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Charlie MacNeil, SASS #48580

Firelands-The Beginning

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Linn Keller 8-6-07

 

The Lord looks after fools and children, and in my lifetime I have been both.
Fortunately, tonight, I was not terribly foolish, and Sarah was child enough for us all, bless her.
It had been a very long time since I regarded the world through the eyes of a child. I took a few peeks, tonight, in between helpings of what was without any doubt a'tall some of the best food I have ever eaten!
There are cooks who learn their craft; there are cooks who are God-gifted with an artisanship in that area, and there are a few, a truly few, who have both. Some make their way to the best restaurants in Europe. I had eaten at one such, but only one; over the years I have eaten from many tables. Without any doubt at all, this was the absolute best I'd ever had.
The Chinese have a saying: "Hunger makes the best sauce." I came in with an appetite, but had I arrived full as a tick I would have still eaten a full meal -- it was that good!
My attention wandered, as it will with a comfortably full belly and good company. Reverend Sopris was saying little and listening much -- the mark of a wise man indeed! -- poor Tillie came in looking terrified, but was relaxed now; she'd eaten but little, and her thin hands weren't trembling like they had been. She tried to hide it, but I saw the Reverend's eyes catch it, then he looked at me and saw I'd noticed too.
The Reverend is a deep one. I wouldn't want to play poker against him.
Esther was in her element. She had a natural presence that ran the meal like a ... well, like a pocket watch: smooth running, well regulated, highly organized. I'd be willing to bet she had a background in business, and would be willing to bet good money that the business, whatever it had been, was profitable -- thanks to her.
My ear twitched when Bonnie began telling a little of herself. She was clearly uncomfortable, and when she started hesitating in her speech, when she spoke of her mother's death and the bank's foreclosure on their boarding house, I saw her hands close, tightly; Aunt Esther's hands, too, closed, and I could tell this was a source of considerable discomfort.
"Esther?" I asked quietly. "Now that you're out here, have you plans for your future? You strike me as someone who maps her way before journeying, and I've no doubt you have something in mind."
Esther looked quickly at me, a little surprised, but pleased. I felt my ears turning red. It is very much unlike me to speak so boldly to a woman, even when a guest at her table, but I had done it, and I was just bustin' to share some of my own plans, but I hadn't much of anyone left these last couple of years I could confide in and so generally held my own counsel.
I was surprised at her answer, and delighted, and considered my options.
There was a knock at the door.
Reverend Sopris and I were on our feet, silent, ready.
We looked at each other, nodded.
I headed for the door, silent on the painfully-clean plank floor; the Reverend, too, moved with me, equally stealthy. His coat was unbuttoned, as was mine.
The Reverend was behind the door.
We exchanged glances, another nod.
I opened the door.
It was Lightning's boy with a slip in his hand. "Message for you, Mr. Keller," he grinned.
A quick scan behind him and I was satisfied he was alone. "Come on in, son." He stepped in, sniffing appreciatively at the good smells. Aunt Esther was immediately on her feet with a smile and an extra plate she'd conjured from somewhere. She knew the way to a man's heart, and a boy's, and the lad was happily devouring a big slice of apple pie as I read the telegram.
I showed the telegram to Reverend Sopris. He whistled quietly, raised one eyebrow.
"Congratulations," he murmured. "What'll you do now?"
"Send a reply," I grinned, and began printing a reply for the lad to take back to Lightning.
The lad walked on two hollow legs and soon devoured the large slice of pie. I sent him on his way with a coin for his troubles, and one for Lightning.
We returned to our seats.
"Good news?" Esther asked. Miz Duzy picked delicately at her dessert; Tillie, poor thing, had her hands clenched in her lap.
"Yes, ma'am," I smiled. I saw no harm in letting them know. "The B&O back home wants to buy my railroad."
"You've got a railroad?" Sarah said with wide eyes and an innocent expression.
"Yes, ma'am, the Zig Zag and Wobble, better known as the Z&W. Coal mines are doing so well back home, and we're doing so well hauling coal for the mines, we've been made quite a good offer. I just sent Lightning a long reply." I could not help grinning. "The reply was, 'Sell!'"
"Why, that's wonderful," Esther exclaimed. "What ever will you do now?"
"First I think I will have another slice of pie, if there's any left, and some more of that excellent coffee. I've never had it with vanilla before, but it's quite good!"
Miz Bonnie's ears flamed red, her cheeks pinked beautifully, and her gaze dropped to her plate. I saw she was biting her lip. Bless her for being modest, I thought, she was giving us a special treat with this fancy coffee! Must have been a very long time since she'd received a compliment, by the look of her response... on the other hand I have trouble reading women.
Sure hope I didn't hurt her feelings!

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Lady Leigh 8-6-07

 

"Thank God it's just a little boy!" Bonnie whispered to Tilly.

"What do ya mean?"

"Well, so far this is the first time I have been around Mr. Keller, when someone wasn't getting teeth knocked out, or shot. Look at Sarah! She looks just a tiny bit disappointed!" and Bonnie chuckled.

The timing couldn't have been more perfect. Seeing a literal bounce in Mr. Kellers step after reading the telegram the little guy brought over, a new subject could be conversed, and she could, once again, put the past in the past.

Talking to herself, Bonnie commented, "see- there is always more that what meets the eye." A Rail road!? Who would have thought something like this?! And if Bonnie wasn't mistaken, she saw gold on that odd bag he carried into the Merchantile. What an interesting man!


Bonnie also thought how kind he always was with Sarah, too. Never being one to baby talk to a child herself, Bonnie greatly appreciated how Mr. Keller visited with Sarah as if he valued her little ramblings of discussion.

Bonnie wanted to laugh with the compliment on the vanilla in the coffee. Rev. Sopris may not have frequented Sams Place, but he was spoken about often. One silly conversation she over heard once was, "well--- maybe if'n ya put vanilla in a cupa' coffee, that Preacher just might see his way inta here. Then ole Sam there could start lacin' that coffe with the good stuff! Then we could see what Man o Cloth he really is!"

Now Bonnie had no intentions of maliciously lacing anybody's coffee with, 'the good stuff', but it just seemed like the thing to do for tonights evening coffee. One small way to maybe show Rev Sopris he is appreciated, though he hadn't mentioned the coffee himself, he was drinking a fair amount of it just the same.

All of a sudden she remembered the little story her Papa told her about him putting cayanne pepper into he brother, Colin's drink once, Papa laughed so loud and so hard, "Aye, but I canae say I was sorry! He would nae listen, and he had a wee brain. Aye, I dinnae like that laddie! An me bein here tis his proof he dinnae like me!"

"Aw, Papa .."

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William A.A. Wallace 8-6-07

 

Having had an excellent hunting trip, game being plentiful in the area, Bigfoot returned to town and met the pretty young woman that he had come to find out was going to try and get a newpaper going in the new town. After exchanging pleantries, Miss Wales offered to have him over to dinner that evening. Wallace nodded his head and said he'd try to make it. Not being the overtly "social" type, Wallace decided to forego the dinner invitation and go to the Saloon and see what bits of information he could find out about the town and the folks in it. Whisky seemed to bring out the "loose tongues" in folk, which is why Wallace rarely ever took a drink for other than "medicinal purposes".

Sitting in a darkened corner of the Saloon, Wallace overheard Sam, the proprietor, discussing the events of the day with a rather unsavory fellow. Another reason not to like Saloons and the type that frequented them, although much useful information could be gleaned if you kept a sober head and listened intently. Wallace overheard the proprietor, Sam, state that Miss Wales ws causing him problems by getting a few of his "prized women of the evening" to leave his establishment for greener pastures. His tone and the evil look in his slightly glazed eyes made Wallace's hair on the back of his head start to tingle. Knowing this to be a sign of imminent danger, Wallace arose and left the Saloon to find Miss Wales and give her fair warning.

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William A.A. Wallace 8-6-07

 

Leaving the Saloon and taking the back alleys to Miss Wales new home, Wallace heard sounds of gaiety emerging from the household. Glancing in one of the windows, he noticed that several of the folks he'd met in the past few days were in attendance. Spyin the Preacher, Wallace knew this was the time and place to warn Miss Wales. Moving quietly for such a large man in his moccasined feet, Wallace approached the door with a little apprehension and gave three distinct knocks from without. A moment later, Miss Wales opened the door with the Preacher right behind her. Wallace glanced inside and took note of the other folks that were inside. Miss Wales said "Why Mr. Wallace, we were wondering if you'd make it. Come on in and enjoy the festivities." Wallace took a step back and said, "Miss Wales, I'd rather not intrude...could you and the Preacher please come out on the porch? I have something to tell you..."

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Linn Keller 8-6-07

 

Miz Duzy had gone to the door. Reverend Sopris, with all the clatter and fuss of a passing ghost, was behind and beside her, I was a little more to the side -- no sense in letting the caller see everyone -- five knocks, I thought: someone worried, some urgent matter; from their vigor, a man's knock, not the light rapid tap of Lightning's boy, and not the delicate rap of a lady's knuckles.
Miz Duzy and the good Reverend recognized the caller; they went outside, closed the door. All was well. I returned to my seat, and easily resumed the conversation.
I had unconciously leaned towards Esther -- with a little surprise I realized I was thinking of her as Esther, and not Miz Esther -- I shook myself mentally and tried to reestablish a formal distance in my thinking, but it didn't work -- anyway, she had leaned toward me and she was asking some incisive questions about the investment I'd made that ended up as controlling shareholder of the railroad, and what had I planned now that I'd sold the investment. To my surprise -- well, I wasn't so much surprised at her, but at myself -- Esther was proving herself to be an astute sort, as I had originally thought, and she told me she'd understood attorney Slade to have steadily lost clientele, with a sudden drop in business since the Sheriff arranged to import another lawyer, and how Slade had been obliged to part with his own controlling interest in the local railroad to raise funds for his own debts.
I blinked. A memory fell into place.
Lightning had commented on my earlier telegrams, when negotiations were in their early stages and I was frequenting his office, sometimes twice a day. He mentioned some other stockholders, by name, and suggested they might be interested in selling.
I did a quick calculation.
"Mr. Keller?"
Esther's eyes were amused as she called me back to the here and now.
"I'm sorry, I ... I had an idea. My apologies. What was your question again?"

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Charlie MacNeil 8-6-07

 

Charlie slipped into Sam's and stepped sideways to put his back against the wall until his eyes adjusted to the dim light. Even though the light outside had faded into dusk, inside the saloon it was like stepping into a cellar. Only a few smoky, badly trimmed lamps gave any kind of illumination.

