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Duzy Wales 12-31-07

 

Jake had noticed that Duzy didn't seem to be herself when he looked into her eyes inside the church, although he could tell she was fighting to hide it.
Later, he thought she may have been having premonitions of the bank robbery, and decided to surprise her by meeting with the ladies and having the Silver Jewel ready for a wedding later in the evening. Jake knew his fiancée well enough to know that it wouldn't matter to her if they were married in the church, and after the wedding today, he wished to make her his wife before anything else happened and while her family and their friends were there to attend.

During the gunfight, Jake had caught a glimpse of a pair of Colts that looked familiar. They had been worn by an elderly man who looked familiar as well. But then the man had disappeared before Jake could investigate further, and the bullets had been flying. But whoever the man was, Jake knew had been fighting the bank robbers and protecting the citizens of Firelands. He planned to find the man to thank him and to find out who he was; he felt like the man's name was on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn't place it just yet.

Duzy and he had seen Esther and Linn off along with almost all of the rest of the town, and she had whispered to him that she had something she needed to talk to him about, but then she had told him she had something she needed to do and would meet him later. He couldn't help but wonder what it could be; perhaps the incident with Linn and the stopping of Jacob's blood with the knife and the Word. Whatever it was, it could wait until they were wed and then they would have the rest of their lives to try to understand the gift that she had been given by a power that was beyond their understanding at times.

Duzy was still puzzled about the night in the grave yard and as soon as she and Jake had seen Aunt Esther and Linn off on the train, and had checked in on Jacob, she slipped into the stall with Edith where she had hidden a pair of Jake's Levi's, one of her shirts and her hat and boots. She quickly changed into them then saddled Edith to ride out to the grave yard, thinking she was unnoticed. She hadn't seen Shorty, and figured he was enjoying the party at the Silver Jewel, along with the rest of the town. She led Edith out the back door of the stable and stepped into the saddle and turned toward the graveyard. Behind, a dark figure watched remorsefully for a moment then turned toward the Silver Jewel. He had business to attend to.

Duzy went to the same place she had been drawn to the night before. It occurred to her that it had been the same place that she had heard that Kid Sopris had been found dead, but whose body hadn't been there when the men had returned from the church. She remembered the smell of roses that night, as she had last night in the grave yard, and she had to wonder: could there be a connection between herself and the Reverend?

Whoever this man was who kissed her last night, she felt that she had known him before, but when? Was he real? He had surely felt real, God, she could still feel his kiss on her lips as if his lips were branded on hers, she could still feel his body against hers, and yet she had not seen his face. Duzy looked all around for any evidence that there had even been an encounter and couldn't find any at all.

After returning Edith and changing back into her clothes, Duzy left for the Silver Jewel, hoping to find Fannie for some advice before she saw Jake again. She honestly didn't know what was real and what wasn't at the moment, and she had already told Jake she needed to talk to him.

She stepped into the Silver Jewel and was swept from her feet and into Jake's arms. "Please marry me today, Darlin', let's not wait another evening, another night, I want you now, I love you and I want you to be my wife before this day ends." Duzy let Jake pull her against him as he said the words loud enough for everyone to hear. "Parson Belding is on his way over, and you have never been into church that much, and after the wedding today, I was hoping we could have it right here in the Silver Jewel while all our friends and family are here. I am sure Esther and Linn would forgive us. What do you say, Duzy?"

You could have heard a pin drop, as most everyone was waiting for the answer, and it seemed that they may have been in on the conspiracy with Jake. Bonnie stood with Caleb and the box was in her hand as if to say she was waiting with whatever Duzy needed, her Mama and Papa were smiling, standing with glasses in their hands waiting to cheer, and Fannie stood with Charlie, giving her a nod of approval, even though she knew everything.

Duzy looked around and the Silver Jewel had taken on a transformation. It looked as if the roses had been brought from the church and were placed around an archway on the stage. Miss Messman was at the piano, Fiddler Daine was standing by, as everyone awaited her answer.

"Go ahead and say yes, Auntie Duzy, Twain Dawg and I have the rose petals right here and we get to walk down the stairs before you! Mama, why is she waiting?"

Duzy looked into the eyes of the man she loved, but who she needed some time alone with. A shot was heard and a man fell through the doors of the Silver Jewel...

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Linn Keller 1-1-08

 

The wharf was crowded, as it always was; there were hangers-on and thugs seeking to prey upon the unwary, as there always were.
The sight of a well-dressed couple, preceded and followed by several trunks, was a magnet for the unsavory, at least until they got close enough to see the man's eyes: a hunting hawk had a friendlier gaze, and when he turned his gaze on them like a searchlight, not a few felt a shiver of cold down their back bone. Those that were not discouraged by his look were given pause when he flipped back his coat tail to reveal a Colt's revolver in a custom carved holster.
He had the look of a man who could use it well.
The couple boarded the riverboat, a palace on the water, with its gambling-hall and its grand saloon and evils enough to satisfy any man's lusts, but somehow this couple seemed aloof from the stains of any such, as if they were surrounded by ... what? Something indefinable, something that separated them from the common hungers that plagued the world around them.
The Captain, as was his habit, surveyed those boarding from the balcony surrounding the pilot-house. Something about the couple seized his attention.
A well-dressed couple was nothing unusual; monied men and gamblers, men of means or of importance generally preferred to be seen in the company of a beautiful woman, and this one fit the bill, he thought: he'd never seen her before, but she was a looker, and how! Built like a woman ought to be, modestly yet attractively dressed, and that hair! Irish, if he ever saw it!
But the man ... where did he know him from?
He'd seen him approach the dock, he'd seen his walk ... the walk of a man of supreme confidence ... and he swatted his coat open as a warning.
The Captain's gut told him this man could be a great deal of trouble.
But where do I know him from? he wondered again, just before a deferential voice murmured that they were fueled for the trip, the cargo was secure and all was ready for departure.
The Captain saw the couple disappear under him and made a mental note to find out more about this fellow.
I know him, he thought. I'm certain of it!

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Charlie MacNeil 1-2-08

 

His right-hand Schofield appeared in Charlie's hand. "Everybody down!" he barked in a voice that would have made a parade ground drill sergeant proud. He raced to the doorway and pressed his back against the wall beside the jamb. The Schofield he held, barrel up, alongside his shoulder while he looked down at the recently arrived corpse on the floor at his feet.

The man lying in his face with his feet protruding outside under the batwing doors was of medium build, relatively well-dressed, and exceedingly dead. The hair on the back of his head was parted neatly by the .44 caliber hole Charlie could see there. A wisp of smoke drifted up from the man's cranium and smelled of gunpowder and burnt hair. Whoever had shot him had been right up against the man when he, or she, pulled the trigger.

Charlie heard the faint whisper of boot leather on the boardwalk outside. "Whoever you are, come inside with your hands where I can see 'em!" Charlie ordered. "And I do mean now!" The footsteps outside stopped.

"If you'll come outside, Marshal, I'll explain everything," a soft voice said.

"I might've been born at night, but it sure as hell wasn't last night," Charlie said. "Come inside, now!"

"I'll meet you and Jake at the graveyard in ten minutes," the soft voice answered. The sound of soft footsteps faded in the distance.

Charlie looked over at Jake, who was flattened against the wall on the other side of the doorway. "You heard what he said?" Charlie asked. Jake nodded. "What do you think?"

Jake just looked at Charlie then down at the rapidly cooling body that was making a mess on the Jewel's highly-polished flooring. "I think we need to do what the man said," Jake said. "And I think I may know this gent."

Jake knelt and rolled the dead man over. The man's facial features were somewhat disheveled, but Jake nodded when he saw them. "I do know him, and I've got a suspicion our unseen visitor may have saved my bacon," he said. He looked up at Charlie. "I think we'd better have a serious heart to heart with whoever shot this man." He got to his feet and holstered his pistol. "It looks like the wedding just got postponed for awhile."

"Okay," Charlie said. "You let Duzy know what's going on, and I'll see about getting this mess cleaned up." He raised his voice. "A couple of you men find something to pack this on and get it to Doc's office," he toed the corpse in the side, "and somebody get me a bucket and a mop." He looked around at the crowd. A couple of husky miners detached themselves from the group and disappeared outside. There was the sound of lumber splintering and they came back in with a door. They rolled the corpse onto the door and left the Jewel, headed for Doc Greenlee's office. A bucket and mop appeared as if by magic as the noise level in the room rose from the discussions of the last few minutes happenings.

Charlie reached for the mop and a voice said, "Here, let me. You've probably got more important things to do than that." A feminine hand pulled the mop away and Charlie looked into the eyes of a small brunette. "I'm Carrie Thorne," she said. "I just started here at the Jewel." She held out her hand and Charlie shook it.

"Charlie MacNeil," he said. "I'm much obliged for your help." Carrie just smiled and dipped the mop in the bucket.

Charlie turned toward where he'd last seen Fannie in time to see her slip her pistol back into her reticule. He crossed the room to her and took her arm and pulled her aside. "Jake and I have an appointment at the graveyard," he told Fannie quietly. "Would you find Duzy and see what's go her so upset?"

Fannie stared at him for a minute then said, "You got it, Sugar. I thought maybe I was the only one who noticed. Everybody else was bound and determined that those two should get hitched immediately, if not sooner." She gave him a peck on the cheek. "I don't even want to know why you need to go to the graveyard. But just remember, one man's already been killed from the dark. You just make sure you come back in one piece. I'm not done with you yet." She gave him what he'd come to think of as "The Look" then turned away to find Duzy.

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Linn Keller 1-2-08

 

I'd seen this look in Esther's eyes only once, and its memory was enough to light a fire in my woodbox.
She looked at me that same way now.
The trunks had just been gently deposited in our stateroom -- the best one on the boat! -- I'd tipped the porters, to their delight, and I closed the door quietly after them.
I looked at Esther, and she looked at me, and I turned back to the door.
I turned the key in the lock.
Esther walked over to me, slowly, the walk of a woman who knows her man is watching, the walk of a woman who is coming to her man.
I took her in my arms, and drew her into me.
Warm and solid, she pressed herself against me, molding herself to me.
Esther's hand caressed my ear, then she held the back of my neck, and drew my lips down to hers.
You will understand if I say simply that we were late for supper that night.

