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Lady Leigh 9-16-07


"can I now go to school, Mama?"

Bonnie was amazed at how far Sarah had come to the subject of school. Just a few short weeks ago, Sarah was frightened at the aspect of school, but now she is more than excited to go.

"Yes, Sarah, now you can go back to school."

Bonnie looked over at Caleb, who was finishing drafting a gown for Tilly, "Has the town hired a school teacher yet?"

"I am not entirely certain of that, but Maude seems pleased enough to fill in until Firelands does get one."

"Speaking of Maude, Bonnie, I forgot to tell you she will be stopping by later this afternoon. I suspect she wants a gown for the opening night at the 'Silver Jewel'".

Bonnie was completing the changes to Duzy's gown. The Emerald green beauty was on a dress form and Bonnie was finishing the beadwork on the bodice front.

A small knock on the door followed by Esther, "Good morning my dear! Caleb, Sarah, good morning to the two of you as well!"

"Auntie Esther! Come and look at Dolly and my new matching dresses! Don't you think they look like the color of pennies?"

"Sarah! They are just beautiful!" Esther held the sweet copper faille frock up to Sarah, "This color makes the golden brown highlights in you hair stand out! Beautiful!" Sarah, more than pleased with the complement, hugged Dolly and continued the little tea party the two of them were having.

Bonnie looked over at Esther, "What is that brings you by here this morning, Esther?"

Esther was looking at Duzy's gown, lightly touching the ecru and black lace at the neckline, "This is just beautiful, my dear! .... do you think it terribly unkind of me to want a gown the same color as Duzy's? Do you think she'll be terribly disappointed? I mean ... I have always loved this color of green!"

"Esther! The two gowns may be the same fabric, but they hardly look the same! Come here and look for yourself ..." Bonnie led Esther over to another sheet covered dress form. When Bonnie removed the sheeting, Esther gasped, "My goodness! Look at what you have done with the emerald and black velvet accents! Oh my ... oh my ..."

"Do you approve?" Caleb asked, "I thought Bonnie was going to ruin it with her drooling!"

"Caleb!" Bonnie began laughing, "Esther! I did not drool on your fabric!"

"Not where you can see, at any rate ..." Caleb continued to tease.

In the distance, the train could be heard as it approached Firelands. Evil sat inside that train.

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Linn Keller 11-22-07   Jacob and I took turns out back, splitting wood and hauling in kindling and fire wood, for the days were chll and the nights more so, and a November mist had started:

And that, loyal readers, is the original story of the town and people of Firelands as told by a variety of folks over a long space of time both modern and old. I hope that you have enjoyed our small e

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Linn Keller 9-16-07


Liam McKenna brooded from the comfort of the velvet-upholstered sofa.
The private car, not only well appointed but specially appointed to his taste, had been his home for the journey from his familiar East Coast city. He'd brought a taste of urban life with him in his surroundings, with his clothes, with the obsequiously invisible porter.
From this rolling domicile of luxury, he looked out the window, and forward.
He was almost disappointed.
He knew Firelands would be less than miniscule to his urbane and sophisticated eyes; he knew it would be rude, crude, and dirty.
His only referents until now had been the lower boroughs of the City: even there, buildings went to several stories, streets were busy, noisy; there was always someone to be hired, or bribed. Morals were loose in the civilized East and people were easily bought, sometimes literally: he thought of one charming young lass he'd actually purchased, and kept locked away.
He sighed, casting a longing eye at the empty humidor. Never mind. There would be a fresh box of Havanas waiting for him.
He turned to look out the window again, and was almost disappointed to see Firelands.
For a moment he was disappointed. There were no smoking ruins, crying children; no corpses in sheeted rows lying in the street. The town, though miniscule and rude, appeared surprisingly tidy. There even appeared to be -- heavens! They actually use glass in their windows here in the wilderness? Somehow he'd envisioned even new buildings with gaping holes, like eye sockets in a bleaching skull.
Liam McKenna thought of the gold he'd spent to hire a small army of thugs with orders to burn the town by a certain date. Today was the day after. Either his gold was lining the pockets of genuine thieves and crooks, who'd taken his pay and never delivered the services promised, or they were late.
It would not do to be caught in his own trap.
Couplers thumped as the cars slowed, stopped.
Liam McKenna had arrived.

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Linn Keller 9-16-07


I was on my feet in an instant, hand outstretched, and I know I was grinning as broad as any two counties in Texas!
The Reverend Sopris, or Agent Sopris, or whatever he was called this week, took my hand in a firm grip and nodded, smiling quietly.
"You did well," he said simply.
"Wasn't just me," I protested.
"I know. I watched, after killing the rearmost half-dozen."
We'd found six of the outlaw corpses shot in the back of the head, obviously killed just before entering town. I didn't ask if they were his. Back-shooting is the mark of a coward. If they were Sopris's work, it's because it needed doing, distasteful though it had to have been.
"Evil comes with a pleasing face," Sopris warned quietly. "Beware beauty that conceals darkness, smooth words that are spoken with the serpent's craft." He handed me a cartridge.
A single .44-40 round, its nose a very shiny silver.
"You have your coin."
"I have it."
He handed me a rose and damned if I saw him pull it out of anywhere. Just like the .44-40 round, it was just there, in his hand.
I took the rose.
"You'll know the time," he said, then looked down at my new carved leather rig. "Nice rig. Looks good on you."
I grinned. "Before you disappear again, I'd like you to do the weddin'."
His eyes shone with suppressed delight, and just as quickly, sadness. "There will be blood on the moon and grief in the air before you are wed," he warned, "and there may be none to help you in the last moment. Much will depend on you. Many will depend on you. In this, you cannot fail."
I nodded. "Staying long?"
He smiled. "No."
"Can I stake you to a meal?"
He smiled. "It's been some time since I've had a good cup of vanilla coffee. Yes, I'd like that."

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Mr. Box 9-16-07


"Shorty, you got room for those extra horses?"

"I can put two of them out back in the open coral, but I need to keep these two inside and watch them. They got nicked in the gun battle. One on the rump and one on the shoulder. They're just grazed, but I want to keep some salve on them to keep the flies off them." Shorty informed me. He said "Two of the saddles and bridles are pretty good, one is fair and one isn't worth much."

"Might as well throw away that one. If you hear anybody looking for a horse, let me know. I might let a couple go for a fair price, tack and all." I paid him for a weeks keep. "I need to talk to Miss Duzy about a job."

