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Charlie MacNeil, SASS #48580

Firelands-The Beginning

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Charlie MacNeil 8-19-07

 

Charlie looked back at Linn. "Well, we need to talk about that," he began. The two men began walking toward the Sheriff's office.

"Why's that?" Linn wanted to know.

"Well, the gent I told you about is in the Territorial Prison. Or was," Charlie said.

"You're kidding, right?"

"Nope. He's supposed to have gotten out today, according to the warden," Charlie went on. "And the warden was supposed to see that he got on the first means of transportation that'll get him to Firelands. Fortunately the railroad runs through here. I'm still waiting to hear from the warden whether or not ol' Walter got on the first train headed this way."

Linn stared at him for a moment. "What makes you think this Walter would do what you want him to?"

"Because he owes me," Charlie said. "I put him there, but he got a cushy job there because of me. And besides which, he knows I'll hunt him down and do him severe bodily injury if he does run. The little twerp cost me some time flat on my back nursing a bullet hole."

"A bookkeeper shot you?" Linn asked incredulously. They stepped into the office and swung the door shut behind themselves.

"No, his wife did," Charlie said uncomfortably. "From behind, no less. Apparently she didn't appreciate me shackling her husband to a buckboard to take him to jail." He grinned at Linn. "On the other hand, he did take the .22 away from her, and turn himself in."

"Good grief," Linn said. "Are you just jinxed, or what?"

"Or what, mostly," Charlie said. "Usually things don't go quite that bad."

There was a knock on the door and the kid from the telegraph office came in with an envelope in his hand. "Mister MacNeil, you got a telegram."

"Thanks," Charlie said. He gave the boy four bits. When the boy had gone, Charlie opened the envelope and read what was inside. He looked up at Linn. "Walter'll be here tomorrow morning. The warden personally put him on the train."

"Good," Linn said. "Now for the next thing I wondered about. The Sheriff wants to resign his job and go to work for Miss Duzy and wondered if one of us wanted to be Sheriff. You interested?"

Charlie chuckled and said, "Not me. I was just passing through on my way home, remember? I think maybe you're the man for that job."

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Lady Leigh 8-19-07

 

"Bonnie!!! That boy is here again!" Sarah yelled up the stairs. Bonnie was fortunate enough to buy a Singer Treadle Machine at the Merchantile, and was busy making Sarah some flimsies. Stopping her sewing, she went downstairs.

Hands on her hips, Sarah was giving the little fella a staredown, complete with clenched jaw and wrinkles between her eyebrows. "Sarah?" Bonnie scolded, "Why don't you run into the pantry and get Billy a couple of cookies that Tilly made." With an exaggerated turn, Sarah stomped off to do what she was told. Bonnie looked at Billy, "I'm sorry, Billy... I hope she didn't make you uncomfortable?"

"No, Ms. Bonnie," Billy replied nevously, "I wasn't very nice to her last school year ... but I never meant anything by what I said. Other kids were being spiteful, and I did it, too ... but I have always felt real bad about it! Honest Ms. Bonnie!"

"Well, Billy, maybe it is Sarah you should appologize to ... though I am very glad you told me."

"Awh, she won't pay me any mind ...."

"I wouldn't be so sure about that, Billy. You might have to work to earn her trust, but if you try real hard, you will more than likely win. Now why have you come today?"

" I have a telegram for you Ms. Bonnie. Fact is, I've been delivering them alot today!"

Sarah came out then with 5 cookies in her hand, "these two are for you, and if your're nice, I'll let you have another!"

"Sarah!" Bonnie reprimanded once again, as she took the telegram from Billy, "You behave! We'll discuss this later!"

"Yes, Bonnie ....." and the two disappeared out the front door.

Bonnie opened the telegram and read, "Praise God! stop We were told you were dead! stop Letter following. stop Merchandise requested will go to you soon. stop You have made us so happy to hear from you. stop We are rejoicing! stop Abram Rosenthal"

Bonnie reread the telegram two more times .... "they were told I was dead?"

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Linn Keller 8-19-07

 

I set down in the front pew and looked at the altar.
It don't profit to start something important without talking to God about it and I felt the need to discuss the matter.
Hat in hand and lump in throat, I set there in the quiet, considering.
I had held positions of responsibility before and likely would again, one way or another, but when there's an official title to go along with it, well, somehow it seems more ... solemn? Official? It's no less real, just more formal.
Sheriff.
I had commanded men in the theater of battle.
I had been a deputy town marshal, then town marshal.
I had taught school, briefly, until I talked the town fathers into hiring a proper schoolmarm. Actually I told them I was leaving and they could do without, or they could hire a particular young lady I'd lined up for the position, and after the usual political scuffling where the several councilmen tried to out-maneuver each the other for some imagined advantage, they agreed to hire the lass.
Council President demanded I leave my badge.
I told him I had bought it with my own cash money and if he wanted it he could pay me for it, otherwise I was keeping it. He looked like he'd bit a sour pickle but was not inclined to pay good money for what he thought he could steal from me.
That was a long time ago. My gaze wandered up the tightly-fitted planks. If you would gauge a carpenter's skill, my father had told me, look at his corners. The carpenter here had done a workmanlike job. The corners were square and tight, every one of them.
My hand raised to the badge I wore. It was my old deputy town marshal's badge. Firelands did not have any deputy sheriff badges and as long as I had this one I saw no need to murder a star out of a tobacco tin with a set of tin shears.
I considered the matter for a good long while before addressing the Almighty.

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Kid Sopris 8-19-07

 

In the silence of mans' mind, a roar of thoughts can cause you to go deaf. Through the quietness of the Church, Rev. Sopris heard the inner thoughts and prayers of a strong minded man. Searching for guidance, and perhaps a blessing, Linn Keller was on his own; this was a question he had to figure the answer out on his own and with the Lord.

Corners squared, planks straight, send the message of straight and narrow. Man's destiny lies within the Hallowed walls of the church, Answers lies within mans heart. If thou heart be true and good, answers will be easy, though one may not like them. If thous heart is false and evil, a man wouldn't be there.

Linn's appearance already defines his devotion to duty, honor, integrity and the basic principles of Christianity.

Sopris entered after much waiting and spoke to Linn. "Dep. Keller, you know the answers, you always have. There is no doubt as to your destiny if you shall be true to your heart. Go In peace, and help your self to a rose. Esther will love it"

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Linn Keller 8-20-07

 

Reverend Sopris spoke quietly, as he generally did, but his words carried a power belied by his soft tones.
I nodded. "Thank you, Reverend," I said. "I shall do that."
I settled my sweat stained hat on my head as I stepped across the threshold. All was quiet without the church building.
I cut Miz Esther a single red rose, one with two buds beside it; this, I thought, would give her pleasure longer than a single flower.
For a miracle, Sam did not try to eat the rose; he did not even sniff at it, so I rewarded him with a big pinch of chawin tobacker. He grunted in pleasure as velvety lips whisked the delicacy from my palm.
I would tell Miz Esther of my decision. Had I stopped by the Sheriff's office first and then worn my Sheriff's star out to give her the rose, it might look like showing off.
No man ever loses the ability to think himself irresistible to the ladies, no matter how old he gets, and every man has a little boy in him that likes to show off. I was no different from any man, but I'd like to think that the years that have added winter's snowy stains to my mustache have taught me the veracity of the Ecclesiastical admonition, "For all things there is a time," and this was not the time to be showing off.
I could see Sarah and a little boy playing. It was a good thing to see. I heard their shreiks and laughter, and something loosened inside me, something that been too tight for too long.
Sam picked up his step.

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Lady Leigh 8-20-07

 

Bonnie could see Linn approaching, and not to make the same mistake as her daughter had done, Bonnie quietly called for Esther, then she stepped out to greet Linn, "Hello Mr. Keller"

"The same to you, Ms. Bonnie. How are you doing today?"

"Oh ... not bad for a dead person, I suppose."

"Excuse me!"

"I received a telegram ... that's why Billy is here." Bonnie then wispered, "Though I think Billy's lucky Sarah's laughing. Seems they had a misunderstanding at school last year." Then Bonnie held the telegram out to Linn, "I should probably send a reply back, but I just don't know how to respond!"

He glanced over it, and Bonnie continued on, "This whole situation just gets more and more puzzeling to me, Mr. Keller! I find myself with so many questions, and I'd really like a few answers ... Don't suppose you have a crystal ball do you?"

But Bonnie noticed Linn may not have heard the last part of her conversation as Esther came to the front door. SHe then looked up to Linn, and Bonnie chuckled to herself. Quite honestly, it was as if at that percise moment of the two seeing each other, nobody else exsisted. Bonnie slipped the telegram out of his fingers and excused herself walking in the direction of the children.

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Linn Keller 8-20-07

 

Like most ladies of quality, Esther knew how to make an entrance, but an entrance has to be properly made: one swept into a ballroom on a handsome gentleman's arm, for instance; one paced into a schoolroom full of unruly children; an entrance is sometimes best made with silence, and subtlety, perhaps with a coquettish flutter of a fan, a glance, a tilt of the head.
All Esther had to do was smile.
Bonnie's voice plucked itself from my thoughts like the telegram she withdrew from my fingers; somewhere, distant in my mind, the idea that she made a most lively corpse amused itself into my memory, to be examined and puzzled over at a later time.
The rose, forgotten, was still between thumb and forefinger.
"Esther," I asked, "would you walk with me?"
Esther lifted her skirt as she stepped delicately off the porch. She laid her hand on my arm and tilted her head, at once expressing amusement, and attention.
I remembered the rose.
She took the rose, and smelled it, and lowered her gaze, and I could see that she too had a past, and she was looking deep into it, remembering.
"A good memory?" I asked gently.
She nodded. I could not quite read her expression.
She withdrew a delicate little lacy hankie from her sleeve and pressed it to her eyes, trying be dainty, trying to be ladylike, and it was like a dam breaking with a slow and terrible majesty.
I did the only thing I could think of.
I wrapped her in my arms and held her.

Bonnie took Sarah's hand. "Come inside, Sarah," she said. "I need your help."
"Is something wrong with Aunt Esther?"
"No, dear, nothing's wrong at all."
"Then why's she crying?"
"It's all right. Grown-ups do that from time to time. Now let's see if you can't help me with some sewing!"

Sam contentedly sampled the native vegetation -- fortunately he was more interested in grass than their flower bed -- I watched Sam, and looked around, cautiously. I'd let my guard down again. A man could get himself killed doing that, I thought. Matter of fact I had two scars that bore mute testimony to the folly of inattention.
Esther took a deep breath and used the last dry corner of her dainty little kerchief. "You must think terribly of me," she said, pressing the kerchief to her nose.
"I think we grieve because we have loved, and when we grieve hard it's because we have loved deeply," I replied quietly.
She nodded and drew her composure around herself like a cloak.
Holding up the rose, she smiled. "You kept the buds," she smiled. "They will bloom in a day or two. Let me get this in some water." She looked up at me. "Please come in. I'm sure there is some cobbler."
"Forgive me, I cannot," I said, suddenly unsure of myself. "Esther, I am of a mind to be Sheriff."
Esther smiled. "I know."
Somehow I was not surprised that she knew. Something told me very little happened that she either did not know or could not figure out.
"I did not want to come out here like a little boy showing off his new star."
"Somehow I can't picture you showing off like a little boy."
"Esther, if it were possible, I would be having brandy and cigars with your father, or your eldest brother, and talking politics and all the things men speak of over brandy, and after some little time I would be asking them for their permission to call on you."
I had Esther's gaze.
I could swim in those eyes.
"Esther, may I call on you again?"
Esther recognized the formality of the request, the propriety I was observing.
"Yes, Mr. Keller," she said with that quiet smile, "Yes, you may."

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Charlie MacNeil 8-21-07

 

Linn left the jail with a bemused look on his face. Charlie poured a cup of coffee and took a sip. He made a sour face and took another sip then poured the coffee out a nearby open window. It was too strong even for him. That blasted stuff must have been sitting there cooking most of the day.

