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Charlie MacNeil, SASS #48580

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  1. Charlie MacNeil 2-20-13 Night. Velvet darkness spread across hill and dale, pierced only by silver starfall blazing from across countless millennia and miles. Wolf song on the night wind, faint, plaintive, demanding, swelling in volume then retreating, imploring, communicating, sending a message of hope and despair, of need. Most of all, need. Need not of body but of soul and psyche. Deep, heartfelt need... Charlie stirred, his dreams troubled, seeing once again, for the first time in months, the hellish orange light, the glittering black sand, feeling the crush of weathered stone beneath leather boot soles. Feeling worn sharkskin rasping against the calloused skin of palm and finger, the swirl of blood red wool, hearing the muted jingle of woven chain across his shoulders, the weight of iron-bound wood on his left arm. Foolishly, after the last epic battle for his niece's soul, he had thought, nay, hoped and prayed, to never return to this place. He stood solidly, waiting, chagrined at the naivete that he thought he'd purged from his being these many years ago. Determined now to stand firm and fight as he had stood so often in the past... "You shall not have her!" he challenged, the words coming from his lips with the sound of iron-shod chariot wheels grinding on stone. "She is ours!" The collective hiss from many misshapen tongues swirled on the fitful, probing breeze, falling on the ear from everywhere and nowhere. "We do not ever surrender! Never!" "Then you shall all taste steel and death!" His defiant war cry echoed from stone and sand, silencing even the questing wind as the warrior stepped back beneath overhanging stone, placing his back against the solid weight, glittering blade and dark-stained shield rising, leather-booted feet planted solidly. "Come if you dare!" Sarah sat bolt-upright in her bed, gasping, pale eyes wide, defiant words ringing in her ears. "Uncle Charlie! Wait! I'm coming!" She reached for the quilts to throw them off and scramble into black breeches and shirt. She stopped, the realization that such material trappings would be of no use blazing across her consciousness as the mournful wail of wolf song blossomed in the darkness. She lay back down, closing her eyes and focusing her mind on the dream of moments before... In a blaze of blinding white the girl appeared at the warrior's side, cross-guarded boar spear in hand. The light radiating from her weapon sent black, misshapen forms scampering away in agony, hideous voices screaming their anger and frustration. "YOU!" she pointed the glowing blade of the spear at the retreating forms, tame lightning flickering from tip to guard. "SHALL!" Her pale eyes blazed with a fire of their own, the red weal on her cheek flaming. "NOT!" Fire made a halo around her hair. "HAVE ME!" Her voice thundered out, scattering the last, the strongest, of the black shapes to the winds. The blazing white light dimmed, flickered, ceased. The girl wrapped her hands around the shaft of the spear, her shoulders sagging. The warrior sheathed his blade, lowered his iron-bossed shield to the sand and stepped forward to lay his calloused palms on the girl's shoulders. The boar spear dropped from Sarah's suddenly nerveless hand as she turned to press her face against the warrior's chest. "Oh, Uncle Charlie, I listened but I didn't hear," she sobbed. "I nearly let them," her gesture encompassing all that had been surrounding the pair just moments before, "turn me again. I let doubt come in." "You ain't perfect, girl," Charlie replied softly. "None of us are. There's only been one perfect being in the history of this planet, and it weren't neither one of us. You can't anticipate everything. If you did, there'd be no more wonder, no more surprises, no more of the gifts that come to us suddenly and bring so much joy." He stopped for a moment to lift her chin, his hazel eyes locked on her blue orbs. "AND YOU CAN'T SAVE EVERYONE!" he growled suddenly. His voice softened again. "Some things have to be left in the hands of the Lord, girl. And you ain't Him. So get on with your life, and stop trying to fix everything that's wrong. Go on and be a girl, and a woman. Enjoy the time you have with your man and mourn him when he's gone. But don't try to reshape the world, 'cause it can't be done. The best we can do is to get all the joy, love and laughter we can in the time that we have. And never doubt yourself. You are incapable of doing anything but what is right for you." He held her at arms length. Now go, girl, and live! Live your life to the fullest. Make the most of the years ahead. Go!" Sarah stared at him in wonder. "How did you know?" she whispered. Charlie grinned at her, the insolent twist on his lips that she loved so much. "A big puppy dog told me. Now git!" She got. Charlie opened his eyes, stared up at the ceiling for a moment listening to his wife's gentle breathing beside him, then smiled before mouthing the words, "Thank you, Lord," and closing his eyes again.
  2. Linn Keller 2-20-13 The Sheriff closed the door on his cast iron stove. Straightening, he rubbed his fist against the small of his back: he frowned a little and there were vague crunching sounds as he twisted. He turned and took a step toward the door; reached, and had it open a foot when he saw a figure through the widening crack. Sarah hesitated, her upraised knuckles in mid-air, then looked at her father with uncertain eyes. "How did you know I was about to knock?" she asked, and the Sheriff heard a trace of a surprised little girl in her voice. Linn grinned. "I'm psychotic," he said. "I mean psychic. Come on in, it's cold out." "You and Jackson Cooper," she muttered. The Sheriff closed the door behind her, then turned; Sarah's hood was still up. He reached up, threw the hood back, regarded her frankly, frowning a little. "I know a mountain witch --" he began. "Everyone knows a witch," Sarah muttered, "and no I don't wish to resurrect the man so we can kill him again!" "Just thought I'd offer." Sarah gave him a long, frank look. "Papa, I messed up." The Sheriff took his daughter's hands in his own. "My dear, turn around." "What?" The Sheriff released one hand, took her shoulder gently, turned her: she felt his hands caress her shoulder blades through the cloak, then he turned her back. "Just as I thought." Sarah raised an eyebrow. "No angel wings." Sarah frowned, turned her head a little, curious. "Have a set, dear heart, my back is troublin' me today." The Sheriff grabbed a chair, spun it around, close to the stove and facing the cast iron device: he brought his own chair over, wheeled it up beside Sarah's. "Now Sarah," he said, his voice gentle but his eyes mischievous, "my Mama worked hard to beat some manners into m -- hak! Kaff! I mean!" -- he harrumphed into the back of his hand -- "my Mama taught me to be a gentleman, and a gentleman does not sit until the lady is seated." Sarah's expression softened and she caressed the skinny lawman with the iron-grey mustache and sparkling eyes, running her fingertips down his cheek: "Oh, Papa," she said, and he heard the little girl in her voice again, "you're going to make me laugh!" and she leaned against him and hugged him, and he wrapped strong and fatherly arms around her and laid his cheek down on the top of her head. "Now have yourself a set," he said. "I haven't seen you in, oh, it must be a day or so already! How time does fly!" Sarah allowed herself a smile: whether it was his gentle voice or the stove's heat, she felt her personal angst melt and trickle away like snow-melt before a fire. "Now tell your poor old Paw what happened," the Sheriff said in a slow, drawling voice, and Sarah laughed again. The Sheriff looked closely at her face as she laughed, gauging the symmetry of her features, assessing skin tension on either side of the discoloring line of ointment and the dark stripe beneath. She wasn't cut, he thought. Not with a knife anyway. Maybe it's just a welt. I hope it does not scar, but good God! -- that's right across her eye! She could have been blinded on that side! Sarah took a long breath and shifted in her seat, straightening her spine, her hands properly folded in her lap: she began a recitation, as if giving testimony in court, uttering facts and describing events. The Sheriff listened without interruption, leaning forward a little: Sarah knew it was partly out of interest -- he leaned forward when he was interested -- but she also knew his lower back gave him jimmy Cain when he sat too long, and he often bent forward in just such a way to take the bend, and the ache, out of his lower spine. She spoke steadily, quietly; part of her carefully clove feeling and emotion from her words, the rest of her trembled as those sliced-off parts of her experience piled up and she looked at them again, almost as if her body were a great, hollow shell, she was sitting behind her eyes, and before the words passed her lips, another of her selves took a cleaver and slabbed the offending parts off and let them fall, away and hidden in the cavernous expanse below. "I feared our lives were in danger," Sarah said, "so I put three shots through his ribs." She leaned forward, reached around her Papa, pressed hard fingers against the approximate area. "About here. "I swarmed up through the Handsom hatch and took the reins. "A fellow thug tried to seize the mare's bridle but I changed his mind as well." "Where did you nail that one?" the Sheriff asked -- the first he'd spoken since she began her recitation. Sarah's face turned pink and she lowered her eyes. "I missed," she admitted. "Did it work?" the Sheriff asked. "Yes." "Then you did not miss, even if it hit the ground and howled off into the darkness." "Yes, sir." "What followed?" Sarah resumed her narrative; the Sheriff listened closely, nodding occasionally, steepling his fingers together. "We got home well after midnight. Mama was awake and waiting. "Polly was as yet asleep. "We got her abed and retired to the kitchen and had tea, and Mama helped me apply Daciana's herbal to my face." Sarah turned her head a little, displaying her wound to her Papa. "I went back this morning and got another pot of ungent." "Good," the Sheriff nodded. "I gave testimony that night, a sworn statement. I do not know if I will be called for the inquest or not." The Sheriff leaned back, rubbed his face, then twisted his mustache, stroking it out and curling it up again. "My dear," he said quietly, neutrally, "do you know what you have done?' Sarah's walls went up; in the space of a heartbeat she went from a vulnerable girl, laying her memory before her Papa, to a hardened warrior who may have to fight her way to freedom. She felt her heart harden; she was suddenly aware of the several smells: a trace of burnt apple-wood in the air, the smell of the ungent striping her face, of her Papa's mustache-wax and of his shaving-soap; she smelled his boots, recently polished, and she knew if she picked up on these several smells her other senses were keened in the same manner. The Sheriff stood, slowly, walked around back of his chair: he leaned his hands against the back of his chair and lowered his head a little, looking directly at his daughter. "You," he said quietly, his voice filling the room with his authority, "did what you had to do to keep your little sister alive, and to keep your intended alive, and to keep yourself alive." The Sheriff stepped around his chair and took one step toward Sarah, held out his hand. Sarah automatically took his hand and rose. "My dear," the Sheriff said, "you amaze me and you make me so very proud. "You have been handed so many surprises, you have been given so many bombs with a sputtering fuse, and somehow you manage to pluck the fuse or dunk it in a horse trough just in time." The Sheriff shook his head. "I wonder if Mr. Llewellyn knows just how much of a prize he is getting." Sarah ran thumb and forefinger under her collar and tugged at a fine gold chain: she brought a ring into view, held it up: the Sheriff's eyes widened and he ran three fingers behind the ring, holding it out a little: he tilted his head and raised one eyebrow. He brushed at her hair as if to move a wisp from her forehead and she heard sadness in his voice as he said, "I am so very sorry I was not there to see him put this on your finger." Sarah took the Sheriff's hand in both of her own. "You had work to do, Papa. You taught me that. You were Fulfilling your Responsibility." She squeezed his hand, brought it to her lips, kissed his scarred knuckles. "Papa, when I turned fourteen, you promised to walk me down the aisle. "You will get to see him put a ring on my hand." The Sheriff nodded, caressing Sarah's uninjured cheek with the backs of his fingers. "How did this happen so fast?" he murmured. "You were so little then ... I wanted to pick you up and hold you." Sarah hugged her Papa again. "I wish I had been your little girl then," she whispered. "I wish you'd married Mama that day and I wish I had been your little girl." "I could put you in pinafores and make you play with rag dolls and bounce you on my knee if you like," he said teasingly. "Dear Papa!" Sarah laughed, and hugged him all the tighter.
