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Firelands-The Beginning

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Kid Sopris 8-10-07


Ordinary people who see and feel things the rest of us don't; They have a rare brain condition called synesthesia in which some of the senses - usually quite distinct - involuntarily fuse together, creating almost literally a sixth sense. Music is not only heard, it's seen and felt; words can have flavors and flavors can have color. It is believed that 1 in 23 people have this condition.

Most anything can bring out this sense and it's believed to run in families. Duzy and Esther bonded because they both shared this condition.

Suppose Sam at the train depot might be feeling the effect of this "synesthesia"; maybe he not only sensed his own demise but tasted it too.

A gentle swing of a lantern hung from the rafter swaying in the night breeze, provided a nightly creak; the boards on the planks cooling from the day time heat, began to expand from the moisture, causing the nails to tweak in the wood. The swing on the porch had it's own sound..If Sam was scared inside it wouldn't take a stranger long to see evidence of it outwardly. Even Sam's pocket watch had an evil tick.

Sam shook inside, even the images in the dark of wildlife appearing as in the distant had the look of the Ghost of Death..And the dead rose, Sam threw it out on the tracks, avoiding eye contact.

Sam's heartbeat was becoming irregular, he needed a drink, but he did not dare go back into town. There was certain death and uncertainty. Here he at least knew he was alone...or was he?

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Duzy Wales 8-11-07


There was a chill in the room, Duzy thought, and then noticed the hair raised on her arms, and could feel the chill go down her spine. Something was very unusual, but she didn’t feel imminent danger for their little family on the outskirts of town. Instead, she had visual images of the scales of justice, of a tree, and images of men. She shook herself, stood and asked Bonnie if she would care to go for a walk.

Upon hearing this, Aunt Esther said, “Duzy, please, promise just to get some night air, for this is not meant for us to stop, or to change, it is, as it is. Realizing that her Aunt was right, Duzy promised, kissing her Aunt on the forehead and asking if she knew what it could be? “No, my dear, only that it is meant to be, that I feel no danger, but instead I feel it should be left alone.” “Me too,” Duzy said, still wondering what it could be. Most times when she had a “feeling,” her heart pounded and she automatically moved, as if she were being led, just as she had when Sam had been beating Bonnie as she tried to protect Sarah. Sometimes, it was just an instant connection between herself and another, knowing that fate had brought them together for a reason.....

Aunt Esther was reading a newspaper that had been on the stagecoach the morning Duzy picked up her package from her Papa. She had asked the driver if she could borrow it, as she loved to read, and newspapers from so far away were not that usual. The driver told her that the owner had left it, and being that he couldn’t read, for her to take it and enjoy it, smiling with a crooked smile at Aunt Esther, his front teeth missing, but a cordial man. Aunt Esther had been delighted. She needed something to keep her mind off Mr. Keller, blushing as she remembered watching him in the court room and calling out “Linn” instead of Mr. Keller when Duke Slade was turning on him. She sure hoped no one had noticed her use of his first name! It had been a long time since she had thoughts of a man. As her mind started to drift backward to another time, she saw an advertisement in the classified section. Reading it carefully, she smiled to herself, thinking this just may be what Duzy could need.

Bonnie and Duzy were sitting on the porch swing that Mr. Wallace had brought over the morning after their dinner together, having made it himself from some spare lumber from building the church, with the Reverend’s blessing. The ladies enjoyed the swing, and little Sarah loved it! Bonnie said, “We should build a swing with a seat and some rope to hang on the tree out near the creek, for Sarah to swing, as she always wants to go higher and higher with this one, she laughed lovingly. “That is a wonderful idea; we will get what we need from town and make her one. I remember swinging on one when I was a little girl too!” It was the little things like this that Bonnie thought of, concerning Sarah, that made Duzy realize that Aunt Esther had been right in thinking that Duzy was not ready to take on a small child yet, as her eyes and thoughts were more on the business she was planning and how to go about it, being that she had never taken on the construction of a building before. The newspaper office was already under construction when she had taken that job. A wistful sigh left her lips, wondering if she would ever be accepted as a journalist.

Bonnie spoke of the shop she planned, speaking of the silks, brocades, linens, and all sorts of trims and she brought the materials alive as she talked about them, how she would drape one piece or pleat another, talking and moving her hands as if she could feel the fabrics as she talked.

Aunt Esther stepped out on the porch and handed Duzy the advertisement, carrying a lamp outside with her for Duzy to read by. Bonnie leaned over to read the article too, and Duzy realized then that Bonnie’ could read, wondering why she hadn’t told them before now, and just how much more of Bonnie’s past they were yet to learn.

Tilly was inside with Sarah, enjoying being away from Sam’s Place and becoming more comfortable everyday, her shell slowly removing, as different facets of her personality were beginning to show. It was a happy evening for the ladies.

Aunt Esther heard Duzy and Bonnie both gasp from excitement reading the article, and both started talking at once. Finally, they agreed to go into town and send a wire the next morning as this may be just be what Duzy was looking for!

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Kid Sopris 8-11-07


As the night began to become darker, Charlie and Linn began the rounds of walking the town. Charlie mostly to keep Linn company and to chat. Passing the Church they say the silhouette image of the Preacher reading, they did not stop to bother him. Instead the continued on.

Sam was a mess about now, He was sure he could hear chains rattling in the distance, the gentle breeze blowing played tricks on the mans hearing. He thought he could hear someone calling his name from out of the darkness.

Cold, shivering from lack of nourishment or hot coffee, afraid to show his face, even his speech while talking to himself became stuttered. Unsure of his next move or plight, Sam started to give Deputy Keller's' suggestion some thought; and as the night grew longer so did the thought process.

Sam was even afraid to warm his hands against the lantern, in fear of illuminating himself to the unknown in the darkness. A creaking noise began to get louder, the winds whisper got closer and suddenly it was gone, a few seconds later Charlie and Linn came around the corner.

Charlie remarked later that the puddle at Sam's feet could have floated a large ship, and the wetness and odor about Sam's person was apparently more than even Sam could handle.

" Dep...ppiity, dep...ppiitttyy, Yoooouu g..gotyy a sssmmmoke, I..I..I c..a..a..an have?"

Rev. Sopris was warm, reading and was finishing up the last of the days coffee when he spotted Linn, Charlie and Sam walking towards the Jail.

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Charlie MacNeil 8-12-07


Under the best of circumstances Sam didn't smell especially good. Linn had told Charlie what he'd discussed with Sam, about confessing and Linn protecting him. He'd also told Charlie that Sam had said that he would never talk. But the Sam he and Linn saw when they walked up to the depot platform was nothing like what Charlie'd been expecting. And the urine soaking his pants and one of his shoes definitely didn't improve his hygiene any.

"Damn, man, you stink," Charlie told him. Sam ignored him and stammered his way through asking Linn for a smoke. Charlie stood back, thinking to himself that there was no way one man could hold that much water. Linn took Sam by the arm and led him from the platform and the three men moved up the street toward the jail.

When the three walked into the jailhouse Higgins was laying on his bunk half asleep but when he saw Sam, he jolted awake. He'd been sure that he'd seen the last of Sam and that he was safe. With nothing to really hold him on that deputy would have to let him go eventually. With Sam's arrival back in the jailhouse things had taken a decided turn for the worse. And worse yet was the fact that the drifter with the big dog was now wearing a badge pinned to his vest. Higgins did a double take when he saw that the badge was that of a US Marshal.

Higgins was thinking furiously. Sam was pasty white, and he stuttered and stammered when he talked. His hands were shaking, and he'd either spilled something on himself or wet himself. As far as Higgins could tell, it was only a matter of time before Sam told the two lawmen everything he knew. Something had to be done about the man before that could happen.

Higgins stood and went to the door of his cell. "Deputy," he called. "Could I speak to you for a minute?" Keller turned away from Sam to look at Higgins. Behind Keller, Higgins saw the other lawman shove Sam into a chair and turn away in disgust.

"What do you want, Higgins?" Keller asked with something in his voice Higgins didn't care for. Higgins blanched internally for a moment.

"You don't have any formal charges to hold me on, do you deputy?" Higgins asked in a fawning tone. "I haven't really done anything wrong, have I?"

"That remains to be seen," Keller told him. He looked at Higgins thoughtfully for a moment then went to the desk and brought out the key to Higgins' cell. He unlocked the door and swung it open. "Go home, Higgins. But I expect I'll be calling on you one day soon, so don't leave town." He stepped aside as Higgins fairly ran from the cell.

"I'll be right down the street at my hotel if you need me," he said hurriedly. He walked rapidly to the door. "Don't worry, I won't go anywhere."

Higgins yanked the door open and nearly dove outside. He came to an abrupt halt and started backing into the room. "I thought you left," Charlie said roughly.

"Wha, wha, wha," Higgins stammered, backing further into the room. Beyond him, Dawg stood on the boardwalk. His hackles were raised and he looked as big as a dray horse standing there. There was a rumbling deep in his chest and his lip was curled revealing pearly white teeth.

"It's alright, Dawg," Charlie called. "Linn let him out. He can go."

Dawg growled louder and for the second time tonight a man who knew better disregarded his toilet training. Dawg backed up a couple of steps and Higgins sidled out the door and made a mad dash for the safety of the street. Charlie's laughter followed him into the darkness.