When he could see again Charlie eased up to the end of the bar, turned his back against the wall there, and leaned his left elbow on the polished mahogany. With his right hand he tipped his hat back off his forehead. He looked around the room, taking inventory of the occupants, and noticed a big, man-shaped shadow in the far corner of the room. The shadow sat not far from where two men were deep in what appeared to be a less than congenial conversation.

"What'll it be, stranger?" A man in a soiled, once white apron came up to Charlie. One eye was pulled half shut by what appeared to be an old knife scar and the man was missing the ends of two fingers on his left hand.

"Beer, if it's cold," Charlie said. The man nodded and drew him a beer and slid it down the bar. Charlie picked it up in his left hand, which action did not go unnoticed by either the bartender or the big man in the shadows. He took a long drink and set the mug down on the bar then wiped the foam from his mustache. The beer was indeed cold, which was kind of a surprise.

"Got anything to eat here?" Charlie asked next. It had been a damn long time since the stale biscuits and coffee he'd had at daybreak this morning.

"Chili beans and cornbread'll cost you two bits," the bartender said. "But you can eat all you want."

"I guess how much I want will depend on how good it is, won't it?" Charlie asked with a chuckle. "Bring it on. My belly decided long since that my throat's been cut. And draw me another beer while you're at it, if you don't mind."

"Made the chili myself," the bartender said. He went through a door behind the bar and came back in a couple of minutes with a steaming bowl of beans and beef swimming in red pepper sauce and a plate of cornbread. While he was gone, Charlie had been unobtrusively watching the big man over yonder.

The bartender set the bowl and plate on the bar in front of Charlie and brought a soup spoon out of a pocket of his apron and wiped it on the bar towel that hung at his waist.

"I take it I ain't the only one to come in here and eat tonight," Charlie said. He paused then said with a grin, "Either that or this place don't make enough money to afford more than one spoon."

The bartender grinned back and said, "The boss don't believe in keeping a lot of overhead, ya know?" He drew Charlie a second beer and took away the first empty mug. Charlie dug into his food with a will.

Outside, it was dark, and the bartender lit a few more lamps, but the room didn't brighten appreciably. The two men at the other end of the bar ended their conversation and the bigger, mangier looking of the two went behind the bar and began to rearrange the glasses there. The better-dressed one pushed his way out the door. Charlie followed him out with his eyes.

A slight breeze stirred the dust on the floor and Charlie looked toward the far end of the room in time to see a door that had been hidden until more lamps were lit slip silently shut. The big man in the corner had gone. Oh well, it was none of his business. He was just passing through on his way to Wyoming and his family. Or so he thought.

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Duzy Wales 8-6-07

 

Duzy was having a great time, watching the interaction with her guests, learning a little more about each of them, with each sentence, each look, and each body movement. As a journalist, she had learned to listen and watch carefully, taking in every detail in order to write a factual story, and yet one that was interesting, informative, sensitive to a point, and yet having the accountability that a person should have, knowing that they were responsible for what they entered into print.

When the second knock occurred, she hoped that Mr. Wallace had indeed decided to come for dinner, as there was plenty of food left and she wished to get to know him better! She quickly went to the door to open it, realizing that Reverend Sopris and Mr. Keller were not far behind her. After all, Mr. Wallace, had come to her aid in a time of real distress, and she hadn’t had the chance to thank him. It came as a surprise when he asked her and the Reverend to step outside, hoping that his good deed had not gotten him or anyone into any trouble.

Mr. Wallace was a man of few words and quickly warned Duzy and the Reverend of the talk that was being spread around Sam’s Place, with Mr. Wallace putting it as delicately as he could and yet get his point across. Duzy was beginning to think more of him each time they met, as she knew him to be a good man, a no nonsense type, who spoke the truth, and yet had a gentle side that came through by his actions. She could sense both his and Reverend Sopris’ anger, although it didn’t show outwardly.


Duzy, on the other hand, could feel the rage that started in the core of her body, spreading out to each nerve ending, causing her to become visibly shaken. This reaction seemed to worry both Mr. Wallace and Reverend Sopris; with both of them assuring her not to worry and that she would be safe. Duzy accepted and appreciated their words of comfort; however, she hoped they could not tell how angry and hurt she really was, as they had only been kind to her, and had no idea what was running through her head at the moment! She could just imagine how Sam and Mr. Higgins had been talking! She had heard and seen how they treated Bonnie and Tilly, and it sickened her that they were openly talking about her in such a way, just as it had when they had treated Bonnie and Tilly with such disrespect, as if women were nothing….just to be used as property that they could buy, sell or treat anyway they wished. They were also two of the men who had destroyed her chance at running the newspaper office in Firelands, causing her to begin to make plans that she hoped would bring them to their knees!

Duzy had lived a protected life, and had been very fortunate, so all this hatred and bigotry was new to her. Oh, she had been ridiculed for not getting married young, and having a family, at the old age of twenty two, here and especially in the South, but she had taken that in stride, knowing that she wanted more out of life. She had a burning streak inside her soul that gave her the ambition to try to make changes, that would help the world she lived in, and to someday pass it on to the generations to come, hoping that someday, she could sit and tell the stories to her own grandchildren!

Duzy caught Mr. Wallace by surprise, and gave him a hug, from her heart, thanking him for coming, thanking him for how he had already helped Bonnie, Sarah, Tilly and herself by his selfless actions! She then asked him to come inside and join the party, as she hoped they would become friends for life, just as she did her other “family” and guests tonight.

Mr. Wallace couldn’t turn down the invitation she gave him, as she looked up at him with her brown eyes challenging him with a pretty smile, with the odor of apple pie and coffee in the air. “Perhaps I can stay for just a few minutes, Miz. Duzy,” he said, as they started to turn and go inside. Reverend Sopris stopped, causing Duzy to turn, as he looked her straight in the eyes and said, “Whatever you are feeling, think it through carefully, and whatever you decide, do it with all of your heart!” Duzy couldn’t help but wonder if he had any idea what she was thinking, as most preacher’s she had known, would have judged her on the spot, thinking her thoughts were vindictive and unladylike, telling her that she should repent for such thoughts, as they were unnatural for a woman, and that it was a sin for her to even contemplate such actions, much less to carry them out with the fervor that she was feeling at the moment. She felt the fire, and she knew that soon there would be retribution! She may be naïve in a lot of things, but she knew how to get what she wanted, just as if she were going undercover to get the facts she needed for an article.

Somehow, collectively, they all cleared their minds, as best they could, and entered the house to continue their dinner, with Aunt Esther already having a plate made for Mr. Wallace, knowing her niece well enough that she would get him inside, to enjoy the meal that he had helped to provide. Duzy thought of the pie and coffee and realized that ground vanilla seemed to go well in both of them, as everyone seemed to like it, she included. “Interesting idea,” she thought! And then, the conversations started again, each greeting Mr. Wallace, as Duzy introduced the gentleman to her family and guests.

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Kid Sopris 8-6-07

 

"Contempt of morality, has no place in the hot irons of justice; Nor shall the common man sit in judgment of another, but to plant the seeds to do harm to the helpless and innocent breeds retribution". Rev. Sopris whispered these words to Bigfoot Wallace, and just loud enough for Deputy Keller to overhear, but not within the earshot of the ladies or little Sarah.

The night was growing late, Rev. Sopris suggested that it was time for he to depart this wonderful engagement of delicious food, lovely hostesses, and the warmth of a new home, but there is the Lords work to do. Deputy Keller, who would rather stay and visit with Esther was caught between intrigue of Sopris' words and the conversation that took place outside with Mr. Wallace.

Mr. Wallace after finishing up the apple pie and fresh coffee, decided a walk back to town would be in order. The ladies were thanked for the meal, company and the warmth of the hearth and were bid a good evening, and just as the trio of men departed the front door, Rev. Sopris stopped, turned to Ms. Duzy and winked.

As the men strolled back to town they talked freely of the "Devils Brigade" of wrong doers that seem to have a grasp of the town by the throat. Mr. Keller was surely thinking railroad, Bigfoot, whittled a branch with his knife, and Rev.. Sopris briefly expounded his thoughts about evil;

"Gentlemen, there can be no worse wrong then to ignore the threats of others towards the innocent, or to stand idly by and watch others suffer, when one could intervene and prevent tragedy. Our little town is growing and with it so does it's ills. There must be a place with in the confines of our justice system to insure that those intent on violating the basic rights and freedoms of others are met with swiftly and without hesitation. Deputy Keller, I am sure that you and the Sheriff can adequately deal with the open perpetrators of crime, however I think it's time that those of us in the community with the resources and talents, form a bond of trust and support for the Law Enforcement of our town and territory, and aid in the identification, deliverance of those wrong doers onto the door steps of justice; by whatever legal means we can."

"Gentlemen, I would love to continue this thought process, but the darkness breeds evil, and the Lords work never rests. Good Night, and may God Bless you both."

With that the Rev. Sopris departed in the direction of the Church walking very quietly in steps, but reciting a Psalm.

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William A.A. Wallace 8-6-07

 

"That Preacher is a difficult sort to figure out", Wallace thought. "And that Miss Duzy..." Wallace was taken aback by her outward showing of affection towards him. Never having actually been hugged by any other woman than his dear old Mum, Wallace knew not what to make of this demonstrative woman. It was time to take his leave of the town and these new found aquaintances and go out into the country to hunt, trap, fish...and get his mind together and wrapped around the ideas that the Preacher had espoused. Moving swiftly and silently he quickly came upon the livery and his mule and prepared for a few days journey into the solitude of the great outdoors. He'd be back...that was for sure...if for nothing more than to see how this whole thing played out...and of course, some more of that wonderfully fine coffee that Miss Duzy and her Aunt had given him!

