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Charlie MacNeil 8-3-10

 

The Sheriff looked down at his assailant, who lay mostly unconscious at his feet; one calloused hand wiped sweat and blood from his chin while the other felt of the tender spots on face and body. Linn gave Charlie a glare. "And you didn't step in because?"

Charlie answered the glare with a wide grin. "Because you're the law, and I ain't no more, and besides which I'd hate to ruin your rep as the toughest gent in the county. I figured you'd be able to handle that varmint all by your lonesome, and I was right." He pushed off from the wall where he'd been leaning and bent down to take a handful of shirt collar. "Grab hold and let's cart this gent over to the jail, then I'll buy you a drink." Shaking his head, Linn grabbed the other half of the collar and the pair proceeded to drag their cargo toward the jail.

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Linn Keller 11-22-07   Jacob and I took turns out back, splitting wood and hauling in kindling and fire wood, for the days were chll and the nights more so, and a November mist had started:

And that, loyal readers, is the original story of the town and people of Firelands as told by a variety of folks over a long space of time both modern and old. I hope that you have enjoyed our small e

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Linn Keller 8-4-10

 

I worked my face a little and winced.
"Hurt?" Charlie grinned.
We hauled the groaning foreman up over the board walk in a less than gentle manner. His knees, then his toes, hung up for just a moment on the edge of the wood planks, but we hauled him up anyway, and into the calabozo.
"Nah," I grunted, wishing I'd spit while we were still outside.
We got the fellow divested of his proud-ofs and locked up and Charlie looked around at the assembled.
"His Honor will earn his pay this week," he announced cheerfully.
I reached into my mouth with my thumb, tentatively tested a half dozen teeth. None were missing and none were loose but by damn my cheek bone hurt.
"You might want to get that cut sewed up," Charlie observed with an innocent expression.
"Yeah, yew don't want to spoil them good looks, Sheriff," one of the incarcerated sneered.
"Yeah, God loves you, too," I muttered and turned the key on the foreman's cell.
"Ain't you gonna get the doc fer that'un?"
My glare was answer enough.
I worked my hand inside my thin leather glove. Morning Star had made them for me: elk skin, soft and fragrant, and I genuinely regretted getting that man's blood on them, but they had saved my knuckles a little.
Our boot heels were loud on the puncheon floor as Charlie and I left the cell block.
"Yew wanta get that tended, pretty boy!" floated out from behind us.
I ignored it.
I hung his gun rig in the cupboard and swiped his other effects into the top left desk drawer.
My right eye was starting to swell and it probably looked kind of squinty.
I know it felt squinty.
"Let's get this tended," I said, the right side of my face stiffening a little, and I raised a hand to my tender cheek bone, then continued, "I'm buyin'."
Charlie nodded, looking both amused and pleased.
"If you're buyin', I'm drinkin'. Unless you mean supper."
"Supper, breakfast, hell, I don't care. I need a beer."

Sarah drew up beside the depot platform, and just in the proverbial nick of time: the Lady Esther was breathing quietly, like a great and powerful animal out of some primordial past: she began to chuff backwards, slowly, as the private car was switched to a siding.
Their Irish maid's trunk was swung onto the platform and Sarah and the girls gave her a quick, enthusiastic hug -- back East, such familiarity with the slavey would be scandalous! -- but the girls had come to regard her as family, and bade her with high, piping voices to come back to them, they would miss her.
Judge Hostetler's eyes twinkled at the sight.
He was not so old as to have lost the memory of little children's hugs and earnest-voiced entreaties of a swift return.
Sarah skipped up to the dignified, grey-haired man and dropped a curtsy as he lifted his hat in a grave and formal manner.
"To what do I owe the pleasure of your greeting, my dear?" he asked, raising her gloved hand to his lips and kissing her knuckles.
Sarah giggled and colored. "I have the girls for a few days, Your Honor. Mama and Papa are going to Denver and they've sent our maid off for a holiday, and I don't think Mama remembered that I can't be in Denver and be here all at the same time!"
"I see." His Honor's eyes were merry, then saddened: "My dear, I believe we will speak again."
The reality of the past couple of days ran over Sarah's young spirits like a locomotive over a hay-bale, and Judge Hostetler did not miss the fear washing into Sarah's dark eyes, nor the color draining slowly from her face.
"Do not fear," he said gently, patting her hand in a grandfatherly manner. "The law recognizes that which is right." He bowed a little, lifted his hat again, and gave her a sad smile, the smile of a man who remembered many women, women who had once been girls young and beautiful ... several of which had been daughters, and granddaughters, and precious few of them yet alive.

Morning Star shooed Jacob out of the room.
Perhaps "shooed" is not the right word.
She gave him a look and Jacob shifted uncomfortably from one foot to another, then looked at the door.
"Your mother awaits," Morning Star said: it was more of a speech than Jacob had heard her give in some long time, and again he was surprised by the precision, the cultured framing, of her syllables.
He gave Annette a quick kiss on the forehead, rested his hand momentarily on hers -- hers was on their son's back, as he lay on her bosom, partaking of his first meal -- and Jacob straightened, fairly bouncing for the door.
Annette heard his joyful voice in the waiting-room.
"Mother!" he exclaimed, and Annette smiled a little at the delight in his words. "We have a son!"
In her mind's eye Annette saw Jacob pick his mother up and spin her around, laughing, the way his father, the Sheriff, still did on occaision, and in her imagination she saw Esther's head, thrown back with delight, laughing, her green eyes shining.

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Lady Leigh 8-4-10

 

The lady Esther always made the trip to Denver a pleasurable one, and made it one less thought for Bonnie who still experienced a sense of foreboding. It was bad enough being plagued with the goodbyes from the children. Sarah's especially. She embraced Bonnie as if never wanting to let her go, but with Caleb she was quiet and distant, only giving him a slight peck on the cheek, and only for the sake of the little girls. Bonnie looked toward Sarah with a questioning eye, with Sarah's only response being a bright smile for her Mother and “hurry back to us” being her words before the cacophony of “I love you” and “will miss you” heralded Bonnie's ears and subsequently pulled at her heart strings. Things were going to be different once returning home … there was no doubt about that.

Caleb barely spoke two words during the trip down the tracks … he, too, lost in thought. He seemed totally unaware how the evilness of heart and mind was instinct fully taking over him. How long had he been playing the game of civility? Honor? Duty? Friend? Husband? Father?

Now the last two were really a tiresome bother to Caleb these days. Bonnie he would take care of as soon as final arrangements were taken care of upon arriving in Denver. He doubted it would break Bonnie's heart to be separated from her for a few hours …. he did not miss the way she seemed to find disgust in him as the days drew on. So what if he drank! She's the one who led him to do so! She's the one who killed his pride by removing the purse strings. How dare she embarrass him over and over.