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Linn Keller 8-12-07


Poor old Sam was wound up like an eight day clock.
Only the fact that he was between two lawmen kept him from running, screaming, into the darkness, and diving under the nearest rock.
His eyes darted from nook to cranny, flitted from shadow to shade; his hands shook as if palsied, and his speech, when he dared try to speak, was more a stuttering whisper.
On top of this, he smelled really bad.
The odor of coffee was a most welcome relief. I opened the door to the sheriff's office. Sam and Charlie stepped inside. I took a final look outside, then came in, shut the door.
"Who's there!" came the shout from the cells in back. "Who's out there!"
"Have a set, Sam," I said, "help yourself to the coffee. Careful, she's hot!"
Sam drew up to the stove, still visibly shaking, spreading his hands to the welcoming heat radiating from the cast iron.
With a wink to Charlie, I stepped back into the cell block, hooking the keys as I passed them.
"Your lucky night, Higgins," I said.
"How's that?" he replied belligerently.
"I don't need you any more."
"What?" he half-shouted, clearly puzzled.
"Nope. I held you until I reached a certain point in my investigation, but I've found most of what I needed to know." I sorted through the keys, selected one, shoved it in the cell door lock. "There is just one thing, though."
"And what's that?"
"What can you tell me about Carsey?"
Responses ran across his face as if chasing one another: surprise, disbelief, wariness, then fear. I wasn't sure what to make of it, but I never let on. I've been told I have a pretty good poker face. Never won much at poker but I'm told I have the face for it. His face, on the other hand, was decidedly troubled.
"Carsey? Whattaya wanta know about him for?"
I turned the key in the lock, but held the door shut, foot braced against it in case he tried to shove it open. "There are a few things I don't know quite yet. I will find what I'm looking for, but the law looks favorably on those who help it."
"I wouldn't help you if I had to!" he roared.
"Lucky you," I said softly. An old trick I'd learned: the louder the other fellow got, the quieter I got. Puts them off balance. "I don't need your help, there's someone who's actually been quite full of information."
I removed my foot, swung the door open.
"You're free to go."
"About time," he muttered, snatching up his coat.
"Bear this in mind," I said, steel in my voice.
The change stopped him in his tracks.
"I always find what I'm looking for, but it would be easier with your help. The law looks favorably on the man who talks first. Carsey is the last link in the chain. Tell me what I want to know and it will go easier on you."
Higgins' eyes showed fear. His lip was curled in a snarl, but it was the snarl of a coward backed into a corner. He shrugged into his coat and headed for the front door.
Sam looked up at Higgins with the expression of a trapped animal, or someone who'd been caught dead to rights and was guilty as hell.
Higgins stopped, staring daggers at Sam. He looked at Charlie, looked at me.
Charlie let him get a good look at Sam, huddling close to the stove and clutching a blue granite cup of coffee, trying to look smaller. He let Higgins get a good look at him, then stepped between them.
Higgins' eyes, wide, swept to the floor, then to the door, and he reached toward it.
"Remember, now," I said. "You can always talk to me."
SLAM! and Higgins was out the door. His footsteps were hurried as he departed.
"Was that wise, to let him go?"
I smiled, quietly, looking at Sam, then back to Charlie.
"He'll be back," I replied quietly. "He'll want to talk."
Sam looked half sick.

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Duzy Wales 8-13-07


Luke Hawkins posted the sign on his office, “Closed Until Further Notice,” after representing the cases he had already promised to his clients, and having declined to take on any new cases. His mind was on the lady he intended to marry, he could see her now….long dark hair, brown eyes, slender, with a body that would stir any man, but one that would be his only, come hell or high water! Luke had decided to make it his mission to bring her home, as she should be gracing his arm, entertaining in their home, and having his children, had Mr. Wales did as a father should, and taught her where a woman’s place was in society. Instead, he had indulged her, making her think that a woman was able to do whatever she dreamed of being.

Luke didn’t think he would have any problem getting her back, although he was surprised that she had not already returned. He was eight years her elder, an educated man, respected by many, and was planning to run for office, therefore, he needed her on the campaign trail, not withering away in a God forsaken western town full of riff raff that no lady should be around, trying to make her way as a journalist! He scoffed at the idea, and couldn’t believe that she had left him. It was common knowledge that he was considered a “good catch,” coming from good lineage, wealthy, handsome, standing six feet, black hair, and cool blue eyes that made many women swoon when he looked their way!

He had no qualms about knowing he could out smart any man, as he had worked his way up the ladder, using whatever means necessary to beat his adversary, even if it meant breaking a few laws along the way, or worse if need be.

He hadn’t gotten where he was without learning many tricks, how to spot a person’s weaknesses and use it against them, and he knew his powers of persuasion, as he had used them many times in the courtroom, having never lost a case. He had thought about it carefully and had come to the conclusion that he had treated her as too much of a lady, barely kissing her, knowing she was innocent, and yet not taking into account the passion that ran through her veins. This time he planned to kiss her like he did the woman he frequented at the Gentleman’s Club, making her weak for his touch, and then backing away, causing her to want him even more until she relented. He may even tell her he would stay in Firelands, so she could continue her dream, knowing that would be another way of winning her over and getting her under his control. Once they were married, she would have no choice but to do as he said. He smiled at that thought.

He had no intentions of giving up Clara, as she fulfilled his base needs, but he needed someone of fine breeding to have his children and grace his home. He would enjoy the time he would have with his innocent wife, in fact he was relishing the thought of it, but a lady wouldn’t do the things for him that Clara did. Instead, it would be her wifely duty to make him happy in bed and have their children. He wouldn’t have a wife that would do the things Clara did to satisfy him, for that would not be ladylike at all, he thought smiling, as he left to go see Clara once more before he left for Firelands, already feeling the fire in his loins as he crossed the street.

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Duzy Wales 8-13-07


Clara was happily counting the money that Luke had just left by her bedside. She enjoyed her work and was more than happy to do whatever it took to make Luke happy, including the lashings that she had taken, and proud of the bruises that he left on her body! She knew he wouldn’t find another that would do for him what she was willing to do.

In the meantime, Luke was going to his fencing class. He had read about the “so called wild west” and meant to be ready for whatever or whomever he came across. He was skilled with a knife, a sword, and his many guns that he had collected over the years. At first, he had thought of them as “collector items,” but now, he knew he may be called upon to defend himself against some of the “gunfighters” he had read about in the novels he had been reading. He was always a man who meant to be prepared for anything or anyone who tried to get in his way. He had studied martial arts and knew how to stay calm and collected, knowing it gave him the upper hand in all situations.

Armed with his wits, and his knowledge of weapons, he was sure of himself, no matter what may happen when he reached Firelands; however, he was planning on being the attorney from back East, looking for his lady love, who could charm with his smile, his gentlemanly ways, his love of children and animals, always a good sign, and if push came to shove, whatever was necessary to get what he wanted.

His mind went back to Clara, damn, he would miss her, and he would miss the screams, the whimpers, with her still begging for more, as he took out his frustrations and need for control, on her body, culminating in mutual satisfaction for the both of them. He wondered if it would be possible, after giving him an heir, that he could break Duzy the same way, thinking it would humiliate her, and that she would never say a word to anyone. He started dreaming of the day that he could take that “uppity attitude” away from her, making her a dutiful wife, while she had to keep up the pretense of being a happily married wife and mother. With that on his mind, he had the best fencing class of his life.

Clara knew when he left her that he was planning on going after the Wales woman, but she could care less, as she knew he would always come back to her, and while he was away, she could play, laughing as she dropped the gold coins on her body, piece by piece.

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Lady Leigh 8-14-07


Bonnie loved chatting to Duzy about their future plans. Thinking about items needed, places to set up, wondering if Firelands was ready for what they had to offer.

Trying to keep their enthisiasm quiet for Sarah's sake was another story. Squeals of delight had to be hushed, but usually ended with giggles.

When Duzy returned to her bedroom, Bonnie layed their, with Sarah snuggled at her side for a long time. She told Duzy about the Rosenthals, and how Abram and her Papa, Angus, were partners in a textile business. Seemed a good place to start to get the fabrics and supplies needed for this particular business venture.

Bonnie recalled Duzy's comforting manner when Bonnie expressed her feelings toward the Rosenthals. Duzy laying her hand on Bonnies arm, silently telling Bonnie not to dwell negatively on her apprehension at the length of time it had been being contacting them. "How do you explain to people, who are like your extened family, to ignore a three year lapse of time?" Bonnie asked aloud.

Laying there in the darkeness, and pulling Sarah even closer, Bonnie embraced the warm memories of the two families being together, sharing holidays that were foreign to each other, due to the ethnic diferences, but still relishing the experiences and compatabilities. Scottish and Jewish cultures were an interesting mix, but Abram and Angus were like God given brothers, and the bond between them was filtered out amongst the two family members. "It was wonderful God! Thank you for that. Will I ever have that experience with them again? I pray so, Lord ... I pray so ..."

And with an "Amen", Bonnie finally let sleep win, but her dreams were filled with an interesting array of past images and memories. Giggles and laughtrer, promices made between two 9 year old children ...

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Linn Keller 8-14-07


There was the sound of a drowning walrus with a sore tooth.
"Holt still, Sam, you ain't dyin'!"
"Dyin' hell! You're drownin' me!"
It had nearly taken an act of Congress for me to get Sam pried out of the sheriff's office and back into his hotel. It ended up with me kind of dragging him across the street by the scruff of the neck and his feet was trying to keep up as we went. The girls were kind enough to draw a tub of water and burn the clothes he'd been wearing, they wern't fit to wash much less ever wear again, and besides they probably got a degree of satisfaction out of burning their former boss's clothes.
I hadn't been able to stand that stench any longer. It ain't in a law man's usual line of work to dunk a fellow in a bath tub and scrub his back while he tends to everything else, but like I told him, I would keep him safe as long as he was inclined to talk. He hadn't started to talk yet but at least he would not smell so bad.
Daisy poked her head in the door. "Deputy? You hungry?"
I looked up and grinned. "If you'd be so kind," I replied.
"What about him?"
"Reckon we'd best feed him too." I poured another dipper of warm water over Sam's head.
Daisy drew back and closed the door. I could swear I heard her giggle, but Sam chose that moment to imitate the walrus again, so I wasn't really sure.

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Charlie MacNeil 8-14-07


The longer Sam sat by the stove the ranker he got. Charlie opened a window, but that didn't help. "No wonder your partners are hanging you out on your own," he told Sam. "You stink."

Sam started to bristle up. He put his coffee cup down and said, "Now you see here..."

Charlie moved forward until he towered over Sam where he sat. "No, you see something. Deputy Keller told me he guaranteed your safety. I didn't make any such promise. You mess with me and you'll wish you'd never seen this town. You'll curse the day your momma brought you into the world. And then I'll get serious. You got that?" Outwardly Charlie looked like he was about to cloud up and rain all over the man in the chair while inwardly he felt sorry for him. He didn't normally treat people that way, but he and Linn had decided that they would play some good guy/bad guy games with Sam and see what happened.

