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Firelands-The Beginning

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Linn Keller 6-5-08


Jacob studied his plate, his forearms pressed hard onto the edge of the table.
"Jacob?" Annette said gently. "If you look at it any harder, it'll melt."
Jacob blinked and considered Miss Messman's words, and then chuckled.
They were seated at the Sheriff's table, and Jacob's .40-60 was leaned against the wall, where the Sheriff normally parked his own rifle.
This fact was not lost on Miz Fannie.
She'd only just received Charlie's telegram: reading it, she considered the right words to use for an idealistic young man with a belly full of hot coals.
Wait, an inner voice whispered, and so she accepted a glass of liquid fire from Mr. Baxter, and sauntered slowly across in front of the stage.
Fiddler Daine had been tuning on his fiddle, and as she passed, he drew his bow across the rosin block.
"Evenin', Miz Fannie," he greeted her. "Anythin' you'd like to hear?"
Fannie leaned against the stage and rested her chin delicately on the tips of two fingers, a position that struck the admiring Mr. Baxter as utterly feminine and absolutely fetching.
"Why, darlin', anythin' you coax out of that magical box will suit me just fine," she said in that sweet voice of hers, knowing she had the eyes and the attention of all the men in the room.
Well, all but one, and he had eyes for another lass.
Fiddler Daine tilted his head a little so his chin rested comfortably in the chin-rest, and drew his rosined horsehair bow across the strings.
Miz Fannie sighed as a waltz spun out of his fiddle, slow and stately, making her wish for a particular Marshal's arms to whirl her about in great, graceful circles.
She looked over at Jacob, who was standing.
Fannie smiled as Jacob reached, not for his hat or his rifle, but rather for his lady's hand, and she remembered how well Jacob's father waltzed, the only time she'd partnered with him.
He moves well, she thought, assessing him with a woman's eyes: not only how well he danced, but as he danced, how he treated his lady: and yes, Fannie admired the slender young man's good looks and lean structure. I like my men a little more seasoned, she thought, but he's easy on the eyes.
He's not a bad dancer, either.

She sipped her amber drink, savoring its warmth as it glowed clear down to her toes, and after Jacob and Miss Messman danced the set, Fannie turned and asked Fiddler Daine to play another.
She walked over to the young couple, almost but not quite moving in between them and the Sheriff's table.
"Might I borrow this good lookin' fellow for a dance?" Fannie asked Miss Messman, her disarming smile removing any threat from the question, and as Fiddler Daine began another waltz, Fannie decided this lean, solid young man just might surprise her.
He danced very well indeed, she realized.
Almost as well as his Pa.

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Linn Keller 6-5-08


The commanding officer can be wrong, I'd told Jacob one time, but he can never be in doubt.
I rubbed my smarting cheek and considered.
Daisy was right.
I put myself aside and turned to the task at hand.
I had ten hand-drawn sketches of Josie dealing poker -- very good sketches, I might add -- and I had wax, and a seal, my pen and ink bottle, and some paper from my office, thanks to Jacob.
Nurse Susan had afforded me a table and I began writing the first of ten letters, all to brother lawmen.
They were all folded and sealed with the same red wax, and the seal impressed on the soft, hot wax was that of a cross superimposed with a Star of David, and the edges of the seal were in the shape of a rose petal sun burst.
The message to each of the ten brother lawmen was the same:
This is Josie, no last name. Good with Colts and cards. If seen do not apprehend, advise me and I will handle.
I signed it L. Keller, Sheriff, Firelands, Colorado

I wished mightily for Charlie's contacts. The man knew everyone, or so it seemed, and he had a way of getting information out as well as getting it in.
Even with Jacob in the saddle, delivering these, it would take a week, two weeks, three maybe to get them sent out, as I had no idea where Josie/Duzy might have headed.
I laid my pen down, precisely aligned along the margin of my paper, and made a tight, trembling fist.
I wanted nothing more than to drive it through the nearest wall.
I looked over at Esther. She was asleep, and Doc said this was a good thing: she'd woken clear minded, and he'd taken her face very gently between his long, thin fingers, turning her head one way, then the other, watching her eyes, her expression; he was looking for something, I don't know what, but he seemed satisfied.
He was even happier when she showed a good appetite.
I turned back to my papers. A sketch and a letter, folded together, wax sealed, and addressed on the outside: I was dog tired, my backside ached from that broken bone, and I figured this was enough work for one night.
I cupped my hand around the top of the chimney and puffed out the lamp.
I couldn't leave Esther, so I dragged the mattress off the other bed and laid it on the floor beside her, and slept there.

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Kid Sopris 6-5-08


The Kid was enjoying a fresh cup of vanilla coffee, barely remembering his trip home from the Ute Village. By the time he got horses and mules, fed, watered and groomed it was late.

The echo of the concerto gently playing as the wind blew through the Aspen quakies was almost deafening. However Sopris was keen the the ways of the forest and mountains.

It was about mid morning when Deputy Constable Davis rode into Sopris preserve, Yelling for the Kid.

"Davis all that damn yelling scared the game within a 200 mile radius of this place!"

"Yeah, but I still heard the four clicks behind my ear and you ain't even horseback. I swear Sopris, every time you come home you are more like an injun".

"Davis, you didn't ride all the way out here from Carbondale to tell me I'm an Indian; I'm busy doing nothin and I want to get back to it".

"Well Sir I got this hear writ to be on the look out for this real pretty gal by the name of Josie from Firelands, seems she wanted for something. Got a sketch of her too."

Sopris snatched the note from Davis's hand before he knew it was missing; looked at it nonchalantly and handed back to Deputy Davis.

"Deputy?" "Yes Sir",


"Did any of your folks have children that survived?"



"look at that sketch that's a sketch of a city girl. Does this look like the dang city to you?"

"When you get back to town Deputy, Tell ol man Crawford he put the saddle on the wrong mule; Now scat".

Deputy Davis with pride and ego tucked under his saddle and the appearance of a beaten dog, rode back down the trail to Carbondale.

Sopris thought out loud..."What in the samhell did that dang fool lady do now?"

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Charlie MacNeil 6-5-08


Charlie's eyes were turned toward the dark window but his gaze was turned inward. Reflected there on the front of his mind was an image of auburn hair and green eyes and a magnificent...character. As the trucks clunk-clunked over the rail joints Charlie talked to the image in his head.

"I have to keep the lid on this time," he told her.

"I know, Sugar," she replied.

"But I'm not sure I can," he said somewhat haltingly.

"You've never had any trouble before," she answered with certainty.

"I've never been this emotionally involved before," he insisted.

"They're not blood," she said.

"They might as well be," he said.

"They're still not blood," she insisted in turn.

"Some things go deeper than blood," he affirmed.

"You're right on that one, Sugar," she agreed.

"The demons will want out," he added.

"Don't let 'em," she ordered.

"I can't promise anything, but I'll try," he said slowly.

The image faded but behind it there came the flash of eyes like embers in a bed of black ashes and the slightest hint of deep voiced laughter...

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Duzy Wales 6-6-08


Duzy, in a lucid moment, watered down the bottle of laudanum, hiding what she had poured out for her own use if she needed to be brought down slowly from the addictive drug, something she had learned while researching the Chinese slaves and the opium dens for the newspaper articles she had written. Uppermost in her mind were how Aunt Esther was faring and an image of her lying on the floor with the blood in her hair came to her mind. She couldn’t bear to think that she had let Josie hurt Aunt Esther or Uncle Linn, but knew she had did both.

