The Iron Tiara:A Nine Minutes Spin-Off Novel(4)

By: Beth Flynn

"Show me where the key is," Anthony said in a voice laced with authority. His eyes were steady and cool. "Then tell the crew to pack up and get out of here."

"Sure, boss. But what about you? You won't have a ride. We don't want to leave you here."

"Don't worry about me. I'll have a ride," he replied, giving the Corvette a sidelong glance.

He smiled inwardly as he followed Lester around the side of the house. He watched him retrieve a key from an electrical outlet box that was attached to the stucco exterior wall of the home, well-hidden by shrubbery.

Ten minutes later, Anthony stood with his arms crossed and watched his landscaping crew make their way down the long driveway. When the truck and trailer turned out of sight, he headed for the front door, spare key in hand. He thought of the woman who'd let herself inside not fifteen minutes earlier and knew that he wouldn't have to look any further for leverage to use against Van Chapman. His leverage had already been delivered. In a red Corvette.

Chapter One

Oklahoma 1958

"You have made me proud, Anthony," Robert Bear told his twelve-year-old nephew from beneath the 1942 Chevrolet he was working on in their garage. Only his legs were visible as Anthony crouched next to them. He already knew the next tool his Uncle Robert would ask for, and he was feeling somewhat prideful when he laid it in his uncle's outstretched hand without being asked to.

He could hear the smile in Uncle Robert's voice as he told his nephew, "You are a fast learner. Exactly like your father was at your age. I remember that my little brother could do an oil change with his eyes closed before his eighth birthday. You have inherited his skill. Tell me, how did you know what part I needed and where to find it?"

Anthony swallowed the thick lump in his throat and stood from his crouched position. Glancing around his uncle's garage, he realized he was grateful he wouldn't need to look into the man's eyes while answering.

"I knew what part to get because I remember the same thing happening with that ’48 Buick you worked on a few months ago."

"And where did you get this part, Anthony?" His uncle's voice floated out from beneath the car. "It is costly, and I know that you are a good boy, a hard worker. I know you get paid by many of our elderly neighbors to help with some of their heavier chores. But I also know that even with the money you've earned and your weekly allowance from me, you could not have made enough to pay for this part."

Just then, the board Uncle Robert had been lying on slid out from under the car, and Anthony found himself staring into black eyes that mirrored his own. Eyes that were not accusatory or judgmental, but eyes that demanded truth. His uncle sat up and wiped his hands on a rag, his gaze fixed on Anthony's.

"I heard you tell Rosemary how much you thought it would cost to get her car fixed and it would probably be a lot of money because you still couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. And I know she said she couldn't pay you."

Anthony looked away from his uncle’s knowing stare. Kicking the ground, he quietly said, "I just wanted to help. I know she's by herself and needs her car to go to work. If she can't work, she can't buy food or pay for her electricity or water. I don't want somebody to take Nisha away from her again."

"So, this is about Nisha?" Robert said as he stood up and tossed the grease-stained rag into a bin.

Anthony wouldn't look at his uncle, but instead focused on the floor. Nisha was Rosemary's ten-year-old daughter and Anthony's best friend. It was an unlikely relationship that started when Anthony had come to live with his uncle.

Two Years Earlier

Anthony had been the new kid at the school where Nisha was the outcast. The school bully, Albert, decided that he would make sure on Anthony's first day he would know who was boss. Albert waited until recess, and when he had everyone’s attention, he decided to grab Anthony by his long hair and tell him in no uncertain terms that he wasn't raised on the reservation, so he wasn't welcome.

Nisha quietly watched from a corner of the playground, ignoring the afternoon heat and the sound of a bee buzzing around her head. She'd trade a bee sting for Albert's bullying any day. She felt guilty for being secretly grateful there was a new kid for Albert to pick on. She’d hoped he would leave her alone with another target to aim for. She knew why Albert teased and taunted her, sometimes getting physical when a teacher wasn't looking. She'd had her hair pulled and her arms pinched enough over the years that it barely even bothered her anymore. She convinced herself that when you knew to expect something, it didn't seem so bad. Besides, the physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional pain that she felt.

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