Sam cowered back in his chair. "Alright, alright, I didn't m-m-mean nothing. I'm sorry."

"Sorry ain't the half of what scum you are," Charlie answered. He turned away and poured a cup of coffee. While his back was to Sam, Charlie winked at Linn.

"Charlie's right about one thing," Linn said thoughtfully. "You do stink. On your feet."

"Where are we goin'?" Sam asked, staying planted in the chair.

"We're gonna find some hot water and soap for you to soak in," Linn told him. "Now come on."

"You can't make me take a bath," Sam snorted.

"Wanna bet?" Linn asked him with a smile.

A couple of minutes later the two were on their way to the hotel and a tub.

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Linn Keller 8-14-07


I was wet from my thighs down and some on my shirt, too, but Sam was clean and didn't smell like a billy goat in high summer. One of the girls was kind enough to run over to WJ's general store and get Sam a new set of clothes.
She didn't think that highly of Sam, but she was pleased to do it for me.
Higgins' place was considerably cleaner than it had been for quite a long time, too. I had tasked the ladies with cleaning house and throwing out what was not worth keeping -- it was still Higgins's hotel, but I had some notions along the ownership of it -- I'd ordered in new beds, new bedding, new linens; the furniture wasn't that great but it would do for now. I had a notion to replace most of the windows but for now the windows had been washed, everything was dusted, and it was looking quite a good bit better.
The ladies, too, looked better.
Treat a woman like a lady, I'd found, and she will live up to your expectation, especially if she's a stranger and there are no preconceived notions to get in the way.
I had been paying them for their work. They worked hard, I paid them well, and I'd seen to it that they were not put upon to return to their former enterprise.
They were gaining their respect back, and I was glad for it.
Sam was getting dressed when I heard a familiar voice, raised in anger; a cut-off shreik; the sickening sound of fist hitting flesh, the ringing sound of cast iron, briskly applied, and then the sound of a body hitting the floor.
I waited, surmising what had happened.
Daisy poked her head in. "Deputy? Could you come out here, please?"

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Duzy Wales 8-14-07


Duzy’s Papa already knew about Luke closing down his business, he also knew of his other activities, although that hadn’t bothered him until he heard he was headed in the direction of his daughter, as he knew Duzy wasn’t really that interested in him, or he would already have stepped in. He knew that Duzy would be smart enough to figure him out, but a little caution from a father never hurt, even if she was a stubborn one, like his…..sigh…..sometimes he wondered if he had let her have too much independence. He decided to send someone there to look out for her; someone neither Luke nor Duzy had met, but someone who had proven that he could be trusted.

Jake Thomas would be on the same train as Luke, a man he trusted with his life and secretly hoped could steal his daughter’s heart, although after being married to Duzy’s Mama, he knew that wouldn’t be in his hands, or anyone’s but Duzy herself, as he wanted her to be happy above all else; therefore, he hadn’t mentioned anything but that he look after her welfare, as Jake was not the type of man to play with a woman’s emotions, even if her Papa wished it.

Instead, Jade was quiet, yet deadly and filled with the confidence of a man who had been there and back again, knowing what to watch for, a patient man, who could strike like a rattle snake, who could love and hate with the same passion, and yet had proven to be a honorable man. He had worn many hats in his lifetime, from being a gambler, ranch hand, storekeeper, blacksmith, and even a man of the cloth, just to name a few. Standing 5’ 11” tall, with dark hair, usually worn long, curling around his ears, lean and muscled, with hazel eyes that changed with his mood, he was sought after, but had never been caught by the pretty women whose dance cards he filled.

Thinking of his independent daughter, he wondered which way the sparks would fly between the two, and then chuckled aloud, wishing he could be there to witness it!

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Linn Keller 8-14-07


"You ain't gonna leave me here, are you?" Sam exclaimed, suddenly pale.
"You stay put," I said. "I promised to keep you safe and I will do just that! Now you do what I say!"
I followed Daisy downstairs to the main desk.
Higgins was laid out cold on the freshly scrubbed floor, bleeding from a blow to the back of his head.
I seized him by the belt and the shirt and rolled him over on his back, none too gently, either. He groaned.
I laid a hand on his chest. Yep. Heart was beating.
"Well, he ain't dead," I said. "Please tell me he had it comin'."
I was suddenly surrounded by four women, all giving their opinion of Higgins as a boss, their thoughts on him as a man, their account of what happened, his ancestry, his breeding, his upbringing, his utter lack of manners and his absolute lack of honor, integrity and conscience.
I waited until three of them wound down, like an alarm clock coming to the end of its spring, and held up my hand. I could probably shush one of them but there's no way I could stop all four at full verbal stride. Might as well try to stop the noon freight with a fly swatter.
"Okay, slow down, not so fast," I protested.
Pointing to Daisy I said, "You go first."
"Well" -- the little hash slinger picked up a frying pan from the counter -- "I hit him with this."
"Kind of figured."
"He hit Susie."
I looked at Susie. She had a bruise on her cheek and her eye was starting to swell. She put the folded, wet dishcloth back on the injury.
"Susie, why'd he hit you?"
Susie was trying hard not to cry, and I would not have blamed her if she did. Getting slugged does nobody any good, and I'd been careful to build these womens' esteem, knowing it was a fragile thing and could be easily damaged. Hard to tell how much damage Higgins did with that one punch.
"He wanted the money," she quavered.
"What money did he want?"
"Everything we've made. Everything you've paid us. All of it."
Susie's back straightened and her shoulders came back. "I told him that's our money, we made it, we earned it, it's ours and he could go to blue perdition for all I cared."
"Then he grabbed her and told her he would kill her if she didn't give him all of her money and if she ever told he would kill her all over again."
"If she ever told what?"
Susie looked at Daisy, who looked at Mary, who looked at Susie, then they all looked at me.
"They used to talk about their dirty deals when they drank."
"What dirty deals?"
"Foreclosures, mostly, or 'shaving the accounts' of customers who weren't careful to keep a close watch on their money in Carsey's bank."
I smiled.
Higgins groaned again.
"Ladies, could I trouble one of you for a dipper of water?"
"How about an anvil?" Susie asked helpfully.
"Might improve his looks," I agreed, "and it would certainly sweeten his disposition, but I need him a little longer." I frowned, considering. "Was Sam in on these talks?"
"Oh, yes, he was right in the middle of them. He poured the drinks. Generally shorted them on their drinks, too, watered their whiskey the drunker they got. He tried to over charge them once but they caught him, so he just watered the whiskey all the more."
"So let me be sure I understand what happened here," I said. "Susie, he demanded your money."
"That's right."
"He threatened you if you didn't hand over all your money."
"He did."
"Then he hit you."
"Yes," she said, and started crying a little.
"Daisy, what happened then?"
Daisy's hair fairly crackled and her lips drew down thin and hard. "I won't ever watch that side winding Yankee hurt these girls again! When he hit her, I hit him!"
"So you ere acting to protect another who was in grave danger."
Daisy nodded.
I did not fancy carrying Higgins's unconscious carcass over to the jail. Too much like work. One of the girls handed me a dipper of water and I carefully poured it on Higgins's face. He came to, sputtering and blowing, and raised a hand to his head.
I seized him by the shirt front with my left hand and helped him ungently to his feet.
"Sam!" I shouted up the stairs. "You stay put, you hear?" -- then to Daisy, "Keep an eye on him. If anyone else tries going upstairs, or he tries coming down, you run and get me, okay?"
"I will," she said, hefting her frying pan.
Higgins tried to pull out of my grip. I spun him around, bringing his arm painfully up behind him, his wrist bent, my other arm around his throat. "You are under arrest," I hissed, "and if you try anything -- if you even breathe hard -- I am going to break your arm off and run it down your throat!" I added another few ounces of pressure on his joints and he came up on his toes with a howl of pain.
I walked him on his tippy-toes across the street and into the jail.

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Kid Sopris 8-14-07


The Reverend was never to hard to judge others...After all, sometimes best intentions, without malice or preconceived thoughts of harm, just go array. Take the recent incident at the hotel the ladies just want to make a honest living. Along comes Higgins demanding something that was not his, thus the immediate infliction of justice upon his being

The was fair retribution for that mans acts, Thought Sopris as the story was being explained to him. Rev. Sopris was out for his morning stroll when he came upon the ladies discussing the earlier incident. Rev. Sopris was obtaining a copy of the Farmers Almanac, so he could keep better track of the growing seasons, and happened to notice that tonight was a NEW Moon..Darkness would befall the land.

Rev. Sopris also notice out the back window of the hotel a small smoldering fire in the burn bin. Mrs. Higgins greeted Sopris with a "Good Morning Reverend", What can I do about the low life husband of mind?"

Rev. Sopris spoke softly but firmly, "Have you spoke with the new Lawyer in Town, Ms. Higgins?" "I shall not pass sentence upon you, I am only here to provide guidance. You must rid yourself of those things or persons that bring you down, and/or take away your focus of the Lords Will."

Ms. Higgins, thanked the Rev. and returned to her daily activities.

With book and Bible in hand, accompanied by a fresh brewed cup of coffee with Vanilla, provided by the lovely ladies, Rev. Sopris headed to the jail. Mostly out of curiosity but also to pray for those less fortunate souls who had run afoul with common decency and the justice system.