Charlie sat down to contemplate the turn of events life had brought his way. Behind him, he could hear Sam and that Higgins character snoring the afternoon away and was sorely tempted to do the same thing himself. But something familiar was happening, something he'd hoped would never happen again, that wouldn't let him take a siesta.

Charlie had his dark side. So did Dawg. Dawg's was brought out by anyone who did children or ladies dirt. Most of the time Dawg was the friendly, tail-wagging softie that Sara saw, but under the right circumstances he became the towering wrath of the Lord. Charlie was the same way.

The vast majority of the time Charlie went about the law's business coolly and calmly, and he was pretty good at taking care of that business. The prisoner roster at the territorial prison could attest to that. But when things went beyond the law's business Charlie's dark side emerged. And it usually got him hurt, because when his icy cold rage erupted he became oblivious to anything but making those who transcended both the law of the land and the law of the Lord pay for their crimes.

The last time had been nearly ten years ago and he'd come close to dying because of it. He'd gotten involved with a small town, similar to Firelands, that had been overrun with cutthroats and murderers. The town fathers had been helpless to do anything because anyone who objected died. Charlie had drifted into town on a nearly white buckskin horse and ridden out three months later, weak and pale and with new scars added to his collection. A lot of men had died, but that small town had gotten a new lease on life. Charlie had ridden through those intervening years hoping never to feel again the way he'd felt then. But the sight of the S.C.O.L.D. coin and the talk with the hooded man had started a stirring deep within him.

Charlie got to his feet, put on his hat, and left the jail. He went at a fast walk toward the church. He could feel a storm coming toward the town, a storm not of cloud but of evil. And he knew he needed to enlist more help than just Linn Keller. Help not only to save the town of Firelands, but help to save himself.

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Lady Leigh 8-21-07

 

Bonnie could not get the telegram out of her mind. As a result, she was doing more "unsewing" than sewing. A sewing machine was supposed to take a 19 hour project by hand down to less than 2 hours .... but not this afternoon! Sarah was having better luck practicing her straight stitch with needle and thread while making a new blanket for Dolly.

Bonnie knew she had to try to get some kind of a handle on things. First of all, who told the Rosenthals she was dead, and why? Then there was this surprise right out of the blue with the mineral rights. That subject alone raised a whole lot of questions. What was Bonnie supposed to do with this, and what were her options with concern to it?

"Oh for Pete's sake! There has to be someone around here that can help me with this!!!" Bonnie was frustrated, and threw down Sarah's pantaloons.

"What Bonnie? What's the matter?"

"Sarah? There is only one person that I can remotely think of who can answer any of my questions! Let's go make a visit to the Reverand."


 

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Kid Sopris 8-21-07

 

Rev. Sopris met Charlie MacNeil near the front door of the church. One look at Charlies eyes, told Sopris that things were not right, something bothered the straight forward man.

Sopris Spoke first; "There are people out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. In this life, things get confused out there, power, ideals, the old morality, and practical cowboy necessity. Because there's a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. The good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Every man and woman has got a breaking point. You and I have. Don't let it take you over Charlie! Come on in I think I still have some Vanilla and fresh coffee, Say ya ever had Iced coffee Charlie?"

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Linn Keller 8-21-07

 

I raised my hand and solemnly swore, and Sheriff Landers removed the Sheriff's star from his vest as I removed my old Chauncey deputy marshal's badge from mine.
Landers pinned the badge on me and shook my hand with a grin as broad as Texas. "I am proud of you," he said simply. "You're the right man for this job."
"I'll do my best," I said, the solemn weight of responsibility a little heavier now that I was the chief officer. I squared my shoulders. A burden I was used to, I reminded myself.
I grinned.
"Can I buy you a drink, Mr. Landers?" I asked.
He nodded, smiling broadly. "I'd take that kindly."
A thought occurred to me. "Say, where's Charlie?"
"He stepped out a little bit ago. Said the coffee would float a mule shoe."
"He's likely right. Smells kind of rank." I looked back toward the cells. "Reckon I'd best not leave the fellows unguarded just yet."
We stepped out onto the board walk. Sam stood hip shot at the hitch rail, content to doze and dream whatever horses dream about; little was going on, the only movement was Miz Bonnie and Sarah, at the far end of the street.
"Now darn it," I said, "had I known they were coming this-a-way I'd have ridden them in. Sam could carry them both with no problem."
Landers and I both froze, squinting a little.
I jerked the reins free and took a long step into the saddle.
"YAAH!" I exclaimed, bringing Sam about, and I felt his hind quarters bunch up under us and we shot out toward the ladies. Two long strides and Sam was at full gallop.
Landers pulled back into the sheriff's office and unlocked the gunrack. Selecting a Sharps rifle, he drew the hammer to half-cock, dropped the lever and ran a cartridge the size of a panatela into the breech, and flipped up the vernier sight.
I was leaned over Sam's neck, willing him to greater speed; my hat was gone, somewhere behind me, and the very last of my worries. Beside me a dark streak came alongside, swift as an arrow, sure as death and black as sin itself.
Bonnie frowned as she saw our approach, then turned.
She seized Sarah about the waist and whirled her off the ground, and turned to run.
A prairie wolf was bearing down on them, bubbly slobbers drooling from its jowls.
Sam had his speed up; half a ton of horse flesh, at full gallop, is not an easy thing to stop, and Sam made no effort. He hit that prairie wolf with his forehooves on the way past. Dawg was on the wolf in the next moment, jaws locked on its throat.
Sam came about like a clipper ship and laid his ears back.
Bonnie, taking no chances, was moving at a dead run.
Landers set the rear trigger of the Sharps and swore.
I kicked out of the stirrups and hit the ground running. Sam galloped on toward Bonnie and slowed to a walk. Bonnie swung Sarah into the saddle and smacked Sam across the hind quarters.
Sarah laughed with delight.
Sam turned and gave Bonnie a wounded look.
Bonnie shooed at him with her hands. "Go!"
Sam shook his great head and blew.
Dawg was silent, jaws locked around the prairie wolf's throat. The rabid wolf was struggling.
I was not about to shoot the wolf, not with Dawg having hold of him, so I drew my knife. "Holt still, Dawg," I said softly, and feeling the base of the wolf's skull, where the spine joins, I positioned the point of the blade, and drew back my arm, and hit the pommel with the heel of my hand.
The wolf shivered, and was dead.
Dawg held on for a little longer. When he finally let go he ran his tongue out as if he'd just had hold of something distasteful.
I put my boot on the wolf's head and withdrew the blade. Wiping it on the wolf's fur, I considered whether there was sufficient scrap wood or burnable trash to make a good fire, as I did not want this carcass infecting anything else. Dawg should be all right, he hadn't got bit. I would tell Charlie.
Bonnie had her hands on her hips, glaring at Sam.
Sam was looking tolerantly at Bonnie.
Sarah was petting Sam's neck and telling him he was a good boy.
Landers dropped the breech block and folded down the vernier.
"Hey Linn!" he hollered. "I'll take that drink now!"

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Lady Leigh 8-21-07

 

People were running out into the street wondering what was going on. Micheal Moulton ran to Bonnie and approached the auburn haired women with hands on her hips,

"Miss McKenna! Are you all right?"

"No I am not alright!! What kind of a stupid question is that!" Moulton opened his mouth to speak, but Bonnie shut him off with her own voice, "I am scared to death! And more than that, I am angry! Let me ask you a question, Mr. Moulton, is life supposed to be this dang hard?" Again Moulton tried to say something, but was again cut off, "No! I don't think it is supposed to be this dang difficult! In fact, up until three years ago life was beginning to be pretty good despite the fact my father was gone! Then my Mama and sister die, the only home I knew was taken away from me, I end up in a brothel, supposedly signing a contract to the likes of Sam by my own accord, I saw filth on a daily basis, made to do unspeakable things, finally am able to get out of that hell hole, only to daily have more and more unanswered questions!"

Bonnie then turned to Linn, "And though I am grateful beyond all words for what you did, Mr. Keller, the next time I throw my daughter on YOUR horse to remove her from danger, he had BETTER run!!!"

Bonnie pulled a very bewildered Sarah off of Sam's back, took her by the arm, and continued on to the church.

"Sarah! I don't know about you, but I think life really stinks sometimes!"

"But Bonnie! Dawg is here! I want to see Dawg!"

"Later, Sarah .... Later!"

Linn walked over to Moulton, "McKenna is a Scottish name you know?"
Micheal just stood there shaking his head.

Sheriff Keller dispersed all of the people, looking down at the dead animal, and over to Sam. "What an interesting way to start this new job, Sam ..."

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Kid Sopris 8-21-07

 

It wasn't long before the quiet meeting between Rev. Sopris and Charlie was cut short. A small commotion near town had just about every body out and speaking at once.

Sopris remarks, "When the Lord creates activity, never is there a shortage of entertainment". Whatever was on Charlies mind, seemed to temporarily pass with the appearance of Bonnie and Sarah at the Church Steps.

Bonnie appeared to be between Heaven and earth, desert and sea; frazzled, worried, shaken and at her wits end. Sarah had big eyes, appeared confused and was constantly looking back at Dawg.

Charlie, excused himself, while bidding hello to the ladies. Something was on Bonnie's mind. Rev. Sopris prepared for a good listen..."Please, won't you both come in and have a seat, make yourself at home in God's House".

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Lady Leigh 8-22-07

 

Bonnie entered the church as Charlie was leaving. Bonnie hoped he wasn't leaving due to her arriving, "Mr. MacNeil? I wanted to thank you for Dawg. He is a most amazing animal! He .... ah ... just killed a wolf ... there in town while I was walking here. He's fine! He followed us here."

"So that is what all the commotion was about. Well if you will excuse me Ms. Bonnie ... Sarah." Charlie left and as he walked away, Bonnie noriced Dawg stayed behind.

Quietly, "Sarah, I'm sorry .... Dawg is here, and you can step outside to be with him."

"Thank you Bonnie. You know? Your voice can get kinda loud when you're mad. But it's Ok, cuz I was mad, too."

Bonnie looked at Sarah sit out on the top step with Dawg under her arm. "Rev. Sopris? Please tell me I am not interupting, and please tell me you can answer some questions? ......"

"Coffee?"

"No thank you."

"Ms Bonnie, I may not have all of the answers you seek."

"I Have tons of questions. Some of them may be tangled with others, and I can't help but wonder if some stem from the mineral rights. So, let us start with that one. Perhaps you have heard, but it seems I own some Mineral rights, and I don't know what my options are with concern to them. If my Father had them well before he died, and if my Mother did not know about them, and if my step brother was out here and found trouble due to them, then what should I do? I do not want harm to come to Sarah, Duzy, Esther and Tilly. Would it be better to sell shares? Would there be no more trouble if I do that? Or is that just giving in? Their worth is substancial."

It was Esther who first made the referrence about the possible mineral and the disasters that have followed Bonnie the past few years. And the more Bonnie thought about it, the more it sounded logical. The Rev was a wise man. Bonnie knew he could councel her with those mineral rights. So ... she let him have the floor.

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Duzy Wales 8-22-07

 

Duzy had been lost in her own thoughts and had not been paying attention to all that was going on as she penned her letter. Writing her Mama and Papa hadn’t been easy. There was so much to say, so many changes, and she could only hope that with the experience of raising children and living their own happy and fulfilled lives, that they would understand.

After finishing the letter, Duzy dressed to go into town to see if Sheriff Landers had found the men she needed to start work on the buildings. Everyone was speaking of a rabid wolf and she spotted the Sheriff right away. It seemed everything changed quickly in Firelands, as Sheriff Landers was now Mr. Tom Landers and she would see Sheriff Keller later in the day to congratulate him on his new position. She forgot all about the wolf.