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Linn Keller 8-6-07

 

A man learns hard lessons in this lifetime. War, and years as a badge packer, taught me that a man must divide his mind into compartments, and shine the light of attention into each compartment in its turn. Much as I would love to have stayed and enjoyed the company of the ladies, it was time to move on, in thought and in deed.
We took our leave of the pleasant evening -- and a more pleasant evening I have not had in long years! -- I saddled Sam, and fed him a wad of chawing tobacker, and rubbed him behind his big velvety ears.
"Sam, old friend," I murmured, "all that evil needs to grow is for good men to do nothing. And I don't aim that it should grow."
Sam savored the molasses flavored leaf and grunted.
I hauled myself into the saddle. It was less and less of a chore these days, as I healed from being belted with a mattock handle, and hadn't had a nauseating attack of dizziness for some time: this, I thought, is a good thing.
Sam stepped out for town. The night was cool, the air pleasant; we rode a couple circles around the ladies' homestead, spiraling out, Sam surprisingly silent. For such a huge mount, he was equally stealthy, and could move like a passing cloud if the notion took him.
Shorty was awake when we got back to the livery. He grained Sam; I saw there was fresh straw in the clean stall. Shorty might not say much but he took good care of his business. Like as not he was as attentive to detail in all else he did. I could be wrong, but calluses don't often lie.
I stopped by the Sheriff's office and took a look at the paper work, and smiled. There were few matters to be brought before the circuit judge. Matter of fact, there were two, and my name was on both.
Attorney Slade had filed charges of assault against me. This neither surprised nor distressed me, but the second action brought a smile to my face, and the smile was not a pleasant one.
It was my action against Slade.
Attempted murder, two counts; assault on a law enforcement officer, two counts, and manslaughter, two counts ... and bless the Sheriff, he'd wired back to Chauncey and gotten the confirmation of my bona fides as a lawman, and attached the telegram to the complaint.
I checked the calendar. The judge would be in town tomorrow. Reckon I would make a pasear through town and get a good night's rest. I wanted my mind fresh for court.
I debated whether to wear my new suit for court, decided against it. I would be appearing as a deputy sheriff. Let the attorney and the judge wear a suit. What I wore would be clean. Save the suit for less adversarial situations.
I locked the door behind me and made a quiet circuit of town, shaking doors, making sure all was well; I ended my circuit with Sam's sad excuse for a saloon, figuring to go upstairs to bed afterward. I was liking Sam's place less and less well, the more I learned of the man, especially his treatment of Miz Bonnie and Miz Tillie. Bigfoot's information as well was particularly troubling. Time to find somewhere else to stay. I would make that a project after court.
A few fellows were enjoying the cool night air before they, too, retired. One of them, probably with a belly full of liquid fire, was discussing just what he'd like to do to a particular uppity woman.
For a big man I move quiet, and I moved quietly up behind him.
He was talking about Miz Duzy, and what he'd like to do with her, and his words were less than gentlemanly.
There is a time for words, and there is a time for action, and if a man is going to correct another, he must act when the error is fresh in the wrongdoer's mind.
I snatched the revolver from his holster with my right hand; my left drove up, seized the back of his shirt collar. I yanked, hard, and kicked the back of his knees.
He hit the boardwalk, hard.
I leaned over and slammed the flat of my open hand down on his breastbone, hitting him hard enough to half drive the wind out of him. His ribs would ache in the morning.
I closed my hand on a good fist full of his shirt front, and twisted.
Then I picked him up off the ground, and curled him like a weight lifter curls a dumb bell, and held him at nose level, and looked into his eyes.
I saw arrogance, at first, that drained out like water poured out of a canteen, and I pressed him straight up in the air, like a weight lifter will press a barbell.
I held him at arm's length above me, my eyes locked with his, and never said a word.
I didn't have to.
His hands had gone to my wrist, not to try and loosen my grip, but a reflex of fear. His weight was on my knuckles and it was not comfortable for him.
I held him til my arm started to tremble, just a little, then I lowered him to nose level again, and looked long into his eyes.
I saw fear.
I pressed him up to arm's length again, and held him, knowing the others with whom he'd held conversation were watching closely, knowing they'd all heard how I had treated Slade, on this very stretch of board walk, and knowing they'd heard about the general store and what happened there.
I lowered the fellow to nose level again, and said quietly,so only he could hear, "You will speak of the ladies with respect. If harm ever comes to any of them, I know what you look like, and I will find you like I found every last one I ever went after, and I will kill you."
His boot toes were just off the board walk, and I kept him there, my arm drawn in tight against my body, and I carried him into Sam's like that.
The others scrambled to follow, wanting to see what I was going to do.
I stopped and turned suddenly and they almost fell over themselves getting stopped. I considered the horse trough, then had a better idea.
We went into Sam's -- me carrying this fellow by his shirt front, the other three following, pointing, whispering, marveling -- and Sam goggled at us.
I set the fellow up on the bar. "Sam," I announced, "I am buying this fellow a beer. He's got a long ride ahead of him tonight and I wanted to thank him for helping me win a bet."
"A bet?" the fellow gasped as I unscrewed my fist from his shirt front.
"Why, yes," I replied. "I bet the Sheriff I could hoist a man up left handed, and hold him off the ground for five minutes. I am a right handed man, and the Sheriff just lost his bet." I smiled. "Enjoy your beer. You are leaving town tonight and it would not be healthy if you ever came back."
I paid Sam for the beer. Shortly after there was the sound of hoofbeats, a rider leaving town at a gallop.
I hung up my new suit and went to bed.

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Lady Leigh 8-7-07

 

Putting Sarah to bed that night was a little taxing. She was wired up tight with excitement, but alas, the Fairy Godmothers sleeping dust won.

The dishes were washed, dried and put away, and all was in good order. The four women sitting by the night times fire, relishing in the last of the warm and inviting embers before, they too, would be departing for bed.

"Bonnie Dear?"

"Yes, Esther"

"You have not spoken a great deal about your Mother and sister, but I know their loss is still a difficult one for you ... for that I am deeply sorry."

Before Bonnie could respond, Esther held her hand in the air to ward off comments, as she had more to say. "I also know that directly after their deaths, the boarding house was forclosed .... but, Bonnie, what I do not understand, is what transpired with ... that to lead you to .... well ..."

Tilly interupted, "Ms. Esther, Bonnie came to Sams in a druged state. At first we were afraid she had the Typhoid like her kin did, but the Doc told us she did't aile from that."

Bonnie so quietly at first, then louder as she finished the comment, "I was striken with sorrow after Mama and Margaret died, but I know for a fact I did not take laudanum! I know it as sure as I am sitting here."

It was quiet for a long moment. Duzy, with a soft voice, "then, Bonnie, how did the drugging happen?"

"I have no idea." And with that, Bonnie wept.

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Kid Sopris 8-7-07

 

 

In the darkness of life, not everything is as it appears. The stately image of a reverend man sitting by a home fire late at night where others can see, provides the cornerstone of explanation as to nightly activities.

Deputy Keller was hard at work, that's good thought the stealthy image, keeps everyone focused. When Higgins left Sam's that night, he did so under a full stomach of barley and grain. His balance less than perfect and his vision distorted.

"Whose there?" Higgins called out. The rustling of the leaves in the night breeze plays tricks on a man at times, especially an inebriated man. The cloth containing the sleeping gaseous liquid was pressed tightly against Higgin's nose and silence fell quickly. A pack mule was all that was needed.

Mr. Slade, was suffering from previous encounters with destiny was once again dealing with pain and the over abundance of medication. The stealthy figure with pack mule in tow and cloth shod hoofs made their quiet movements undetectable. Slade was no less of a threat and was as easily overcome by the sleeping gas as the first subject. Both men from the towns "Devil Brigade" needed to be brought before their Makers eyes and to the attention of the towns folk.

When morning came about the town was bustling awaiting the start of circuit court. Mrs. Higgin's was scurrying about looking for her husband; this was not the first time he didn't come home after a night of drinking, carousing and cavorting with other undesirables. She was at her limit of understanding.

The preacher awakening to the gentle sounds of the morning birds, a nice breeze and a fresh cup of coffee, saw Mrs. Higgins en-route to the jail.

The jail had gained two inhabitants in the stealthy night time. Both still unconscious and sleeping and neatly tied and bundled together in the same bunk. It was reported later to the preacher, "The two villains looked kinda cute together in bed." Sopris only raised his left eyebrow in hearing of this.

Sopris only comment was, "Seems odd that two birds of the same feather would sleep together". It did however provide and excellent subject for the next Sunday Service.

"Sleeping with Man"

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Charlie MacNeil 8-7-07

 

It was Charlie's turn to sit in the shadows. He'd finished his own dinner and rounded up some for Dawg then gone back to Sam's for one more beer before finding a soft spot in the hay of the livery stable. The night air was cool and a number of the men from inside the saloon had stepped outside for some fresh air. Charlie was tipped back in a chair against the wall of the saloon, sitting quietly, and the men didn't notice him there.

One of the men began to talk about what he'd like to do to a certain Duzy, who had apparently come to town and caused quite a stir. Charlie quietly let his chair down on all fours and was lifting himself to his feet when a big man with a deputy's star on his chest stepped up onto the boardwalk and proceeded to take the man down in a most efficient manner.

The deputy carried the man into the bar one-handed and Charlie followed, hanging back. It wasn't long before the man was scurrying from the saloon and there was the sound of hoofbeats in the night. This town was starting to get interesting, and Charlie could feel the old stirring. He tended to get upset when folks tried to take advantage of those less fortunate than themselves, and it was looking like something was going on in Firelands.

Charlie stepped outside and strolled toward the livery stable. He looked in on Buck, who stood quietly munching hay. Near the back of the stall, Dawg lifted his head and woofed quietly. Charlie bent and scratched the big dog behind his ears. "Looks like we may be here longer than I figured, Dawg," he said. "We'll have to see."

Charlie took his bedroll and climbed to the barn loft. A door at the rear of the loft for bringing in hay was open and Charlie walked to it and looked out in time to see a mule, loaded with what looked like two bodies, go silently past. The man who was leading the mule brought him to a halt near the back of a stoutly built brick building. The man untied the two bodies and carried them one at a time into the building then led the mule off into the dark.

Charlie shook his head and unrolled his bed. "I reckon I can find out what that was about a lot easier in the morning than I can tonight," he said quietly to himself. He unbuckled his gunbelt and lay it at the head of his bed, sat down and pulled off his boots, then lay back with a sigh. He was soon asleep.