  3. Linn Keller 2-19-13 Sarah considered that Emma Cooper was teaching again, and had been for some days now. She stared at her face in the mirror. Another two days of ointment, she thought, and all will be well. Still ... Emma should know that I am not coming. Sarah dressed quickly, as she always did; her cloak hung from its peg, its generous hood thrown back as she kept it: this morning, though, she drew the hood up, threw it well forward so it hid her face as much as possible. She drew up in front of Jackson and Emma Cooper's house and set the brake on her carriage: skipping up to the back door, she raised her knuckles to knock, then lowered her hand as Jackson Cooper pulled open the door. "Dear heavens," he boomed, "what brings you out here, Sunshine?" Sarah could not raise her eyes higher than his boot tops. "I ... won't be at school today," Sarah said hesitantly, and the Marshal knew from her voice that something was very wrong. "Sarah?" he asked, going to one knee. "Sarah, what's wrong? How can I help?" Sarah closed her eyes, bit her bottom lip: Jackson Cooper could see her bite her lip, and he saw her chin quiver a little, and he held the door wider and said gently, "Please, come on in. It's cold out." Sarah nodded, gathered the front of her skirt and stepped up, and into the back porch. "Why, Sarah!" Emma Cooper exclaimed, sounding for all the world like a pleased grandmother. "How nice that you're here!" Emma looked up at Jackson Cooper's worried expression. "Sarah?" she asked. "Sarah, is ... all well?" Sarah threw her hood back, exposing the angry red line across her face. Jackson Cooper saw Emma's eyes widen in shock: he swung in front of Sarah, looked at her face, and Sarah saw his face harden and the color darken in his cheeks. "Who did this to you?" he asked quietly, his big hands closing, and Sarah knew the man was on the moment more than willing to seize the offending scoundrel and twist his miserable body in two for starters. "I killed him already," she said. "I wanted you to know I won't be in school today ... and this is why." Jackson Cooper went down to one knee again; his big hands were surprisingly gentle as he took her shoulders, turned her to face him. "Sarah," he said, his voice grinding to the surface through a mile-deep hole full of boulders, "is there anything I should know?" Sarah raised a hand and trailed gentle fingers along the man's scarred, clean-shaven cheek, and Jackson Cooper considered that he'd never seen such a sad expression on a girl's face in many long years. "I killed him already," she whispered, "but Polly and Mr. Llewellyn could have been killed." Her expression was bleak as she looked up at Emma Cooper. "I should have seen it," she squeaked. "I should have known. I'm sorry." Sarah hesitated, raised a hand to her face. "Please don't ... say ... I don't want them to see ..." Sarah turned and ran out the back door. Jackson Cooper stood as the back door swung shut; they heard Sarah's carriage rattle down the hard-frozen driveway. Jackson Cooper took Emma Cooper in big, muscled arms, holding her carefully, as if afraid she might break. "Dear God," he murmured, "what happened to that poor girl?" Daciana's response was less gentle. "Cachorra!" she swore, turned her head and spat: she spun, selected a particular curve-bladed knife, tested the edge and nodded: "Cachorra! I cut off!" "It's too late," Sarah said, her voice hollow: "I killed him already." "Good!" Daciana snapped: she drew her arm back, threw the knife: Sarah hadn't noticed the block of wood on the far wall until Daciana's thrown knife drove point-first into it. Daciana looked at Sarah's face and she picked up two more knives, threw them after the first; all three knives quivered in the throwing-block. "Face up. I look." Daciana placed firm fingers under Sarah's chin, pulled her face up: she frowned at the red line, turned Sarah's head to assess the degree of welting, then ran gentle fingers across it at intervals, muttering something Sarah did not understand ... at least not the words ... it was the first time she remembered seeing Daciana genuinely angry. Daciana shook a finger, her mouth opening, then closing: she frowned, found the words she wanted: "Not move you!" she declared; whirling, she almost ran out of the room, coming back in the space of three heartbeats with a small milk-glass jar similar to the one Sarah used the night before. "I used what you gave me," Sarah murmured as Daciana precisely, carefully, drew a line of ointment down Sarah's facial wheal. "Ja, gut," Daciana replied through clenched teeth: she viciously twisted the lid back on the jar, placed it in Sarah's palm, turned again: she disappeared into the kitchen and Sarah heard porcelain being rearranged. "Inkommen mit du!" Daciana snapped, and Sarah, recognizing a summons when she heard one, rose and walked reluctantly into the kitchen. Daciana was sorting through several jars, all of which held something vegetable and dried: she put a double pinch of one into a teacup, a pinch of a second on top of that, added hot water and slid the jars back out of the way. "Sittenzie," she commanded, and Sarah smoothed her skirts and sat. Daciana pulled a chair up very near Sarah and sat, their knees almost touching: Daciana took both Sarah's hands and looked into her eyes with a fierceness that betrayed her feelings. "Who did zis?" she hissed. "I killed him already." "I NOT CARE! I KNOW WITCH! I RAISE HIM AND KILL HIM AGAIN!" Daciana shouted, her face coloring: her hands were tight on Sarah's -- surprisingly so -- and Daciana leaned toward her friend and said, "If you killed, Sarah, who I haff for friendt? Who? You all I got! You no make-a da fun of da way I talk, I ride, I dress! You no make-a da fun of-a da poor circus girl!" It was Sarah's hands that tightened now: her eyes shaded a bit more pale and she said slowly, "Who ... dares ... say this?" Daciana nodded. "I wanta see that. I wanta you mad. You special, you know dat. You see what no one else sees. You ..." Daciana's hand spun as she sought the words she wanted. "Gift. You have-a da gift. You Papa, da Sheriff, he can blow fire, you know?" Sarah blinked, shook her head. "He knows-a things. He knows-a what no man should know. Nobody but-a da women can blow-a da fire anna stop-a da blood wit-a da Word." Sarah shook her head. "I ... don't ... what?" "He blow-a da fire!" Daciana replied angrily. "You burn-a you hand, it hurt. He take-a da hand, he blow-a da hand, he say-a something you can't hear an' da fire it's-a gone!" Sarah turned her head and Daciana knew from her expression this was new information. "Only da woman can say-a da Word an'-a stop'a da blood. Only woman!" Daciana raised a forefinger for emphasis. "He not-a da woman but he can stop-a da blood wit' da Word. "You his blood. You have-a da gift I'm-a think." Sarah shook her head. "I ... I don't ... no, it never --" "You haff more, much more, an' you children they will haff it too!" Daciana jumped up, ran around the table -- the long way around, as if to burn off nervous energy -- and stirred the steeping tea. She balanced cup and saucer carefully, brought it around to Sarah, added a gleaming teaspoon of honey, stirred. "You drink. It heal from inside, I heal from out." Sarah drank the tea. It was good; it tasted -- smelled -- vaguely of clover blossoms. She drank the entire cup. Daciana took her cup, placed it upside down on the saucer, lifted the cup, examined the soggy dregs left on the saucer. She nodded. "I see three children," she murmured. "I see happiness." She looked up at Sarah. "I see a man dead and you grief and you never remarry." "When?" Sarah asked, her eyes pale. "A fire." Her eyes were far away, seeing something not of the here-and-now. "Inside a house. Something fall." "When?" "Years ... many years." Sarah closed her eyes, nodded. "He gave me a ring," Sarah said quietly, drawing the fine gold chain of a necklace from inside her collar. Daciana leaned forward to look at the ring, studied the stone. She looked at Sarah. "I dreamed you wear a crown," she said, tapping the faceted stone with a fingernail. "This ... " She smiled a little. "You wear crown." Sarah nodded, felt the hard lump of the ointment-jar. "Thank you," she whispered, then stood, drawing her hood forward. "I must go." "Sarah," Daciana said as Sarah turned. Daciana drew gentle fingertips down Sarah's unmarked cheek. "You good friend, Sarah," she said softly. "T'ank you." She smiled a little and added, "I know witch. You want I raise chacorra so we keel again? I cut off!" Sarah paced slowly across the apparatus floor. The smell of bacon and eggs, pancakes and coffee enriched the air. The Welsh Irishman came forward at Sean's summons. "Mr. Llewellyn," Sarah said, curtsying: "Miss McKenna," the Welsh Irishman replied with a half-bow. "Mr. Llewellyn, thank you for last night," Sarah said: she was not near enough the kitchen to be clearly seen, and she kept her hood up and her head bowed. "'Twas my honor," he replied gravely. "Mr. Llewellyn, I fear my ointment has stained your suit. I believe we can get the stain out, if I may." Llewellyn brought the suit to the apparatus floor; Sarah stood where she'd been, unmoving, like a draped marble statue in a Medieval cathedral. Sarah reached for the suit, draped it over her forearm, then seized the Welshman's hand. "Promise me something," she whispered. Llewellyn leaned his head down a little, stepping close, his hand cupping her elbow. "Promise me if you're in a burning house, you'll get out before something falls on you!" "If I can," he replied, puzzled. "I am holding you to that, Mr. Llewellyn," Sarah said quietly. "I have no wish to become a young widow!'