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Duzy Wales 1-3-08

 

As the shot was heard and the man fell part way through the door, Jake lowered Duzy to the floor and whispered, “stay down, Duzy, please, until I return to tell you it is safe,” as Jake took the opposite side of the door from Charlie. Sometime later Duzy might think why she hadn’t pulled her derringer, but at the moment she was being assaulted with images and words, one after the other, like a play in her mind.


A man standing against the mercantile, blue eyes, muscular build, a cowboy….no a minister…. sitting by the creek after killing Bert Graves…. his voice…., “Ms. Wales, Whatever is bothering you, place it in the stone at your feet, and cast that stone into the creek delivering your problems to be washed away.”

The image of the lobby of the hotel before it became the Silver Jewel, an envelope, and reward money….more words by the Reverend…. “Fortunes are won and lost based on decisions and actions resulting from those decisions. My advice to you is to live your dream, embrace every ounce of that dream as though it was your last".

The smell of roses, the screech of an owl, and more words….this time her own….”What was so unusual about him....it seemed as if they had known each other a lifetime, or in another lifetime, and yet didn't know each other at all….”

The train….another man…..tall, lean, all dressed in black….her own words….” I feel like whoever is on that train is going to impact my life in some way….. “

“A feeling of impending evil… a need to visit the church, “Why,” she wondered? Could it be the wisdom of this particular Reverend for which she felt the need?”

Blood beating, almost pounding, in her temples, her head ached …get air… hard to breathe… cold fear….panic…consuming her.. .apple brandy….hands shaking……swallows, straight up, to calm her…..to slow down …..the graveyard, blood, the Church, a hooded figure, gold coins, more blood, a rocking chair, iced vanilla coffee, roses, the Reverend in the graveyard… his rocking chair at the Church…..men running, fear….dismay…..shock….sadness… …..evil and goodness, pain and relief, the scales of justice and injustices. Her body moving…..no control….. Running…..someone calling her name…..the Reverend would help her, he had to, he would, she knew he would, he was in his rocking chair, wasn’t he? Or, and then his image was gone…..but he had to be there, she needed him! Why couldn’t she see him anymore? And she started to shake from her insides out until she was trembling all over.

Someone grabbing her…she was unarmed….he was strong and muscular…. wasn’t hurting her….. Then the words….”you will be fine, no one will hurt you….I am here to help you….please, Duzy? He knew her name. His eyes were gentle, he voice was soft, and he was trying to soothe her…..or fool her ….but he held her, pulling her to him and sitting against a tree as he rocked her…..talking softly……everything would be fine…..listen to the owl in the distance, listen to the creek…..and Duzy started to relax…. And then she felt his body, holding her, rocking her, his eyes ….compassion and concern…. green or blue….his hair was dark, worn long enough to curl around his neck and ears… stopped shaking…..felt relaxed in his arms, so strong and yet gentle….in his lap…feel the muscles in his legs, his arms, and his shoulders, as she let go of his hair and put her arms around him, letting him hold her as if it were the most natural thing in the world. And then she kissed him. He started to back away, but he felt so good, she felt so good, she said, “please,” and kissed him again. Jake knew he had to stop her, to stop himself, or he would never be able to! Duzy continued to seek him, as if she were holding on for dear life, needing to be comforted, needing….wanting…..what? What was it she needed so badly at that moment, something she didn’t understand herself, something so primal that she wasn’t even thinking, and she put her lips on his once again? Groaning, he said “God forgive me,” as his lips met hers in a searing kiss that they both felt to the core of their bodies.

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Duzy Wales 1-3-08

 

Aunt Esther and her words….Duzy, it is not that I condone what you did, but I know how your mind can run overtime when these worst premonitions hit! I have watched you run from these images since you were a little girl, Duzy and I am the only one who seems to understand that you have been given a gift….but you have yet to learn that you have to think these things out! You cannot simply act, nor can you run from them, or to them, without putting yourself in danger!

You say he was in the graveyard and then at the Church and then you lost him completely! It seems he was upper most in your images, so he should be able to shed some light on this….the Reverend was missing. She felt a loss, one that she couldn’t understand, but one that ran deep inside her. She knew there was more to this than him leaving in the middle of the night, without a word, expecting no one to find him. She had seen the blood, she had seen the hooded man, the coins, the images, and she was a journalist, and she planned to find out what had happened to Kid Sopris. And then she realized she had not called him Reverend! She hoped she would find him someday.

What surprised her was how hurt she was by Kid Sopris! She realized she was not only hurt, she was angry…..Was it alright to walk off and leave those who believed in you? Feel empty inside? And why did she feel so empty? She had hardly known him after all! Was it because he had been the first "Reverend" whom she had met that made her believe that it was possible that there was something real behind the words? Was it because he was beginning to make her believe that there could be a God that cared about all people, who was compassionate and understanding, and was not there to make you feel like you were sitting in the judgment seat between heaven and hell, that people do make mistakes, and they live and learn, and make their lives better, that He doesn’t create innocent children to bring into an unjust world, young and confused, just to throw in a burning fire for not understanding the many beliefs of the world, and how contradictory they are, and for not understanding the wars that had been fought in the name of religions, and the lives that had been sacrificed in the name of God! Why had she ever started to believe?

DAWG delivered the unsigned Rose pictured, and scented note to Duzy Wales......She was upset, angry and confused...BUT if she believed in anything, she would have to trust something or someone…….

Confidentiality is a funny compromise between reality and fantasy. Integrity of a mission or operation means, some just can't be told...it read it part...."Not all is what it appears; have faith. A REAL pastor is on his way and will arrive any day...Do not lose sight of the dream. I will see you again some day". "God Bless"

“If you think you know me, than you must confide only in your heart.” “Your heart has many questions and only time will allow it to rest……“I watch you and your friends day and night, I know of your safety and will usually be around close even if you don’t see me; but you will feel my presence. Take a deep breath remember this fragrance. May God be with you.”

And just like its appearance, the hooded stranger was gone. What was left behind was a whisper of fragrant rose pedals, screech of an owl, and a whimper from Dawg. She knew that there were protectors in the world that came in many forms…..

Jake Thomas had seen the man standing behind Bonnie and Duzy the day he stepped off the train. Trying not to be noticed by many, he knew that Kid Sopris had seen him and had recognized him. They were two of a kind, some people would say, both worked covertly for the federal government, both had worn many hats, both were there to protect and serve; and, at times that was a hard line to walk…..

Duzy's head jerked upward, as she took another deep breath. She quickly looked all around. "Do you smell that? I smell roses!"

The smell of roses was as strong as the fear it had replaced, and Duzy silently thanked the bearer of such a wonderful sign. It seemed everyone felt more at peace.

"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!"

And Duzy sees a shadow of a vision, sometimes, that leaves her shaking, wishing to be held.....or is it a vision of a shadow? Sometimes it comes so quickly, that she cannot keep up....

The feelings that churned in her body when Jake held her and how she knew, somehow, that he was the right man for her. She was comfortable with him, and yet somewhat shy at the same time; at other times, she would surprise him with her challenging attitude toward life, including her actions toward him. Jake could certainly understand why she worried her Papa at times, thinking of the way she had asked him to hold her for a little while, culminating in the kiss that held both of them spellbound.

Bonnie’s words…."Just do not make any hurried decisions. You will know when the time is right and as long as you are questioning yourself, that time is not yet here."

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Duzy Wales 1-3-08

 

Fannie…. “Anymore dreams last night?" "Yes, there is danger around us." "Well, since when have we been afraid of a little bit of danger?" Fannie replied. "However, we will be careful and watchful for each other."

With each dance, Duzy and Jake, could feel each others body’s heat, the way they looked into each other eyes, and knew that this would be a night they would never forget…..a night of love and trust, a night of lovemaking, the night Duzy lost her innocence to the man who had given up his profession for her, to come back and win her heart, mind and body, with such abandon that neither could believe it afterward! It was complete and utter trust…. heart, body and soul….

Duzy looked up into the eyes of Grandpa Joseph, standing at the bottom of the bed. “Grandpa, is that you?” Duzy asked. “Yes, my dear, I have come to warn you. I have known for years that you have the gift of insight, but please remember this, “not all that you see or hear is true, as there are evil and good spirits, and the evil will try to use your gift against you. Be careful, as they will come in “sheep’s clothing!”

They sat in front of the fire and fed each other with their fingers, playfully, and then Jake carried Duzy to the bed as they undressed each other first with their eyes and then with their fingers until they were intertwined, lost in loving each other, and thankful that they had been given the chance to be together again.

…..but now she was being pulled….just as she had the night she had killed Sarah’s Papa and taken Bonnie from Sam’s Place, the night Reverend Sopris had kept the Sheriff playing poker all night, the night Mr. Wallace had buried the body……her first night in Firelands when they had all become friends.

Only, this time she was being pulled to the graveyard…..thank God Fannie was in town, she would know something was wrong and would find out, covering for her until she did.

The sky turned dark, the clouds were hanging low to the ground. It had all happened at once. It was as if Duzy couldn’t see anything but shadows. And then she felt a sense of peace, calm, and the whiff of roses, and she felt his arms encircle her body, she felt his breath on her neck, his hand reaching and turning her face to his…..only he wore a cloak and she couldn’t see his face or eyes. He touched his lips to hers, he tasted her mouth, and Duzy couldn’t pull away. It was if she had been transformed to a different lifetime….and she knew this man, she loved him, she wanted him and she knew she couldn’t stop….but what about Jake, she thought for a second, as the man’s lips touched hers again with a kiss so deep she felt it to her soul.

Aunt Esther’s words again.…..“Duzy, I have raised you as if you were my own, I know when you are troubled. Now, this is my wedding day and I do not want to walk to Linn troubled, so talk to me, you know whatever it is, we will work it out…….”Duzy looked down, and then back up at the woman who had backed her many times over her dreams and premonitions and told her about the other man, how wonderful he had felt, how she believed it may have happened, and if so, what was she to do or say to Jake.

"I've got your back, Sugar," Fannie whispered.

Someone else…..”Being an Undercover Government Agent, one sometimes losses their own identity. Secretly in and out of character, usually never to return to a community; AND yet he was back, for a short time in Firelands. But not just the town, but where he disappeared………the moments with Duzy...AAhhhh...was it worth the risk…..?