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Linn Keller 9-17-07


"Ride with me, Jacob."
"Yes, sir!" Jacob grinned, sprinting for the livery. A boy never hesitates at an excuse for a ride, just as in an era yet to come, boys would never hesitate to jump behind the wheel of something that started out in Detroit, and became known in these parts as "skunk buggies" ... but that wouldn't be for a long time to come.
We cantered out of town, heading due east for a ways, and circled to the south. I wanted to find that creek crossing where Mr. Box had picked up those nuggets. If they were so easily found, someone else might come along and sound the alarm, and a gold stampede would be on.
We rode in companionable silence. On another continent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would write of his character, Sherlock Holmes, exclaiming after just such a protracted silence, "'Pon my word, Watson, you have the most marvelous gift of silence!" And so it is with friends: a man can be silent with a friend, and it is well.
Sometimes more is said without words, than with.
We each sifted sand with our fingers -- neither of us had a pan -- and stood on one side of the creek, then the other, trying to catch the sun glinting off native gold. In spite of our best efforts, all we found was sand and a few rocks. The horses found good graze, and were content.
After the third or fourth creek crossing we circled on around toward town again. "Jacob?" I asked. My voice sounded loud, unnaturally so, and we both realized it was because no word had been uttered since leaving town.
"Yes, sir?"
"Jacob, do you have much schoolin'?"
His eyes drifted to the horizon and I could see him looking into the past. I do the same myself in such moments.
"My mama prized schoolin', sir. She had me readin' before I first set foot in the blab school." The memory took him by surprise. Strong memory often does.
"I can cipher some, too," he added, and looked at me curiously, then with a realization. "Sir, will I be goin' to school here too?"
I smiled quietly. "It would please me if you did."
He grinned. "It would please me as well, sir." He'd chosen his words carefully -- he'd framed them almost as if unfamiliar with their shape -- but his eyes spoke volumes. He would do this, and he would do this to make me proud.
We came to a little bit of a rise and town was ahead of us, in the distance. "Ho," I murmured to Rose o' the Mornin', and she ho'd, and shivered her mane, and switched her tail, content to be here, under the sun, and standing in sweetgrass and prairie flowers.
"Jacob," I said, "look yonder, at town. Tell me what you see."
Jacob looked, not quite sure of the answer I wanted. "I see the town, sir. There's the back of Shorty's livery, yonder's the church. There's the back of the Jewel, and I can just see up the alley to the main street. WJ is sweeping off the board walk, it looks like, and Sarah and Dawg just passed by the mouth of the alley."
I nodded. "You have the eyes of the eagle, son. Eyes like yours bring a high price on ships at sea."
I smiled. "Never mind. Something a friend of mine told me, years ago."
"Yes, sir." Jacob turned to look back toward town. "Sir?"
"Yes, Jacob?"
"What do we see when we look at Firelands?"
I leaned my hands on the saddle horn, easing the weight off my back just a little. Something popped, and it felt better.
"I'm looking at our home, Jacob. Home ..."
The word sounded pretty darn good.
"I'm looking at our hopes and our dreams. I am looking at you growing to a fine manhood, and marrying a sweet girl and raising children and horses."
"Yes, sir."
I laughed. "That's not an assignment, Jacob. Every man's path is his own, and it's full of bends and turns and forks in the road. We are all the result of every choice we've made, for good and for ill, and all the plans a man make in his youth generally get lost in the brush as he travels."
"Sir?" Jacob asked, cocking his head curiously. "What were your plans, sir?"
It was my turn to look along the horizon and into the past.
I pressed my lips hard together, then cleared my throat.
"Her name was Connie," I said quietly. "I'd known her in school. We were married, and we were happy, and we had a farm, and a little girl. We were going to raise a passel of kids and mountains of crops, and we really didn't have many plans beyond that." I sighed. "The War came along, and I was able to get leave to go home and see Connie, once, and I got her letter -- one of the only ones that got through to me! -- she said we had a little girl-child. She'd named her Dana, and she looked just like me. I wrote her back and said I pitied any child that looked like me, and not to send her to school without she went along and took a club, for a little girl-child with a handle bar mustache would be subject to ridicule, and I would not stand for that." I was silent for a long while, then finished: "Connie died just before I got home from the War, and Dana died just after. And so I came here."
I could hear the gears turning in Jacob's head as he digested this.
"Jacob, you're ten now?"
"I had my birthday, sir. I'm eleven."
"Your birthday! When was it?"
"Last week, sir."
I looked at my saddle horn. "Jacob, I am sorry. I had no idea you had a birthday. We'll have to have you a birthday cake. I reckon Daisy can fix one."
Jacob grinned. "She does fix good pie!"
"She does that!" I agreed. "Race you back to town!"
Jacob won, by a length, but it was close.

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Lady Leigh 9-17-07


With Bonnie's permision, Sarah trotted over to the Merchantile. She told her Mama she would like a piece of peppermint stick, but truth be known, she had another mission as well.

Walking up toward the Merchantiles door, Sarah veered to the left of the door. As usual, Bill and Mac took their usual places on each side of the pickle barrel ... checkers in between. Sarah stood in front of them for a moment or two, wondering if they would manage to look in her direction, but they didn't, so she cleared her young throat and preceeded, " Mr. Bill and Mr. Mac? I hope it is Ok to call you that cuz I don't know your last names, and I know my Mama would be happier if I used your last names ...." Bill and Mac continued to play, and still did not acknowledge Sarah's presence, but they never acknowledged anyone, so Sarah just kept on talking, "I know you don't do much talking yourself, but Mama says I manage to talk for "lots" of people, so if you don't mind, I want to tell you something, then I'll buy my peppermint and leave you alone ..."

Still nothing ...

Sarah squared her shoulders and continued, "I want to thank you for keeping Mr, Rosenthal safe ... I heard him tell Mama that you made sure a bad man didn't hurt him .... My Mam likes Mr Rosenthal, and so do I ...."

Bill and Mac continued with their game ... " Anyway, Mr Bill and Mr Mac, Thank you!"

With that she turned and skipped into the door of the Merchantile with a smile on her face.

"Hmm ...."

"Hmmm ...." Was all the two elderly men mustered, but if you looked closely, there was a brief smile on both faces.

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Linn Keller 9-17-07


 It was not uncommon in Medieval times for travelers to use a pomander ball, or a spice-studded fruit of some kind, held close to the nose, to counter the odors they encountered while traveling; scented kerchiefs were also employed, and during the plague, huge false noses filled with crushed flowers and flower petals were worn, in hopes of defeating not only the bad smells but also the plague itself, believed to be carried on the ill odors of the "Miasma."
Liam McKenna allowed himself a momentary expression of distaste as he stepped out onto the platform behind his private car. Quiet, primitive, backward; it would be greatly improved, he thought, with a few hundred buildings and pavement as far as the eye could see.
He couldn't place the prevailing odor.
He'd never smelled clean air before.

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Mr. Box 9-17-07


The train pulled in and some high brow feller stepped down from a private car. Imagine that, a whole railcar to yourself. How can somebody get so high and mighty?
I decided to hitch up Nelly and see if we could remember where we camped out that last night on the trail. Some of the road looked familiar, but nothing really stood out. Whenever we came to a creek crossing we'd stop and I'd investigate several yards up and down stream. Just before dark we came across a crossing that seemed like I'd seen before. I found some faint buggy tracks in the grass. This might be it! I followed them in a little over a hundred yards and found my old campfire. This was it! We camped there again. I never make camp right next to a road. It's just a little more peacefull away from it.
The next morning I checked the pools up and down the creek for a couple of hours before we headed back towards town. I found four small nuggets. I put up a few markers before we left. This time I was a lot more concerned about where we were going. We got back to town by mid afternoon. I put Nelly away and went looking for Sheriff Keller.
"How would a feller go about filing a claim?" I asked.
Linn asked, "Where are you thinking about?"
I told him it was out of town about a half a day. "Is that open territory? I hunted it back up yesterday and found a few more small nuggets. I'd like to go out there once in a while and try my luck."
"Have you seen Miss Duzy? She was talking about some work."

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Mr. Box 9-17-07


"Miss Duzy, About that job, could you show me what I'd be needing to do? I'm sorry I haven't gotten back to you sooner."
"Come in here, Mr. Baxter. I'll show you the bar and back room." Duzy looked pretty busy but she had a few minutes to talk.