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Linn Keller 8-14-07


The water was cool in the dipper and Higgins sipped it carefully, so as not to disturb the maniac with a sledge hammer excavating a mine shaft somewhere just southwest of the back of his head.
"Better?" I asked gently.
He handed the dipper back to me, through the bars of his cell.
"You ready to listen now?"
He tried to glare at me but the effort was too painful.
"First count: assault. You hit a woman. That makes you pretty low in my book but then I've seen worse.
"Second count: menacing. You threatened to kill her if she did not hand over all her money.
"Third count: conspiracy."
"Conspiracy?" Higgins roared, then flinched, eyes screwed shut, a hand going reflexively to the back of his head, a move which he instantly regretted.
"Add to that a Federal count of slavery --"
"Slavery?" he gasped, hazarding open one eye.
"That's a Federal count, by the way," I repeated, "and we just happen to have a US Marshal in town."
"I never kept no slaves!"
"You kept those women as slaves!" I hissed. "You beat them, you threatened them, you broke their will, you kept them just the same as if you chained them to their cribs! You want to defend all that in front of a military tribunal? How about a jury? This is the West, my friend, and women are revered out here!"
"Not their kind," he mumbled, and I shot both hands through the bars and seized Higgins by his shirt front and jerked him hard against the bars. The rebound concussion was almost more than he could tolerate: he turned kind of pale, and grasped the bars to keep from slumping to his knees.
"'Their kind' generally is widow wimmen or women forced into hard times so they have no other choice to keep food in their belly!" I said quietly, menace in my voice.
Dawg, attracted by the discussion, came pacing back into the cells, mouth half-open, looking like he would be perfectly happy to bite a man's leg off clear up to the belt buckle. In fact, Dawg was quite happy, but Higgins did not know that, so when he opened his eyes it was to behold what must have looked like the device of his own destruction, come to drag his corroded soul out of his miserable carcass.
"And multiple counts of conspiracy," I said, releasing his shirt and stepping back.
"Conspiracy?" he almost whimpered.
Dawg popped his jaws, drooling a little.
"What conspiracy?"
"Why, the one y'all held with Carsey over cigars and whiskey," I said. "The one where you foreclosed on folks and shaved their accounts. Now tell me, which account did you put your share in? Or did you put it under a loose board behind the bar?"
"They found it?" The wind went out of him and he kind of folded up on the bunk.
"You realize you're in this up to your neck," I said. "You want to help yourself, you'll help me."
"Sure," he moaned. "Anything."

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Duzy Wales 8-14-07


Jake Thomas wasn’t real happy with his assignment; however, Mr. D.L. Wales had been a dear friend, almost like the father that he never knew, so he would have to put off his plans, and follow Miss. Duzy, it was the least he could do. He hadn’t met her in person, but he had heard the tales told about her, from her Papa, and through other sources, of her nature, sense of adventure, and mostly her independent streak. Most thought she was foolish, but he admired her spirit and willingness to try to fulfill her dreams; he just hoped she would send Luke Hawkins packing and then he would be free to get back to his life….and on to another assignment.

He had been watching Mr. Hawkins, and knew full well the type he would be dealing with, and could see how a young woman could have her head turned by him. He had watched him fool much older and possibly wiser people in the weeks he been spying on him. He squared his shoulders, and packed his bags, strapping on his Colts and picking up his black hat. He normally wore black from head to toe, it just seemed fitting to him, a man of many secrets, of hiding in dark places, of watching and learning, until he brought down his foe.

He would have normally loved meeting Mr. Wales’s daughter, as she had been away at school when he had visited their home, however, this had not been the way he had envisioned meeting her. He could see dancing her across the ballroom, or watching the signals she sent, when she held a fan, the way she moved, the look in her eyes, or listening to her views about life. But to be sent incognito, seemed wrong to him for the first time he could remember. He had always thought they would be properly introduced, so he could see for himself what he thought, as no one else’s opinion mattered when it came right down to it. He hated deceiving her by not letting her know that he knew her Papa, as she called him.

Perhaps he could stay out of sight most of the time, and get out of Firelands, meeting her another time, when it felt right to him. He started building the wall around himself, that kept him from becoming too close to any situation, to hinder his judgment of the facts at hand. He would keep his cool and not bring attention to himself as he watched how she interacted with Mr. Hawkins.

He had only seen one photograph of her, as a teenager, with dark hair and big brown eyes, her body almost that of a woman, but with an innocent and yet intelligent expression, as she was being introduced to President Hayes at one of the parties she had attended. He had often wondered what she was thinking at that moment.

“Time to find out just what she is really like,” he said aloud, as he picked up his bags and departed for the train station. He sure hoped he didn't come to regret this decision...

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Linn Keller 8-15-07


The Sheriff was kind enough to watch Sam for me, there in the front of the office. With Higgins locked up in back I did not want them talking. As long as they were separate they were isolated in their own thoughts. The Reverend Sopris might be inclined to quote something like "The guilty flee where no man pursueth" -- I know I've used the principle a number of times -- for when the guilty can't flee their conscience eats at them like a rat, gnawing to get out of a trap.
"Charlie, could you walk with me?" I asked.
Charlie grunted, put aside his thoughts and came easily to his feet.
We walked in silence for several minutes, ending up near to the livery, far enough away from anyone and anything so as not to be overheard.
Dawg kind of drifted along with us.
"Charlie, I'm not quite sure how to prosecute this one. I've got a banker, I've got information he's been shaving accounts, I've got conspirators. I've got that canvas bag of cash from under the loose board behind Sam's bar. You heard what the girls had to say about their shady meetings and foreclosures." I took off my hat, ran my fingers through my thinning hair. "Now, I'm good at investigation, but when it comes to ledgers and accounts, well, that's something new to me. I could probably bull my way through it but a lawman with book keeping experience would come in awful handy. Got any suggestions?"

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Duzy Wales 8-15-07


“We can discuss that advertisement later,” Aunt Esther said, thinking it would be nice to go into town and get out of the house. She had been thinking of Marie and how she was faring with Mr. Higgins in jail. They all agreed, thinking it would give them time to take a better look at the hotel and surrounding property and get some ideas on what they wished to do, even though it was late, neither of the women could rest.

It was just a short distance and they decided to walk, although each of them, besides Sarah, was armed in case of danger. Aunt Esther had learned that a ten inch hat pin could bring a man down easily if put in the right spot! The other three ladies all carried other weapons of choice, hidden in pockets, or strapped under their outfits. Aunt Esther was still holding the small lamp as they walked.

Dawg came running as they neared the livery. Mr. Keller noticed Dawg leaving and excused himself from Charlie until he checked on Dawg. To his surprise, it was the ladies walking into town, finding Dawg happily standing beside Sarah as she petted him. Mr. Keller, upon seeing Aunt Esther, forgot Charlie for the moment and tipped his hat to the ladies, his eyes never leaving Esther. She smiled, and said, “Mr. Keller, we were thinking of having some tea at the hotel and to check on Mr. Higgins wife, would you care to join us?” “Yes, Miz Esther, I surely would. Could you give me a moment?”

Charlie had heard the conversation and assured Linn that he would watch the prisoners while Linn escorted the ladies to the hotel.

The ladies were surprised at the renovations of the hotel, as already it was looking so much nicer that before. Aunt Esther couldn’t help but look in the direction of the kitchen, which Mr. Keller didn’t miss.

“Mr. Keller,” Duzy asked, does any of the adjoining property belong to Mr. Higgins?”


 “He owns the empty lot next to the hotel, the property where the newspaper office was built, but not the building itself, which adjoins the empty lot, and the building to the other side, next to it, that was Mrs. Hindershot’s millinery shop, before she died, why do you ask, Miss Duzy?”


“May I ask if you have plans for purchasing it as well?” Duzy asked.


“No ma’am, just doing repairs on the hotel until I decide what to do, matter of fact, I didn't know he owned the other properties until after I purchased the hotel,” he stated.


“It looks just like what we need,” replied Duzy.


Before he could answer, Aunt Esther spoke us saying, “Mr. Keller, I would love to purchase the hotel, or perhaps go into a partnership with it. I would dearly love to have the kitchen and dining area!”


“Well, ma’am consider it yours, as I have no use for it at the moment; however, if you would consider a partnership with me, I would be happy for it to be a joint venture, with us hiring someone to run the hotel. Seems the riff raff in town keeps me busy at the moment!"


Tilly spoke up suddenly, “I could do that! I know who to trust to do the work right and would make sure it is kept clean and comfortable,” and then blushed that she had blurted it out. “I should explain, she said, “before my husband died, we ran a hotel in Leadville, but I couldn’t keep it up by myself".....her sentence trailng off and Tilly looking down at the ground, knowing everyone was thinking where she had found work. Bonnie and Duzy both looked surprised but happy at the revelation, as she had never told Bonnie that part of her past.


"I think that is a wonderful idea, Tilly," Aunt Esther said, hugging Tilly and looking at Mr. Keller to get his response.


"Fine by me," he stated, smiling at Tilly. "Now we will have to....

Mrs. Higgins had overheard the conversation and suddenly joined the group. She seemed hesitant at first, but finally said, “I have dreamed of leavin’ my husband, I can’t put up with him anymore, only stayin’ with him for the youngin’s, but I will need a job as he won’t give me any of the money and I don’t know what I am going to do!” Tears were running down her eyes and Duzy and Bonnie both reached for her, consoling her and telling her not to worry, that she and her children would be taken care of.


“Is it your wish to stay here, Mrs. Higgins?” Duzy asked.


“No, my family is back in Missouri, but I haven’t had the heart to tell ‘em what is happening here.”


 “If I can purchase the adjoining properties, you will have enough money to go home,” Duzy said.


“Please, my name is Marie, you may call me that if you wish.”


"Thank you, Marie, and you may call me Duzy!"

Duzy was thinking if she could purchase the adjoining lot and the empty building, that she could start construction on the gambling hall and Bonnie would already have a nice building to start her business, where the millinery shop had been. Too bad, Mr. Higgins didn’t own the newspaper building as well, as no one had been hired to run it, the presses hadn’t arrived, and it could be expanded into the gambling hall, without nearly as much trouble as starting from scratch. She made a mental note to see Sheriff Landers and find out whether anyone had been hired and who owned the building itself.

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Lady Leigh 8-15-07


"Bonnie! I could have my own little room right back there where Dolly and I can play! And when Dawg comes to visit, he can come through the back door and he would never get in the way up front, and then his hair would stay back here too!" Sarah was working on her persuasive skills with Bonnie, when it was decided the old Millinery shop would be where Bonnie could set up her business. Seems Sarah was getting it all worked out, but all talk came to an abrupt stop when Bonnie brought up school.

"Can't I just do my lessons here, Bonnie?"

"Don't you think you would get tired of that after awhile, Sweetheart? Besides, there are other children that you could be with, and I think that would be a good idea."

Eyes tearing up, and small shoulders slumping, "But Bonnie ... they always made fun of me before. Always said I smelled icky and that my clothes were ugly ..."

