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Firelands-The Beginning

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Lady Leigh 8-25-07


Liam McKenna was walking along Park Avenue on his way to a favorite part of Central Park. He was deep in thought, but cleverly working on the task at hand.

Having lived in New York City for 12 years, and having worked with an elocutionest for 10 of those years, his Scottish accent was all but gone. It wasn't that he was ashamed of his Scottish heritage, in fact the opposite was true to that statement. He was a Scot through and through, but as his father, Colin McKenna had said, for a project as important as this one, sacrifices needed to be made.

Until recently, Liam did not have to involve himself in the nitty gritty of the project. He had compitent people working for him making the job not problematic. Aspen and Telluride worked out without a hitch or flaw, but Firelands was another story. That was the place that was supposed to been taken care of years ago ... three years ago as a matter of fact.

When Liams Uncle Angus died in the Chicago fire in 1871, his Father thought it should be easy to get his hands on the mineral rights in Firelands. It was because of Abram Rosenthal they had to move slowly and with extreme care. They set the stage with men they 'thought' were compitent. Duke Slade was a marvel in his field. It did not take long to get the banker, Dan Carsey eating out of his hand, and the two were able to hide the actual facts from Angus' widow. All they had to do was play their cards right, and the shares would be in Colin McKennas hands, but their potential financial worth alone was worth the wait. Natural causes elliminating Pauline and her daughters was sheer luck. Sheer luck until Liam found out recently that his cousin, Bonnie, was not among the dead, as was assumed. Instead, Slade had her drugged and signed over to one of his own flunkys being represented as a whore in some local saloon. "The wench must be a beauty if Slade did something so potencially stupid!" he thought.

All they had to do was wait a little bit longer. Long enough where Rosenthal wouldn't have even cared if the shares transferred hands. Liams Uncle knew what he was doing when he intrusted information to his business partner, "Damn Jew!" Liam thought. "Well, things are about to change! They have to! We're running out of time!"

Liam found out the day before, that not only was "dear cousin, Bonnie" still alive, but that she knew about the mineral shares. In the same letter, Liam also heard that Slade was dead, and if that were the case, Liam himself would have to complete this aspect of the project, as he was not entirerly sure if Luke Hawkins was up to the task. If Liam didn't take care of this, there would be hell to pay with his father.

"Now, do I go as some American looking for a nice town to set up a business or do I go as Liam Mc Kenna, the long lost cousin, thrilled to find family at last?" Yes, he thought, "that's it! brillient."

Deciding to forego his walk into Central Park, he turned around and returned to his plush suite at the, "Plaza Hotel".

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Charlie MacNeil 8-25-07


When the deceased had been taken to the doctor's office Charlie began to drift through town, thinking. He often stayed up late at night, meandering through the darkness. Evil worked better in the dark and Charlie felt it was his job to bring evil to the light.

He drifted back past the church and the rose garden trying to work out what exactly had happened tonight. Like Linn, he was sure that the men had been killed elsewhere and brought here, and that the placing of the bodies had definite significance. If he could only figure out what that significance might be.

Charlie saw Miss Duzy come running from her house in terror of something, then turned away when he saw the new man, Jake Thomas, stop her. He had done some checking and had the feeling that Mister Thomas was one of the good guys.

Charlie had spent most of the day with Walter Crane, looking over the books at the bank. Walter had been quite impressed with the quality of the chicanery that had gone on. "Damn fine job of cooking the books," had been his description. "Not as good as I might have, er, uhm, damn fine job." Charlie had left him writing notes in his fine copperplate penmanship.

Now Charlie looked into the hotel dining room and saw Linn having breakfast. That sounded like a plan to Charlie but he decided to wait until Linn had finished and gone back to the jail. No sense having both of the town's available lawmen where one shooter could get them at the same time.

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Duzy Wales 8-26-07


Aunt Esther finally woke up, and said, “Good Morn…..and then took a closer look at Duzy. Honey, come here, lay with me, talk to me, tell me what has happened to make you look so distressed. Duzy related everything, blushing, when she got to the part about Jake Thomas. Aunt Esther remained quiet until Duzy had finished. “Now, don’t you go worrying about Mr. Thomas and I am happy that he was there to find you….even though it was under these circumstances! Otherwise, you may have continued into town dressed in your chemise! Now that really would have caused a stir, but as it is, you can trust it to be kept quiet! Duzy, it is not that I condone what you did, but I know how your mind can run overtime when these worst premonitions hit! I have watched you run from these images since you were a little girl, Duzy and I am the only one who seems to understand that you have been given a gift….but you have yet to learn that you have to think these things out! You cannot simply act, nor can you run from them, or to them, without putting yourself in danger! My goodness, you left here unarmed, at night, in your chemise! I want you to start your breathing exercises again, and meditation, to learn how to control your panic and to give yourself time to think! You remember that the last time this happened that you killed Bert Graves, so the images must be getting stronger! You need to start a journal and write everything down that you see and feel, instead of acting rashly!” She then hugged Duzy and told her, “God gives us all gifts, but it is up to us to use them correctly.”

“Now we shall get dressed and go into town and find out what has happened. You said yourself that you have never felt it so strongly!” Duzy blushed again, as she remembered how strongly she had felt, but it was not the images she was thinking of, it was how she had felt in Jake Thomas’ arms. The blush did not escape Aunt Esther, and she knew that Duzy was feeling her first real passion toward a man, and not understanding how strong that force can be at times, as she had immersed herself in getting an education and the only passion she had felt had been to travel, explore, write, and to succeed at business. She was still new to the way a woman felt when stirred by a man, making her want to feel her body afire with passion and the need to have that passion fulfilled. Luke Hawkins had never known true passion with a woman, he had used them, thinking they were a means to an end, and he had been the only man Duzy had kissed, until now!

“Duzy, I know Jake Thomas, I have known him for quite some time and he is the man your Papa sent here to look after you.” Duzy looked somewhat surprised, although she had felt that it could be him when he had stepped off the train. Aunt Esther continued, “Therefore, I know he is a gentleman and the subject will be dropped. You have no fear of losing your reputation over this.” “That is just it, Aunt Esther, I didn’t care at the moment, as all I was thinking was how good he made me feel, how safe, how calm, when everything else was going awry, and then with the calmness, came the lust! That is the only way I know to describe it….I wanted him to touch me, to kiss me, to……do more!”

“That only means that you have felt the needs of a woman, my dear! Some people think that a woman “performs a duty” and that what you felt is unnatural, as if child bearing is all that a woman is meant to do and feel, but it is not true, it is natural and can be wonderful when it is shared with the right man for you! Now, I am not saying that Jake Thomas is the right man, because a woman can feel these things with the wrong man, and you must be very careful to base your feelings on friendship and love and then get to where you were for a few moments last night. Now, quit fretting and let’s go into town and see what we can find out. You said you were going to see the Reverend, that you were thinking of him as you ran, so that is the first place we will start. You say he was in the graveyard and then at the Church and then you lost him completely! It seems he was upper most in your images, so he should be able to shed some light on this!” Aunt Esther didn't want to bring up the blood until they got more information.

Duzy and Aunt Esther asked Tilly if she would like to go into town, and a bright smile crossed her face. “I was dreaming last night of me running the hotel, and how I wished to meet everyone and take inventory of what will be needed. Miss Esther, are you and Sheriff Keller sure about this, as I would like to get started. I feel the need to be doing something and I am looking forward to being a part of it!” Aunt Esther remembered Linn and a smile crossed her face, thinking that she would love to see him again, and Tilly was right, it was time she took her place at the Hotel. “Yes, Tilly, we are sure! I am still trying to think of the perfect name for my restaurant, so both of you think on that as well.” Tilly packed her belongings to go to her new "home."

The ladies went to Church and found it empty. They decided their next visit would be to see Sheriff Keller.

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Lady Leigh 8-26-07


"Good morning. Mr. Moulton." Bonnie and Sarah entered Michaels office, Bonnie holding Sarah's hand, and Sarah holding onto Dolly's, "Is now a good time to visit?"

"Cetainly, Miss McKenna!" Michael Moulton was always a stong, confident man, and he took pride, that as an Attourney, he always represented himself above reproach, but whenever he was around Bonnie, he always felt like he skipped a step or two toward childhood. To Michael, Bonnie was intrigueing ... special. He knew he wanted to get to know her better, but always felt like he was stumbling around when he was with her. "Why don't you take this chair here, Miss Sarah, you can sit next to your Mother here." He extended the two chairs in front of his desk to Bonnie and Sarah.

"You can call me just Sarah, if you like, Mr, Moulton, and this is Dolly! Is it true that Bonnie is my Mama? Because if it is, I like that very much!" Bonnie chuckled as silently as she could, thinking the girls was sometimes far beyond her 6 years of age. Her understanding was sometimes a blend of 6 and 16, but she was trying very hard to represent herself as a young lady instead of the girl she was.

"I would be delighted to call you Sarah! Basically, Sarah, Miss McKenna is your Mama! All we are waiting on is the paper work to be recorded in Denver. So it seems to me, you have every right to be happy about having a Mama."

"Good! Well, then I think that Bonnie is not the right name for me to be saying." Sarah wrapped Dolly in her left arm and reached to Bonnie with her right, and very sweetly and confidently stated, "Bonnie? Can I start calling you Mama now?"

Bonnie reached over and pulled the girl to her, and with her chin resting on the top of Sarah's head, "Of course, Sarah!"

Michael watched the two as if it were the most natural thing in the world to be experienced between them. He was enchanted. That was the only word that seemed appropriate. After a moment or two, he cleared his throat, "Miss McKenna? I have this drawn up for you to look at ... we can discuss these few details, if you would like."

Sarah scooted back into her chair, and Bonnie looked everything over agreeing to what she saw. Bonnie did not know why she felt as she did, and knew she would have to post a letter to the Rosenthals to inform them, but Bonnie felt it important to set Sarah's inheretance up into a Trust that would be in Abram Rosenthal's hands. Maybe because of all the mistrust Bonnie had with Firelands ... maybe because she needed some semblance to the security of the past, but if need be, the will could be changed if Abram thought differently. But for now, all of Bonnies financial holdings were to be set up in Trust, and if it was agreeable to the Abram and Miriam Rosenthal, Sarah would go to them in Chicago. If that was not acceptable, Sarah would stay with Esther and Duzy, with an allowance to be given them on a yearly basis for Sarah's needs, while the remaining would be given to Sarah, half at 21 years of age, and the remaining half at 25 years of age.

"This looks to be in order, Mr. Moulton ... thank you. Where shall I sign?"

He handed her the pen and showed her where to sign the document, and with a flourish of the pen, Bonnie's business was complete for the time being. Bonnie and Sarah stood, when very quickly, Micheal asked, "I don't suppose you two would care to join me in some morning refreshments at the hotel resurant would you? Coffee, tea ... scones maybe ..."

Bonnie looked at Micheal, with what she hoped was a plesant expression, and equally hoping her voice would not betray her, she answered back, "Thank you, Mr. Moulton, though I am flattered by the invitation ... I really must decline. Sarah and I have much to do, but thank you ... really."

Bonnie felt like she was lieing, and didn't like that very much. As she told Duzy, her hands were fairly tied until a shipment came, but now wasn't the time to be getting close to a man ... she didn't really think any time would be apporpiate for that ... but certainly not right now.

Micheal did well to camouflage his disappointment, and hurriedly went to the door to open it for Bonnie and Sarah. He extended his hand first to Sarah, "Congratulations to you, Sarah, for having such a wonderful Mother! I am sure you will be a very happy -- young lady." and to then he extended his hand to Bonnie, "If I can be of further help to you, please do not hesitate to let me know ... and on a personaly note ... perhaps we can extend this mornings invitation to another time?"

All Bonnie could think to say was, "We'll see ... but thank you just the same."

Bonnie and Sarah heard the train coming long before it could be seen. Bonnie always marveled at the sound of the steam, the wheels on the tracks, whistle blowing ... "What a marvelous invention that one is", Bonnie thought.

On the train, that was approaching Firelands, on this beautiful early fall morning, with the sky, the blue that was Bonnies's favorite ... the color of Bachelor Buttons, and just a hint of white clouds ... was a man dressed in a dark gray Sack Suit, Bowler hat in hand, eyes that equaled the color of his suit, spying the approach of Firelands. "What kind of resception would he receive in this town?" He thought. Running his hand over the back of almost black, lightly wavy hair, he readied himself for the train to stop, and for himself to disembark and locate, Miss Bonnie McKenna.

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Duzy Wales 8-26-07


Duzy heard the buzz around town, long before they reached Sheriff Keller, the Reverend was missing. She felt a loss, one that she couldn’t understand, but one that ran deep inside her. She knew there was more to this than him leaving in the middle of the night, without a word, expecting no one to find him. She had seen the blood, she had seen the hooded man, the coins, the images, and she was a journalist, and she planned to find out what had happened to Kid Sopris. And then she realized she had not called him Reverend! She hoped she would find him someday. She would use all her connections, through her family, her friends, anyone, but she planned to find him and face him and ask him why?

In comparison, the death of Carsey was a deserved one, as far as Duzy felt. And surprisingly, the death of Luke Hawkins didn’t hurt like she thought it would, with her having known him all her life.

What surprised her was how hurt she was by Kid Sopris! She realized she was not only hurt, she was angry, as what kind of example had Sopris left to his congregation? Was it alright to walk off and leave those who believed in you? Was it alright to leave Firelands without a preacher, with the church just being built? Was it alright to walk off, making people feel empty inside? And why did she feel so empty? She had hardly known him after all! Was it because he had been the first "Reverend" whom she had met that made her believe that it was possible that there was something real behind the words? Was it because he was beginning to make her believe that there could be a God that cared about all people, who was compassionate and understanding, and was not there to make you feel like you were sitting in the judgment seat between heaven and hell, that people do make mistakes, and they live and learn, and make their lives better, that He doesn’t create innocent children to bring into an unjust world, young and confused, just to throw in a burning fire for not understanding the many beliefs of the world, and how contradictory they are, and for not understanding the wars that had been fought in the name of religions, and the lives that had been sacrificed in the name of God! Why had she ever started to believe? And then she felt her heart harden once again.

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Kid Sopris 8-26-07


DAWG had it..Only he knew where he got it...But he delivered the unsigned Rose pictured, and scented note to Duzy Wales......She was upset, angry and confused...BUT if she believed in anything, she would have to trust something or someone.

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

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Lady Leigh 8-26-07


Bonnie and Sarah had just left Micheal Moulton's office when Bonnie overheard some folks talking on the boardwalk. "Surely that can't be!"

"What Bo ... Mama?"

"I'm not sure I heard correctly, Sarah ... but if I am not mistaken, I think that is Auntie Esther over there, and I would imagin Auntie Duzy is there, too. Let's walk over that way, OK?"