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Sweet Violet 9-17-07


Emma Jones tried in vain to smooth the wrinkles out of the skirt of her black silk mourning dress and adjusted the pins in her simple black bonnet before stepping down out of the train. She caught her reflection in the window of the train and just shook her head. No, she would never pass as a refined young lady. Her curly red hair was too wild and she had too many freckles. But with a smile on her lips she thought to herself, "I am away from the 'society' and rules of Boston and here I can finally be me."

The ride from Boston to Firelands, Colorado had been long and tiring and she was happy to be done with it. She looked down to the paper clasped tightly in her gloved hand and considered what it said for the hundredth time. Last month, a Mr. Michael Moulton, attorney at law, had wired her informing her of her dear Aunt May's death. Along with the sad news, Emma was also informed that Aunt May had left her the house, orchard and small farm that Uncle Herbert and Aunt May had nutured and grown for so many years. Emma remembered staying a summer with Uncle Herbert and Aunt May on their place when she was 18 years old, was it only three summers ago? Her mother had just died and her father was trying to get his own life in order. Aunt May had taken her home with her after Mama's funeral and loved and comforted her through Emma's time of mourning. Now here Emma was again. Only there was no Aunt May to help her through her mourning.

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Linn Keller 9-17-07


I smiled at his success.
"Far as I know, Mr. Baxter, that section is free, clear and open. Attorney Moulton has been kind enough to handle the filing of claims for us. I'd say he's the man to see. The bank's open now, under honest management this time, and they can trade your nuggets for either coin or Yankee greenbacks, whichever you'd like."
Mr. Baxter thanked me and sauntered over toward Attorney Moulton's office, not in any particular hurry at all, with the air of a man who was at peace with the world, and not about to change that fact.
Firecracker Mel and her two vaqueros came trotting up out of the alley. Mel hailed me with a grin and a wave; her stallion bared his teeth and invited me to come closer. "We're headed north," she called, "our cousin's wedding and all that."
"Glad you stopped by," I replied. "You all gave good account of yourselves the other night."
Eduardo and Santos both laughed, showing beautiful white teeth. "It was our pleasure, jefe," Eduardo exclaimed. "We have never fought beside Irishmen before!"
"If you come to Tejas, you will be welcome in our father's house," Santos added.
"I thank you. It would be my honor."
A whistle, a yell, and they were off down the street at a gallop.
A nattily dressed stranger stood in the hotel doorway, taking it all in.

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Mr. Box 9-17-07


I spoke with Attorny Moulton about filing a claim on the little creek. He started some paperwork and said, "We'll have to go out there and record the location."
I said "Next week will be fine. If we leave early, we can make it there and back in a day,"
I decided to hang onto the nuggets for a while. They had a nice feel to them.

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Sweet Violet 9-17-07


Emma walked towards the two trunks and two hat boxes sitting on the board walk. All of her earthly posessions contained in these two trunks and two hat boxes. Still she couldn't help but feel blessed. Not only had Aunt May seen fit to leave her the house and adjoining property, but Mr. Moulton had offered her the position of town teacher. The school was currently being held in the church, but she had been informed that an actual school house was under construction.

She rummaged around in her reticule and pulled out the last correspondence from Mr. Moulton. He had written that a Mr. Jackson Cooper would meet her at the train station and convey her and any baggage she had to her new house. Emma looked up and down the board walk and watched as men, women, and children got off the train to be met by joyful family, loving spouces or to amble off by themselves. She waited to see if any gentleman would introduce himself as Mr. Cooper to her.

No one did.

So she waited.

Soon the engineer was calling, "All aboard!" and still no one had come for her. With a worried expression knitting her brow, she walked over to her trunks, dusted one off with her handkerchief and sat on it.

And she waited.

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Duzy Wales 9-17-07


Duzy had talked at length with Mr. Baxter and thought he was the perfect choice for their bartender. Fred was a quiet man when he wanted to be, and yet he had shown Duzy a different side of him, his wit and charm, with a way of telling grand tales that left Duzy laughing, and it was obvious that he enjoyed doing so! She had a good feeling about him and thought they would become friends. Duzy bid him farewell until the next day and stepped outside.

She looked over at the Train Depot and saw a lady in a black dress, sitting, looking around, as if she had expected someone to be waiting. Duzy walked over and said, “Hello, I am Duzy Wales.” “Emma Jones, it is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Wales, and thank you, as I was thinking of asking someone where Mr. Michael Moulton’s office is located.” Duzy was curious about the lovely woman; she had a beautiful smile, with pretty red hair that curled around her face. It looked as if she was in mourning, which saddened Duzy, as she offered to walk Emma to Mr. Moulton’s office.

During the walk Duzy told Emma about the ladies new ventures in business and learned that Emma was a school teacher and her passion was quoting Shakespeare! “Oh please, would you be so kind as to perform for our grand opening?” Duzy asked. “Oh, I am sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that of you, not even knowing if you will be here. I tend to be presumptuous at times!”

They talked all the way to Mr. Moulton’s office and both knew more about each other by the time they arrived. Duzy was so excited. Another lady in town, and she would be staying to teach in the new school! Duzy couldn’t wait to introduce Emma to Aunt Esther and Bonnie and all the other ladies, knowing they would be happy to meet her as well!

This was turning out to be a wonderful day.

And then suddenly, Duzy felt a chill go up her spine, and she turned to look and noticed a man watching her! He was very well dressed, probably from the East, Duzy thought, recognizing the clothing and demeanor. Then, she saw his face, and quickly looked away, all the while feeling as if his eyes were still on her. Duzy knew there was a connection between the two of them, as she had dreamed of that same man only a few nights before…….she would need to read her journal, as it seemed they were walking hand in hand in her dream!

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Sweet Violet 9-17-07


Relief flowed through Emma like warm cider on a chilly Autumn evening as Duzy Wales introduced herself. On the verge of tears when Duzy had approached her, Emma's heart immediately calmed by Duzy's open manner and friendly smile. Feeling it was safe to leave her baggabe on the board walk, Emma accepted Duzy's invitation to walk to Mr. Moulton's office.

"Why, I would be delighted to quote some of Shakespeare at the Grand Opening. I don't mind at all that you asked. I much prefer those who are honest and forthright and not afraid to voice what they think", Emma said in answer to Duzy's question concerning the opening of The Silver Jewel.

Emma let out a long held sigh. She felt an intense gratitude to this lady who had befriended her and would in the future be introducing her to other ladies of this town. Duzy had spoken of Aunt Esther and Bonnie. How wonderful it would be to have the companionship of these women.

All of a sudden Duzy stopped walking and turned around to look back the way they had come. A man whom Emma had seen on the train was staring intently at Duzy. The look on Duzy's face caused Emma no little concern. "Miss Wales, are, are you ok? You look as though you have seen a ghost!"

Duzy stared for a moment longer. "No, yes, I am alright. It is nothing." Then a little more brightly, almost forced it seemed, "Shall we be on our way to Mr. Moulton's?"

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Charlie MacNeil 9-17-07


Charlie MacNeil was a worried man. A very worried man. He sat in the Sheriff's uncomfortable chair and stared into the distance. He'd looked at every face of every man killed in the outlaw raid, and one face, one body, was missing from the gruesome aftermath. The face of the well-dressed stranger described by the outlaw who had warned them.