Father …. “HA!” he thought. Only one was his … the other two brats would have to be removed. Sarah would be easy. He'd send her to boarding school. Opal? He still had to determine what to do about that one. There would be time …. there would be time.

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Lady Leigh 8-4-10

 

The two horse drawn carriage came to a stop at 321 17th Street where the door to the carriage was immediately opened, “Welcome to Brown Palace and may your stay be a pleasurable one” came the words from the impeccably dressed doorman. Caleb hoped out, and not missing a beat, extended his gloved hand to aide his wife from the carriage. No sense letting “anyone” know “anything” was amiss he thought. Bonnie complied only until both feet were firmly on the ground where she began walking toward the door the second door man was opening, all the while Caleb rattled, “Imagine Bonnie! Brown spent $1.6 million building this place!”

“Hmm ..” Bonnie replied

“And another $400,000 on furniture alone …. built for people like us Bonnie! People like us!”

Bonnie clenched her teeth together and continued to move on, but she had to admit, with what little she had seen thus far, Brown Palace was a beauty indeed. And if it's prestige impressed Caleb this much, then perhaps it will help him to behave …. Bonnie simply sighed.

To all who looked on to the two who walked to the registry counter saw only an extremely handsome couple who were obviously well to do financially. It was doubtful anyone would suspect anything remotely dour between the Rosenthal's, nor would anyone suspect the dastardly deeds Caleb contemplated.

“Good Morning Sir,” the gentleman behind the counter said in greeting to Caleb, “Madame” he nodded toward Bonnie, “Welcome to the Brown Palace. How may I assist you?”

“We have reservations for Mr. And Mrs. Caleb Rosenthal” Caleb smugly answered.

“Aw, yes indeed Sir, you do... if you would kindly sign the registry book.”

Caleb took the pen that was dipped in ink and signed his name with a flourish, “And if you would be so kind to run a tab while Mrs Rosenthal and I are here so the financial arrangements can be dealt with prior to leaving.” Caleb instructed.

“It appears the financial arrangements have already been dealt with ahead of time, Sir. Perhaps you have forgotten the previous arrangements?”

Caleb stiffened, but caught himself quickly before stating, “Yes .. yes, of course. How could I have forgotten. Must be the beauty of your Hotel and the image of my lovely wife” all said with a pasted smile and words spoken through barely opened teeth. But the look of Caleb's eyes above the smile spoke volumes to Bonnie. She quickly looked away and took a step backwards.

“Excuse me! Yohoo! Did I hear you say your last name being Rosenthal?” A woman loudly said as she quickly approached the couple. “May I be so bold as to ask you,” she looked at Bonnie” are you“the” Mrs. Bonnie Rosenthal with the House of McKenna?”

The woman directly in front of Bonnie at this point stood no more that 5' 2”. A diminutive blond with a peachy complexion, whose artifice looked more owned than by nature, and wearing a yellow and white stripped, very ruffly gown, that was better suited both in color and style to a woman much younger than this woman who was probably in her mid to upper 40's. Bonnie recognized the gown as being one of her spring and early summer design …. however, the design was a part of her Debutante
series.

Bonnie smiled graciously, noting Caleb's put out demeanor in the corner of her eye. “Yes, Ma'am I am.”

“I thought so! I just knew it was! I recognized you from your photograph with an article I read recently.” The woman grabbed hold of Bonnie's hand pumping it up and down during the whole conversation. “How do you do! I am Mrs. Leena Reed and this is ...” Mrs. Reed finally stopped pumping and looked over her shoulder, “Now where did she go? “ looking to and fro, “Oh! There she is Molly! Molly do come quick!”

A tall, thin, rather lovely, but plain, woman approached in an equally amusing costume, only this woman's appeared more of not knowing how to put the items of clothing together more than choosing the wrong style. This woman was dressed in fine couture. Her auburn hair, slightly darker with brown tones than Bonnie's, was in a popular updo, but not necessarily one for daytime, but lovely just the same.

“Why what is all the ruckus about Lenna? I was just yonder visitin with the bellhop.”

Leena Reed began making the introduction … “Molly! This is none other than Mrs. Bonnie Rosenthal! You know! House of McKenna!” she squeeled.

Taking hold of Bonnie's hand much in the same fashion that was previously held by Mrs. Reed, the new woman exclaimed, “Well now! Imagine that! How do you do! I am Mrs. James Brown … but call me Molly. Formality still makes me rightly nervous.”

Bonnie exchanged the hellos to both women, and introduced her, now astonished husband, to them, and placed the back of the fingers of her hand over her lips muffling a quaint giggle. She immediately fell in love with these two personable, if not outrageous women.

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Linn Keller 8-5-10

 

"Oh, dear," Esther murmured.
The Sheriff held up both hands, palms out, shrinking back a little from his wife.
"I don't want to bleed on you," he chuckled.
Esther put her hands on her hips and gave him "one of those looks", the kind a wife gives her husband when they've shared far worse and far better over the years.
"Linn Keller, as if you haven't already!" she scolded, taking her husband by a dirty shirt sleeve. "I believe your son wishes to speak with you."
"Jacob?" the Sheriff said, his eyes suddenly concerned. "Has something --"
"Through there," Esther said in a remarkably school-marm-ish voice, pointing with one hand, the other at the small of his back.
Charlie hung back, crossing his arms and smiling quietly. He figured he knew what was in the wind, and he was right.
Esther closed the door behind her husband, turned to her old and dear friend: folding her hands, she glided across the room and laid a gentle, gloved hand on his hard-muscled forearm.
"His name is Joseph," she said, eyes shining, and neither could stand on propriety a moment longer: each seized the other in a spontaneous, delighted, unabashed bear hug, and laughter filled the waiting room.

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Charlie MacNeil 8-6-10

 

"It's a noble name," Charlie said when he had set Esther back on her feet and their mirth had subsided. "I'm sure he'll do it proud. He'll have to, with the daddy and grandaddy he's got, or else..."

"Or else what?" Esther asked, mischief sparkling in her eyes.

"Or else his Uncle Charlie will tan his backside for him!" the ex-marshal declared with a wide grin.

"I'm going to hold you to that," Esther told him. "But I don't think you'll have to. His mother will see to that. Any woman who can keep Jacob in line won't have any trouble with his son."

"I do believe you're right."

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Lady Leigh 8-6-10

 

Caleb was delighted Bonnie had made arrangements with Lenna Reed and Molly Brown for afternoon tea away from the Hotel. It would give him the chance to implement his plans, but before they would work, he would have to meet with his contact. That was easily done with pretending to be upset by Bonnie's new found friendships. She would relish his being away from her side as long as he angered her enough. Bonnie had a soft heart to all people and it aggravated him how easily she and all people got along.