Bonnie, talking to herself, "No, Lord! Please ... no!" With hurried steps they reached Esther, Duzy and Tilly, and when Bonnie saw the three, she knew what she heard was true, Duzy looked upset, confused and angry all at the same time ... Reverend Sopris was missing ... possibly dead.

Tenatively, Bonnie approached Duzy, "So it's true?"

"Yes ..."

Dawg came running up to Duzy and put his head under her hand. Bonnie noticed a piece of paper, "Duzy? I think you need to take a look at what Dawg has."

Duzy took the note, looked at it, smelled it, she muttered roses, and read, "Not all is what it appears; have faith..A REAL pastor is on his way and will arrive any day...Do not lose sight of the dream..I will see you again some day". "God Bless".

"Well," Esther said sympathetically, "It doesn't totally give us an answer, but perhaps this means it was not the Reverands blood that saw in your vision, dear."

Meanwhile ...

"Please stack the crates where you need to inorder to keep them out of your way. It may take me sometime to locate where they go." The man in the dark gray Sack Suit turned away from the gentleman at the railway station, and then quickly turned back to face him, "If I may ask a question of you, sir ... could you, by chance, direct me to where I might find Miss Bonnie McKenna?"

"Actually, Mister, if you look right over there, you can see a group of women and a child. The taller of the women is Bonnie McKenna."

"Thank you, sir! Thank you ...."

He walked quickly at first, and then slowly ... especially when the little girl looked at him. "Could that be the child she referred to in the letter? My God, could THAT be Bonnie?" His thoughts were coming quickly, and he almost but stopped, his steps were coming so slowly.

"Mama? Mama??"

"Yes, Sarah?" Bonnie looked down at her, and saw that Sarah was looking at someone. Sarah was asking if Bonnie knew who it was when Bonnie noticed him, too.

Bonnie looked at the figure standing probably 25 feet away from the women. Probably 6 foot or so tall, looked to have fairly wide shoulders under the jacket of his suit, dark wavy hair ... no, nearly black hair ... his eyes. "What is it about his eyes?" Bonnie was thinking. The man began to move toward them again, and Sarah siddled closer to Bonnie's side with her arm around her legs, her eyes were slightly widened, "Mama?" Bonnie could not take her eyes off of him, "What is it about this man?"

The man was now standing in front of Bonnie, and there was silence among the women. "Bonnie? Bonnie McKenna? ..."

"Yes .... um ...." She knew this man! She knew it deep inside her soul!

"Bonnie? It's me, Bonnie ... Caleb ..."

"Dear God in Heaven! It IS you! Oh my God!! Caleb!" SHe approached him and Caleb embraced her ... carefully, gently, but as someone who knew her.

"Caleb?! What are you doing here?

"Mama! Who is this?" Sarah was all but panicking at this point. "Sarah, this is a VERY good friend of mine that I had when I was a child in Chicago ... in fact, all of you ... Duzy, Esther, Tilly ... this is Caleb Rosenthal! Oh my God ... Caleb! I can't believe it ..."

Caleb, with his hat in hand, nodded to the women, and looked down at Sarah, "So you must be the little girl, Bonnie wrote about in her letter ... I'm pleased to meet you Sarah", and returning his eyes to the other women, "I am pleased to meet all of you, as well."

"Well, Mr. Rosen, I am not just a little girl," Sarah announced, "I am Bonnie's daughter now! And she is my Mama!"

"Sarah, honey, it is Mr. Rosenthal" Bonnie corrected. "Caleb? ...."

"I brought your supplies for your business. Father, Mother, Levi and I thought it would be best if one of us accompanied your stores stock, and I thought it should be me that came ..." Caleb paused, then pointed back to the station, and continued a bit nervously, as all of the women were staring at him rather oddly, "It's being unloaded onto the dock there by the station ... see?'

Finally Esther said, "Mr. Rosenthal, forgive us, please! I am afraid you caught us off gaurd, sir. It is a pleasure to meet you. I am officially Miss Esther Wales. This is my niece, Miss Duzy Wales. Here is Miss Tilly Ashcroft, and of course, Sarah McKenna, who just recently ..."

Bonnie interupted, "my daughter ... Caleb, I am so sorry to have not made the proper introductions! Esther," Bonnie looked toward the women who had an amused face expression, "thank you."

"Of course, my dear! Now shall we exit to someplace else? The resturant at the hotel perhaps? I am sure Daisy has a fine array of things to eat. Then we can discuss where to have the supplies taken, and let you tell us all about yourself, Mr Rosenthal. I take it you and Bonnie have not seen each other for sometime?"

"No, Miss Wales ... not for a very long time."

"We were 9 years old when last we saw each other, but we corresponded by letter until a few years ago, Esther." Bonnie responded, still not taking her eyes away from him for very long, took the offered arm, and in her other hand Sarah was squuezing tightly. They walked toward he hotel's resturant. "You must further forgive us Caleb, for we have also suffered another shock this morning as a friend of ours is missing, and we are not sure if he still among us."

Across the street, Micheal Moulton saw the exchange between Bonnie, the others, and the man. With some saddness in his movements, he turned toward the Sheriffs office. He needed to find out if the rumors he was hearing were true concerning Rev. Sopris, Carsey and the newly arrived Mr. Hawkins. It wasn't his imagination ... he knew by the way Bonnie and the gentleman with them, were familiar with one another. Perhaps he is the reason Bonnie seemed hesitant with him. Micheal scolded himself for not getting better background information concerning Bonnie. The last thing he would ever want was to be guilty of interferring where he didn't need to.

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Linn Keller 8-26-07


I closed the door, quietly, as if not to disturb a sleeper.
The mannequin was gone.
I'd used the morning sun to back light the ground, hoping to pick up some trace of tracks ... nothing, other than what Charlie and I disturbed the night before.
I took off my Stetson, ran my hand through thinning hair, and considered.
I've been told we entertain angels unknowingly, but it seemed the good Reverend Sopris was not quite an angel ... no, more like one of the ranking officers of S.C.O.L.D. ... probably on the Federal level. That would explain the skill and resources necessary to construct such a lifelike mannequin ... it would also explain the training and discipline necessary to appear dead to two experienced lawmen.
I frowned. He'd known just how we would react.
I don't like it when I'm predictable.
If a fellow lawman can figure out how I will react, a criminal can too.
No help for it.
I'd left the preacher's quarters undisturbed. There was nothing to disturb, to be honest: the bunk was made, the fireplace had been cleaned out, fresh kindling was in the bucket and fire wood stacked outside, the oil lamp cleaned and refilled.
I'd like to know how he did that.
I stepped into the sanctuary, my boots loud in the morning stillness. I looked at the empty pulpit.
Tomorrow was Sunday.
Tomorrow folks would expect a church service.
I sighed. Reckon I would have to tend that detail too.
Details ... let's see. I'd asked Doc to have the undertaker box up both bodies and have them ready for burial. I'd checked the boxes myself; the lids were screwed in place, and I used sealing wax in three places on each lid, with strict instructions to the sallow-faced undertaker that no one was to open them. He assured me with a professionally mournful expression the bodies would not be viewed, disturbed nor moved. Fact is, he looked so mournful I couldn't but wonder if he told jokes with a solemn expression.
Now to think of a subject for Sunday's sermon.
I laughed out loud, startling myself with the abruptness of the sound.
Sunday's sermon was the least of my worries.

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Duzy Wales 8-27-07


Duzy finished reading the paper Dawg had brought, folded it, and put it in her reticule. At least he had thought of sending word, but her heart was still heavy that he had left. So, goes the way of life, people come into our lives and then they leave, sometimes leaving you with more questions than answers, she thought. Duzy supposed that with the line of work that Kid Sopris was in, that he never let himself get too close to anyone, making it easy to move on.

Aunt Esther went to see Sheriff Keller, and Duzy left for the new gambling hall, to see how it was progressing. Tom Landers was doing an amazing job, keeping everyone working together and in no time the ladies would be planning a grand opening for the new “Silver Jewel.” Duzy smiled thinking of the people she would love to have there for the opening week of activities and mentally made a note to send a wire back to the Carolina’s, among other places, to see if it were possible.

As Duzy turned to go to Sheriff Keller’s office to find Aunt Esther, she saw Jake Thomas standing at the train depot. Her heart skipped a beat as she looked at him and the memories came rushing back of how it had felt to be in his arms. Jake must have felt her watching him as he turned and looked directly at her. Was he leaving, Duzy wondered? Now that Luke was dead, would he be returning to North Carolina? Aunt Esther, along with Sheriff Keller, walked up to Jake at that moment and Duzy could see her Aunt introducing the two men. They shook hands and then Jake looked from Aunt Esther to Duzy and then back and she saw him nod his head. Duzy could feel her face blush and could only wonder what was happening. Would he have left without a word? Damn Luke, damn Kid, damn Jake, she thought and moved in the opposite direction. She knew she wasn’t thinking rationally, but damn it that was the way she felt!

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Linn Keller 8-27-07


Most everyone was in church already.
Sam had sniffed curiously at my suit, but offered no other comment.
"If I am to deliver the sermon," I told him, "I must look the part."
Never one for lengthy conversations, Sam switched his tail and waited patiently for me to mount.
There was just enough room for me to tie Sam to the end of the hitch rail. As I loose-wrapped the reins about the rail, a lad came up to me and removed his cap. "Sheriff Keller?" he asked, and held out an envelope.
"Thank you, son," I said, and opened it. It was not sealed; the outside was not addressed.
I unfolded the half-sheet of foolscap.
It was Reverend Sopris's handwriting.
"Sheriff, this is Jacob," I read. "He is from back East but of good people. He is orphaned and needs a father. You need him. He will surprise you. RS." There was a rose, drawn at the bottom.
I folded the sheet, replaced it in the envelope, and placed the envelope in my coat pocket. I regarded the lad, tilted my head. "Your name, son?"
"Jacob, sir."
"Jacob, let's go to church."
"Yes, sir!" He grinned.
We entered, quietly; the house was full, there was a quiet buzz of conversation. Those who looked to see who'd entered puzzled at the sheathed saber in my hand and at the young fellow in a slightly worn but well fitted suit beside me.
"Jacob, do you find a seat here in back," I said. "I shall be with you after service."
"Yes, sir!" he said with a grin, and settled himself near WJ, in the next to last pew.
I strode to the front.
Conversation stopped, and all turned their attention to me as I stepped to the pulpit.
I leaned the sheathed blade against the back of the podium, and hung my hat from a peg on the wall behind me. Turning to the congregation, I looked them over, smiled.
Deep breath, shoulders back, speak from the diaphragm. Not quite like addressing the troops, but it was time to be heard. I pitched my voice so it would bounce off the back wall and be clearly heard by everyone.
"Friends, kindred and brethren," I said, "I am not the Reverend Sopris."
There was a quiet ripple of chuckles. I grinned.
"Our hymn this morning will be, "Shall We Gather By the River." Please stand." I made the grand stand-up gesture, and with the usual fuss and rustling, the roomful of people came to their feet. I smiled at Sarah and winked. Of course, Sarah was standing between Bonnie and Esther, so Esther got the benefit of it as well.
Both of them smiled.
I opened my mouth a little to take a good singing-breath, raised both hands, and we sang.
I'm told I have a fine tenor. It's kind of hard for me to tell. I sing well enough if I am soaking in a tub of steaming hot bath water, or on Sam's back alone on the prairie. Sam doesn't mind, anyway. I've heard some truly fine voices in my day, and as we gathered by the beautiful, beautiful river, my ear could almost pick out individual voices, weaving through the music like threads in a tapestry: the ladies had such lovely voices, but I could not tell one from another; Tillie, Bonnie, Esther and Sarah were all in a group; Daisy and a couple of the ladies from the hotel were not far from them; Mick and four of his troopers were near to the back, singing with vigor, if not with perfect pitch.
We sang the first verse, and I drew the last note out as if drawing taffy, and pinched it off. The final note hung on the air, shimmering.
"Thank you. Please be seated."
Again the rustling and fuss of coat tails being drawn out, skirts being smoothed, of bottoms finding some comfortable purchase on polished wood. Upturned faces, and expectant silence.
"You will be pleased to learn," I began, "we are not going to pass the plate today. If you have brought tithes and offerings, drop them in the poor box in back as you go, otherwise use them for the Lord's work as you see fit." There were quiet, polite smiles. "Bear in mind this will not be a usual occurrence." Smiles were a little broader now.
"There has been some concern over the absence of our Reverend Sopris."
Dead silence.
I had their attention now.
"Rumor is a wonderful thing. By the power of rumor, I learned that, single handedly, I captured Jefferson Davis and his entire Cabinet."
There were a few chuckles.
"By the power of rumor, I learned I had run off and left a wife and a half dozen children back in Kansas City."
More chuckles.
Esther raised one eyebrow and pressed her lips together, not certain whether to smile or not.
"Had it not been for this wonderful power of rumor, I would have gone my entire life without knowing these important things about myself."
Knowing smiles, heads nodded.
Esther relaxed.
"My point is this. The information you get from rumor is generally worth the price you paid for it." I paused. "The Reverend Sopris is no longer with us. This much is true. He is not, however, dead."
I had their undivided attention now.
"I am not at liberty to say more than this: he has been called away on more urgent business."
A dog barked outside, lazily, and Sarah tilted her head in curiosity.
"There has also been a question of the good Reverend's bona fides." My words were carefully framed, almost over-pronounced. People expected oratory from the pulpit, they also expected to be able to understand the spoken word, and I wanted to make sure my every syllable was clearly and unmistakably uttered. "The Reverend Sopris is, indeed, a Reverend -- and he carries other credentials as well. Again, I am not at liberty to discuss all that I know. I can say this much: while he worked among us, he worked as an agent for our general good. He continues to do so, and I doubt me not he will be among us again. We might not see him, but be assured he will walk among us, in flesh and blood, very much alive."
I wished for a drink of water, and made a mental note to install a pitcher stand and pitcher of good cold well water for the next preacher's use.