Was the agent Kid? Had she kissed Kid?

Jake, her own dear Jake…..as she knew that she had betrayed his love and her eyes started to mist, ….“A Ghost….a premonition, a past or future lifetime….and she could feel the anticipation of his touch, she wanted him to return…she was torn….“…..I enjoyed every touch, every kiss…..it was as if we had lived and loved before, and it was as natural as the sun rising, and yet I love Jake! God, Fannie, when have I ever loved anyone like I do Jake….he is my world….what is happening? “It’s alright, Sugar, it’s alright….

….The same feeling of peace she had felt in the grave yard the night before. He was there somewhere….A sense of peace….a bond…. a connection so strong that nothing would ever break it….. How he would fit into the rest of her life…. in this lifetime….the weight was heavy….. To control her urges….channel the power of the gift….live her life wondering who he was, what the connection was….if “he” would return….. If she would be drawn to him again…….what she would do if he did?


“Duzy, Duzy, look at me!”

Duzy looked at Fannie standing beside her and came back to reality……

“How are they Fannie, have you heard, how are they?”

“Who are you talking about Duzy?”

“Charlie, Jake and Kid, how are they?”

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Linn Keller 1-4-08

 

Esther woke slowly.
Warm, relaxed, she cuddled up against the warmth of her husband.
She smiled.
Beneath them, slow and powerful, the steam engine toyed with the great paddle wheel; its steady rhythm was a lullaby, and she'd slept well, hearing-but-not-hearing its hot breath sighing through the steam-pipes.
Distantly, as if in a dream, she'd heard the great brazen throat of its deep-toned whistle salute a sleeping town, or perhaps another boat, passing abreast on the starlit water's placid surface.
She knew Linn arranged their passage, and booked the best stateroom aboard; as a woman, she appreciated his efforts, for the room was large, and comfortable, immaculately clean -- spotless! -- and the bed was comfortable, and the bedcovers smelled of sunshine and fresh air.
She flinched a little as her husband's hand trailed lightly up her flank.
"Tickles," she giggled.
Warm, strong arms encircled her and drew her into him, and his lips were delicate, yet demanding, on hers.
Her found her lips were somewhat demanding in reply.
She opened her eyes, a little, and found his too were open, just a little.
"Good morning, Mrs. Keller," he murmured.
"Good morning, Mr. Keller," she replied, and kissed him again.
"I like the sound of that, Mrs. Keller."
She looked up at him, laughter in her eyes. "I do too," she whispered, and her hand rested on the back of his head, and drew him down to her.
He accepted the invitation of her parted lips, and conversation was at an end for a time.

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Lady Leigh 1-4-08

 

Bonnie stood there holding the box with a smile on her face .... but as she stood there looking at her friend, the smile began to fade and her hands began to shake, ever so slightly. Something was amiss .... something was not quite right ..... the silence in the room echoed Bonnie's thoughts.

"Duzy?" Bonnie questioned.

Again, "Duzy? ....."

"Mama? What's the matter?" Even Sarah was questioning the silence.

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Duzy Wales 1-6-08

 

Duzy looked at her friends and realized she had been reliving some of her past and possibly looking into the future and realized that Kid Sopris had never been put to rest in her mind. How much of it was real? What was the connection? Why did she have the feeling that there was a bond there that only she knew? Did Kid have any idea about her thoughts? Was it Kid that she had kissed in the graveyard? Had that been a vision? Or, was it as real as it had felt?

Duzy knew Fannie would want answers and that Bonnie was concerned and had her own thoughts about the visions, but that she didn’t fully understand. Hell, how could she, when she was questioning herself?

Duzy could see her Mama and Papa whispering to each other and knew they would be heading her way with questions she couldn’t answer. “Fannie, Bonnie, please, I need to go upstairs to my room. I need time to think. Please let me know when the men…. when Jake and Charlie return?” Duzy looked at the concern in both their eyes and knew she needed to talk to both of them, but not just yet. First, she had to stop the shaking that was starting inside her body before she worried everyone in the room, especially little Sarah, who was hugging Twain Dawg, and looking at Duzy as if she had a thousand questions in her mind…..and knowing Sarah, she probably did. She couldn’t help but smile at that thought, as she hugged both Bonnie and Fannie, then turned to her parents and whispered that she was going upstairs, but that she was fine and not to worry.

Duzy walked away, trying her best to hold her composure and smile, and then walked to the bar and asked Fred to please have a bottle of tequila sent to her room.

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Mr. Box 1-6-08

 

With all the festivities in full swing we got the happy couple sent off. Everybody had their full attention focused on Miss Duzy waiting for an answer to Jake's proposal when the shot rang out and the man's body fell into the Silver Jewel. The body was removed and cleanup was underway. Charlie was relieved of the mop by a new girl, Carrie, so he and Jake went out in search of the shooter. I got Carrie a clean bucket of water a couple of times and the blood cleaned up very nicely.
The mood was much quieter in the bar after things settled down. Miss Duzy stopped by the bar before going up to her room and asked me to send a bottle of tequila up to her room. "Yes, Miss Duzy, I'll bring it up myself. I should drop one off in my room, too, after all this!"

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Linn Keller 1-6-08

 

The day had been absolutely perfect.
Esther, bless her, was every bit as ... how should I put it? Every bit the slicker I had been, when I "slickered" a new suit into Jacob's room, and surprised him with it?
Esther, bless her heart, had done the same with me: not one new suit, but two, and hats for each ... and a new pair of boots.
She laughed at my expression, and I snatched her up in my arms, and spun her around, and around, and around, there in our grand stateroom, and she threw her head back and laughed, and I set her down and kissed her ...
"You never fail to surprise me," I murmured,
Esther hugged me and laid her ear against my chest. "I hope you can still say that when we're old and gray!"
I laughed, considering the snows already deposited by many winters in my temples. "When we get old, dear, I'll let you know!"
We'd gotten dressed, and gone to the grand saloon; we were received by a liveried waiter and escorted to a linen-covered table. An orchestra played pleasant airs and classical pieces on a stage at one end of the saloon, and crystal chandeliers shivered brightly overhead as we were given choices of ... well, far fancier dishes than I had eaten in a very long time.
A very long time.
Esther, of course, a gracious lady of the old South, was perfectly at home in such surroundings, going so far as to address the waiter in what was probably French. The fellow brightened and they had quite an animated conversation; the fellow nearly had tears in his eyes by the time they were finished, and we were soon served with some of the tenderest beef I've ever eaten, a cream gravy that almost had my taster convinced I'd arrived in Paradise, two kinds of bread -- a salt bread and a sweet bread, and I wasn't sure which one I liked better -- Esther, of course, smiled approvingly at my good appetite, for a woman likes to see her man eat well: she herself ate but sparingly, for a woman wishes to keep her desirable figure, and I could but admire her self-restraint, for the provender was such that I could have eaten three times my normal amount, for the sheer joy of its taste!
We were joined, briefly, by a Montana rancher, then a blue-water sailor who could barely keep his eyes off Esther, at least until he began describing the chase and capture of one of the great whales; he'd made his fortune at sea, he said, but not until after he was smart enough to quit whaling: he and three companions had whaled together, then gone into business together, and in fact were all four on the riverboat. He hooked a thumb at his companions, who were enthusiastically sampling the offerings at the spacious and gleaming bar, along the near wall.
I asked him about the great whales, for though I had heard of them, I'd never laid eyes on one in my brief time on the great salt sea. His eyes were alight and his hands animated as he described the sighting of the great mammal, the alarm -- "She rises!" -- the launching of the whale-boats and laboring at the oars, until they were within striking-distance of the harpoon. He'd never been the harpooner, he admitted, though he had thrown the killing-lance a time or two.
He did not detail the retrieval nor the disassembly of the Leviathan's carcass, he said, as he had no wish to upset "the Lady's" digestion with any such.
Esther smiled pleasantly.
"Would it be similar to gutting a buffalo, or perhaps skinning out an elk? I have done both, you know."
The fellow blinked in surprise. "Ah, ma'am, it's a bit more of a task than that," he admitted.
"Then I am sure my digestion would not be in the least upset. Please, continue, for I find this most interesting."
She then employed the one most effective tactic, when the female of the species wishes to absolutely captivate the male:
She leaned an elbow on the table, she gave him both her great emerald eyes, and she hung on his every word as if it were the most fascinating stuff she'd ever listened to in her life.

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Duzy Wales 1-6-08

 

Duzy heard a knock on the door just minutes after she got to her room. Fred had the bottle of tequila and Duzy’s favorite shot glass on a tray, and he had been thoughtful enough to bring some biscuits and ham from the kitchen. “I thought you might be able to use a bite, Miss Duzy, it has been quite a day!”

“Yes, it has, Fred, thank you so much and please keep me posted if you hear anything I should know. I just need to rest a few minutes and then find Jake.”

Duzy had downed a couple of shots of tequila when the next knock was heard at the door. She felt the tequila start to warm her and calm the shakes. Duzy knew she would find Fannie or Bonnie at the door, as neither of them would leave her, knowing she was upset and confused. They had been through too much together to let that happen, and she felt blessed to have such good friends. She had noticed Emma and Jackson Cooper’s concerned looks as she had left the lobby and felt badly about worrying everyone.

“Come on in, it’s unlocked.”

“How are you Sugar?” Fannie asked.

“I think I made it up just in time to not make a complete fool of myself downstairs, Fannie, I was having visions again, but you know that already. Have you heard anything?”

“No, Charlie and Jake will be up as soon as they get back, but don’t you think we need to talk before Jake gets here?

“Yes, but I am not sure how much good talking will do…..I don’t understand much of it myself, but I do value your opinion. Where’s Bonnie? I know she is worried too and I may as well tell you both at the same time.”

“She is tucking Sarah in, but said she would be here soon. Emma asked about you too, as well as Daisy and Tilly and a few others, but I covered for you. Seems to be a habit by now,” she said smiling, as she kicked off her shoes and crawled on the bed beside Duzy, both of them tossing back a drink as they waited for Bonnie.

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Lady Leigh 1-6-08

 

"Well, Love, what do you think about what transpired downstairs today?" Bonnie had just tucked Sarah into bed and pulled the door in some when Caleb spoke.

"Honestly? I don't have the foggiest idea, Caleb! Something is up ..." Bonnie paused and began to think back on a previous conversation she and Duzy had before Duzy went back east, and Bonnie to Illinois.