“They are new money folks, Bonnie! Crass and ignorant”, Caleb stated as they were in the elevator. “You saw how they behaved! For Christ's sake, Bonnie, they couldn't even dress like proper women of means. The one woman slaughtered you design! Surely you saw that!” Bonnie did not miss the eyes of the elevator operator and bell hop. Bonnie did not like what Caleb said either. What would her father, Angus, have said to Caleb as he was “new money” at one time. Actually, Caleb's father would have been perturbed to hear his son prattle on like that. “You are the one who has become ignorant Caleb” Bonnie thought sadly.

After entering their suite of rooms on the 10th floor, Caleb acted further insulted as Bonnie took her own room, and indicated the door would be locked to him. He had to admit, that was going to hamper some of his plans. He would have loved to have gotten her between the sheets just one last time. But never mind, he surmised, and with his hat in hand he stormed out of their rooms and departed the hotel.

Levi figured Bonnie was safe enough for the time being, and decided to follow Caleb. It seemed more imperative to see what Caleb was up to, and after tipping the management heavily, it was not difficult to get a room across the hall from Bonnie and Caleb's, so keeping an eye would be easily done. Levi was confident he would be able to keep Bonnie safe, if what he had heard was true concerning his brother. Sadness tugged at Levi's heart. Caleb was a spoiled selfish child, but appeared to outgrow it as he became an adult. Shaking his head, Levi knew it would not do any good to harbor sentiment, even if Caleb was his brother. Regardless, he had a job to do …

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Linn Keller 8-9-10

 

Jacob's grin faded to an expression of dismay, then of veiled anger as he realized how badly his Pa had been beat.
The blaze of pale blue eyes was undiminished, but that right eye was about swelled shut and starting to color and a cut under the cheek bone was not adding to any ravishing good looks: in like wise, his lip was puffed and he leaned a little to one side as if favoring some sore ribs.
Jacob almost winced in sympathy. His own ribs, in spite of their wrapping, continued to remind him of the consequences of his own exertions.
"Sir?" Jacob asked, tentatively, almost hesitantly. "Do we have work to do?"
The Sheriff's other eye narrowed a little and she smiled crookedly.
"Taken care of," he said with a wave of his hand.
Working his hands out of the elk skin gloves, he regarded his son curiously out of his good eye.
"Now what's this I hear about you wanting to talk to me?"
Jacob was grinning again and shifting his weight from one leg to the other, almost like an impatient little boy just busting to tell a secret.
He stopped and drew himself up as tall as he could and if his chest had swelled much more he'd likely have fired a button off his shirt and bounced it off the far wall.
"Sir," Jacob declared, "I am pleased to report you are a grandfather."
The Sheriff strode forward and seized Jacob's hand in both his own.
Not even the recent fisticuffs could conceal the delight in the older man's expression.
Jacob hesitated and the Sheriff turned his head slightly, the change in his expression revealing Jacob's hesitation had not gone unnoticed.
Jacob took a deep breath, let it out, looked his Pa squarely in the eye.
"Sir, his name is Joseph."
The Sheriff's hand still held his son's.
The Sheriff froze.
It was the Sheriff's turn to swallow hard.
He nodded, once, slowly, and raised his off hand to Jacob's shoulder.
"Thank you," he said quietly.
A drop of blood escaped the clotting dam gathering on his cheek bone and streaked a red tear-stain down his cheek, falling to the floor below.
Dr. Greenlees had come into the room with his usual lack of stealth -- the man moved with all the fuss and bother of a leaf on a breeze -- and he began washing his hands, intentionally making an excess of noise and fuss.
"Well?" he asked, one eyebrow raising in the familiar way the Sheriff always found a little amusing.
"Well what?"
"Well, are you going to bleed on my clean floor, or do I get you sewn up?"
The Sheriff looked at his son, released his hand. "Annette?"
"She is well, sir."
"Good." The Sheriff patted Jacob gently on the shoulder.
"You are a good husband, Jacob. I am proud of you. I am satisfied you will make a fine father."
"Yes, sir," Jacob said, suddenly uncomfortable: there are times when a son can accept praise easily, and other moments, for no particular reason, when praise feels awkward, and there is often no real reason for either reaction.
"Let's give Annette a bit more time before we visit," the Sheriff suggested.
Dr. Greenlees cat footed across the room and touched the Sheriff under the chin.
"Let's have a look at ... oh, yes," he murmured.
"Sheriff, can I offer you something? A belt of Old Soul Saver to ward off the devil?"
"Just had some," the Sheriff muttered. "I don't think it helped. Hell, just sew the thing up."
Dr. Greenlees gave him The Eyebrow again.
"I'm not worried about that," he said, looking over at Joseph and back to the Sheriff. "It's when I clean that out that it won't feel good."
"I've had worse," the Sheriff muttered. "Just get it done."
Dr. Greenlees ran an assessing eye over the greying old lawman's frame.
"Very well. I want to have a look at that belly while we're at it, so strip to the waist."
Jacob could not help but chuckle at the ornery look in his father's good eye.
He'd crack a joke with Saint Peter, Jacob thought. If he ever came in here and didn't pull Doc's leg, they'd likely think he was dyin'!
"Strip to the waist?" the Sheriff asked through puffy lips.
"From which end?"

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Lady Leigh 8-9-10

 

With purposeful steps, Caleb left Denver's shadier business district, with Levi a respectful distance behind. Caleb was practically whistling while Levi was figuring this was going to be a more difficult job at hand, and knew he would likely need assistance, considering who it was Caleb just finished seeing.

Levi left Caleb and hired a hackney to pay a visit to Denver's Pinkerton office ….

*************

“What's yer orders, Boss?” asked a large man who sported a scared chiseled face.

“It would seem Mr. Rosenthal is running out of time. We shall placate him for the time being, but if the matter has not been taken care of within the next few days, we'll take care of it in a way that will introduce Mr. Rosenthal to whom ever the afterlife will have him”.

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Linn Keller 8-10-10

 

Little Sean laughed, as did Michael and Tilly's growing son: the Bear Killer laughed with them, running his tongue out and displaying a dazzling dentistry.
Dawgs delight in the attentions of children, aggravating though they can be at times, and Twain Dawg happily tolerated grasping hands and clumsy pats.
The Bear Killer tolerated this not only because it was in his nature, but also because he knew they were in Daisy's kitchen, and the result would be biscuits and gravy.
The lads generally ended up with something as well, but The Bear Killer knew what he liked, and his great plume of a tail began to swing in a dangerous arc, for he smelled his anticipated meal as it was being dished up.