Charlie got to his feet and walked out onto the boardwalk in front of the jail. He pulled his hat brim down low and looked up and down the street for any sign of Linn but the Sheriff was nowhere in sight so he turned back inside. He found a pencil and a sheet of paper on the desk and left this note:

Gone hunting. One man was missing from the massacre. You know the one. Will be back as soon as possible.


Charlie pinned the note down on the desk with a coffee cup and went to the livery. He saddle Buck and led him out and slid his rifle into the scabbard. Then he took off his badge and dropped it into his saddlebag. This was a matter not of law but of honor, the honor of the Sacred Order.

Charlie stepped into the saddle and heard an insistent "Woof!"

He looked at Dawg and said quietly, "Not this time, partner. Your job is here, with Sarah and the others. This is for me to do. It started with me, and it has to end with me." Dawg sat on his haunches with a knowing look on his furry jowls and watched Charlie ride out of sight around the livery barn, headed for the church. He needed to talk to the Reverend Belding before he went on with what could be his last mission.

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Linn Keller 9-18-07


Dawg was sitting beside the front door.
I frowned. This was out of the ordinary. Normally he'd be near to the church, where the young ones were in school.
"Dawg," I said, "was I a thinking man, I'd think you looked troubled."
Dawg looked toward the church, looked at me, and kind of groaned that rolled over into a deep growl.
I did not go over and pet him; Dawg seldom invited such familiarity, and I don't give orders to another man's dog, nor do I take liberties with another man's dog.
Something wasn't right.
When I was a very junior lawman an old-timer gave me the best advice I'd ever gotten, then or since.
"When in doubt, son," he said, "follow your gut."
His advice had stood me in good stead over the years.
Now, looking at Dawg, and looking around, my gut told me something was very wrong.
I stepped inside. "Charlie?" I called.
Jacob's rifle was in the rack but Charlie's was gone.
I saw the note.
"Gone hunting ..."
I looked over at the rose Sopris had handed me. It was still in full bloom.
Gone hunting.
I reached into my vest pocket and pulled out the cartridge Sopris had given me.
It was shiny, shiny as polished silver, and I knew the unseen portion of the bullet, crimped in the brass casing, was gold.
There was work yet to be done, but what Charlie had to do, he had to do alone.
I set my jaw. Never liked the idea of leaving a partner without someone to watch his back.
I stepped to the doorway. "Dawg? Did you see which way Sopris went?"
Dawg didn't say.

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Linn Keller 9-18-07


"Pa? Wire's back up!"
Lightning came in the door, smiling at the happy sound of his sounder chattering its brass teeth at him. His boy was already copying traffic in a neat block print. He'd never learned cursive; his print was clear, legible, precise, and just as fast as any man's script.
Lightning laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Take the mail, son, and when there's a break let them know we're back on the wire. We've quite a bit of traffic to catch up on!"
"Yes, sir!"
The sounder clattered busily and Lightning checked the several pencils in the battered tin cup, making sure all were sharp. There would be no time to whittle a fresh point if a lead broke.

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Linn Keller 9-18-07


Liam McKenna was honestly surprised.
He'd never in his life eaten his own cooking, nor that of a wife; unmarried, he had no use for a spouse, and had said as much on a number of occasions. It was one of the points of contention between himself and his father, and he intended to remedy the situation, in due time. He knew he would never inherit unless he could prove his worth to the Grand Old Man -- and that included both securing a fortune, and securing an heir, a male heir to carry on the family name, and its wealth and power and influence.
Of course power and influence could be bought.
That left wealth.
Liam sighed happily. Sitting in the restaurant, eating Daisy's cooking, with a fortune just beneath his feet ... he was where he was supposed to be.
It did not trouble him that his plans may spell doom for this lovely little restaurant, nor for the pleasant, red-headed Irish lass that served him with a smile and a swing of her hips.
She was, after all, Irish.
There was a clatter and a commotion on the boardwalk and a half-dozen red-shirted firemen came in, quarreling and laughing and singing something in a barbaric language Liam recognized as Russian. He frowned at this interruption and took a sip of coffee.
Good coffee, he thought.
The biggest of the firemen strode back to the kitchen, roaring "Daisy me darlin', do we marry this day?" and her shriek and her laugh as he snatched her up and spun her around.
Liam turned and looked, annoyed at such a low-class display of familiarity.
Daisy's head was thrown back, her red hair swung as did the volume of her skirt as Sean whirled her about, and crushed her to him, and kissed her with a surprising delicacy.
Liam turned back to his meal, somehow troubled.
He'd never known what they'd just exhibited so shamelessly, so publicly.
He looked up at the other five firemen, settling themselves about a large round table, joking and laughing and calling out bets on how long it would take Daisy to say yes, let's marry today!
There was an emptiness in Liam, an emptiness he'd never realized.
He'd never in his life experienced what he was seeing, felt what he was hearing.
He frowned and left payment for the meal, and a modest tip, under his plate.

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Charlie MacNeil 9-18-07


Colin Mabry had sat his horse outside of Firelands, waiting for the men he'd sent to the town to either destroy it or be destroyed themselves. When the shooting stopped and the sun rose and the townsfolk could be seen gathering up the dead and tidying up the town, he turned away. His time would come, as it always did. He heeled the horse into a trot and turned his back on the town.

Charlie rode first toward the outlaw camp. Following the tracks of that big a group of horsemen was easy. But as he rode he watched both sides of the trail for a single set of tracks pulling away from the others and wasn't disappointed. His man had slipped away from the group and turned toward higher ground outside the town. Charlie turned that way as well.

Charlie found where the horse had waited. The ground was stirred somewhat from the horse stamping its feet, impatient to be moving, but the tracks never turned until later. A pile of droppings looked relatively fresh, though Charlie knew it had to have been there since early morning. Charlie loosened his rifle in the scabbard and began to follow the tracks. It was time to settle things with the man in front of him once and for all. He had let it go too long, hoping that the problem would solve itself. Obviously he had hoped for something that was impossible.

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Charlie MacNeil 9-18-07


Abraham Belding had watched Charlie ride away from the church with a sense of foreboding weighting his spirit. Charlie had confided in him and asked him to pray for Charlie's mission, and the two men had knelt at the altar together. But still the foreboding was there. Wherever the trail would lead, Charlie would be going through Hell. Abraham just hoped he would come out the other side intact.

The train from San Francisco whistled cheerily in the distance. In the parlor car, Miss Fannie Kikinshoot, late of San Francisco's Palace Theater, glanced at the watch pinned to her bodice and smiled to herself. The train was right on time. She certainly didn't want to miss the grand opening of her good friend Duzy's new hotel. After all, Fannie was part of the entertainment.

Across the car and at separate tables, two men in suits sat watching Fannie as covertly as they could. They had been struck by her beauty and both wished to know her better, preferably in the Biblical sense if possible, and were simply biding their time until they could make an approach. Each knew the other was interested and each felt down deep as well that they would only have one chance to impress. Little did they know that Miss Fannie wasn't easily impressed.

The first man, a portly gent with a gold watch chain stretched tightly across his somewhat substantial girth, got to his feet and made his way to Fannie's table. He removed his hat and indicated the chair across from her. "May I have the pleasure of your company, Miss..." he said pompously.

Fannie gave him a small, unencouraging smile, and the man seemed to wilt. She looked up at him and said, "Finally got your nerve up, eh sir?" The man at least had the grace to blush as he stammered an unintelligible reply before finding his way back to his own seat. Fannie turned to look at the second man, but he was studiously engaged in staring out the window of the car at the landscape sliding past. Once again Fannie smiled to herself before removing a small hand mirror from her reticule and giving her coiffure a quick glance. She reached up to pat her hair and thought she heard a muffled groan from across the car as her bodice stretched tightly over her swelling bosom. She smiled again. This was fun!