  4. Linn Keller 2-19-13 Sarah sat down at the kitchen table with her mother and her fiancee. Sarah wrapped her hands gratefully around the teacup, closing her eyes, feeling its warmth, smelling its fragrant vapors. "We took the train to Denver," Sarah said, "and arrived on time. "I kept Polly primed with pain killer. "I carefully instructed her," she said, opening her eyes and taking a long breath, "I instructed her to spit out after every ... dose." She took another long breath. "Polly slept most of the way. "We hired a cab when we arrived and I gave the driver the address. "I didn't realize for several minutes we weren't going to the dentist's office. "I stuck my head out the window and demanded to know where in Sam's hill he was taking us." Sarah turned to her mother, her eyes big, her finger tracing the diagonal wheal across her face. "He did this to me. "I shot the hat off his head and told him to throw away the whip and he didn't, so I shot him three times and went up through the Handsom hatch and took the reins. "I don't know where he took us, only that there were people who tried to stop us." Bonnie's eyes were big, serious; she listened carefully to her daughter's words. "I steered us back and found a police station." Bonnie looked at the Welsh Irishman. "He kept Polly safe, Mother," Sarah said. "He shielded her with his body. Had the cab been thrown on its side, or had there been return gunfire, Polly would have been safe." Her smile was faint, as was her voice. "He had the harder task, Mother ... he couldn't move, and he knew it, and he stayed with her anyway." Bonnie stood; automatically, the Welsh Irishman came to his feet. Bonnie walked over to the fireman, took both his hands in hers. "Thank you," she whispered, and the Welsh Irishman was not the first man to suddenly feel as if he was willing to lay his beating heart at her feet. They each sat again. Sarah unscrewed the lid from a small porcelain jar, hooked her finger into it: Bonnie smelled something vaguely herbal as Sarah tilted her head back and slowly, carefully, traced the herbal down the welt-line crossing her face. "The detective ... you remember him, Mother, he was the one who gave you flowers -- said the man I killed was a known murderer who used a Handsom cab to take his victims to that unsavory part of town and kill them, rob their bodies, dump their carcasses in open graves or a ditch. "He'd apparently murdered a cabman and took his cab just before the train pulled into station." "If I'd only known," Llewellyn whispered, shaking his head. "You could not have known. I certainly didn't." Llewellyn heard bitterness in Sarah's words. "I should have. I should have seen it. I let my guard down. I was so worried about Polly I trusted." She spat the word as if it were an epithet, her eyes gone pale again: she closed her eyes, took a long breath, opened them again. "Do I have all the welt covered?" she asked her mother, and Bonnie reached for the little porcelain jaw. "No, dear, but almost. Here, let me." Sarah closed her eyes and shivered a little as Bonnie carefully traced a thick layer of the herbal over Sarah's wounded face. "There. That should do it." "Thank you, Mother." Sarah carefully replaced the lid on the jar. "Daciana gave me this. She swears by it. This should not even scar." "Bless her for that," Bonnie murmured. "The detective whistled up a police-carriage for us and drove us to the dentist." Sarah laid a small cloth-wrapped item on the table, unrolled it: it was the offending tooth, complete with the little dark spot that marked its cavity. Bonnie made a little sound of disgust and Sarah rolled it back up. "It came out completely. The root is intact. He packed her jaw with ... whatever it is" -- Sarah closed her eyes, thrust the wrapped tooth back into a pocket, then picked up her tea and took a long drink. "I had to make report at the police-station, of course." "Of course," Bonnie murmured. "Afterward we ... came home." Sarah leaned her head on her knuckles, then laid her head on folded arms on the kitchen table. Her voice was muffled by folded arms. "Why didn't I see it?" she hissed, then raised her head. "Mr. Llewellyn," she said, "you see me as I am. I failed. I did not consider a possibility and you and my sister nearly died because of it." "We live because you reacted to it," he countered. Sarah shook his head. "I should have --" "Should have what?" Llewellyn interrupted. "Pulled out a crystal ball? Scattered chicken entrails? Miss McKenna, have you ever fought fire?" "Have I --" Sarah blinked, surprised. "N-no." "A fire cannot be predicted," Llewellyn said, his voice low, urgent. "It can eat the floor out from underfoot wi'out lookin' like i'. It can load up a room wi' smoke an' detonate like a firebomb when a winda breaks an' i' takes a big suck 'a' air. I ha'e said th' same thing you are sayin' -- word f'r word, "I should ha'e seen it, I should ha'e known it" -- he stood, fingertips on the table top, his face lined with hard memories, memories raised like ghosts from a rocky grave by his words -- "but Miss McKenna, I couldna'! I had no' a crystal ball neither an' th' only thing I could do was react!" Llewellyn strode around Bonnie's chair, resting his hand momentarily on the woman's shoulder, and he knelt beside Sarah, pulled her hand from the tabletop, wrapped it in his. "Sarah, my dear, ye did th' best ye could wi' wha' ye had. I did my part an' you did yours an' we live t' tell th' tale." His hands were tight on hers. "We live, Sarah. We live. Because of you." His voice was reduced to a hiss, a whisper: urgency made his words plain, fervor made them audible. Sarah turned her head to look at him, tears brimming her eyelids, her bottom lip trembling: she leaned into the Welsh Irishman and each embraced the other. Bonnie caught a glimpse, just a glimpse of her daughter's face, twisted, tortured with the knowledge of what could have happened, just before Sarah buried her face in the Welsh Irishman's suit to muffle the sound of her grief.
  5. Linn Keller 2-18-13 Polly drowsed beside Sarah, leaning against the warm reassurance of her big sister. On occasion she would stir, and whimper a little, and Sarah would prime her with another sip of liquid lightning, enough to put the pain to sleep for a while. Polly was absorbing alcohol directly through her oral mucosa; she did not have to swallow it, to get a good load in her system ... to the point that, when they arrived in Denver shortly before midnight, Polly had to be carried. Llewellyn wrapped the child in her cloak and picked her up, carried her easily: Sarah led the way, hailed a cab -- though the hour was late, a hack could still be had -- she spoke an address, and the driver nodded. Sarah frowned as the cab lurched a little; her attention was on her little sister, but something in the back of her mind made her restless, discontented. When she looked out the window she blinked: the driver was not going where she'd directed. Sarah surged to her feet, thrust head and shoulders out the window. "HEY UP THERE!" she shouted. "WHERE IN THE HELL ARE YOU GOING?" The driver's whip sizzled through the air, seared across Sarah's face. Sarah thrust a hand under her cloak, came up with a revolver: her eyes were ice-pale and she fired one shot, punching a hole through the driver's plug hat. "YOU THIEVING STREET APACHE, THROW THAT WHIP AWAY BEFORE I KILL YOU!" The driver did not throw the whip: he swung it hard against his nag's backside. Sarah fired, three times, driving a trio of .44 caliber slugs through the driver's ribs: his criminal career ended with a bad case of lead poisoning. Sarah pulled back in, holstered her pistol with a savage thrust, and fumbled at the ceiling: finding the latch, she snarled, twisted and pushed: the hatch flew open and she seized the edges of the hatch, kicking hard against the floor. The Welsh Irishman had Polly cradled in his arms, twisted away from the thunderous concussions: he turned in time to see Sarah's feet sail upward, heard her scramble atop the cab, felt the panicked nag slow: Sarah stood up in the driver's seat, bringing the mare about, swinging her back along their former path. A figure ran out from an alley, clawing at the mare, and Sarah drew the bulldog .44 again: a single shot sent the dacoit scampering and bleating back into the darkness, and Sarah gave the mare her head, intent on leaving whatever cesspit of crime and depravity this scoundrel of a driver was intent on taking them. She was lost -- utterly, completely lost -- and drove in as much of a straight line as she could, whispering as she went: "Dear God, I got me into this, kindly get me out of it!" -- and she thought of her little sister, unconscious in her fiancee's arms, feeling the terrible weight of consequence pressing on her young shoulders. She saw lights ahead -- twin round lights -- and she whispered, "Thank You!" Sarah drew the mare to a stop in front of the police-station; the lights she saw were round, milk-glass spheres with POLICE painted on the front. Sarah put two fingers to her lips and whistled, loud, shrill, commanding: a window opened and a policeman thrust head and shoulders out: "What's that, what's that now?" "GET YOUR BLUE COATED BUTT DOWN HERE AND BRING THE REST OF YOU WITH IT!" Sarah shouted, her voice rough. "THIS THIEVING SPALPEEN JUST TRIED TO KILL US!" Seconds later two