Duzy knew that Josie was fighting for her own life, literally, just as she was fighting Duzy for control of that same life. Josie didn’t want to die and had taken the steps to keep from being held against her will. Josie didn’t feel that she had done anything wrong, protecting herself from the two people who were hell bent on bringing her down. She knew Esther was bringing Duzy out; she knew Esther loved Duzy. It was the same with the Sheriff. Josie also felt she was protecting Duzy, for why else would she be there? Duzy had been hurt and confused, possibly hurt worse than Josie knew, and she had emerged to protect her.

Duzy didn’t hate Josie, for she was a part of herself and knew that Josie could have stolen the clothing instead of working for the lady in Saint Louis for her britches and shirts. Josie could have killed both Esther and Linn, but she hadn’t; she had found it hard to hit the woman. In their mind, Josie was the tougher side of Duzy, but she didn’t have the memories of Duzy’s family, nor had she ever felt the love that had been bestowed upon Duzy.

There was an internal battle going on between the two. Duzy admired Josie for her courage and skill. With each moment that Josie sat dealing cards, taking off on her own, jumping the train, or practicing with her Colts, Duzy was learning the same techniques. Duzy wanted to become strong enough that Josie would not be needed. Duzy wanted Josie to feel compassion and love and for both of them to heal so that they could be one personality, each having learned from the other. Was that possible? At the same time, Josie was beginning to love the feel of Duzy's clothing against her skin, she was learning how to do her hair so the gamblers would take notice, she was learning to speak with the same Southern drawl that Duzy spoke, thinking the men enjoyed hearing it, and she was beginning to like her counterpart, having read some of her articles and admired the way Duzy loved to help the less fortunate.

The fact was, Duzy didn’t know the extent of the damage that the butt of her gun had done to Aunt Esther or her knee for that matter, to Uncle Linn. Neither did Josie. Josie didn’t want to find out; Duzy felt she had to know that they were both fine and that there wasn’t any permanent damage. For now, she could only hope and pray, for she didn’t know how she could or would deal with the fact that she had hurt either of them badly, or allowed Josie to so.

Sometimes Josie and Duzy were together, and had conversations in their mind with each other, arguing back and forth; sometimes Duzy was dormant; sometimes Duzy could take control. They both wondered at times whether it would matter who she was at a certain time or whether it would even matter in the end, for now, they were one and the same when it came right down to it. Their lives, both of them, depended on each other, and with that came the responsibility and consequences of what the other did.

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Linn Keller 6-6-08


Jacob sat at his Pa's desk, there in the quiet of the Sheriff's Office, and rubbed his eyes.
His Pa had been a military man and had a military man's liking for maps: Jacob had several to pick from, and was running his finger over one, frowning at the names carefully written into the hand drawn page.
He had no idea whether Josie/Duzy had gone to the west, or to the east; it wasn't likely she'd gone to the north, so he gave that serious consideration, but finally dismissed its likelihood.
There was a light tap at the door and Jacob straightened.
The door wasn't latched; it swung open, and Miz Fannie stepped in, looking as fresh and lovely as when Jacob had seen her earlier that evening.
"Ma'am," Jacob greeted her, coming around from behind the desk. "Can I offer you some coffee?"
"That would be lovely, thank you," Fannie said with a feminine tilt of her head.
Jacob dispensed fresh Arbuckle's into the blue-granite cup and handed it to the lovely lady, handle first. "She's singin' hot, ma'am, fit to scald the hair off your tongue."
Miz Fannie laughed, delicately, and her laugh was like running water. "You do sound like your father!" she said, giving Jacob those big, lovely eyes.
Jacob bridled the surge that responded to this beautiful woman's magic ... he was young, but he wasn't stupid, and he knew that strong feeling often clouded a man's good judgment, and he had no doubt that this beautiful woman could addle a man's thoughts in very short order.
Miz Fannie stepped slowly over to the Sheriff's desk, orienting her mind to the map's inverted layout. "Going somewhere?"
Jacob sipped at his coffee, frowned, set it down on the corner of the desk.
"I'm trying to figure where this Josie character might have gone off to."
"And...?" Miz Fannie's heels were loud on the heavy, close-fitted plank floor.
Jacob smiled and came out from behind the desk again. He picked up a chair. "Can I offer you a seat, Miz Fannie?"
Miz Fannie knew the value of stoking a man's ego, especially when she wanted to steer that man in a particular direction. She dropped her eyes modestly and said, "That's very kind of you," and Jacob swept the chair in just behind her.
Miz Fannie sat, and her posture turned a humble wooden chair into a throne for a Queen.
Jacob's mind disciplined itself to the task he'd begun. He leaned over the map again, clearly illuminated in the absolutely white light of the Aladdin lamp the Sheriff favored.
Miz Fannie waited patiently, knowing that even a small shift of her body would be enough to remind Jacob she was there, and was waiting on his good pleasure -- a powerful message to send any man, knowing that a beautiful woman thinks well enough of you not to interrupt.
Jacob's fingertips trailed lightly across the map, and he read off the names of the mining camps and small towns like a conductor calling off destinations. "Singletree, Long Hollow, Pepper Rock, Carbondale, Carbon Hill, Doanville" -- He shook his head.
Sitting abruptly in the Sheriff's chair, he spread his hands. "Miz Fannie, my Pa told me to hold action, and he will handle it. I want to go after her, but Pa said he would handle it, so I'm staying." His gaze dropped back to the map. "But there's nothing says I can't try and figure things out."
Miz Fannie nodded. "You're not going to saddle up and go tearing off after her, then?"
Jacob looked up and smiled quietly. "No, ma'am. I wouldn't want to disappoint Pa."
"You must think a great deal of him."
"Yes, ma'am, I do. And Mother."
Fannie's ears twitched. He'd described the Sheriff as "Pa", with the affection of a son who regards his Pa as a friend as well as a father -- but in the same breath he'd just called Esther, "Mother," and in a more formal tone.
Fannie had thought well enough of Jacob before: her estimate of him went up a few notches more.
"How is your mother?" The question was innocent enough, but it hung on the still air like the deep note of a rung bell.
Jacob turned his head and looked at the floor, his eyes chasing into the shadows. Fannie could see the wrinkles in his chin as he pressed his lips together.
Finally he looked back at her, his gaze direct.
"Ma'am, she's never been hurt worse in her life, but she's not sayin' a word about it. She'll admit to a headache but that's it." He shook his head and sat back down, slowly.
"And your Pa?"
Jacob's eyes flicked up from the paper, dark with worry. "He's taken this hard, ma'am. He was so happy when Mother told us, 'I am with child.' Pa was walkin' on clouds. I never saw the man happier." Jacob leaned back in the chair; there was a little squeak, as chairs often do, and Jacob's eyes tracked along the trim strip where the front wall met the ceiling.
"Pa always treated her like a queen, ma'am."
Fannie sipped her coffee, listening. Sometimes a woman encourages a man to speak with a word, sometimes with a look; Fannie knew Jacob would be encouraged by her silence. She gave him those lovely eyes and waited.
"Ma'am, we didn't know whether Mother would live. I was fearful she would not. Pa never said as much but I believe he was afeared too."
Miz Fannie nodded, knowing this was still the best way to encourage him to talk.
Keep him here, Charlie said, she thought. As long as he was talking he was not riding: from what he's told me, she thought, he's not going after her, but I have to be sure.
"It him him hard, ma'am. I never saw anything grieve a man the way this did."
Miz Fannie nodded, slowly. "Losing a child is a terrible thing," she agreed.
"He lost his first wife to smallpox, ma'am. Just before he got home from the War. It near to kilt him. His little girl was two when he got home, and she had the smallpox and died in his arms."
"Oh, how terrible!" Fannie said softly. She hadn't known this.
"He pointed his nose West, him and that big plow horse of his, and wandered for a time. I think he detoured south and did some Marshallin' in the coal country in suth'n Ohio and then headed out this-a-way."
Jacob blinked and smiled, suddenly self-conscious. "I'm sorry, ma'am. I shouldn't talk so much." He tried to bury the sudden realization that he was prattling in the presence of a beautiful woman with a sudden gulp of coffee; his gulp was too sudden and he ended up swallowing hard and coughing.
Miz Fannie was polite enough not to laugh, but her cheeks did color a bit with amusement, and her eyes sparkled with understanding.
She did have that effect on men.

