Deep Roots – Part 9
Sheridan helped Aileen with Jasper. Not much was said as both were lost in their own thoughts. Once Jasper was fed and back in his freshly cleaned stall, Aileen turned and headed toward the house. She ran inside, grabbed the envelope off the table, and breathed a silent prayer for God’s help.
It had been a long time since she’d ridden behind someone. Sheridan gave her a hand up, and she settled in behind him; thankfully, the ride was a short one. Sheridan stopped so she could dismount at the front entrance to the house, and then he turned toward the barn. After checking that the letter was secure, she moved toward the front door and then thought better of it. Instead, she followed the porch around to the back, fairly confident someone would be out there waiting. Her hunch proved right.
Eloise was seated at the picnic table, reading something. She glanced up when she heard Aileen approaching. “I see you got one too.”
“The envelope in your hand.” Eloise pointed.
She swung her leg up and over the picnic bench and sat across from her friend. “Was yours in your mailbox?”
“Yes, is that where you found yours?”
“It was, but I was given a personal ‘heads up’ that it was there, by Taylor Lanigan himself.”
“Gus! Git yourself out here now; this is far more serious than we thought!”
Sheridan and Gus appeared within seconds, and soon the four of them were pouring over both documents. Aileen didn’t understand completely, but the gist of the letter made it clear that Lanigan Oil Products had apparently purchased the mineral rights to both farms, and they had a week to either comply with wells being drilled on each of their properties or selling their properties ‘as is’ to the Lanigans. Aileen didn’t have to look at Gus to know he was livid – she could literally feel the anger as it rolled off him in waves.
“It’s important we stay calm and refuse to panic,” Gus muttered more for his own benefit. “We have our own lawyer in Big Timber, Mr. Samuel Henshaw. The Henshaw’s have seen to all the estate and land title legalities spanning the generations of both our families.”
“So, you think these documents are bogus?”
“Is that some kind of city term for a load of horse pucky?”
“Ain’t terminology fun?” Sheridan interjected.
Aileen looked back and forth between father and son. No one was answering her question. “Bogus means that it’s not real; it’s either a fake or they’re trying to pull a fast one.”
“Well then, that’s about right, though horse pucky seems more appropriate given the pile of crap this is. I’m going to call Henshaw!”
Gus let the screen door slam behind him, and Aileen jumped at the unexpected sound. “He’s ticked off.”
“Rightfully so,” Eloise said. “The Lanigans have been trying to get the oil under our land since both of our ancestors purchased it. This is another attempt that will prove futile. They don’t know when to let up.”
“I guess this is the battle for our generation then.”
“Exactly! As I was telling you, it’s time we take this to prayer before we do anything else. Papa’s let his anger get the best of him, so we’ll wait until he’s finished filling Mr. Henshaw in,” Sheridan replied.
Aileen decided to ask the question that had been niggling at her for hours. “Who is Taylor Lanigan and how am I related to him?”
Eloise gasped as if she’d been kicked by a horse. “Landsakes, I’d forgotten all about that. Taylor is Duke’s son and would be your half brother.”
“Half brother? Does he know that?
“Oh, I doubt that very much because Duke never acknowledged you as his daughter. Instead, he spread vicious rumours about your momma, made her out to be an easy woman, if you get my meaning.”
Now it was Aileen’s turn to be angry. “Coward! I’m guessing that was after the accident? The dead can’t talk or defend themselves. I wonder what story he made up to explain our presence in his vehicle at the time of the accident?”
“He claimed to be rescuing your momma from her abusive, alcoholic father,” Gus answered as the screen door slammed behind him again.
“He was the one who was drunk or high that day, not Grandpa! He was behind the wheel! He murdered my mother. It’s only by God’s grace and angelic protection that I’m here today. The truth has to be brought out into the light. I refuse to have this passed down to another generation as yet unborn!”
“That’s the Coleman fighting spirit!” Gus exclaimed. “Now we need to focus that energy and use it to expose the web of lies that surround the Lanigan’s. Taylor has no idea what he’s started, but this time we let God finish it.”
“I’m not sure what that means, but what did Mr. Henshaw have to say?” Aileen asked as she paced back and forth on the patio.
“He said it’s time for Taylor Lanigan to be knocked down a few pegs. Since his father’s death, he’s gotten a might too big for his britches. Thinks he knows everything about the history of our families and can run roughshod over us, but he has a few surprises coming as long as we can find the proof that we need.”
“The original documents showing that the mineral rights were included with the purchase of the sections we own. I know mine is in a folder somewhere in my rather unorganized office.”
“Unorganized?” Eloise scoffed, “You could lose an entire cow in that room and never find it again!”
Aileen couldn’t help but laugh at the picture that conjured in her mind. She glanced over at Sheridan, wondering if that was appropriate, given how grouchy his dad was. Sheridan winked at her and joined in.