The Sheriff grunted a little but made no other sound as Doc disinfected the cut under his cheek bone, explored the bony structure beneath with long, slender, practiced fingers; he flinched once, but only once, as Doc began to stitch up the cut.

Dr. George Flint, for his part, having satsified himself mother and child were well, noted his observations on the birth in quick, precise block print: finished, he left the book open so the ink could dry completely: he stood, reached for his coat and his satchel.
He'd seen the Sheriff come in, listened to the comments, gathered there may be clients in the jail.
Morning Star's question was wordless, though plain in her eyes: Dr. Flint's reply was equally silent, but just as easily understood: Thank you, no, please remain for Annette.
Dr. Flint settled his immaculate hat on neatly-groomed, jet-black hair, tugged at his recently-brushed, carefully-tailored coat, and headed for the town's jail.

The Welsh Irishman was idly rubbing their mongrel cur around the ears.
The cur-pup's tail expressed approval: the pup's eyes were closed, head thrust forward, chin on the Welsh Irishman's thigh, and an expression of utter, absolute bliss on his face.
The calico angora, for her part, remained on her sun lit hay-bale, blinking sleepily, content to reign from her sweet-smelling, if slightly prickly, throne.

Annette lay back in her bed, aching, her body still settling its inner parts back into something resembling a normal condition: she'd marveled at the deep responses when young Joseph nursed for the first time, and Morning Star, with an uncharacteristic display of carefully-enunciated and apparently well-educated language, explained as she massaged the fundus that nursing the child helped contract the uterus and tamponade exanguination.
Annette wasn't sure what most of the fancy words were: though she too benefitted from a good education, or what passed for a good education of the day, medical terminology had not been included in her matriculation.
Frankly she did not care that Morning Star appeared to have knowledge that she lacked.
Annette had delivered her husband a fine, healthy son.
Now, well afterward, young Joseph was sleeping, she herself had bathed and put on a fresh bed-jacket, Morning Star had changed her bed-sheets, and she was prepared to receive visitors.
Esther was first in the room and Annette extended a hand in greeting, the other arm reserved for her drowsing infant.
The Sheriff followed, his face swollen and discolored on one side, but nothing could hide the grin on his face.
Charlie peeked in from the doorway, raised a hand, and Annette smiled and nodded, for they two shared a secret, a kindness extended and accepted.
Esther tilted her head and reached for her grandson.
"Here, let's have a look at you," she murmured in a motherly voice, and young Joseph yawned.
"Oh, such a big yawn!" Esther gushed, laying him down on the side of the bed.
The Sheriff squeezed Annette's hand, gently, then brushed her cheek with the backs of his fingers.
He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it, looking kind of lost.
Esther happily divested the lad of his sparse covering, formally counting fingers and toes, tickling his belly, brushing his cheek with a forefinger and smiling as he turned his head and opened his mouth.
Esther's fingers brushed the silver dollar bound to the lad's belly button.
She looked at Annette, curious; she had brought a silver dollar for that very purpose.
"Uncle Charlie," Annette whispered, and nodded toward the ex-lawman with the quietly intense eyes.
Charlie, watching from the doorway, smiled and turned away.
He'd done his part.
He had a sudden appetite for pie.
Let the family have their time. He was hungry.

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Linn Keller 8-11-10

 

Bill was gone again, likely tending the sizable Catholic community in the area, and very likely somewhere over towards Cripple: the miners held a high percentage of Eastern Europeans, men with experience in hard rock: rough they were and hard-drinking, loud and profane, prone to settle disagreements with a pick handle or knuckles or a knife, but they took their beliefs seriously, and many would seek absolution a few times a week, for all knew the dangers of working underground, and all were pleased when Brother William was assigned to their territory.
Mac, of course, did not know exactly where Brother William was, only that he wasn't here, and this disappointed him, for he knew his old and dear friend would have laughed to see Bonnie's twins tagging after Sarah, each holding her skirt -- tails on a kite! he thought -- and he turned back to his sweeping with a quiet chuckle.
Sarah squatted carefully, almost slowly: Maude watched closely as Sarah held Opal at arm's length, speaking quietly to her.
She usually picks her up, Maude thought, then Sarah's words registered, and Maude's hand went to her mouth as she remembered Sarah's fall.
Initial reports had been that she'd been trampled by the carriage-horse and run over as well.
Maude had dismissed the entire report as so much stuff and nonsense when she saw Sarah walk into the Mercantile with her usual smile.
There must be something to the rumor, Maude thought, tilting her head a little, watching.
"I can't pick you up, sweets," Sarah explained, her face anxious.
Opal's bottom lip thrust out and she assumed a wounded expression.
"Mama picks me up," she complained.
"Mama doesn't have cracked ribs," Sarah continued in her patient voice.
"Papa never picks us up," Polly complained, folding her arms and leaning against the heavy glass front of the display case.
"Yeah!" Opal piped, pout suddenly forgotten. "He's a mean Daddy!"
"Opal," Sarah said, a motherly warning note in her voice, "we don't say things like that," and Maude did not miss the glance Sarah gave her.
"But he's mean to Mama! He said bad words! He wansada send you to da boarding school an' he wansada gimme away!" Opal flared, arms stiff and little pink hands clenched.
Polly's face assumed the expression of someone who'd just lost her best friend and Sarah recognized the prelude to a tear-storm: she stood, slowly, carefully, and Maude saw her pale a little.
"We must get Mama's peaches," she said, "and you may each choose a stick of candy."
"Yay!" The twins bounced on their toes, clapping their hands together, all thoughts of pique or distress lost in a moment.
Sarah moved with an efficient economy of movement, gathering the purchases and setting them on the counter: Maude laid a hand on Sarah's as she finished and said quietly, "Boarding school, Sarah?"
Maude's heart fell as Sarah looked up at her.
Maude had known Sarah from the time she was ... well, about the size of Polly and Opal, and now Sarah was very nearly a young woman, and reminded Maude of girls and young ladies she'd known.
Maude had a deep liking for this responsible young lady, this walking contradiction who could glide in a gown and look very grown-up, or run in a short frock, shrieking with the boys at stickball or running a hoop down the street, this burr-in-the-saddle equestrienne leaned over the saddle horn at a full gallop: this more-than-a-girl, not-quite-a-woman's lip trembled and her eyes glittered with tears she dare not shed.
"I don't know, Miz Maude," she whispered. "I don't know anything about it, only ... only that Papa is not well, he's ..."
Maude swept around the counter and gathered Sarah to her, and Sarah buried her face in Maude's apron, quivering: somehow she could not bring herself to release the grief, the conflict within her, but Maude knew her young spirit was dangerously near a breaking point.
Polly tugged at Sarah's skirt.
"Kin we have da can-dee now?" she asked, and Maude could not help but bite her lip to keep from laughing at the innocent sincerity in Polly's eyes.