Mr. Landers not only surprised Duzy by having a full team of workers lined up, but asked for the position of foreman for the job. He then surprised her by asking to invest in the “Silver Jewel” and take part in the daily running of it as well, if she would allow him to. “You see, Miss Duzy, I never wanted to be a lawman, always thought of owning a ranch, but after this idea of yours, I think I would enjoy helping to run a nice establishment, and no insult intended, but with a man helping to run it, I think the people of Firelands will be more accepting.” From bitter experience, Duzy knew he was right and it would also give her time to do some investigating on her own, and writing some articles to send to different papers and see if she could get them published. She also had the new camera from her Papa that she hadn’t had the chance to use. "That would be nice, Mr. Landers, we shall see Mr. Moulton and work out the particulars." It seemed everything was going wonderfully!

Mr. Landers hadn’t told Duzy that being close to her was one of the enticing things about investing in the “Silver Jewel.” Time would tell whether that was meant to be, he thought, although he could get lost in those big brown eyes!

Bobby came running with two telegrams for Duzy. She thanked him and handed him some coins. One read: Luke on way. Stop. Be careful, heard rumors. Stop. Sending someone I trust. Stop. Love, Papa. Stop. Duzy was angry that Luke was coming and not respecting her wishes, but she couldn’t figure out what Papa meant by the “rumors” as she had never known him to do wrong, he just didn’t seem to be the man she was looking for in her life. Then, she could imagine how he would react when he found her building a gambling hall and saloon instead of running the newspaper office. She could almost hear the ranting and was happy she had written her Papa before he could tell him. And, who could this person be that he trusted and why hadn’t he given her his name? Could this be the “trouble” she knew was on the way?

Mr. Landers had noticed Duzy’s reaction and asked if everything was fine. She handed the telegraph to him and he then asked, “Who is Luke?” “He is the man everyone back home thought I would marry, but it just wasn’t right, although I am not sure what Papa is talking about.” Tom meant to talk to Sheriff Keller and Charlie MacNeil to give the two the heads up on this “Luke,” and he would be watching as well. Duzy handed the pictures she had brought of the “Crystal Palace” and the two discussed how she wanted the construction and renovation to begin. She made a mental note to talk to Bonnie, Aunt Esther, Tilly and Sheriff Keller on any renovations they would need. She remembered the other telegraph and it simply stated: Shipment sent. Stop.

Duzy saw Sheriff Keller and excused herself from Mr. Landers. Walking up to him, she noticed the shiny badge, and said, "Congratulations, Sheriff Keller!" He thanked her kindly and then proceeded to tell her of the talk between himself and her Aunt Esther. Duzy was delighted for both of them, as she already knew how Aunt Esther felt and it had been obvious how Sheriff Keller had felt since he first met her. "Sheriff Keller, have you seen Bonnie and Sarah today?" "Yes ma'am, Miss Duzy, and please call me Linn?" "Thank you, and we can drop the formalities and you may call me Duzy," she stated. "I noticed Bonnie going toward the church with Sarah," he said.

Not wanting to interfere with whatever Bonnie had to talk to Reverend Kid about, she turned to walk to the newspaper office. She had the key and walked inside, thinking she would be elated. Instead, she saw the sign from the newspaper office and her heart dropped. Not realizing until this moment how it would feel to walk inside the building, she found herself in a state of shock as all the changes hit at once! She sat down inside the building and let the tears start to flow.

It was then that she heard the train whistle in the distance.

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Kid Sopris 8-22-07

 

When problems arise , sometimes one can not see the path to solutions. Our vision becomes narrow and the intensity to resolve the issues become more volatile.

"Why must you do anything? asked Sopris. "Why can't you just wait for someone to come to you?. Your mineral rights are worth a great deal of money, only if they can be mined. Ms. Bonnie, you do not look like a underground ore miner; perhaps waiting for those who are experts to come to you is the best solution. One word of caution, not all who were given names from the Bible are true. Lucifer takes on many forms. Beware of the man who travels far, talks with ease and smoothness of tongue, and hesitates to use your attorney to resolves any questions".

"Evil will travel far and wide to deprive many and leave nothing. I suspect that the rumors you have referred to are from those who knew of your prosperity long before it was yours to have."

"And one final thought, Should you lose all your earthly possessions tomorrow, do you not still have the most precious of gifts?"

Ah the train has arrived from Denver, I wonder what evil it brings to Firelands this day?, Rev. Sopris thought.

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Lady Leigh 8-22-07

 

Bonnie and Sarah bid the good Reverand thank you and good day and walked back toward home. As usual, Dawg was lumbering right along with them, much to Sarah's delight.

Talking to Rev. Sopris brought a smile to Bonnie's face. She remembered something her Father said once, " Lassie! Just because you are a child of God, doesna mean the answers are right afore ya. Sometimes He makes ya work a wee bit on yer own." The words of Rev. Sopris rang in her head, with the sure thought that though he did not necessarily tell Bonnie exactly what to do, he did give her the words of advise that enabled her to excerise her own God given abilities. "You're a big girl now, Bonnie," she thought to herself, "It's time to start using the brain God gave you."

She and Sarah were getting ready to pass by the Attourneys office, when she stopped short. "I need to make a short visit here, Sarah, before we continue on. Dawg? Keep an eye on Sarah for a moment. Sarah, why don't you sit on this bench. I'll just be a bit."

With that, Bonnie opened the door and partitailly stepped inside, "Mr. Moulton?"

"Miss McKenna! Please, please come in!"

"If you don't mind, I have Sarah right here with me, and I need to make this brief ... Mr. Moulton, I owe you an apology, sir, for my conduct a short time ago. I do not often let fury breeze ahead of me like that. It is not your fault, afterall, to get get such a tongue lashing when all you were doing was inquirering to my well being, and for that I sincerely apologize!"

"Miss, McKenna! Rest assured I take no offense, and I accept your apology."

"Oh good .... well ..." Bonnie was turning to leave,

"Miss McKenna, I about have your paper work completed with concern to our prior discussion. May I locate you tomorrow so I can get some signitures?"

"Well .... yes, that would be fine! I'll be at the old Millenery shop most of the day. W.J. has found someone who will be lettering the front window for me, I need to get some cleaning done, as I understand some supplies will be arriving from Chicago ... though I do not know the extent of that. So, yes, please stop by there, and I will be happy to see what you have drawn up."

Bonnie was again turning out the door, and swung back again, " Actually, in light of what happened today .... perhaps I should consider having a will drawn up, too. Let me think on the subject matter tonight, and perhaps we can discuss that tomorrow as well?"

"Certainly, Miss McKenna .... until tomorrow?"

With a nod of her head, Bonnie, Sarah, and Dawg continued down the street.

"Look, Bonnie! There's Duzy!"

"Oh good! Let's go meet up with her, shall we?"

Sarah ran to hug Duzy, which brought a smile to Duzy's face, but as Bonnie reached her, she saw some stress lines across the young womans face, "Looks like you are having as strange a day as I am! Do you want to go first, or should I?" With a slight chuckle, Bonnie wove her arm through Duzy's, and the three .... or shall we say four, with Dawg ... walked with their concerning conversations.

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Duzy Wales 8-22-07

 

After the release of tears, Duzy felt much better. She stood and looked around the building, imagining how it would come to life when the “shipment” arrived. The advertisement had been of a fancy gambling hall that was being sold, however the building was being sold separately from the fixtures and other contents. Soon, there would be a shipment of red velvet curtains, a stage, gambling tables, a long mahogany bar with a mirror running the length of the bar, two pianos, one which could play by itself and another for a talented pianist, tables and chairs for drinking, copper spittoons, artwork, glassware, a large stock of wines and liquors, the beds and other furniture that would be needed and many more amenities that would make the “Silver Jewel” just as nice, or nicer, than the pictures Duzy had shown Mr. Landers of the Crystal Palace in Tombstone, just that morning. She also planned to sell hot coffee with the choice of ground vanilla, hot or iced, and some of Aunt Esther’s scones if anyone desired to visit, but who did not drink alcohol nor gamble. She hoped it to be a place that would bring culture to Firelands, someday adding a theater for opera and other forms of entertainment, with the adjoining property that Mr. Higgins had sold.

A second story would be added to the newspaper office for the housing of the guests who would entertain, for Mr. Landers, the barkeeper, the ladies who worked the tables, and extra rooms for others as it grew and a special room in the back for Duzy to have as her own, one that would be apart from the others, as she intended to use it to do her other work, work that few would know about, as she would need a place to do her writing. The front of the building would be changed, as the second story was added, to make it look more elegant.

She thought of the train and what her Papa had told her. Not wanting to look harried, she hurriedly walked home, not taking time to bathe, but refreshed herself, and changed into a garnet red silk day dress. She added a touch of jasmine on her pulse points and asked Aunt Esther to redo her hair, and then added a pretty hat, with a jaunty angle, hoping it would give her confidence when she saw Luke again, she explained to Aunt Esther, with her Aunt raising an eyebrow at that remark! “Since when did you care what that young man thought, Duzy?” “I do not know! I just feel like whoever is on that train is going to impact my life in some way…..I have been feeling it for days!” Aunt Esther couldn’t deny that, as she had been having some of the same “feelings,” and all were not good. Duzy took one more look at herself, and could still see the stress around her eyes, but decided it was the best she could do for now. After Duzy left, Aunt Esther called for Tilly. “Tilly I think we need to go to town as I wish to see for myself who is on that train! Tilly was excited to go, as anytime the train came in, everyone was excited to see if there was a newcomer to Firelands.

As Duzy reached town, she noticed Bonnie exiting Mr. Moulton's office, reaching for Sarah, and patting Dawg on the head. They greeted each other, knowing that they both had things they needed to tell each other, and it felt wonderful to have a friend to confide in. She told Bonnie about the telegram, who Luke was and that he may be on the train.

Duzy suddenly had a feeling of impending evil and then a need to visit the church, which surprised her, as she had never felt that need before, having always believed in karma and never needing a “middleman” or “building” to talk to God, as she felt God in all of nature. “Why,” she wondered? Could it be the wisdom of this particular Reverend for which she felt the need? “You are being silly, Duzy,” she told herself, but the feeling did not go away. She could hear the train getting closer and as it did, she could feel that pounding in her heart and her head, and a cold chill ran down her spine.

Duzy turned to Bonnie and asked, "would you wait just a moment before going to the train, as I feel the need to pick a rose from the church yard," with Duzy hoping it would help to calm her nerves. Bonnie looked a little surprised, but being a private person herself, she assured Duzy that she would wait.

Just as Duzy bent to pick the rose, she heard Reverend Sopris say, “How are you, Miss Duzy?” She turned and looked into his blue eyes and saw comfort and understanding, as if he could look into her eyes and see the panic in her soul.

And then he said, "would you like for me to escort you, Bonnie and Sarah to the train?" "Would you please?" Duzy asked, smiling gratefully at the Reverend.

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Duzy Wales 8-22-07

 

Luke stepped off the train, and Duzy heard some of the women gasp, as he was an extremely handsome man, dressed equally as well, and held himself like someone who had always gotten everything he wanted or wished for. Duzy automatically reached for Bonnie’s hand, as she knew it would be inappropriate to reach for the Reverend’s hand, although he was standing closely behind the ladies.

Then, another man stepped off, dressed entirely in black, more rugged, and yet just as handsome, although it seemed he didn’t want to be noticed, stepping off quickly and moving to get his luggage. Could this be the man her Papa had sent? In comparison, the two couldn’t have been more different, as Luke was enjoying every look he received from the ladies in attendance, and yet so diffident to the men, as if they made no difference at all to him!

Aunt Esther noticed the man in black and instantly knew who he was! She had met Jake Thomas before and knew exactly who he was. However, her brother, Lee, had not told Duzy who or what he was, and she decided to let the game play out, knowing that this was the man that was there to look after Duzy’s interest and who had been sent to watch Luke. She knew Lee well enough to know that he had his reasons for keeping quiet, and for the other mans identity to be guarded, and didn’t want to blow his cover. She would watch and listen and wait for further word from her brother on what he knew about Luke Hawkins; and yet she knew Duzy would not be in any danger with Jake Thomas there. She would rest a lot easier tonight with that information.