“You two can laugh all you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that Aileen needs to find the documents that her great-great-grandfather signed.”
“I haven’t seen anything like that yet, and my grandpa hasn’t mentioned it in the letters I’ve found.”
“We have an appointment tomorrow at one o’clock with Mr. Henshaw, and he specifically asked us to bring those documents because they are the key defending this latest attempt to grab what’s ours.”
Aileen rose to her feet. “I had best get back home and start looking. Sheridan, if you would be kind enough to take me home, I will turn the house upside down until I find those documents. I am certain my grandpa put them somewhere safe.”
She didn’t wait for an answer, and was grateful Sheridan followed without another word. Even when she was safely on her own steps, he just tipped his hat and rode off.
The gravity of the situation facing not only her future but the future of her family’s dearest friends and closest allies slammed into her like a freight train. Tears filled her eyes as she heard a familiar voice in her head. See, God doesn’t love you. You’re going to lose this house and property and be homeless. You are a loser just like your father! You know that you’re more of a Lanigan than a Coleman, you best side with your brother if you want to keep a roof over your head! The evil laughter mocked her, and a migraine headache began to pound so intensely Aileen collapsed on her bed sobbing. When the tears subsided, she remembered her Bible and journal. Ignoring the incessant taunting, she opened her bedside table and grabbed both.
The Bible fell open at Psalm 139, and she began to read it out loud, trying to drown the voice out. Halfway through, the voice in her head stopped and the headache vanished.
“Lord Jesus, thank you for silencing the lies in my mind. I ask that you deal with the tormenting spirits once and for all. I refuse to listen to them any longer. I fall out of agreement and ask your forgiveness for believing those lies. I am a Coleman, and I have a heritage to preserve. Show me where the documents are that the lawyer needs tomorrow. I pray that Mr. Henshaw will find a way to stop the Lanigans once and for all. Amen.”
A sense of peace flooded over and through her. She knew it was the Holy Spirit and simply relaxed into it. Eventually, she reached for her journal and opened it. She had to write everything down before she forgot it. The journal slipped out of her hand and landed hard on the floor. As Aileen picked it up, she noticed something sticking out of the back cover.
By now you’ve probably met some of the people in Big Timber, and you may even have had an encounter with one of your pa’s kin. I wouldn’t doubt it for a minute. Since Duke died, they’ve been pressuring me to allow them to put an oil pump in the south pasture. They want the mineral rights to the large deposit of oil underground, and I outright refused, as every ancestor has done before me.
I’m guessing you’re looking for the land title to the property, which includes the mineral rights. If you go into my room and look underneath the mattress, you will find a large envelope, inside are the original copies of both documents in mint condition.
My death will kindle the battle lines again, and you will have to fight this round. You’re the last surviving Coleman.
I’ll be watching and cheering you on,
Aileen put the letter down and ran down the hall to her grandpa’s room. She got down on her knees beside the bed and slid both hands under the mattress. Less than a minute later, she had the envelope in her hands.
Back on her bed, she opened the envelope and found all the original documents. They were yellowed with age but clearly legible. She grabbed her phone and dialled Sheridan.
“I have the documents. Can you text me the address in Big Timber and I’ll meet you there at one o’clock? I think it’s better that way.”
“That’s great news! Sure, see you there.”
“Thanks. See you tomorrow.”
Aileen walked through the door to Samuel Henshaw’s Law Office at precisely one the next afternoon. She wore a long black skirt and a tailored white blouse. The look of appreciation in Sheridan’s eyes made her blush.
“May I help you?” A middle-aged lady with curly gray hair and gold wire-rimmed glasses asked her from behind the reception desk.
“Yes, Ma’am, my name is Aileen Coleman, and I have an appointment to see Mr. Henshaw at one o’clock.”
A side door opened and an older, distinguished-looking gentleman popped his head around the corner. “That would be me, Ms. Coleman, and you are right on time. Gus, Eloise, Sheridan come on in; we’re set up in the boardroom.”
Aileen followed Mr. Henshaw into a large room with a long table. She seated herself and waited while the other three took up the remaining chairs around the table. Mr. Henshaw sat at the head of the table.
“Were you both able to locate the original documents I asked for?”
“Yes, Mr. Henshaw, everything you need for the Coleman property is here,” Aileen said as she slid the envelope toward him.
Gus handed a file folder to Sheridan, and he did the same. Then they waited while the lawyer examined the contents of both. Finally, he took his glasses off and looked up.
“This is exactly what I was hoping to see. The hearing is scheduled for tomorrow morning at nine o’clock sharp. These documents will reveal Taylor Lanigan’s claims as false. He’ll be lucky if Judge Vargus doesn’t hold him in contempt or charge him with extortion!”
Aileen remained skeptical. She was living proof that justice wasn’t always on the side of truth.