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Linn Keller 8-7-07

 

The steady buzz of voices in the courtroom silenced abruptly with the gavel's sharp rap. Court was still a novelty; it was theater, entertainment, a source of gossip and conjecture, but it was still the Law.
There were formal trappings, an agenda, and fine language; from the fine tenor throat declaring "All rise," to the Judge's measured pace as he stepped behind the desk, elevated one step on the low podium, to the ceremonial rap of the turned cherry gavel.
"All persons with business before this honorable Court will draw near and give their attention! The Honorable David Hostetler presiding! God bless the United States and this honorable court!"
His Honor David Hostetler, late Colonel Hostetler of the US Cavalry, examined the papers before him. "We seem to have a light docket today," he declared, "no doubt the result of clean living and decent people. We'll take the lesser of two evils first, a criminal complaint against one Linn Keller, defendant. Is the defendant present?"
"Yes, Your Honor." The deputy stood, hat in hand.
"Says here you did commit an assault upon the person of one Attorney Slade, that you did do grievous harm and that you did so with deliberation and malicious intent."
"Yes, Your Honor, that's exactly what it says."
"Please take the stand."
Linn unbuckled his gunbelt, wrapped the belt around the slim holster and placed it on the table before him. He strode to the witness stand, executed a crisp military left-face as the clerk approached, Bible in hand.
"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"
"I do."
"Please be seated."
Slade was already uncomfortable. Even seasoned lawmen, upon being sworn in, often look uncomfortable when assuming the witness chair. This fellow, he thought, is perfectly at home here. Slade looked over at the defendant's table. The Sheriff and a young fellow he'd never seen before sat there. The young man wore a well-tailored suit and townie shoes, well polished; his hair was immaculate, his spectacles clean, and his hands were clean and almost delicate.
"Mr. Keller, did you commit the crimes listed on the complaint?"
"I did."
Again Slade was taken aback. He was expecting obfusication, hesitancy, a stammered explanation. Again looking at the new face at the defense table, he lapsed mentally and simply asked, "Why?"
"Mr. Slade, how tall are you?"
Slade blinked. The witness does not question counsel, he thought, but there was authority in the man's voice and he automatically responded: "Why, ah, six feet one inch, but I don't see--"
"And how much do you weigh, sir?" the deputy interrupted.
"Ah, why, ah, two hundred sixty --" Slade stopped, got his mental feet under him. "Your Honor, I object!"
"I'll allow it," Judge Hostetler said quietly. "Continue, Mr. Keller."
"Mr. Slade, you have the look of someone who has done honest work in his lifetime. I'd say you know the feel of a hay fork, probably from your younger days."
This piqued the interest of the courtroom audience, all of whom were or at least had been working men. A hand without calluses was a rare exception, and all were interested in the direction this conversation was headed.
"Why, ah, yes, I did, I grew up on a farm."
"And you're still a pretty strong fellow, if I'm any judge," the deputy continued.
"I suppose so, yes."
"Miz Bonnie, would you stand, please?" The deputy rose and so did Miz Bonnie.
"Miz Bonnie, could you hold your arm out, to the side, like so, please? Thank you." Linn looked at Slade. "Mr. Slade, if you'll look at the lady, you'll see that I could probably encircle her wrist with my hand and touch my thumb and finger easily."
Slade fell the floor drop out from under him.
"Mr. Slade, you seized this poor woman by the arm, and you were addressing her in a manner which I have come to associate with imminent physical harm. In my capacity as a law enforcement officer I have come to recognize the need for prevention whenever possible, and in my professional opinion you were engaged in criminal assault. You were directed by the lady to release your hold on her arm and you failed to do so -- indeed, you began pulling her by her arm. Is that not true, sir?"
"I -- I --" Slade was completely off balance now. A night of worry, drink, then a confused memory and waking, bound, in a jail cell, in something of a compromising position -- and now this --
"Your Honor, I object!"
"Object to what, Mr. Slade?" the judge replied. "You are the complainant as well as the counsel for prosecution. That alone is an unusual condition. I must make allowances, sir, and I must direct you to answer the question."
"Mr. Slade, did you or did you not unlawfully seize this woman by her arm, did you or did you not sully her reputation with your comments, and did you or did you not fail to release her when directed to do so?"
"I - I --" Slade took a step backward.
"Mr. Slade, you are a coward and you are a bully. You are a grown man who has to pick on a defenseless woman, but not until after you engage in conspiracy to conduct an unlawful foreclosure on her property. You are not satisfied with that, sir, you felt the need to seize her person and --"
"Coward?" Slade shouted. "You call me a coward? I will have satisfaction!"
"I accept!" the deputy shouted. "As the challenged party I have the choice of time and of place and weapons. I choose now and I choose here and I choose knives!"
"Your Honor!"
"Mr. Slade, you have just issued a challenge before this Court and before these witnesses assembled. Seems to me you can either accept the challenge, or you can withdraw your charges."
The courtroom held its breath.
"I withdraw," Slade said in a small voice.
"I'm sorry, sir, what was that?" the judge asked politely.
Slade's face was flaming with humiliation. "I withdraw the charges!"
"Thank you, sir. Case dismissed. The witness may step down." The gavel rapped the desk smartly.
The deputy stood, took two steps.
Slade turned, nickle plated Owl Head in hand. "I'll kill you!"

"Linn!" Esther shouted.
I knew what was happening.
I spun and took a long step toward Slade.
He had his Owl Head out and pointing at me.
I seized it in both hands, the web of my right under its barrel forcing it up, my left hard over the cylinder, and I stripped it down, out of his grip, and stepped back with my right leg, bringing his own gun to bear on him.
If one were paying very close attention they might have seen exactly how I did it, but most of the courtroom had only a general focus on the situation, and even the sheriff was surprised at the change of events.
Judge Hostetler was not one to excite easily. He picked up the second complaint. "In the matter of the people vs. Duke Slade, we have two counts of attempted murder, two counts of conspiracy, two counts of conspiracy to commit murder or grievous bodily harm, and two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer." The Judge put down the complaint. "Mr. Slade, do you wish to enter a plea, or shall I take your actions just now as an admission of guilt?"
Slade saw his world crumble and fall away like a handful of sand from between his fingers. The beefy red of his face turned kind of a pale mottled shade and he turned, like an old man, and I lowered his pistol to my side, not taking my attention off him.
"Guilty," he said hoarsely.
"Duke Slade, I find you guilty on all counts. For the crime of attempting the murder of a law enforcement officer, I sentence you to the remainder of your natural life in the Territorial Prison. I don't believe it necessary to address the other charges." BANG went the gavel. Slade jumped at its sound: for his life, it was the crack of doom.
I laid the Owl Head on the table in front of the Sheriff, picked up my gun belt and wrapped it around me.
"If there is any further business to be brought before this honorable Court, speak now."
Silence.
BANG went the gavel. "Court is adjourned!"
The Sheriff shook my hand. "Nice going, son," he smiled. "By the way, this-here is your lawyer, Michael Moulton. He just got into town this morning."
"Good morning, Counselor," I greeted him. His grip was firm, despite his lack of calluses.
"Easiest fee I ever earned," Moulton said. "I do admire the way you handled yourself, Deputy."
"You earned your fee even though you never spoke a word. I'm glad you're here, and welcome to Firelands!"
"Did you really punch him?"
"I did, and if you'll excuse me I need to take him over to the jail."
"Of course."
I turned. Slade was just standing there with the same expression as the men I'd hanged, just before I gave the order to kick the plank out from under them.
I felt half sick.
I walked over to Slade. "Come with me, Duke," I said quietly, and we walked out of the courtroom.

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Duzy Wales 8-7-07

 

Duzy awoke, before daylight, feeling anesthetized, emotionally exhausted, not knowing which way to turn, as she tried to understand her feelings. The conflicting views of her life were new to her, as she usually knew exactly what she wanted and how to go about getting there. Now, she felt trapped inside her own body, fighting the rage that had started to consume her. She felt that she had to get outside, take Edi out for a fast gallop, and try to clear her head to get some focus.

The dinner had gone wonderfully. She was happy to have Bonnie, Sarah and Tilly there, and was thrilled to see her Aunt Esther walking with a new vigor in her step and a twinkle in her eyes. She had new friends. She had so many reasons to be happy and grateful, so why wasn’t she excited, why did she not feel the happiness that she should be feeling? What was wrong with her? What had the Reverend been trying to tell her? And the wink, what was that all about? Was it assurance that he understood? How could he know how she was feeling? Did he understand how it felt to have good and evil fighting for prominence in his own life, not just from the teachings of his faith?

Duzy wanted to lash out, to get back at those who had hurt her, to show them that they had no right to treat her or anyone in such a way, and to take their power for thinking that they could! She fought hard with her conscious on how to handle the situation. Should she be looking for property in Firelands to build new buildings, of her own design, and forgive those who had wronged her, knowing if she did, she would still have to watch her back at all times? Or should she let go of the rage she felt by destroying the people who had made it their business to bring her down, reveling in the fact that they had not beaten her, nor could they take her spirit from her, leaving her feeling dead inside.

Duzy heard the others start to stir and realized she had missed some of the night’s conversation, perhaps while she was outside with Mr. Wallace and the Reverend. It seemed the trial against Mr. Keller and the counter suit of Duke Slade was to be today, and Bonnie was going to testify. Aunt Esther was already making plans to go. This should be interesting, Duzy thought, as she and the other ladies left to go to watch the proceedings.

Duzy watched in amazement as Duke Slade was escorted out of the room to go to prison for life. She felt some of the rage inside her dissipate as she watched him get the justice he deserved. Would the others get their due as well, without Duzy having to take revenge herself? Then, she remembered that wink again! Was he simply trying to let her know that “God does work in mysterious ways….”? She decided at that moment to do as he had said, to think hard on her decision and then do it with all of her heart. She would let go of the bitterness, and look toward the future with a renewed sense of pride in whatever she decided.

It was time to start planning the new businesses that were to be built for the ladies and gentlemen of Firelands!

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Lady Leigh 8-7-07

 

Bonnie and Sarah, Duzy and Esther were walking back home after the trial. While Duzy and Esther were talking amongst themselves, Bonnie was deep in thought. Her suspicians were obviously correct in thinking Slade had something to do with the forclosure of the boarding house, but it was obviously logical to assume he could not have done it alone. Afterall, the morgage was held by the bank.

"Excuse me for interupting, but do you two mind if I think out loud?"

Duzy responed, "Go right ahead! What are you so deep in thought about?"

Bonnie told them what she had been thinking, and added,"but that doesn't solve the issue of the laudanum, or the contract made, supposedly by Sam and myself. I am wondering who should I talk to about this? And while I am on the subject, I do not feel comfortable taking the $200 given to Sarah to the bank! What 'if' the bank had some kind of maniacal efforts with removing the boarding house from me? Who's to say they will not take Sarah's interest seriously?"

At that moment, the three heard loud talking coming from the open doorway at the hotel as they were getting ready to pass the opening. Esther thrusts out her arm to stop the two younger women, and plants her feet firmly.

"Donald! What on are earth is going on? I am embarrassed to death, and so completely ashamed! What are people going to say? I have a Quilting Bee to go to this afternoon, and I am to embarrased to go? "

"Marie, it isn't what you think!", Donald was groveling at trying to explain his conduct of the previous night to his wife.

"But Donald! You were drunk! AGAIN! You were in jail, for Pete's sake! You and ... and that ... Brothel owner, were tied 'together' in a jail cell! And to top it off, what on earth does S.C.O.L.D. mean?"

"What are you talking about, Marie?"

"Those are the letters that are written on your back! In some harlots red lipstick, no doubt! Oh Donald ....."

At that time Esther decided to take her footsteps moving forward again. As Duzy and Bonnie just looked at each other with some confusemnet on their faces, Esther smiled and giggled.