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Lady Leigh 8-11-10

 

Bonnie carefully dressed for her “afternoon tea” adventure, for an adventure it would be with her newfound acquaintances, Lenna Reed and Molly Brown. She well remembered her Mother telling her how in “polite society”, regardless of the social class you are in, one never purposely attempted to out do another woman in dress. A woman should never bring attention to herself at the cost of others. Had Bonnie been at home, she could have chosen a gown differently than the ones she brought with her to Denver. All she could really do was eliminate her accessories, but she felt confident she would not outshine the other two women. Bonnie felt in time, Mrs. Brown would figure out how to dress within her new found financially successful world … but Bonnie stifled a giggle thinking about Mrs. Reed. Clearly this woman has spent the better part of her life wanting to be an age she had obviously loved, and that attitude rarely departed.

Meeting in the lobby with gloves on hands and hats on heads, the three, very distinctly different woman proceeded to the Tea Emporium down the street from the hotel. Bonnie demure, Molly boisterous, Lenna animated …. yes, people could not help but glance toward the three.

After a delicious and wonderful time spent drinking tea and eating petite cakes, the three walked back to the Brown Palace Hotel. Bonnie thought her sides would never return to normal due to the laughter with the stories Molly Brown shared of her and J.J. Brown's life together. Bonnie envied the joy the Browns had in their life, and felt Mr. Brown never lacked for a dull moment with Molly around, and Bonnie looked foreword to meeting him the next evening as they were to be in attendance to the opera as well, and would be able to meet the notorious Silver Baron, J.J. Brown.

Near the hotel was a magazine and newspaper kiosk in which the women would have to maneuver around. Bonnie took the outside near the street with Molly next to her and Leena directly behind. Bonnie could hear the horse and carriage traffic behind her. She marveled at how so many carriages and horses could move about so easily in this large, and growing capital city of Denver, Colorado. How she loved the laid back and quietness of her Firelands.

Just as the three women were about to pass the kiosk, Bonnie was shoved from behind and thrust into the street. She was unsure of the scream she heard. Was it hers? Was it someone else's voice around her? Was there more than one voice she heard? Amazing how the mind works with time. Time seems to take forever to pass, when in reality it was mere seconds to minuets. What Bonnie did know was she was about to fall at the feet for two horses leading a rather large carriage.

The driver of the carriage was pulling in the reigns, while the horse nearest the sidewalk, and to Bonnie, was beginning to rear. As Bonnie fell her mind went back in time at various moments with her daughters and how overwhelming she felt her love for them. As instantly as she was pushed toward the oncoming carriage, she felt her right arm being grabbed onto and was pulled back and Bonnie landed on her bustled rump. Through hair which escaped the security of it's combs, Bonnie spied Molly Brown release her arm with Molly's left hand while Molly's right hand grabbed for a large stone which held down a stack of newspapers.

“Oh no you don't ya yella livered, no good cursed thief” Molly yelled as she hurled the rock at the running lad. Upon further looking, Bonnie noted, the boy on the run was also holding her reticule. With total astonishment, the rock met its mark, and the boy fell, and with gown hiked up to knee level, Molly was hot on his heels. Swooping down to pick up Bonnie's reticule with one hand and yanking the boy to his feet with her other, Molly dumped him unceremoniously into the hands of the Brown Palace's door man, “I reckon you won't mind holdin this young fella while the police is summoned”, and with a brushing of her skirts back to its ankle length, Molly marched back to Bonnie, who was now being assisted to a standing position with a fussing Lenna Reed swarming around.

“Dear Mrs. Rosenthal! Are you alright?” Leena asked over and over.

“Yes … yes I believe I am” Bonnie announced rather dazed and looking around feeling rather embarrassed and wishing the crowd would stop pressing in. “please, everyone … thank you, but I am quite alright.” And to Leena, “Leena, thank you for your concern, but as you can see, I am fine. There is no need to fuss.”

“I wager, Bonnie,” Molly said as she reached Bonnie and the now thinning crowd, “once we get you to your room and make damn sure you are not ailin in any way, we'll find you to be right as rain. Damn inconsiderate ruffian! He could not have picked a worse time to try an steal your reticule!” Molly said, shaking her head the entire time, while slowly walking toward the hotel. “Why, that horse and carriage would a'likely been yer undoin!”

Across and down the street, with his eyes wide and his heart pounding, Levi saw what transpired. He saw Bonnie being helped to her feet and the doorman in custody of a young boy about the age of 10. Levi approached the doorman and quickly waved a badge, then promptly taking the boy into his own custody, while leaving the front of the hotel so Bonnie would not see them.

The boy murmured over and over, “Honest mister! I was only told to give the lady a bit of push into the street and make off with her purse, and if I did that, my pay could be the money that was inside! Honest mister! I don't know the guys name! He was just a big ugly fella with scars on his face!”

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Linn Keller 8-12-10

 