men came running out of the station house: one was in the typical blue uniform and flat cap, the other in a suit, half-buttoned, his shirt tail showing from under his coat tail. He stopped, surprised, one hand holding his brown Homburg against his neatly combed hair. "By the Lord Harry! Agent Rosenthal!" he exclaimed. "What happened?" "I'm taking my sister to the doctor and the driver here decided to take us to the graveyard instead!" Sarah snapped. "I'm quite sure he's dead but you might want to check!" "Mitchell! Harris! On the double!" the detective bawled: blue-coated men were soon climbing the cab, hauling the driver's exanimate clay to the ground. "Detective, I need your help," Sarah said -- her voice was frank, matter-of-fact, the voice of an agent on a case. "Yes, Miss -- I mean Agent!" "I'm lost. I need a native guide." "Then I am your man!" "Mind the seat, it's all bloody." "Spencer! A towel! Two towels, good God, it's like a slaughterhouse here!" The detective curled his lip. "We'll take a carriage. Mitchell! A carriage!" "Aye, sir!" came the shouted reply; running feet faded, and less than a minute later, a black brougham drawn by a magnificent black mare came rattling up. The detective reached up to help Sarah down; he opened the door, nodded to the Welshman holding the little girl. The detective did not miss the fact that Sarah's cloak and the child's were identical, save for their size. "This way, sir," the detective said crisply. "Mind your step, now." The detective held Polly while the Welsh Irishman climbed into the brougham; handing the child up, he looked at Sarah, who primed her sister with another sip of something from a silver flask. "One more, sweets, one more is all we need," Sarah murmured. The detective climbed into the driver's seat, picked up the reins. "Whither away, Captain?" One of the uniformed men ran up with a red lantern, hung it on the off dash-board, marking the carriage as having the right-of-way: the detective flipped the reins, whistled, and the mare was soon at a spanking trot down the nearly-deserted city street. "Sarah was so much the lady," Annette said, brushing out her thick, wavy hair: she wore her flannel nightgown and a smile, and Jacob nodded, looking out the window. "I know," he said quietly, his voice muffled a little, his breath fogging the window glass. "She was beautiful, and genteel, and you're right ... a lady." Sarah's eyes were pale and hard, her lips drawn back in a snarl: she knocked the Welsh Irishman's hand away as he reached for her. The whip-weal stood out, red and angry, diagonally across her face. "You're hurt," Llewellyn said quietly. Sarah's head tilted down slightly, ever so slightly, as if to watch the driver's black soul descend toward the Inferno, and the Welshman saw the set of her white teeth, clenched against more pain than just her lashed face. You must be patient, Bonnie told him after their Sunday dinner, when he sought her counsel, and Llewellyn knew he was seeing a part of his intended, that he'd never suspected existed. The detective spoke to the mare, drew her to a halt: they were in front of an office, with a light on upstairs: Sarah thrust open the door, leaped from the carriage, stomped up the sidewalk and seized the bell-pull: she hauled twice, then hammered on the door with the butt of her pistol, three hard blows. Only then did she think to reload. The detective held the door as Llewellyn stepped out of the carriage: both men were careful not to block the red lantern's glow: they saw a light moving within, hesitate behind the door: they saw the door open a little. Sarah was inserting fresh rounds into her Bulldog. "I need your help," she said, and raised her face, and the dentist raised his lantern, his eyes widening as he saw the angry, red and nearly bloody slash across the pretty young woman's face. "Dear God!" he exclaimed, "what happened?" "It's my sister," Sarah said. "I believe she has enough anesthetic. She has a bad tooth." The dentist looked more closely, his mouth opening in amazement. "Dear Lord," he whispered. "It's you!" "You said if I ever needed your help I should ask," Sarah replied. "I'm asking." The detective waited outside, with his mare: chances of a police carriage being stolen were quite slim, but he did not wish to take the chance. The consequences ... the chaffing he would receive, the kidding for a number of years about being the only detective whose carriage was stolen ... well, it was something he'd rather not live with, and so he loafed outside while the dentist took care of matters inside. "Do you suppose Sarah will do well as ... a lady of leisure?" Annette hazarded. Jacob laughed. "She'll be as comfortable as a witch at a Puritan picnic," Jacob said gloomily, then laughed: like his father, he could keep a straight face only so long. "Oh, I reckon she'll get used to a life of leisure and boredom." Sarah tilted Polly's head back, drawing the purple headed hatpin from her hair: the dentist arranged the light to shine into the little girl's mouth, and Sarah reached in, hesitating, then gently tapped the offending tooth. Polly flinched, grunted; she was still almost flaccid. "I don't know what you gave her," the dentist murmured, "but it should be ... let me see ..." He opened a drawer, touched an extractor, frowned, picked up a smaller one. "This one," he said, nodding. "Agent Rosenthal, please hold her head." He reached into the little girl's mouth. Llewellyn watched with horrified fascination; he turned his head, but he could not turn his ears away: Polly did not scream, but the sound of her protest seized the Welsh Irishman's stomach, and he turned cold and shivered a little. The dentist examined the tooth, turning it a little and nodding his satisfaction. "It's all here," he said. "No broken root." He busied himself packing the wound; the Welsh Irishman's nose wrinkled at the familiar smell -- he'd had teeth pulled, without benefit of being quite drunk at the time -- but when he turned back, Sarah was wiping her sister's face and mouth. "How much do I owe you?" Sarah asked. The dentist shook his head. "A promise is a promise," he said. "I told you if you ever needed help, to let me know." Sarah laid a double eagle on the side table: it was more than overpayment -- it was way more than overpayment -- but she gave the dentist a long look and nodded, once. "That works both ways," she said softly. "This is my little sister." "Salt water rinse four times daily and after meals. Liquids only for twenty-four hours, very soft foods for five days. If the socket infects, bring her back." He looked at the double eagle. "You saved my life that night," he said quietly. Sarah raised an eyebrow, smiled a little. "I'm glad I did," she said frankly. "We've only got one of you." The detective looked up as Sarah and the Welsh Irishman came back down the walkway. Polly lay motionless in the Welsh Irishman's arms. "I suppose I shall have to write out a report," Sarah said. The detective smiled a little and lifted his Homburg. "I believe," he said, "it would be appreciated." Sarah looked at the Welsh Irishman. "It's going to be a long night." The Sergeant and the detective watched the brougham depart, and with it, Agent Rosenthal, an unknown man in a good suit and a sleeping little girl. "Good God," the Sergeant breathed. "Did you see the welt across her face? It's a wonder it didn't put her eye out!" "It's a wonder they're alive to tell the tale," the detective murmured. "I knew that murdering scoundrel was back in town but I didn't know he was going to kill a cabman to pick up where he'd left off." "Good riddance, say I! We've lost enough good folk to that murdering scoundrel!" The two men looked around, peering into the nighttime darkness, then shivered and withdrew into the police station. Bonnie was yet awake when the carriage drew up in front of the house. It was late -- far later than Sarah had estimated -- but when Bonnie saw the trace of blood at the corner of Polly's mouth, and how her little face was swollen on the one side, and when she saw Sarah's drawn, pale face and hard, pale eyes, and when she saw the red welt laid across her daughter's face -- "Sarah," Bonnie said quietly, her voice hard, "who did this to you?" "Don't worry, Mother," Sarah said, her voice tired. "Mr. Llewellyn kept Polly safe." Bonnie seized Sarah's upper arm. "Sarah," she whispered hoarsely. Sarah stopped, cold eyes boring into her Mama's, then she smiled, the humorless smile of a corpse, her lips drawn back to expose her teeth in a rictus more than a smile. "I killed him, Mother," Sarah said. "It's what I do."
  6. The only set of Dillon dies I have are the .45 Colt dies I bought with my 550. The rest are either RCBS or Lee. All will fit and work fine in a Dillon press... I also use the Lee Factory Crimp Die for a lot of different calibers...
  7. Thanks for the info, folks. Looks like I've got lots of options to choose from!
  8. Hey y'all, I'm trying Plainsman for the first time this summer, shooting an H&R 1871 .38-55 rifle. I'm currently trying to figure out how I'm going to take my rifle rounds up to the line and keep them handy to load with. How are you fine folks who shoot Plainsman handling your rifle rounds? Thanks!
  9. And that's what makes this game so much fun: the ability to disagree with each other in a friendly manner and still have a good time.