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Linn Keller 8-7-07

 

There was no forgiving in me.
I tossed the poke onto the table.
"Sam, I am going to come back in about three minutes," I said quietly. "When I do, you are going to make a choice."
"Yeah?" he sneered, trying to keep up a good front, but I'd just locked Slade in jail and Sam had just heard about the life sentence,and that I was not done cleaning house. Sam's hands were trembling and he gripped the bar's edge, hard, to try and hide the shakes.
"I have here," I said, picking up the poke, "one thousand dollars in gold. You can take it and ride out and never come back."
"WHAT??"
"I'm buying you out," I said. "Cash money. One thousand dollars in gold. It's more than you deserve."
"A lousy thousand? Why, that's, that's ..." he sputtered.
I unwrapped a brand new knife, freshly sharpened, and slowly, delicately sliced the good rag paper I'd wrapped it in to show the quality of its edge.
"Or," I said, letting the word hang in the air for a long moment. Then, reversing the point, I drove it into the table top. "Or you can take the knife and we can settle this here. Just you and me. Nobody else. No one to watch, none of your bully boys to impress." I drew my own knife and sliced off another ribbon of paper.
Sam licked his lips, eyes darting back and forth as if seeking a way out.
"You have three minutes to think it over."

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Charlie MacNeil 8-7-07

 

The next morning, the caterwauling from the building Charlie had seen the shadowy figure carry the bodies into woke any late sleepers who might have still been abed in the vicinity. Over breakfast, Charlie learned that the local shyster and the owner of the general store had been found in what one patron of the Dutchman's cafe had called a "compromising position", locked up in a cell in the local jail, and neither one of them with a good explanation for how he got there. And as an addition to the morning's entertainment there was to be a trial. It seemed that the shyster was charging the deputy Charlie had seen last night, a man named Keller, with assault. This should be interesting.

Charlie took Dawg some breakfast then he and Dawg walked up to the door of the courtroom side by side. The big dog's stub of a tail waved gently as he walked. At the door, a weasel-faced individual wearing a shirt with a tie and boiled collar and an air of his own self-importance put his hand out. Charlie stopped just before the hand pushed him back.

"You can't bring that animal in this courtroom!" the man exclaimed.

"Tell him that," Charlie said. Dawg just smiled. Charlie was sure that the quick display of white behind Dawg's black lips was purely unintentional, but the doorman gulped and his hand sagged just the tiniest bit.

"I'm telling you. That creature has to stay outside," the man said somewhat weakly.

Dawg sat on his haunches and ran his tongue across his lips then yawned widely. This time the full extent of his teeth was definitely visible. The man gulped again and his hand dropped to his side. Charlie stepped around him and held the door. Dawg gave the doorman a friendly lick on the hand that nearly stopped the poor gent's heart then walked through the door. Charlie ticked his hat brim with a finger and followed Dawg inside.

Inside, Charlie looked for a place with some space and noticed a gap in the line of benches at the back of the room. "Over there," he told Dawg, and pointed. Dawg walked over and sat down where he could watch the proceedings. He and Charlie were no strangers to a courtroom, but one never knew what kind of show the various participants would put on.

The show wasn't long in coming. The lawyer had the appearance of one who might be into more things on the shady side of the law than might be exactly wise, and the longer the deputy talked, the more it looked like appearances were not deceiving in this case. But what really got Charlie's attention was when the deputy told about the shyster attacking the young lady. Charlie felt his temper start to stir at that but did his best to damp it down by telling himself once again that it was none of his business and he was just passing through. Even though he was getting a late start.

When the shyster admitted to being guilty of all the charges the deputy leveled against him, and the judge sentenced him to the territorial prison for life, the courtroom began to empty. Up at the front, a group of nicely dressed ladies were congratulating the one the deputy had called Bonnie for standing up to the shyster, whose name was Slade. A small girl took Bonnie's hand and the group began to move toward the door.

"Woof," Dawg said quietly. He was looking at the little girl, and his stub of a tail was flicking back and forth so fast it was almost a blur. Dawg loved children, and especially young girls. They all loved him right back, too. Charlie leaned against the wall with his arms crossed against his chest. He knew what was coming.

The little girl came up to where Dawg sat smiling at her. She stopped and looked up at Charlie. "Is that your doggie, mister?" she asked.

Charlie removed his hat and said solemnly, "No ma'am, he's my partner. He belongs to himself."

"How can a dog belong to himself?" the little girl asked.

"He just does," Charlie said.

"Can I pet him?" she asked.

"He'd be disappointed if you didn't," Charlie told her. The little girl looked up at the lady called Bonnie.

"Can I, Bonnie?"

Bonnie looked questioningly at Charlie. Charlie said, "Dawg loves kids, Miss Bonnie. He won't hurt her, I'll guarantee it."

Bonnie looked at the big dog, then at Charlie. Both man and dog tried to smile disarmingly. Bonnie finally said, "Go ahead, Sarah, but be careful."

Sarah walked up to Dawg and Dawg solemnly raised a paw. Without any prompting from Charlie Sarah grabbed the big paw in both of her small hands and shook it and said, "Hi, I'm Sarah." Dawg smiled again and Sarah put her hands on the sides of Dawg's face, pulled his head down, and, before anyone knew what was happening, planted a kiss between Dawg's sparkling black eyes. "And I like dogs," she said while Dawg wriggled all over, which was quite a sight considering his size.

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Kid Sopris 8-8-07

 

"The body without a soul is no more in sacrifice.
Day of death put for birth:
The divine spirit will make the soul happy,
Seeing the word in his eternity."

 

In Nostradamus quatrains, because of the obscurity, one can find a quote to fit almost any situation. So was the line as recited to the banker, while Sopris was out walking after the trial.

 

Bankers usually have a stern worldly look, all encompassing. Money breeds corruption, the strange "bedfellows" that sleep in this nest of corruption will often have the same bed bugs. Some say the Reverend eyes change when he looks through your soul, others say its just the lighting. In either case those being addressed by the Reverend face to face sometimes feel uncomfortable, unsure. So was the feeling that the Banker had, for he never heard the Reverend come up from behind him, and it wasn't till the Reverend quoted the quatrain that the Banker had any knowledge that he wasn't alone. Then there was the look.

 

The Reverend then smiled in a smirk of a way and departed leaving the shaking banker to his thoughts. One of his co-conspirators was going to Jail; for life.

 

Higgins was in no better shape, his back written upon in scarlet letters, SCOLD? Whatever was that on Higgins back was to bring about the fear in all those who betrayed their family, friends or were found to be dishonest in their daily lives towards the community, or perhaps turned a deaf ear to those in need. Word traveled fast about the letters found scribbled, and they even reached back to Slade, who had other problems.

 

Slade had no way of knowing if he had the same on his back. He did of course but it wouldn't be until he arrived in prison and was able to take a bath, that other inmates would tell him. Some of those already victims of SCOLD. They too trembled once again at the sight of the letters.

 

Firelands had top notch law; they were considered the best in their field. Even the visiting badge wearer and his "dawg" were feared by those being pursued. The Reverend knew him and about his exploits. However Sopris had no curiosity about why he was here. He just accepted the presence as part of the Lords work.

 

It wasn't until later, in the early evening while "Dawg" was out wandering the city that an note was attached to his collar with a gold coin bearing the letters S.C.O.L.D. on one side and a Cross engraved upon a 6 point star on the obverse side, was found by Charlie MacNeil.

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Duzy Wales 8-8-07

 

Before the ladies left town, they noticed the mail had come in, and Duzy had a package from her Papa. She could tell Sarah was as excited about the package as she was, as she kept looking at it. Duzy wished she had something for Sarah to open for herself, as she realized that she had no idea when Sarah’s birthday was! She would see if Bonnie had any idea.

“Sarah, you have had a very exciting day, I noticed you playing with that big bear of a Dawg, wasn’t that his name?” “Yes, Auntie Duzy, did you notice how he gave me his paw? I love animals and did you see, he liked me too?” “Yes, I surely noticed he liked you, but I didn’t get over in time to meet his owner, did you get his name?” “No, Auntie Duzy, the man said he owned himself, isn’t that funny?” Duzy had just realized that Sarah had called her Auntie Duzy and it made her feel as if she even had a closer bond that ever to Sarah.

It was at that time that Aunt Esther stopped the ladies to listen to the argument going on inside the building. Duzy was at a loss as to what the initials could mean and Bonnie seemed confused, as well. Duzy thought she had heard Aunt Esther chuckle when she had heard it. She would wait to ask her later, when Sarah wasn’t around.

They were lost again in their thoughts when Bonnie asked if she could “think out loud,” telling them her concerns about the bank and the banker. Duzy thought it was well worth investigating before either of them deposited their money.

After arriving home, Duzy let Sarah tear the package open, and she handed Duzy a card that was just inside.

It read, “Sweetheart, I hope this will help in your new endeavor! Please write soon, as we miss you very much and wish to know how you are doing. Love, Papa

Duzy had to fight the tears, as she had not written to tell him, or her Mama, that she had been fired before even starting her new position.

This was the new gift from her Papa…….


George Eastman's Kodak Camera
In 1888, George Eastman invented dry, transparent, and flexible, photographic film (or rolled photography film) and the Kodak cameras that could use the new film.
George Eastman was an avid photographer and became the founder of the Eastman Kodak company.

"You press the button, we do the rest" promised George Eastman in 1888 with this advertising slogan for his Kodak camera.


The article went on to read that it was the first handheld camera, with a roll of film that would take 100 shots, the cost of the camera was $25.00, and after mailing the film in to be developed, you received your photographs and new film for $10.00! Duzy was thinking that this could come in very helpful for taking pictures for articles to get into print, perhaps working undercover, and with an assumed male name, without having to use all the cumbersome equipment that you usually needed. She could actually hide this camera until she needed to take the picture! Perhaps she could use this to get her ideas across, whilst everyone thought she was out of the newspaper industry altogether! It was certainly something to think about!

Before that, however, they had buildings that needed to be bought or put under construction, so she, Aunt Esther, Bonnie and Tilly would all have fulltime employment!

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Lady Leigh 8-8-07

 

Hair tied back loosly at the neck, clad in a cotton nightgown and wrapper, Bonnie sat at the dinning table with pen in hand. The envelope being already addressed to Mr. Abram Rosenthal in care of Rosenthal and McKenna Textiles, Chicago, Illinois.

Bonnie found the house quiet - Blessedly quiet. It was giving Bonnie the chance to think ... and to write. The embers were dying in the fireplace, so she stoked it a bit more, and returned to the task at hand.

My Dear Abram,
My sincere apologizes for not contacting you sooner, as three years is, no doubt, a long time to wait for news from Colorado.

Before I proceed, I sincerely hope this finds you and Miriam in good health and I trust the rest of the family, too, are well. Last I recall, David and Hannah were to have a child, so imagin your Sabbath table is filled to a greater amount of loved ones these days. I also remember Levi was engaged to be married. What news can you share with me pertaining to Caleb? What a dear friend he was while I was growing up. Please inform him I thinking of him, too.