Bonnie lowered herself to the floor and placed both of her hands gently on each side of Sarah's face, "Well, those kids weren't very nice, now were they?" Sarah shook her head slowly from side to side. But Bonnie continued to hold onto her face, "Look at me, sweetheart ... I am sure not all of the other children felt the same way, but it does happen that there will always be those who say things out loud that should be kept to themselves. Yes, sometimes people say things that are hurtful, but they are generally said because those other choldren are not thinking about everything involved. Sarah, they didn't know any better, and that's to bad, but I want you to think about how you are now. You are not living as the same little girl that you were a while back. I don't think the children that said hurtful things can repeat themselves at the little girl I see before me today."

Sarah threw her arms around Bonnies neck, and wispered, ever so quietly, "I love you, Bonnie." Then she jumped back and said, "Maybe Dawg wants to learn to read! He's smart enough you know! Nobody would say anything mean if Dawg sat next to me at school!"

"Oh, Sarah ...." Bonnie just smiled at her little sweet Sarah ....

At that moment, Bonnie overheard Esther and Mr. Keller ending a conversation with, "Now Mr. Keller ... would you be so kind as to escort us back to our home? There is coffee and peach cobbler waiting?"

"Why, Esther, I would love to!" with Esthers hand tucked into the crook of Linns arm, they led the way toward home.

Sarah pulled on Bonnies skirt and fingered Bonnie to let Sarah whisper in her ear, "Do you think if Mr. Keller would have said no, we wouldn't get any cobbler?"

"Sweetheart, I do not honestly believe Mr Keller would say 'no' to anything Auntie Esther asked of him!" And the two giggled.

"What is so funny back there?"

"Nothing Auntie Esther", but the giggles continued.

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Kid Sopris 8-15-07


From the dawn of a new day, new life is brought forward. Flowers bloom, new leaves appear and many new travelers arrive at their destinations. In a growing Westward expansion towns of Western Colorado life was forever evolving...So was death.

The evening was providing a mountain coolness to the warm day. A new moon would shine its darkness on the mountain town. For two Law Dawgs, that meant a rendezvous with destiny; a calling of sorts.

Throughout history organizations of the sub-culture would sprout up. Some of theses were secret societies, others operated out in the open. Years ago a leading Law enforcement officer who experienced a calling by God, found himself entrenched with one such organization.

The purpose was to find like minded, dedicated Christian Law Enforcement men, whose sense of purpose and duty would withstand the challenge by all, keeping truth to their oath of office, serving God and providing security to their communities or territories. The organization would then send out representatives to help the Sheriff's, Marshall's and the appointed deputies, identify, apprehend and bring to justice those who violated not only Gods words but those laws enacted by the Government and towns of the United States. The Organization got its roots in the Bible Belt of the South.

Keller and MacNeil, were both indoctronated many years ago, but never knew that they may be called upon to serve together to fulfill their missions and oaths of allegiance.

As the two Law Dawgs prepared for their evening and their appointed schedule, they once again , having their coins firmly secreted in their vests, strolled past the church garden, to help themselves to a rose.

The night was dark, the identities hidden in the absence of light, clearly observed the silhouette of Rev. Sopris engaged in his nightly reading by the fireplace. (Thus any suspicion that either one may have had as to who they night be meeting was quickly extinguished with the preachers silhouette).

Upon their arrival at the Tree of Truth, they were met by a dark robed silhouette standing over 6 feet in height. the eerieness of the night and the spooky feeling of the graveyard only enhanced their individual visions.

Both Law Dawgs, laid the coins and roses upon the edge of a large stone and slowly backed away. The dark hosts greeted the men and waisted no time explaining their mission.

The town of Firelands sat atop a deep pocket of Gold. Some learning of the richness of the soil from earlier explorers to the region have tried to steal or prevent others from establishing their roots here in the town. A "consortium" of evil business men had conspired to send others forward to stake these riches for the "consortium", while leaving the hands of the business men untainted.

S.C.O.L.D., or Sacred Christian Order of Law Dawgs was asked to assist in the identification and apprehension of all the co-conspirators without involving federal troops, as it was believed the "consortium" involved high ranking members inside the government as well.

Conspiracy was no secret to the US Government and certainly not foreign to the Western expanding frontier.

The Law Dawg's were cautioned as to the nature of their work. They must obtain as much information as possible, prosecute where they could within the lawful means of their responsibilities. Be vigilant for attacks upon themselves and their loved ones. Any and all information involving conspiracy theories or individuals should not be made public but written down and bound and sealed and laid upon the stone with a rose.

Should ever the need for the three to meet again the coins which have now been picked up by the dark image will be sent forth as before. Both Keller and MacNeal, with their outstanding reputations for law and order were chosen and a great deal of latitude would be granted to both.

As both men clearly understanding their mission headed back to town they onced again passed by the Church and were greeted by Rev. Sopris who offered both men a cup of fresh coffee. Sopris stated to the men as they came closer.."Don't you love the smell of fresh cut roses?"

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Kid Sopris 8-15-07


Historical Note:
Historically, secret societies have been the subject of suspicion and speculation from non-members since the time of the ancient Greeks, when meetings were held “sub-rosa”(Latin, "under the rose"). This phrase arises from the fact that the rose was the emblem of the god Horus in ancient Egypt. Later the Greeks and Romans regarded Horus as god of silence. This originates from a Greek/Roman misinterpretation of an Egyptian hieroglyphic adopting Horus along with Isis and Osiris as a god. The Greeks translated his Egyptian name Har-pa-khered to Harpocrates. The rose's connotation for secrecy also dates back to Greek Mythology. Aphrodite gave a rose to her son Eros, the god of love; he, in turn, gave it to Harpocrates, the god of silence, to ensure that his mother's indiscretions were kept under wraps. In the Middle Ages a rose suspended from the ceiling of a council chamber pledged all present (those under the rose) to secrecy.

So in that preface exists the “Sacred Christian Order of Law Dawgs” (SCOLD).

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Linn Keller 8-16-07


I leaned back with a happy sigh of contentment.
It's not often I dare let my guard down, but when I can, especially with a belly full of good home made cobbler and coffee, well, things just don't get much better.
Esther and the ladies had retired, momentarily, with clearing dishes and putting away the rest of the cobbler -- what little there was! -- and for a little while, it was Sarah and I at the table.
She eyed me solemnly but with that delightful look in her eyes that meant that active little mind was buzzing like a beehive.
"Mr. Keller?"
"Yes, Sarah?"
"Do you like Aunt Esther?"
I smiled. "Yes, I do," I said gently.
"What would you like to do to her?"
Sarah's voice was innocent, her eyes were utterly without guile, but the question was like cold water dashed in my face.
"What would you like to do TO HER?" she'd asked, and I wondered what kind of hell that poor little girl had lived through with that miserable excuse of a wife murdering father. He probably discussed matters young ears should never hear, and in coarse terms ...
Do TO her?
Mein Gott! I shivered. I'd closed my eyes without realizing it; opening them, Sarah was sitting, patiently, watching, waiting for an answer.
I turned my chair to face her, leaned over, resting my elbows on my knees, and took her small, delicate hands in mine.
"I know exactly what I would like," I said. "I would like to take Aunt Esther to the fanciest restaurant in San Frisco. I would like to give her a diamond the size of a hen's egg, a ruby stick pin the size of your fist, and a fine ivory comb for her hair. I would like to introduce her to high society and lay the world itself at her feet."
I paused, remembering a beautiful woman, long ago.
"I would like to stand and watch the sun rise with her, and watch a rain storm sweep in across the prairie. I would like to hold her hand and watch great salt waves crash against the Texas seashore, and hear seagulls crying, and watch sailboats in the distance."
I bit my bottom lip, remembering another shore, another sunrise, gone, gone.
Sarah tilted her head.
"What's a diamond?" she asked.
Behind the curtain separating the dining room from the kitchen, Esther held the corner of her apron to her mouth, and a single tear started down her cheek.

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Charlie MacNeil 8-16-07


While Linn walked on with the ladies and Dawg, Charlie turned toward the jail. Linn had asked an interesting question and Charlie was thinking of a man he had known back down the trail. In fact, Charlie had put him in jail for just the thing that Linn was trying to uncover. Walter Morrison had gotten ten years in the Colorado State Penitentiary for cooking the books of three mining operations and embezzling funds. And Charlie figured that Walter was just the man for what Linn had in mind. If anyone could dig up enough dirt in the town's bookkeeping to put some people in jail, it was Walter. The trouble was, Walter was still in prison. But Charlie thought he had a way around that.

Back at the jail Charlie composed a telegram to the warden at the prison and listened to Higgins snore in his cell. While Charlie wrote, he noticed that it had gotten darker than usual outside and he turned up the lamp...

Darker than usual. Tonight was the night! Charlie got to his feet, quietly so as not to rouse Higgins, and felt in his pocket for the coin. He slipped out of the jail and went toward the church, staying in the shadows and moving silently. At the church, he could see the Reverend Sopris' silhouette in a window. Charlie reached across a picket fence and plucked a fully-bloomed rose from the church garden then began to circle toward the cemetery.

At the cemetery Charlie slipped into the draw where the tree stood. He still kept to the shadows. Ahead, at the base of the tree, stood a flat topped stone, waist high. Behind the stone a hooded figure waited for him to approach.

"You know why Linn and I have been called, I assume?" Charlie asked without preamble. The figure nodded.

"We'll wait until Deputy Keller arrives before I divulge the reason," the figure said. "You did a great service once and I am confident that you can do the same again."

"I was much younger then, and it came near to killing me," Charlie said, musingly. "I hope I have the strength this time."

"God will grant you the strength you need to accomplish your task as he did before. And he has already furnished you with a helper." There was a flash of white teeth in the shadows of the hood. "Dawg has gotten you through more than once."

"I reckon you're right at that," Charlie said. "They always have. Both the Lord and the Dawg."

"One is the instrument of the other." They lapsed into silence and waited for Linn to arrive.