I raised an arm and blocked Sean's descending hand.
No, that's not right.
I would have stood a better chance of stopping the noon freight.
I knocked it aside, stepped in and took his other shoulder, turning him and moving in close.
Sean frowned a little but turned his head so his good ear was toward me.
"Jacob's ribs are giving him hell," I said. "He got quite a beatin' and he's not healed."
Sean's hand descended on my shoulder, a gesture of understanding that would have felled a lesser man: his eyes showed sympathy, and the big Irishman nodded, once.
I knew his intent was to congratulate Jacob on siring a fine broth of a lad, but I also knew what it was like to receive Sean's congratulatory hand on my shoulder.
Jacob was hunched over a little, leaning against the bar, one foot up on the rail: it was not usual for him to have his back to the room, and from that alone I knew he was still in pain.
Charlie, on the other hand, leaned casually against the bar, his back to the mirror polished mahogany, one heel hooked over the bright brass foot rail, one elbow on the bar and his off hand holding a mug of beer, his eyes busy.
The room was fairly crowded.
Cattlemen, ranchers, a couple farmers, folks recently arrived on the stage, residents, all mingled in a congenial homogenity: dice clattered, pasteboards snapped and rattled as they were shuffled and dealt, Daisy's girls (as they were known) were busy packing out trays of steaming, fragrant food and carrying back trays of wiped-clean plates and stacked flatware, and a steady stream of diners circulated to the bar for something stouter than the Jewel's trademark vanilla coffee.
Me, I had coffee, a fragrant, steaming mug in my left hand.
An anonymous feminine hand paused on her way by, poured in just the right amount of good fresh cream, cool from the spring house out back: I sipped and sighed, for despite the excitement of the past couple days, or maybe because of it, I had a sudden appreciation for moments like this, moments when I too stood with my back to the bar, slouched and comfortable, the taste of good coffee warming my belly, the sound of conversation and laughter pleasant to hear.
I looked over at Charlie.
Charlie does nothing without planning.
Either that or the man is just plainly fast to think and fast on his feet.
Most likely it's both, I thought: Charlie was moving, or rather flowing: for a man his size he was as graceful as a dancer and when he was graceful he was dangerous.
Smooth, I think the word must be.
A stranger had grabbed one of Daisy's girls and said something that earned him a slap in the face: undaunted, he grabbed her and laid hands on her in a way no gentleman should ever do.
Charlie, now, Charlie is a gentleman.
Don't let that quiet demeanor and those steady eyes fool you none.
The man is as comfortable with peers, princes and potentates, Presidents and men of power, as he is with the most common: put him in a suit and he can rub elbows with barons and politicians and he can swim in their company as comfortably as a fish in water.
Charlie was just as comfortable here in the Jewel.
It didn't surprise me none that Charlie shoved off from the bar and kind of glided over to where this fellow had put his hands on our Daisy's girl.
Charlie never raised his voice.
Charlie never swung a punch.
Charlie grabbed the fellow's shirt at the back of the neck and yanked it out, and dumped about half his beer down the man's back.
The other rowdies at the table laughed as the offender yelped and let the Daisy's Girl go, and turned to face his tormentor, just in time to get the other half of the beer mug splashed in his face.
A hard hand seized the sputtering offender by the back of the neck and pulled hard, and Charlie hauled the fellow to the etched-glass-paned, fancy-carved-oak doors: he set his beer mug on the corner of the bar on the way by, which freed up his hand, and with his free hand he shoved the door open, and introduced the less than gentlemanly guest to the street outside.
I don't believe the man's feet hit the board walk a'tall, but he surely hit the street, least it sounded like it.
Me, I stood there, just taking it all in.
Two of the man's fellows stood up. Only one carried a gun, least I only saw one.
They looked over at me and I shook my head.
They set back down.
Charlie came back over and spoke with the waitress: I saw him touch her arm, his gesture reassuring: I saw her nod after a moment: she went back to the kitchen and Charlie slouched against the bar again, blinking slow and sleepy-like, kind of like a mountain lion will when he's sunning himself.
Just as relaxed looking, and just as dangerous, as a mountain lion, I thought.
Yep.
That's Charlie!

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Lady Leigh 8-12-10

 

Though shaken, Bonnie reassured everyone she was fine and made her way to the Hotel …..Through the lobby …..To the elevator ….. Doors opened on the 10th floor where she somehow made it too the suite of rooms. Upon entering, She thankfully did not see Caleb in the main room, so she quickly entered her own room, closed the door and securely locked it. That is when the violent trembling began and she crumbled to the floor, back resting against the door, and with her head in her hands she cried.

By the time Caleb reached the suite of rooms an hour later, he had heard what had transpired by first the doorman, followed by several other individuals employed by the Hotel, to a few of the Brown Palace guests, including the insufferable Lenna Reed, who with great animation detailed how fortunate his beloved wife was in the company of herself and Mrs. Brown, “for, dear Sir, had it not been for dear, dear Molly Brown … why, your lovely wife ….” and with further animation with one hand over her heart and the other over her forehead, “oh Mr Rosenthal, I dare to think what may have happened! Lucky! Yes, very lucky indeed!” and with her voice having reached its high decibels with a shrillness effect, the woman blessedly left Caleb with a whirl of her ruffles and lace.

How Caleb dreaded the pretense of assuring his wife how fortunate she was to be unharmed … much less dead ….

For Caleb Rosenthal, time was running out.

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Linn Keller 8-13-10

 

Jacob was clearly not comfortable.
He'd gone with his Pa and Charlie to the Jewel for the traditional congratulatory drink, to receive the recognition of his fellows that he had joined the ranks of the responsible, of the family, that he had achieved that important milestone of being Husband and Father.
Somehow he felt like he was suffocating.
Jacob frowned at his over-half-full beer: he was never one to waste, but he had no appetite, and so turned abruptly enough to freeze in the next moment as ribs and other miscellaneous anatomic structures reminded him of their partially healed state.
Walking carefully, he headed down the back hallway, toward the rear door.
The Sheriff waited a few moments before he, too, followed.
Charlie saw the two head out: his gut told him this was not an affair that required the law, nor was it a situation where fists, feet or a sharpened blade might be involved, so he held action, quietly surveying the lively interior of the celebrating Jewel.
Jacob bared his teeth, more in aggravation than pain, as he descended the three steps to ground level.
Somehow he hadn't gotten used to the idea that he wasn't healed in an hour: young, strong, capable, able, he was used to doing anything he damn well pleased, when he damn well pleased to do it, and now that his young body was telling him otherwise ... well, it didn't set too good with him.
Then, too, there was the knowing, the visceral realization that he was a father! --
Father!
His lips traced the word, silently, whispering it soundlessly into the thin air ... a word he so seldom spoke ... a foreign sounding word, something applied to a priest, or to a third-person reference in a schoolroom essay.
Jacob walked slowly over to the livery corral, leaned against it, worked his back a little to try and find a comfortable position: a handy rock made a fine prop for his foot and he leaned his forearms on the top rail, his forehead on his arms.
"How do you do it?" he asked his father.
Linn was silent for a long moment. He, too, leaned against the corral, and finally laid a gentle hand on his son's shoulder.
"Speak your mind, son," he said quietly.
Jacob pushed back from the fence and took a long breath.
"Sir, it's ..." Jacob held his hand out in front of him, as if about to describe something about a foot long, then closed his hands and looked at his father.
"God help me, sir," Jacob whispered. "I'm a father!"
Linn smiled a little around the eyes, remembering that dread moment when he, too, realized with a deadly certainty that he, too, was now responsible for a young life, a newly birthed creature that would grow and learn, and for which he was absolutely, completely, in every way, answerable.
"I knew it here" -- Jacob placed fingertips to his forehead in a gesture Linn recognized -- "but now I know it here!" -- he thrust his fingertips into his own breastbone.
"He's so small." Jacob's eyes were big, almost frightened: he blinked rapidly, looked his father in the eye.
The Sheriff nodded, his bottom jaw thrust out, and he chewed his bottom lip.
"Jacob," he said, "do you know what I said the first time I held my little girl, back in Ohio?"
"No, sir," Jacob said faintly.
"The same thing I said when I held our little Joseph, right after your mother birthed him." The Sheriff looked beyond Jacob, looked slowly around, then back at his son. He could not hide the grin as he held out clawed hands, palms up, as if holding something he didn't really want to touch: "But I'll break it!"
Between his father's exaggerated expression of overwhelming distress, the pseudo-panic in his voice, the upward-clawed and trembling hands, Jacob felt something inside him relax: he laughed, and his father laughed with him, quietly, something private shared between two men, between two fathers, between father and son: an equality, a kinship that hadn't existed a moment before.
"I said that very thing," Jacob murmured, surprised at the realization.
"I know." Linn swallowed a lump in his own throat.
"Jacob, I wasn't there when you were born."
Linn looked out across the meadow, out to where the mountains thrust suddenly against the sky.
"I wasn't there when you learned to walk."
Jacob was suddenly uncomfortable.
He was afraid of what he was about to hear.
Linn looked sharply at his son.
"I was not there when I should have been, Jacob, and that is my fault."
"You couldn't have know --" Jacob began.
"My fault," Linn said bitterly. "I wasn't there and I should have been."
Jacob was suddenly unsure whether his father meant his own early years, or his daughter's, in that time he was off to war.
"I want you to do something," Linn said slowly.
"Yes, sir."
Linn swallowed again.
"Be a better father than I was."
His voice was hoarse, almost whispered.
"Do that, Jacob. Do that for me."
Jacob was silent for several moments, then it was his turn to lay a hand on his father's shoulder.
"Yes, sir," he said. "I will that."