As I am not sure when you last heard from Mama, allow me to fill you in on some of the last three years. With deep regret and sadness, I need to inform you that Mama and Margaret are no longer here with me, as they passed away when a Typhoid epidemic passed through Firelands as many years ago stated above. Continued sadness fell upon me after that as well, and to make a long story short, I now have my feet planted more firmly beneath me.

I am currently living with three other women. Miss Esther Wales, Aunt of Duzy Wales - it is to them I owe a debt of gratitude to - Miss Tilly Ashcroft, and my ward, six year old Sarah Graves. Yes, you read that correctly! My ward! She is a delightful blond ball of energy that makes me smile and cherish life daily. Sarah lost both of her parents, and she came to me as a miracle from Heaven. Miriam would love to get her hands Sarah, I am sure.

I think of Papa all the time, Abram, as I am sure you do as well. So with that in mind, let me move onto another reason for writing this letter to you. Papa passed his love of textiles to me as you may recall, and I find myself opening a business with which I can surround myself with beautiful fabrics. I need your assistance, if you please, Abram. Please forward me the amount you would need in payment for failles, bengalines, tafetta's, silks, cottons, along with trims and notions to properly set up the business. Please keep in mind the word modest, as Firelands is not Denver. Sears and Robuck has it's benefits, but the women here deserve to purchase their ready made clothing, or fabrics, locally. Mail order tends to be costly, and the time for delivery can be long.

I will close this letter for now, Abram. I anxiously look forward to hearing from you. Pass my love to all,

Best regards,

Your loving,

Bonnie

PS Have you heard anything from Jamie?

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Charlie MacNeil 8-8-07

 

Earlier...

Dawg had found a new friend in Sarah, and Dawg liked to visit his friends. He was pretty sure he could find her again, so after Charlie brought him his dinner the big dog decided to go exploring. He'd just go to the place where he'd met Sarah and follow her scent from there. It that didn't work, the perfumes of the ladies she was with would take him to her. Then there was always the older lady who smelled like fresh-baked biscuits. Dawg could track biscuits from a long ways away. They were one of his favorite foods.

Dawg drifted through the early evening shadows toward the courthouse. He was careful because he'd been mistaken for a bear more than once and had a couple of bullet scars because of it. Only his quick reflexes had saved him each time.

Of course not all of his scars were the result of his bear-like appearance. He and Charlie were in a dangerous line of work. So Dawg was always careful, especially in a new town.

At the courthouse steps Dawg began a thorough investigation. A few people had come and gone during the course of the day, but his keen nose found traces of Sarah's scent overlaid by the ladies' perfume and he began to follow the trail.

Few people were out and about at this hour so Dawg stepped out on the street, but always watchful and ready to fade back into the shadows. The trail he followed was faint and often faded out completely but Dawg kept at it, sure he could find his new little friend.

A fitful breeze blew the scent of fresh biscuits between two dark and shuttered buildings and Dawg's head came up to sniff the air. He turned into the alley and followed the smell to another street and along it past the edge of town to a white house with a freshly painted picket fence. Up close, the smell of paint nearly covered the biscuit smell but Dawg knew this was the place.

Through an open window Dawg heard the little girl's laughter and his tail flicked back and forth. He walked through the open gate and up to the house. Even though he'd eaten earlier the smell of food made his mouth water. He lightly scratched on the door and woofed politely.

The door flew open and Sarah ran out onto the porch and flung her arms around Dawg's neck. "Hi Dawg," she said. She gave him a hug and said, "We just got done eating but I'm sure Auntie Esther has some food for you." She looked back into the house. "Doesn't she, Bonnie?"

Bonnie had come to the door with Sarah and Dawg solemnly offered her his paw. He didn't know for sure what the relationship was between Bonnie and Sarah but he could tell that Sarah was very attached to Bonnie and that was good enough for him. Bonnie reached down and shook the offered paw. "I'm sure we can find something," she said with a laugh. "Won't you come in, Mister Dawg?"

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Lady Leigh 8-8-07

 

"Won't you come in, Mr Dawg?" Bonnie and Sarah stood aside for Sarah's LARGE playmate to enter, and before closing the door, Bonnie looked around to see if his 'Partner' was there as well.

"Looks like it is just Dawg!" Bonnie surmised and noticed Dawg went right to the kitchen area and heavily sat himself on the floor.

"Here you go, Mr. Dawg!" Sarah said as she held out a biscuit ... and three biscuits later they were shaking hands, rolling over, and Sarah was laughing up a storm.

"Aunt Esther? I will be going to town to post a letter. Is there anything you need while I am there?"

Aunt Esther replied a no, but Tilly said she wanted to come along. She had heard there was a produce stand set up on the outskirts of town. "I found some cannin' supplies in the cellar yesterday. It"s been a long time since I've done so, but I think some canned items would be a good thing to have around," Tilly said.

An hour later, Tilly, Bonnie, Sarah, and of course, Mr Dawg found their way back into town. Tilly separated from them to jaunt over to where she heard about the produce stand, and the other three made their way to the Post Office.

Bonnie was struck at how well people kept their distance. No doubt due to Dawg! "I need one of these", Bonnie thought.

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Linn Keller 8-8-07

 

Sunset always surprised me, out here.
I remembered sunrise, over Lake Erie, and sunsets back home, but nothing compared to sunsets out here ... and how fast it cooled off and got dark after the sun went down. It was blessedly dry. Leather did not mold like it did back home, nor did tools rust. Oh, they would rust if you neglected them, but rust didn't visit inside of a half hour like they did back in the damp East.
Not many people had consumption out here, either. Drier air, the docs said.
Sam and I had been out to the edges of the county for a couple of days. I'd taken care of some needful business, finding out the warrants I was to serve would require the use of a shovel -- the fellows they were sworn out after, had gotten into a disagreement with one another, and both of them came out in second place.
Just as well. Tikkky Lacey I knew from back home. I'd locked him up several times for having "Tikky Fingers" ... the other, Slick Shaw, fancied himself a bad man and bullied anyone he could. He, too, had crossed my path in the past, and had earned time behind bars as a result. Neither of them would hold any love for me and their demise was for the betterment of the community. Kindly of them to solve the problem for us.
Firelands was in the distance, some miles away. The air was clear, out here, none of the haze I'd taken as normal back East. I could hear the steam train, well off in the distance, and smiled. I'd been offered a fine profit for it by the Union Pacific, and I was of a mind to sell.
Investments are funny things. A man can invest money, and make or lose money, but what does he have when he's done? A handful of gold?
Struck me that investing something better might get a better result.
Take Esther, for instance. There was a fine woman! She was obviously from a good family, she was educated, she was intelligent and she had a good level head.
I gazed into the distance.
She was about my age, I reckoned. Fine cook. And she still had dreams, she still had plans. A fine looking woman, too --
I shook myself. What am I thinking? Some good looking fellow with a lot of money will come along in a city suit and sweep her off her feet with Eastern manners and an old family name. What do I have to offer? An old lawman with a gray mustache?
I can provide her a good income, I thought. With what I've already got, and the accounts back East, and what the railroad wants to pay me for the short line here, I'll be good for the rest of my life. Be a fine wedding gift you could offer.
Wedding gift! I shook my head. A badge packer on a plow horse with a two story hotel and nobody to run the thing!
Sam's head came up and I looked out over his ears. A column of cavalry was headed for town.
Sam was restless under me.
He wanted to run.
"Think you can beat 'em, boy?" I murmured, patting his neck.
I gave him my knees and he bunched up under me and was at a flat out gallop in two strides.

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Charlie MacNeil 8-8-07

 

Dawg escorted Sarah and her family back to their house but no matter how much Sarah pleaded he would not go in. A sense of unrest had come over him and he needed to be out and about; needed to taste and smell the night. At last a disappointed Sarah gave him one last hug and closed the door. It took all Dawg's willpower to keep from following her inside but he had turned from play to work.

Dawg cast out into the night. He circled the house like a phantom but nothing came to either his ears or his nose. He began to move toward the town, still sniffing the breezes. He was nearly past a big cottonwood tree when he stopped dead with the hair bristling up all along his spine making him look even bigger. His upper lip curled away from his teeth and a low growl rumbled deep in his chest.

"Easy there, big fella," a voice said quietly. "I mean neither you nor those ladies any harm. I'm looking out for them the same as you." A shadow detached itself from the tree and drifted to where Dawg stood. Dawg sniffed the outstretched hand and stopped growling but he didn't relax his guard. Dawg could barely make out the man's features but he'd know the man by scent if they met again. And Dawg was sure that they would meet again.

The shadowy figure reached out to Dawg's collar and slipped the drawstring of a small pouch under it and deftly tied the pouch there. "You go on back to Charlie MacNeil and give him that, alright boy?" The man drifted back to the tree and with one more quiet growl Dawg moved on.

In the loft of the livery, Charlie MacNeil was taking time to contemplate. He lay on his blankets with his hands behind his head trying to decide what he should do next. When he'd first drifted into Firelands he was merely looking for a drink, a meal, and a place to sleep before riding on. Now he was a day late riding on and couldn't for the life of him figure out why he'd stuck around.

Below he heard the horses stir nervously and he sat up with his pistol in his hand. He got to his feet and moved quietly to the ladder leading down. He heard Buck nicker low in his throat and an answering "Woof" and relaxed. It was just Dawg coming back from wherever he'd been.

Dawg woofed again and Charlie saw him look up at where Charlie stood. The light of the lantern on a post in the alley leading to the back of the barn gleamed on polished leather for a moment. Charlie quickly holstered his pistol and climbed down the ladder in his sock feet. Someone had tied a small pouch to Dawg's collar. He untied the pouch and felt a weight inside and felt the crackle of paper. He opened the pouch and dumped what it held into his hand.

The first thing to hit his palm was a gold coin. He turned it so that the light shown on it and his blood ran cold for a moment at what he saw inscribed there. He turned it over, knowing what he would see on the other side but still he had to look. It was just as he'd expected. And it was the last thing he'd expected to see in Firelands.

Charlie reached into the pouch and took out the note. He didn't recognize the handwriting. The note read, "When the Moon is in darkness, and the silence befalls the land, bring a rose and this coin to the tree of truth, where others have been hanged."

With that note and that coin, Charlie MacNeil's travel plans changed. He knew now he'd be staying in Firelands for a while, at least until the evil that was growing here had been extinguished. His name had been called. The dark of the moon was still a few days away, and he had to find out where the "tree of truth" was. But he would indeed find that tree.