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Linn Keller 8-27-07


"I am also given to understand that a new preacher is on his way here. I know absolutely nothing about him, not even his name, but I reckon we'll find out in due time."
Heads nodded in agreement, here and there.
"Now the good Reverend Sopris was a man for fine language. He had a way of speaking that seemed to address each individual heart." There were smiles at this, a softening of expressions. "I am not quite an orator, but I can make myself understood."
I drew the saber.
Gleaming steel whispered with thirst as it emerged from the scabbard, and I ran my thumb along its back edge. I looked down the length of the curved blade, catching light off its honed edge.
"I had this blade custom made, some years ago. Damascus steel, forged in Damascus and shipped to me. It takes quite an edge, just like a tongue." I tilted the blade back, rested it on my shoulder. "I'll need an assistant. Sarah, could you come up here, please?"
Sarah, with the happy abandon of a child, launched herself off the pew and charged the pulpit, all petticoats and smiles. She looked up at me with an expression of intentional innocence.
I drew my silk wild rag from my left hand coat pocket. "Sarah," I said, "unfold this and hold it out for everyone to see."
Bonnie looked decidedly uncomfortable and shifted in her seat. Esther laid a hand on her forearm, whispered a word.
Sarah held the light blue silk out. It wavered a little in the still air.
"Now, Sarah, ball it up for me."
She did, quickly, enthusiastically.
"Tell me, Sarah, what material is that?"
"It's silk!" she said with a firm nod of her head.
"Are you sure? Maybe it's just cotton."
She rubbed it against her cheek, closed her eyes in pleasure. "It's silk!"
"I see," I said, with a conspiratorial wink to the general congregation. "Is it soft?"
"Yes, it's very nice. Can I have it?"
"Well, I've got an idea," I said. "Stand over here." Sarah moved to the center of the raised dais. "Now, Sarah, I want you to toss that straight up in the air."
She looked puzzled, blinked, then bent her knees, lowered her arms, and with an abrupt toss and a thrust of her legs, tossed the silk in the air, and caught it as it fell.
"Very nice," I congratulated her. "Now again, a little higher."
Sarah smiled, balled the silk and again threw it upward. It gained a little more altitude before it spread out and fell.
"Now, Sarah, I want you to throw it just as high, but a little to the side, out toward everyone here. Ready?"
Sarah tossed the silk.
Just as it reached its zenith, and spread out, I rolled my wrist and drawcut, upwards, through the floating silk.
There was the general hiss of breath drawn through clenched teeth. Visually I had just dragged my fingernails across a chalk board. An admiring voice from among the cavalrymen murmured, "Yon's a blade!"
The silk fluttered earthward, now in two pieces.
Sarah caught them, dismayed, tragedy in her expression.
I turned to the pulpit, sheathed the blade.
"Oh!" she said, distress evident in her face. She held the two pieces up and, looking at Bonnie, called, "Mama, do you think you can fix Mr. Keller's kerchief?"
There was a sympathetic laugh and Bonnie looked at her, lips parted a little, unsure whether to laugh or offer some supportive word to the disappointed little girl on the dais.
"Here, Sarah, let's save your Mama some work," I said. "Ball those two pieces up. Just like that, nice and tight." I went to one knee, beckoned her closer. "Tighter. There, just like that." I took her little hands in my big hands.
"Now blow on it, like this." I puffed a quick breath at my hands.
Sarah took a deep breath and blew long and hard at them, cheeks puffing out with the effort.
"I think that just might work!" I exclaimed to the congregation: with a flourish, I removed one hand, reached in under and pinched up some material.
I whipped the silk out, popping it overhead, spinning it to open it up and letting it settle over Sarah's still outstretched hands. Her eyes were big and her mouth was open.
"Hold that up, Sarah."
Sarah held an unbroken square of light blue silk.
"Mama!" Sarah exclaimed. "He fixed it!" She clutched the wild rag and ran pelting off the dais and back to Bonnie, clutching the big square as if it were something precious.
I returned to the podium. "We read in Scripture about the tongue being like a blade. We all know how a careless or vicious word can cut like a knife. We've just seen the soft and yielding silk, so gentle and kind when rubbed against a child's face, cloven and destroyed on the obdurate edge of honed steel." I could hear my voice echo off the back wall. "This is the same thing that happens with a harsh word to a gentle soul. The voice can cut like a knife -- or a whip. A word is like a bell, when rung: the sound runs forever and can never be recalled. I believe it is a courtroom maxim that "A bell cannot be un-rung." So it is with a careless word." I cast my eyes to the heavens and raised my arms theatrically. "O Lord, let my words be soft and sweet, for I may have to eat them after all."
My tone had been exaggerated, a spoof of a self-righteous preacher, and was met with quiet laughter -- but with laughter comes acceptance.
"Lastly," I said, "not everything is quite as it seems." I drew the two halves of my sliced wild rag from my coat pocket and held one in each hand.
My lesson spoke for itself.
"Please stand for final prayer." I waited until all were on their feet again, then bowed my head. "O Lord, Thou who knowest our down-sittings and our up-risings, be with us here today and in all that we do. We thank You for Your many blessings, and ask Your watch-care over us all. Keep us from evil ways, and protect us from the evil that seeks to devour the righteous" -- I had raised my head, as is my habit, and looked back at Jacob, who stood with his cap in hand and head bowed -- "and we thank You for unexpected blessings. Amen!"

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Charlie MacNeil 8-28-07


As Linn finished his prayer, far out on the prairie a man drew his horse to a halt with a smile. "Ah, Bartholomew," he said to his mount, "there's someone yonder who knows the Word, and knows it well. I do believe we are moving in the right direction." He chuckled quietly. "As if there could ever be any doubt once the Lord makes his meaning clear."

Many days travel to the east of Firelands, Abraham Belding had been on his way north to visit a town he'd heard was in need. He had camped in a small grove of cottonwoods along a creek and was nearly asleep when he thought someone called his name. He sat up in his blankets and looked around, but no one was in sight so he lay back down. Again his name was called, this time distinctly and with a definite tone of command. That time he rose from his bed and knelt with his head bowed, knowing that he was about to embark on a new mission. The next day he turned Bart's head to the east and booted him into a trot, dragging his reluctant pack mule behind him. And with Linn's closing prayer Abraham Belding could tell that he was nearing the object of his quest.

Hours later, Abraham had drawn near enough to the town to see trails of smoke drifting from the chimneys of the houses as folks prepared their evening meals. He drew Bart to a halt at the top of a rise and sat looking down at the town. To an observer he might have looked to be listening to something, as if music that only he could hear was playing. He reached under his black frock coat and drew his Schofield revolver from the shoulder holster and broke the action to check the loading. All was well and he closed the action and put the pistol back in its holster. He reached up to his throat and adjusted the white band under the collar of his black shirt and clucked to Bart. The folks of yonder town were quite possibly in for a surprise.

Abraham drew Bart to a halt in front of a brick building with "Sheriff" on the sign out front. Best get started on the right foot. He stepped down, tied his animals to the rail, and stepped up on the boardwalk. His spurs rang on the scarred boards and his heels thumped hollowly as he moved to the door.

The door swung open before his hand could touch the knob. Charlie stood in the doorway with his right hand concealed behind the door. "Can I help you, stranger?" he asked, taking in the man's height as well as the fact that he was armed. He didn't miss the white collar, either.

"Could you be so kind as to point me in the direction of the church and its environs?" Abraham asked politely. He waited expectantly,  as if there was no doubt that the man in front of him could and would do just exactly that.

Charlie looked him up and down again. Abraham smiled at him and Charlie felt a sense of peace wash over him. "I reckon," he said. He stepped out on the boardwalk and holstered his pistol. He saw Abraham glance at the gun and said lightly, "We've had some trouble hereabouts." He gave Abraham directions to the church and watched as the man mounted his horse and led his mule in that direction. "Looks like the new preacher's here," he said quietly to himself. "And I don't think he's what folks were expecting." He stepped back inside the jail and closed the door.

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Lady Leigh 8-28-07


It was not Caleb's imagination that Bonnie changed the subject whenever the last 3 years of her life were brought up. Out of the corner of Caleb's eye, he even noticed that Esther Wales went as far as gently touching the forearm of her niece when he thought Duzy Wales may have answered a question concerning Bonnies existence, when he and his family were under the impression she were dead. Only Sarah gave a hint when she said Bonnie had taken care of her at 'Sams Place' ... "Guess I'll have to find out what 'Sams Place' is," Caleb thought. Something was amiss, that was apparent, but Bonnie seemed reluctant to discuss it. "What did I expect?" he further thought, " I just got into town and shocked the day lights out of her!"

Once working out the details of getting the crates to Bonnie's business, 'House of McKenna', he took his leave of the women, and took lodgings at the hotel. A nice place, clean and comfortable. He would help Bonnie unpack the crates beginning on Monday, and he smiled knowing she would be surprised.

The Rosenthal family was Jewish by nationality, but not by faith ... largely due to Pauline Rudd McKenna. Her easy way of talking about her faith and why she felt convicted in it did not take long to easily rest on the ears of Miriam Rosenthal. The subject matter was discussed with her husband, Abram, raising many questions, and much research, which led them to the result that the 300 plus prophesy's pointing to the Messiah, were indeed, Jesus of Nazareth.

Even though this was Sunday morning, he found himself not within the walls of the new little church across town. He felt he needed sometime to reflect on thoughts, and to look around Fireland. Walking down the boardwalk, Caleb stumbled across Duzy Wales.

"Good morning, Miss Wales! I did not expect to see you this morning!"

"Good morning to you, Mr. Rosenthal. I was needing some time to myself. Also thought I would check in with the 'Silver Jewel'. I'm anxious to get it open. Then I thought I would head over to meet with the others for a picnic on the grounds of the church. You are still going to join us, aren't you?"

"Absolutely! I was just trying to familize myself with Firelands. Would you care to join me on a brief walk?"

Side by side they meandered along the boardwalks, causually talking to one another. He paused slightly, when across the street he saw the sign 'Sams Place' ... he looked at Duzy who appeared uncomfortable, but also knew by his face expression that she knew Caleb understood what kind of place it was.

"As my Aunt instructed me last night, it would be best for Bonnie to discuss it, herself, with you, Mr. Rosenthal. But keep an open mind when she eventually does, because you will find she is not to blame."

Caleb nodded, and with that, the two walked toward the churchyard.

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Linn Keller 8-28-07


Jacob helped the undertaker and I ease the boxes into the dry earth.
There were no mourners for the two.
We took turns shoveling dirt over the plain pine boxes, mounding the earth a little to allow for settling.
I'd examined the seals, then broke them myself, unscrewed the lids and made sure the dead were still where I'd left them. They were; they were undisturbed, and now they slept under a nice deep blanket of dirt.
"Sheriff, are you sure there won't be a nice stone marker? I can give you a good price for a pair."
I smiled. "Board markers will do just fine, thank you."
"Now, Sheriff, this is hardly the time to skimp! We are memorializing their lives! All that they were! A board marker, why, in time it will rot, disintegrate, and be lost forever!"
I regarded the undertaker solemnly. "Board markers will do."
"Sheriff?" Jacob said quietly. "Rider."
The undertaker shook his head, returning to the wagon with the shovels, and clucked up the mare.
I took off my hat. The Lord had watched as I led services in the field, a lifetime ago, and I'm sure He would not mind if I fulfilled one more function the preacher would normally handle. My prayer was brief as I committed the pair to their final rest. Settling my hat back on my head, I turned and looked in the direction Jacob indicated.
"Yes, sir?"
"How good are your eyes?"
"Fine, sir," he said, puzzled.
"Take a good look at that rider. What do you see?"
Jacob studied the lone figure, on horseback, with a pack mule, then he turned to me and grinned. "Preacher, looks like."
I nodded. "Let's go greet the new parson!"

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Duzy Wales 8-28-07


There was no way Duzy could walk into the new church that morning. Maybe, it was the time she should have considered it the most important, as all people need reaffirmation of their faith, whatever it may be, at times.

That was just it; however, as Duzy was a believer of karma, of doing good things and good deeds, to learn and grow, and to reach a higher plane of understanding, before her next lifetime, in order to return without having to relive the same mistakes, but beyond that, to be able to come back and help others not to make the same mistakes, leaving Duzy with a sense of protecting the innocent…of taking the chance of helping anyone in need, no matter the harm it could cost her.

Her Papa, in order to show Aunt Esther, that psychics or any type of paranormal activities did not exist, had Duzy hypnotized, by a doctor, known for the study of paranormal activities. She had proven her Papa wrong when she could speak in languages and dialects from previous lifetimes, leaving him bewildered and yet still skeptical that it could be trickery of some sort. It seemed only right, that he give his sister, Esther, the benefit of the doubt, and let her be a barrier between his “black eyed daughter” and himself, on how to help raise a child with this type curse…..or gift, as Esther had put it.

She thought of Luke, and how he had always said the right words, but they always seemed to come with a condition, a price, or even a lack of sincerity. She couldn’t help but remember how he had made fun of her leaving him in search of her own dreams, and how quickly he had thought she would fail. She decided not to go to his services, but to remember him as the child she had grown up with.....with him pulling her pigtails and chasing her around, always pronouncing she would be his wife someday!

When she ran into Caleb, she took an instant liking to him. She hoped her instincts were right, as she could tell that even though Bonnie had feelings for Mr. Moulton, she had a past with Caleb, and she had a feeling, that the past they shared, had been one of love and respect for each other. If so, Caleb would not blame Bonnie when he heard about her past, but would protect her from anything like that ever happening again and hopefully would get to the truth of what had happened and let justice take its course.

Caleb and Duzy walked to the church yard, and Duzy felt like she had no right to be there, to be enjoying the bounty of food and friendship that was offered, and she excused herself, asking Caleb to relay the information that it was “just not the time,” as she needed to be elsewhere.

Duzy went back to the “Silver Jewel” to check on the progression after yesterday’s day of work. Noticing the door ajar, she walked inside, and Jake Thomas was adding some of the final touches. He had attached the long mahogany bar, and Duzy was amazed. “When did it arrive?” she asked. Jake said “Miss Duzy, I heard there was a shipment coming in for you yesterday, and asked your Aunt about it. That is why I was at the train depot.” I wanted to do something special for you; I hope you do not mind.” Together they hung some of the artwork, somewhat risqué, but tasteful for a gambling hall and saloon. They laughed together as they set up the tables, faro, poker, and others, and then the tables and chairs where the clientele would be seated for drinking and watching the entertainment and gauged how closely they should sit the spittoons, as neither of them used tobacco, but nevertheless practiced spitting into each one, to see if either could hit the pot! Duzy was surely happy her dear Mama wasn’t watching as she practiced spitting right along with Jake! It seemed they had known each other before, as they were so comfortable together.

Jake said, “Duzy you have Tom Landers to thank for letting me be here to do this, as he trusted me that I was here to be helpful. Sheriff Keller gave him a word of encouragement too.” Duzy thought of Tom, and how he seemed to always be watching her, and how attractive she thought him to be, and yet, she didn’t feel the same way as she did around Jake Thomas! Today was turning out to be a wonderful day, as they continued to dust bottles to place, and wash and hang glasses and stemware above the bar, directly in front of the mirror. There were beautiful chandeliers there that would be hung when the men were there to help.

In 1878 Sir Joseph Wilson Swan, an English physicist, was the first person to invent a practical and longer lasting electric light bulb, lasting 13.5 hours. He used a carbon filament bulb derived from cotton, however Duzy believed that those were to be tried out in New York and Paris, before expecting to use them in the West, so they decided on coal based gas or kerosene to use, with a few modifications to the chandeliers.

The pianos had arrived and instead of two there were three! Duzy started to think, “How God works in mysterious ways,” and stopped short in her thoughts. No, she had good karma to be thankful for and hopefully a loving God that was there for everyone, no matter the race, gender, sexual preference, or whatever, but for whomever they called God, as long as they were sincere in their beliefs and lived what they believed, as Duzy could not believe in mistakes by the Creator she believed in.