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Linn Keller 8-17-07


"No warrants, summonses, death notices, nothing of the kind?" I drank deep of the cool water, relishing even the trickle that ran from the dipper down my chin.
"Nope, nothin'," the Sheriff replied, twisting in his chair to ease an old ache.
We made a fine pair. My right ribs were giving me grief again, but I was used to that. Warn't age, an old-timer told me once, it's the miles, and I reckon he's right.
I hung the dipper back on the side of the bucket. No better drink, thought I, than nice cool well water.
"That new lawyer. Moulton, I believe."
The Sheriff looked up, raised an eyebrow.
I took a look back toward the cells, walked quietly over to the Sheriff's desk.
"How honest is he?"
The Sheriff's other eyebrow went up in genuine surprise.
"Known him since he was an idea, and known his pappy longer than that. He's honest."
I nodded. "You recall that deer skin sausage I brought in here?"
The Sheriff frowned a little.
"Every man has his price. I need to know how high his is."
"You figurin' to buy him?"
"No, but I reckon someone might try it."
The Sheriff tilted his chair back on two legs with a quiet smile. "If he can be bought, they better have all the gold in Africa, and even then they'll have a hard way of it."
I smiled.
"You got somethin' in mind."
"I have."
"Mind tellin' me?"
I leaned down so my elbows were on his desk. "A man likes to plan ahead," I said softly. "Reckon I'll be filin' a will and staking claim to some land."
The Sheriff's grin grew slowly but quite broad under his neatly-trimmed salt-and-pepper mustache.
"You're figurin' to settle down."
"I am."
He nodded. "I am glad for it," he said.

An hour later, young Moulton -- well, he's not all that young, he's a man grown and an experienced attorney -- I'm of an age when most everyone is younger than me -- anyway, he sized up what I had in mind, and pursed his lips, and nodded.
"I've already gone through Slade's records and his books. The man was a cheat and a scoundrel and sometimes a thief, but he kept good records, and he has an excellent library. Thank you, by the way, for suggesting that I take over his office. It seems that he was quite agreeable to sell me his practice for a modest sum."
"Speaking of a modest sum," I smiled, "sharpen your pencil and keep track of your time. I don't figure to ask a man to work for free."
"Oh, fear not, I shall bill you," he chuckled, "but not like my predecessor!" He held the page full of notes in one hand, rubbed his clean-shaven upper lip with the other.
"I can tell you already that, although Slade and Carsey did indeed conspire unlawfully to foreclose on the boarding house, they failed to consider mineral rights. Those still belong to Miz Bonnie. It seems her parents had bought the mineral rights, as a matter of fact, to most of the town, including the land underlying the cemetery and the church."
"Anywhere the rights have not been bought?"
"Let me look." He stood with the ease of a young man who has known more than just bottom polishing on a swivel chair; turning to the wooden cabinets, he opened a drawer, regarded the contents, closed it and opened another.
"Yes, here we are," he said, withdrawing a sheaf of papers. Paging rapidly through them, he sat again, then looked up at the map on the wall.
Hand-drawn, and very neatly so, it was a map of the county.
"Here," he said, drawing a rough rectangle with a forefinger on the map. "This land is unclaimed, with mineral rights intact."
We studied it together. I knew the piece he indicated. Good soil, good water, undeveloped; I'd looked favorably upon it since I first saw it.
"I'd like to buy that."
"Interested in selling the mineral rights?"
"Not on your tintype!"
He nodded. "Wise man. Never know what's underground. No sense in selling a fortune in minerals for a handful of coins."
"Can you arrange all the details?"
"Oh, yes. Should have everything ready for your signature tomorrow."
"Who owns the land, anyway?"
"The railroad."
I smiled. "I still own the railroad. The sale hasn't gone through yet."
"I shall expedite the transaction, then, for we do not wish to lose your legal claim to this property."
We shook on it.

I stopped in the hotel, as much for a bar check as much as to say howdy to the ladies. As usual they were keeping it clean -- as usual! I thought, they have done wonders ... with themselves and with this business. My respect for them went up, again.
All was well. I kept walking.
I think better when I walk, or when I ride, and I felt a need for some saddle time, and Sam was glad enough to accommodate me.
I rode a big circle around town, considering.
It had been some time since the Coin had been sent me, longer still since I became a SCOLD. I was no stranger to its summons, though I doubted not this time it would be as strenuous as the last.
My right ribs reminded me of past days and I shifted in the saddle to ease the discomfort.
I thought of the dark-robed figure's words. The stone would be watched, I had no doubt; information left on it would disappear, and none would see whence it departed. I planned to have some information on the stone that night, and framed the words I would use.
Sam stretched his legs into an easy pace. He didn't like a rough gait any more than I.
So they'd neglected to seize the mineral rights from Miz Bonnie and her family, and she owned what was under the town. From the lawyer's finger, tracing on the map, they had the rights for some distance around it -- he used various points on the map as referents, radiating out from the landmarks he'd mentioned -- if someone wanted mining rights to the gold, they would have to buy her out, or kill her off.
"Sam," said I, "what do you say we keep a closer eye on the ladies?"

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Duzy Wales 8-17-07


Aunt Esther had been quieter than usual before the ladies and Sarah bid Mr. Keller a friendly “goodnight.” Duzy had walked in just as Mr. Keller had finished talking to Sarah, and had noticed the look on her Aunt’s face. Duzy hadn’t overheard the conversation, but she could tell it had moved her Aunt, but decided now wasn’t the time to question her. They had enjoyed a nice evening and each had their own plans and ideas running through their heads….

Aunt Esther had excused herself to go to bed, seeming as if she wanted to be alone. She hugged the pillow to her and wondered if it could possibly be....could she love again? After hearing what Linn had said, she hadn't a doubt in the world that he was quite smitten with her, she could see it in his eyes, the way he complimented her, the sincerity of his words....and now they were to be partners....her mind moving on to what she would need for the kitchen, the types of food she would serve, what they would name it.... One thing was sure, being partners in the hotel, would give them time to be together to make sure how they felt!

Duzy was planning to see Sheriff Landers first thing come morning, to find out who owned the newspaper building, she had a wire to send inquiring about the advertisement in the paper, and she felt impending danger of some sort….something she couldn’t pin point, but she knew there was something or someone, that would concern herself in the near future. It was a distant feeling, so she finally let it go, and joined the others in sleep, knowing it would be a busy day.

Luke Hawkins and Jake Thomas, both on the train, and headed toward Firelands, was thinking of Duzy at that moment, as well.

Luke was planning his strategy, thinking to himself that it would be easy to get Duzy back once she saw him again. She was just being stubborn, not wanting to admit defeat, as he had no faith that she could or would succeed. He knew it was a “man’s world,” and women had no place striking out on their own! His thought was he should just take her, making her his, while making sure she was exposed, and ruining her reputation in Firelands, offer her marriage, and having her return more docile….smiling at that thought and where it lead. If it wasn’t for that Aunt of hers, he would do just that! Instead, he would have to lead up to it, wasting his time in the process. He was already missing the comforts Clara provided, as he thought of Duzy, and how he would enjoy breaking her in more ways than just being stubborn...

Jake watched the emotions cross Luke’s face with each thought. He already knew Luke didn’t love Miss Wales, and he knew evil when he saw it. It wasn’t that he wanted her; he didn’t want to admit defeat, as there were other women who he could have married to reach his goals. Tipping his hat a little lower, he decided to get a little shut eye, not remembering the last time he had slept soundly.

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Linn Keller 8-17-07


Sam moved with surprising stealth.
Dawg was even stealthier.
There was a shadow, where a shadow hadn't been, and Sam halted, ears forward.
I patted his neck.
"Dawg?" I called quietly.
The shadow moved toward me -- flowed is more like it, ink poured out on the starlit ground -- and halted in another shadow, becoming one with the night.
"All well, fella?"
I chuckled quietly. May God Almighty have pity on anyone coming around here with intent to skulk, creep or spy.
No. Anyone coming around to skulk, creep or spy will likely deserve all the attention Dawg would be likely to give them.
Gold can inspire good men to evil deeds, and bad men to do much worse, and if there was indeed as rich a vein as the assay indicated, we could be receiving some very unwanted attention.
"Night, Dawg. Need me, holler."
There was the brief flash of fangs as Dawg yawned.

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Duzy Wales 8-17-07

The ladies and Sarah awoke early, each excited to start making preparations for their new ventures. Sarah looked at Bonnie, and said, “Is there going to be a celebration today?” “No, dear Sarah, but this is a very important day for all of us and we will make it our own celebration! Soon we will all have new places to go, you to school and us adults with new places to work….good places that we will enjoy!” Sarah still wasn’t sure she wanted to attend school, but if Bonnie said it would be fine, then she just knew it would. Bonnie had never lied her before, she was thinking, as she said, “could we get some more stick candy?” All four ladies said “yes,” laughing as they walked to town.

Duzy first stop was to see Sheriff Landers. She knocked on the door and he opened it with a smile. “Good morning, Miss Wales, what has you out and about so early this morning?” I have come for two reasons, Sheriff Landers,” she said as she sat in the chair he offered. “First, could you tell me who owns the newspaper office building, and if you have found anyone to run it yet?” Seeing the expression on his face, she continued, “no, I am not asking for the position again, I would like to purchase the building itself, if it can be bought. I also wish to purchase the property it is located on, and the adjoining properties on either side of the hotel. It is my understanding that Mr. Higgins owns it.”

Sheriff Landers seemed somewhat surprised, as he had just been instructed by the owner to sell the building, after getting so many complaints from some of the men in Firelands, thinking he could invest his money better elsewhere, and had stopped the shipment of presses, paper, and other items to complete the opening of the office. “The building is for sale, Miss Duzy, what do you have in mind?” “I plan to open a decent place of entertainment for the citizens of Firelands…there will be gambling, dancing, singing, traveling entertainers, drinking, but not the type of entertainment that was provided at Sam’s Place. As a matter of fact, I hope my place will end that establishment for good!” “It isn’t even that I mind if my dancers wish to make extra money with the customers, as long as it is their choice and is handled discreetly, and not at the "Silver Jewel," as I stand in judgment of no woman who makes that choice, but will instead give them an alternative way of making a living if that is what they wish, and are willing to work hard and be honest in doing so.” The Sheriff looked somewhat surprised, but could certainly understand Miss Wale’s good intentions. He knew he would like to have a higher quality place to go for a good drink and to hear the sweet melody of a woman’s voice. “How do you plan to get the property?” he asked. “Would you give me a few minutes alone with Mr. Higgins?” Duzy asked. “Yes, but I will be standing nearby, and if he causes you any problems, please call for me?” “Fair enough,” Duzy stated.