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Linn Keller 6-6-08


When Jacob had caught his breath, Fannie looked at him with a totally level gaze, doing her best to make what she was going to say a straightforward proposition rather than something Jacob might agree to just because of her femininity. "Jacob, I have a favor to ask you," she began. "Or rather Charlie does, but since he's not here I am asking in his stead."

"Yes, ma'am?"

"I realize that you feel that you can't leave Firelands at this time, because of your father," she went on. "But if what I've seen of the Keller blood runs true, you will go hunting at the first chance. Or am I mistaken?"

Jacob was long in answering. "Pa wants to bring Josie in himself, because of what she did to my Mother," he said finally. "But I don't think he'll be able to ride for quite some time, and the longer that time is the colder the trail will be." His soft voice hardened. "And what has happened cannot be let go." His features hardened as well and it was easy to see what Jacob Keller could look like if hate took precedence in his life. Fannie fully intended to keep that from happening if she could. Jacob suddenly relaxed and something of his youth once again shone through. "You mentioned a favor, ma'am?"

"Indeed I did," Fannie said. "I've been communicating with Charlie and he wants me to ask you not to go after Josie until he gets here to go with you." Fannie sat back and waited for his answer, mentally holding her breath as she sat trying to look relaxed.

Once again Jacob sat and stared unseeingly at the map in front of him for a time. He took a deep breath. "Did he say why? It seems to me that he really doesn't have a stake in this."

Now it was Fannie's turn to consider her answer. "I believe that Charlie considers your parents as family. There are sometimes ties that are closer than blood. Or at least shared blood. The shedding of blood can sometimes bring totally disparate individuals together and make them closer than kin." She paused. "Your father and Charlie have gone through a lot together in a very short time, and it has served to create that bond."

"And Mother?" Jacob asked softly.

"Charlie's ancestors were clansmen of the Scottish highlands," Fannie said equally as softly. She was choosing her words with care, because what she was saying suddenly explained some things about Charlie that she had wondered about herself over the years. He had never said anything directly but she had heard the stories from others. "Their warrior's code made family the most important thing in their lives and were to be protected at all costs. To injure a family member was to draw the wrath of all the clan, not just the husband or father of the injured. They would die themselves to bring vengeance on the offending party. The innocent and women and children of whatever clan were considered the same way.

"Charlie's family is down to his older brother and his father," she went on. "His brother takes care of his father, and Charlie takes care of the injured innocent wherever they may be found." She paused but Jacob uttered not a sound. "I realize that you've never seen Charlie with his shirt off, but if you were to do so you would see that life has not always treated him kindly and in fact each of his scars represents another trip through the depths of Hades." She suddenly smiled to lighten the mood in the room. "I'm probably boring you to tears," she said, "but I thought I needed to explain Charlie to you a little."

"No ma'am, I'm not bored in the least," Jacob told her. "Do you know when he'll be back to Firelands?"

"He said he would be on the next train," Fannie answered. "He should be here early tomorrow."

"I believe I can wait that long," Jacob said with a smile of his own.

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Linn Keller 6-7-08


Esther had intended to tend her ablutions and dress, to walk briskly to the Jewel and resume her running of the railroad: she intended this, at least, until she tried standing, and the room began turning slowly about her, and the floor wobbled unpleasantly underfoot.
Nurse Susan came in just in time to see Esther sit back down on the bed, clutching the edge of the mattress to keep from falling up to the ceiling.
Later that day she tried again, impatient with being confined to bed; this time she got halfway across the room before the deck began to pitch and yaw, and she managed to find a seat before it commenced to roll from left to right: she closed her eyes tightly, clutching the seat of the chair with both hands, commanding the storm to abate.
It did, albeit with some reluctance.
Her husband was having his own difficulties: he'd successfully navigated a wash-up and clean clothes, but he had to move carefully, and avoid straining, as any such move pained his fractured backside: the effort of drawing on his boots was painful, and he loathed the thought of what it would feel like to remove them that night: nevertheless, he managed, and so with a deep breath and determination, he knocked lightly at Esther's door, and cautiously opened the portal.
Esther peered at him with one emerald eye, the other screwed shut; she smiled and said, "Be careful, dearest, the floor tends to wobble," then she shut both eyes and set her teeth against the unpleasant sensation of riding a rough sea in a small boat.
The Sheriff was to her in three strides, and knelt down on one knee; ignoring the agony in his tail bone, he held his wife, and she leaned into him, holding him with a surprisingly strong grip.
It took probably a half hour's labor but they two managed to get Esther dressed. Brushing her hair was a particularly difficult chore: she managed to brush the parts she could without causing undue pain, and at one point Nurse Susan asked her to pause while she checked the good doctors' sutures: satisfied that there was no unwanted leakage, she bade Esther continue, knowing the woman to be independent, self-sufficient, and in this vulnerable moment, most in need of being able to bring some small bit of order into her suddenly and traumatically disordered life.
Nurse Susan drew Esther aside and quickly, efficiently, spoke of matters best left to a private discussion: during this brief and medically intimate tete-a-tete, Dr. Flint was having an equally delicate and intensive conversation with the Sheriff: cautions as to what he might expect, what he should watch out for: such matters as bleeding, whether from her recent injury, or from her loss; dizziness, any change in personality, difficulty in speech, any drooping of the mouth, thickness of the tongue, any asymmetry of the face; any loss of dexterity or strength in one hand over the other; difficulty walking -- the list was lengthy, but mostly common-sense: in other words, he concluded, anything unusual, should be brought to the good Doctor's attention immediately, as it may indicate infection or other problems.
The Sheriff listened carefully, but retained his own counsel in the matter.
Not many minutes later, the Sheriff stepped out the front door of the hospital with his bride on his arm.
Those who noticed, thought it so sweet that they chose to walk thus together, from the hospital to the Jewel, a beautiful woman on a handsome man's arm.
In point of fact, the Sheriff's backside was too tender to sit a saddle, and Esther's dizziness was so severe she would not have been able to stand their buggy's turning even a gentle corner.
None knew this save the Sheriff and his wife, not even when Jacob strode quickly after them, a paper-wrapped bundle under his arm: he looked long at Esther before cautiously encircling her with his sinewy, strong arms, holding her perhaps a few moments longer than he otherwise would have: he then turned to his father and, presenting him the paper-wrapped and string-tied bundle, said simply, "Sir, your orders have been obeyed," before turning and departing the Jewel.
The Sheriff's decision to head for their usual table was less prompted by hunger than by his wish to give Esther a rest before mounting the stairs to her office, where she wished to go: he drew out her chair and she sat, gratefully, resting her head in her hands and her elbows on the tabletop.
The Sheriff untied the string and unwrapped the bundle, and began to laugh.
Esther looked up to see the Sheriff holding a gaudy, bright, screaming crimson, silken pillow, gold-trimmed and gold-tasseled, thick and fluffy and looking like a refugee from a house of ill repute.
The Sheriff placed this offensively-gaudy pillow on his chair and eased his backside down upon it.
The relief on his face was the best thing Esther had seen in some time.