"Actually, Caleb, I take back the comment about not having the figgiest idea .... I think I may know a small portion about Duzy's hesitancy today."

Bonnie crossed the room and allowed herself to be embraced in Caleb's wonderful arms. SHe never stopped counting her blessings with this man. His tenderness, compassion and love were special gifts to Bonnie. She couldn't get enough of him, and that was for sure and for certian!

"Caleb? Would you mind if I went to Duzy? I think I need to find out what is going on ..."

"Naturally, Love ...." And with that he tenderly brushed his lips against hers, and then followed her to the door.

"I don't know how long I'll be ...."

With a lusty chuckle, "Don't worry. I'll keep the bed warm for you."

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Charlie MacNeil 1-6-08

 

The night was a study in contrasts. The full moon beamed silver on all the landscape but the night wind sent shadows scampering under the trees and around the buildings. Charlie pulled his jacket tighter and shivered with the feeling of a cold finger tracing a path down his spine.

Charlie had holstered the Schofield. He had a feeling that the pistol would be unnecessary during the coming conversation. Beside him Jake did the same with his Colt.

"Are you sure about this, Charlie?" Jake asked quietly.

"The only thing I'm sure of is that we don't have a choice but to go to the graveyard," Charlie answered just as quietly. "Other than that all bets are off." He shivered again. "Damn, that breeze keeps sending chills up my back."

"Mine too," Jake said.

At the cemetery the two men split up and went toward the Tree from different sides. Charlie slipped up to the edge of the swale the Tree stood in and peered through the high, frost-faded grass on the rim of the bank.

A cloud slid across the face of the moon and its shadow darkened the floor of the draw for a moment then the silver moonlight once again lit the bare branches of the Tree and the Stone that stood at its foot. A shadow now stood where only empty ground had been. "Come on down, Marshal MacNeil," the same quiet voice said, just loud enough to be heard over the rustling of the grass and shrubs. "We need to talk."

"Yes we do," Charlie replied without moving. "We need to talk about murder, and we need to talk about..."

"There was no murder," the figure said sharply. Then the tone of the voice lightened. "Consider it defense of the innocent."

Jake chuckled from behind the shadowy figure and the man flinched. "I don't know how innocent I am, but I know for sure I'd have been dead if not for you. That man you shot had a gun in his hand." He stepped out beside the shadow. "The only question I have now is, why do you care if I get shot in the back or not?"

Charlie slid down the bank into the draw. "I'd kind of like to know that myself," he said.

"I care because I care about Duzy Wales," the figure said. "I am now going to take off my cowl and I don't want to get shot, so please refrain from doing so."

"Go ahead," Jake said. "I don't generally shoot any man without a good reason. Although Duzy might be such."

The figure reached up and pushed the cloth cowl from his head and now it was Charlie's turn to flinch. "Well I'll be damned!" he said. "I thought you were gone for good!"

Kid Sopris chuckled and held out his hand. "How are you, Charlie? And how's my old pard Dawg?"

Charlie shook the proffered hand. "Jake, this is..."

"We know each other, Charlie," Jake interrupted. "How are you, Kid? And why all the mystery?"

"Old habits are hard to break, I guess," Kid said. "I kind of like the mystery man image."

"And now back to my original question," Charlie said. "Why'd you shoot that gent?"

"Because he was about to kill Jake, and I want Jake alive," Kid said. "Not only do I have a job for him, but Duzy needs him, whether she realizes it or not."

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Duzy Wales 1-7-08

 

Bonnie arrived a few minutes later and soon all three ladies were on the bed discussing the thoughts and images that had gone through Duzy’s mind. It was one of the rare and precious times that women share, a total trust in each other, sometimes serious, sometimes a riot, but always getting back around to business and helping their friends.

Fannie and Duzy both delighted in feeling the tiny kicks of Bonnie’s unborn baby. They talked of how beautiful Aunt Esther had been and how Fannie’s career had taken off, but how much she missed Charlie when they weren’t together. Bonnie could only sing Caleb’s praises and both Duzy and Fannie couldn’t help but kid her about it, leaving Bonnie flushing slightly, making her look even more beautiful.

“Duzy, did you ever have any feelings like you described about Kid Sopris when he was in town?” Bonnie asked.

Duzy thought back at how handsome she had thought him to be, as had most of the women in town, the self assured attitude, the hurt and anger she had felt when he had left, the feeling of calmness that he seemed to give her…..

“No Fannie, I didn’t feel the urge to kiss him or have him hold me that way….not then….”

“Perhaps the images you are seeing are you and Jake in the future at sometime…you do love him, don’t you Sugar?” Fannie had asked, looking into her friends eyes.

“Yes, I love him, which is why this is so confusing, do you really think that I could be thinking about Kid for some other reason and the cloaked man is Jake in the future?”

“I think you have been through so much lately that you may not be seeing things as clearly as you have in the past. I know Jake loves you; the man is walking on air, and since you feel you need to talk to him, tell him everything and see what he thinks. I think he is strong enough to deal with whatever you are feeling, as God knows, he will need to be!”

“Fannie!” Bonnie and Duzy both exclaimed and then all three starting laughing, knowing that it was a true statement, and knew that was one of the things they loved about Fannie, how direct she was in confronting everything that came her way.

“I think Fannie may be right Duzy, I know how amazing your insight is, I will never forget how you came to Sarah’s and my rescue, so he will need to know exactly what he is getting himself into.”

“Oh, I really feel so much better now, after talking to you two!” Duzy said with a hint of sarcasm in her voice, but only in teasing, when they heard another knock at the door.

Fannie was closest to the door, and after picking up her derringer, and checking herself in the mirror, she cracked the door open and looked outside, turned to look back at Bonnie and Duzy with a slightly surprised look, and then opened the door.

Both ladies had taken the time to be sitting on the edge of the bed, looking much more dignified than they just had, as Jake entered the room and announced, “Duzy Darlin’, you won’t believe who is in town and who just saved my life!”

Duzy waited with anticipation, and then almost gasped, as Kid Sopris followed him inside, with Charlie stepping in behind Kid.

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Linn Keller 1-7-08

 

The riverboat's main deck was crowded with firewood, cargo and humanity; passengers who sought the least expensive transportation slept on the open deck, taking their meals from the dining room if they could afford it, from saddlebags or traveler's wallets if not.
The river was the highway of its day, and a main route at that: folk of every stripe traveled the broad, flat expanse of the Mississippi, and one could rub shoulders with men of many colors, nationalities, languages or accents: the Sheriff, knowing this, escorted his lovely, green-eyed bride with the jeweled locket for a walk on the less crowded upper deck.
The poet said "Love is blind" and indeed it may be, but the Sheriff did not allow his newly-married state blind him to his surroundings: indeed, Esther chided him gently, as he steered her around a knot of rough-looking fellows, keeping one hand ready to throw aside his coat-tail to clear his holstered Colt, "Darling, we have little to fear on the river."
The Sheriff drew them back, allowing the quarreling, shoving knot of unwashed humanity to pass unimpeded; his back was to a wall, Esther's left was sheltered by a stack of cotton bales, and his right, by neatly-stacked cordwood. He waited until the group was well past and smiled. "Of course, dearest," he murmured, careful not to name three faces he'd seen on wanted posters and one he personally knew bore a grudge against him. When last they'd crossed paths he was much younger, and clean-shaven; older now, well-dressed and with the most beautiful of women on his arm, he was satisfied he'd not been recognized: indeed, the passing eyes had strayed but little from Esther's trim waist, and her feminine figure.
They probably never even saw her eyes, he thought. Her cameo, maybe, but not her eyes.
They continued their after-meal walk onto the large fantail overlooking the paddle wheel.
Esther put a hand to her lips, awed by the size of the wheel, the power of its labor against the broad, smooth surface of the Father of Waters.
The Sheriff drew her a little to the side, so they could see the huge pitman-arm that drove the wheel. It was noisy, it was loud, and suddenly it was more so: the steam-calliope struck a loud chord, a fanfare.
They turned and looked up at the calliope-player. Dressed like a circus acrobat, all sequins and skin-tight leotard, with great feathered plumes in her hair, she smiled and waved, as if to a great, cheering crowd; there were return hails from all around the deck, and the lower deck as well, for this was part of the daily entertainment, and part of the riverboat's advertisement, for they also put on mistrel shows and stage performances while docked, and the steam-calliope could be heard from a great distance.
The Sheriff took off his hat, and waved it at the shimmering performer standing and waving at the massive keyboard, and Esther clapped her hands and laughed with delight.
The young woman -- betwen her costume and her rouge it was hard to gauge her real age -- blew the Sheriff a kiss, and a mischevious wink to Esther, and seated herself.
Now a steam-calliope is no easy instrument to play: its keys operate levers, the levers turn valves, and the valves are easily turned with but little steam-pressure behind them, but as the pressure increases, the valves become equally hard to open, and require more and more pressure on the keys to operate them: with the boat at full working pressure, steamed up and under way, the calliope was at its most difficult.
The Sheriff knew this, for he knew many things, and he watched with admiration as the sparkling young woman coaxed a lively "Pretty Redwing" out of the gleaming brass tubes.
The Sheriff's eyes were never still, and not until he had scanned the upper deck several times did he turn to his lovely bride, and beg her pardon, as coffee he'd taken at dinner had a certain affect upon him, and he would be right back.
Esther's fan snapped open and she fluttered it delicately, for though the air was chill, it was a ladylike thing to do, and she felt very much the lady: married to a fine-looking man worthy of the name, aboard a floating palace, being serenaded in the sunny but cool of the early winter afternoon ...
Esther's hand tightened around her fan, and it snapped shut; gripping it in both hands, she felt the rail press against the back of her thighs.
One of the dirty-looking fellows who'd passed them earlier was approaching, slowly, hesitantly, looking around; not seeing the Sheriff, he smiled grimly, and she could see his teeth were an unattractive shade of ... well, their lack of proper care was apparent.
"Now what's a pretty lady with such a lovely cameo doing all alone?" he sneered, swaggering.
Esther stood relaxed, her eyes half-lidded.
If she had been a cat her tail would have stopped switching and would be still, all but its tip.
The tough reached for her cameo, as if to snatch it from a terrified woman's throat.
Esther still gripped her fan: she pulled, and a slim, very sharp blade emerged, and cut a long, shallow incision in the man's forearm, opening him bloodily from wrist to elbow with one stroke.
He yelled, his grab disrupted, but his hand caught Esther between the collar bones and overbalanced her, and she went backwards over the rail.
The Sheriff had just rounded the corner when Esther's blade flashed in the latening sunlight.
The Sheriff swatted his coat tail back and lengthened his stride.
There was a movement on his right.
Turning, he drove the muzzle of his Colt into the belly of the man with an upraised stick of firewood, and the concussion of 40 grains of powder was muffled as a lead slug big as your thumb drove up through the attacker's diaphragm and out his spine.
The Sheriff turned in time to see the soles of Esther's feet as she went over the side.
The Captain was not oblivious to this. He'd been looking back from high high perch, standing on the walkway surrounding his wheelhouse. He'd insisted on this design change: he wanted to be able to see as much as possible, and his walk was wider than standard.
He saw the attack on the well-dressed woman with the Irish-red hair, and saw her go over.
He jerked open the door to the wheelhouse. His mate released the wheel and stepped back, for he'd only seen the Captain move quickly once before, and the matter had been most urgent. Apparently, he thought, it was again.
He was right.
The Captain seized the wheel and stepped hard on one of two shining brass pedals sticking up from the floor, then in rapid succession he reached for shining brass rings and pull-handles at the end of various lanyards: he pulled one hard, three times, and the great, two-ton bell on the foredeck tolled, loudly, its note penetrating the very bowels of the boat: All hands stand by for emergency, this is no drill! was its message.
Another lanyard, pulled hard, twice, rang a large gong in the engine room, and brought the entire engine crew to attention, and the engineer to the speaking-tube.
The Captain stomped on the pedal again, and the engineer threw open a small window, looking out at the shoreline: with shouts and with valves, he halted the great paddle-wheel, then restarted it, dead slow, just enough to hold station against the current.
The Captain had hired him because he was the best on the river, and by God, he was going to make sure the boat drifted not a foot in the current!