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Lady Leigh 8-13-10

 

Bonnie and Caleb decided to dine in their rooms that evening for dinner. Well, Bonnie was eating in her room, and she was not sure about Caleb. After he stormed into the room to inquire how she was, after informing her he had heard various versions of the story, and receiving the final version from Bonnie herself, he told her to be more careful and with a kiss upon her forehead he went into his own private bedroom, and after the click of a lock on the closed door, Bonnie did not miss the sound of something breaking against the wall.

“Dear Lord in Heaven,” Bonnie exclaimed, “why did I agree to this trip?” She pulled a bell pull in the center room of the suite for a bellhop to make a room call, “Might as well order something to eat ...” Bonnie figured they would be staying as Caleb was more than likely drinking his dinner.

Levi was just about to exit the stair well when he ducked back into the opening as he heard the elevator doors open. A tall, thin man with unkempt sandy blond hair peeking out from under a bellhops cap was pushing a cart in the direction of their rooms. The body language of this man was not quite right to Levi's way of thinking. And not only that, there was crusted dirt on his shoes and he was not wearing the standard pants and gloves of the Hotel's Bellhops.

Levi stealthily approached the man from behind as he stopped in front of Caleb and Bonnie's rooms. As he was about to knock on the door, Levi placed a hand on the man's shoulder. “Goldarn, mister! You scart me!”

“I see that I have”, Levi had not moved away from the man, standing his ground as a means of intimidation. Levi also noticed the line of sweat showing up above the perceived bellhops upper lip. Levi reached around the man and lifted a lid on the try seeing a plate of a roast beef dinner, a pot of tea and a dish of apple cobbler with heavy clotted cream in a small pitcher. “Is this food being delivered to the Rosenthal's room?”

“Um … yes sir … I was just about to knock for it's delivery …. um ...”

Levi picked up a fork, and stuck it into a piece of carrot on the plate and waved it into the man's face, “I don't suppose you want to eat a bite of this do you?”

The man was noticeably nervous at this point, “Why … no Sir … um …” taking the back of his gloved hand and whipping his brow, “that would be against regulation” he threw in.

“Oh come now. One small bite.” Levi moved the fork closer to the man's face. “Unless there is something wrong with the food?”

“Like .. like what, mister?” the man's voice squeaked out.

“Then appease me, won't you?”

And with that, the man waved Levi's hand away and tipped the cart over on its side toward Levi and made a mad dash for the stair well. Levi jumped back and took off in pursuit of the man with several doors in the hall opening to the noise of the crashing food cart and trays. Levi had no time to answer quick questions thrown his way, and he rounded the corner of the stair rail and proceeded down after the sandy haired man.

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Linn Keller 8-14-10

 

Esther Keller, owner and general manager of the Z&W Railroad, placed her spectacles in their case, the case in the desk, rolled the top down on the desk, and massaged the bridge of her nose with thumb and forefinger.
It had been rather a long day: her presence had been most welcome in their little hospital, but experience told her that it was possible to over-stay one's welcome: she made a graceful exit and returned to her office, upstairs in the Jewel, and was soon immersed in the unending bookkeeping that was part and parcel of efficiently running any business.

There was a quick, light tap at the door: Esher blinked and looked up, then rose and folded her hands in her skirt.
The door opened a hand's-breadth and Sarah peeked in.

"Aunt Esther?" she called, tentatively, as if a little unsure of herself.

Polly and Opal, on the other hand, held no doubts at all: shoving the door open, the happily shreiked "Auntie Esther!" and charged the owner, general manager and chief bookkeeper of the Z&W Railroad.

Sarah stepped into the room and opened her mouth to reprove her siblings, at least until she saw the delight and genuine affection on her Aunt Esther's face.

Angela sat up on the little cot Esher maintained in her office, rubing her eyes and blinking at the sudden, happy interruption.

Esther listened with complete attention to the little girls' happy tumble of words, and the office was filled with talk and with laughter: when the general cascade of juvenile enthusiasm ran down a little, Esther smiled at Sarah, and then the girls, and inquired, "To what do I owe this visit?" -- at which point Polly and Opal looked at one another, then up at their Aunt Esther, then over to Sarah, and together the twins shrugged -- which brought another laugh from all three.

Esther looked over at Sarah.

Sarah's expression was troubled, as if she had some disturbing news: perceptive creature that she was, Esther divined that she and Sarah had need of a discussion, and so she organized the younger girls in one end of the room, and rang for tea.

Over oolong and tea-cakes, Esther inquired as to Sarah's ribs, had she been horseback since her fall, was her father's Morgan horse hurt, how was her mother, and at that last question, Sarah dropped her tea-cake from suddenly-nerveless fingers and looked up at Esther.

Sarah's eyes were haunted.

She glanced over to where the three younger girls were playing quietly, passsing a doll back and forth, then she looked back at Esther, dropped her eyes to the table, looked back up.

Esther did not miss the tremor in Sarah's hands.

"Aunt Esther," Sarah half-whispered, then cleared her throat, took a sip of tea and carefully, precisely, with two hands, placed the delicate bone-china cup back on its saucer.