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Mr. Box 9-18-07


I'll need to speak with Miss Duzy again soon and find out how she wants me to serve things. Never thought in all my years I'd ever be serving another man's drink and the likes. That's a pretty fine looking establishment. Guess I'd better go down to the mercantile and get an outfit that doesn't look like it's been out on the trail so long.

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Duzy Wales 9-18-07


Emma’s “You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” was just what Duzy needed to hear, to regain her wits. No, not a ghost this time, Duzy thought, but she had dreamed of the man with the satchel, without ever having seen him before, so it was much the same………

Michael Moulton opened the door, just as they arrived, having heard each of them as they conversed in turn, pleasant to hear, he thought, as one was Duzy Wales, but he couldn’t make out the other voice! “Hello, Mr. Moulton,” Duzy said, smiling, “I wish to thank you for bringing Miss Emma Jones to Firelands,” she said in introduction. “Miss Jones, this is Mr. Michael Moulton, our Attorney, and a man you can trust.” Mr. Moulton extended his hand, to welcome Emma to Firelands, thinking she was certainly a pretty young woman! Michael loved red hair, momentarily thinking of Bonnie, before asking the ladies inside. Duzy declined, knowing the two needed to be alone to speak of their business together.

“Miss Jones, I will go to the livery now and ask Shorty to get the buggy ready for me to drive you to your place! Take all the time you need with Mr. Moulton and I will return shortly,” Duzy failed to tell Miss Jones that the buggy had not been driven in quite sometime, nor had she ever driven it or seen it for herself! She only knew that Aunt Esther had bought it, so she hurriedly left for the livery, not looking in the direction of the hotel, as she wasn’t ready to meet the man in her dream until she had the chance to go back and read her journal. So much of the dream was unclear at the moment.

It seemed to be another of those times when Duzy had felt a kinship with a stranger, just as she had when she met Bonnie! It was obvious that Emma Jones was looking forward to the adventure of leaving the East, a feeling Duzy well understood, as through the sadness of her mourning, Duzy could see a sparkle in her eyes as she had spoken of her love of Shakespeare and teaching! Duzy was thrilled that she would be willing to perform at the grand opening! It did make her wonder who Mr. Jackson Cooper was and why he had left Emma stranded! Duzy felt that quite reckless and wondered what Miss Jones was walking into!

Duzy was delighted as Shorty walked her around to where the “buggy” was stored, as he had kept it clean and fit to drive, but the best surprise was that it was more an uncovered carriage, as it had two leather seats, giving Duzy the idea of having Jake Thomas drive the ladies out, hoping to get Bonnie to ride with them, so she could meet Miss Jones! The thought of “more in numbers sometimes being better” had come to Duzy’s mind, and so much had happened in the little town, that she felt they should be even more careful. Shorty promised to have it hitched and ready to ride, as Duzy left to find Bonnie and Jake.

Walking back to "The House of McKenna," Duzy passed the Silver Jewel and saw that "the man" had moved on. With a sigh of relief, Duzy hugged Bonnie as she entered the new shop. "Bonnie, I have the most exciting news, the new school teacher is in town! Do you have an hour or so to ride with me to take her out to the "May" place, as the man who was supposed to meet her left her stranded and I think she may need someone with her." Bonnie agreed, as she laid down the beautiful silk material she had been holding, picked up her rifle, and locked the door behind them, as they left to find Jake, only Jake was nowhere to be found. Duzy filled Bonnie in on what she knew of Miss Jones as they walked to the livery, reaching inside her pocket to fill the derringer hidden there.

Duzy saw Mr. Baxter and promised to meet him back at the Hotel in two hours to discuss their business and the plans for the grand opening.

After loading Miss Jones' luggage onto the buggy, Duzy and Bonnie stopped in front of Mr. Moulton's office. Michael offered his services to drive the ladies, as he knew where they needed to go, and it would also give him a chance to see Bonnie again, this time without Caleb being with her. "Miss Jones, this is my friend, Bonnie McKenna, who is opening the new seamstress shop I mentioned, Bonnie, Miss Emma Jones from Boston, Sarah's new school teacher."

At that time, Billy came running with a wire for Duzy.

On the way. Stop. F.K. Stop.

Bonnie stopped talking to Emma long enough to say, "You look like that is happy news Duzy," as she saw the excitement in her friends eyes!

"Yes, a dear friend will be here for the grand opening, this is wonderful news, I can't wait for all of you to meet her!" Duzy was thinking Firelands would never be the same after meeting Fannie Kikinshoot!

It was a good day, indeed, except for the nagging feeling that they were all being watched. Duzy looked up to the window on the second floor of "The Silver Jewel Hotel," and saw the nameless face staring down at them...

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Charlie MacNeil 9-18-07


Mabry was taking no more than the usual precautions toward hiding his trail that any man used to traveling in wild country would do, so Charlie was able to follow at a slow lope. He slowed Buck every few minutes and a couple of times an hour he got off and walked after watering the buckskin horse from his canteen. He filled his canteen at every chance as they ascended higher and higher into wilder and wilder country. In the few remaining hours of daylight after he found the trail Charlie pushed his horse as hard as he dared.

As he traveled, Charlie began to get the feeling he knew where the man he followed was going and two days later, a few hours after noon, his feeling was confirmed by a weather-beaten board sign propped in a crack in a huge granite boulder. The sign had once read Cloud Basin Pop. 602 but was now nearly unreadable but that didn't matter, because Charlie had been here before. The old gold camp of Cloud Basin was just ahead.

Charlie pulled Buck to a stop in the shadows of a copse of wind-blasted firs and surveyed the desolation in front of him. All that remained of what had once been a thriving hive of mining activity was a few tumbledown shacks whose shutters swung and banged in the fitful wind that blew cold from the snowbanks in the crevices on the face of the mountain above. Charlie turned up the collar of his sheepskin coat against the wind and waited for some sign of the man he'd followed.

After a seeming eternity, Charlie saw a wisp of smoke begin to drift from the only relatively intact stone chimney in the town. The chimney was attached to one of the more substantial buildings along the street, which still had glass in one or two of the windows. A shadow passed across his view and he heeled his horse forward.

Charlie again stopped the buckskin, this time alongside the splintered and rotted logs of what had once been a saloon, and stepped to the ground. He took off his coat and hung it on his saddlehorn. He shivered with the cold of the wisps of breeze that found their way around the pile of logs but didn't want to take a chance on the coat getting in his way. He eased forward toward the building where the fire was.

Charlie's first impression had been to come in the back way but after a moment's consideration he decided that a frontal assault, so to speak, would be the best. Mabry would be expecting him to come in from the rear, because that is what he would do. Charlie stepped up on what remained of the boardwalk in front of the building.

He made no effort to muffle his steps. By now he was sure that Mabry knew he was there, although there was no sign of that awareness. Charlie turned the knob of the still intact door with his left hand and shoved it screeching and dragging open and stepped into the room, putting his back against the wall of the dim room.

A cold, somehow oily voice oozed across the room from the shadowy figure that sat by the far wall in a tipped back chair. "You're late, dear brother," Charlie's twin said with a hiss. "Somehow I knew it was you in that town and that you would come. But I expected you long before now."