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Linn Keller 1-7-08

 

The Sheriff advanced on the bleeding tough.
Shocked, clutching his bleeding arm, he saw his fellow sprawled dead on the deck and death in a well-tailored suit approaching him wearing a broad Stetson and winter-ice eyes.
He backed up against the rail, frozen.
The Sheriff seized him by his shirt front and buffaloed him over the head with his revolver, then holstering the Colt, he swung over the railing.
Gripping the uprights, he let himself down, swung once and landed on the lower deck.
The crowd on the lower deck was standing, looking out on the river; they knew something had happened -- there had been a shout, a pained yell, a shot; something, or someone, had landed in the water and disappeared.
There were three who responded, rather than gawked.
Three men from Nantucket, whalers and seamen, had seized a skiff and were making ready to put it over the side.
The Sheriff spotted a saddle, and on its horn, a plaited leather riata. Sprinting, he ignored the pain in his ankle, for his landing on the hard deck had not been quite what he'd wanted; snatching up the lariat, he seized the side of the skiff, and leaped to its bow.
"ROW, LADS!" the whaler in the red knit cap roared. "ROW FOR THE PRIZE! HARD ASTERN NOW! HAUL, DAMN YOUR SOULS!"
The Sheriff stood, shaking the lariat out in his hands. He found the loop, examined the honda and smiled. Whoever made this, he thought, knew what he was doing. Texas, I'll wager.
"HAUL, DAMN YOUR EYES! ROW, AND PUT YOUR BACKS INTO IT!"
The Sheriff scanned the water's surface, probing the slatted wake with his eyes.

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Linn Keller 1-7-08

 

Esther was a lady worthy of the name.
Raised in the Carolinas, given a young lady's proper education, schooled in gentility and in the courtesies and customs of the Old South, she was equally at home on the frontier, or in a ballroom; sharing a simple meal with a rancher, or a feast with a Prince of the Blood.
Esther was also the daughter of an outdoorsman, and sister to several brothers, all of whom taught her, whether didactically or by life's example, valuable lessons that every girl should know. Other lessons she had picked up on her own. A few, she had purchased, from instructors in formal classroom settings, and one of them was the womanly art of knife fighting.
Esther was seldom without a blade, though she kept them carefully, discreetly hidden. She could handle a rapier like a master; her long sleeves kept her forearms' musculature hidden, but her wrists were like iron, and she kept them that way with frequent practice. She did not expect to use a rapier except in training, or perhaps as entertainment, but she knew the skills she learned with the long blade were easily translated to other forms of edged-weapons combat.
When she drew the slender, sharp blade from her fan, she attacked with both: blocking with the folded fan, she sliced the arm exactly where, and how, she intended to: she knew where the great vessels ran in a man's forearm, and had made an anatomical study on the most effective first strike on a reaching arm.
Her blade had gone deep and just grazed bone, exactly as she intended; the blade had run out just ahead of the elbow, exactly as she'd intended.
The one thing she hadn't done as she intended was deflect the man's other hand far enough to keep from being stiff-armed.
Esther, like most intelligent women, tended to think very quickly. As she went over the railing she knew the lower deck was under her. She also knew she would probably hit the deck head first, or at best, shoulder first.
Hit the water, she thought, and grasped the railing left-handed as she went over, flipping her legs as she passed vertical.
It worked, but not by much.
She hit the water face first, her finger tips grazing the edge of the deck, and drew herself into a ball, locking her throat shut to keep what little air she had left. She heard the hammering of the paddle wheel near, too near, but it hurt too much to move, so she stayed balled tight, letting the river carry her away from the wheel.
The boat is moving upstream and I am floating down, she thought, and uncoiled, letting herself float toward the surface.
She spread her arms, and opened her eyes, and saw light ...
A baby?
She heard a child, she distinctly heard a child ...
She put such things from her mind.
Air, she thought. Fight to the surface!
Spreading her legs under her billowing petticoats, thrusting both arms upward, she swam out of the river's depths.

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Linn Keller 1-7-08

 

I was as near to panic as I'd ever been.
I don't recall feeling so panicky since my first skirmish, back during the War, when I was young and skinny and green as spring grass.
I scanned the broad, flat wake with desperation, my breath tight in my throat, my guts turning to water.
The rowboat, with four oars thrusting against the muddy water, shot us across the surface at a surprising speed. I wished for a saddle, for I can rope a gnat from a saddle, but standing, in a boat?
The whalers' ahoy went up: "She rises!"
I looked, saw the pointing arm. "She's two points off the port bow! She rises!"
I snapped my head around.
The riata was a living thing in my hands.
The loop opened up, circling just above my Stetson, well above the water, and it grew, and reared its head like a snake, and the boat came about, and I saw her.
Esther's head broke water, and she threw it back and forth, coughing the river out of her nose, and the boat bore straight for her, and surged under us, and every man's heart was in his work.
"Closer!" I roared. "Get me closer!"
King Neptune himself never heard such oaths as the Nantucket whalers vented, shouts of defiance as they strained on the oars, for they had seen Esther there in the grand saloon, and now saw her in the muddy Mississippi, and not a man among us was willing to let her slip into the freshwater gods' grasp as prize and payment for passage.
The loop sang out over the water of its own accord, hissing like a dry snake, and dropped neatly over Esther's upraised arm; she clamped down hard on it, and I pulled gently, enough to close the loop.
You're mine, I thought, resisting the urge to haul her in by main strength.
I kept a steady tension, and she seized the plaited riata with both hands. I coiled the lariat as we drew closer, never slacking the line, keeping her coming toward us as we approached her.
The Nantucket men brought us alongside, bow-on to her, and I dropped the last coils and reached down and seized her under the arms; I used her buoyancy to start her up out of the water, and once she was started I was not about to let her stop.
Esther shot out of the water like a cork and we fell back into strong and willing hands.
The whaler in the red knit cap seized Esther from behind, running his arm across her stomach; bending her forward, he broke her over his arm, her head just over the gunnel, and she coughed and choked and threw up a distended stomach full of water: her hands came down and seized the gunnel and she coughed some more, and a cheer went up from the steamboat, her great brazen whistle howling in triumph, and the calliope striking a cheery air.
The Nantucket men had us back alongside, and the Captain himself welcomed her back aboard his boat.
Esther had regained her composure: no woman wants to be seen bent over and throwing up a gallon of river-water, and Esther acted as if she were the Queen, receiving her just due as she set foot once more upon the wooden deck.
I tossed the coiled riata back onto the Texas saddle, still not knowing to whom I owed thanks.
Scooping Esther up in my arms, I made for our cabin, though the crowd pressed closely about, congratulating and rejoicing and pounding me on the back.
At the foot of the stairs I turned.
The Captain was on our heels, and I raised my chin to him, for with my arms full of Esther, I could not raise my hand in summons.
"Captain," I said, "whatever the Nantucket men want, for the rest of the voyage, they may have, and I will stand good for it."
The Captain nodded. "Your money is no good aboard this boat, sir," he replied with a knowing twinkle, "for you saved my father's life and mine back during the War, and this is the first I've been able to find you. As for the Nantucket men" -- he turned and clapped a hand on the broad-shouldered whaler with the red cap -- "this is my uncle, and my guest!"
We were escorted to our stateroom by two white-coated porters, and Esther's bath was being drawn as we arrived, and glad she was for it: she shuddered as I got her out of her soaking gown, and came near to taking my knife to the lacing on her corset, for the enormity of what had happened was settling in, and my fingers turned to rubber, and Esther put my hands aside with a gentle push and made removing her garments seem an easy thing.
Even as a married man I would have been reluctant to so completely disrobe a woman, but my sensibilities had been sundered by this near loss of my greatest love, and I was content to kneel at the head of her tub, and to dipper water over her great shining mane, and to work the scented soaps into her hair, and to rinse them out.
It wasn't until Esther was completely bathed, and scrubbed, and rinsed, and dried off, not until I had her in a flannel sleeping-gown and safely in bed, and me laid down beside her, that the reaction hit her.
Esther is a strong woman, but she is a woman, and now that all was well, and she was safe, and warm, and clean, and dry, only then did she allow herself to begin to shake, and to cry, and as she shivered in my arms and clung to me like a frightened child, I do not mind admitting my own eyes were damp.
Esther held me as if never to let go, and I held her the same.