Finally, Luke saw Duzy and giving her his most charming smile, he walked up, bowed, and took her hand in his, holding and kissing it, and telling her how beautiful she looked and how he had to come to see how she was faring. It was as if he was staking his claim on her, in front of everyone assembled, while both Aunt Esther and Duzy knew that was not the case at all. The gesture didn’t go unnoticed by Tom Landers, and he couldn’t describe how he felt at that moment.

Duzy, not one to ever mince words, pulled her hand away and said, “What are you doing here, Luke?” “To see you, darlin’, why else?” he asked, why would I have any other reason to be here?” He looked at Duzy, noticing the lines around her eyes, and inwardly laughed that this was going to be much easier than he had thought, as it was obvious that life here had already taken its toll on her! Her skin was not as creamy white, her hands felt clammy and cold, and from the looks of Firelands, he could see why no real lady should ever be here! She was in the wilderness, for God’s sake, and he knew Duzy was used to the finer things of life.

Jake, having picked up his luggage, stood back from the crowd watching, and couldn’t believe that this was the young lady in the photograph he had seen in her Papa’s home. She had grown up to be a beautiful woman, and was a sight to behold! He felt a protective streak go through him like he had never felt before and wished he could literally deck Hawkins for the farce he was playing. He continued to watch, as he asked about a hotel, and was directed to either Sam’s Place or what had been Mr. Higgins’ hotel. He waited to see where Luke decided to go, silently watching every move the man made.

Duzy thought she felt the Reverend stiffen at the sight of Luke, but knew it had to be her imagination, as they weren’t even touching. Perhaps it had been an intake of breath or one of her “feelings,” but she could feel an instant dislike toward him. Just at that time, Luke noticed Reverend Kid standing behind Duzy, and gave him a sharp look, wondering who this man was and why he was there. Could he have given her the rose she was holding in her other hand? He would make it his business to find out, and if he found that Duzy had become interested in anyone who had made her a sullied woman, he would find a way to kill them both…..but he would wait until he had managed to marry her, as he was planning to get the property that adjoined his, even if he had to find another woman to give him an heir…..although he would make her wish she was dead before she drew her last breath. He actually found pleasure in the thought, although no one could tell by the charming look of adoration he was giving her at the moment. He also had to wait until he found Bonnie McKenna, as he had been sent to do business with her as well.

“You may as well get back on the train, Luke, as I have plans here, with a new family, and I intend to stay, you had no right to come here!” Duzy said, looking him directly in his eyes. Luke ignored her statement, as usual, and said, “My dear Duzy, I will see you tomorrow, but for now I need some rest. I am sure you will come to your senses and return with me after we have had a chance to talk.” With that, he turned and walked away, asking about a place to stay. Duzy, among others, noticed he decided on Sam’s Place instead of going to the hotel, which spoke volumes to many who were watching, including Duzy. And then, Duzy noticed the man in black going toward Sam's Place as well, which made her wonder even more who he was.

As Luke walked away, Duzy felt herself sway, and didn't realize what seeing Luke had did to her composure, until she felt Reverend Kid take her arm to steady her. Feeling embarrassed, Duzy thanked him, pulled herself together, and asked, "anyone feel like some coffee, with ground vanilla, or perhaps a candy stick for you, Sarah?"

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Lady Leigh 8-22-07

 

" Duzy? Sweetheart ... this is NOT good! You realize that, do you not? This is not good! That man gives me the creeps!" Bonnie had seen men like him ... more men than she would like to admit. He was trouble.

Bonnie continued, "Reverand ..."

Rev. Sopris put hs hand behind, both Bonnie and Duzy's elbows. He looked totally calm, but there was something in his eyes ... maybe ...

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Linn Keller 8-22-07

 

Tom Landers had something on his mind, and so did I.
"You fixin' to live here?" he asked, eyeing the chest I'd just packed over from the hotel.
"Not permanent," I said.
"Anythin' to do with that fine lookin' fella that just got off the train?"
"Yep."
Tom weighed the brevity of my reply. "He's trouble, y'know."
"The Pope is Catholic, tell me something I don't know."
"See the fellow with him?"
"Saw him." I opened the trunk, pulled out a blue Stetson and punched the creases out of the crown. The gold cord was frayed and one acorn was frayed, the hat itself spoke of long wear, but it held memories and I am a sentimental man.
"Cavalry," Tom observed.
"Yep."
"What else you got in there?"
I laughed. "Well, I don't have a kitchen sink, if that's what you're asking."
"You going to sleep back in the cells?"
"Nope. Higgins snores."
"So do you."
I looked at him in genuine surprise.
He chuckled. "Daisy said when you snore the windows rattle."
"Remind me to caulk the windows." My exploring hand felt something unexpected, and I withdrew my issue sabre and belt from the trunk.
"You're just full of surprises, you know that?"
"Most folks tell me I'm full of second hand horse feed."
Tom laughed, a genuine, relaxed laugh, one I'd heard more often since he pinned his star on my vest. "I won't comment on that one!"
"Wise man," I deadpanned. "You know why that's wise."
"Why's that?"
"Well, in my case, I have a medical condition."
"Oh?" He folded his arms, eyes smiling in expectation. He knew I was pulling his leg and waited for the punch line.
"Yep. I suffer hoof in mouth disease and it hits me at the unhandiest times!" I hung the sabre belt from a handy peg, the hat from the same peg, and closed the trunk. That was enough memories for one afternoon.
"What are you going to do about that fine looking fellow that Miz Duzy would like to slap?"
I turned, an old and familiar tightening in my guts and my legs.
"I'm going to watch him, and I'm going to watch that quiet fellow that came in with him. Was I on my own ..." I looked away, seeing another time. "My bones tell me he means trouble for Duzy, and that means trouble for Bonnie, and even more for Esther."
"Is that going to cloud your judgement?"
I smiled, and the smile was not pleasant.
"No, Tom. My judgement will be very clear."
Tom was quiet for several minutes. I set up a folding cot, against the wall, with the head in the corner and the foot toward the front wall, with good view of the door and the barred window. If need be I could roll out of the cot and be behind the cast iron stove.
"You didn't move out of the hotel 'cause that fellow moved in, by any chance?"
There was the sound of boots on the boardwalk outside, a brisk knock on the door. A stocky cavalry trooper stepped inside, looked from Tom to myself.
"Sheriff?" he asked, and hesitated, then came to attention and snapped a salute.
I returned his salute. "At ease, Mick, how in the hell are you?"
"Colonel!" he exclaimed, a broad grin splitting his red Irish face.
Tom shook his head. "Does he know everybody in the territory?"

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Charlie MacNeil 8-22-07

 

When Bonnie came in and began to talk to the Reverend, Charlie slipped out the back of the church and eased toward the cemetery. He carefully walked down into the draw and up to the stone and stood looking up at the tree. Again he could feel the stirring deep inside and he knew that he had to do something to at least curb it.

Charlie dropped to his knees and bowed his head. He let his hat drop to the ground as he closed his eyes and folded his hands. He began to speak softly.

"Lord, you know the darkness that hides in a man sometimes. If the darkness comes to the aid of the innocent, is it really darkness? Or is it the avenging side of the light? I've never been able to figure that one out, Lord." He paused and took a deep breath. "You know me, Lord, I've never been one to beat around the bush when it comes to trouble, I just try to take it on. I've been known to take on too much, and you've pulled my fat out of the fire more than once. I'm asking for that strength once again, Lord, 'cause I think the fire's gonna get a whole lot hotter around here before it gets cooler. I'm asking and I thank you in the name of Jesus. Amen."

Charlie stood and brushed the leaves and dirt from the knees of his pants and put on his hat. He had a train to meet.

At the station, Charlie stood aside where he could see without being especially noticed. He saw the confrontation between Miss Duzy and the slick gent from the train, and he saw what it did to her. He also saw the man dressed in black who was doing his best to vanish into the woodwork. Charlie didn't know him but he knew his type. That was a hard man who wouldn't hesitate to do what needed to be done.

Finally, just when Charlie had given up on him, a small man with slicked down hair and eyeglasses stepped down from the train. Walter Crane looked all around for Charlie and Charlie stepped out far enough for Walter to see him. Walter looked relieved and walked toward Charlie with his hand out.

"Marshal MacNeil, it's good to see you," Walter said. "It's good to see anybody who isn't wearing prison stripes." He and Charlie shook hands and Charlie saw that the Reverend, even though he was occupied with the ladies, noted the meeting. Charlie gave him a nod and escorted Walter from the platform.

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Linn Keller 8-23-07

 

Daisy watched with admiration as the tall Kentuckian sketched on the back of the menu. His was a rare talent; quick, short strokes coaxed a face from the heavy paper, a hat, a coat: in less than a minute she saw a portrait of a young Union officer in the act of firing a pistol from horseback. Another minute, another angle, with the face more prominent, a youthful face, clean-shaven or perhaps yet beardless.
Even upside down she knew who it was.
Emmett turned the page so she could see it, right-side-up. "Know him?"
Daisy smiled and nodded toward the doorway. "He's coming across the street right now."

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Duzy Wales 8-23-07

 

Reverend Sopris escorted the ladies home and had a cup of vanilla coffee before bidding them “goodnight.” His blue eyes were almost grey and his mood was deadly quiet, but no one knew what he was thinking as he headed back to the church. The evening was late, and after finishing some paperwork, he tried to sleep.

After Reverend Kid left, Duzy asked Bonnie if she really thought Luke was evil. “I have known him all my life, and never known him to be evil, although I was away at school most of the time.” Aunt Esther was listening from the corner of the room, but she didn’t say anything, knowing her niece would figure it out soon enough. “It is in his eyes, Duzy, I have seen his type before, just please be careful and do not be too trusting. He is not good for you with his fancy talk and empty words.”

Jake Thomas could hear the whimpers coming from the room that Luke Hawkins had entered. “Please stop, please, you are hurting me!” were the words he could make out. “Shut up, Sally," was his reply. Jake slipped up to the door, kicked it open, and knocked Luke out cold with the butt of his Colt. “You won’t have to worry about him tonight,” he said to the woman whom Luke had been abusing. Tossing her some coins, he said, “Get out of here and go get a room at the hotel. I will try to get you some help to get out of here for good, but for now, you haven’t seen me nor do you know what just happened!” Smiling at Jake, she thanked him, promising to stay quiet, and grabbed her belongings hoping she never had to return.

When Sally entered the hotel, Daisy saw her and knew what had taken place. She tended her bruises and gave her a bed, telling her that if she wanted honest work and was willing, that she knew someone who would help her. Daisy knew that Sheriff Keller would be in need of more help at the hotel, and that he was willing to give the ladies a chance. “I will, I swear,” Sally said, “but no one can know that I was hurt at Sam’s Place. I promised the person who helped me!” Daisy agreed.

Luke awoke with a headache from hell, and couldn’t remember what had happened. He was in his own room, not the little wench’s room that he had paid for a few hours. Feeling the back of his head, it felt sticky and when he looked at his hand, he saw that it was blood! “I’ll kill that little slut,” he said and then remembered it couldn’t have been her that did it. It had to be someone who had come into the room. Remembering his mission, to get Duzy back, he cleaned the wound, and decided to stay quiet realizing he would have to be more careful.

Luke cleaned up and went downstairs where he got the information he needed, while eating breakfast. He was shocked that Duzy was not running the newspaper office at all, but had a team of workers building a gambling hall and saloon, of all things! He wondered how else she had changed since she had left North Carolina. He would soon find out as he started down the street to find the house that had been described. He passed the church yard and saw roses, and remembered Duzy had been holding a rose and a man had been standing behind her. He bent and picked a few of the roses to take to her, thinking two could play that game!

Reverend Sopris watched as Luke picked the roses without saying a word or speaking to the man. Only the Reverend knew his thoughts at that moment.

