Charlie Cooper, a black man that Trace, Tom and Bill Thompson saved from a lynch mob late last summer, clacked his tongue to the horse pulling the small buggy he had borrowed from the Thompsons as he drove his new wife, Effie Mae, to New Mexico from a brothel near Waco, Texas. They headed for the little house that came along with the new job he had been offered. He looked at Effie Mae, with the large watermelon-sized belly that took the place of her lap, with concern. He hoped the jerking ride wasn't making her too uncomfortable
"What cha got there, girl?" Charlie teased her earlier in the day when he arrived at Pearl's place outside of Waco, where she'd been staying. He was eager to claim his bride and cart her off from near the Texas border to their new home in New Mexico.
Effie Mae considered Pearl Hornsby, a local madam, her second mother since she had taken her in when Effie Mae was ten and her real mother died.
"You take care of my girl, you hear, Charlie?" said Pearl, the large white woman, dressed in a voluminous skirt that hung from a high waistline designed to hide some of her bulk, as she hugged the diminutive black girl tight to her bosom.
"Yes, Missy Pearl. I surely will." Charlie looked about nervously. He held his new felt hat in both hands and fingered its edge. He turned the brim slowly in his fingers. As excited as he was about their future together, he was equally fearful of threats from certain white men living around the Waco area.
He well remembered the time, a few short months back, when some of the local men had tried to hang him and was grateful to Pearl for trying to stop them. He ran his two-tone index finger around inside his shirt collar where it felt too tight and sticky in the humidity. He could still feel the burn of the rope that had been placed around his neck when he thought about the close call he had had.
He worried, now, that some of those same men might still be around. Of course, if Mister Tom, Mister Trace and Mister Bill hadn't stepped in, Missy Pearl might not have been able to stop them by herself. She probably wouldn't be able to hold them off now if they took a notion to come here and found me standing at her back door.
Charlie wanted to get on the road and out of the Waco area as soon as possible. He tucked the hat under his arm and picked up Effie Mae's two worn carpet bags, one in each hand.
Despite the anxiety he felt being back in Waco where danger seemed to lurk in every shadow, excitement rushed through his body as life had finally seemed to have turned around and was treating him well for a change. He had the resources to provide a good living for the new family he planned to make with Effie Mae and the baby.