  10. Linn Keller 2-18-13 Sunday dinner was polite, cheerful and almost relaxed, if a little subdued due to the presence of Sarah's almost-overcautious swain. There were no terrible gaffes, nobody dumped a tureen of gravy in their neighbor's lap, there were no off-color remarks or double entendres that might raise a gentleman's eyebrows or cause a lady to redden and turn her face away: it was almost -- almost! -- as if Mr. Llewellyn had dined with them before, and had proven himself welcome. Conversation ranged from Firelands' growth, to the Irish Brigade's firehouse and performance of the new gas boilers: from the schoolhouse requiring a new coat of white come warm weather, to the roof on the Jewel, to the recent nuptials arranged by the Sheriff between the lonely widower in distant line shack, and a lonely widow who'd just lost her sister. Finally the fireman seemed to come to a decision: he looked over at Bonnie and said quietly, "Mrs. Rosenthal, at your convenience" -- he looked at Levi and added, "and with your permission" -- he looked again at Bonnie -- "I would counsel with you." He looked at Levi, who shared a small smile with his wife, before the pair murmured "Of course," in chorus, as often happens with a well matched married couple. The maid cleared the table and brought out dessert, a cake baked for the occasion (women seem to know about things ahead of time, and Levi suspected this mysterious messaging women employ informed his household of the suitor's planned presence) -- cake was not a common treat, but it was definitely enjoyed by all present. Polly frowned a little as she ate hers; Bonnie and Sarah both picked up on her change of expression and her apparent discomfort. Mother and daughter exchanged a look: Polly pushed her plate back, her cake less than half eaten, and she said in a small voice, "May I be excused?" and Bonnie looked at Sarah and nodded and said, "Of course you may, dear." Big sister and little sister retired from the dining room. "Mr. Llewellyn," Bonnie said, her voice gentle, "you wished to counsel with me." Llewellyn looked a little uncertain, looked at Levi, then at Bonnie. "Yes ma'am," he said, "I would know more about ... I would ..." Bonnie's expression, as she looked at Levi, was almost amused, as if she knew, or at least suspected, what he was going to inquire. Polly's expression was less pleasant. Sarah mixed up warm saltwater, as warm as Polly could tolerate, and coached her in a vigorous swish-and-spit on the back porch. "Something is in there and it's making your tooth hurt," Sarah said as Polly inexpertly but enthusiastically sloshed warm saltwater about in her mouth, then shot it over the porch rail. "It hurts when I eat cake or anything sweet or if I inhale through my mouth." "Open up, sweets, tilt your head back so I can see ... now point to the one that hurts." Sarah withdrew a long, round-knobbed pin from her hair, reversing it, holding it by its shaft and following Polly's finger into her wide-open, trembling mouth. "Okay. I think I see it. Remove your finger." Sarah reached in and very carefully tapped on one tooth, a second, a third. On the third experimental knock with the hatpin's round knob, Polly flinched and grunted a little. "I see," Sarah murmured. "Close up, dear, you'll catch flies." Polly closed her mouth and looked puzzled. "It's cold, Sarah. There are no flies." Sarah thrust the hatpin back into her done-up hair and hugged her little sister. "Is it better after you slosh out with saltwater?" Polly nodded. "You will want to brush your teeth now, brush with salt instead of the tooth powder." Polly nodded again. "Rinse with warm water, not cold." "Cold hurts." "I know it does, sweets, then there is something we can try that will work but only for a little while." "What's that?" Sarah winked, put her finger to her lips. "Ssshhh," she whispered. "It's a secret compound. I made it myself and it works!" The Welsh Irishman cleared his throat, then he stood, turned his chair so it faced Bonnie squarely. Levi sat at the head of the table, just to Bonnie's right, so the fireman faced both parents: this, he knew, was proper, and showed due respect to them both. "I intend to provide for Sarah," he said, leaning forward and thrusting his fingers into an interlace, his elbows on his knees: "I will take care of" -- he paused, looked Levi in the eye -- "I will take care of your little girl." Llewellyn swallowed. "Me dear mither told me once ... she was an only child, an' she told me that her husband was so afraid of failing because when he married her, he as much as told her father that he would take care of his little girl ... and a week after they were married, he was let go from his job, and he felt such a failure. "I," he continued, "do not anticipate such a thing." He thrust out his jaw. "I believe my position -- and that of the Brigade as a whole -- is secure. "My question, if I may ..." He stopped, took a few breaths, and both Levi and Bonnie waited patiently until the man gathered some composure. "Mrs. Rosenthal, children are a natural consequence of marital union." Bonnie nodded, almost smiling; her hand sought Levi's, and his hand hers, and the two looked at Opal, who was taking all this in with bright and sparkling eyes. "Mrs. Rosenthal, the daughter is much like the mother, and Sarah is a perfect lady. She could only have learned this from you." "Thank you," Bonnie murmured, lowering her eyes demurely. "And so it is --" Llewellyn hesitated again, wet his lips. "Mrs. Rosenthal, children are the natural consequence of -- I said that already." His hand trembled slightly; this man, whose profession was to stride into the Devil's parlor with a squirtgun under his arm, a man who walked boldly into buildings that sane and rational people were running away from as hard as they could, a man who'd plucked sizzling fuses from sticks of thrown powder and laughed, this man who'd smacked Fate in the chops any number of times and dared Fate to do its worst -- this man's hands trembled a little as he framed the words he wished to speak. "Mrs. Rosenthal, had you unnatural difficulty carrying or delivering Sarah?" There, it's out, he thought. Now she will answer or I will be thrown out and forbidden from ever -- Bonnie considered her answer carefully: she looked down, at the linen napkin on the tabletop, then she looked up at the Welsh Irishman. "Mr. Llewellyn," she said, "I have had no difficulty with carrying or delivering my children, save only some morning sickness and not much of that. "I am given to understand from your fellows that you are a longsuffering man, that you are not given to impatience or temper, save only where it is justified." She paused; Llewellyn nodded, slowly. "Mr. Llewellyn, one must be patient with a woman who is carrying a child." She lay a hand on her own expanding waistline, then looked at Levi, and Llewellyn could not but recognize the genuine affection each had for the other. "A woman's ankles will swell, she will bloat, her rings won't fit, she will whine and cry for no reason, she will feel as attractive as a whale." Her hand squeezed Levi's again. "At such times, Mr. Llewellyn, one must be ... patient ... with the woman, for often by giving voice to these several complaints, she will feel better. "In fact" -- she looked a little uncomfortable -- "I find I must excuse myself. Forgive me, please." The men rose as Bonnie stood; she swayed for a moment, then lifted her hand from Levi's and walked regally out of the room. Levi looked at the Welshman; it is to the ex-agent's credit that he did not laugh at the poor man's confused expression. "Let us retire to my study," he said. "I believe we could both use a drink." Sarah wiggled the cork from a pint glass bottle, trickled something water clear into a shot glass. "There is a secret to this," she said. "You take this" -- she held up the double teaspoon of something crystal, liquid and potent -- "into your mouth and hold it on that tooth. Just hold it there. Don't swallow. Your mouth will water but that's okay, don't swallow this. Just hold it on the tooth and the pain should stop." "What is it?" Polly asked uncertainty as she took the thick-walled shot glass. "It's potent," Sarah replied, "but it worked for me." Polly sniffed it, wrinkled her nose, then bravely took the double teaspoonful of distilled lightning into her young mouth, pooled it around the offending tooth: it felt like fire against her gums, but the toothache fell away from her and was gone. "Just hold it there for a bit longer," Sarah cautioned. "I'm watching the clock." She reached over for the chamber pot. Polly dutifully held the firewater around the troublesome tooth for one full minute. At sixty seconds on the dot, Sarah lifted the white-enamel lid from the combinet and said "Okay, spit out." Polly did. Sarah covered the thunder mug and slid it back into its cubby, then pulled out a lace-edged kerchief and pressed it delicately against Polly's lips. "We'll have to have that taken care of," she murmured. "Today is Sunday but I know just who to call on. Get your cloak, we're going to Denver, we can just catch the afternoon train." Llewellyn cautiously sampled his brandy. He intentionally refrained from strong drink -- a rarity in that location and in that era -- by choice, he held himself to one beer with a meal, one time each day, and no more. He'd seen too much ill come of strong drink; he'd known too many good men succumb to the bottle, and he knew distilled spirits were entirely too easy to drink -- and so he refrained, save for occasions like this, where he was a guest, and a guest would be ill-mannered to decline a tipple. They turned as Sarah's knuckled rapped on the door frame: she wore her traveling-cloak and hat, and Polly was likewise caparisoned. "I really do beg your pardon," Sarah said with a curtsy, "please forgive me for interrupting -- but I am taking Polly to have a tooth extracted, and we should be home just after dark." At the knowledge that she was to have a tooth pulled, Polly looked at Sarah with big and frightened eyes. "Please forgive me, I had wished to discuss a matter with you," Sarah said to the Welsh Irishman, "but I know what a tooth feels like, and I do not believe we wish to wait until tomorrow." Sarah walked over to Levi and raised up on her toes to kiss him on the cheek, and Levi squatted to hug Polly: Sarah turned to Llewellyn and dropped a flawless curtsy, and the Welsh Irishman bowed formally. Levi could see the man's mental gears turning. "Mr. Rosenthal, would it be impertinent if I were to offer to escort the ladies to their destination and back?" Sarah's eyes widened: half-hopeful, half-fearful, knowing it would be considered improper in some circles for a young girl, unescorted, to travel with a man who was neither family nor spouse: on the other hand, it was gentlemanly to offer an escort. "Mr. Llewellyn," Levi said, "I would be pleased if you would accompany my daughter on this mission of mercy." Llewellyn carefully placed his barely-tasted brandy on the sideboard, stepped forward and shook Levi's hand. Sarah felt the comforting weight of a pistol on her belt, under the cloak, and considered the other implements about her person: she would be perfectly safe, she knew, but it was flattering to have a big, strong man offer to provide escort. Llewellyn opened the door to Levi's study. Bonnie handed her a little bundle. "A check, a pen and ink," she murmured. "You have carte blanche." "Thank you, Mother," Sarah murmured back, raising up again to kiss her Mama. Bonnie hugged Polly and whispered something in her little girl's ear, and Polly nodded; the trio was soon headed for Firelands, and the afternoon train. "It's Sunday afternoon," Bonnie said. "Will she find a dentist open?" "There's one in Cripple, I know ... that mining town is always open the clock around." Bonnie's chuckle was grim. "That medieval monster, you mean. Torturer. I've heard horror stories about that man." "Sarah knows a surprising number of people," Levi said thoughtfully. "If she said she knows someone in Denver, I'm satisfied he'll see her." Opal, finding herself suddenly alone at the dining room table, pushed her empty plate away from her and looked at her twin's mostly-uneaten slice of cake. Opal blinked, tilted her head, then reached over and slid the cake in front of her. Opal was a thrifty child and saw no sense in letting a perfectly good piece of cake, go to waste.