The ladies were up early and were planning their day when they heard a knock on the door. Duzy got up and noticed Luke standing outside with roses in hand. Oh my, she thought, I wonder what he has up his sleeve this morning. Answering the door, Luke gave her that charming smile and said, “Beautiful roses for a beautiful lady, good morning Duzy.” Not wanting to be rude, and also wanting to find out why Luke was there, she invited him in for some coffee. “Would you like some ground vanilla in your coffee?” Duzy asked as she put the roses in water. “No thank you, darlin’, never did like anything added to my coffee, you should know that!” “Well, people do change, Luke, as I have found I love it in my coffee and just wished to offer.” Luke looked around the room and noticed the ladies staring at him. He saw Sarah and said, “How are you young lady?” “Fine,” and then she reached for Bonnie’s hand. Bonnie was thinking how children always seemed to have that sense about people and picked her up to hold her in her lap. Luke said, “Could we take a walk, Duzy?” Duzy figured she might as well find out what he had come for, so she could quickly get him out of their lives. “Sure, we will take a short walk down by the creek, it is very pretty there.”

Luke was the perfect gentleman to Duzy as they walked and he asked how she was enjoying her work at the newspaper office. “I have changed plans, Luke, as I have bought some property and plan to build my own business.” “I was hoping you had given up on that foolishness and would return with me,” he said as he reached for her face. He traced his finger along her jaw line and looking into her eyes, he said, “I have missed you so badly, I just had to come, and it is my wish to take you back with me!” He stepped nearer and Duzy could feel the heat from his body as he leaned toward her and kissed the tip of her nose. And then he surprised Duzy by pulling her against him and kissing her fully on the mouth, nothing like the kisses they had shared back home, but this time taking his time to kiss her lips, slowly at first and then kissing her with the ardor of a man of experience, making her start to feel something building inside her, and just as quickly pulling away, apologizing for his actions. “It is just that I have missed you so much, Duzy, please come back home and be my wife?”

For Duzy, it was the first kiss that had stirred her in anyway, and she didn’t know what to say for a moment. Could everyone be mistaken about him, she thought. “Luke, I already have plans here. I have a new family that I love and I am not ready for marriage. I am not in love with you and have no plans to return. I am sorry if I have hurt you, but I thought I made that clear before leaving North Carolina.” “Is it another man, Duzy, he asked gently?” “No, why would you think that?” “I noticed the man standing behind you yesterday and the rose in your hand.” Duzy laughed, and said, “The man you saw is Reverend Kid Sopris and no doubt you picked the roses you brought me from his church yard! I stopped by yesterday to pick one and he offered to escort us to the train depot!” “Just because he is a preacher, doesn’t stop him from being a man, Duzy, you amaze me at your innocence sometimes!” “Well, I can assure you that Reverend Sopris does not have his eyes on me nor anyone else here that I know of! I have been busy starting my new life and not thinking of a romance!” Duzy knew that she had just told a little white lie as she had thought of romance and she did like being around Tom Landers, but she wasn’t going to complicate things by bringing that up. Besides, she and Tom were just good friends and business partners.

GRRRRR, was all Duzy heard before Dawg nearly had Luke by the leg, getting ready to tear him away from her. “Stop Dawg,” Duzy said, and he listened, but he came by her side and stood there. “What the hell is that?” “His name is Dawg and he is our friend, he comes to play with Sarah and loves Aunt Esther’s food,” Duzy said laughing. “He is quite big and ferocious, isn’t he?” Luke knew what he would like to do to the creature, but he couldn’t let Duzy see him being anything but a perfect gentleman. He had felt her start to respond to his kiss and decided to leave for now as he knew he could slowly wear her down. He took her hand and kissed it, telling her he would see her soon, as he had business he needed to take care of. Duzy wondered what business that could be, with him new in town?

Jake Thomas had watched the scene from the distance and had felt fury when Luke had pulled Miss Wales against him. For the second time that day, the thought had come “that two could play that game.” It seemed he would have to introduce himself to Miss Wales and get to know her after all, instead of staying in the background to watch. And then he thought, what the devil are you thinking, this isn’t a game, and why are you feeling this way, as the feelings he was having were very new to Jake Thomas!”

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Charlie MacNeil 8-23-07

 

Dawg had seen the nice lady leave the house with the man. He could sense something bad about the man, so he drifted along out of sight of the couple, watching carefully. He saw the man bring his face to the nice lady's and the hair on the back of his neck stood up and a growl bubbled deep in his chest.

Dawg ghosted from the brush along the creek. The two people were preoccupied with their discussion and didn't see him. His footsteps were soundless in the soft grass.

Dawg came up behind the man and his jaws opened. The growl burst full-blown from his chest and his lips curled back from his great white teeth. He lowered his head to rip the man's leg from under him.

"Dawg, no!" the nice lady said sharply. "You mustn't!"

Dawg's jaws closed with the snap of a steel trap a hair's breadth from the man's leg. The man stared down at him malevolently but he was careful to let none of his feelings show on his face. Dawg moved over to stand beside Duzy and rumblings like a mine cave-in moved deep in his massive chest. His hackles were raised and he looked twice his normal size.

After a brief conversation the man turned to go, but he glared balefully at Dawg before he went. Dawg knew he had made an enemy, but he wasn't worried. He'd made enemies before, and they were all behind him. None of them were in any shape to do him harm.

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Linn Keller 8-23-07

 

I wiped the nib with the corner of a cleaning rag and closed the lid on the ink well. My log book went back in the right-hand desk drawer, the dip quill went back in its slot in the top drawer, and I leaned back in my chair and considered.
Tom Landers, Charlie and I worked a rotating watch to keep an eye on our prisoners. Their testimony would be vital in the trial to come. I had deposed them both, their sworn statements were duly notarized and on file, with copies in my desk and in attorney Moulton's office, and instructions on how to proceed in the event of my demise. I am not a trusting man, and learned at a tender age there are those who would cause harm.
Especially, I reflected, when it came to a gold strike.
I needed to go over to the hotel and see how the girls were faring, and make a saloon check and make sure all was quiet, or at least not developed into a young war. I was not above letting folks blow off steam, but all things have their limits, and I had made it plain there were limits.
"Charlie," I said, "I'll be back in a bit. Can you watch our guests til I get back?"
Charlie nodded, his eyes smiling just a little. I could tell he was thinking, too.
I settled the hat on my head and looked out the door before stepping out onto the boardwalk. Shorty waved from the livery, a companionable gesture, a greeting rather than a hail. I waved back and walked across to Sam's saloon, then to the hotel.
I walked back into the kitchen. Daisy was tending to Sally's face and neck. A well worn butcher knife was in easy reach and I saw her hand flinch toward it, for just a moment, until she recognized me. "Sheriff!" she exclaimed, surprised.
I strode across the kitchen, saw Sally's face, and the way she cradled her arm. I brushed a wisp of hair out of her eyes. "Sally?" I said in a soft voice.
Sally flinched like she'd been slapped.
"Sally, you're safe," I said, soothing her with my voice, touching only that wisp of hair that kept falling down over her forehead. She was a sweet girl, a wee slip of a thing, even a little timid. She'd been beaten and beat down so often as one of the working girls I'd been afraid she would never crawl out of the hole she'd been driven into.
"No one will hurt you here," I said. "Do you know me, Sally?"
Sally started to tremble like a scared rabbit, and her face screwed up, and she started to cry. I was squatting, weight on the balls of my feet, and I rolled forward onto my knees, knowing I would be there for a bit. Sally grabbed me and buried her face in my shoulder and cried like a frightened child.
I held her, gently, not knowing where else she might be hurt, and not wanting her to feel trapped: at the same time I knew she would need the assurance of arms around her, protecting her.
Daisy watched the door and I shifted my weight. I had a clear shot at the door, should that be necessary, and the other door to the kitchen was behind me and to my left: I could see it clearly enough, no one could come in without my knowing it.
I spoke quietly, gently, soothing Sally as best I could. She cried herself out, or maybe she thought I would be angry with her. The moment I felt her start to lean back I removed my arms, but put my hands on her shoulders, lightly, gently -- again, I did not want her to feel held or confined. She was scared enough the way it was.
"You don't deserve to be hurt," I said quietly. "You don't deserve to be slapped, or spanked, or hit, or anything else. You are a lovely lass and you are safe here." I looked up at Daisy. "Do we still need help here?"
Daisy smiled, a little, and nodded. "I've already told her she can work here and stay here, and you pay good wages."
I let go of Sally's shoulders. Kneeling, I was about eye level with her, and her slight build struck me all the more. God help us, who would hurt a little girl like this? I thought, and had to correct myself: she is a woman grown; she is not that young, I am that old.
"Do you want to tell me who did this to you?" I asked gently.
Sally's eyes were still fixed on the floor. She bit her bottom lip and shook her head.
I took a deep breath. This was too often the case, I thought: they have their reasons -- they've been hurt, they want to forget it happened, they're afraid of repercussions -- for whatever reason, they don't want to tell who hurt them. In time they would -- in their own good time -- but I would cause more harm by dragging it out of her.
I took her slender hand between both of mine. "Whevever you're ready to talk about it, I'm ready to listen. In the meantime I'd like you to work for me, here, in the hotel. Daisy can tell you what needs done."
Sally nodded.
"Daisy?" Daisy and I crossed to the other side of the kitchen. "How bad is she hurt?"
"I've seen worse." The answer was factual more than uncaring.
"Do I need to send for the doc?"
"No. She'll be all right with a good night's rest and knowing she's safe."
"Do you know who did this?"
"She hasn't told me. Said she couldn't." Daisy crossed her arms, pressed her lips together.
I nodded. "I came over for another reason."
Daisy tilted her head a little, listening.
"I'd like to bring Miz Esther in tonight for dinner. What's good tonight?"
Daisy smiled. "You're in luck. Some folks were passing through and traded me some fresh fish for potatoes. I've some good tender beef and I'll be fixing gravy and probably mashed potatoes." She smiled. "And green beans with bacon."
"Daisy, that would be wonderful," I said quietly, not wanting to disturb the quiet in the kitchen; looking back at Sally, I asked, "Will she be all right?"
Daisy's look was sharp, angry, but her voice never changed. "She's just been hurt. Will she be all right? Eventually. For tonight I'll keep her with me, here in the kitchen. She feels safe here."

Sam was glad to be out of the livery and under saddle again. I rode a wide circle around town, Sam's long legged pace eating up distance easily. I stopped and picked a bunch of prairie flowers. Was I going to call on a lady, it would be proper to bring her flowers.
Dawg politely ignored Sam and I as we rode up. I saw a curtain twitch as eyes inside looked to see whose arrival was presaged by hoof beats, then the door swung open and Sarah came running out. I was barely on the ground before she was hugging me. "Sheriff Keller! Can I ride Sam again?"
I grinned broadly. "Indeed you may!" I exclaimed, hoisting her easily into my saddle. She squealed with delight as I walked Sam around the yard.
Dawg investigated a migrating itch.
We turned and walked back to the hitching rail.
Esther was on the porch, smiling.
"Aunt Esther! Did you see me ride Sam?" Sarah crowed.
"Yes I did," Esther smiled. "Did you enjoy it?"
"Oh, yes! May I go again?"
"I have business with your aunt," I replied. "But there will be more rides." I swung her to the ground, spinning her around at arm's length, provoking a festival of giggles.
Dawg yawned.
Sarah went running into the house. "Bonnie! Bonnie! I rode Sam!" SLAM! the front door added a woody exclamation mark to her happy voice.
I offered the prairie flowers. "Thought these might look nice on your table," I said.
Esther took them. Her eyes were troubled, then softened. "I love roses, but I love these more," she said. "We have nothing like these back East."
Her eyes smiled, then she looked down, ladylike, demure.
The door swung abruptly open. "Aunt Esther, I'm going to throw these roses -- oh! Mr. Keller! I'm sorry!" Bonnie was trying hard to get her mental feet back under her. "It's just that--" I could see she had a handful of roses, and she was agitated --"oh, never mind!" SLAM!
I looked down at Esther, and Esther looked up at me, and we both laughed.
I presented my elbow. "My dear, would you do me the honor of dinner tonight, at the finest emporium in town?"