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Linn Keller 9-18-07


I placed the pen carefully in its trough in the top drawer of the oak desk.
I picked up the paper I'd been working on and wadded it up.
It was getting dark. I could light a lamp or I could go eat.
Daisy's cooking won out.
WJ was closing up as I stepped out the door. Didn't take much for him to close up shop, as he lived over top his store, and liked it that way, but he was a tidy man, and always swept off the board walk in front of his door, and around the pickle barrel, before he locked his front door for the night.
Jake, my deputy, was elsewhere, on business; Charlie had headed out on an important matter. Jacob was likely down at the livery with Shorty. It would be warm in the livery, with several horses to heat the air, good tight walls to stop the wind, hay above to hold the heat down and straw on the floor to keep it from soaking up from the ground.
I made my rounds. The saloon was quiet, a couple fellows having a sociable beer; Mr. Baxter tipped me a wink as he polished the bar, looking as content as he always did. I smiled. The man was not to be crossed, as he'd demonstrated when the outlaws tried to run us out -- something that did not surprise me terribly: time and time again I've seen where the quiet man is the one you don't want to cross, and the peaceful man is often the one who'll fight hardest to keep things peaceful.
"Evening, Sheriff. Coffee?"
"If you would, please, Daisy." I eased myself down in a chair, in the corner.
Esther came toward me and I was instantly on my feet, the aches and pains of the evening forgotten.
"May I join you?" she asked in that lovely voice, and I drew her chair out for her, and scooted it in under her.
Daisy set a cup of coffee in front of her, and a pitcher of fresh cream; condensation sparkled on the sides. She'd just gotten this from the spring house, by the look of it.
"What's good tonight, Daisy?" I asked, knowing I'd best get a bite before her Irishmen came in for the evening.
"Got some good beef tonight, Sheriff. Traded for some late season corn, and mashed up some taties for you."
"My dear," I said in an admiring tone, "did you do all that for little old me?"
Daisy and Esther laughed together. "Of course I did, Sheriff!" she exclaimed, taking a swipe at me with her ever-present dish towel.
"Well, if you went to all that trouble, I'd be less than a gentleman if I didn't eat my fill!" I looked at Esther. "And you, my dear?"
"The same, thank you," Esther said, and picked up her coffee. She added a bit of cream.
"I saw the engine," she said softly. "Thank you."
I had to stop and think a moment. When she said "engine" I thought she meant the fire wagon.
Then I remembered.
The Lady Esther!
I nodded. "Part of your wedding surprise."
"Do you normally name impressive landmarks for your ladies?"
"Why of course," I said with wide, innocent eyes. "There was Mama's Picnic Basket back home, and Auntie's Rocking Chair, and if I recall rightly there was even Grandma's Apple Tree!"
"You know what I mean," she smiled.
I nodded. "There's more."
It was Esther's turn to look innocent. "You're naming the gondola car after me too?"
"No, I figured that would be the Lady Duzy, then right on down the line, all the ladies in town. Of course I may have to get a bigger train!"
She laughed quietly, lowered her eyes. "You really are a surprising man, you know that."
"Keeps life interesting." She was getting at something. I kept my tone light, trusting that she would get to the subject in her own good time.
"Most men would have taken their Eastern investments and the mineral rights they'd just acquired, and traded them for a life of wealth and ease."
"And you're wondering if that's what I plan on doing."
She gave me those big lovely eyes over top her coffee cup.
I set my coffee down. It was time for plain talk. She wanted to know my plans. A father would demand to know my intentions toward his daughter; Esther had none to speak for her, and so had to ask her own self.
"Esther, I have lived a good and a full life. The Almighty has seen fit to grant me increase. I could sell off and live easy. Just might, one of these days, when I get old."
Esther smiled. She glanced at the gray in my temples but kindly said nothing.
"I plan to be Sheriff as long as they'll have me. After that, who knows. I do plan to live a long and outrageously happy life, and you're the one I want to share that life with."
"And just how would you do that, Mr. Keller?" she asked, and mischief danced in her eyes.
I took a sip of coffee, with its hint of vanilla, and considered.
"I would do like my Pa did."
"Every night his last words to Mama were, 'I love you,' and her last words to him were 'I love you' in return. They fell asleep holding hands, and more often than not, when they woke they were holding hands." I looked through the wall, into a childhood full of good memories. "Their first words in the morning to each other, him to her and her to him, were always, 'I love you.'"
I returned to the present, and looked Esther squarely in the eye.
I could swim in those eyes.
"I would do that with you."
Daisy set two plates full down in front of us, and we bowed our heads over the good smells, gave thanks, and we ate with a good appetite.

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Charlie MacNeil  9-18-07


Charlie moved to the fireplace, careful not to turn his back on the man who had once been his brother, and stretched his hands to the flames. "Wind's cold out," he said quietly.

"And you're point is?" Mabry asked caustically.

"My point is this," Charlie said, and reached into his pocket. Mabry tensed. Charlie drew out the gold coin and began to flip it into the air and catch it, over and over. Mabry relaxed and his eyes followed the coin. Charlie's other hand slid to his belt and drew a short-barreled Remington from behind his back. "I'm taking you back to hang."

Mabry stiffened and started to reach for his pistol and Charlie drew back the hammer on the Remington. "Don't even think about it," he said. "Not even you are that fast. Now stand up."

Mabry just looked at him. "I should have expected no less from you," he sneered. "You sold me out long ago."

"I beg to differ with you," Charlie said. "You took an oath, and then you betrayed it. Those people in Wellman didn't deserve what you did to them. I've been looking for you ever since you burned the church down around them."

"They only got their just desserts," Mabry hissed. His eyes were blades of ice lancing between him and Charlie. "And the flames were glorious!" he exclaimed.

"I don't know what brought you to this, but I do know what will take you away from it. Now stand up." Charlie reached into his pocket for the strong rawhide string he'd put there when he got down from his horse. The Remington was rock steady, pointed at Mabry's heart.

"Or what, dear brother? You'll shoot me in cold blood? Would you like me to hand over my gun first, so you won't be in any danger?"

"Just do it," Charlie grated. "You're no longer my brother, you're a rabid wolf that deserves to be hunted down and slaughtered. But I won't be your executioner, the law will."

"I am the embodiment of the side of yourself you won't admit to," Mabry told him. "What's the matter, don't you have the stomach to do your own killing?" He eased the chair forward so all four legs were on the floor and spread his hands. "I'll get up. Just be sure you don't shoot me." Mabry slid forward on the chair and pushed himself to his feet. "I don't suppose you've got some of these in that shooter, do you?" Mabry reached into the pocket of his vest and withdrew something that glittered in the last of the light coming through the windows. He spun the cartridge, loaded with a silver bullet, across his knuckles much as Charlie had flipped the coin earlier, to catch the other's attention. Charlie inadvertently glanced at Mabry's hand, and Mabry threw himself through the doorway behind him and raced across the darkening room.

Charlie cursed and blasted a shot through the doorway. Mabry's derisive laughter drifted back to him. "Follow me if you dare, dear brother," he called. "Follow me if you dare!"