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Linn Keller 8-8-07

 

For a man with his own hotel I had absolutely no idea what to do.
Fortunately the ladies did.
Higgins was in jail and that meant I was responsible for him ... and unfortunately that meant for his hotel also.
Sam's ladies, I decided, needed a sense of self-worth and they needed to be kept busy.
It seems Sam had them as do-alls as well as ... well, that was over and I told the ladies so.
"I have a bad habit," I said to them, hat in hand. "When I meet a lady, she is a Lady, until she proves herself otherwise. We have the advantage of not knowing one another, therefore this is a clean slate. If you wish to remain I will pay you a fair wage for your work but if you want to leave that's fine, you can make a fresh start, perhaps with another name, and I will give you a stake. You have been badly put upon and I won't have that happen here again!"
For the time being I had three employees, plus Daisy down in the kitchen. She was a fair cook, she could feed a hungry man and make him like it, and she was a sweet enough girl -- no idea how she stayed pleasant, working for the Previous Administration -- and she was capable -- she enlisted two of the ladies to help her in the kitchen and dining room and she managed to feed the entire cavalry column, in two shifts, and made it look easy.
Daisy did mention the kitchen was too small and lacked some things.
I had packed away the liquor but let the girls dispense beer, and trusted them to collect fairly for it. They were surprised at this but offered no protest. Shocked looks at one another -- apparently Sam never trusted them with anything! -- but I left the hotel in their hands and went back out into the night.
Shorty had rubbed Sam down and curried him; he'd been watered and grained, and I didn't have the heart to saddle him up again, so I bypassed the livery and walked on out of town for a little distance.
There was nobody about, and the moon was on the wane, but I did not need much light.
I walked the short distance to the cemetery. It was in a little bit of a draw, with the graves on the hillside and a big spreading oak down in the draw where it had grown, sheltered from the prairie winds, until it got height and strength and bushed out wonderfully. A man could hide down there in the shadows and have tree trunk and roots, rocks and broken ground to disguise his form.
Out of curiosity I walked up the little draw. There was a light breeze and the leaves whispered secrets to the darkness. I remembered a huge old oak, back home, that never shed its leaves even in winter; they hung there, brown, dry, hissing to each other with the least bit of wind. An old Indian I'd known called it a whisper tree and said it knows things.
On a shadowed night like this I would be inclined to believe him.
The graveyard was on the hillside -- not that it was much of a hill, just a little bit of a rise -- and I considered the things I'd heard.
Miz Bonnie's folks died of the cholera. I need to ask where they are buried. Were they buried here, the cholera could seep into the water ... looks like any water would be carried away from town ... reckon I could cut a green fork and witch out the water table, and try and figure which way the water ran, underground. It would not do to dig a well in the path of bad water.
There had been a cholera epidemic in Cambridge and the victims were all buried in a new corner of the cemetery. They called that section the Cholera Cemetery and a couple years later a flood came along and washed out some of the rough boxes, and there was a cholera epidemic down stream as a result.
There were no oak branches in reach. Just as well. I never had luck witching with an oak. Peach or pear worked best for me.
I walked up into the graveyard with my hat in my hand, and looked around. Some of the graves had stones, some had boards.
A man's name, a date ... hardly seems a fittin' memorial to a lifetime's work.
I looked back at the oak and looked down on one branch.
Scuff marks.
I'd found the hangin' tree.

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Kid Sopris 8-8-07

 

In the absence of persona and persons a stealthy figure entered the sheriff's office and carefully place a sealed envelope upon the desk of the Sheriff address to "Dep. Keller-Personal" Inside the envelope contained a Gold coin..bearing the letters S.C.O.L.D. on one side and a Cross engraved upon a 6 point star on the obverse side and a note.

With As much ease the stealthy figure disappeared. As Dep. Keller was returning from the cemetery he passed by the Church and found the Reverend reading from the bible and enjoying some coffee...Coffee with some vanilla mixed in it.

"Good Evening Dep Keller..Interest you in a cup of Coffee?"

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Linn Keller 8-8-07

 

 I hung my hat on a peg and accepted the good Reverend's hospitality. Coffee at any time was welcome, but in good company it was doubly so. I eased my long tall frame into a chair and relaxed, slowly, letting the coffee and vanilla smells deep into my grateful nose.
We were silent, for a long while, Reverend Sopris following his Scripture, and I, following my own thoughts. My eyes wandered around the inside of his quarters, here in the church: efficient, I thought: sparse, even Spartan, but efficiently laid out. Automatically my eyes went to the corners. If you ever want to judge a carpenter's skills, look at his corners, my Pappy had told me, and he was right. These corners were tight, and looked square. If I had put a steel square to try any of them I doubt if there would be any wobble at all.
It's rare to find a companion with whom you can share a silence, but we had it, there in his spare and sparse room.
My eyes were following a neatly-hewn beam. I had honestly been surprised when the Sheriff handed me the warrants, and those two names out of my past jumped out at me. I knew it quite possible that I'd run across folks again, but two at once was not expected. Just as well they were gone.
Wonder what else out of the past is going to come up and say howdy.
I took another sip of coffee.
"For all things there is a season," the Reverend said softly, "and a time and a purpose to everything under the heavens."
"A time to plant, and a time to reap," I nodded. "A time to laugh and a time to mourn. A time to gather stones together and a time to scatter them apart." I frowned, eyes following the base board. "Reverend, I have been mightily blessed."
Reverend Sopris nodded, listening.
Elbows on my knees, I leaned toward him. "I have known the love of a good woman, and the blessing of a child. I have made money and lost money and made more. Right now I am a rich man but I am empty inside."
The ceramic mug was warm in my hands, and my eyes looked far beyond the painted wall.
"Reverend, I don't have any real use for that hotel. I bought it to get Sam out of here. I told the girls tonight they were never going to be working girls again, and when I saw how well they were working with Daisy and one another in feeding that cavalry troop that came into town, I figured they could run it without me, at least for tonight." I took another sip. "I trusted them, Reverend, for they need to be shown that they are worthy of that trust."
The Reverend listened, eyes half-shut, like a cat. To the uninformed he might even have looked sleepy, but I knew better. There was considerably more to the man than met the eye, I was satisfied, but he was also someone I could trust. When I was a deputy marshal back home an old veteran lawman told me, "When in doubt, son, follow your gut."
My gut told the Reverend Sopris would do to ride the river with.
"I've got me a notion Miz Esther and Bonnie could make good use of that hotel. It will take some overhaul, I doubt me not, and if we can buy up more property or hopefully the buildings on either side we can expand it as needed. That new lawyer fellow is set up right now in Slade's old place." I smiled. "He told me the fellow was a shyster and a thief but he had a good selection of legal books."
Reverend Sopris nodded, tilting his head a little bit to the side. A question, asked without words.
I smiled. "Reckon I need to figure out some way to sell that hotel to the ladies without offering any insult. Miz Esther is a proud woman, and was I just to give it to her it might give her offense, and I don't wish to offend the lady!" I sighed. "I could sell it to her but I don't know if she has funds to buy it. She already knows Slade got one thousand for it and barely stopped to sign the bill of sale before he left town."
I swirled the Arbuckle's around, looked into its whirlpool.
Crickets were starting to peep outside. Fall was coming and we'd likely start to see spiders and mice coming inside like they did every year.
"Went out to the graveyard tonight," I continued. "I understand Miz Bonnie's folks died of the typhoid. If they're buried in the cemetery I'd say we're safe. There's no way in the world that graveyard will ever wash out, and the earth is a fine natural filter ... I'd thought at first it might taint our well water, depending on which way water runs underground hereabouts, but I believe we'll be all right."
"I recall the epidemic," Reverend Sopris murmured. "Had to burn down Sam's outhouse to make him stop using it. Dug him a new one some distance further out. Everyone else moved theirs without protest. Sam had to be helped."
I smiled. Some folks have to have a helping hand, even if it's a boot in the backside.
I poured the Reverend and I both a refill.

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Kid Sopris 8-8-07

 

Thoughts of man...They may be deep or shallow. Those thoughts that are deep, come from men of experience; rugged and have survived the mistakes of the shallow thoughts of their youth.

Rev. Sopris listened not only to Keller's words but the manner in which he spoke them. It was obvious he was uncomfortable with his predicament, and yet not so uncomfortable or inexperienced in life that he could not resolve the dilemma. He just need a light to find his way.

Silence is a good teacher, reflection adds to the learning experience; In those moments man can conquer fears, solve problems, resolve disputes.
In the minds of the evil ones it stirs the haunts, releases the devil within and takes over the soul and body.

Firelands, not a town foreign to corruption, evil or the growing pains unlike any other Western Expansion town of the Manifest Destiny. BUT, it had to find it's own way to survive.

In that Survival a special breed of citizen will grow, others will be called forward and some will not survive.

"What we need here Deputy, is a good midway house for travelers. Where a good meal, day or night can be had. Shelter from their struggles so they may gain the strength to go on or resolve to stay on and help others. Perhaps you could recommend to Esther and the ladies a partnership, where each month a percentage of the business becomes theirs and eventually you can remove yourself from the daily tasks of overseeing the operation. Besides I believe the Lord has a need for you talents."

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Kid Sopris 8-9-07

 

Dan Carsey, the Banker hasn’t been the same since Slade’s incarceration and after the encounter with the Reverend; a nervous disorder has overcome the corrupted banker. Another villain, Sam has been held in the Jail on numerous charges and the investigation continues. Carsey is pretty sure someone is going to talk. After all he and Higgins are the only two left free and Higgins isn’t doing much better.

Higgins is on the verge of ruins, divorce and possible imprisonment for his conspiracy involvement and extra marital activities. Threats made publicly and privately towards the health and safety of others has not gone down well within the community or with his wife for that matter.

On the last trip by the bank, Rev. Sopris noticed that Banker Carsey couldn’t make simple change for two bits without dropping coins. Most of the community of Firelands stopped making deposits due to their suspicions of Carsey.

What lies ahead for these co-conspirators could have not been imagined by their feeble brains or in their wildest imagination.

The Church had a wonderful Rose garden. It sported a variety of colors and variations not usually seen in the West. But the rich soil was good for many things and fresh fruits and vegetables were always in abundance and the good folks of Firelands were always willing to share or exchange peaches for apricots or beans for tators.

There was a large wildlife population and the occasional Venison Stew, or Elk Steak was always appreciated. Growth has seasons, and within that same frame work Firelands would go through a variety of both environmental and social seasons. This was “a time to gather stones together and a time to scatter them apart."

Would there ever be peace and harmony in Firelands? Rev. Sopris prayed for it and would do just about anything in his power to see that the community was healthy, happy, and serene, with a sense of life, purpose and direction for an everlasting future.

Don’t ya love the smell of roses?