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Linn Keller 8-23-07

 

Esther took my arm. "Delighted, sir," she said with a curtsy, and we laughed again.
"If I may, I will call for you in ... oh, say, two hours?"
"An hour will do," she smiled.
"An hour it is." I looked at the door. "Kind of hard on the door, aren't they?"
Esther sighed. "They are but young." She turned back to me. "But then you haven't see me angry, either!" Mischief danced in he eyes and I tried to imagine her under a good head of steam.
"Don't believe it would be safe to be in the same county," I replied. "You have always been so sweet and even tempered, I don't believe I'd ever want to see you with your fuse lit!"
"Until later, Sheriff."
"Until later, Miz Esther."

Daisy had a table ready for us, in the back corner; a new tablecloth, not just a clean one; the floor was not just swept, it was immaculate -- in fairness, since she took over the hotel, she saw to it the girls did nothing short of first-rate work -- every lamp chimney was sparkling, every wick was trimmed, and the woodwork was polished.
I hadn't cleaned up too badly myself. I was wearing my new suit, freshly brushed, boots polished, and my new hat. I'd rented a buggy from Shorty for the occasion. Sam remained in the livery, as he was a bit large for our needs: if we'd had a little more time we could have modified the traces, but I'm afraid we would have looked a bit silly, with great big Sam pulling that little bitty buggy. It would have looked like he was towing a postage stamp.
Lightning's boy, true to his word, was waiting on us when we arrived, and took the buggy to the livery; when we were done for the evening, he would fetch it back.
The mounting stone in front of the hotel had been placed to facilitate ladies' mounting or dismounting a wagon, or a saddle horse; I found it easier, when Esther gathered her skirts, to seize her about the waist and set her feet gently on the board walk. She gave a little "Ooo!" of surprise, but she was not displeased.
Bless you, Daisy, I thought, you even swept off the board walk!


"Is that him?" Gailen asked.
Emmett nodded.
As one, the six stepped out of the shadow, crossing the quiet evening street.

Esther had expressed her admiration of the curtains. I had not noticed them, but men seldom notice such things, as men normally work in metal or in wood, where women work in cloth. An artist tends to recognize work done in their own field.
Daisy seated us at the selected table. My back was to a wall, we were in a corner; I had enough room for a clean draw while seated, should the need arise. Esther settled herself in her chair, and I scooted it in under her.
Esther asked for tea, and I did too, with honey. Daisy smiled. She'd just rendered out a honey comb the day before, and gathered the wax. I'd smelled the warmed bees wax that afternoon and knew she was pouring it into cakes and perhaps dipping candles.
Daisy brought our meal. She had surpassed herself. In the brief time she'd taken over running the hotel, she managed to horse trade for a good selection of spices, and she was not bashful about using them. The beef was an exceptionally good cut, and tender enough to fork cut, and she must have beat the potatoes for a day and a half, for there was not a single lump to be found.
I tried my hand at beating potatoes once and might as well have cut the spuds up in marble sized chunks instead.
Esther closed her eyes and inhaled the steam off her green beans and bacon.
"Do you know," she said quietly, "this was one of my favorite meals as a child?"
"I will remember that," I said.
We each tried a forkful.
Whatever I was paying Daisy, it wasn't near enough, I decided.
Daisy brought our tea. "More when you want it," she said, and swept away with a knowing wink.
We were not the only diners that night, and our presence did not go unnoticed, nor did the arrival of a half dozen tall, range fellows with the look of men who've been on the trail for some time.
I unbuttoned my coat.
The six looked around, saw us, came toward us.
The lead man removed his hat. "I know you," he said in the accent of a Southern native.
"Many men do," I replied, "but you have the advantage of me, suh."
There was ever so slight a change of his expression. He produced a stiff paper sheet, handed it to me.
I looked at it.
It was a young officer, on horseback, firing a pistol.
I remembered the scene.
There were two other well-executed pencil drawings on the page,both of a young soldier's face. I smiled a little and nodded.
"Esther," I said, "this is how I looked as a young man," and handed the sheet to her.
I stood, easily, sliding the chair back, getting my stance. "Gentlemen, may I present Miss Esther Wales, of the Carolinas. Forgive me, gentlemen, I don't believe we've been introduced."
"Miz Wales," the six chorused with a gentlemanly nod.
"Suh, you saved the honor of my sister," the first man said. "I was the little boy."
I remembered.
I remember asking him why his face was bleeding,and being told he'd tried to prevent the soldiers from seizing his sister. He'd been backhanded out of the way. He was standing there when I shot my own men, caught in the act; he'd come over and seized them and rolled them off his sister, snarling like a wild cat. He pointed out the others who'd fled at my approach, but who had happily beaten his sister and ripped her dress free, and he watched, cold-eyed, as I had them hanged.
"She lived a long life, suh. A happy life. We have you to thank for that." He extended his hand. "Emmett Daine."
"Linn Keller." I took his hand. It was hard, callused, strong, much like my own, but drier, leaner.
"These are my brothers and cousins," Emmett indicated with a gesture of his dusty hat. "We come to thank you."
They turned, as one, and left.
Daisy struck a note on a fiddle.
One of the Kentuckians hesitated, came back into the dining room.
Daisy smiled. "I'm afraid I can't quite get it tuned."
"May I?" He took the fiddle from her, turned it over, tapped its curly-maple back experimentally; his fingers explored its joints, tested its strings. Daisy handed him a cake of rosin and he drew the bow across it.
Another minute and it was tuned to his satisfaction.
He settled the fiddle under his chin and closed his eyes, smiling a little, just a little, and set his bow.
"A waltz!" Esther exclaimed quietly. "How lovely!"
"May I have this dance?" I asked, extending my hand.
Esther took my hand.
Tables were moved, chairs whisked away; Esther drew herself up, I drew her lightly into me, and we waltzed.
I had learned the waltz while in the South, and loved its stately cadence: I loved that a woman was more feminine, a man more manly, I loved that we were dressed up for the occasion.
Esther's gown swung as she turned, and the world shrank, and there were the lamps and there was the music and there was Esther, and we waltzed.
The Kentuckian earned a good meal and more that night. Esther asked his plans and hired him to play, once their business was up and running. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
We watzed until we were tired, and we sat, and Daisy had hot tea for us; the table had been cleared, and there was pie, and we talked.
Esther had thought out matters pretty well. She had fixtures on their way for her new business, and she'd arranged for carpenters, and a supply of lumber, nails, windows and the like; she knew to consult others as needed, and she'd been drawing up lists and going over them with her consultants.
Lightning's son was happily clogging in the middle of the floor, and the Kentuckian was playing a light, lively tune, the perfect counterpoint to the clogger's efforts; not to be outdone, Sally, attracted by the fiddling, overcame her shyness and danced a fine clog herself, skirts bunched up in her delicate little fists.
"Do you clog, Linn?" Esther asked mischeviously.
"No, afraid not," I admitted.
"Neither do I, but it does look like such fun!"
"Like to try it?"
"Oh, no," she said, "I waltz much better than I could ever clog!"
"Me too."
The fiddler handed the instrument back to Daisy and accepted the meal; they spoke for a little while, then Daisy came over and asked, "He says he hears you're building a gambling hall and wants to know if you can use a fiddler."
The answer was yes.

Esther and I walked through the hotel, we walked in front of the hotel, we walked behind the hotel; I approximated property lines, paced off lots, used a stick to draw designs and diagrams in the dirt. Esther squinted up at floors yet unbuilt, at walls yet to be erected, and described, and pointed; we went back inside, for more tea and pie and plans. Esther's eyes shining.
The mahogany bar and mirror and much more were on their way.
The new business would not be far behind.
"Have you a name for this fine new emporium?" I asked.
Esther smiled, and named me the name.
"The Silver Jewel!"

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Lady Leigh 8-24-07

 

Bonnie was glad to get away from the house and those damnable smelly roses that Luke brought for Duzy. "What is she thinking accepting them?" Bonnie mumbled out loud to herself, "He's a leach! I just know it!!"

"Bonnie?" Duzy just entered one of the newest businesses to be added to Firelands, and as Duzy was questioning Bonnie for thinking outloud -- which was becoming a habit these days -- she was looking at W.J.'s cousin paint the words "House of McKenna" onto the front window with gold edged in black paint, and then looked back to Bonnie. "I have a sneaking suspician you are referring to me?"

"I should probably be feeling embarrased, or even chagrined, but you know what, Duzy? I don't! What are you thinking giving the likes of Luke Hawkins even an inch of your time? I honestly do NOT believe he has your best interest at heart! Honestly, Duzy, how could he when one of the first things he does is tell you how he thought you'd be back east now and him thinking you would have given up on Firelands! He obviously does not trust you or your instincts!"

"I know Bonnie ... I can't explain it ... no, I don't love him and no, I can't see myself married to him ... but there is something about him ..."

"Good girls are often attracted to bad boys, that's what the problem is!"

"What do you mean, Bonnie?"

"Just what I said, Duzy ... there is something about a guy who lives on the edge of 'bad' that girls seem to be attracted to. The only problem with 'Luke Hawkins', is my gutt instinct is, he's more than a little bad."

"How do come up with that assumption, Bonnie?" Duzy actually asked that with a bit of anger in her voice. How was Bonnie supposed to tell Duzy her reasons for feeling that way when it just appeared that Duzy may be defending Luke? How could Bonnie tell Duzy that in 5 brief minutes, Bonnie saw Luke look lecherously at as many women? The man was slim! Plain and simple, slim!

"Oh Duzy .... I can just tell ..."

"Maybe I have misjudged him! Maybe he is someone who I could have romantic feelings for!" Duzy was remembering the kiss they had shared. Remembering the burning sensation that was beginning to grow from within her as he ardently kissed her. "Don't you have any desire to have feeling for a man, Bonnie? Don't you know how I may be feeling?"

Bonnie did not know how to respond to Duzy, and as a result, silent moments passed. Quietly, Bonnie answered, "Of course I would like to find a man with whom I can fall in love with. Of course I would love to desire and be desired, Duzy .... I am not to sure that is something that can happen to me at this point in my life ...." Thinking to herself how easily something like that could have happened to her before three years ago.

It was at that moment, Sarah came skipping in, "Bonnie? That Mr. Moulton is on his way over here."

"Oh? And how do you know that?"

"Because he told me when he handed me the candy stick!"

Duzy chuckled and then looked over to Bonnie, "I think your daughter is being bribed!"

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Duzy Wales 8-24-07

 

Luke looked at the address he had been given and quickly found the office. When he walked in, he asked, “Hello, I am looking for Mr. Carsey.” Mr. Moulton shook Luke’s hand, taking in his fancy clothes right down to his spit shined shoes, and simply said, “Hello.” “I’m Luke Hawkins, from North Carolina; I think you are expecting me.” “That depends, sir, on what you are here for?” Thinking that Mr. Carsey was being careful, Luke laughed, and said, “I work at obtaining properties and mineral rights, Mr. Carsey, as I know you do, as well. “Oh yes, I definitely am interested in whatever information you can give me and happy to meet someone with the same interests as myself. Why don’t you sit down and we will talk, you first, Mr. Hawkins.” Within the next hour, Mr. Moulton was armed with a lot of interesting information. He then stood and said, “you will find Mr. Carsey at the jail, I am sure he will be happy to see you! Sheriff Keller may have some questions as well.” Luke was taken aback and finally said, “You will pay for this, and I won’t even ask your name, as I wouldn’t be able to believe you anyway, but I will find out before I kill you!”