  11. Linn Keller 2-17-13 It was Sunday. Sarah sat proper and prim in her parents' carriage; the twins happily flanked her, cuddled up against her enveloping cloak -- which they knew Sarah would soon readjust by virtue of standing, and then draping over the two of them -- they each wore a matching cloak, just like their big sister's, but they like the feeling of Sarah covering them with hers. Sure enough, she did, and just before Levi flipped the reins and clucked at the mare. Bonnie sat beside Levi, the very image of a successful matron and a respected member of their society, and Levi, freshly barbered and shaved, with his neat mustache tightly curled, was the very image of a respectable landowner, husband and father. Sarah was well enough disciplined that she kept a calm expression about herself, in spite of the restlessness of her thoughts. Once at church, the ladies waited until they were helped from the carriage; they entered the little whitewashed church en bloc: the Welsh Irishman waited without, and offered his arm to Sarah: he entered the church with them, and sat with the family, instead of with the Brigade. Uncharacteristically, he wore his good suit: the rest of the Brigade wore their good uniforms, the set they kept hung up, clean, for such occasions: their good uniforms never saw a working fire, nor saw they housekeeping duties, nor anything but Sunday-go-to-meetin' duties: even their boots were gleaming, flawless, burnished: it was a point of pride that the Brigade cleaned up well, and indeed they presented a fine appearance that snowy winter's day, there in the little whitewashed kirk, an island of passionate red wool in a sea of black suits and colorful ladies' gowns. The twins plopped themselves down beside the Welsh Irishman -- one on one side, one on the other, their shining little faces looking happily up at the reddening fireman, at least until Bonnie, leaning over and whispering, moved Polly over beside Opal, and Sarah settled in between Bonnie and Llewellyn with a whispered "Thank you, Mama." Sarah turned to the firefighter, laid gloved fingertips gently on his forearm: "Mr. Llewellyn," she murmured, "I would speak with you after service." "Of course," Llewellyn replied, swallowing: he cleared his throat carefully, delicately, and looked down at Sarah's other hand, palm-down on her thigh. Sarah worked the gloves off her hands and made a little slight-of-hand move and the Princess ring gleamed on her finger, the ancient stone winking brightly at the Welshman. For a moment -- for just a bare moment -- he could smell his Granda's cottage and feel her gentle, wrinkled hands, and hear her laugh ... and he swallowed again, and Sarah's left hand, the hand with the Princess ring, floated through space and eternity and settled on his own, and gave it a gentle squeeze. Little Joseph strutted into the church, holding his Mama's hand, or rather, Annette held his wrist firmly, for she knew the lad was impulsive and might go scampering off to greet a schoolmate or loudly and happily greet an acquaintance: as it was, the Sheriff was just within, and stooped, and seized the lad under the arms: Annette released her grip and the Sheriff hoisted Joseph at arm's length over his head, grinning, and Joseph laughed, scattering a little boy's happy giggles over the congregation. The Sheriff squeezed Jacob's shoulder and winked, and then he looked at Annette and said "My dear, I am trying to think of something gentlemanly, proper and mildly amusing, but all I can think of is ... it's a good thing we are both married, otherwise I should be tempted to run off with you!" Annette laughed and laid a hand on her maternal belly: "Sheriff," she said, "if I were not married, I would do just that!" -- and kissed the man quickly on the cheek, and the Sheriff turned red like a schoolboy: it wasn't often that someone could do something that brought the man to a halt, and he was a man who could generally come up with a smart remark for any occasion, but this one brought him to a red-eared halt, and Esther colored a little: to her credit, she did not laugh, though it was a chore to maintain a dignified silence. "Gwampa," Joseph said, and the Sheriff grabbed the lad's ankle, held him at arm's length above his head which brought them almost nose to nose -- he reached up with his other hand, grabbed the inverted Joseph by the shoulder and brought him to en face distance -- "Yes, my son?" he said in a dolorous tone, which brought laughter to grandson and firstborn son alike. "Gwampa I rode Boocaffie an' we went to town!" Joseph declared loudly, wigging, and the Sheriff brought him to horizontal, then set his feet down on the floor. "Let's go have a seat," he said, "that's hard on an old man's back." Angela looked up at her Mama and over at Esther. "Daddy wouldn't do that with me," Angela said with a positive nod, her curls bobbing. "Oh?" Esther asked, following the Sheriff and the vigorous little grandson down the aisle toward their pew. "No. I'm wearing a dress." "I see." "But he can do that with Joseph because he's wearing pants." "I see." Esther slid into the pew as the Sheriff stood aside: he followed them in, sat Joseph on one thigh and Angela on the other. "Joseph," Angela said, "Daddy won't turn me upside down like that." Joseph blinked, big-eyed and suddenly solemn, and both children looked at the slender man with pale eyes and the iron-grey mustache, the man with an arm around each child and a look of absolute happiness on his face. Parson Belden stepped behind the pulpit and nodded to Annette, and the opening bars of the opening hymn brought the assembled to their feet. Sarah was holding the Welsh Irishman's hand, and the Princess stone gleamed from between their interlaced fingers. Bonnie leaned forward slightly, looked at her daughter holding a man's hand, and blinked a few times, remembering her own time of turmoil and first, passionate, fall-hard-for-a-man feeling of crushing romance: she gave her head a little shake and retrieved her straying thought. "Mr. Llewellyn," she said gently, "we would be pleased if you would join us for Sunday dinner." "Mrs. Rosenthal," the Welshman replied, his eyes wrinkling at the corners, "I am most pleased to accept your hospitable offer." Parson Belden was a good speaker. He spoke slowly enough to enunciate his words clearly, separately; he spoke loudly enough to be heard in the back row, but he did not shout, nor was he given to the showy, histrionic, passionate, pulpit-beating show popular with the "Fire and Brimstone" league: he drew his lessons from Scripture, teaching, not beating the congregation over the head with what he had to say. He also spoke relatively briefly, for he well knew the principle of good public speaking, exemplified in two observations the Sheriff made, when he and the lawman were enduring the histrionics of a circuit ridin' Methodist preacher a year or two ago: at some point the Sheriff leaned over and murmured to the sky pilot, "The mind absorbs until the backside grows numb," and the Parson agreed, noting with surprise that his own hinder went to sleep a half hour earlier and that's the last he remembered a word the pulpit pounder said: less than a minute after, the Sheriff added, "The longer the speaker's wind, the harder these chairs get," and fortunately it was not long after that the travelin' preacher ended his long winded delivery. Parson Belden tried to learn from everything he encountered, and from this he learned not to speak too long, a fact appreciated by the Firelands community. The Parson's ministry was not solely preachin' from the pulpit on Sunday; he was busy the week long, whether it was receiving troubled souls, listening while they poured out their hearts, or raged with anger at the unfairness of a life or a boss or a husband or a wife, whether it was to sit with a man as he watched his wife die, or as he held an old woman as she beat her tiny birdlike fists against his chest and cried bitter tears as she realized for the first time her husband of many years was indeed not going to wake up and speak to her as he always had for the past half a century. The Parson finished his sermon and passed the plate, they sang another hymn and a half dozen announcements were made, during which the sky pilot made eye contact with Jackson Cooper, there in the back row, and smiled a little, and the big lawman nodded and smiled back: the Parson refrained from overt comment, observing in passing, with the other brief mentions, that "Emma Cooper is considerably relieved now," and moving on: those who knew what he was talking about, knew exactly what he meant, and those who didn't, well, they just figured it was part of the messages. The Sheriff and Esther generally had Jacob and Annette over for Sunday dinner every other week; in the intervening weeks, they dined with Jacob and Annette: the intent was, as Annette went deeper into her pregnancy, they would then have every Sunday dinner with Linn and Esther, and Gwampa an' Gwamma would take care of little Joseph as necessary, for Annette was a strong and capable young woman, but Esther knew what it was to be gravid, and to bear the responsibility of a household, and she knew relief was most welcome. This week it was Jacob and Annette's turn to accept his father and mother's hospitality. The Rosenthal carriage rattled back to the Rosenthal ranch minus one passenger. A second carriage followed the first. The Sheriff looked long after the rented carriage that bore the Welsh Irishman and his daughter. Esther laid a gentle hand on his forearm and squeezed. "I remember," the Sheriff said quietly, "how terrified I was that night I came to your house, with you and the ladies ... you all fixed supper for us ... " He looked at Esther, raised a gentle hand, caressed her cheek with the backs of his fingers. "Esther," he whispered, "you are as lovely as the first day I saw you!"