The “Silver Jewel” was a sight to behold, and she was looking forward to becoming a part of this new establishment!

The “House of McKenna” was just as tasteful, but with the touch of a woman who felt the fabrics and trim come to life in her hands. The interior was beautiful, with artwork of designs that Bonnie had hung, showing the beauty of her visions, for the women folk of Firelands. Duzy almost drooled at the sight of some of the creations!

Duzy started to climb down the ladder at the “Silver Jewel” when she lost her balance; thankfully, Jake Thomas was there to catch her…

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Linn Keller 8-28-07


Dirty Deeds, New York Style


"Dear, sweet Bonnie," he thought. "My long lost Cousin Bonnie. Sitting on a fortune destined for me."
Liam McKenna smiled, and the smile was not pleasant.
"Blood is thicker than water," he mused, twirling the pen idly between manicured fingers. "Surely she will see the reasonableness of my assuming familial control of the important business matters."
He contemplated the blank sheet on the green desk blotter before him.
Having taken over businesses by foul means or fair -- more of the former than the latter -- he was quite willing to stoop rather low in order to acquire a fortune this large.
Mineral rights to a gold vein. He would be wealthy, wealthy ...
Dear, long-lost cousin Bonnie.
Putty in his hands.
And if she wasn't?
His smile was not pleasant.
He dipped the steel nib in ink and began to write.

"Arrest warrant?" the detective frowned. "Surely you can have it wired to the local jurisdiction."
"No, no, I want to take it with me," Liam smiled, an oily, slippery smile.
The detective frowned. "I see. Yes, I can have one drawn up." He looked up. "Are you sure of the charge?"
"Oh, yes, very sure."
"It's not often a woman is charged with murder."
Liam assumed an air of wounded innocence. "She is my cousin, after all," he said with mock sadness. "It's only right that one of her own bring her to justice."
"And you want it for this specified person, with this specified charge, on this specified date."
"Yes," Liam said with an affected sadness. "For all that."
"I never took you for the police kind," the detective muttered.
"Oh, I'm full of surprises," Liam said quietly.

The Irish sergeant happily hoisted his mug of beer. "Your health, sir!" he exclaimed, and savored the cool brew. Most of his troopers were in the bar as well.
I had coffee but drank with them, happy to stake them to a tipple. Mick and his men were getting ready to pull out and I wanted to at least buy them a round.
"Will ye not have a beer, sir? Coffee will stunt your growth!" Mick exclaimed with a broad grin and a foam mustache.
"Yeah, I know," I said. "It's stunted me terribly so far!"
Mick regarded my six foot plus and laughed. "Aye, sir, you're right!" He drained his mug and thumped it happily on the bar. "Colonel, this is going to be one fine place! I would admire to come back an' spend me month's pay at yon poker table!"
I laughed. "Mick, once she's done, you can come on back and welcome! It'll be the grandest hall this side of Frisco!"
"Aye, sir, I've no doubt it will!" His gaze wandered with appreciation over the pictures on the wall.
Most of the troopers had finished their beer. "Drink up, lads," Mick roared. "We've an early morning tomorrow, let's go get a night's rest! Who's on watch tonight?" They filed out, lean young men, laughing and talking as young men do.
Esther had been watching from the end of the bar. "Are they always so subdued?" she asked.
I turned, leaning back against the new mahogany, one foot up on the brass rail. "No, not usually. I think it's because of the smell of new lumber and the sight of new furnishings. They were afraid of scratching the bar."
"As well they might be," she replied tartly. "Woe be unto the scoundrel that damages that new wood!"
I laughed, and so did she.
My hand found hers.
"Esther, I don't know what the future holds, but right now I am happy."
Her eyes glittered in the gas light. "So am I."
I wanted very badly to kiss her. My hand closed gently about hers, and I wanted to slip my arm around her waist, and draw her into me.
Esther leaned up and kissed me, once, lightly. She drew back with a smile, mischief and understanding in her eyes.

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Charlie MacNeil 8-28-07


Abraham pulled Bart to a halt at the cemetery fence. Beyond a tall man with a star pinned to his shirt and a young boy he could see two freshly filled graves. He took off his hat, hung it from his saddlehorn, and stepped to the ground. He reached to his saddlebag and took out his worn Bible.

The man and the boy stood waiting as Abraham approached. "My name is Abraham Belding, and I do believe you have need of my services," he said quietly.

"I believe these two are beyond your help, preacher," the star packer said with a hint of humor in his voice. "But your welcome to try if you'd like."

Abraham smiled. "Far be it from me to give up hope prematurely," he said. He folded his hands around his Bible and began. "Heavenly Father, you know what these men have done here on Earth, and you know the direction they're headed. If you can see your way fit to do so, I just ask you to find a small grain of forgiveness for their sins. Either way it comes out, I thank you in the name of our Lord Jesus. Amen."

Abraham turned away from the two graves and held out his hand. "As I said, my name is Abraham Belding, and I believe I've been called to this town by the Lord."

Linn shook the proffered hand. "I'm Sheriff Linn Keller and this," he indicated Jacob, "is Jacob."

"I'm very pleased to meet you both," Abraham said as he shook Jacob's hand gravely. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be going on to the church. It's been a long while since breakfast, and Bart and this ornery jughead behind him would, I'm sure, welcome some time without their saddles. If you'll excuse me?"

"By all means," Linn said. "Take care, sir."

"My father was sir," Abraham said whimsically. "I'm just a simple spreader of the Word of the Lord." He lifted his hat from the saddlehorn, put it on, and stepped into the saddle. "Adios." He turned Bart toward the steeple he could see over the trees around the cemetery.

"Spreader of the Word he may be," Linn said quietly to Jacob. "But I'll wager that gent is anything but simple. One doesn't often see a preacher go armed the way that one does." In addition to the pistol Linn knew the man wore under his coat, a pair of scabbards, one on each side of his saddle, held a shotgun and a rifle respectively. It looked like the community's new preacher was fully prepared to take care of himself.

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Linn Keller 8-29-07


"Jacob," I said, "how's your appetite?"
"I could eat, sir," Jacob said mildly, but I could see the hunger in his eyes.
"I was much the same at your age. I could eat a full meal, walk next door and eat another just as big." I grinned. "Let's see what Daisy has for us and then we'll see about getting you some clothes."
Jacob looked uncomfortable, but hid it quickly; I did not let on.
The preacher was already far enough away I would have to have shouted an invitation to eat, and shouting would not be polite: Jacob and I had walked behind the undertaker's wagon (he wanted to use the fancy hearse, but he wanted to make two trips, one for each box, and I told him the town would not pay for all that, so we used the wagon) and so had no mounts to catch up quickly.
We headed for Daisy's confident Abraham would follow the welcoming smell of Daisy's kitchen.
I saw Dawg trot happily out the back door, licking his chops. He'd begged another biscuit, and unless I missed my guess, Daisy was generous with either bacon grease or gravy. Dawg looked fierce and I would not ever want to be on the wrong side of his intent, but he was a charmer.
Jacob, on the other hand, had never seen Dawg. We were only about fifteen yards from the back door when Dawg came trotting out and grinned at us.
Jacob produced a .44 Army revolver.
I seized it by the top of the cylinder, my little finger in between the hammer and the frame. "Hold!" I exclaimed. "That's one of the good guys!"
Jacob was visibly shaken at the sight of something the size of a small bear trotting out of the kitchen, apparently having just eaten. To his young mind, Dawg may have just eaten Daisy and most of the clientele, with apple pie for dessert.
Dawg did not help any when he ended his laugh with a leisurely yawn.
Jacob eased the hammer down on a pin between the copper caps. "I'm sorry, sir, I thought--"
"I know what you thought," I said, not unkindly, "and now you know better. Dawg is his own man. His own dawg," I corrected myself. "Besides, Sarah loves him and if Dawg were gone she would be upset."
"Who's Sarah?" Jacob asked, returning the .44 to a well hidden holster under his coat. I took note of the carry; I pride myself on spotting such things, and I did not see this one at all. Not on a skinny boy.
"Sarah," I said, "is the young lady that drove a cake of lye soap clear back to my tonsils because I said a bad word."
Jacob's eyes grew large. "She did that to YOU, sir?"
"She did," I deadpanned.
Jacob contemplated this achievement and imagined a ten foot Amazon. A fully dressed Amazon; he was too young to contemplate a female warrior in a state of undress.
Breakfast was uneventful. Jacob ate well, I had coffee, as I was still comfortably full.
We stepped into JW's mercantile. We were the only customers that morning.
JW was helping Jacob select the right shirt size when I heard a low whistle. I looked up from the display of sealing wax sticks to see JW crook a finger at me.
I went over and, at his pointing finger, saw a series of vicious scars across Jacob's back.
I had seen those before, and my heart fell to my boot tops.
I nodded to JW. Neither of us had said a word and I don't think Jacob noticed that I'd seen.
JW enjoyed it when I bought merchandise, I paid cash and did not argue prices. JW, in turn, priced his items fairly to me. Jacob carried the stack of shirts, trousers, smallclothes, galluses, a new hat, socks, vest and coat, and a pair of proper boots, and we went into the jail.
Charlie greeted us with a smile. We talked briefly, quietly; Jacob went in back, among the cells, and I heard him washing. Higgins, of course, could not pass up the opportunity for some remarks. "What is this?" he demanded. "You arrestin' children off the street, or is that your new deputy? Things must be gettin' pretty bad around here" --
I stepped to the doorway, ready to address Higgins sternly, when Jacob faced him squarely and took off his coat.
The .44 was plainly visible against what was once a white shirt.
Higgins quieted down.
I took note of Jacob's quiet response.
Once he'd finished his ablutions he changed into his new clothes and presented himself.
Charlie nodded. "Good lookin' and lookin' good," he said. "Ain't that man-size revolver kind of heavy to carry?"
"I'm used to it, sir," Jacob said quietly.
"Appears you are. How do you reload?"
Jacob produced a second cylinder from his off coat pocket.
"You got fixin's to reload afterward?"
"Nothing left, sir," Jacob said. "Flask was half dry when I left home, and weren't many balls. I took what few there were, and here's all that's left." He hefted the spare cylinder for emphasis.
I eased myself into the swivel chair and gestured for Jacob to be seated. "Jacob, how did you come across those whip scars on your back?"
Jacob sat, and was quiet for a long moment.
"'Twas Collins," he said. "He wasn't my pa, I don't think he was Ma's husband, but he lived with her from time to time." He looked up, eyes dark with memory. Charlie pulled up a chair, turned it around backwards and sat down.
"Tell me what happened." I leaned my forearms on the desk, listening closely.
"Collins was a teamster, and he was mean. He used to beat Ma and me. One night she told him she was goin' to have a baby and he got real mad and beat her fiercely. He hit her in the belly and she went down and she was hurt, I could tell. I picked up a stick of wood and hit him in the side of the knee. We was outside." He paused, slowly clenching into fists.
"Collins picked up a mule skinner's whip and he whipped me, and he whipped Ma. I tried to stop him but he kept whippin' us and I fell on top of Ma to try and keep him off her." He closed his eyes, pale now, his breathing was a little shallower and quicker.
"Ma died there in the yard, and Collins just left her. He went inside an' drank some more and laid down in Ma's bed and went to sleep."
Jacob opened his eyes, and looked into hell.
"I took this self same revolver and I put it between his eyes and I cocked this self same hammer and I told him to wake up, I was goin' to kill him. He opened his eyes and I said "You kilt my ma, now it's your turn," and he grabbed the barrel and tried to roll over and I yanked the trigger.
"I just set there for a long while, him dead in Ma's bed, Ma dead in the yard and nothin' for me any more. I had no more than the clothes I wore, so I fixed up what food there was, and I ate me a good meal, and I took a blanket out and covered Ma, and I took out walkin'. Told the neighbor Collins had kilt my ma and I thought he was dead too. They took out a-runnin' and I kept walkin'. Come to a rail road and grabbed me an arm full of box car and finally run across a preacher. He listened to me and told me I was the hand of the Lord in this matter, he give me a note I give to you, and here I sit."
Charlie and I sat for a long time, considering.
We looked at this tall boy before us, knowing there was a cross roads that would destroy him utterly, or might prove his salvation.
We chose salvation.
"Charlie," I said, "sounds like the fellow needed killin'."
"Sounds that way."
"Let's get a room for you, Jacob. You'll be staying with me."
"At the hotel, sir?" Jacob asked, suddenly pale.
"It's clean, food's good."
"Sir -- with respect, sir, I'd rather not be ... alone ..." His voice trailed off and the strength went out of him like a sliced water skin. He sagged back into the chair.
"I'm sleeping over here at night," I said. "Don't stay in the hotel myself. Reckon we can put up another bunk."

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Lady Leigh 8-29-07


The letter, Abram had sent along with Caleb, indicated that everything Bonnie needed to set up her business was sent. Even though her Father was gone, Abram said there was still shares of stock in Angus McKenna's names. As long as there was reason to believe a McKenna was alive, in this case, Jamie, Abram would see to it those shares remained in the McKenna family name. As a result, all that was sent to Bonnie was a crumbs worth of the worth, but Abram hoped it would be a good start for Bonnie's business.

Caleb was helping Bonnie get it all organized and set up. The crates were being opened, and the treasures inside included, not only bolt after bolt of fabric, but a Burdick Sewing Machine with a price tag of $14.95 still on it, and a zig zag sewing machine -- the invention by a woman named, Helen Augusta Blanchard, which Abram wrote was all the rage within the clothing industry, and proving to be a tremendous benefit -- the price tag showing on that one was $16.95. Bonnie knew the price of those two machines, alone, were extremely costly, and with the singer she bought at the Merchantile, she was more than equiped. With the extra machine, Bonnie knew she would be able to get someone to assist her when the time was right.

There were six dress forms, one was a representation of the females trunk section used for corset display purposes. A current McDowells Drafting machine, tapes, pins, taylor scissors of every kind, lomg, short, straight, curved .... absolutely everything Bonnie would have dreamed about.

Caleb watched Bonnie with amuzement as she tenderly ran her hands over the various bolts of fabric, and fingered the varied array of laces and trims. He chuckled as she held glass buttons up toward the light to see the cuts and sparkle. Watched her place a machine here and there, only to change its location moments later. She set the irons on a stand next to the stove in the back, making them ready for their job of pressing. There were large cones of thread in so many colors, Bonnie found herself marveling at the colors God had allowed when he set his creations into place. She picked up a tool, "I remember Mama measuring and pressing all of those tiny pleats by hand, Caleb ... but she wouldn't have to anymore! If only she could have had one of these!" Silly thing looked like a ringer from a washing machine, Bonnie thought, but it's purpose was clear.

Sarah and Dolly were sitting on the step at the back door, Dawg laying at her feet with the smell of bacon and gravy about him. No doubt he had been visiting Daisy.