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Charlie MacNeil 9-18-07


The train rattled to a halt at the station, and the conductor came through the car saying in a loud voice, "All out for Firelands, Firelands station, all out!" Fannie and the two men stood and began to make their way toward the door at the rear of the car. Fannie got to the door first and waited to see which of the men would open the door for her. The more slender of the two reached the door immediately after and reached to open it, unobtrusively thrusting out his elbow as he passed her, hoping for some contact. What he contacted was the nearly needle point of Fannie's parasol, which first jabbed into his elbow then drove nearly through the thin leather of his shoe as Fannie lowered it to the top of his foot and leaned her weight on it. The man yelped, yanked open the door, and practically threw himself out onto the platform making no effort to be chivalrous. The portly gent from earlier stood well back, tipped his hat, and said, "After you, Miss."

Fannie gave the man a brilliant smile and stepped out onto the platform. The porter had placed a step there and she moved daintily down onto the boardwalk. "I'll have your bags in a moment, ma'am," the porter said, tipping his hat. He practically ran to the baggage car and pulled the door open. Shortly Fannie's not inconsiderable volume of luggage was piled on a handcart and the porter was asking her where she wanted to go.

"I'll be staying at the Silver Jewel," she said brightly. "I'm singing there for the grand opening."

If the porter had had a tail, it would have been wagging. "Me and the missus done already got plans to be there," he said. "I'm sure you'll be singin' like a nightingale."

"You're too kind," Fannie said. She lifted her skirts to protect them from the dust of the street and set off down the boardwalk with the porter following behind with her luggage. She was conscious of the eyes, both male and female, that followed her progress. The female ones were judging how much competition she'd be as well as envying her clothing, which was the latest Parisian style. And the male ones were, in general, young and old, staring in disbelief, and in some cases something a bit less honorable, at the vision that had just alighted from the train and was gracing the streets of their town with her presence.

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Mr. Box 9-18-07


"Good afternoon, Miss Duzy. What kinds of drinks will I be serving? What glasses do I use for what?" I inquired.
She showed me a few types of liquor and showed me the different glasses. There were mugs, tall glasses, and short ones, and they all had a nice ring to them.
"What do I do if some youngster comes in here wanting hard liquor or somebody gets rowdy? What time do we open? Should we keep a peacekeeper somewhere?" I was just one question after another, but having not done anything like this before, I wanted to have a good idea of what to do.

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Mr. Box 9-18-07


"Oh I almost forgot, Miss Duzy, are you going to have any of that Mexican whisky? I forget what they call it."

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Linn Keller 9-18-07


 Esther and I left out the back door, just as the Irish Brigade was staging its invasion. I'd just opened the door for Esther when we heard Daisy's happy whoop and her laugh, and Sean's great booming voice asking her yet again if today was the day when they were to be wed.
Esther giggled and we slipped out the back door, closing it quietly behind us.
It was on to evening and the sky was shot with color, as was the prairie.
My hand found hers, and we walked a ways, not saying a word, and in a little depression, away enough from town to feel private, we turned and faced one another and held hands.
"What are you looking for, Esther?" I asked, quietly, for the cool evening's stillness demanded a soft voice.
Her hands squeezed both mine. "I've found what I've been looking for," she said, her eyes dark and liquid, deep, like spring-fed pools in the dark. "I have family here, and I've found my husband here, and I have a business here." She shivered, just a little. "And I've found happiness here."
I nodded.
"It is difficult," I murmured.
Esther tilted her head a little, listening, curious.
"It is difficult not to propose to you, Esther."
Esther smiled, and my heart soared. "I have your promise, remember?"
I chuckled. "Sarah wants one now!"
"Oh, they all want one," Esther laughed quietly. "You should have seen them all clustering around, after you left, wanting to see it and try it on! Even Sarah had to try it on!"
Esther's hands were warm in mine, and I wanted nothing more than to take her in my arms, and hold her, and kiss her, delicately, carefully.
I did.
Esther returned the favor, with considerable enthusiasm.
I held her all the tighter and let her.

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Duzy Wales 9-18-07


"Mr. Baxter, you do go on so! That would be tequila, of course! You know exactly what type alcohol to put in each glass, and who to serve to and who not to; otherwise, I wouldn't have put my faith in you! I have watched while you observe others.

"I know you will be armed and ready to defend this place with your life, just as I will, or I am a very bad judge of character....and I do not think I am," Duzy said, smiling mischievously back at Mr. Fred Baxter. "I think I can count on you!"

"So, please use this persona with whoever you need to......"

"For me, keep your eyes and ears open to all things, as it may be important to me, and to those I love, serve the alcohol to anyone that can handle it, male or female. Make sure that Mr. Landers or myself know of anything that may start brewing...as we want this business to be one of pleasure, entertainment, music, dance, drink, and happiness....that is what I want and expect. Never cheat anyone, or let anyone cheat us," and then Duzy smiled as she saw the mirth in Mr. Baxter's eyes.......he knew what was expected and what to do.....he also knew what he was going to do.

Duzy hoped she was right...

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Mr. Box 9-18-07


"Thank you, Miss Duzy. I will do my best. When should I begin preparing for the opening?"

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Sweet Violet 9-18-07


After thanking Duzy for seeing her safely to Mr. Moulton's office Emma turned to face her new acquaintance. "Thank you so much for everything you have done for me Mr. Moulton. I know it was of great comfort to Aunt May that you were to take care of everything. She spoke highly of you in the last letters she wrote to me. It seemed to me that she was a long time in preparing all of this."

"Please have a seat Miss Jones. Thank you, yes, your Aunt May seemed to have an unearthly sense that her time here was coming to an end. You were very precious to her. I am only too happy to have lent my services."

Mr. Moulton paused a moment, eyeing Emma as if to weigh her worth, seemed to decide that he liked what he read in her open face, stood up and crossed the room to open a drawer in a cabinet across the nicely arranged room. It was only a moment and he had papers in hand that could only have been Aunt May's last will and testament.

He returned to his brown leather chair and sat down. Clearing his throat he read,

"I, May Graham, being of sound mind, do leave my house, all it holds in it, the apple orchard, barn and all equipment there in, all of the livestock, and the small farm that my beloved Herbert and I so cherished to my niece Emma Jones. In short, the sweet girl gets it all."

A tear rolled down Emma's cheek as she thought of all that this would mean for her future and all of the wonderful memories that she would be living with in the old house. "How can my heart be breaking and rejoicing at the same time?", she wondered silently.

A radiant smile broke across Emma's face as she stood with her hand extended to Mr. Moulton. Mr. Moulton hurridely stood to receive Emma's offered hand. "Thank you so very much for everything Mr. Moulton! You have no idea what this means to me!"

"Believe me Miss Jones, it has been my pleasure!", came his reply.

Emma gathered her reticule and gloves and stood to go. "Please allow me to see you out Miss Jones. Miss Wales should be around shortly with the buggy and Miss McKenna to see you to yournew house."

Emma fairely burst with excitement.

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Charlie MacNeil 9-18-07


Fannie swept into the lobby of the hotel with a flourish, making a grand entrance for all to see. Her smile was bright and her eyes were sparkling. She walked across the room to the desk and told the clerk, "You're best suite, my friend. And don't spare the hot water." She signed the register then stepped back and shouted, in a lady-like manner of course, "Duzy Wales, get out here. Fannie's in town and the party can start!" She laughed loud and long.

The desk clerk stared at her in amazement with his right hand extended, holding a room key. Fannie lifted the key from his hand and turned toward the stairs. Clara stood at the bottom of the staircase, with one hand on the banister and a derisive smirk on her face, watching Fannie. "Why, Fannie Kikinshoot, still making a spectacle of yourself, I see," she said snidely. Instantly the lobby went so silent that the Regulator clock on the wall behind the desk sounded like a freight wagon was coming through the door.