Luke was outraged and couldn’t believe he had let some small town hick of an attorney, if he was one, fool him like that! He had given the man some vital information, even naming some important names and contacts. He would have to make sure, whoever he was, that he wouldn’t get the chance to relay that information to anyone else. Mr. Moulton had been talking to Marshall MacNeil when they saw Mr. Hawkins walking up to the office and Charlie was waiting and listening in the back room to everything Luke Hawkins had said. “Sounds like I may have put you in some danger, Mr. Moulton,” the Marshall said. “Won’t be the first time and I am happy to help out, Marshall, and I will be sure to be watching my back, as I doubt this is the last I see of him. What do you plan to do?” Marshall MacNeil thought for a minute in that calm way of his, and said, “Give him enough rope to hang himself, as we do not have enough to charge him yet. We do have more information to go by, thanks to you, so be very careful Mr. Moulton!”

Luke headed toward the jail to see if it was true that Mr. Carsey had been arrested and wondered why he hadn’t been notified! Then, he remembered he hadn’t checked the telegraph offices lately, as he had been “busy” with other things during the train stops and after reaching Firelands. “Damn! You have got to forget about the women and concentrate on getting this job finished and get Duzy back to North Carolina!” he told himself, mentally kicking himself as he walked.

Duzy was listening to Bonnie’s advice and knew her Papa had warned her as well. She wasn’t sure she understood exactly what Bonnie was trying to tell her, but she trusted her and would certainly be more careful, telling Bonnie that, and how wonderful her new business was coming along! About that time, Sarah arrived and Duzy hugged her, telling Bonnie “it looks like your Daughter is being bribed,” and laughingly walked away, so Bonnie could talk to Mr. Moulton alone when he caught up with Sarah. She turned in the direction of the newspaper office building to talk to Tom Landers.

Just at that moment Luke looked over toward the hotel and saw Duzy walking away from the woman that had been at her home last night…he didn’t recall getting her name, but the little brat was with her. Duzy then walked over to a man, who was looking over some blueprints, with a team of workers standing ready to start work. “Damn her,” he thought, aloud. She was the main reason he took this mission, as he could have let one of the others do it, but thought he would mix business with pleasure, by meeting with Carsey and wooing Duzy at the same time. Now, he would have to kill the impostor….at least things seemed to be working with Duzy, as he could remember the feel of his lips on hers, and knew all she needed was a man of experience to ignite the passion, that he now knew was there. He had learned how to give her just enough to make her want more! He could tell she was still innocent in the ways of lovemaking, and that made him feel even more powerful. He turned and slipped up behind her, leaning close and kissing the back of her neck, before saying, “hello again darlin’!”

Luke's familiarity in front of everyone infuriated Duzy and she turned and slapped him hard right across the face, saying "How dare you, Luke Hawkins, keep your hands and mouth off of me! Just who in the hell do you think you are? I think I am beginning to see exactly what some people have tried to tell me, now get out of my sight! Go back to North Carolina or to hell, whichever comes first!"

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Duzy Wales 8-24-07

 

Kid asked me to post this.....


In the end, man answers for the things he’s done; good and bad, and whatever purgatory lies ahead was always there, waiting.

Luke was a man to be reckoned with for sure, Sopris knew by looking at others, someone would answer the call. Some folks just ask for trouble. Luke was one of those.

Another dark night befell the Firelands hamlet, darker then usual, dark shadows moved through the silent night without nearly a trace. As Linn and Charlie made their rounds, once again seeing the Rev. Sopris in his rocking chair in front of the fire reading the Bible, came as no surprise. But what was different?

The silent night air was broke with a whimper of a sad passing, Charlie said, “That sounds like Dawg!” Rushing toward the graveyard filled with yesterdays haunts the two lawmen stumbled across a body.

Striking a match, that was taken from his tweed vest Linn saw the face of Carsey, a single bullet wound dead center through the heart. In the bullet driven cavity stood a trimmed and thorny rose. Clutched in the right hand was another clasp of a hand, belonging to Luke. He too was fitted with a bullet cavity through the heart with a trimmed thorny rose stuck in the hole.

It wouldn’t be till Doc dug through the bodies that they would find a single bullet in each man comprising of half Gold and half Silver. The 200 gr. Slug really did its job.

In the darkness not 20 feet away laid another dark and draped lifeless body, with no signs of foul play. No knife or bullet wounds, not even a drop of blood. The horror upon Charlie’s face could not be contained; the sight sent him back on his rump, gasping for air in disbelief. Linn caught a glimpse of the usually self controlled man, quickly rushed to view what had taken Charlie’s breath.

Linn Spoke first, “How, we just saw…But what…how can this be…” Both men covered the face of the draped body and ran back to the church. Entering through the back door they found their ever solemn reverend reading his Bible. Content without a worry in the world, Bible in hand and a perfectly balanced rocking chair that never stopped. The Life like manikin form was too real like. Charlie removed the manikin from the chair and laid it on the floor covering it with blankets. Coffee was still hot and the only personal belongings left behind was a deed executed by Rev. Sopris deeding the land and all of it’s belongings to the ‘Sacred Christian Order of Law Dawgs’, Washington D.C.

Scurrying back to the graveyard they found Dawg standing guard with a rose in his mouth over the empty dark drape laying upon the ground. Not only was the original lifeless body of Reverend Sopris, once believed dead, now missing and no explanation, but all that remained behind were two GOLD S.C.O.L.D. coins.

Something about graveyards…Linn asked, “Why can’t that darn ol dog talk?”

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Linn Keller 8-24-07

 

I went back into the church, found a lantern. Like everything else in the good Reverend's quarters, the lantern was pristine: globe sparkling, reservoir filled, wick trimmed, it wanted only a Lucifer match to bring it to life.
I held the lantern close to the ground, and Charlie and I scouted for tracks.
Most everything leaves trail a man can follow, whether it's an animal, a wanted man, or stolen money ... almost everything, but not here, not now.
We carefully drew back the drape that had covered the good Reverend's lifeless body. The drape itself was not revealing; the ground under it was equally mute.
Dawg ran out his tongue and laughed, as dawgs do.
We each picked up a coin. "Reckon this means there's work yet to be done."
"Reckon so."
We looked at the carcasses.
"Thus perishes evil," I said quietly.
"Was it not for this" -- Charlie squatted, touched the bloom with an exploring finger tip -- "I'd be looking for Luke right about now." He snorted. "I believe we can exclude him from our list of suspects."
Dawg leaned against Charlie and sighed. Charlie's fingers ruffled behind Dawg's ears. Dawg groaned and shut his eyes in sheer bliss.

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Linn Keller 8-24-07

 

Meanwhile, back at the office

 

I wiped the tip of the steel nib on the mouth of the ink well, and wrote a few more words in the journal.
It had been one of those nights.
Started out just fine -- matter of fact, more than just fine! -- Esther had found herself a fiddler, quite by accident, and hired him to play at the Silver Jewel, once it was built -- he'd played a waltz, and another, and I honestly lost track of how many waltzes he played.
It didn't matter.
I had danced with many women in the past: some were good, some were like dancing with an oak stump ... but Esther knew how to dance, and she danced well.
She did not so much dance, as she floated.
I leaned back in my chair and listened to Sam's snore and Higgins' wheeze; it was well the sheriff's office was solidly built, else their nighttime vibrations might shake a lesser building from its foundations.
Esther had looked so happy tonight.
We'd talked long after, sitting on her front porch, swinging gently in the night air; she sketched out the layout of the bar, the tables, the restaurant; what she wanted to tear down, what to rebuild, what to expand. She wanted to keep Daisy -- wisely, thought I, one needs a good first sergeant, and Daisy was a marvelous manager -- she was minded to hand the hotel over to the other lass ... oh, what was her name? I rubbed my eyes, unable to think of her name. I can see her face plain as day.
I stood, picking up the Greener. If I sat any longer I would fall asleep, and I didn't want to sleep, not yet. I had thinking to do.
The nighttime street was quiet. A light was on in Doc's office, likely where he was cutting out the bullets for me. I'd cautioned him to silence on the deaths; Carsey had been increasingly nervous, and with Sam and Higgins in jail, with Duke Slade sent to prison and then murdered, it would not be out of reason for Carsey to disappear of his own volition. And Reverend Sopris ...
I wanted another look at that mannequin.
Locking the door behind me, I cradled the Greener over my fore arm like I'd done my flint rifle as a lad at home, and stepped off the board walk.
I circled the back of the office, checking to make sure nobody was skulking about the back of the jail. Didn't need anyone tossing a stick of powder, or worse yet, some of that new-fangled dynamite, through the barred window.
I could hear the prisoners' snores quite plainly.
A coyote sang to the stars in the distance, another joining in: a lovely sound, a lonely sound, well suited to the night. I was faded into the shadows, silent, still, watching, listening.
Had Reverend Sopris punched the tickets tonight? Was it his hand that sent the two on their last journey? Or was it the fellow in the robe? Had someone else killed them, brought their bodies to the church, laid them out, and as a final blessing, the Reverend found them and flowered the bullet holes? No, that wouldn't fit ... the coin and rose was a summons, it had to be the hand of a S.C.O.L.D ... but who? Charlie was with me when it happened, who else was a S.C.O.L.D.?
I came back to the fellow in the black robe.
Had that been the Reverend Sopris?
Was the mannequin what we'd seen in the Reverend's rocking chair, the night we were first summoned?
I needed to take a closer look at that mannequin.
What would I say to cover the good Reverend's absence?
Was he even alive?
I drifted back to the front of the office, back to the street.
Doc was walking across the street, towards me.
"Thought you'd be up," he said. I could see the flash of a smile.
"Thank you, Doc. Find anything else?"
"Just these." He handed me two bullets. "Look like .44s, but look at them close. They're different."
"Appreciate it, Doc. Like some coffee?"
"No, thanks, I'm going to wash up and go to bed. Say, what do we do with the deceased?"
I sighed. "Reckon we'll give 'em to the undertaker. Any effects on them?"
Doc handed me two wallets. "Wrote their names on a slip and put inside so you'll know which is whose."
"Good. I'll have to send a telegram and let the next of kin know."
"What will you tell them?"
"Died unexpectedly, buried our cemetery, but no details. I don't want it known that they were shot, I don't want it known that they each had a rose stuck in the bullet hole, I don't want it known where they were found, or how they were found, or that they were shot somewhere else, brought here and carefully laid out."
"Died of unknown causes."
"That's all I want known. If someone else knows more than that, I'll know they bear talking to."
"What about the undertaker? Can you trust his discretion?"
I smiled. "He's no more honest than he needs be. Cross his palm and his loyalty can be bought, especially if I have the body guarded."
Doc chuckled. "I will leave you to your labors. Good night, Sheriff."
"Night, Doc. Rest easy."
I eased the key in the lock and went back into the office. Locking the door behind me, I lay the Greener across the desk, turned up the lamp and examined the bullets. Doc had kindly washed them off.
They appeared to be a .44 or a .45, all right, and about standard size, so roughly 250 grains weight. I turned them sideways, held them closer to the lamp.
I frowned.
Fishing in my vest pocket, I drew out the pen knife I kept there; its blade was short but very sharp.
I tried the base of the bullet.
Gold.
"I'll be damned," I said quietly.
The nose of the bullet was completely unaffected by its adventure. I tried it with the tip of the knife. It was quite hard.
Silver?
I raised one eyebrow.
A gold base, shaped like a shot glass, with a silver core, tapered to match exactly, and then run through a die to mash the two together. The softer gold would take rifling just like lead, the harder silver would punch through a breast bone with no effort at all.
I wrapped them each in a strip of cloth, and put them in the very back corner of the top right hand desk drawer.
This was no common murder.
I'd seen this once before, in Wyoming: in the Judge's chambers, the fine old man examined the S.C.O.L.D. coin and uttered the opinion that the deceased needed killin', case closed.
The Wyoming case involved this same kind of bullet.
I thought of the Reverend Sopris. Come sunup, I would take a good look around, look at the mannikin with a little better light to see by, take a look around. Wagon tracks should still show up, especially if I caught it before the morning dew evaporated ... hoofprints, if I was lucky ...
I had suspected for some time the good Reverend was a S.C.O.L.D...
I turned the lamp down, blew out the flame, leaned back in the chair.
It would be daylight soon, and Daisy would be stoking the fire for breakfast.
Good thing.
I was hungry.

