Bill's long strides took him within earshot of Rod Owen's cabin before he paused and took off his hat. In the half-light, he noticed that his hand was shaking, making his hat shiver like a giant aspen leaf. He ran his other hand through his hair, re-seated the hat, and took several deep breaths to steady himself.
As he was about to move toward the cabin again, he heard a cry that reminded him of a panther he'd heard in Texas once. However, even as he squinted towards the woods behind him, he realized the sound hadn't come from that location. It had come from the cabin, and it continued as he gathered his wits and sprinted across the meadow, leaping the creek to arrive in the yard.
Bill barely knocked before he threw caution to the wind and hauled on the latch string to open the door. He put his shoulder against the wood and stopped himself from entering the room as it swung open.
Mrs. Owen stood nearly in the fireplace, her head bowed over a piece of pink paper. It was she who made the keening wail. The younger Owen girl was on her knees beside her, face in her hands, sobbing. Rod Owen bent over his wife, his brows drawn together, strong emotions chasing themselves across his face. The two younger sons, Clay and Albert, stood at their places at the table, breakfast forgotten as Clay bent to right the chair he must have overturned just moments before.