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Duzy Wales 1-8-08

 

Duzy stood and went to Jake, as he pulled her close and she kissed him, so thankful that he and Charlie were unhurt and alive, and also happy that Kid was back in Firelands, although it made her wonder even more if she had actually been with him in the graveyard. He was here after all! She looked at her fiancée’s tall figure, muscled and tanned from working outdoors, and her heart first felt joy and then some apprehension about confiding to him her thoughts about the dashingly handsome man standing behind him, looking every bit as calm and collected as ever.

Flushing slightly, or maybe even more than a little, Duzy then turned and looked at Kid. Before she could speak, he reached for her left hand, and as her engagement ring sparkled, he kissed her hand and said, “It’s nice to see you again Duzy! It looks like congratulations are in order, I am happy for you and Jake.”

Duzy looked into his blue eyes, searching for any clue that he had been with her in the graveyard, hoping he would give her a sign of some sort, to help her sort through her thoughts. His smile was genuine, he was the perfect gentleman, and he didn’t give Duzy any indication of what he was thinking or that he had seen her since he had left Firelands, months before.

“It is a pleasure to see you again, Kid, and thank you for saving Jake’s life tonight!”
Duzy’s hand felt warm and she flushed again as she realized she had not removed her hand from his. “I think you know everyone here, except my friend, Miss Fannie Kikinshoot, Fannie this is Kid Sopris.”


Kid and Fannie both smiled and then hugged, as everyone in the room looked slightly surprised, even Charlie, as Fannie turned and said, “Did I not mention that we have met before, Duzy? He came to one of my performances in San Francisco and we had dinner together that evening.”

“Fannie, you are looking as beautiful as you did that night! Kid replied.

Kid then turned to Bonnie and the two greeted affectionately, as Bonnie remembered him as being the Reverend who had stood up for her the first time she had attended church, and it ran through her mind that she hoped that Duzy had been confused about her vision and that it was Jake who would be kissing Duzy in the graveyard sometime in the future.

It was not that Kid wasn’t just as handsome or that she thought that Jake would have been the better man for Duzy, but because Duzy and Jake were already engaged and had been happy before the vision. It did seem odd to her that Duzy had thought it was Kid and now he was in town, but perhaps that was all it was, that she had envisioned Kid’s return to Firelands, intertwined with her feelings of love for Jake, and the fact that he could have been killed without Kid being there.

Duzy was still questioning herself as her eyes went from Jake to Kid.....

Would she ever know?

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Charlie MacNeil 1-9-08

 

"So how long have you been in town, Kid?" Charlie asked. He had seen the way Duzy was looking at Kid, and wanted to see if he could allay her fears somehow.

"I came in on the evening train just before I had to shoot that man," Kid replied. "In fact, I was just headed for the Jewel to see about a room when I saw him pull his gun."

Charlie looked at Duzy from the corner of his eye and saw the wave of what he thought was relief wash across her eyes. "So where have you been? Washington?" Charlie went on.

"Among other places," Kid replied. "I was in Charleston a few days ago." He gave Jake a serious look. "And speaking of Washington, I've got a proposition for Jake here. That is if it fits with his plans for the future."

"What kind of proposition?" Jake asked. He kept his arm around Duzy, unwilling to let her stray far from his side. Charlie wasn't the only one who had seen the look on Duzy's face when the three men came into the room.

"I'm here to offer you a job," Kid said.

"I'm listening," Jake said noncommittally. He paused and waited for Kid to go on.

"I've been authorized to offer you a job like Charlie's," Kid said. "You'll be a federal marshal, but you won't have a specific station or territory. You'll go where you're needed."

Duzy looked up at Jake then over at Kid. "Will he have to travel much?" she asked. "We have plans here, you know."

"That will depend on the lawless element in the area, I supposed," Kid said.

Jake looked him straight in the eye. "No," he said quietly. Kid was startled. "I want to get married, and have a family. And I can't do that if I'm never home." He pulled Duzy closer. "This woman is more important to me than arresting horse thieves. I won't leave her." He closed his mouth and looked down at Duzy.

"Jake," Duzy said, "before you burn all of your bridges, we need to talk." She looked at the rest. "If you all will excuse us, I need to talk to Jake." Everyone there looked at each other, then at Duzy, and all and sundry left the room.

Duzy sat down on the bed and patted the bedspread beside her. "Sit down here, Jake. I have some things I need to say to you."

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Duzy Wales 1-12-08

 

Duzy felt a tightness in her chest and a lump in her throat as she watched Jake cross the room to join her on the bed, that self assured walk that she loved, slow and yet deadly, if the occasion arose.

She couldn't help but wonder….when she told Jake about the incident in the graveyard, would she lose him forever?

“I know something is bothering you Darlin’, I sensed it downstairs, and I saw it in your face earlier tonight, and after you had everyone else leave, it makes it more clear, talk to me, tell me what is bothering you.”

Duzy wrung her hands, and as Jake took them into his he could feel the slight shakiness that was running though her body, clear to her hands, and he could only imagine what was on her mind, as he had thought of everything he could think of and couldn't come up with an answer.


“Jake, I have to tell you something, I need to unburden myself, as I do not understand myself what it is all about, but it is something I had to share with you before I could answer your proposal. You remember the night I was running…running into town, half dressed, confused, and yet feeling like something was happening that made me need to be there.”

Jake remembered the night clearly, as it was the night he had fallen in love with the dark haired beauty beside him, she being the reason he had resigned his position and had returned to Firelands.

“Yes, Darlin’, I remember. You were having visions, just as you were the night you rescued Sarah and Bonnie, that you told me about later….you felt as if you were being pulled.” Have you had another vision that is bothering you?”

“Yes….only this time, things are so unclear….it happened before Aunt Esther’s and Uncle Linn’s wedding….but I felt pulled to the graveyard; and Jake, I think that I did go…I asked Aunt Esther if I had left the ladies and she said yes, I also found where I had cleaned some dust from the gown I was wearing that night….but what I do not understand is what happened next.” A big tear rolled down the side of Duzy’s face and Jake knew that whatever had happened had caused quite a bit of turmoil for the woman he loved with all his heart.

“Jake, the sky got dark, the clouds were low, and there was a man in a cloak and I….Jake I kissed him and he kissed me….and I am so sorry, and, I don't know how to tell you this except just to say it….I thought of you, but I still kissed him, even though I don't know who he was….but the worst part of it is….I wanted him to kiss me! I wanted him to hold me! I am so sorry, but you have to know, as I do not know who he was or whether it was a vision….but I do know it felt real and I don't know what would happen if I felt it again!”

As another tear rolled down Duzy’s face, Jake couldn't help but think of the encounter in the graveyard, just an hour or so before, when he and Charlie had met Kid in the graveyard, hooded, and hiding his identity, but Kid had said he had just gotten into town directly before the shooting. Jake believed him, even though he had said he was in town because he cared about Duzy and had offered him a job that could keep him away for days at a time, and he didn't know that they were engaged when the encounter had occurred, but he didn't think of Kid Sopris as being a man that would lie to him.

“Duzy, Darlin’, look at me.” Duzy looked into Jake’s eyes, as he said, “you have been given a gift of insight that is amazing and you saved my life because of it, as you have helped many others with your gift. You have been through so much, the train robbery, almost losing your life, the excitement of the wedding, Daisy and Tilly both in labor or having already given birth, the bank robbery, Jacob being hurt, my impromptu proposal, and all while you were trying to understand the visions you have had since before we returned to Firelands.”

“This is what I want you to know, Darlin’, take this to your heart and hold it there forever. I trust you, I trust our love, we will work through whatever comes, and we will work through it together if you will do this old lawman a favor and let me help you, by becoming my wife. I am not willing to give you up for any vision or encounter that may have taken place. I want you to put this behind you. I only ask that you come to me if you have these feelings again, and I will help you, I will be by your side, and, if there is such a man, then I will be with you and we will get through it together. It may be that you were envisioning the meeting tonight with Charlie, Kid and me, intertwined with the love that you feel for me, and the danger that I was in.”

“Are you sure, Jake, after all that I told you….that you can trust me to do the right thing? I do love you, but I don't understand the connection with this man?”

“I am sure. Now, let me help get you unlaced and into bed. Let me show you how much I do love you Duzy!” Your demons will be my demons, your triumphs, my triumphs, and we will face them together, but I have never wanted anything or anyone in my life more than I want you. I love you, Darlin’! The past is behind us and whatever the future holds, we will face it together.”


“Oh Jake, thank you, I do love you so!”

The sun was breaking when Duzy and Jake fell asleep in each other’s arms.

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Linn Keller 1-13-08

 

I don't know much about river boats.
Oh, they're big, they're grand, they are palaces on the water; they eat wood and belch smoke and hiss steam and they thrash their brightly painted paddlewheels against the water and move the entire mass upstream and down, but as far as the running of them ... well, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and I know just enough about such matters to get myself in trouble.
Fortunately, the Captain has matters well in hand: so much so that, once Esther's wet, muddy garments hit the floor, and I got her into that nice hot tub of water (that was ready by the time I carried her to our stateroom), the clothes disappeared, all but certain items of hardware, like Duzy's pepperbox, and a small selection of blades I'd never seen and have no idea where she'd secreted them about her person; we docked that evening, and a light tap on the door by a liveried footman brought a summons from the Captain: our presence was requested at his table that evening, for dinner.
Esther has never failed to amaze me with the speed with which she can go from absolutely unprepared, to ready to step on stage if need be. Me, I am a man, and men are simple creatures; if I have my hat, my boots and my gun-belt, I am dressed; but women, elegant and lovely creatures that they are, have a more refined sense of style.
Invisible folk had philtered into our stateroom while we were abed; my suit had been shaken out, brushed out; my boots polished, my hat divested of what very little dust had accumulated: the floor had been scrubbed, fresh rugs laid, all with a swiftness and silence that would lead one to believe that either mythical fairies, or the Wee Folk, or outright magic, had been employed.
We were quickly enough dressed, and escorted to the Grand Saloon, where the Captain stood to receive us: Esther's appearance was met with a fanfare from the orchestra, with cheers, and with applause: the Nantucket whalers saluted us with brimming glasses, having already begun their seamen's celebration, and we were seated with the Captain and a chosen few, while the orchestra played classical airs and waltzes.