Quietly, Caleb asked, Bonnie, "Tell me about Sarah, Bonnie ..."

"What exactly do you want to know?"

"How did you meet her? Who were her parents? How did it transpire for you to take her in as your ward, then to make the dicision to adopt?"

Bonnie was prepared to answer some of Calebs questions, and realized the topic of Sarah was Caleb's way of bringing up various other topics pertaining to, what was unknown to the Rosenthal family for the last few years. Bonnie knew it would be up to her as to how indepth she wanted to go into detail, and that was something she wanted to be in control of. Especially when much over the last three years was dictated to her, there was a strong need to be in control of ones life, and Bonnie wanted to hang on to that feeling. More importantly, Caleb was not someone she wanted to tell of her indescretions ... she cared for him! No, she loved him, and always had. First as wee children, then through the letters they shared back and forth for years, promises to eventually be together and stay that way forever. "Such childlike dreams," Bonnie thought, "but only dreams." Fantasy playing was for Sarah's age. Bonnie's life, and the drama played out, felt proof to Bonnie, that being an adult ... a female adult ... was a real life disaster.

"Hmmm ... I didn't know Sarah's Mother, and as we found out later, she died at the hands of her husband, Bert Graves ... When he died, I took her. She had spent so much time with me before he died ... it just seemed natural. I love her, Caleb!"

Caleb took a step toward Bonnie and rest his hand on her arm, "but there is more that you can tell me, isn't there?"

"Of course there is! But I am not about to discuss it at the moment ... that is a conversation that does not need to be heard by young ears, Caleb. And I need to prepare myself for telling you, and I am not exactly sure how to do that. Just give me some time, OK?"

A knock on the window changed the mood that hung in the air at once. Micheal Moulton stood there with a sheaf of papers in his hand and a smile on his face. Bonnie went to the front door, unlocked it, and waved him in.

"Mr Moulton! How are you? ... Oh, please allow me to introduce Caleb Rosenthal, a dear friend from Chicago. Caleb, this is Micheal Moulton, my attourney, who has been most helpful to me of late."

The two shook hands and casually greeted one another ... though both did so somewhat warily.

"Miss McKenna, I wanted you to know that I was wired this morning and Sarah's adoption papers were recorded, and the banking requests are set up. These are your accounts, and at your convienence, we can go over them ..." He looked at Bonnie, and at Caleb.

"How about in an hour or so, Mr Moulton ... at your office? Let me run Sarah over to Tilly, and then I'll stop by."

"No need for that, Bonnie," Caleb interjected, "I can watch Sarah. Go ahead and do your business with Mr. Moulton. I'll continue working here ... I'm "not" going anywhere, after all! I'll be here!"

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Linn Keller 8-29-07


"Back so soon, Sheriff?" JW asked.
I smiled. "I'd forget my head if the Almighty hadn't bolted it down," I said.
JW nodded solemnly. "Know the feelin', Sheriff. I find myself contemplating the hereafter more and more often these days." He fixed me with an amused eye and continued, "I'll walk into a room and scratch my head and wonder what I'm here after!"
I laughed. "You're not supposed to imitate my bad examples!"
Jacob smiled.
"Say, could I trouble you for a roll of percussion caps, a keg of powder and about ten pound of pistol balls, half .36 and half .44?"
"Sure thing, Sheriff. Expectin' trouble?"
"I'm the Sheriff. There's always trouble." I smiled. "But hopefully it will happen somewhere else. I've had excitement enough to last ten men their lifetimes."
JW nodded. "Know what you mean. Don't never want to see another Antietam." He frowned and I could see his jaw muscles set and I knew he was kicking himself for speaking of it. I had done as much, time and again.
We headed out of town, riding double on Sam. We'd filled Jacob's flask and made up some felt wads, soaked in a half and half of lard and bees wax, rather than grease over the chamber mouths. Jacob was interested: he'd never used wads. I preferred them.
We brought along half a dozen tin cans in a gunny sack and tossed them out on the dry ground.
Jacob and I stepped back. Sam was ground reined about fifty yards behind us. He was not gun shy but I saw no sense in hammering his ears up close with two pistols firing.
Jacob looked at me and I looked at him and we both grinned.
Jacob's draw was smooth and he handled that man sized revolver like he was born to it. With six shots he flipped all six cans in the air.
I whistled.
Jacob changed cylinders and holstered his .44.
The Navy Colt was in my hand, part of my arm, and I knew where the ball would strike before the hammer fell. Six cans flinched; I did not slip the ball under them, which would flip them up; rather, I punched through them.
It was Jacob's turn to whistle.
I reloaded the cylinder rather than switch cylinders. We walked up on the cans.
I picked up a peach can and tossed it in the air with one hand, raised the Navy Colt, and punched a hole in it at the top of its rise.
Jacob grinned and picked up a can with his gun hand; flipping the can up, under handed, he tried to draw, but the can hit the ground before he could bring the pistol to bear.
We both tried again, each of us with pistol in one hand, tin can in the other.
The .44 spoke with a heavier voice, but was as accurate as the .36. It should be; they were choke bored, with a gain twist, and with round balls were quite accurate.
I watched Jacob closely. He was confident, but not over-confident; he handled the big revolver with respect, and handled it safely. Not once did his muzzle swing my way.
Finally we gathered the shredded cans -- or, rather, the fine collection of holes, loosely connected by a few shreds of tin plated steel -- and headed back to the office.
Sam was in a placid mood. He saw no need to run, and neither did I; still, his long legs covered ground at a good rate, and we were back in but a short time.
I saw someone I wanted to talk to coming out of Bonnie's new place.
"Jacob," I said, "tether Sam in front of the office, and heat up some water so we can clean these for the night. I'll be along directly."
"Yes, sir!" Jacob grinned, and led Sam to the hitch rail across the street.
I approached the stranger, stuck out my hand with a smile. "You wouldn't be Sam Peters, would you?" I asked.
I had no idea the stranger's name, nor his business, but I had learned the trick of asking some made-up name to find out what I wanted to know.
The fellow looked a bit puzzled. "No, sir, my name is Caleb Rosenthal, and I have delivered a shipment of goods for Miss McKenna."
I nodded. "My mistake. Welcome to Firelands, Mr. Rosenthal, and thank you most kindly for the delivery. She has been looking forward to this for quite some time!"

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Lady Leigh 8-29-07


Caleb was finishing puting bolts of fabric in the wall unit cases. He chuckled at whoever had built them was going to have to build more. His father did not skimp on what was sent. He looked over at Sarah, who was looking at him.

"What's up, Sarah?"

I heard you say the name Sam's Place ... Mama didn't like it there ... I heard Tilly tell Auntie Esther that Mama cried alot then ..."

Caleb walked over to a chair by Bonnie's desk, and motioned the child to come to him. he was tempted to quiz Sarah on the happenings of Bonnie. He ran a hand back across his nearly black hair -- a habit when perplexed --, but if Caleb was going to give Bonnie the benefit of doubt, and to trust her, he thought better than to go behind her back ... especially the back of a child, "How unfair is that!", Caleb questioned himself.

Sarah climbed right up onto Calebs lap, "When you was little, Mr Rosenthal, did you like school?"

"Not as much as my oldest brother, David, but it was fine ... good most of the time. WHy?"

"School starts next week ... Mama says I need to stop fretting."

"What are you fretting about?"

"The other kids ..."

"Are you afraid of them or something?"

"Not afraid of them, just afraid they'll hurt my feelings."

"Kids can be cruel with what they say, but often they don't really mean it, Sarah."

"Hmmm .... that's what Mama said! Spose I should buck up, huh?"

Chuckling, Caleb inquired, "Buck up?"

"Yah! You know ... stop being a baby and all that."

"Well, Sarah, seems your Mama has already given you good advise. And between you an me, you are hardly a baby."

Sarah gave him a big smile, and Caleb gave her a squueze with his arm. "Seems to me, Sarah, we can't do anything more here. Let's leave and wait for your Mama over by Attourney's office."

"I heard Mama tell Auntie Duzy that she thinks Mr. Moulton likes her, but Mama doesn't want any man to like her right now."

"Minds can change, Sarah ..."

"Good luck! She hasn't changed her mind about letting me not go to school!"

The two closed and locked the door, and Caleb pocketed the key, all the while looking at Sarah with an amuzed expression. Biologically, Bonnie and Sarah were not related, but my oh my, how Sarah reminded him of Bonnie! "Amazing!"

"What is Mr. Rosenthal?'

"You are!"

Sarah gigled, and as Caleb and she were turning, "You wouldn't be Sam Peters, would you?"

"No, sir, my name is Caleb Rosenthal, and I have delivered a shipment of goods for Miss McKenna."
He nodded. "My mistake. Welcome to Firelands, Mr. Rosenthal, and thank you most kindly for the delivery. She has been looking forward to this for quite some time!"

Sheriff Keller walked with Caleb and Sarah for a brief moment, then broke off into his own direction.

Bonnie stepped out of Mr. Moulton's office then, with Mr. Moulton close behind her. "No," Caleb thought, "She's not interested in him ..." Caleb had no intentions of leaving. He was going to be staying. He had enough patience to weather any storm that would be coming.

Bonnie turned to see Caleb and Sarah. The smile on her face was more than noticable. Micheal noticed it ....

"Good day to you, Mr. Moulton, and thank you again for all that you have done!"

"My pleasure, Miss McKenna .... I'll always be here at your service!"

Bonnie approached the two familiar faces coming toward her. Sarah broke loose of Caleb's hand and skipped to Bonnie, who embraced her in a hug. Bonnie glanced up to Caleb ... how he wished she would embrace him in a hug like that!

"What's that look for?"

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Linn Keller 8-29-07


Charlie leaned back in his chair, cleaning his nails with a small knife.
"You look restless," he said quietly.
"Yeah." I put down the papers I'd been studying and leaned back in the swivel chair, rubbing my face. "Got a feelin', Charlie."
"Me too."
Dawg's ears perked up and he looked out the open door. I perked up my own ears and heard Sarah's happy voice. I looked at the papers, opened the bottom desk drawer, laid them in.
"Find what you were lookin' for?"
"Yep. Moulton was kind enough to depose these two" -- I hooked my thumb toward the cells -- "everything they had to say is now affidavit, notarized and ready for court."
"Thought you planned to have their testimony," Charlie said mildly, eyes half-lidded.
"I'm not a trusting man, Charlie. Was someone to run up and toss a cast iron bomb through the window bars, our witnesses would testify to Saint Pete, which would not do us much good here below."
Charlie smiled. "Glad to hear you say it. I'd thought you had them deposed but you're right. Pays to be careful." He wiped the blade on his pants leg, folded it and tucked it back into a vest pocket. "Who's the fancy feller that brought Miz Bonnie all the goods?"
"Name's Rosenthal. Don't know much about him, but Miz Bonnie appears to know him well enough." I frowned. "Don't know if it will cause any trouble or not but I think Attorney Moulton is sweet on Miz Bonnie. He didn't look too happy when this Rosenthal fellow showed up."
"Oh?" Charlie knew the value of a simple, short reply when someone was inclined to talk, and he'd gauged me rightly. I was inclined to think out loud.
"Was Moulton inclined to be petty he might not do his best once this all comes to court. He might even side with those who would deprive Miz Bonnie of what's rightly hers, or worse yet, might give them information that could damage the rightful claim."
Charlie nodded, slowly. "Could happen."
"On the other hand," I continued, "Moulton might just try all the harder to win in court to win her favor."
Dawg watched the world as we sat in silence.
"You're still thinkin'."
I nodded.
"Suppose -- just suppose -- someone was to file a false claim and start mining. Now suppose -- just suppose -- the claim was proven false. The damage would be done. We'd have miners, prospectors, gamblers, scoundrels of all kinds, all looking for a fast buck, all looking to cause trouble. Especially once they found the mine was closed because the claim was not valid. That would give us immense amounts of grief."
Charlie nodded.
"Let's say Miz Bonnie's claim is accepted as legitimate. I know it is, you know it is, but gold has a way of bringing out scoundrels that will try and take what's hers." Again Charlie nodded, slowly, tipping his chair back. "So -- let's say Bonnie says "Let's open up a mine." She borrows against the mineral rights, a mining group is set up, a mine established. They'll have to bring in a stamping mill and a refinery. My little railroad will grow and run itself ragged, we'll have a land-office business at the hotel, Esther's fine dining establishment will have more business than she could handle ... but again, with great wealth comes great numbers of trouble makers."
"Could happen." Charlie brought his chair down with a thump. "What are you going to do about it?"
It was my turn to lean back and consider.
"I'm not about to throw a saddle until there's a horse to throw it on. By the same token I'm not going to be without a saddle when the horse is standing right in front of me. Reckon for now I'll watch and see what happens, but I'll be looking for candidates that might make good deputies."
"What happened to those Kentucky fellows? Daine, wasn't that their name?"
"Nelson Daine is still here in town. He's playing fiddle evenings in the saloon. Reckon he'd know where his kinfolk are."
"Might start there. They appeared to be worth a lookin' at."
I nodded. "Reckon so."

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Duzy Wales 8-30-07


Duzy landed in Jake arms, catching her as if she were a child, as he said, “Miz Duzy, I believe it would be a full time job just keeping you out of trouble!” He said it with a mischievous smile and a twinkle in his eyes, which were more blue now than green. “It does appear that way at times,” Duzy said laughing, as she let him hold her, with Duzy not trying in the least to disengage herself from his arms. He turned and sat her on the bar, as they looked at what they had accomplished that morning. They heard laughter and footsteps and suddenly pulled away, just in time for Aunt Esther, Sheriff Keller and the cavalrymen to walk into the “Silver Jewel.”

Everyone was impressed with the grandeur of the new establishment, as “The Silver Jewel” was now a hotel, with an adjoining gambling hall and saloon, and two restaurants! The plans had changed somewhat as it was being renovated, with Aunt Esther and Daisy deciding that they share the large kitchen, but have two eateries, one for everyday fare and the other being Esther’s finer restaurant for evening affairs. The buildings, along with “The House of McKenna” were taking up almost a block of the town of Firelands, with the hotel and gambling hall both being two stories high with windows overlooking the town.

Sheriff Keller served drinks to the men, as he drank coffee. Duzy and Jake excused themselves, saying there were more boxes to bring from the Depot to unpack and see what kind of new surprises were in store, as with each box it seemed there was something special that delighted Duzy, whether it was the quality of the glassware to the artwork or the beautiful chandeliers!

Duzy was delighted when she opened the boxes with the red velvet curtains that would enclose the stage when it was not in use. The fabric was still in pristine shape and as soon as the stage was installed and the curtains hung, “The Silver Jewel” would almost be complete!

Tom Landers and his men had been working from sunup to sundown, and the result was breathtaking! It had been built a lot like the picture of “The Crystal Palace in Tombstone, with the stage to be built at the end of the bar, in view of all the tables for drinking and the gambling tables on the opposite side.