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Kid Sopris 6-8-08


Sopris was content being back on the mountain..No issues, no crisis, well except for the bear. Fate is not what the Kid leaves to chance. If the devil is going to have his day, than at least Sopris could do is make him pay for the dance. What that thought process, Sopris began to load extra ammo, and made sure all the firearms were loaded and stored in convenient locations along with sufficient rounds.

Sopris then set about making himself and the Wolf and her pups a early supper. Sopris had plans to catch up on some reading and watch local wildlife wander about.

A late afternoon thunder shower moved through dumping some fresh and needed rain to the mountain. It always smells so clean after the downpour. After about an hour things cleared up and the filtered sunlight through the Aspens made the ground looked liked it was covered in Silver and Pearls with the twinkling from the moisture still on the grass.

So goes the daily mountain life; No stress, no fuss, no muss only the occasional young deputy with a tid bit of information .

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Duzy Wales 6-8-08


Aunt Esther had taught Duzy, as a young girl, to listen to her voices as if one was sitting on one shoulder and the other on her other shoulder….one was an Angel, the other a Devil and they would converse with each other to bring out Duzy’s real feelings on what the voices were telling her, so Duzy decided to play with Josie….

As Josie was fixing her hair to go to the saloon, Duzy said, “No, that isn’t how you do it, flip your head over and brush it forward, get it all in your hand and twist it around, like this.”

“Will you hush; I am just now getting the hang of wearing it like this!”

“Just trying to help, Josie, it would look much better if you did it my way!”

“If we did things your way, we would be locked up in an institution.”

“You have to admit you love the feel of my clothing better than yours.”

“Well, they are softer, and the men like those blouses you wear, but I’m still wearin’ my britches!”

“If you wish to look like a man, that is your business Josie, but a little ankle showing under a pretty skirt makes a man take notice too; they like to know a woman has on pretty under things, even if it is just barely a flash as you step down or as a man helps you down off a horse or a buggy.”

“Don’t need any help gettin’ off a horse.” And don’t you sound real proper talking about flashing your underwear! Sounds downright silly to me; now hush so I can get ready!”

Duzy and Josie were still conversing all the way to town, and Josie was getting exasperated with hearing Duzy’s advice, and took a drink of the laudanum Duzy had watered down earlier.

“Damn stuff doesn’t taste the same!”

“You are getting addicted to it and soon it will take control of you! I wrote a story on opium addiction, you need to read it.”

“It helps the headaches!”

“Not for long, you will start needing more and more, you need to read the article! Besides, my tequila helps and it isn’t quite as addictive unless you start drinking a bottle at a time!”

“Yeah, I saw the way you belted that stuff back!”

“And your headache eased, did it not?”

“Can’t you go away and let me concentrate? How can I play poker tonight with you talking in my head and won’t leave?”

“Get used to it Josie, I am here too!” There isn’t much you can do about that is there?”

“No, I reckon’ I can’t, but I am thinking on it.”

“Well, while you are thinking, why don’t you see if any of these drifters have been through Firelands? Listen and see if there is any word on Aunt Esther’s condition. I might be quiet and rest if you would ease my mind! That one over there looks like a lawman to me! He may be on to you for hurting Aunt Esther and keeping an eye on you! That would be something Uncle Linn would do, having you watched until he can get here!”

“That Sheriff will think I am far away from here by now!”

“Are you sure, that man continues to watch you! And, I know Uncle Linn, he won’t give up and neither will his son Jacob, or his friends. They will find you!”

Duzy decided to stay quiet to see what Josie would do. Soon, Josie found she was dealing cards to a Deputy from Carbondale who was asking questions. Josie brought out Duzy’s Southern drawl as she talked to the lawman, and did a fairly convincing job that she was a lady from the South and just passing through after losing her husband on the trail and with her Papa having been a poker player, it was the only way she knew to make enough money to go back East, as she batted her eyelashes and flirted with the now besotted lawman!

“I have to admit you are good when you want to be!”

“Shut up Duzy, I think you may be right though, that man does know something or he wouldn’t have asked the questions he did.”

“Yes, I know, you should listen to me more often! What are you going to do?”

“Move on….I think we need to move on!”

“Me too, why don’t we ride back and see that handsome retired lawman, just a short visit, and see what he has heard…..if anyone knows, he will.”

“You just want to see him cause your sweet on him!”

“No, Josie, he is a friend of mine and I honestly think he would help us, besides you felt awful bad when he left.”

“Well he shouldn’t have just run off like that.”

“He did tell you where you could find him….maybe that was his way of inviting you to visit.”

“I’ll think on it.”

“He has probably been looking forward to someone coming to visit….you know it has to be awful lonely out there in that cabin all alone….just him and nature and no real person to talk to….sounds peaceful to me and we do need to get away from here!”

“You really think so?”

“I think he would welcome us with open arms!”

Duzy almost choked getting that out, figuring Kid was happy just where he was and not wanting any complications in his life, but Duzy wanted to know how Aunt Esther and Uncle Linn were and knew he could find out if he didn’t already know. Besides, she did miss him and wasn’t ashamed to say so!

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Linn Keller 6-9-08


The word shot through me like a lightning bolt.
I stood there in the express office, looking at the one word.
I trusted the man who sent it. How he found out, I did not know, but it wasn't more than a few days' ride and that big Spanish horse could cover ground --
A familiar pain in the hinder reminded me that I wasn't in much good shape to ride.
Some things a man has to bear, I thought.
This is family.
Besides, a buggy ride, that distance ... no.
Let's see how smooth a gait you can maintain!
I thanked Lightning and winked at his son, and walked casually back to my office. Once there I was no longer so casual.
I fetched out the maps and saw they were not in the order I'd left them.
Jacob, I thought, and smiled. He's been doing just what I would be doing: holding action on the order of a superior officer, but preparing!
I traced a finger along the rail route. She'd likely taken the train ... here, and she'd taken Edi with her, so from the railhead to Carbondale would be ....
Ignoring the ache in my tail bone, I felt young again, knowing I was going on the hunt.
I was divided in my feelings.
On the one hand I was a lawman going after someone who assaulted a lawman and nearly killed a woman.
I couldn't say she killed our daughter. It was easy to think that, but the jack mule likely is what killed our baby, and it just took that long to miscarry.
No, I would not lay any more crimes at her feet than she'd honestly earned.
I opened the desk drawer and looked at the lady-sized cuffs I'd used in the past.
I looked at them a long time, and thought of Duzy, and of those big brown eyes, those startling eyes, and I thought of her slender wrists, locked in steel ...
I curled my lip and slammed the drawer.
I looked at the map one last time, then carefully put it away with the others.
"She's family," I said aloud. "She's coming home with me, riding her own saddle, or tied across it."
I tossed that offensively bright pillow on my chair and sat, calming myself, gathering my thoughts. Nothing much good ever came in haste, and I wanted to review before heading out.

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Charlie MacNeil 6-9-08


Charlie stepped down from the train and tried to stretch the kinks from his back. His mouth tasted gritty and his tailbone felt like it was trying to dig its way out through his backside. The horsehair stuffing in those seats definitely hadn't been put there to soften the ride, at least as far as he could tell.

"Decisions, decisions," he murmured. Whether to go to the Jewel and find Fannie first, or make a beeline for the Sheriff's office and try to catch up with Jacob.

"Do you always talk to yourself like that, Sugar?" a sweet voice said from behind him.

"Sometimes it's the only way I get to carry on an intelligent conversation," he said with a grin. He turned around and wrapped his arms around Fannie. "How'd you know I'd be here now?"