Mr. Higgins thought he was being delusional again as he watched the Wales woman walking up to the cell. “Mr. Higgins, I have a deal for you. It seems you have found yourself in quite a dilemma! I wish to purchase the other properties that you own on both sides of the hotel. I will pay you fair market value and it seems you could use the cash for a new attorney, instead of rotting away in here, being killed or sent to prison.” Duzy knew he would never be able to use the cash, for as soon as the papers were signed, the money would go directly into an account for Marie and his children. Duzy was counting on the fact that he wouldn’t even read that part of the agreement, as his response seemed to be that of a man drowning, seeing a life raft in the near distance. “Why are you doing this for me?” he asked. Smiling, Duzy said, “It seems everyone deserves a second chance, Mr. Higgins, give me the word and I will get the papers drawn up today.” “Do it” was his reply.

Duzy returned to Sheriff Landers and advised him of her plan, not wanting him to think that she was really there to help Mr. Higgins, but to give Marie and the children a new start in Missouri, and to serve her needs as well. “I have heard that you speak highly of Mr. Moulton, do you think we could meet at his office and close the sale of the building today, that is, after I get Mr. Higgins signature?” Duzy asked, smiling. “My pleasure, Miss Wales, and, may I say you look very lovely today!” Duzy thanked him and left for her next errand before meeting the ladies to see how they were faring.

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William A.A. Wallace 8-17-07


Bigfoot Wallace returned to Firelands after a long and arduous trip...scouting the surrounding area for game. Game was plentiful and he was considering approaching some of the folks in the town and providing them with meat. It would be easy to provide the folks in town with numerous types of "wild game" as the area was teeming with elk, mule deer, pheasent, partridge and the like. The streams were well stocked with both rainbow and brown trout as well. The Preacher seemed to have his fingers on the "pulse" of the town and might have some information as to whom to contact for this endeavor.

It sure was nice to be back in town for a short while...Bigfoot had never really thought of himself as a "townie", but something about this place intriqued him. Seems like there was always something new and exciting going on and he'd met a few friends there already.

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Lady Leigh 8-17-07


Bonnie dressed very carefully for the day. Knowing what she wore would be one of the three gowns Duzy had given her, she chose the olive green faille underskirt topped with the Olive, gold and lt. brown woven brocade strip over skirt. Adjusting the side ties so the overskirt was high on the left hip, she then slipped her arms into the sleeves of the olive bodice and proceeded to button the 21 tiny Mother of Pearl buttons down it's center front. OA couple oc inches to the right side of the bodice center was a tiny pleated gold silk section sewn to the faille and that was brought over to the left and hook and eyed into place. What a stunning look it was on Bonnie. The gold and green made her hair appear more auburn than it already was, and her green eyes sparkled with tiny amber flecks. Placing the tall crowned hat on a carefully pinned auburn twist, Bonnie looked into the full length mirror and looked pleased at the completed look. Glancing over at Sarah, in her ecru eyelet frock with brown satin sash, she knew, that if looks were to set the mood, they would have a blissfully problem free day.

"Let's get going, Sarah. I don't want the others to be waiting on us ... there is lots to do."

Tilly agreed to watch Sarah for Bonnie's first errand, and Bonnie broke away from the others in the direction of Michael Moulton's office. She only briefly hesitated before entering, by taking a deep breath, and straightening her shoulders, then turned the door knob and ushered herself in.

"Mr. Moulton ... may I have a moment or two of your time?"

Bonnie thought he looked at her with an eliment of surprise, but she sat at a brown leather chair adjacent to his desk when he motioned for her to do so.

"Why, yes, Miss McKenna! I would be happy to meet with you. In fact, I was going to be looking you up today as well, but please, you go first."

"There are three things I want to discuss with you. First, I would like to make arrangements to formally adopt Sarah."

With an astonished look, "I was under the impression the child was 'yours'!"

"SHe shares my last name, Mr. Moulton, but in actuality, she is my ward. Here parents are dead, you see, and I would dearly love to legally give Sarah my name ... so may we please draw up that paper work? ..... If there are character references you would be needing, please visit with Rev Sopris and Mr. Linn Keller. I am sure they would tell you anything you would need to know with reference to Sarah's well being."

"Absolutely! We can get that in process immediately. You made comment to other things?"

"Yes. Sarah's Mother left her a sum of money that I would like to have set up in trust for her, and I was wondering if you could assist me with that as well?"

"Certainly, but you could do the same at the bank."

"No!!!" With Bonnies response being so abrasive, Mr. Moulton, once again, looked at Bonnie in surprise. She continued, "I believe it would be best to invest her money at another location ... perhaps a bank in Denver? Is something like that possible, Mr. Moulton?"

"I could certainly look into it for you. I'll place a telegram to a respected bank in Denver, and get that paperwork established as well. We can work those details out at another time, if you do not mind?" He knew he could work out everything right there and then, but somehow he wanted to meet with Bonnie again. She was truly a beautiful woman, and one visit would not be enough to legitimately be with her. He found his eyes darting from the auburn tendrals falling just behind her ears, to those magnificant green eyes. Eyes that spoke, even when she wasn't ... secure, yet insecure. Trusting, yet wary. Bold, yet timmid.

"Excuse me? Mr. Moulton?"

Realizing he was not listening, and embarrased his mind wandered, he cleared his throat, "I am deeply sorry, Miss McKenna! Please forgive me? What were you saying?"

"Only that I would like to get some paperwork put together to show Miss Duzy Wales how I intend to pay her back for her generousity, Mr. Moulton. You see, Duzy is helping me in setting up my business, and I would like there to be a legal paper drawn up with the intent to pay her back, with interest of course. And please, do not say I can go to the bank to take care of that, too, as I will NOT do that!"

Leaning back in his own high backed leather chair, "Miss Mc Kenna. Perhaps you are not aware of your own financial setting?"

Caught off gaurd, Bonnie thought to herself how a person was to get nothing from nothing! "Mr. Moulton, I do not know what you mean. I do not have but a small amount of money to call my own ... definitly not enough to blaze a business with!"

Miss Mc Kenna, let me show you something ...." With that he proceeded to tell Bonnie what he knew about the mineral rights that, eccentually, belonged to her ............ "Miss McKenna? Are you alright? May I get you a glass of water?"

Bonnie sat without moving. Knowing her mouth was open, and also knowing she could not shut it, she simply sat there, staring at Michael Moulton. "There must be some mistake!"

"No, not that the paper work shows. I have gone over it very carefully, Miss McKenna ... there is no mistake."

But why have I never heard of this? Excuse me, but I really do NOT understand! My Mother never said anything about it to me. Why would she have ran a boarding house if she had these shares to the mineral rights? ... Are you positive you are telling me correctly, Mr Moulton? Completely possitive?"

Yes ... I am completely positive. If you like, I can further investigate the situation, but they are yours, just the same. I trust you are the sole heir?"

"UM ... I have a step brother, James, but it was for trying to locate him, after my Fathers death, that brought my Mother, Sister and I here to Firelands. He seems to have fallen off the face of the earth, Mr. Moulton! I do not know where he is ... How much did you say these mineral rights are worth?"

Bonnie left Michael Moulton's office dazed. She practically ran into Duzy as she was also going to be seeing Mr. Moulton that morning.

"Bonnie!! Good heavens! Are you alright?"

"Duzy ... I don't have the slightest idea as to how I am! I will, however, take great delight in telling you what I know when we all meet up again. It is the most extrordinary news! I can not hardly believe it myself ..."

With that, Bonnie practically flew to find Sarah .... she may be an independantly wealthy woman, but it was Sarah she needed to see and hug right now. "Oh Sarah!" Bonie thought, "we are going to be better than fine!"

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Duzy Wales 8-17-07


Duzy’s day was going very well; she had met with Mr. Moulton, who immediately drew the papers up for the sale of the property, adding the clause that the money would be held in trust, by him, for Marie, until she wished it to be wired to Missouri.

She returned to Sheriff Landers’ office, and they both smiled as Mr. Higgins signed the papers, not even looking past the amount of money that he thought was would be his. Sheriff Landers then escorted Duzy back to the attorney’s office, and the deal was closed leaving Duzy in ownership of the newspaper office property and building! "What will the men in Firelands think now?" Duzy asked Sheriff Landers, who already had an amused look on his face at the irony of it all! "I think you shouldn't worry about what they think, Miss Duzy!"

Sheriff Landers happened to notice Aunt Esther having a conversation with Mr. Wallace across the street. They decided to walk over and join the two. Aunt Esther turned to Duzy, and said, “My dear, Mr. Wallace has just informed me that he will be able to furnish all the meat, fish and fowl that I will need!” Duzy was happy for Aunt Esther, but wasn’t sure it was the best of news for herself. “That will take most of your time; will it not, Mr. Wallace?” “I would say three to four days a week, Miss Duzy, why do you ask?” “I am sure I can find the help somewhere, but I was hoping that you could help renovate the buildings and add to the existing one, after seeing the wonderful work you did with the church.” “I will be honored to help when I can, but I do think you will need a foreman and a team of workers to do that. Have you thought of the men who built the newspaper office? They were still in town last evening and my guess is they could use the money, he said, laughing heartily, as they were spending it very quickly.” “Another problem solved,” Duzy stated, giving Mr. Wallace a hug! She had noticed his reaction the other time she had hugged him and couldn’t stop herself from doing it again! She could swear she saw the big man blush.

Sheriff Landers had been thinking all day that it was time he talked to Mr. Keller or Mr. MacNeil about becoming the new sheriff of Firelands, or finding someone else who was interested, as he would like to help with the gambling house and he could be the foreman Miss Wales needed, if she would allow him to invest in it as well. He knew that she had already invested most of the money that she had received from the reward of Bert Graves, as he had witnessed all the paperwork. Before going any further, he merely offered to talk to the men to see if they were interested in the work. He couldn’t commit himself until talking to the other lawmen. Duzy thanked him and he turned to go find the men Miss Duzy would need, and with any luck would be working for him in the near future. If either of the lawmen were interested in being Sheriff, he would much rather be in on the new “Silver Jewel, as being a lawman for long had never been his intention, but that was before Keller and MacNeil had come to Firelands.