Later that day Aunt Esther asked Duzy and Bonnie what they thought of “The Ruby Room” for the name of her restaurant. “As Duzy knows, my first name is Ruby and I would like that name to be included.” Duzy and Bonnie loved the name and thought it would be pretty written in a ruby color on the glass, trimmed in silver, with silver painted letters saying, “Fine Eating Establishment,” underneath “The Ruby Room,” as you entered the glass enclosed restaurant. They discussed it with Daisy, and decided to name her place “Daisy’s Kitchen.” Daisy loved serving everyday food and would keep her kitchen open for breakfast, midday and supper for a more relaxed atmosphere. “The Ruby Room,” was more opulent,” but between the two, they should draw most of the clientele from Firelands and surrounding areas, as well as those stopping by on their way through Firelands.

Duzy opened other boxes which turned out to be fine linens, sheets, towels, and beautiful hand stitched quilts. Duzy had wanted to see how Tilly was faring and asked Daisy if she minded helping her carry the linens through the adjoining door to the hotel to see if Miss Tilly could use any of the extra linens. Daisy had been so busy in the kitchen, that she didn’t know Miss Tilly had taken over the running of the hotel. The two friends stared at each other for a moment and then tears welled in their eyes as they hugged. Not having to say a word, it was obvious that the two gave each other strength in their new endeavors, as they marveled at how their lives, and the other girls from Sam’s Place, had changed in such a short time.

At first, some of the men who had known the women had made some comments, as well as the women in Firelands, but with a few well placed words from Sheriff Keller, Mr. Moulton, Tom Landers, Charlie MacNeil, Duzy and Aunt Esther, the gossip had stopped and the townspeople could see what wonderful work the ladies were doing. They had stopped being unkind and were offering to help out in any way they could. Tilly had a full staff, with most of the help coming from Sam’s Place. She was delighted with the new linens and gave the ladies a tour of the new “Silver Jewel Hotel.” The walls shined from cleaning and waxing and the floors were spotless. The quilts would add a finishing touch to the rooms, with large glass windows, making the rooms airy and comfortable.

Duzy left to send the wires to see who could be there for opening night and for the festivities of the week to follow, as they would be celebrating the openings of “The Silver Jewel Hotel, Gambling Hall and Saloon,” the “Ruby Room,” and “Daisy’s Kitchen,” right alongside with “The House of McKenna!” in a very short time!

Duzy looked around and couldn't have been more proud, as she knew that they had already helped more people than any dozen of articles she could have written. It seemed she had beat the men of Firelands, who had caused her to be fired, at their own games! She thought of all her new found friends, and then Jake Thomas, and it seemed that all was right with the world at that moment.

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Linn Keller 8-30-07


Just fiddlin'


Jacob cocked his head and watched Fiddler Daine in the corner, quietly coaxing a melody from the curl-back fiddle. His music could scarcely be heard over the contented conversation until you got close, and Jacob, interested, sat close.
Nelson Daine smiled. He'd been a young boy, once, and remembered being entranced by an old fellow with a fiddle. He did not have the gray beard of his mentor, but he knew the magic that lived in a fiddle, and after drawing his bow across the rosin block and tapping it gently on the edge of the table to knock off the excess, he drew the bow quickly, lightly, across the strings, coaxing out a "Whip-poor-Will, Whip-poor-Will."
Jacob grinned in delight
Mr. Rosenthal was seated near the front door. "Mind if I join you?" I asked.
A wave of the hand was my reply. I drew out a chair, sat down, turning a little so the wall was more to my back.
"Mr. Rosenthal, I am of a mind to have coffee and some apple pie. Would you join me, sir?"
Caleb Rosenthal was many things, but one thing in which he took a justifiable pride was in being a businessman -- and as a businessman he knew an invitation to a possible proposal when he heard one.
"Why, yes, thank you, I would."
I looked through the crowd, saw Daisy, waved. She waved back and held up the coffee pot. I nodded, held up two fingers, made another double gesture which she didn't quite catch, but she weaved her way quickly through the crowd with the coffee pot and two shining mugs. "What'll you have, Sheriff?" she asked, laying her hand on my shoulder.
"Daisy, dear heart," I said, laying my hand on hers, "if I was twenty years younger I'd sweep you off your feet and run away with you."
Daisy laughed. "Sheriff, if you were twenty years younger, you'd have a good looking filly and a passel of young ones and you wouldn't have time for sweeping anyone off their feet!"
We laughed together. "True enough!" I agreed. "Say, you got any of that real good apple pie left?"
She put her hands on her hips. "Do I have any left? Why, Sheriff, I've been saving a whole one just for you!"
I winked at Caleb. "Well, I could probably eat the whole thing myself but I don't want to look piggish. How about a slice for Mr. Rosenthal and one for me?"
"Oh, I think I can do that. Specially for you, now!" She turned to Rosenthal and, drying her hands on her apron, asked, "And will be there anything else for you?"
Caleb blinked, a little surprised at her familiarity with me, but smiled, relaxing visibly. "If I could have some cream for my coffee, please?" he asked.
"Got some fresh in the spring house, nice and cool. Be right back!" She turned with a swing of her skirt and wove neatly through the crowd, coffee pot held out of harm's way.
Caleb chuckled, clearly pleased.
I'd hoped he would be.
When Daisy brought our pie, she'd taken that fresh, still warm from baking pie, cut it in half, cut it in half again the other way, and served us each a quarter of a whole pie. Caleb looked at this feast with surprise and almost dismay, but at the first bite any doubts as to whether he could clean his plate, disappeared.
I already knew how good Daisy's pies were. A slice of pie, and some coffee, was a full meal for a grown man, and nearly so for a tall boy.
Conversation was kind of slow for a bit, as it is when two hungry men find something very much to their liking, but it picked up, and I had something in mind.
I leaned back, took a swig of coffee. "Mr. Rosenthal, I take it you are a businessman."
His demeanor changed instantly. I had his full attention, but his guard was up. I figured he has probably been slickered in the past, and was on his guard against a repeat. Don't blame him. I've been swindled my own self, and it never did set right with me.
"What do you have in mind?" he asked, professional mask in place.
"As a businessman you probably have dealings with the legal system."
He nodded, cautiously: "Yes, on occasion."
"And you occasionally hire attorneys to tend certain matters on your behalf."
Again, a cautious nod; I could see the gears turning behind his eyes as he tried to figure where the conversation was going.
"Mr. Rosenthal, our local attorney, Mr. Moulton, is a competent young man, more than adequate for the demands here in Firelands. He is, however, only one man. Has Bonnie McKenna discussed her situation with you?"
"Not in great detail, no."
I admired his caution, and especially his discretion.
"I am not betraying a confidence if I tell you that she has considerable resources to her name. Fact is, I'm partners with her, Miz Duzy and Miz Esther. We're in all this" -- I waved my hand to indicate the bar, the hotel, the restaurant -- "all of us. There's more, of course, but I'll let Bonnie discuss it with you." I leaned forward. "Mr. Rosenthal, do you have access to lawyers who could take on a sizeable Eastern corporation?"
"That would depend," he said, steepling his fingers, quickly reviewing what little Bonnie had confided in him. "That would depend on the size of the corporation and the matters in dispute."
"'Dispute' is the right word," I nodded. "I think we should sit down together and discuss the matter. Let me ask this another way: Let's say I own mineral rights over what has been assayed as a healthy vein of gold and possibly silver. Just me, nobody else. Let's say there is a group back East that wants to file a false claim on what's mine. Would you have acquaintance of attorneys that could fight this?"
Caleb Rosenthal's gears were almost audible as they ground this information. "Yes, I believe so."
I nodded.
"I understand you know Bonnie from before."
He smiled. "We have known one another since childhood."
I smiled, remembering such a friend. "Bonnie is a wonderful woman. She has overcome adversity that probably would have killed any three weaker women. Hell, what she's been through would have killed most men!" I drained my coffee mug, held it for a long moment before setting it down. "She is now a respected business woman, admired for having a dream and for making it live."
Caleb Rosenthal did not miss my reference to the past tense.
"She is now?" he asked carefully.
"Mr. Rosenthal, I am very close to overstepping myself here, so forgive me if I tread lightly. Bonnie is a lady in the finest sense of the word. She has conducted herself as such since the moment I met her, and she is a woman to be proud of. She has earned my respect, and my trust, and I do not give my trust easily, nor lightly."
Daisy appeared from nowhere, flashed a smile and refilled our coffee mugs, and disappeared just as quickly.
Mr. Rosenthal leaned back in his chair, considering.
"When the time is right, she will speak of it," I said. "You have been her friend for a very long time, I take it."
He raised his eyes from the spotless table cloth, nodded.
"She has your trust, then, and you have hers."
Again, a nod.
"When the time is right, then. In the meantime, if you can think of a firm that would have the necessary clout to stop a group of underhanded scoundrels from taking our mineral rights, I would be very much obliged."
"Just how rich is Bonnie's vein?"
I smiled. "Mr. Rosenthal, I never said she had anything of the kind. Like I said, when the time is right, she will confide in you." I pushed my empty plate away, reached for my hat. "Thank you for your company. A meal is much more pleasant when shared."
I gave the room a final looking-over before I headed for the door; I gave the street a looking-over before I stepped outside.
Two fellows were loafing near the front of Bonnie's emporium.
They paid me no mind as I walked by, but I paid them close attention. Two drifters I'd seen around town earlier that day, down-at-the-heel sorts, the kind that used to frequent Sam's when it was also a down-at-the-heel place.
"Say, Sheriff," one of them spoke as I walked past.
I turned, smiling, loose, watchful.
"What happened to Sam's? How's a man supposed to get a drink and a woman in a fancy place like this?"
"Why, haven't you heard?" I replied mildly. "Firelands is respectable now. We don't run that kind of place here any more."
He frowned, puzzled. "Who runs this?"
The other one spat. "The same whores we used to use--"
I backhanded him across the face.
He staggered, reached for his Colt.
The muzzle of my Navy was punched up under his chin, hard. "Go ahead," I hissed from between clenched teeth. "Go right ahead."
Slowly, carefully, he raised his hand, palm out, shaking a little. His fellow was carefully immobile.
"Understand me," I continued, quietly, my voice heavy with menace. "We don't do that here anymore. We, are respectable. The ladies, are respectable. You will, conduct, yourself, as a gentleman, or you will leave and I don't care if you leave peaceable or otherwise. Now you are welcome to a quiet drink and a meal as long as you behave yourself but understand me mister: you try anything and every man in this town is either an old soldier or an Indian fighter or a buffalo hunter and you will be shot full of holes and lynched unless they skin you alive first and drown you in the nearest spittoon." I eased the pressure off his bottom jaw, eased the Navy's hammer down between the nipples and holstered. "Now if you still want to try me, try me right now."
"Come on, let's go," his friend said nervously, his words quick and choppy.
The departed at a gallop.
Mr. Rosenthal pursed his lips.
"Interesting system of justice you have here," was his only comment.

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Linn Keller 8-30-07


Special Delivery


There was only one road into town.
Jacob was leaning forward, weight on the stirrups, squinting into the wind. Tears trickled out the corners of his eyes and into his ears and he had a grin on his face few had seen.
Sam, too, was enjoying the run. Sam was big, and Sam was strong, and Sam was tired of loafing in the livery, so when Linn suggested Jacob take Sam out for some exercise, Jacob didn't hesitate.
It took a few moments for them to shorten the stirrups; they trotted up the main street, and soon as they passed the last building Sam chuckled down deep in his chest and Jacob leaned up in the stirrups and whispered, "Go, boy."
Sam didn't need to be told twice.
Jacob gave him his head, confident Sam would not over tax himself. He didn't want to wind-break the Sheriff's mount, nor pull a ham string, but God Almighty, he thought, I have never run so fast in my life!
When the Conquistadors landed, and the natives first beheld mounted troops, they didn't realize these were men on horseback; they thought them a magical creature, one living being. There is that rare moment, that magic time, when a horse and rider do indeed become one, and Jacob and Sam experienced that, here, now, pounding along the road, Sam's nose straight out, his ears straight back, grunting with pleasure with every hard thrust against the earth, hooves pounding with a muted, thundering rhythm, tail straight back in the wind; Jacob's hat, clenched in his hand, forgotten, his hair loose in the wind, the wind reaching cold fingers down his shirt.
They came over a low rise and a wagon stood in the middle of the road.
Sam avoided it easily; Jacob, firm in the saddle as a burr in a dog's fur, looked back.
Something was wrong.
"Ho," he called to Sam, and Sam came about in a big arc, slowing as they came into the wagon from its side.
Jacob's heart plummeted as he saw a woman lying beside the wagon, half doubled up, obviously in a goodly amount of pain. A man knelt beside her, distraught and looking at Jacob as if blind in his misery.
Jacob dropped Sam's reins and landed on the ground on the balls of his feet. "How can I help?" he called, running toward them.
"It's my wife," the man said, voice shaking. "She's ... she's ..."
The woman rolled over on her back and screamed.
She was very, very pregnant.
Jacob shivered. He knew what to do.
"Get me a blanket," he said, "start a fire and I need some string." The man looked at him, lost.
Jacob drew himself up, all ten years of skinny kid, threw back his shoulders and barked, "MOVE!"
The man blinked, looked around as if he'd just wakened, and went to the back of the wagon.
"My name's Jacob," he said to the woman. "How near is the child?"
"Near," she whispered, sweat beading on her forehead.
"Will this do?" the father asked, holding out a surprisingly clean blanket.
"That'll do fine," Jacob said, snapping the folds out and laying it beside the mother. "Now, Mother, scoot yourself over here on this blanket."
"Oh, not on the blanket," she moaned, "I can't wash it here!"
"You let me worry about that, ma'am," Jacob said, tossing his hat aside. "Now scoot!"
He helped her scoot, what little he could, then he seized her skirt and petticoats and pulled them up. "Ma'am, I am sorry but you have to undress from the belt down."
"What?" the husband exclaimed, but the mother began to struggle out of her smallclothes.
"Has to be done, sir," Jacob said, an edge to his voice. "The baby is comin' whether we like it or not."
"Oh Goddlemighty," the father said, looking like he was going to be sick.
"Mister, you planted the seed, now you help with the harvest!" Jacob shouted. "Get me a bucket half full of water!"
"Water," the man muttered, and struggled upright.
"Ma'am, how far apart are your pains?" Jacob asked. "Raise your bottom now." He scooted the blanket up under her backside, folding it into a pad against the hard ground.
"Close," she grated between clenched teeth.
Her water broke.
Her husband had just set the bucket down beside Jacob when her waters let loose.
Her husband collapsed.
"He'll be fine," Jacob said reassuringly. "I've delivered babies before. My name's Jacob, what's yours?"
"Miriam," she gasped.
"Pleased to meet you, Miriam. How many babies have you had already?"
"Two --" she took a deep breath, groaned, fists clenched, face reddening.
"Yes, Mama?" a girl's voice said.
Jacob looked up. A girl about his age was walking around the wagon, a cloth tied over her eyes, navigating by keeping one hand on the wagon.
"Stop right there, miss," Jacob said, "you'll trip over the man."
The girl stopped. "Mama?" she asked.
"Miriam," the woman gasped, "get a knife!"
"Yes, Mama," the girl said, and went to the back of the wagon.
"Ma'am? Is her name Miriam, or yours?"
The woman gasped, panted, relaxed her clenched fists. "Miriam is my daughter." She tilted her head back, groaned. "She's blind."
Miriam came back around the wagon, hesitated, felt with the toe of her shoe til she found her father's unconscious body. She worked her way around him, carefully, and following Jacob's voice, handed him the knife.
"Now put the knife under my head," the woman husked. "Quick, before the pains come again."