"I'm psychic," she said with a saucy smile. "Besides which, this is probably the only train in this part of the world that runs on time, silly," she went on. "If the schedule says it'll be here, it'll be here." She kissed him. "Welcome back. But what took you so long?"

"That's a long story, darlin'," he said. "I'll tell it to you some time soon, I promise. But for now, how are Linn and Esther? And is Jacob still here?"

"Esther lost the baby," Fannie told him somberly. "And Linn is hurting bad, not just from the broken tailbone. And yes, Jacob is still here."

"Good. I need to talk to him. In fact, I was just trying to decide whether I should go to the Sheriff's office on the way to the Jewel or go to the Jewel first." He gave her a grin. "You made up my mind for me. I'm headed for the Sheriff's office. Care to join me?" In answer, she took his arm.

"Lead on, MacDuff," she said. The couple started down the street. Charlie had his valise in the hand that wasn't otherwise occupied.

Linn looked up when Charlie opened the door and ushered Fannie inside the office. Charlie took one look at Linn's face and said, "You found her and you're thinking you need to ride. But are you up to it? This could be a long chase."

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Duzy Wales 6-9-08


Josie heard what she needed to hear when two gamblers walked in talkin’, and as she listened, she formed a plan. A nearby Sheriff was known to be addicted to laudanum and could be bribed they had said, not even knowin Josie was listenin, and after they left, she pulled out her map and traced the way she planned to go, figuring she could throw anyone off her trail real easy that way. No one in their right mind would even think she would be headed that way!

“What are you going to do if you run into outlaws or Indians?” Duzy asked.

“Kill ‘em if I have to, and don’t forget you are an outlaw too!”

“We will stay by the creek bed here, riding south and go this way……”

Josie smiled to herself, knowing she would be taking the long way around, but also knowing no one would expect it and it looked as if there were plenty of places to hide out and watch and get the drop on that Sheriff back in Firelands if she had to, or any of his friends and fellow lawmen!

“Josie, it is only two hours from here to Kid’s cabin, it will take at least a week to go the way you are planning.”

“Yep, and I am keeping you away from that Kid feller, just might start bringing back memories and you may try to take over again, I’m sure you have some good memories with the man!”

“My memories are none of your business Josie!” Duzy said as she blushed to the roots of her hair, just thinking about the kiss in the cemetery and how she had felt in his arms.

“Yeah, well if he had cared, he would have stayed with us!”

“Maybe he didn’t need or want two women, have you ever thought of that Josie?”

Duzy was also thinking of Aunt Esther and hoping Kid had some news of her condition. She had been lying so still atop Uncle Linn and he wasn’t in good shape either the last she had seen and she was sick with worry! “He may just help us!”

“This is a waste of time discussin him, cause we ain’t going there. I’m not planning on bein easy pickins for that Uncle of yours or anyone else! I’m going to bribe that Sheriff and we can stay hid and run them lawmen around in circles.

Josie kept marking her course on the map and then bought supplies. Duzy wasn’t looking forward to riding a week in what looked like God forsaken territory before they would even arrive in the corrupt Sheriff’s town, but Josie had decided to give them a run for their money and it seemed for now Duzy couldn’t stop her!

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Linn Keller 6-9-08


Charlie swung the door open with his usual utter lack of preamble.
Sizing me up with a look, he said, "You found her and you're thinking you need to ride. But are you up to it? This could be a long chase."
I stood, willing myself not to grimace, and took a long step out from behind the desk, extending my hand. "Good morning to you too!" I couldn't help but grin, and Charlie grinned back.
Miz Fannie was standing there with her hands on her hips. I think she was expecting something but I'm not sure what, and at the moment I was damned glad to see Charlie again!
"That-there grip you're haulin' around tells me you just got off the train," I said, retrieving that gaudy-awful pillow from my chair. "How's your appetite?"
Charlie could have eaten most of a beef cow, excepting hide, hooves and bawl, but he wasn't about to seem over-eager.
"Oh, I reckon if you twisted my arm," he muttered.
I winked at Miz Fannie and clapped my hand on Charlie's shoulder, which was kind of like clapping a chunk of oak: the man was nothing if not solid, and I don't think there was a spare pound of fat on the man's whole carcass.
"What say we consult some of Daisy's fine cookin' and we can take it from there!"
"Men!" Fannie muttered with a lift of her chin.
"Now, Miz Fannie, I'm not ignorin' you, dear heart," I said contritely, giving her a very careful hug. Something told me she could do very unpleasant things to anyone foolish enough to be improper with her, and I had no wish to learn first hand.
She hugged me back, the held me at arm's length. "Promise me you'll listen to Charlie now?" she said, and her gaze was direct, with no kidding a'tall in her voice.
"I was hopin' he would show up," I admitted frankly. "I can use his wise counsel."
Miz Fannie nodded, her sudden smile illuminating the room.
I drew the door shut behind us and we headed across toward the Jewel.
"You men are all alike, you know," Miz Fannie tossed breezily over her shoulder.
"Now how's that?" I inquired, and Charlie gave me a sly grin. I don't think he knew what was coming, other than it was probably a good one.
"You're all alike," Miz Fannie repeated with a toss of her shining mane. "You're all mouth and hands, every one of you." She turned, hands on her hips. "None of you think of anything except FOOD!"
I stopped, and Charlie stopped, and he looked at me, and I looked at him, and we both looked at Miz Fannie, who was trying her level best to look severe.
She cracked first and all three of us had a good laugh right there in the middle of the street.
"Come on, Mouth and Hands," Fannie sighed finally, "let's get you two fed."
She shook her head again.

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Lady Leigh 6-9-08


All said and done and the long and short story of it, the business was up and running, much to Caleb's delight. But to Bonnie's delight, the house was complete and waiting to be turned into a home.

The house was constructed from the stone quarry not far from Firelands and built in the new "Victorian" design which was becoming popular all through the Colorado mountains in the mining towns of Aspen, Silver Springs, Idaho Springs, and even down in the southern Colorado areas of Telluride, Durango, and Silverton.

The house was beautifully built and graced the eye with it's two stories plus windowed attic, turrets and wraparound porch. Caleb spared no cost in making sure it had all of the amenities, and was built of adequate size for his growing family. With pride and hands on his hips, a smile on his face, he was pleased .... no, more than pleased really .... he was proud and honored of this incredible accomplishment. It was time to be moved into, and his wife couldn't have been happier.

It had only been recently Bonnie seemed her oldself. The radiant smile was back on her face and there was once again a healthy glow to her, "Damn but if she just isn't the prettiest woman!" Caleb thought.

Yes, there was the struggle getting back on their feet with the loss of their son due to the early delivery. Then a week later the arrival of Chen-chi, news of Bonnie's brother, death of Chen-chi, and then the arrival of another child .... James and Chen-chi's daughter had been brought into their lives to raise and love as their own. And Bonnie and Caleb loved Opal! As much as they did Sarah and Pauline Margaret ... Polly. Caleb once again spoke to himself with a grin evident on his face, "Yes sir, Lord! Life is good .... finally, life is good once again!"


Meanwhile, Bonnie was sanding at the door of Linn and Esther's. Tenitively, Bonnie raised her hand and knocked at the door. From within the walls, Bonnie heard, "Do come in Bonnie! I saw you walking up!"

Doorknob in hand, and giving it a little twist, Bonnie put a smile to her face, and pushed open the door and entered.

Esther seated on the sofa and held out her hands to Bonnie, who willingly and lovingly apprached a woman she grew to love. "What?! No girls with you today, My Dear?" Esther said as Bonnie embraced her.