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Duzy Wales 1-15-08

 

Duzy awoke with Jake stroking her face and as he watched her eyes open, and gave him a sleepy smile, he leaned down and kissed her. “How are you this morning, Darlin’?” he asked. “Wonderful….looks like it is good that Charlie is making the first rounds around Firelands this morning.”

“Care for some coffee or breakfast?”

I would love vanilla coffee? Duzy answered, enjoying the attention, without the conflicts of the visions. He had said the past was the past…..

“Be right back.”

Jake stepped out of the room and met Kid Sopris in the hallway. “Mornin’ Kid, you going down for breakfast?”

“Looking for you actually, Jake, we need to talk.”

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Linn Keller 1-15-08

 

The Captain was a bluff and jovial sort, the kind of a man who enjoyed a social setting, especially with an attentive audience; he liked the sound of his own voice, and I for one was content to listen.
Never did learn much with my own mouth a-goin'.
Esther, of course, well knew the secret of successful women: she fixed those big, lovely eyes on him and hung on his every word as if it was the most utterly fascinating thing she'd ever heard. I've seen women do this before: even if the man was the most utterly boring and uninteresting sort, if a woman can give him the attention of those eyes, and act like she is utterly enthralled with what he's saying, he will come away saying "She is the most delightful conversationalist!" or words to that effect.
My attention wandered: I am not a trusting man, and I had not the advantage of a wall to my back, so my eyes were busy: unfortunately, I had not eyes in the back of my head, and when I saw a porter's eyes widen in alarm, it was too late: the nudge of a gun barrel against the back of my neck, and the triple-click of a revolver coming to full cock, guaranteed my stillness, at least until I had an opening.
The Captain was on his feet, his color rising: "Here now! What's this? Who do you think you are, coming on my boat like this!"
"Sheriff's deputy," came a sneering voice in reply,and Esther stood gracefully and began to flow around the table toward the speaker.
"I am Captain of this vessel, and I am in charge here!" the Captain bellowed, and the barrel pressed more firmly against the back of my neck.
I was beginning to get annoyed at this turn of events.
"Gentlemen," Esther said gently, "I am sure there is some mistake here."
"Ain't no mistake, lady," the voice said, "and you kin just step back or I'll take you in irons my own self to the jail, and you won't like it one little bit neither!"
The Captain started around the table, his face darkening with rage. "Nobody comes on my boat and gives orders!" he roared, and there was the sound of a second hammer coming to full cock.
"Don't move," a cold female voice commanded, and I realized with some surprise it was Esther, and the barrel shivered once against the back of my neck.
"Step back and holster, and slowly, if you please," Esther commanded, and there was an edge to her voice.
The barrel was jerked from my neck.
I spun out of my chair, swatting my coat open and coming up with a handful of Colonel Colt's justice.
Esther ducked.
I jammed my own muzzle into ... well, let's say my thrust was both un-gentle, and ungentlemanly, and the net result was to double the fellow over. Esther helped him down with a well-placed kick to the back of his knee, and the Captain produced a slung shot from his coat and belted the ersatz lawman behind the ear, hard.
I thought of the drowned pepperbox, still in our stateroom, water-soaked and useless; I'd had no chance to draw the charges and re-load the little pistol.
I looked at Esther, puzzled, and she smiled at my confusion.
She held up a candle, liberated from an adjacent table.
She'd used its unlighted end to press against the fellow's ribs, to make him think she, too, was armed.

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Duzy Wales 1-17-08

 

Duzy was just rising up from the bed when she heard a crash through her window, the one with the view from the back of the Silver Jewel, as Duzy had designed her suite for a place to write and have more privacy. Duzy reached for her Colt, dropping to the floor as glass splintered into the room. Reaching out, she picked up a rock with a note attached:

WARNING
STOP WRITING!


Jake and Kid both burst into the room, guns pulled, and Jake reached for the paper Duzy was holding. His normally good natured countenance changed into a look of fury as he read the paper. Kid had scanned the outside of the building, and then turned; his blue eyes almost a smoky grey, his jaw twitching as he reached for the paper.

Jake had gotten Duzy to her feet and was inspecting her face and body for any cuts from the flying glass when Kid said, "Duzy, are you hurt?"

“No, I am fine, thank you, Kid!”

“I need to talk to both of you it seems.”

“Duzy, at least one of the articles you have written has made you a target. These men feel that you are a threat to their enterprise…the article getting this attention is the one you wrote on the slave trade of young Asian women into the brothels. This is one of the reasons I am in Firelands. I had thought if I gave Jake more jurisdictions, on a federal level, he could help you with this.”

Kid looked at Jake and Jake looked back at Kid, both sensing the other's anger and protectiveness, when Jake said, “I appreciate the offer, Kid, but I am staying by her side. I will protect her! And, what I cannot do from here, Charlie and you can handle, can you not?"

What neither of the men noticed was the determined look on Duzy face as she thought of herself getting fired from the newspaper office because she was a woman and a journalist, and how she planned to never let anyone stand in her way again, not now, not a second time, not ever!

Duzy looked at both men and said. "I will not quit writing, let them come and bring hell with them! I will be more prepared the next time!"

"It's time to talk to Charlie," Kid stated.

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Linn Keller 1-18-08

 

The Captain descended the stairway from his wheelhouse with the springy step of youth: he’d considered walking with a slow dignity, as would befit a judge, but decided this would probably aggravate his knee worse than it already aggravated him this morning, and that a swift descent would be, if not less painful, at least not painful quite as long.
The prisoners had been brought up from below and stood, in irons, near the foredeck of the riverboat. Passengers and crew crowded about to watch the scene: all knew the Captain’s word was law aboard his boat, and all knew the significance of convening a Captain’s Mast.
Nobody missed the significance of two nooses of thirteen turns, swinging gently in the light morning breeze, each from its own pulley; the other end of each line wound round the drum of a steam-winch, which hissed quietly in the stillness, its miniature cumulus dissipating quickly out over the water.
The boat was at station-keeping, the great, gaily-painted paddle wheel turning just enough to hold them against the slow current. The engineer and a minimum crew were on station for this duty: everyone else, from cooks to porters, deckhands to barkeeps, thronged the railing overlooking the foredeck, or stood ranked on the stairways, or craned to see over the heads of their fellows on deck.
The crowd parted as the prisoners were presented to the foredeck.
“Captain’s Mast is now in session,” the Captain announced in a stentorian voice, to which the thief with the bandaged arm protested “See here, I demand a real court!” -- his protest ended in the abrupt rush of air from his lugs, for the knotted fist of a deck hand had driven into the man’s middle, driving the wind out of him. Gagging, the prisoner bent double and sank to his knees.
“Richard Eisley,” the Captain intoned solemnly, “you stand charged with attempted murder, attempted theft, and conspiracy to commit both theft and murder. How do you plead?”
The kneeling man was still trying to get his breath; he extended his manacled hands toward the Captain, shaking his head.
The Captain’s eyes were hard and unforgiving.
“Mrs. Keller, please come forward and tell the Mast your recollection of events.”
Esther, seated on a velvet-upholstered chair brought from the grand saloon for the occasion, stood, hands folded delicately on her lap, a closed fan in her grip.
“My husband and I were on the fantail, overlooking the paddle wheel,” Esther said, her words carrying clearly on the still morning air. “My husband excused himself for a moment and I stood alone, overlooking the river.”
Esther looked at her attacker. His arm was neatly bandaged; his sleeve was loose and pulled up over the bandage, as if its appearance could somehow plead leniency.
“That man” -- she pointed -- “in the company of another, did attempt to club my returning husband, and to steal the cameo I now wear, which is a wedding-present from my dear husband.” She looked at the Sheriff, her expression almost sad. “He was obliged to kill the man who tried to kill him, while that man” -- again her accusing finger rose to point to the prisoner -- “that man said he was going to take my cameo.”
Esther paused, taking a breath and swallowing. She looked at the Captain.
“Please continue,” he said gently.
“I am a swordswoman, and have studied under Sicilian fencing masters, back in my home of South Carolina,” Esther said, raising her fan with both hands. “I am seldom without good Damascus steel in one form or another.” She unsheathed the slender blade concealed in her fan, held it up. “He reached for my throat. I parried with my closed fan, but parrying the light weight of a stiff blade is easier than parrying a man’s arm; my attempt at knocking his arm aside was unsuccessful, and I was obliged to employ this blade.” She turned it in her fingers; light reflected from its mirror-polished surface. “Unfortunately, so eager was his reach, that he caught me here” -- she pressed her hand to the base of her throat, between the collar-bones -- “and pushed me over the railing. I seized the railing on the way over and pushed off, hoping to land in the river rather than headfirst on the deck beneath.”
“And you were successful, as I recall.”
“Yes, Captain, I was, and I have a crew of Nantucket whalers to thank for my rescue, and my dear husband, and quite probably a Texas cowboy who was kind enough to allow my husband the use of a lariat for that purpose.”
The Captain nodded, pacing a little.
“Mrs. Keller, have you anything to add?”

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Lady Leigh 1-18-08

 

"Good Lord, Caleb! What was that?"

Bonnie and Caleb were startled awake with the noise of broken glass coming from somewhere close by in the Silver Jewel. Caleb scrambled into a pair of pants and threw a shirt over his head. Bonnie quickly pushed her arms into the sleeves of her robe, and together they flew out the door of their rooms and fled down the hall. They saw Kid and Jake burst through Duzy's door, and as Bonnie and Caleb approached, Caleb held his arm out across Bonnie to hold her back from entering.

Caleb glanced into the room to see broken shards of glass laying on the floor, while Jake and Kid were seeing to Duzy. Caleb pulled his arm away from Bonnie, and Bonnie rushed in.

"Duzy! Duzy, are you alright?!"

"Yes, by damned I am fine!" an exasperated Duzy spoke. Duzy picked up a brick with a note attached, "and I will not give up writing ..... no one, is going to stand in my way! Not this time they aren't!"