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Linn Keller 8-30-07


Jacob laid a hand on her belly, felt the ripple of muscles and new life struggling. "Yes, ma'am. You're close now, real close."
The woman took in another great gasping breath, gritted her teeth, and let out a long groan: her face, red, almost purple, and the cords standing out on her neck spoke of her effort.
"Mama?" Miriam asked. "Mama, are you all right?"
Jacob guided her gently to her mother and Miriam knelt, holding her mother's hand, cradling her head. "Mama, I'm here, I'm here."
Jacob looked up. "Head's a-comin'," he said, excitement in his voice.
The mother relaxed, panting.
"Ma'am, you are doin' fine, and I am proud of you," Jacob said solidly. "So far we're lookin' real good. I have helped my Mama birth babies and you are doin' just fine."
"You wait'll I get hold of him," she husked, "I am going to take a frying pan to his AAAAHHHHHHH!!!!"
"Mama! Mama, I'm here, I'm here!"
Jacob caught the head and slipped a finger under one shoulder, pulling down a little, then suddenly he had a double handful of slippery, wiggling, newborn infant. He threw his head back and let out a yell of triumph.
"Mother!" he exclaimed. "You have a fine baby --" he looked -- "boy!"
He turned the child over, careful not to drop the slippery, struggling newborn, and drained the lungs.
The child was not happy with all the noise and the light, and started to voice his unhappiness with the situation.
The mother laughed and cried and so did Miriam.
The father was still out cold.
Sam switched his tail and decided that grass was more interesting than whatever they were doing.

A covered wagon coming into Firelands was a rare enough sight, but the wagon halting in front of Doc Greenlees' office was a signal that something was amiss.
Jacob made a quick report to the doctor and helped the mother into his office, then he mounted Sam and trotted over to the sheriff's office.
Charlie was standing outside, leaning against the door frame, deceptively relaxed.
Jacob was doing his best not to look agitated but his voice shook just a little. "Sir? Where's the Sheriff?"
Charlie knew something was out of the ordinary when Jacob asked for "the Sheriff" instead of for Linn. He nodded toward the hotel.
"Thank you, sir," Jacob said, touching his hat brim, and Sam trotted over to the Silver Jewel, Dawg trotting with him.

Daisy poured him a basin of hot water and Jacob scrubbed his hands, his face. His clothes were still clean, all but the knees of his trousers, but no boy's trousers ever have clean knees.
Linn put his arm around Jacob's shoulders. "Sounds like you did a fine job, Jacob. Let's go down to Doc's office and see how they are."

They'd set out on their own, the husband said, ahead of the wagon train: their directions were good, or so he thought, and they ended up here, well off their intended route of march. They were still well set for supplies, their mules were in good shape, as was the wagon itself.

I scratched my chin. "It will take you a couple of weeks to get back on the trail. By then the wagon train will have passed and you'll be on your own in hostile territory."
"Could settle here," Jacob suggested.
"Good soil, good water," I added. "We're building a school house. We'll be holding school in the church until then." I grinned. "Tell you what. Let's get you-all settled in for the night and we'll worry about all else tomorrow."
"Kindly of you," the man said, looking at Jacob. "Son, thank you. I am very glad you came along."
"Yes, sir," Jacob said with his customary politeness.
Doc came out of the back room, closed the door quietly. He put his finger to his lips. "She's resting now," he said, "and so's the child, but the poor little fellow was hungry!" He grinned at Jacob. "Understand you delivered the baby, son."
"Yes, sir."
"You've done it before."
"Yes, sir. I helped my Mama with hers."
"You did a fine job, son. What did you tie the cord with?"
"Horsehair, sir."
"Horsehair!" Doc grinned. "There's one for the books!" He looked out the window at the mules, still in harness. "Horse hair, or mule hair?"
"Horse hair, sir. I was fairly sure Sam wouldn't kick but I didn't know about those mules."
"Smart boy," Doc muttered. "I wasn't quite so wise when I was your age." He rubbed the small of his back at the memory, then he looked over at the young lady sitting blindfolded and still in a chair. "What's this?"
"This is Miriam," Jacob said. "She's her daughter." He nodded toward the closed door.
"She hurt?" Doc addressed the father in a tone that brooked no nonsense.
"No, sir. She's blind."
"Want me to take a look?"
The father shrugged.
Doc knelt before the girl. "Miriam?"
Miriam raised her head, turned her face toward him.
"Miriam, I'm Doc Greenlees. I'd like to take a look at your eyes." He took her hands. She rose at his touch.
I squeezed Jacob's shoulder. "Tell you what," I said to the father, "I think you could use a good square meal. We'll have Shorty look after your mules, we'll get you all fed, bedded down for the night, and we can start fresh in the morning, how's that?"
He nodded. "Thank you," was all he could say.

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Lady Leigh 8-30-07


The evening was chilled, and a shawl clad Bonnie and frock coated Caleb were taking a stroll. Bonnie knew very well that this evenings conversation would break or make the relationship she hoped to salvage with, not only Caleb, but the Rosenthal family. She struggled with how to bring it up. Struggled with how to make it all understood. Struggled with how she would come across to Caleb as she fervently tried to explain to him. Struggled ....

Caleb could tell by the way Bonnie was clutching her shawl to her chest and biting her bottom lip that she was, more than likely, going to fill him on the details he wanted to know. As children, communication came easy to them. As they grew, communication came easy to them both through their letters.

He had a fairly good idea what transpired with Bonnie after Polly and Margaret died. He just didn't know how something like that could have happened. The Bonnie he knew ... or thought he knew ... would never allow herself to be prostituted in order to make a living. Then he mentally thumped himself across the head remembering the little tid bits Sarah, Duzy and the Sheriff had said, realizing that Bonnie NEVER would have willingly done something so unspeakable.

"Caleb? How long will you be staying in Firelands?"

"As long as I need to." Forever, he thought.

"Out of curiosity .... have you heard anything .... maybe about me?"

"Not much ... The Sheriff has only the highest regard for you, as does Duzy and Esther .... Sarah made a comment though ..."

Bonnie could only imagin what Sarah could have said.

Caleb continued, "She said you cried alot ... said you are not interested in male companionship. I don't suppose you would care to fill me in, would you?"


Continued walking.

The moon was full and light was abundant. Caleb glanced over to Bonnie and saw a tear slide down her cheek. "Caleb ... I don't even know how to explain to you the last three years .... Mama and Margaret died. They were buried. I was distraught, but not unfocused, Caleb. I was considering selling the boarding house and going back to Chicago. The next thing I remembered was ...."



"Bonnie ... I believe I have already pieced together a little bit, so let me try to make this easier for you. It has something to do with Sam's Place, doesn't it?"

"Not the Sam's Place you see today, Caleb. A Sam's Place that was filthy, horrible ... degrading .... Caleb! I don't know what happened to lead me there. Tilly says I came there drugged. And during that state I signed a contract ..."

"Tilly was one of the girls there, too"


"You say you don't know how it all took place?"

Bonnie nodded, and another tear slid down, following the path of the ones before it.

"Bonnie ... look at me. Please ...."

With his thumb and index finger, Caleb lifted her chin, though Bonnie's eyes still did not focus on his.

"Bonnie? ... We'll find out what happened. Maybe, to a certain degree it doesn't totally matter. Afterall, look at yourself for who you are today. You may be bruised, but you are strong, too, and with time ... time, Bonnie ... time heals."

Now her eyes did meet his, "Bonnie, I could not ... I would not, hold what happened to you against you. If you were drugged and taken there against your will, then that wasn't you. What you had to endure, was horrible, but NOW is a different time in your life. Now you can start living again."

This was the Caleb Bonnie had always loved. Had always respected. This was the boy she promised her life to at the age of 9. This was the man she could ... probably ...

"Bonnie? Do you have any reason why someone would have done that to you?"

"Well ... yes, I think I do. Papa bought shares to some mineral rights .... well, not just a few. It seems he amassed the mineral rights to this whole area!"

"Actually, Bonnie, I am somewhat familiar to that knowledge. Do you suppose someone is trying to get them for him, or themselves?"

"Probably ... but what I don't understand, is why keep me alive? I mean, wouldn't it have been easier to have access to them if there was no one to hold claim to them?"

"Sweet, Bonnie. I am forever glad you were kept alive. For what ever the evil reason were behind all of that, I am thrilled to have not lost you .... Bonnie! We will get to the bottom of this! The trangressions of the past are in the past. Today is a new day. And when tomorrow is a new day, the sun will be shinning, and that means hope, Bonnie ... HOPE!

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Duzy Wales 8-30-07


Duzy agreed to meet Jake back at “The Silver Jewel,” to finish unpacking the few crates that were left to be opened.

“So tell me, how do you know my Aunt Esther and my Papa,” Duzy asked?

Jake hesitated, and then said, “Your Papa helped me get my first job and we have been friends since.” I met Aunt Esther while visiting at your home, but you were always away at school!”

“What was the job?”

“Do you remember meeting President Hayes, Duzy?”

“Oh, of course I do, I was very excited to meet him!”

“I had just graduated from West Point at that time and I got a position with President Hayes, mostly doing odd jobs for his Administration.”

At that time, Duzy opened a crate and gasped at the nude artwork of a voluminous woman, lying back on a chaste lounge, long dark hair, with dancing brown eyes, obviously enjoying posing for the painting, with a smile of wisdom and yet the playfulness of a child, as she enjoyed the camera lens on her body. She was beautiful and free spirited and Duzy loved the way she could abandon herself to such a degree….

“Yes, I remember thinking at the time, “what are you really thinking right now, President Hayes, as you give us your attention, momentarily, while your mind is elsewhere?” I could see his visions and his nightmares,” and then Duzy caught herself, and turned and picked the canvas up, and turned it to Jake, and said,

“Where would you think this should hang?”

Jake looked at it and said, “wherever you think, Duzy, for right now I only see her in you, the same brown eyes, the same long dark hair, the dancing eyes, if I look at her, I see you, but when I look at you, I have no need of the painting, that is unless you were away from me, and then, I would cherish it, as I could see a part of you!” Duzy was speechless, probably for the first time ever….that she could remember, as he was so different from Luke, and yet she had only the two men to compare and still, neither of them in so many ways! And now, Luke was gone…..

“I will think on it, perhaps I will hang it above my bed!” Duzy stated, almost with a challenge in her voice….

Duzy knew she was flirting with danger, Jake Thomas may be honorable, and trusted, but when it came to a lady’s heart, she would have to place guards, as she had a lot to do before tying herself down to a husband and children. She did hope she had that chance someday…….

Duzy thought it best to say goodnight to the handsome and charming, Jake Thomas. He looked at her tenderly and kissed her hand, saying, goodnight Darlin’, Duzy, making her eyes open even wider as she looked in his. He gave her a quick kiss on her lips and said, “Sweet dreams, Duzy, May I see you tomorrow?” “We shall see,” she said.

Duzy went to sleep and images of a man coming on a train came to her. He was well dressed, and sure of himself. He knew the world. But, she felt the feeling of evil…..and yet she felt the need to protect. He was just an image, no clear picture of his face, at least not yet…..who could it be? Who needed protection, herself, him, or someone else?

So, she did as she was advised, writing the dream in her journal and then practiced her meditation and yoga….stretching and relaxing and then wrote again, within fifteen minutes, what she remembered in her journal, and returned to her exercise. It had been proven that if you read anything 15 minutes after reading it the first time you will remember it 85% more correctly…and Duzy wanted to see if relaxing the mind could help even more so, as she felt that it was going to take all she had in the coming months to succeed and help all the ladies to succeed, as they somehow understood, even from coming from so many different backgrounds….that it was them against the world, except for a few good Cowboys, a lot of experience, and the knowledge to always be prepared!

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Linn Keller 8-30-07


I was restless, and when I was restless, I prowled.
Charlie was much the same. He knew Firelands more than intimately. He'd taken pains to discover every alley, passage, path, hidey-hole and corner where the shadows welcomed the skulker and hid the sinful.
I'd been all over the hotel at one time or another. I knew its hallways, passageways, stairways, closets, cubbies, and back doors; I knew the steps, which ones squeaked, which one squeaked abominably, and which ones were silent; I knew how much of a room could be seen from each doorway, and where the mirrors were, and how much I could not see even with the mirrors.
There was a good bright moon out, the bar was quiet, the street deserted; I hesitated in the shadow beside the hotel, in the alley up from the livery, then strode across the street toward the sheriff's office.
Charlie saw me coming and opened the door at my approach. "You make a fine target in the moonlight," he greeted me.
I nodded. "Jacob around?"
"He's in back, washing up."
I nodded.
"Something wrong?"
"No," I smiled quietly, "just wanted to make sure he'd made it in."
"He's fine." Charlie looked toward the desk. "Recall those affidavits?"
"Sure do." I hung my hat up, gave the coffee pot a swirl. Heat from the cast iron stove felt good. Nights were getting cooler and the sky was clear as a bell, promising it would be a bit more chilly tonight.
"Been going over 'em."
"You, too?"
Jacob came to the doorway, coat in one hand and a brush in the other. He'd been tidying up his duds, though the knees of his trousers were still a bit the worse for his day's adventure.
"Found you a cot," I said. "It isn't much but it'll keep you off the floor."
Jacob smiled, delight lighting his young face. "Thank you, sir," he said quietly.
"Even got you a blanket. The ladies over at the hotel figured you'd need one."
Jacob looked almost uncomfortable, as if not sure how to respond to simple human kindness. He chewed on his upper lip and nodded, looking away.
"Doc was impressed with your delivery," Charlie spoke up. "Especially using horsehair. He said it makes a fine suture but he'd never used it to tie a cord. Said you must have a delicate touch, to keep from cutting through the cord with it."
"How are they?" Jacob asked.
I looked at Charlie and he looked quietly pleased. He's known what it is to have a child, I thought. The smile in his eyes drifted down over the rest of his face. "They're fine, son. We've got 'em put up in the hotel for tonight."
"The girl," Jacob said. "Did Doc say why she's blind?"
Charlie shook his head. "Don't recall hearin'." I shook my head as well.
Jacob nodded, looking toward the door.
Charlie was close to the shuttered window, looked out the loop hole.
"Jacob?" he said. "She's outside the hotel, if you'd like to go say hello."
Jacob spun the coat about his shoulders, stepped over to the peg and took down his hat, then hesitated, looking at me. "Sir?" he asked, hat in his hand.
I nodded toward the door. "Nice night for a walk," I said. "Don't take her too far, she's likely tired out from the day."
"Thank you, sir." He clapped the hat on his head, lifted the latch, looked about before he stepped outside.
"He learns well," Charlie commented.
"He does that," I agreed.
"Reckon he'll remember to button his coat?"
I thought of the handle of his Army revolver, visible with his coat off. "He'd better," I said.