"No, not today, Esther ..... thought maybe you would enjoy some quiet."

"What I need, Bonnie, is the laughter and voices of children ....."

Bonnie was unsure of how to respond. Bonnie had no clue how Esther would feel with the babies, when Esther had just lost her own child .... Bonnie thought to spare Esther, but Esther was a stronger woman than Bonnie was giving her credit for. Bonnie should have known that the children would bring their own sense of solice to a woman who grieved.

"Awe, you thought I might not want to see a child .... a baby right now?"

Bonnie looked at Esther and finally nodded her head, "I suppose I should have known better than to attempt to read your mind, Esther. Next time I will give you what you ask for and bring all three! And if you are remotely in a teasing or ornry mood, I'll leave Sarah with you for an hour or two!"

Esther's laughter was followed by Bonnie's.

Esther sat up a little straighter, and began, "Bonnie dear, I am ever so sad to loose the child .... but the Dear Lord provided me with a child once ... He'll do so again, and we'll all be the healthier for it. I am not such an old woman if I can become pregant, you know!"

Bonnie looked to Esther, smile on her face, Esther's hand clasped in her own, "Yes, Esther! Your day for a baby, endless feedings, washing thousands of nappies .... over and over .... over and over .... will grace your life. And you will be at your happeist for it!"

Over tea and much laughter, the two women talked about many things. Primarily Duzy .....

Duzy ...... "Won't you please come back to us ....." Both woman thought at the same moment.

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Charlie MacNeil 6-9-08


When he could talk again, and the three of them had started toward the Jewel again, Charlie said innocently, "Food ain't the only thing us menfolks think of from time to time, darlin'."

Fannie had retaken his arm and she looked at him with a level gaze as she walked. "Nor us womenfolks, as you so quaintly put it, Sugar," she said under her breath. She gave him another saucy grin. "Unfortunately for you, at the moment you have what might be called pressing duties."

Linn looked at the pair from the corner of his eye and said with total innocence himself, "Not quite that pressing, Miz Fannie," then stared straight ahead and tried to keep from grimacing when he hoisted himself up onto the boardwalk in front of the Jewel. He missed Fannie's startled look at Linn's words and Charlie's own thoughtful one at the hitch in Linn's gitalong.

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Duzy Wales 6-10-08


Duzy knew she was literally under the gun to take control. She was leaving on a trip with Josie, who was wearing their Colts and knife and both knew how to use them, but Duzy felt they needed a rifle for longer distance to be traveling in the wilderness, she also missed her derringer and pepper box! Josie was too confident for their welfare and Duzy was scared of what she may do! Duzy could have told Josie, but she felt if she could take dominance and not tell her, no one could get hurt unless Duzy was protecting herself. She would rather ditch the Colts and knife if it meant Josie hurting anyone else she loved.

Duzy’s worry over her family seemed to be the only thing that kept her from letting Josie emerge and take complete control. Jake had left without a word, waiting for Duzy and not staying by Josie’s side. Kid had put their welfare into Jake’s hands and had left to find peace in his life. Chang had disappeared along the same time as Kid, although Duzy had not seen him and didn’t know where he was. The laudanum was keeping her from focusing; the visions were continuing to give her headaches. Duzy was lost inside Josie, but knew she had to take control.

It would be a test as to whether she could fool Josie, to emerge as the dominate personality and be able to split from her without her knowledge. It would be a challenge, as Josie had a natural sense of self preservation and they had been communicating with each other since leaving Firelands. Duzy knew where to find the best guns. Duzy had always admired Kid’s collection of guns and her plan was to borrow one before the trip, or to somehow get word to Uncle Linn of their whereabouts. She was hoping it was possible to do both without causing havoc in Kid’s life.

Duzy exchanged the laudanum with tequila and tried to keep the darkness on Josie as she made her way to Kid’s cabin. She knocked on the door and no one answered. Duzy slipped inside and found his Marlin, cleaned, loaded and ready to use, just as she knew it would be.

Duzy quickly scribbled out a note to Kid,

“I am borrowing your gun; I will take care of it and return it. Please describe this map to Uncle Linn if you get the chance. Tell him to be careful and if I do not answer to “Sweetie,” it will be Josie who is in control….tell him to kill her if he has to. Thanks, Duzy.

It seemed odd to Duzy that she could have entered Kid’s cabin without his knowledge but she didn’t have time to look around except to notice how peaceful the place was, the beauty of his surroundings and wished she could have seen him, even if just for a few moments.

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Kid Sopris 6-10-08


"Borrowing is one thing" Click, Click, Click, Click, was the Sound in Duzy's ear as she stepped outside of Kid's Door. "Duzy, Josie or whomever you are today, is not the day that you want to turn up on the list of the dear departed. At 1 1/2 lbs, these triggers will go off at the slightest itch...Carefully and I mean carefully place the guns on the porch and back way..."

Duzy thought for a moment that Sopris wouldn't shoot her, But the Blade from Chang's knife in her back influenced her otherwise.

Now that Duzy was unarmed, and sitting in the chair by the fireplace, Kid wanted to know what in the samhell was going on?

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Duzy Wales 6-10-08


Duzy did her best to retain control and explain to Kid and Chang what was happening to her and what had happened in Firelands, and hoped he had news of how Aunt Esther was faring. He didn’t.

“Kid, it would be in your best interest just to let me go. I am not sure I can control Josie, and she will try to hurt you.”

Josie noticed the smirk on Kid’s face and lunged for him, ready to scratch his eyes out and found herself face down on the floor in a matter of seconds.

“See what I mean Kid! Please just let me go, if I had known you wouldn’t let me use one of your firearms, I wouldn’t have stopped by! I was afraid of traveling that trail with Josie without a rifle! Will you please just let me go?”

Duzy hoped he would take her in his arms and hold her, just for a little while, just long enough to give her some strength and knew at that moment that it wasn’t the rifle that she had been after at all. She needed a friend, one she felt safe with, one who would help her, one that wasn’t scared of Josie, but who cared for Duzy, and she could feel the tears come to her eyes with that realization. Just what did she feel for this man who she had fought Josie to get to?

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Lady Leigh 6-10-08


Year 1860
Chevaleir Plantation
Convent, Louisiana

Twenty year old Fremont held eighteen year old Beverly’s hand as they made their way to the train station. The hour was late and they were hurriedly making their way to New Orleans to catch the last train for the northern destination of Chicago, Illinois

Fremont was the eldest son of Lucien Chevalier, who’s ancesters in 1780 made Convent, Louisiana their home after being awarded a large tract of land by Spanish Govenor Don Bernardo deGalvez, in recognition of Chevalier’s service in subduing the British at Natchez during the American Revolution. The original Chevalier began growing Indigo, and later in time, Sugar Cane, which resulted in the plantation growth to be one of the largest in the Mississippi and Louisiana area. Like all of the large plantations in the area, most were worked by the men and women held in slave bondage, the Chevalier Plantation being no different.

In keeping with the Chavalier tradition, the Plantation was handed down to the first born son, and each son married a woman who was of French decent ... until it was Fremonts turn to marry, that is. There was only one with whom he loved and that was Beverly Chevalier. Her last name being Chevalier only because it was customary to give slaves the last name of those who owned them.

At first glance, it would not be known Beverly was one who was held within the slave community. Being a quarter African, she was also 3/4 white. Beautiful straight black hair, olive complected, with light brown eyes Beverly could easily pass within the white community as a French Southern Belle, and Fremont was counting on that fact. An Abolitionist at heart, he could not wait for the institution of slavery to “run it’s course” as it had on the Islands. Time was running out. There was rumor of war ... had been for years. The Chevaliers would never give up their way of life and Fremont would have no part in condoning it any longer.