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Duzy Wales 8-25-07

 

Duzy awoke in a cold sweat, her heart pounding, and she literally jumped up and was out on the porch within minutes. Something terrible was happening! It had to be someone she cared for or she wouldn’t feel it this way. It wasn’t just a “feeling,” as there were images flashing in her mind! She felt her blood beating, almost pounding, in her temples, as her head ached with each beat of her heart! She had to get air, as she was finding it hard to breathe, and she felt the cold fear of panic about to consume her. She thought of Aunt Esther and slipped in to check on her and then to Bonnie, Sarah and Tilly, trying her best to be quiet. She was surprised they couldn’t hear her heartbeat themselves, as it seemed to get faster and faster. She walked over to the cupboard and reached for the bottle of apple brandy that Aunt Esther kept for medicinal purposes. Not taking time to get a glass, she lifted the jar to her mouth, being careful not to drop it as her hands were shaking. She took a few swallows, straight up, hoping she could calm herself. She had to slow down and nearly ran back outside as quietly as she could, but the feelings prevailed, the brandy not giving any relief, as the images kept coming.

She saw the graveyard, blood, the Church, a hooded figure, gold coins, more blood, a rocking chair, iced vanilla coffee, roses, even more blood, the Reverend in the graveyard, no not the graveyard, but in his rocking chair at the Church. She saw men running, and she could feel the fear, the dismay, the shock, the sadness and death! She felt evil and goodness, pain and relief, the scales of justice and injustices. Her body moved as if she had no control, and she started to run, off the porch and toward town. She hadn’t gotten far until she heard someone calling her name…..or was she imagining it? The Reverend would help her, he had to, he would, she knew he would, he was in his rocking chair, wasn’t he? Or, and then his image was gone…..but he had to be there, she needed him! Why couldn’t she see him anymore? And she started to shake from her insides out until she was trembling all over.

“Miss Wales, please, Miss Wales, stop, what is wrong? You can trust me, tell me please, please stop! I won’t hurt you!” Just then, someone grabbed her, and she started to fight, realizing she had left unarmed, something she never did, but she hadn’t been thinking. She couldn’t tell who it was, but he was strong, muscular, and he was trying to hold her, to stop her from fighting, but he wasn’t hurting her…..and she could still hear the words….”you will be fine, no one will hurt you, what has happened, I am here to help you….please, Duzy? Please?

That got her attention….Duzy….he knew her name. Was it Luke? No, it wasn’t his voice. The moon came out from under a cloud and she looked up at the face of the man who had gotten off the train after Luke. His eyes were gentle, he voice was soft, and he was trying to soothe her…..or maybe he was trying to fool her into thinking that….but he held her, pulling her to him and sitting against a tree as he rocked her…..talking softly, saying everything would be fine, everything would be fine. “No, you don’t understand, I know something is terribly wrong, I feel it, I see it!” Shhhhh, just hold still and look at the stars, look at the moon, listen to the owl in the distance, listen to the creek…..and Duzy started to relax. The images were leaving, and she could see the stars, the moon, she could hear the owl and the creek in the distance.

And then she felt his body, holding her, rocking her, bringing her back to the present with his words. She looked into his eyes and saw compassion and concern. Were they green or blue, she couldn’t tell in the darkness, but his hair was dark, worn long enough to curl around his neck and ears, and she unconsciously reached up and wound one of the curls around her finger. She had stopped shaking and she felt relaxed in his arms, so strong and yet gentle. He was holding her in his lap and she could feel the muscles in his legs, his arms, and his shoulders, as she let go of his hair and put her arms around him, letting him hold her as if it were the most natural thing in the world. And then she kissed him. He started to back away, but he felt so good, she felt so good, she said, “please,” and kissed him again. Jake knew he had to stop her, to stop himself, or he would never be able to! Duzy continued to seek him, as if she were holding on for dear life, needing to be comforted, needing….wanting…..what? What was it she needed so badly at that moment, something she didn’t understand herself, something so primal that she wasn’t even thinking, and she put her lips on his once again? Groaning, he said “God forgive me,” as his lips met hers in a searing kiss that they both felt to the core of their bodies.

Jake shook himself and pulled away, holding her away from him, and telling her, “Not now, Duzy, not now, please, I would be taking advantage of you. You were scared, you were running from something, and he had tasted the brandy when he had kissed her, and knew she wasn’t yet herself. “What are you scared of, Duzy, what happened?” His words finally penetrated her mind, and she started to realize what she was doing, yes, what she was doing…..and suddenly her face flamed and she jumped from his lap, saying, “I am sorry, so sorry, this is not like me, my God, I don’t even know you! I don’t know your name!” Ashamed, she looked down, and realized she was only wearing her silk chemise and knew he could clearly see the outline of her body in the moonlight. Jake noticed her reaction and took his shirt off and wrapped it around her slender body. Duzy finally looked up at him and could still see the concern in his eyes, as she said, “thank you, Mr…..and then she noticed his chest, then his stomach, and couldn’t seem to take her eyes off of him.

“Thomas, Jake Thomas,” he said, as he smiled down at her and said “everything is fine, please don’t worry, do not be embarrassed, you were not yourself! Can you tell me what was wrong, did anyone hurt you?” Duzy remembered the visions again, and still had the feeling that something was terribly wrong, but how could she tell that to a stranger? “No, no one hurt me…..sometimes I have nightmares and tonight was the worst one ever. Please forgive me?” Jake had been watching the ladies home, thinking Luke may try to hurt her, or heaven help him, take advantage of her, and hadn’t seen anyone until she had ran onto the porch. “Are you fine now? I will walk you back home, and do not fret; no one needs to know this, as I swear I will never tell a soul!” He then walked Duzy back to the porch and she walked inside, head bent, wondering what the hell had just happened to her, as for the life of her, she still wished she was in his arms, with his mouth on hers.

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Linn Keller 8-25-07

 

Tom Landers grinned at me. "How'd you sleep?"
I leaned forward and kicked myself for falling asleep in that wooden chair. It was comfortable enough to sit in for a short time, but my back was calling me unkind names.
"Must have slept pretty well. Didn't even hear you come in."
"It's just sunup."
I twisted my shoulders, rocked from side to side. Something popped a little below kidney level. Tom frowned. "Heard that one clear over here! You break anything?"
"No," I said from between clenched teeth. I stood, experimentally, and the profanity in my lower back continued.
"I can see why you never slept in that chair!"
Tom chuckled. "Only took me once to learn." He picked up the coffee pot, sniffed at the contents. "Phew! Reckon this batch has boiled long enough!" He ladled in some water, swirled the contents and took it to the door.
"You had breakfast, Tom?"
"Yep, Daisy is up bright and early."
"Reckon I'll go partake. That fella that got off the train, the one in black that tried real hard to turn invisible ... he's staying over at the hotel?"
"Yep."
"Reckon I'll ask him to breakfast. Want to talk to him."
I handed Tom the Greener, traded him shotgun for coffee pot, and carried the offensive vessel outside, dumping it into the dirt just past the board walk.
It was a lovely morning. I'd always enjoyed sunrise: it was a little cool, it smelled like morning, the sky was riot with color. I smiled.
Daisy looked up when I came in. "What's good this morning, Daisy?"
"Everything's good, Sheriff!" she laughed. "What's your pleasure?"
"Bacon and eggs, and some of those good sweet rolls if you have 'em!"
"Fix you right up!"
"I'll be right back. Got to go see a man."
"I'll wait til you get back. Nothing worse than cold eggs. Say, you want some potatoes with that?"
I laughed. "You know the way to my heart!"
I took the stairs two at a time, stood to the side of a door, knocked.
No reply.
I waited a few, listened, knocked again.
Nothing.
I tried the knob.
The door opened.
Empty.
I closed the door and went back downstairs.
"Find him?" Daisy called from the kitchen. She was holding an egg, and had a spot of flour on the end of her nose.
"No, don't think he's here," I said. "Coffee hot?"
"Sure enough!" she replied.
Breakfast was quite good, and I ate with more appetite than I realized I had. Daisy was happy: she delighted in seeing her cooking appreciated.
"Daisy," I said as she refilled my coffee cup, "would I be too forward if I told you some man will be a lucky son-of-a-gun to have you for his wife?"
"Why, Sheriff!" she teased. "You proposin' to li'l ol' me?" She batted her eyebrows and made as if to hide behind her upraised shoulder.
I laughed again. "Dear heart, you're too young and pretty for an old coot like me! No, some young fellow will find you and be the luckiest sod that ever stood in shoe leather!"
Daisy leaned one hand on the table and said quietly, "You made a fine couple last night, Sheriff. Was I you, I'd marry her!" She stood back up. "Unless I am being too forward!" Dark eyes danced with mischief, comfortable in teasing me and knowing it was safe.
For the life of me, I could not think of an answer.

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Lady Leigh 8-25-07

 

"Morning, Duzy!" But as soon as Bonnie said that, she could see that Duzy looked awful. "What is the matter?" Concern was written all over Bonnie's face, and she rushed to Duzy's side and took Duzy's hand into her own.

"Oh Bonnie! ..... I had the worst night! Dreams, images .... they just kept coming at me so fast and furious. I couldn't keep up with any of them, and nothing made sense. I just know that something awful has happened ... or at least something deadly .... I'm almost afraid to venture into town today ... I don't know if I want to hear anything that makes the dreams and images bear true."

Bonnie continued to hold Duzy's hand, "We don't have to go into town today, Duzy. We can stay right here if you'd like. There's plenty to do ... always is you know?"

"No ... you should go back to you business today and continue on with what you have been doing ... I'll be fine. I am waiting for Aunt Esther to wake up ... maybe she can bring some light to all of this."

"To be perfectly honest, Duzy, until my shipment gets here, I can't do much more. All I know is what Abram said in the telegram, and all that entailed was a letter and a shipment were to be following the telegram. Guess I'm a little lost until I hear more. I do need to see Mr Moulton today though, but it shouldn't take to long."

"By the way, what all happened with your visit yesterda?"

"Well, the adoption papers were signed, and he is going to be posting them to Denver today. I am not sure how long the process will take, but Mr Moulton didn't think it take to long... basically just needs to be recorded in the court system there. He also said he set up a bank account for Sarah's money at the !st National Bank in Denver. He assured me it was a secure bank, and that I should trust it without any hesitancy .... but mostly, he just kind of stood around as if he didn't really want to leave. Kind of made me feel a bit anxious."

"Bonnie? I think Mr Moulton may be smitten with you ..."

"You're kidding right?"

"Why would I be kidding? I think he shows signs of good taste if he is smitten with you!" Duzy was smiling and seemed to take some delight at chiding Bonnie with this news. Until she noticed Bonnie's face expression.

"Duzy? I sincerely hope you are wrong about that!" Bonnie sqeezed Duzy's hand, and released it, "Well, if I can't talk you into staying home, what are your plans going to be today? Looks like the construction is coming along at the 'Silver Jewel'! Tom must have incredible management skills to be able to get the building this far along in such a short time!"

"Bonnie? I couldn't be more delighted about that aspect of my life! I'm anxious and nervous at the same time about it ... I don't want it to fail!"

Bonnie smiled, "Can't imagin it failing, Duzy! Would you mind if I left Sarah here with you while I meet with Mr Moulton? Or should I see what Esther and Tilly are doing for an hour or so this morning?"

"I think maybe you should ask one of the others, Bonnie .... I just don't know what my day has in store for me ...."

"No problem ... Actually, in light of your earlier comment, I think I'll take Sarah with me. That way I can take advantage of a quick-get-a-way by using Sarah as an excuse. Are you going to be OK? I need to run upstairs and get Sarah up and the two of us dressed."

"You run along, Bonnie ..." Bonnie noticed the morning conversation did little to help her friend. There were things going on in Firelands that fostered the questions. There needed to be answers soon!

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