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Linn Keller 1-18-08

 

“Mrs. Keller, have you anything to add?”
“No, Captain,” Esther replied, sliding the blade back into its sheath in the fan’s body. Snapping the fan open, she began to wave it, quickly, delicately. “I believe that completes my testimony.”
“The prisoner will stand.” The Captain’s hands were clasped behind his back and he turned to face the bandaged fellow. “I won’t have a man on his knees when he’s on trial. Please keep your feet.”
“This is a kangaroo court!” the prisoner shouted defiantly. “I want a real court and I want a lawyer and I want a real judge --”
The sight of a cocked fist was sufficient to gain his silence.
“Sheriff Keller, would you step forward and give your testimony, please?”
The Sheriff murmured politely as he slipped between his fellow passengers, and strode to the foredeck. Esther raised her hand as he approached; he took her hand and, raising it to his lips, kissed it, delicately; then stepping behind her, he slid the chair forward, and she sat, regal as a queen.
“Yes, Captain,” the Sheriff said.
“Sheriff?” the prisoner squeaked.
“Bring the other prisoner forward also,” the Sheriff beckoned, gesturing, and a second man in irons was brought forward.
“My name is Linn Keller. I am Sheriff of Firelands, Colorado.”
The bandaged prisoner sank to his knees with a groan; the other turned rather pale.
The Sheriff addressed himself to the second prisoner. “Unlike you, sir, I am genuinely a law enforcement officer, and it took but brief inquiry to determine that you are not. You will be dealt with soon enough.” The Sheriff turned and looked at the now-kneeling prisoner, quaking on the deck. “Your companion tried to club me. A blow to the head can kill, and I had no choice but to stop him.” He opened his coat to show the twin Colts in their carved holsters. “You may have heard of me.”
There were murmurs in the crowd: “By God, it is him!” and “The Firelands raid!” and “ -- a snake with a Colt!”
The Sheriff glanced at his wife. She was clearly listening to the comments, and smiled, just a little, at the hearing of them.
“I saw you shove my wife overboard,” the Sheriff declared, again facing the prisoner, “and I saw her defend against your murderous attack with the only weapon she had available. It is by God’s grace that she draws breath this fine morning, for you, sir, attempted to murder her by shoving her over the railing to the deck below, or into the waters to drown.”
“All I wanted was the cameo,” he whined. “If she’d just give me what I wanted nobody woulda got hurt!”
“Then you confess your crime!”
Miserable, the crook nodded; his expression was one of utter defeat: his face looked close to tears, his shoulders slumped, his body sagged as if he were about to pronate himself on the deck.
The Captain nodded. He pointed to the second man in irons.
“Bring that man forward,” he said sternly, and the prisoner was seized by hard and willing hands and thrust into the open foredeck.
“You put a gun to my guest’s neck,” the Captain said quietly, “you cocked your pistol, you tried to club this fine and lovely woman with said pistol, and you claimed quite falsely to be a Sheriff’s deputy. What have you to say for yourself?”
“This is a kangaroo court!” he shouted. “I am a deputy! I demand to see a real judge!”
“You are a murderer, sir, and I find you GUILTY!” the Captain roared, his face darkening with fury. “I sentence you both to hang by the neck until you are both DEAD!”
“You can’t do that!” they two chorused. In another situation the discordance of their voices would have been amusing; here, it was evidently desperation.
“I am the Captain of this boat,” he said quietly, menace thick in his voice, “and my word is law on board my boat. No authority save God Almighty reigns over me, and I will not tolerate murder, nor attempted murder, on board!” He seized the first prisoner by the shirt front and hauled him easily to his feet.
The Captain wore a fine coat, and tailored trousers, and shined shoes, and he wore a wool cap that declared his rank, and his status, as did riverboat-captains all up and down the great waters; unlike too many, though, he had never lost the hard muscle of honest labor, and as a young man had worked the docks and the decks, and knew what it was to hoist and carry.
He found it no great effort to bring this fellow to his feet.
The man’s legs were paralyzed with the knowledge of what was forthcoming: his locomotion was not necessary, as the Captain dragged him easily across the deck, raised his feet clear, then set them down and stood him under the first noose.
He dropped the twisted hemp around the man’s neck, turned it so the knot was just behind the left ear, and tightened it down.
“No,” the other prisoner moaned, tensing in his captors’ hands; “No … no, no, NO!” He turned and ran, thrusting through the crowd, shoving with his manacled hands, until several legs tripped him up and several passengers and crew landed on top of him, holding him down with their sheer mass as he panicked and flailed and fought beneath them.
He was hauled to his feet, still fighting, and half-dragged, half-carried to the waiting hemp.
The Captain turned and reached for the noose.
With a final scream the man tore himself loose from his captors and leaped over the low railing, into the water.

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Duzy Wales 1-18-08

 

Duzy was so angry she could have eaten nails and spit out tacks, and then she almost laughed at herself for thinking that way! For the life of her, she couldn’t remember where she had heard that particular phrase!

And then, Bonnie was reaching for her, asking if she was alright and before she even thought about putting her feelings in lady like terms, Duzy told Bonnie just how she felt, deep in her gut. Bonnie understood immediately, as her own eyes hardened in defiance, and then she felt the same protectiveness toward Duzy as any best friend would. She reached for Duzy and they held each other tight and then looked into each other’s eyes…..it was the same connection they had felt the night they met….a bond that defied logic, but was there nevertheless.

“Does Fannie know? Bonnie asked.

“No, not yet, but there will be hell to pay when she does….”

“Don’t you worry Duzy, I will talk to Caleb….I think we need to stay awhile if we can work it out, and I think we can.” Just at that moment, Bonnie’s baby moved and she reached for Duzy’s hand and held it on her stomach. Nothing could have taken the anger away any quicker than that touch, nor given Duzy and Bonnie the strength that they would need, as they thought of the world they would be leaving for the generations to come, especially for women!

All this happened in a matter of minutes, but all three men stood watching with admiration in their eyes.....

 

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Mr. Box 1-18-08

 

I was just about to step out back when I heard glass breaking. As I came out the door I just caught a glimpse of someone running around the corner. I looked around to see what happened and finally saw Miss Duzy's window broken out. It was chilly enough out that I could see my breath. I'm going to have to look around and find a pane of glass to fit that window quick! I hope the merchantile has some. I hope I can figure out how to make that fit.

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Linn Keller 1-19-08

 

The Widow Garisson looked out of her Mercantile window. There'd been some excitement -- she missed just what it was -- but Mr. Baxter and Jacob were looking at a broken second-story window.
My goodness, Jacob's not even wearing his hat! she thought. He'll catch his death of the live-forevers!
She watched the two point, and talk, and she could guess the nature of their conversation; she frowned, a memory tugging at her, then she turned to her painfully-neat roll top desk, and to the ledger, and paged back a little bit, running her finger down the neat lines of her late husband's entries.
Here it is, she thought, and smiled.
When they'd rebuilt the Jewel here recently, WJ had wisely recommended a standard size window, that would take a standard size pane.
She closed the ledger and drew down the cover of the roll top desk. It ran smoothly, quietly, just as it had for WJ.
We just happen to have that size glass in stock, she thought, and for a moment, for just a moment, she smelled WJ, smelled his Indian tobacco and whiskey and lamp oil that seemed to surround him like a faint cloud.
She drew her shawl about her shoulders and bit her bottom lip.
"Just not the same without you, WJ," she said softly, caressing the back of the chair, remembering how he used to sit there, smiling as he made his neat entries ...

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Mr. Box 1-19-08

 

"Thank you, Mam, this will make the job much easier. I don't know anything about cutting this stuff. I just hope I can get it put in without breaking it!”

 

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Charlie MacNeil 1-20-08

 

 Charlie was sitting in his room with only a dim light scattering shadows across the furniture. The connecting door between his room and Fannie's was closed and he could hear the sound of splashing water from the bathtub that he'd seen sitting in the center of her room when he closed the door. Normally he would have offered to scrub her back but tonight he needed to think.

Charlie had been in the ranks of the Marshal's service for more years than he cared to count. The first time he'd even contemplated pinning on a star was when he had become ranch segundo, horse breaker, and general back-watcher for a covey of the prettiest female star packers in the land. It was there that he'd met Fannie. But after a few years she had given up law enforcement for the gaslights and entertainment of the stage while he had been recruited by a long-time friend who was retiring from marshaling.

Because of their varying schedules, the budding romance between Fannie and Charlie had changed to what it was today. Looking back, there had been some good times and some special times, but Charlie had to wonder what life would have been like if they had been together all along instead of just whenever their paths happened to cross. He chuckled wryly to himself. "More than likely would have been at each other's throats," he murmured. Then he sobered as the thought crossed his mind that Fannie might have ended up a hostage to his cooperation in his own death. He'd been threatened enough times by those he'd drug off to prison.

Now Charlie was old enough, and battered enough, that he was starting to think about settling down. Not to raise a family, he knew he was too old for that. Why, by the time the kid got out of short pants, Charlie would be damn near sixty, and that was too old as far as he was concerned. But it might be nice to get off the trail and to come home to the same house every night. He had goodly chunk of money put by and a small place of his own, and he could pick up some odd jobs working cattle, gunsmithing, and such, so he figured he could live pretty well. But he was tired of being alone. The question was, could the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with settle down too?

The thunder of boots on the hall floor and the rumble of outraged voices, including Duzy's, jolted Charlie out of his reverie. A gun appeared in his hand and in two long steps he had the door open and was looking out into the hall. Down the hall Duzy's door was open and he could hear Duzy talking to someone. Caleb was standing in the hall looking into the room and Charlie went to him. "What happened?" he demanded.

Caleb filled him on what the excitement was about and Charlie holstered his gun and waited for Kid and Jake to come out. There were enough bodies in the room already.

Behind them another door opened and Charlie spun to see who it was. Fannie stepped out into the hall wrapped in a sheet and with a gun in her own hand. One shapely leg stuck out through an opening in the sheet and dripped water on the floor. A blob of soap bubbles was stuck to her chin. Now it was her turn to demand, "What happened? I heard your door slam against the wall and heard you go thundering by."

Charlie told her the story as he'd gotten it from Caleb and finished with, "Don't you think your putting a lot of merchandise on display, Darlin'? And you've got suds on your chin." Fannie reddened and whipped back into her room to appear a couple of minutes later with a velvet robe securely belted around her. She went past Charlie and Caleb and into Duzy's room.

Charlie looked at Caleb. "The troops have arrived and have the situation firmly in hand. What do you say you and I get out of the way until we're needed, and go have a drink?"

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