Stopping off first to be married by a sympathetic Priest, they were now traveling as Mr. and Mrs. Monty Knight. All was in order, and though it was very early in their journey, all was going as Fremont knew it would. At the train station in New Orleans, Fremont looked over his shoulder, made a nod of his head and boarded the train a new man, Monty Knight.

The trip was an easy one, and after disembarking the train in Chicago, Monty and Bev set up a modest home in an upper middle class area on the outskirts of the Chicago area. Because of his keen business sense, Monty took a position as an accountant at Rosenthal and McKenna Textiles. Eleven months after leaving Louisiana, Bev gave birth to Eric and eighteen months later to Lavender. By the end of the Civil War, Monty was head accountant of the Textile business, and a great friend to both the Rosenthals and the McKenna’s.

Now a new adventure awaited the Knight family, and once again, Monty and Beverly found themselves on a train .... West.

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Duzy Wales 6-10-08


Duzy realized she could have stayed there forever, at peace with the beauty of the nature around her, and with the man that she loved; however, it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, she planned to escape at the first opportunity, to get away before Josie could hurt anyone else.

Josie was tired of the voices, tired of the headaches, tired of the darkness, and with that in mind, she reached for her hidden knife and killed herself, taking Duzy's life along with hers. Duzy's last thought was, "thank God, she will never hurt anyone else."

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Linn Keller 6-10-08


I was out of the chair and halfway across the room before conscious thought took hold.
Esther screamed from upstairs, in her office, and I was headed for the stairway, fast.
I grabbed the big decorative wooden ball on the bottom of the bannister and swung myself around and took the stairs two at a time, Colt in my left hand, my teeth bared, ready for whatever war anyone wanted to start.

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Lady Leigh 6-10-08


"What's the matter, Bonnie?"

Bonnie looked over toward Caleb, "Have you ever had the strangest feeling that things are amiss and you just can't put your finger on it?"

Caleb crossed the room and surrounded his Bonnie in his arms, planted a kiss on her forehead, and then looked at her, "Bonnie, Love ... all is well ..."

"If you say so, Caleb, but I have an odd feeling none the less."

"I had one of those feelings the other day, Mama." Sarah was wraping her dolly is it's little blankie, "Mr. Bill said one thing, while Mr. Mac said another, and I wondered how odd it was that those two are friends sometimes ...."

Bonnie and Caleb looked at one another and shook their heads and chuckled.

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Kid Sopris 6-10-08


By afternoon both Chang and Kid had carefully laid out the reservation of the final resting place. Nestled amongst the Serenading Aspen's, allowing for morning warmth and afternoon splendor.

The tomb was dug deeper than usual for protection and lined with river rock carried up from the Crystal River. The wooden box, though made of crude materials was carefully fitted together and sealed with Pine tar and sap to protect it's occupant.

More river rocks atoned the top of the ground; and by weeks end a headstone made of the finest White Marble from the South Slope of Mt. Sopris was carefully mounted atop the rocks, once again sealed and supported against wind, rain sleet, snow and the occasional unwanted visitor.

Sopris thought many will come; some to visit, some to look for answers, others to lash out in anger for the unanswered questions and actions.
Sopris and Change both agreed they all most be treated with respect, but they all must also respect the inherited.

Inscribed it read:

"Believe in Tomorrow;
For the Pains of Yesterday have been forgotten,
Today has passed,
And time stands still for no one"


"R.I.P. Dear Friend"

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Linn Keller 6-11-08



Little Sean was happily tearing the bread into a crumbly mess, laughing and exploring its taste and its smell.
Daisy laughed at her little Irishman's enthusiasm, and little Sean laughed with her.
Daisy stiffened as she heard the scream, the quick footsteps.
Little Sean's eyes grew big, and his face screwed up and turned red, and Daisy picked up her little man, knowing a storm was about to hit.
She was bouncing little Sean on her knee, murmuring to him in Gaelic, when she heard familiar, heavy footfalls down the hallway, and her husband's huge bulk filled the door.
"Daisy, me darlin'!" Big Sean's voice boomed, and she looked up at his broad grin and twinkling eyes, and Little Sean looked up and squealed in delight as his Daddy's big hands wrapped around him, and he soared toward the ceiling, safe in a firm, fatherly grip.

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Linn Keller 6-11-08


Charlie and I came to the door at the same moment.
We paused, one on each side of the door; I looked at Charlie, and Charlie nodded.
I twisted the knob and shoved, hard.
The door swung open and we swung in, Charlie covering high and right, me covering low and left.
Esther was the only one there.
I stood, straightening from my crouch, looking behind the door and over the little narrow bed: Charlie, too, swept the room, quickly, efficiently.
My left hand Colt whispered back into its carved leather holster and I strode over to Esther.
She looked up at me, more lost than I have ever seen her: her face was pale, and she looked suddenly old, old.
"Something terrible has happened," she whispered hoarsely.
I picked her up and held her.
My backside was saying many very unkind things to me at this point, but I did not care. My wife was scared, and she was trembling, and she needed a set of strong arms around her.

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Kid Sopris 6-11-08


Sopris had rode down to Carbondale and sent Telegram to Firelands;

"Sheriff, Duzy not going anywhere (stop) Come alone when you can (stop)
Will explain events upon your arrival (stop)


Kid could not tell the friends in Firelands of Duzy's passing in a telegram, just wouldn't be right.

Sopris still not use to relying on others, sent a report to Washington as well explaining events. He had no duty to do so now that he was retired, but it just seemed like the thing to do.

Chang stayed at the cabin; he agreed to stay on until Sopris returned, then he was going to return to his family. It had been a long time and little rest. Closure was waiting for time.

By the Cabins door Duzy's /Josie's Colt's hung in the holsters. Just above the peg read a small sign:

"Lest we forget, not a better lady can wear them"

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Charlie MacNeil 6-11-08


When Charlie saw that Esther was alone, and heard her words, he holstered his own gun and tried to relax but he felt, in his granddad's words, "Like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin' chairs". The hairs on the back of his neck were standing up and no matter how he tried to ease the tension in his muscles he felt like he'd been on the receiving end of a lightning strike. Esther's words and the expression on her lovely face kept him keyed up until at last he had to step out of the room. As soon as he did it was like stepping from a sweltering day into the cool breeze off of a snow field. His body let go of the stress so fast he nearly fainted. Whatever was going on was centered in that room...

"I'll be right out here, Linn," he called quietly.

"Thanks," came the equally quiet reply.

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Lady Leigh 6-11-08


Sometimes Summer just has a hard time coming in the Colorado mountains. So cold one day a woman has to wear her Mantle, or at least a shawl, while other days she feels like she wants to be out in the sunshine digging in the soil, planting what ever it is that needs planting just as an excuse to dig and to be warm.

Yesterday was one of the warm days, while today was an overcast day. The sky did not look like thunderclouds coming, but looked more like snow. Not uncommon to get snow showers in the mountains this time of year. When that weather dumped it's moisture on Firelands it generally came in the form of wet snow, melting as soon as it touched the ground.

Bonnie's mood matched this overcast day. She still could not shake the sinking feeling she had inside. Caleb was off at work and Bonnie found herself, with shawl wrapped tightly around her shoulders, standing on the front porch which faced the town of Firelands. Couldn't see the town from there, but it was .... It seemed to call to her.