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Linn Keller 8-30-07


"Miriam?" Jacob asked.
Miriam turned toward him, smiled. She had on a fresh frock, her hair was brushed, and the cloth over her eyes matched the dress she wore. "Jacob!" she said, smiling. "You're out late!"
"So are you."
"Oh, I couldn't sleep," she said, taking a small step toward the street.
Jacob stopped directly in front of her, but still standing on ground level. "Neither could I," he said, which was not entirely true; he'd not laid down for the night, and it's hard to sleep while on your feet, though not impossible. Still ...
"I'm told the Silver Jewel is beautiful," Miriam said.
"Yes, it is," Jacob nodded.
"Describe it for me."
Jacob frowned. How could you describe something to a blind girl?
"Well," he began, "it's got big windows ..."
"Are there curtains?"
"Yes, there are red velvet curtains in front, and red trim inside."
"Are there pictures? And mirrors?"
"Yes, there are both," he said. "The woodwork is stained and dark and shining, and the floors are clean and shining, and there are three pianos. I think one is a player piano -- you know, it plays itself -- but I don't know why they have three --"
"Pianos?" Miriam turned her head abruptly toward him. "Jacob, are there pianos?"
"Yes, three of them, but --"
"Take me to them!"
"Okay ..." There was uncertainty in his voice, and even less certainty in his expression.
"Give me your arm," Miriam said. "Yes, like that." She took his arm like she'd done it all her life, and Jacob leaned forward and opened the door, and they went in.
Daisy was doing some last minute cleaning before they closed for the night, and smiled at the sight of the pair walking down the row of gambling tables. They stopped at the middle of the three pianos.
Miriam reached out a hand, found polished wood, explored a little more, smiled.
Jacob pulled the piano bench out just a little, and Miriam smoothed the material under her and sat, caressing the dark finish, smiling a little, head tilted as if listening.
She opened the cover, exposing the keys.
Daisy opened her mouth to caution the two not to play with the piano.
She closed her mouth when Miriam began to play.
Jacob drew up a chair and sat, entranced.
Daisy leaned her elbows over the polished bar, and remembered.
Upstairs, her mother, in bed with her little boy-child, heard the piano and smiled.
Her father snored.
Caleb, in another room, heard the piano, classically played, and smiled in the darkness, knowing that if he heard such music, masterfully played, he was never far from civilization.
Jake, in another room, heard it as well. He, too, smiled, remembering another time, remembering a grand ballroom and Southern belles.
Miriam played beautifully. She played the classics, she played a waltz, she played songs far older than her young lifetime; she played a lively air she knew as "Pretty Redwing" and songs of lost love, sung by both North and South during that terrible war.
They forgot time, there in the empty Jewel, as Miriam filled it with music.
She played long into the night, then with a final caressing brush of the keys, stopped.
Miriam listened to the silence, when she quit playing, and closed the lid over the keys, gently, carefully.
"Thank you, Jacob," she said. "I think I can sleep now."
Jacob stood. "Good night, Miriam," he said quietly, and walked with her to the polished staircase.
Miriam walked up the stairs with the confidence of one normally sighted.
Daisy gazed at the piano, a faraway look in her eyes.
Jacob, looking a little lost, walked back across to the sheriff's office, and to bed.

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Duzy Wales 8-31-0


After Duzy quit meditating, her mind felt calmer, and yet she had questions that seemed to come out of the fog she had been in lately. Luke Hawkins had been a lifelong friend, and she had never mourned him. Why? He had been killed without an investigation, or not that she had seen, and yet as a journalist, she had never questioned it. Why? Who would have killed him? How was he killed? Who knew he was in Firelands? It seemed there were many things she didn’t understand, and yet she remembered the images of the hooded character, the coins, and all the blood.

She knew his parents were dead and that he was an only child; but, was there anyone back in North Carolina who needed to be notified? Should she write her Papa and tell him, knowing he should know if there was anyone close to Luke that would be missing him?

Duzy had always felt close to the spirit world in graveyards. She knew the spirits were always around her, but somehow the graveyard felt sacred. She strapped on her Colts and decided to walk to Luke’s grave, hoping to get some answers. Aunt Esther, Bonnie and Sarah were asleep; Tilly was residing at the hotel. She slipped out, carrying a lamp to light her way.

Duzy trusted Sheriff Keller and Marshall MacNeil, so why would she have these questions? Why did she feel that she had not taken Luke’s death as seriously as it had been? Why had she not questioned it before now?

As she was walking she thought of the buggy and two horses that Aunt Esther had acquired in the deal with the house, and she thought of her own Paint, Edi, and decided it was time that she quit walking everywhere, not for her own sake, but to be close to Edi again, to ride her and love her.

Aunt Esther was still a good rider and Duzy didn’t know about Bonnie, but maybe they would like to ride, and little Sarah needed to learn. She decided to discuss it with Aunt Esther and Bonnie the next morning, to get some feedback on her thoughts. Should they repair the old barn or continue to pay Shorty to take care of the horses. She knew he exercised and fed them well; and, soon the ladies would be spending more time in town than at home. It may be best for Shorty to take care of them, but for the ladies to take them out and give them companionship. Duzy could almost see Sarah’s delight at learning to ride and perhaps they could purchase her one of her own if she really enjoyed it.

Duzy had just reached the outskirts of the graveyard; and, after a few minutes, she found the last two mounds that had been buried. She saw the plain marker at Luke’s grave and it seemed as if he had been totally forgotten, not just by herself, but by everyone, and she wondered again at her lack of compassion toward someone whom she had grown up with and why she had not asked these questions before now?

She knelt down and suddenly she had the feeling she was not alone. Resting her right hand on her Colt, she held up the lamp with her left hand, and looked around, asking, “Is anyone here?”

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Kid Sopris 8-31-07


 Dawg was by Duzy’s side, but he knew the scent of the dark Shadow, The dark draped figure stepped only slightly forward. The shadow spoke softly, and seemed to know all of Duzy’s burning questions and desires. Dawg lay at her feet.

“You must not worry. Luke was part of a conspiracy; the type where great harm would come to you and your friends. Many risks have been taken to insure the safety of others. Mr. MacNeil and Mr. Keller have sworn oaths of allegiance, and they will not betray you”.
“If you think you know me, than you must confide only in your heart.” Duzy tried to interrupt, but was cute short. “Your heart has many questions and only time will allow it to rest.” Firelands sits on one of the richest minerals claims ever found. The exact figure has been kept secret for years as the United States needs the Gold and Silver for its monetary balance. There are others within the government who want only their greed satisfied.”

The Hooded Shadow kept its face covered, but presented Duzy with a single Rose. “Rev. Sopris disappearance and death was to protect his true identity, as there others who got off the train who knew him and would put the entire safety of others at jeopardy.”

Duzy still suspicious got only a glimpse of reflected light coming off the inside of the hooded stranger’s apparel. Believing it to be a nickled plated Colt, her heart was more at ease.

“I watch you and your friends day and night, I know of your safety and will usually be around close even if you don’t see me; but you will feel my presence. Take a deep breath remember this fragrance. May God be with you.”

And just like its appearance, the hooded stranger was gone. What was left behind was a whisper of fragrant rose pedals, screech of an owl, and a whimper from Dawg.

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Linn Keller 8-31-07


Jacob woke when I did, and he persuaded the stove that it really ought to have a fire in its belly. I let him tend this detail. It was important to let him have a sense not only of responsibility but also of achievement, and if he tended the stove first thing in the morning, he would be doing us a kindness.
Charlie MacNeill had slept in a more comfortable bed that we that night, proving yet again that not only was he smarter than me, he was better looking.
Well, smarter, anyway.
The back breaking chair remained empty, which suited my poor old back just fine. I don't know whether the chair thought anything of it or not, and quite frankly I did not care. I would have kicked the chair a good one but it was on the other side of the room, and I was barefoot.
Ours was a good tight stove, but there is always a delightful smell when a wood fire first lights, especially when using apple wood for kindling. I don't know where Jacob came across a standing dead apple tree, but he industriously turned it into stove sized chunks and into kindling, and its smell reminded me of home, and how Connie loved to fire with apple wood when she could get it, just because it smelled so good.
We got dressed, wordlessly, almost as if afraid we would disturb the silence. I warmed my backside against the stove with a sigh of pleasure, and Jacob grinned at the sight. I winked at him. He winked back and we laughed.
Daisy was up before we were, and her stove was hot and ready, as was her frying pan. Jacob ate with the appetite of a healthy boy and I was almost as bad.
"Jacob," I said, leaning back in my chair and patting my belly, "my tummy is smiling."
"Mine too, sir," he chuckled.
"Never heard that one before?"
"No, sir!"
"Stick with me, son, you'll hear lots of ways to butcher the King's English."
"Yes, sir."
I took another pull on my coffee. Good stuff. Just the right amount of vanilla, and unless I was mistaken, honey.
"Hm?" I set down the coffee mug.
"Sir, I was talking with the fiddler."
I nodded, giving him my full attention.
"He said you're a good man, and I should stay close to you."
I didn't quite know what to say to that.
"He's right," Daisy spoke up. "More coffee, Sheriff?"
"Yes, thank you, Daisy."
"You are a good man, you know that," she said seriously. "I'm not the only one who thinks so, and neither is that fiddle player." She dropped her eyes and looked mischievous. "He is a sweet-talker, though!"
I raised an eyebrow. "Daisy, are you thinkin' to run off and get married?"
"Oh, he'd stay here, he said," Daisy replied, then realized she'd just let the feline out of the burlap, so to speak.
I held up a cautionary palm. "Jacob," I said, "in this lifetime a man hears many things, and the wise man knows when to keep 'em under his hat!"
Jacob clapped his hat on his head and attempted to look innocent.
"Say, Jacob, would you be kind enough to exercise Sam again for me?" I asked. "Ride him back out to where you found the wagon and go on about an hour past there. Don't ride hard, just ride steady, Sam will let you know how fast to go, but ride out and take a look. See anything out of the ordinary, or see something before then, come tell me. I should be around town somewhere."
"Yes, sir," Jacob grinned. Sam had known his speed yesterday, he thought, and he looked forward to a repeat of that magnificent run.
Something was bothering me, and I suspected the folks in the wagon to be the cause.
Jacob had just cleared the door when Daisy turned and set the coffee pot down on the table. "Sheriff," she said quietly, "what is going on?"
I gave her my best innocent look.
Daisy tapped her foot. "Now, Sheriff, that innocent look might work on Miz Esther, but I know you better than that! Now you tell me this instant what's on your mind!"
I opened my mouth to reply and a door banged open above us. Someone came running down the stairs in an almighty hurry.
It was the fellow from the wagon. He looked around, wildly.
"Where's the doc?" he blurted.
"Daisy, get Doc," I said curtly, seizing my hat and sprinting up the stairs two at a time.
The door was open, and the man's wife was cradling the yawning newborn.
My attention was on their daughter. She was curled up on her side, hands pressed to the sides of her head; the cloth over her eyes was wet and I could see her eyes pressed against it, unnaturally so, and she was sobbing.
"Mama, why does my head hurt? Oh Mama, make it stop!" she begged.
I scooped her up in my arms and headed out the door. "With me! " I barked at her father, and he followed, his expression somewhere between sick, and utterly lost.
The mother cradled her baby and cried silent tears into his blanket.

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Lady Leigh 8-31-07


Liam McKenna was sitting in the train station waiting for the boarding call and tightly holding on to his brown leather satchel as if he were protecting gold. In a way he was. The phony arrest warrent could be used as a last resort to getting his hands on gold, at any rate.

He was angry at not hearing from Luke Hawkins! Luke was long overdue with his report. "What is Hawkins thinking keeping us waitting like this?" he thought. The wrinkles deepened between his eyes ... eyes that took on the resemblence of hatred, far surpassing the anger he was feeling.

His thoughts continued, "Well, dear cousin, Bonnie! You have gotten away from us to this point, but that will end soon enough ..."

A smile eased itself into view. "No, not even you , Bonnie, can stop what is rightly ours. The second born son of Duncan McKenna is not going surpass Colin McKenna! It's my Father who will get it all ... where one day it will be mine! Not even a speck of dust will be yours Bonnie ... not a speck!"

A conductor was announcing the boarding call. Five days to Firelands where Liams plan would take place. "Here I come, cousin Bonnie ... Your long lost, beloved cousin, in need to find welcome at the bosom of his family."

With laughter, he stood up and approached the train, "Five days, Bonnie ...." More laughter.

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Duzy Wales 9-1-07


Duzy clutched the rose in her hand and turned to go home. She was finally at peace with Luke’s Hawkins death. Her Papa had warned her, and she knew that there were protectors in the world, that came in many forms. She patted Dawg, as she had not heard him until the hooded figure had emerged, and then he had stepped forward to give her a sense of protection and of trust toward the figure. Otherwise, Dawg would have torn him apart! Duzy knew that what had happened tonight had been meant to be, and was to be held sacred in her mind and heart, never telling it to another soul, but keeping in mind the warning that had been issued, as Bonnie could be in real danger!

In her heart, she also knew who he was, as she had seen that flash before! It seemed he and Dawg had that way about them, always ready to protect, sometimes in the background, sometimes by your side. She smelled the scent of the rose and let her questions about Luke Hawkins vanish in the night air. She would sleep peacefully tonight.

It was not a peaceful night; however, in North Carolina, as Clara slung her silver hairbrush across the room. Instead, she was in a rage as Luke should be back by now, and if it wasn’t for that Wales woman, he would be back, giving her what she needed and craved, not to mention the gold coins he so generously provided.

Clara had been having fun, flirting with the other men, sometimes taking them to her bed, but she missed Luke and she was not planning on losing him. When morning came, she would be on the train. “Firelands,” she liked the name!

She looked at herself in the mirror, her long blond hair falling in curls to her waist, blue eyes, the color of a Carolina sky, full lips that could stir a man to do evil. She laughed as she ran her hands over her breasts, lifting them, as she admired her tiny waist, full hips and long legs, a body that held the men fascinated, as she kept them drinking, until she had all their gold, and anything else they could beg, borrow or steal for a little more time with her! She knew the power she held, and soon it would be the women in Firelands who best be keeping their men in the fields and out of her bed, or they would find themselves broke and on their backs! Her laughter filled the room.

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