan pulled over at the side of the road with the hood up and two men leaning over examining the engine. Like a good neighbor, Luke pulled over to see if they needed any help.

“Howdy,” He said as he climbed out of the pickup and walked over to the other car “You fellas need a hand?”

One of the men looked out from under the hood and grinned at Luke coldly. “We need you to get in the back seat of this car.” For the first time, Luke noticed the gun that the man held in his hand. Cautiously, he raised his hands in the air.

“What do you guys want?” Luke asked “I ain’t got no money. If you want the truck, go ahead and take it.”

“We want you, Duke. Now git in the car” the man motioned towards the car with his gun. From the corner of his eye, Luke noticed that the second man had snuck around the back of the car and came up behind him. He had a gun in his hand too. Even though the odds were against him, Luke knew he couldn’t allow himself to be forced into that car.

Taking the men by surprise, Luke suddenly spun around and kicked the man behind him in the gut. He grunted in surprise and doubled over, dropping his gun. Luke kicked it out of the way and then slammed his shoulder into the other man’s chest, catching him off guard. It had all happened so fast that neither of the Porter brothers had time to react. Luke tackled Bobby and took him to the ground. Luke drew back his fist ready to punch Bobby in the jaw, when he suddenly felt cold steel against the back of his neck. Billy had found his gun and had Luke in his sights. Luke pulled back his punch and raised his hands again.

“Alright, plow boy!” Billy growled, roughly grabbing Luke by the arm and pulling him to his feet “You got this coming!” He slammed Luke against the side of the car and twisted his left arm behind his back, close to the breaking point. Luke cried out in pain as his shoulder was pulled out of alignment. Then he felt a terrible pain in the back of his skull and everything went black as he crumbled to the ground.

The Porter brothers quickly lifted Luke’s body into the back seat of the car and then climbed into the front, speeding away from the scene of the abduction. Unfortunately for them,  They both failed to notice the rider on the black horse high on the ridge above the road.

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