"Why Clara Carlson, as I live and breathe," Fannie said in a humorous tone. "Still peddling your carcass, I see. And aging a little too, it appears. Is that hair color out of a bottle?" Fannie looked at Clara expectantly, and wasn't disappointed.

Clara hissed and drew back her hand with her long-nailed fingers hooked, claw-like, ready to slash at Fannie. A clicking sound was heard and Clara stopped in mid-strike and looked down at the .41 caliber derringer Fannie held in her hand, close to her waist but pointed at Clara's heart. Fannie spoke softly, but there was steel in her voice. "Go ahead, missy. Take your swing. But make peace with your maker first, because I'll blow you out of your bustle after you do. You know me and you know I'm serious. You mess with me and it'll get you seriously hurt." Now it was her turn to smirk at Clara. "I don't know why you're here, but I do know that money is involved, because it always is with you. Just make sure that you stay away from me and mine. Now get out of my way."

Fannie stepped toward the staircase and Clara tried to stand her ground. Fannie could see in her face how desperately Clara wanted to dig her nails into Fannie's tender skin but finally Clara stepped aside. As swiftly as it appeared the derringer vanished and Fannie started up the stairs. On the third step Fannie stopped and turned to look at Clara one more time. "Me and mine, Clara, me and mine." Fannie smiled at the porter who stood there dumbfounded staring at the two women. "Do you need some help with the luggage, sir?" she asked.

"N-n-no, ma'am, I reckon not," the porter stammered. He picked up the two largest valices, one in each hand, and started toward the stairs. Fannie turned and floated up the staircase with a satisfied smile on her face.

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Linn Keller 9-19-07


"With respect, Miz Carlson," I said mildly, "I've been a lawman for longer than you've been on this earth, and that's just over twenty years. I know my town, and I know my people. It does not become an attractive young woman to stand in distress in front of an older man's desk, and I don't feel right sitting down while a lady is standing." I came around from behind my desk, placing a gentling hand on her left shoulder, and drew the chair from against the wall, bringing it in behind her. "Please, have a seat. I would be most pleased to hear everything you have to say."
Clara Carlson swept her skirts under her and sat indelicately, bunching her hands and a great wad of material in her lap. "Sheriff, it was just awful! I only just arrived on the evening train and I'd come into the hotel, and this awful woman starts SCREAMING at me and trying to tear my hair out by its roots, and she shoves this gun in my face and tells me she's going to claw my eyes out if I ever even LOOK at her man again, and I don't know who her man is and I don't even know her!" She produced a lace-edged kerchief and dabbed delicately at the crocodile tears she was trying hard to produce.
I'd seen this kind of thing before.
One disadvantage to having a constable in easy hail, as a British acquaintance had once phrased it, was that petty disputes often landed in the constable's lap before they could settle out and take care of themselves.
Back in Chauncey, I remembered, looking at this painted trollop seated across the desk from me, two women had gotten into it. One was a little hard of hearing. They were discussing corsets -- one thought the other made a catty remark about HER corset -- she countered with a rather cutting remark about the other's unmarried daughter -- and the fight was on.
The two women, still quarreling and by now shoving one another, came storming into the Chauncey village hall at the top of their lungs, snatching at one anothers' hair and batting each other's hands away, and I leaped to my feet and roared "SILENCE!"
In my entire tenure there, no one in the entire village had ever heard me raise my voice.
Not once.
The general effect was to shock them into silence.
I sat one on one side of the room.
I sat the other on the other side of the room.
I locked the front door.
I pulled my chair in front of the one, and in a quiet voice asked her what happened. She began her tirade again, at full volume, and I rose and towered over her and leaned over her, as intimidating as I could, and with my nose to hers, at full wartime bellow, again, "SILENCE!"
Bear in mind I am six foot two and about two hundred pound, and I was standing bent over her.
She was considerably shorter, some lighter, and seated.
She silenced.
I started again.
Gradually, eventually, going from one to the other, and speaking in a quiet voice, I got them to tell me what happened.
I took them back to the very beginning of their conversation.
I found the problem.
I paced back and forth for a bit, gathering my thoughts. By this time they were thoroughly cowed. They'd never seen the loud side of my temper before. Husbands and hangers-on crowded the windows, peering in to watch the spectacle.
I wished for curtains.
Finally I spoke, and addressed them both in a quiet voice.
I told them what had happened: that this was a simple misunderstanding that had gotten out of hand.
I then quoted to them, word for word, what they'd said, and what had been imagined was said, and then the response.
These two had been friends for a very long time, and I was not going to let something stupid come between that. When they left they were no longer at one another's throat, and they made up, in time, and it wasn't long after that I moved on West, but not before I'd acquired the nickname "Solomon."
Now, sitting across from this stranger, I considered what she'd told me.
I drew out a sheet of paper, dipped my pen, began to write.
"What are you doing?" Miz Carlson asked.
"I am taking down your account of the proceedings," I replied. "Please spell your last name for me."
"Don't they teach you to read out here?" she said cattily.
I laid down my pen and said patiently, "Miz Carlson, in my years behind the badge, I have found seven wrong ways to spell 'Smith.' One such misspelling can get a case thrown out of court. I prefer to be accurate in my work. Now please spell your last name."
She did, not entirely comfortable.
"Now please tell me again. This occurred in the general store, at about what time?"
She turned to look at the clock. "It was about ten minutes ago -- no, Sheriff, it was at the foot of the stairs in the hotel, not the general store! Didn't you hear me?"
I did not rise to her bait.
"And are you acquainted with the individual you've described?"
"Yes," she hissed, and her hiss was pure venom. "Her name is Fannie Kikinshoot. She is a red-headed trollop, a collector of men, a woman of loose morals and she cheats at cards!"
I filed each of these categories as possible traits Miz Carlson held. Like the old saying goes, "Point one finger and four are pointing right back at you."
She knows her name, I thought, she knows her habits ... and this is the woman she claimed she didn't know? File that one away too.
"How did the altercation begin?"
Miz Carlson's spine straightened and she fairly bristled with indignation. "I was just leaving and she swept in front of me and accused me of taking her man, she produced a pistol and threatened to blow me out of my brisket if I didn't get out of her way!"
"Describe the pistol."
She hid her face behind her lace trimmed kerchief and pretended to shiver. "Oh, Sheriff, it was awful," she moaned. "It was big and I don't know what kind it was, but it was big!"
"I see." The pen scratched on paper, the sound loud in the quiet office.
"Miz Carlson, can I offer you a drink of water?"
She looked at me like I'd offered her a live snake. "Thank you, no."
I nodded. "Can you describe the individual for me?"
She described Fannie Kikinshoot's attire in remarkable detail, including adjectives I've come to associate with a jealous female making catty remarks about another's wardrobe selection.
I nodded.
"Miz Carlson, I'll need your signature here. I will have this form notarized and we can present it for the territorial judge's action. You will, of course, be testifying in this case."
"Testifying?" She seemed surprised at this turn of events.
"Yes, ma'am. Not only do we teach old lawmen how to read, we even have a legal system."
She dipped the pen in the ink well, nearly spilling it, hurriedly scratched something illegible on the paper and threw the pen down.
"When do you plan to arrest her?" she hissed, anticipation plain in her face, as plain as the lust I'd seen earlier.
"I will take the proper action when my investigation is complete."

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