Duzy left Aunt Esther, still discussing the meats she would need, as Duzy went in search of Bonnie. Duzy was holding a copy of the deed that would give Bonnie the property and building that had been the millinery shop, when she noticed her friend coming toward her, looking flushed, and asked, Bonnie, Good heaven's, are you alright? Duzy hardly heard her reply, she was in such a rush, although she seemed to be happy and in search of Sarah...

Duzy called to Bonnie to "meet at the mercantile" as Bonnie rushed on. Oh my, I wonder what it could be, Duzy thought, as she had so much good news to tell her friend. So much had happened in one morning, Tilly could run the hotel, Aunt Esther the kitchen and dining area, Bonnie could have her seamstress shop and Duzy….well, for right now, Duzy would be overseeing the building of one of the fanciest gambling halls and saloons in the West!

What would her Mama and Papa think when they heard the news, she thought and turned to send a wire, simply saying: All good. stop Will write tonight. stop She knew she would need to pen a letter to explain everything that had happened and hoped they would be excited for her. She also wished to explain that she would still find a way to use her journalism skills.

And then, try as she might, and with all that had gone well, there was still that nagging feeling that trouble was on the way!

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Kid Sopris 8-17-07


Unidentified members of the Consortium Conspiracy were very disillusioned as word was reaching back East of the new arrests in Firelands. The news sparked Rev. Sopris to take a visit to the court house to view Land Documents and U.S. Patent's issued to land owners.

Virtually all the land, with exception to the church property and the cemetery which was owned by the town contained the following language in the Patent.

"Subject to any vested and accrued water rights for mining, agricultural, manufacturing, or other purposes, and rights to ditches and reservoirs used in connection with such water rights as may be recognized and acknowledged by the local customs, laws and decisions of courts, and also subject to the right of the proprietor of a vein or lode to extract and remove his ore therefrom, should the same be found to penetrate or intersect the premises hereby granted, as provided by law."

What this meant to every land owner is that under the first US Patent issued to Bonnie's folks there was no reservation setting aside any mineral rights. Thus those rights and the water rights to and in connection therewith, now belonged to Ms. Bonnie.

Rev. Sopris thought it odd the the town held the rights that were located within the boundaries of the cemetery and Rev. Sopris under His Patent from the Government owned those underneath the church.

That was very dangerous, because the mineral rights under the cemetery could be extracted displacing all those that had been buried there. The parcel of land was only five acres, but it still could yield high profits, especially if the evil conspirators stole the land.

Rev. Sopris made Note of the Patent Reservations and quickly put pen to hand and wrote a request to the city fathers to enact legislation preventing any Mining activities within the Town boundaries, or for property owned by the town's legal body to prevent collapse of the towns infrastructure.

This would still allow Ms. Bonnie to retrieve or allow to be retrieved precious minerals contained in several parcels outside the towns legal boundaries and it allowed the placement of rules governing the malicious misuse of water.

Keep in mind that land within the areas West of the 6th Principal Meridian were hard rock mountains and only the best miners with deep pockets for equipment would be successful at such attempts to extract ore.

If there was an actual conspiracy to steal the mineral and water rights, how would the "Conspiracy" try to steal them?

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Linn Keller 8-18-07


Half a dozen hard men rode toward town.
Well mounted, they rode with the ease of natural horsemen: born and raised in Kentucky, displaced by the war and its aftermath, they had gone west as restless men do. All had been too young to fight in the War of Northern Aggression; most had been deprived of the genteel upbringing that had been their parents' ... but all had the ingrained courtesy that was their Kentucky heritage, and all spoke with the chracteristic Suth'n accent.
To a man they were tall and lean; their hands were callused, but skillful; each had his gifts, his weaknesses, but all bore the same stamp on their features. Brothers and cousins, they shared the same last name, and the same sense of honor.
They had stood, heads bowed, hats in hand, around a freshly dug grave: Emmett's sister had been the last link holding them to their now-forfeit ancestral lands.
Emmett Daine squared his shoulders and settled the broad brimmed farmer's hat on his head.
"There is a debt to be paid," he said.
They shared one last supper together, and got a good night's rest.
Daybreak saw six lean, tall kinsmen riding westward.

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Lady Leigh 8-18-07


"I honestly do not know what it all means," Bonnie was talking to the others, Sarah off playing with Dawg a short distance away. The women decided to purchase a loaf of bread, cheese and apples at the Merchantile, while asuring Sarah, "Yes, you can have your stick candy, but only after you some of this as well!" So they spread a blanket on the grass by the church and proceeded to eat a bite of lunch.

"Mr. Moulton may have been saying some things of importance, but quite frankly, I wasn't it inclined to be listening." There were a few chuckles over that last statement. "But to be honest with you, I don't think Mama knew about that particular investment of Papa's!"

"Why do you say that, my dear," asked Esther, "Are you sure she did not know about it, or are you looking at this situation through the eyes of a child, who just may not have been told about it all?"

"I suppose that could be the case, Esther, but then why did Mama lower the standard of living she was accustomed to, and run a boarding house? I mean, don't get me wrong! There was absolutely nothing wrong with her doing that! It was a wonderful place!" Bonnie remembered her Mama had some of the furniture from the Chicago house sent, as well as her dishes and other cherished pieces. She always added a touch of class, and the people that stayed there were generally people of some means ... " It just doesn't make any sense, that's all. All I do know, is after Papa was killed in the Chicago fire in 1871, Mama said we needed to come here. That my step brother,Jamie, was here, and according to Papa, if anything ever happened to him, the interest in the textile business and what was in Firelands, would secure us with a good life."

"But your brother wasn't here, was he?" commented Tilly.

"No ..... Mama even hired the Pinkertons to find Jamie. Like I told Mr. Moulton, it's like Jamie simply vanished from the face of the earth! It has been over 15 years without a word."

Duzy added, "Do you suppose your Mother just didn't know what to do with the investment here? It sounds like your brother was meant to come here and maybe handle your Fathers investment. Maybe your Mama simply did not know the legalities of it all."

"Or perhaps your Mother was led astray once arriving here ..." Conversation quieted with what Esther had just said.

Moments later Bonnie spoke, "I suppose I need to find out what my options are. Mr. Moulton appears to be an honest man, and if I apprise the Rev. and Mr. Keller, I really don't fear being misled ..... But honestly, let us change the subject. Duzy? How are you going to proceed now that you have the properties?"

Duzy filled them in with what she knew, talking with animation the entire time. The Silver Jewel was being born, and not just in thoughts alone, but now in deed, and Duzy couldn't be more delighted. In fact, all of the women had much to celebrate. Life was indeed good at the present.

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Kid Sopris 8-18-07


Sopris and MacNeil were exchanging casual conversation on main street regarding current events. When the Telegraph operator came running up to MacNeil with a message for the Sheriff.

The telegram was from the territorial prison warden in Canon City, Colorado, stating that Duke Slade had been murdered n prison by unknown prison inmates. MacNeil shared the information with Rev. Sopris and both seemed to get a unusual look upon their faces but they both must have been thinking the same, cause the headed towards the jail.

Macneil asked the Reverend to hang around and listen to a story or two unfold. MacNeil figured he might need a witness.

Once at the Jail, MacNeil gathered Higgins and Sam together to read them the telegram. Both men looked at each other in disbelief and a look of fear came over them. Sam, stated, "Y'all promised me protection if I talked, does it still apply?" Higgins spoke up "me too!"

It wasn't long before both men began to unravel like a tightly wound top.

They told a story of how, men would go to work for business owners or mines, and then create a story of unpaid labor. The alleged victims would file a writ in federal courts allegeding non payment. Corrupted judges then would issue liens against the business or property owner with outlandish fees. When the fees, fines and levies couldn't be paid, the Court would seize the property and give title to the complaining party who then would sign the deed over to one or more of the "Consortium Conspiracy" partners. The Deeds though obtained illegally would have the courts endorsements, making appear legitimate.

Higgins said the scheme worked real well in Aspen, on Red Mountain and in Telluride Colorado. Someone would have to go look at the Judges on all those cases to identify them...Most

Higgins and Sam were both hired to fulfill the needs, of this conspiracy. Carsey at the bank would foreclose on property in order to try and get the water and mineral rights. Slade was close to tying things up, until his mistakes landed him in trouble.

Higgins and Sam both related that men were in route from the East to assume new positions and began a new attempt to integrate within the community and began claims over a period of time to acquire as much as they could.

Neither men knew the names of other conspirators, or the corrupted Judges; But Higgins said that he knew the name of one man..."Luke".

MacNeil now had to find Keller, who MacNeil was sure was following Esther around like a new puppy finding a home. Sheriff Landers seemed to have his own dreams...Reverend Sopris, Smiled bid MacNeil a good day and spoke of finding Bigfoot Wallace for some fishing company down by the river.

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Linn Keller 8-18-07


I'd just brushed Sam down when Charlie MacNeil came into the livery.
"Thought you'd be out at the ladies' place," he grinned.
I patted my flat belly. "Was it up to me I'd live out there, but they'd have to charge me for feed!"
Charlie's expression flattened and he pulled a telegraph flimsy out of his vest pocket.
Sam turned his head to see why I wasn't paying attention to him.
I read the telegram and whistled.
"Sam and Higgins?"
"Singing like canaries."
"Anything good?"
Charlie repeated the conversation with a lawman's eiditic memory, even to the nervous stammer.
"Chances are the banker is to be replaced," I thought out loud. "We'd best seize the bank records and its assets. Your jurisdiction is Federal. I'm only county. Our judge is honest as the day is long but where gold is involved there's men to be bought, and if the state legislature is on the payroll, this Consortium can have him replaced with someone as noble as Slade." I rubbed my chin. "You'd mentioned a bookkeeper you knew that could help us make sense of Carsey's records. How long til he gets here?"

The engineer saluted Firelands with a long pull on his whistle chain.

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