She turned to go back in the house and assended the stairs. Thinking it may be a good day to try out the new baby pram, definitly large enough for both Polly and Opal at present, but would be that way for a long time to come, she wrapped the little ones up tightly in their sweaters and blankets, instructed Sarah to put on her little coat, and informed her they were going to town, but would have to hurry incase the skies released any moisture. If moisture came, it wouldn't be a great difficulty to mind someone to buggy them all home ... the excercise would be good at any rate.

"Mama? Don't you think the sky looks a little sad today?"

"Hmmm ... yes, Sarah .... it does look that way, doesn't it ...."

"Is God sad today?"

"I don't know .... maybe ...."

"Do you think He would mind if still put a smile on my face and enjoyed this day anyway?"

"I think that is a grand idea, Sarah. Let's smile great big smiles. And if we see someone without a smile, let's pass them one of ours, ok?"

Words seemed very cheap, Bonnie thought, but maybe an extra effort in action would do the trick.

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Linn Keller 6-11-08


Esther had laughed a little and waved her hand and called herself a silly old woman.
I knew better.
I also knew better than to press her.
She would tell me, in her own good time.
She patted my chest, like she always did, and told me she would be all right, that it was just a moment of angst, nothing more.
"You're a rotten liar," I said softly, and kissed her forehead.
"I know," she sighed, and laid her head against my shirt front. "Do you suppose you could have Morning Star bring me some tea? I really must go over these plans for the new roundhouse."
I gave her a gentle squeeze and smiled. "I'll do that, dear."
Charlie was waiting for me just outside the door.
"Something's in the wind, Charlie," I said.
"I know."
I took the first careful step down. trying hard not to betray my discomfort.
"She won't tell me what's on her mind."
"She might not have to," Charlie said, pointing with his chin.
I followed his gaze.
Lightning's boy was waiting for me at the foot of the stairs, telegraph flimsy in hand.

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Lady Leigh 6-11-08


Rounding the slight bend, the railroad tracks were in sight to cross over, then Bonnie and the girls would be in town.. Bonnie could see Lightening's son racing in the distance.

Bonnie paused only for an instance .... There was always something unsettling to Bonnie whenever she saw that boy race off to a destination like that ....

"Mama! You've lost your smile!" Sarah reprimanded

A smile firmly, if not necessarily real, was back on Bonnie's face, "Sarah? How many smiles do you have in your pocket?"

"Lots! Why?"

"I have a sneaking feeling you will be doing some sharing."

Bonnie began singing, "De Camptown ladies sing dis song, Doo-dah! doo-dah!"

Followed by Sarah's voice, "De Camptown race-track five miles long, Oh, de doo-dah day!"

And together, Mother and daughter, "I come down dah wid my hat caved in, Doo-dah! doo-dah!
I go back home wid a pocket full of tin, Oh, de doo-dah day!"

Marching and singing in the direction in which the boy ran toward .... The Silver Jewel ....

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Lady Leigh 6-11-08


It had been a little over a year since Lavender had spent any time with Bonnie, but the two had corresponded fairly regularly. Seventeen year old Lavender thought the world of Bonnie in the short time they had together .... the inspiration Bonnie had given her with concern to Lavender’s imagination and drawings of women’s fashion was encouraging. It was Lavender’s hope that Bonnie and Caleb would take her in to aide them with the little girls as Bonnie had indicated she could really use the help. In return, Lavender would have Bonnie as her mentor, and as Bonnie always told her, “Lavender, the sky is the limit! Never forget that! ‘YOU’ have immense talent, and it should be put to use .... good use.”

Wearing a traveling ensemble of her own design, the brown haired, hazel eyed young woman sat with sketch book in hand drawing designs that incorporated a larger bustle and a more tailored look than what many women were wearing. As soon as it was possible to do so, she would take her water colors and paint in the colors that filled her mind, but in the meantime, she also drew what she wanted the fabric brocades to resemble and the styles of bead work she envisioned.

Lavender was a true beauty .... considered as a rare beauty as she did not know just how beautiful she truly was. Her complexion was creamy, her lips a perfect shape with just a slight amount of fullness. Slender in build, but long ... tall for a woman. She and Bonnie were practically the same height, with Bonnie being slightly taller. When excited, her hazel eyes danced with merriment.

She remembered how the kids would tease her about her name. Her response was always the same, indicating it was her Mother’s favorite scent. One day, a popular girl in the Young Woman’s Finishing School, Lavender attended, approached her remarking Lavender’s Mother a perfect jewel, for the scent of Lavender was ‘indeed’ the perfect scent. No longer was there an issue with her name .... instead the hallways were filled with the scent. Lavender smiled, and her Mother beamed when she was told.

She paused with her sketching and gazed out the trains window. Firelands was ahead of them by another’s days journey. The country side was spectacular. The central plains were beautiful in this early spring. Green was everywhere, and early wild flowers were in bloom, and the colors were amazing. Ahead lay mountains .... majestic mountains .... and Firelands lay sheltered somewhere within them ...

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Linn Keller 6-11-08


I read the telegram, read it again.
Something kind of cold settled down over me as I considered the terse message.
"Sheriff, Duzy not going anywhere (stop) Come alone when you can (stop)
Will explain events upon your arrival (stop)


I handed the flimsy to Charlie. He, too, read it twice.
We looked at one another.
"'Not going anywhere," I repeated.
Charlie's eyes narrowed.
"If she was sick or hurt he'd say so."
"I reckon he would." Charlie's bottom jaw thrust out.
"This came from Carbondale. Don't he have a place out that-a-way?"
Charlie nodded, smiling a very little. "He's got a whole damned mountain out there, and probably more than that."
Somehow I wasn't surprised.
"Reckon she's healin' up?"
Charlie turned to look up the stairs, then back at me.
He laid a heavy hand on my shoulder.
"I'll be here. You'd best go."
I knew when Charlie's words were few that he had the same knot in his gut as I did. I nodded.
Morning Star appeared out of nowhere, a cup of fragrant, steaming tea on a saucer in one hand, and my Gaudy-awful screaming crimson pillow in the other.
"What'll I tell Jacob?" Charlie asked.
I nodded toward the far wall. "I think I know where to find him. I'll tell him."

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Charlie MacNeil 6-12-08


Charlie was torn. Torn between wanting to go to Kid and find out firsthand what not going anywhere meant and knowing he needed to honor Linn's unspoken request. Linn had to go but someone had to be here for Esther. Charlie knew he'd be a poor second but there was no way he could refuse. Damn but duty was a harsh mistress sometimes...

"I'll take care here," he told the big man. The gratitude on Linn's face nearly broke Charlie's heart, because he knew what going was costing Linn. But again, duty required that he did indeed go...

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Linn Keller 6-12-08


I raised my knuckles to knock, hesitated.
You don't normally knock to walk into the public library, I thought, but this was different.
I knocked -- two raps, a little harder than I intended -- and I pushed the door open.
Jacob looked up, as did Miss Messman. They were sitting beside one another behind a reading table -- but typical lawman, Jacob was facing the door -- I couldn't help but smile.
He's learned more than I've realized, I thought.
"Jacob?" I asked softly, and he stood, suddenly, reminding me of a bird dog on a hot scent -- locked on point, quivering, knowing something was about to happen.
I walked over to him and handed him the telegram.
He and Miss Messman read it.
Jacob looked up, his youthful face not quite so youthful.
"I can go if you'd like, sir," he said quietly.
I shook my head. "You're needed here," I said, gently as I could, guarding my voice carefully, for it would be too easy to sound harsh and not mean to.
"Charlie's staying, but your mother will need her son."
"Does she know, sir?" Jacob asked, and his hand sought Miss Messman's.
"She knows something has happened, but no, I have not shown her this."
"What should I tell her, sir?"
I considered for a long moment.
"I'll tell her myself."

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