  12. Linn Keller 2-16-13 Joseph's presence was not needed in court and so he rode out to Charlie's. He knew the scoundrel that put lead into Jackson Cooper's rib would meet with the gavel of justice, and for a moment, Jacob grinned at the idea of the good Judge Donald Hostetler smacking the defendant over the head with said gavel: God knows, he thought, the man's wanted to do that to two or three he's tried! Jacob rode easy and he rode his horse easy: neither man nor mount were in any tearin' hurry, it was a lovely day, Jacob was of no mind to interrupt that particular state of affairs, for he found it to his liking. When he finally came to the Macneil spread, he lifted his hat and waved at Cats Running, off in the far pasture, barely visible: Cats Running raised an arm in reply and Jacob grinned. He had a respect for the old Indian and his way of saying plain ideas plainly and sometimes unexpectedly bluntly. Fannie was packing a bucket of dirty water out and slung it off to the side as Jacob rode up; water hissed and splashed against cold earth, and Jacob took off his hat. "Miz Fannie," he greeted her; "Jacob," she replied, smiling up at him and working some magic -- with a bucket in one hand, the other hand on her hip, obviously a working rancher's wife engaged in labors of her own, she still managed to look attractive, saucy and smug, all at the same time. "Miz Fannie, thank you," Jacob said, looking directly at the woman. Fannie raised an eyebrow and laughed. "You're welcome, I'm sure, but what did I do now?" Jacob turned a little red and Fannie scolded him gently, "Now get down off that horse and talk to me! You should know better than to tease a woman and not let her know what you're thinking!" Jacob dutifully dismounted, dropping the reins; turning his hat a little nervously, he looked at the ground, and Fannie wondered for a moment if he wasn't going to draw back a boot and kick a dirt clod like an embarrassed and uncertain suitor who didn't know how to talk to a girl. "Miz Fannie," Jacob said, "I danced with four women the other night. "I danced with my sister, I danced with my wife, I danced with my mother, and I danced with you." He looked a little uncomfortable, then cleared his throat as if he'd come to some decision. "Miz Fannie, thank you for that dance." "Why, you're welcome, darlin', but it wasn't that much." "It was," he said flatly, and Miz Fannie saw something hard in the young man's eyes. "You see, Miz Fannie, any number of women would like to dance with me, but I durst not. Annette gets turrible jealous, but she could not object to my dancing with family." Fannie's eyes widened a little as two or three puzzle pieces fell into place, things she'd seen or heard or surmised. Annette is a jealous wife, she thought. I hadn't expected that As handsome a man as Jacob is ... she'd better not hold him too tightly ... he'll squirt out from between her fingers like a watermelon seed! "That was not the only reason, Miz Fannie." Jacob's eyes were troubled. "I see things ... I see things and I don't understand them but I accept them as fact. "You and Mother and Little Sis are of a like kind, ma'am." Jacob frowned a little. "It's not that I dance with any of you, it's like ... you flow like water, you dance like a feather on the breeze." He looked very directly at Fannie. "All of you do this." "That's the mark of a good dancer," Fannie smiled. Jacob nodded. "You may well be right, ma'am." "And stop callin' me ma'am, I am not that old!" Fannie's sharp words were softened by her smile and her laugh. "Ma'am! Like I was an old woman!" "Yes, ma'am," Jacob said softly. "I mean no ma'am -- I mean I'm sorry ma'am -- oh, horse feathers!" Fannie stepped up to Jacob and laid a gentle palm against his cheek. "Jacob," she said softly, "you're sweet. Annette is lucky to have you." Jacob closed his eyes almost painfully and nodded. "Thank you ma'am," he murmured, then he opened his eyes and asked, "Would Charlie be around?" Charlie and Fannie watched the tall, slender young deputy ride back toward Firelands. "What was it he wanted?" Fannie asked. Charlie's arm was strong around her shoulders, his work-warmed body comfortable against hers as he drew her into him. "He came to say thank you," Charlie said quietly. "For teaching Sarah the way I did. He said she listens to me but she doesn't listen to him very well." Fannie sighed and leaned her head against her husband's chest. "He thinks she doesn't listen to him?" Fannie echoed, shaking her head a little. "He still doesn't know her very well, does he?"
  13. I'll take 'em. I can either send a check or do PayPal, your choice.
  14. This! I use 160 grain bullets and a light load of Clays and it helps my poor aching hands and wrists to keep going!
  15. I would have to cordially disagree with this, sir. Unless you are shooting a category with strict firearms rules, just grab the guns that float yer boat and shoot 'em in whatever dang category you want to shoot 'em in (except those gun-specific categories I mentioned)...
  16. I did mine on a bench grinder. Very, very carefully. I use a 45 Colt shell plate, Lee 45 ACP dies and a Lee Factory Crimp die to load my C45S rounds on my Dillon 550. I'm loading Clays and 160 grain RNFP bullets.
  17. The Virtue Flat Shootist Society, nominally of Baker City, Oregon and the surrounding environs, held our first match a week ago yesterday at an undisclosed location... And yeah, it was a blast (so to speak)!
  18. Linn Keller 2-16-13 Bill and Mac slouched comfortably on upturned nail kegs in front of the Mercantile. Their checkerboard, scratched a little and faded but still quite serviceable, sat between them; red and black wooden disks marked their respective positions, and each man, hunched over with elbows on knees and hand meditatively cupping chin or covering mouth, gave close study to their respective tactical situations. On occasion -- and happy occasions these were -- Brother William took a hejira from the monastery and came back to Firelands; sometimes on business and sometimes not, and today, in boots and britches and a blanket lined coat, with a slouch hat shoved back on his head, he looked not a thing like his ecclesiastical self. Even the calluses on his hands were still there, a little more prominent if anything: the monastery prescribed a life of labor, and Brother William, though a ranking officer in the hierarchy, beleived humility was maintained by laboring with the enlisted, and so he pulled rocks and dug dirt, split wood and stacked kindling, shoveled muck and cleaned stables the same as any of the Bretheren, and as a result, had the respect of command and enlisted alike. Silence grew for several more minutes. Customers came and went, men stopped to talk, children called out and waved; the game was not solely a contemplative exercise, for there were irregular interruptions, one of which just happened to be a very large, very black, curly haired canine who insisted on thrusting his muzzle under Brother William's forearm. Mr. Bill straightened a little, feeling his spine crunch slightly with the effort -- he'd been stacking stones the day before, and that morning his bones reminded him it was some times since he was eighteen -- and he rubbed The bear Killer's ears and behind his jaw and marveled at how fast and how vigorously that sizable tail swung back and forth ... why, if an incautious child came up behind The Bear Killer, he'd get himself knocked on his backside by that enthusiastic, fur-covered air swatter! Mr. Mac looked up and grunted. The Bear Killer looked at Mac and discovered there were two perfectly good hands that were not paying attention to him, and so abandoned Brother William and jumped up a little, putting his big forepaws on Mr. Mac's thighs and giving the scowling man a good face washing. Mr. Bill seized the checker board and brought it quickly out of harm's way, for The Bear Killer's tail was putting their game in immediate jeopardy. Annette frowned a little. "Joseph?" she called, wiping her hands on a towel and walking quickly to the front door. "Joseph!" She looked around inside the house, as much as she could see from the doorway, then she stepped outside and looked around, shading her eyes. "Joseph?" Annette listened, expecting to hear a happy little boy's giggle, or a piping young voice calling "Here I am!" -- but ... nothing. Annette looked around, then she saw where a section of board fence looked like it had been exploded outward, and she looked into the pasture and saw Boocaffie was nowhere to be seen. "Oh, no," she murmured, then she darted back inside to bank the stove, close the draft, cover the bread dough, then she ran outside and to the barn, skirts flowing in the breeze, to harness up the mare. A moment later she was driving at a trot down the road. Jacob came back into the Sheriff's office with four small sacks: there wasn't much in each, but true to the Sheriff's instruction, Digger parted out the effects of the deceased. The Sheriff was satisfied Digger kept something, probably part of the money he found on the bodies; the Sheriff did not officially know, and it did not matter: he didn't think the county paid Digger enough for his efforts, and if a man wanted to make a little on the side ... besides, he had no proof, and he might need a favor from the undertaker sometime. Jacob put the sacks on the Sheriff's desk. "That was ... good shootin', sir," he said quietly. "Thank you." The Sheriff handed Jacob his written account, and the diagrams. "Look those over." "Yes, sir." Jacob drew up a chair, spread the pages out, read them carefully, quickly: he nodded occasionally, raised an eyebrow here and there, picked up the diagram, cupped his chin in his off hand and frowned a little, then leaned back in his chair and contemplated the long joint where the wall met the ceiling above the Sheriff's desk. Finally he looked at his father. "I take that back," he said in a gentle voice. "That was damned good shootin'. I did not realize you fired for their muzzle flares." The Sheriff nodded. "I got excited on that one. I meant to shoot just under them but I took that one fellow" -- he raised a stiff finger, thrust it slowly at the bridge of his own nose -- "right between the eyes, or near to it." "It worked, sir." The Sheriff nodded. "Your report refers to an injury." The Sheriff nodded. "I thought you might be just a bit stiff and sore." The Sheriff's jaw thrust out and he took a long, sighing breath. "Jacob," he said at length, "you're right." Jacob looked closely at his father, assessing the merriment in the Grand Old Man's eyes. "Esther keeps telling me, "My dear, you simply must consort with a better grade of outlaw." The Sheriff's words, uttered in a light voice and with a wave of a limp wrist, tickled Jacob's funny bone: he nodded and laughed quietly, pointing at his Pa, and admitted "Now that sounds just like her, sir!" The Sheriff was silent for a long moment ... several long moments, as a matter of fact. "Jacob," the Sheriff said, "Esther wants me to retire." Jacob's eyes were suddenly serious. "Sir?" The Sheriff nodded. "She said she doesn't want to become a young widow." Jacob looked away, looked back. "Annette said that same thing to me." The Sheriff nodded. "I told her no, that would put it all on your shoulders, and damned if I was going to see you killed before my grandsons were grown!" Jacob considered this for a minute. "What about you, sir? I