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Linn Keller 8-9-07

 

"Sam?"
Sam jumped, clutching the handle of his carpet bag. Even in the near-dark, I could see his eyes were wide and fearful.
I stepped out of the shadow and up the two steps onto the depot platform. Train would not be through until daylight.
"Have a set, Sam," I said, folding my frame onto a nice friendly bench.
I just sat there for a little while, listening to the crickets and the distant, intermittent clatter of Lightning's telegraph. I let the silence build, knowing Sam's guilty conscience would just compound his anxiety.
"You know, Sam," I said, "I am a curious man."
Sam hugged the carpet bag on his lap, watching me as if expecting me to sprout wings and fly away.
"Can't help but wonder about poor old Carsey. The man can't give change for sixbits without dropping it all over the floor. Now why do you suppose he's so nervous all of a sudden?"
"I, I, I dunno," Sam stammered, then blustered, "Why are you askin' me for? I don't know nothin!"
"Oh, I think you do, Sam," I said softly. "And I think some folks are afraid you'll talk."
I let that sink in.
Sam leaned back in his seat, eyes searching the prairie across the tracks from us, darting as if seeking an escape.
"You know, you'll have a better chance if you tell me before they get to you."
"Tell you what! I don't know nothin!"
"I know about the meetings," I said quietly.
There was a short, sharp intake of breath. I'd hit a nerve.
"Suppose you get it off your chest, Sam. You'll feel the better for it."
"They'll kill me!" he hissed.
"They'll have to come through me first," I said. "You tell me all you know. Everything. Hold nothing at all back. I will keep you safe. On that you have my word."
Sam was silent for several long moments, then his lip curled in contempt.
"Depitty, I wouldn't tell you if I had to! Now I don't know nothin! Get outta here an' leave me alone!" His voice gained momentum and at the end he was fairly shouting.
I nodded, looking down at the planks underfoot. "All right, Sam. Just remember ... you'll stand a better chance with me than with them."
I stood.
"Last chance."
In less than gentlemanly terms, Sam wished me a swift and certain descent to the Inferno.
I nodded. "I'll be at the Sheriff's office if you change your mind." I looked at my watch, closed the case, slipped it back into my vest pocket. "I'll have the coffee pot on. Train don't come til daybreak."

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Kid Sopris 8-9-07

 

"Dawg", a fine specimen of an independent thinking dog, with clear thoughts about what he wants for dinner, biscuits, stew or villain; began his afternoon search.

A smell he detected from once before offered him a fresh baked biscuit with just a little gravy about to tempt the taste buds. Dawg was not afraid, wagged his tail and like a gentleman devoured the biscuit in a single bite and swallow, and gave that remarkable grin...Do dogs grin?

A black dead rose was offered to Dawg with instructions .."Take to Sam at Train Depot" "Good Boy"- "you can have another biscuit when you return!".

Alone, with a thousand dollars, and thoughts of life or death rushed through his head. Each new thought was more devastating then the last. His heart would race; it felt like his eyes would pop, the pounding inside his chest only grew louder when the Big Black Dog, dropped the "Black Dead Rose" at Sam's feet, grinned and quickly departed.

Sam unsure the sender, was clear on the message..It met certain death, but from whom and where or even when.

Here, now, tonight..Slade, Higgins or Carsey...Who? Confusion and thoughts of delirium circled inside his head. The train would not come soon enough, maybe not at all. And what of Slade who has already left for prison, would he order Sam's death?

Dawg was already at the back of the Church, licking the remains of his tasty morsel of food when Charlie MacNeil walked up and said, "There you are!" Where you been this afternoon Dawg?' Dawg He just grinned.

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Linn Keller 8-9-07

 

The ladle was hanging on the rim of the water bucket like it always was, and I picked up the coffee pot and swirled it. Not much left. A little water, a little more swirl and I tossed the dregs out into the dirt street, off to the side so I wouldn't track dirt into the office next I came in. I like my coffee with authority and wished for some vanilla, but we had none here in the office.
Just as well. Give me an excuse to stop and see the good Reverend again sometime.
Funny, I thought. 'Twas almost as if he were quoting Ecclesiastes to me, when I recited the verse ... he wasn't a bit surprised at it, nor put out that I'd spoken and interrupted his study.
There was a goodly amount of ground coffee in the drawer and I spooned some in, added water and set it on the little pot belly stove. A fire was already set inside and only needed me to put match to it. The night was getting cool and I was satisfied the stove wouldn't over heat the snug confines of the office.
I scratched the Lucifer match and shoved it into the shavings and looked away from the glare before closing its door. The foolish man will stare at a fire; I'd long been in the habit of looking away, or shading my face from the flame. Many's the time I needed to see after dark and staring at a fire is a sure way to destroy your night time eye sight.
The lamp outside the door had been recently filled and only wanted flame to bring it to life. Didn't even have to trim the wick. The Sheriff was a tidy and methodical man, he'd probably been career military, though he never said. Paced off on the left, like a soldier, carried himself with the erect carriage of a soldier -- but then so did most horsemen, least those that weren't so lazy as to slouch in the saddle -- and his desk was a model of almost painful neatness, not one single thing out of place.
The lamp, lit outside the door, told the world someone was home in case they needed something.
I lit the lamp on his desk.
"Now that's odd," I said out loud, and drew back from the desk, my hand going for the handle of my Colt. Nothing else was out of place, nothing out of the ordinary.
Someone had been in here, neither the Sheriff nor myself.
The Sheriff would not have left an envelope at an odd angle on the desk.
He would have turned it neatly parallel to the front of the desk, with the address facing forward, so it could be read by someone standing in front of the desk.
It had my name on it.
I crossed the room in three long steps and unlocked the Greener, checked its loads, went back to the cells.
Nothing.
Higgins snarled, "When you gonna let me outta here? I got a business to run!"
"When I finish my investigation," I replied, nostrils flaring, cat-footing back to the front of the office.
"When will that be?" Higgins shouted after me. "When Hell freezes?"
I stepped behind the desk, laid the Greener on top and set down.
I examined the envelope.
"Don't recognize the hand writing," I thought, hefting it.
Something slid inside the envelope, something heavy ... a coin?
I opened the envelope.
A gold coin fell into my palm.
I saw a Seal of Solomon -- the Star of David -- superimposed with a Christian cross. I knew what would be on the reverse.
I leaned toward the lamp and, turning the coin over, gave a long, low whistle.
Hadn't expected to see one of these again.
There was a note with it:
"When the moon is in darkness,
And the silence befalls the land,
Bring a rose and this coin to the tree of truth,
Where others have been hanged."
I leaned back in the chair and an old, familiar tension started building in my legs.
I took a long, deep breath.
There was work to be done, and I had been summoned.

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Charlie MacNeil 8-9-07

 

Charlie found Dawg behind the church, cleaning up what looked like biscuits and gravy. Considering that the plate was behind the church, he figured it was probably safe.

"If you're done eating, would you care for a stroll downtown? I need to talk to that deputy," Charlie said.

Dawg gave the plate one more lick then woofed, which Charlie took as a yes. He turned toward the jailhouse.

A lamp was lit outside the door of the jail and the door was open. Charlie stepped up on the boardwalk and looked in the door. Deputy Keller was sitting at the Sheriff's desk with a bemused expression on his face, looking down at a slip of paper in his hand. He didn't notice Charlie and Dawg until Charlie knocked quietly on the door.

The deputy quickly dropped something shiny into his pocket. "What can I do for you?" he asked.

Charlie looked closely at the deputy, whose name he'd heard was Keller, and said, "I'm going to reach into an inside pocket and I'd appreciate it if you didn't shoot me when I do. Alright?"

"I don't generally shoot strangers unless they give me a good reason," Keller said. "Reach away."

Charlie reached into a pocket in his vest and pulled out his badge and pinned it to his vest. "My name's MacNeil, and I'm a Deputy US Marshal." He stuck his hand across the desk. Keller reached and shook it.

"Linn Keller," he said. "And I already know who you are. There can't be more than one marshal riding a buckskin horse that pale and traveling with a dog that big and black."

"I didn't know I was famous," Charlie said. "Or is it infamous?"

Linn shrugged and grinned. "It all depends on your point of view, I guess," he said. "Back to my original question: What can I do for you?"

Charlie looked at him. "I was wondering if you could tell me if there's a tree somewhere around here that's been used to, shall we say, cut short the careers of a few ne'er-do-wells?"

"Like a tree of truth?" Keller said solemnly.

Charlie was startled and looked it. "Where did you hear that?" he asked sharply. His thumb hooked over his belt near the butt of his crossdraw Remington pistol.

Linn slowly reached into his own pocket and tossed something onto the desktop. The coin spun and glittered and came to a stop with an engraved cross showing. "Heads evil loses."

"You're one of us," Charlie said.

"I am," Linn answered. "But I haven't seen a coin like this in many years."

"And someone in Firelands is calling both our names," Charlie said.

"That he is. I don't know who, but I've got a better than average idea why." Linn paused. "The tree of truth is a big oak in a draw over by the cemetery. And the dark of the moon is coming up. Soon."

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Lady Leigh 8-10-07

 

The stars appeared so close that all Bonnie would have to do was reach out and touch them. This was just one of the simple pleasures that Bonnie was falling in love with all over again. There were many nights she, her Mama and Sister would sit out on the porch and simply gaze into a sky completely filled with wonder.

Mama and Margaret were gone now, but sitting out in the stillness with Esther, Duzy and Tilly were sheer bliss, too. There was no way around it, there was a kinship among the women. There was a blanket of respect and gratitude that rest peacefully above them ... it was a wonderful feeling to behold.

Tilly was still finding her bearing among this little family of females, but Duzy and Esther gave her the space she needed to adjust, just like they did with Bonnie. Bonnie smiled at Tilly seeing her sit there in a garnet red cotton skirt and white cotton blouse ... she looked as if she was never part of any other kind of lifestyle than this one! "Do I look like that, too?" Bonnie thought. She felt like she did ... funny how it doesn't always take to much time to feel the healing powers.

Bonnie glanced over at Esther. Esther was figgeting, and though Bonnie couldn't clearly see Esthers face in the shadowed darkness, she thought Esther was perplexed about something. Duzy, too, was looking distracted.

"What is with you two all of a sudden? I don't hear a thing to be concerned about" Bonnie asked.

Esther replyed, "Some things felt are not always heard, Bonnie."

Then Duzy, "Isn't that the truth! There is something going on tonight ... that is for certain!"

Tilly's cup and saucer began making a clatter sound, "Well that just gives me the spooks! ...."

"I do not believe we have anything to fear dear girls ..." and with that Esther settled back into the rocker and sipped her tea. Bonnie noticed Duzy doing the same.

Bonnie knew the two had moments of a sixth sense ... no doubt this was one of those times. Bonnie settled back as well ... took a little longer for Tilly to relax. These two women were still new to Tilly. She'd get used to it.

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