sure as hell don't want to see you killed!" "Neither do I," the Sheriff admitted. "Gettin' killed would just plainly ruin my vacation plans. Why, Esther would likely never speak to me again!" He and Jacob laughed together; it was a line they both used from time to time. "I hated killin' 'em," the Sheriff said, his voice tired. "I genuinely hated it. The old man ... he said I'd come for his boys, and he didn't turn around, and that told me he was a-waitin' for somethin' like this, for me to show up." "That's why you threw that rock." "Yep. He thought that was me circlin' behind him, it's what he expected ... hell, I was a-gonna do just that." Jacob chose his words carefully. "Sir," he said at length, "I am most grateful the rock was there." "They were ready for me," the Sheriff said, his eyes bleak. "They figured I would come after them and I don't figure they thought I would come alone -- which is why I did." "Yes, sir." "I didn't see any sense in givin' 'em any more targets to shoot at." "No, sir." "I don't want to see Annette become a young widow." "No, sir." "Slide those papers back over here if you would, please." Jacob stacked the sheets, handed them across the desk to his father. The Sheriff placed them in a stack in the middle drawer. Standing, he reached for his hat; Jacob rose, as well. Those who were on the street marveled to see a long horn bull ambling placidly down the main street of Firelands with a grinning little boy astride its neck just ahead of those lean-muscled shoulders. Little Joseph caught up with Boocaffie, patting his foreleg and looking back -- fearful of discovery, for his Mama could hear through ten feet of rock and see through more -- and said, "Down, Boocaffie," and whether it was the words, or the hand on the foreleg, Boocaffie stopped and lay down as he'd done many times in pasture and allowed Joseph to scramble aboard. "Go, Boocaffie!" Joseph crowed, and the bull just lay there, blinking in the sun, contemplating the infinite and soaking up sunshine. "Boocaffie!" Joseph exclaimed. "Find Pa!" Boocaffie looked slowly around, calculating the relative velocity of the speed of light, or perhaps mentally constructing a learned treatise on the works of Vivaldi as an allegory for the Garden of Eden, or perhaps he was considering how it must be to have a harem of lovely veiled houris. We will never know if the broad beamed bull got so far as to wonder how one would maintain a veil on a heifer, for little Joseph threw up one leg and slid off and stomped around in front of Boocaffie. Perhaps the bull was amused by the fierce expression on the lad's visage, or perhaps the bovine was amused by Joseph's body language: knuckles on his hips, feet apart, bottom lip protruding, brow wrinkled. Finally the bull showed some sign of restlessness, and Joseph ran around and leaped aboard as the bull thrust up from the earth: having come to some decision, the bull proceeded to trot down the road, sniffing the cool air, blowing out big clouds of steam, looking around at this part of the country he really couldn't see from behind that board fence. "King me!" "You cheat!" "I cheat? What about you slidin' that checker over --" "I didn't slide no checker!" "You had two of 'em up your sleeve an' --" The two quarreled like peevish old men, thrusting fingers at one another, interrupting each other's accusatory diatribe, the the amusement of those listening; finally the checker was crowned -- "There! You satsifed?" -- at which point Mr. Mac crowed, "Now!" -- and seizing the crowned checker, proceeded to click-click-click jump every one of Bill's checkers. Bill raised his hands to the heavens,shaking his head. Mac laughed, then picked up their bent, hand-forged nail and scratched another line in the edge of the window sash. "Set 'em up ag'in! I'll trim your tail feathers this time!" Bill looked up to see Mac staring at something behind Bill's shoulder. Bill turned and he stared too. Boocaffie had never been ridden. Oxen have been used as tractors for centuries; oxen have drawn wagons, plowed, hauled, dragged -- but bovines in general are seldom if ever ridden. Horses, aye; to see a man afoot was an exception, especially in the West, where a cowboy would mount up and ride across the street rather than walk -- but the image of a grinning little boy riding a big monstrous long horned bull was just a bit out of the ordinary, even for Firelands. Boocaffie wasn't in any terrible hurry; little Joseph was laughing, urging his mount to a greater velocity, and his mount was not in much of a mind to pay any attention a'tall. Annette was not a tracker; she relied on intuition, on hunch, on lucky guesses. When her carriage came over the rise she ho'd the mare, hauled back on the brake: she stood, shading her eyes again, looking down the road as it meandered a little and then came into the main street of Firelands proper. "There you are," she murmured. The Bear Killer had seen cattle and plenty of them. Boocaffie, on the other hand, never in his young life, ever, had seen a Bear Killer. Each approached the other curiously. Joseph slid off Boocaffie's shoulder, landing on the ground and almost falling; he took a quick step to keep his balance, then scampered up to The Bear Killer and seized the big canine around his blunt, muscled neck, and The Bear Killer -- whose first blood (and nearly his last) was a wounded grizzly, who'd seized and sometimes killed man-flesh, who'd never come up against something he just plainly feared -- the fierce, ivory-fanged, deadly-jaw canine gave Joseph a happy ear laundering, right there in the middle of the sunny street, to the lad's happy laughter. Boocaffie regarded this placidly, making some rumbling comment deep in his bovine chest; The Bear Killer came over, sniffed the big wet nose: satisfied, each proceeded to ignore the other. Mr. Bill and Mr. Mac, their checker game forgotten, stared unashamedly at the scene; they positively goggled as Annette drove up, dismounted, walked around to the front of the bull and shook her Mommy-finger at it: "You, sir," she declared, "have been a very naughty boy." The bull gave a subdued, almost calflike mehhh and lowered his head a little. Annette reached down, ran a hand under his big jaw and pulled: Boocaffie raised his head and Annette shook her finger again: "I am not very happy with you, sir!" Boocaffie switched his tail and sniffed, suddenly hopeful: The Bear Killer, too, licked his chops: Annette pulled a sweet roll from her pocket, tore it in two, held half out, flat-handed. "Joseph," Annette said quietly, "get in the carriage." "But Ma," Joseph protested. "In," Annette said, "the," and she gave him a stern look, "carriage." "Yes, Ma," Joseph said reluctantly. "And you, sir," Annette said, stroking Boocaffie between the eyes with two fingers, "come with me." Annette was obliged to step well to the side to clear the spread of the bull's left hand horn: she stepped in, ran a caressing hand down his flank, then mounted the carriage and clucked the mare into a U-turn. Boocaffie fell in behind the carriage, trotting docilely behind Annette. The two lawmen emerged from the Sheriff's office, looking around as they always did. Nothing was out of the ordinary as far as the eye could see. Annette halted the carriage. "Joseph," she said, pointing to a hedge, "here is a knife. Cut me a switch."
  19. Linn Keller 2-15-13 "I'm not worried, Mister Mayor," Sean rumbled. "The man ... he was absent without leave, he --" "Had we an alarm, Mr. Mayor," Sean said, "he'd ha' legged it here an' been fit f'r duty." "That's not the point --" "Mister Mayor," Sean said with a patient sigh, turning to face the fellow, "you run your office an' you do a foine job of it. I am no' the grandest thinker i' th' world, but I know enough not t' tell ye how t' run yer office, for I don't know how t' run it well." He paused, letting this sink in. "I require th' same courtesy in return." The Mayor gave the Fire Chief a long, appraising look. Sean put a companionable hand on the Mayor's shoulder, steering him into the firehouse, talking as he went. "Th' man was gentleman eno' t' drive th' lass home. Aye, 'twas her buggy, an' aye, she can out ride, out shoot an' out drive him, an' likely out fight him, for she's smart enough t' fight dirty as any cheap politician." The Mayor stopped and looked squarely at the Fire Chief, and each studied the other's expression; each saw a twinkle of amusement in the other's eyes, for it was a phrase that Mayor Vess used himself. "No, th' man is bein' a gentleman, an' I'll no' interfere if it harms us not. "He'll get out there an' be invited t' supper, an' he'll ha'e a guilty conscience about him. She'll offer t' drive him back, an' he'll decline, an' he'll turn red as any poppy flower i' the process, an' he'll walk back kickin' himsel' for not stayin', but knowin' his place is here, at least until he's off." The Mayor was quiet for several long moments. "They made a fine couple at the Cotillion," he murmured. "Aye," Sean agreed. "They did that." "Took him long enough to do it." Sean laughed. "Was i' up t' him," he chuckled, "he'd ha'e been on one knee before th' lass a year ago an' more." "If I were a single man," Mayor Vess admitted, "I would have been on one knee before her a year ago or more!" The Sheriff looked up as Jacob came in, then returned to his work. Jacob's pace was near silent on the hard wood floor. He tilted his head a little, regarding his father's work: there were three pages of neatly lettered script, and two diagrams, all laid out with his father's characteristic, military neatness. Jacob knew his father's maps were to scale, or near as he could manage, and his crime scene diagrams were the same: these would be entered into official records, with the Sheriff's written reports, for he was a thorough man. The Sheriff shifted in his chair. There was something ... different ... either about the way the man sat, or how he moved, and Jacob wasn't sure which: he knew his father had what he called "the aches and pains of a wild and misspent youth," and Jacob knew there was weather a-comin', but he also knew his father was returned only a day earlier from having brought in four dead men, and he'd not spoken of it ... which meant he wasn't happy with bringing in carcasses instead of defendants. "Jacob," the Sheriff said. "Yes, sir." "Jacob, I am not ignoring you," the Sheriff said absently, his steel pen's nib scratching loudly on the good rag paper: "I am nearly done, if you can wait." "Yes, sir." "But I wannago wif Da!" Little Joseph said sadly, looking up at his Mama. "Your father has work to do," Annette said patiently. "Now come along, we have chores." Little Joseph's bottom lip ran out for an amazing distance, then he looked back at his beloved Boocaffie, who he'd been riding again, and he looked at his Mama walking back to their fine stone house, and little Joseph began strutting down the road after his Pa. Boocaffie watched the two of them go, then ... well, who knows what thoughts go through a bull's head? Boocaffie began walking after little Joseph, walking faster, and when he came to the fence, he put down his head and went through the fence with a little grunt. Boocaffie trotted happily after little Joseph. Annette was already in the house and did not hear wood splinter, nor did she hear the quiet exclamation of delight from down the road.
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