"Aunt Esther, I'm afraid."

Esther blinked inclined her head a little.

Go on.

Sarah closed her eyes, opened them: her lips were pressed together, then her head came up, as if she'd come to a decision.

"Something is wrong with Papa." She spoke with certainty, as if facing something she hadn't really wanted to see.

"Papa has been drinking. I mean ... drinking." She looked sharply at Esther, almost a challenge. "He has been drinking a lot."

Esther nodded, once.

Sarah's left hand clenched, her right covered her left quickly, as if to hide it.

"He threw a glass at Mama and Mama picked up her marble rolling pin, the one you bought her, the heavy one."

Esther's eyes were half-lidded and she turned her head ever so slightly.

"Mama said that if he ever hit her again, she would break his legs and then she would break his fingers one at a time, and she said if he ever even so much as thought about hitting Polly or Opal or I, she would kill him and his body would never be found."

"I see." Esther's voice was low and she glanced over at the younger girls, who were happily tucking their community dolly into Angela's cot.

"Papa has been ..." Sarah shivered a little. "He's not himself, Aunt Esther. He's been up late, very late at night. One night he received two men -- well dressed men, very fashionable, but rough, I could tell! -- afterward he was afraid and began drinking again." Sarah placed her hands flat on her lap. "I think they were threatening him, Aunt Esther. I think they wanted something.

"He said some other things."

Sarah's eyes wandered to the window, looked at the mountains beyond, not seeing them.

"He's going to get rid of Opal." She looked back at Esther. "Those were his words. Get rid of. He said she doesn't belong to him, he's just going to get rid of her. He's going to send me to boarding school -- or just get rid of me, give me to that dirty Mex."

Sarah's eyes hardened and Esther saw something of the strength in the girl before her.

"He called Miguel a dirty Mex!" Sarah's hands closed into tight, trembling fists; her knuckles were blanched white. "He's not!"

"I know, dear," Esther said quietly, placing her fingertips on Sarah's fisted and trembling hands. "He is a gentleman, as are the men of his family."

Sarah saw something in her Aunt's emerald eyes.

"I know," Esther continued, and Sarah saw that something become a hint of laughter, sparkling: "I know, because I checked."

Sarah blinked, surprised.

"Oh, you don't think I'm going to let just anybody cast eyes at my favorite niece?" Esther said, fluttering her eyelashes and bending a wrist to place delicate fingers on her own bosom.

Sarah relaxed, smiling: laughter bubbled up from the well of despair in which she'd managed to immerse herself, for her Aunt was deliberatly exaggerating a feminine pose. Then she became serious again.

"Mama said Papa slapped her," Sarah said slowly. "And I saw him hit her, just before she hit him back." Her expression was of someone who'd finally realized just how utterly lost she was.

"Aunt Esther, what am I going to do?"

"Where is Caleb now?" Esther asked briskly: her woman's mind was blessed with the ability to pursue multiple trains of thought simultaneously, and her thoughts formed into three distinct and separate freight-trains, surging ahead through various possibilities.

"He and Mama are in Denver."

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Lady Leigh 8-15-10

 

Levi looked north and then south. The would be assassin was quiet, but he did hear the faint footsteps as they ran toward Denver's business district, and as Levi was just in the area earlier that day, he assumed he knew the general direction where the sandy haired man was going.

Upon entering the questionable part of town, things changed. All Levi could see around him was the dark of night. Nothing moved, not even the air. Disturbingly, everything was quiet. Quiet as a graveyard during a new moon. Even to a seasoned agent like Levi Rosenthal, the hairs prickled on the back of his neck. No place is this quiet without there being a reason. Reasons in this part of town generally meant trouble, and it was apparent by the areas unkempt appearance, it was a place where few chose to visit. Levi moved closer, straining his ears against the silence, knowing something in the stillness was bound to break, so he stationed himself in a dark alleyway waiting …. waiting for something to happen. There was a sense of potential in the air ….

******************

Esther looked lovingly at Sarah. Sarah a child between girlhood and womanhood sat there looking brave one moment and looking like she could sit at Esther's feet the next finding security with the woman she loved. Had Esther really looked into Sarah's soul, she would have seen a girl who desperately wanted to climb up into the woman's lap.

Esther suspected there was more going on in the Rosenthal household than what met the eye. Eye's can be deceiving, but that gut feeling God so graciously bestowed rarely ever let Esther down.. Esther sensed Bonnie wanting to discuss things on several occasions. The most recent when she and Linn deposited a drunken Caleb at Bonnie's feet. Esther did not miss Bonnie's face expressions ranging from horror, anger, humiliation and …. now Esther had a word for the emotion Bonnie displayed. Rage. Ever so brief a moment, and then, as usual, Bonnie put on her face of composure. “Damned Scottish pride!” Esther thought to herself.

Esther took Sarah's hands into her own warm comforting ones. “I will not lie to child. I, too have noticed something amiss. But Sarah …. I promise you, nothing will come to harm you or your sisters! Do you understand me child? Nothing!”

Sarah shook her heard, and as doing so, the tears, held in check for such a long time, began to pour from her eyes and fall from her lovely young face.

*****************

Just the break Levi was looking for. A small sound not far from where he stood. He crept out of the alleyway and slid down the graveled walk way to where the sounds were louder. More distinct. A conversation. The voices may have been an assignation, but the sounds were not of pleasure.

“She's becoming a distinct liability” a woman's voice exclaimed. A voice which was low pitched. Grating in it's tonelessness.

Another voice. Male this time, “Ignore the hyperbolically's. They do not become you.”

Levi found himself crouched beneath a slightly opened window, and could not take the chance to stand and peer inside as the voices were directly above is head.

“Why do I even tolerate you?” The woman again.

“Because, you know we have this under control …. despite the luck of the Rosenthal's.” It sounded like the man was taking a drag off of a cigarette, blew out long and strong and then Levi could hear the toe of a shoe rubbing the butt out of existence. “And despite your own inability with the job at hand with Caleb Rosenthal ….”

A shuffle sound with a feminine grunt, “Come my dear, slapping me over the truth will not undo your error. The money will be achieved …. one way or another.”

It sounded like they were walking away from the window, and Levi took his chance to peer into the room, but all he could see were the nondescript backs of the two, with the woman rubbing her wrist. The man made one more comment Levi could hear as they were leaving, “Death …. perhaps death for both of them would be revenge enough ..” and then Levi could hear no more.

Levi knew without a shadow of doubt who the man was referring to. Bonnie already had two close calls against her in a very short period of time. What Levi did not know, was who was calling the shots. These were distinctly different people than the loathsome men he encountered earlier in the day. Were they all related to the case? He knew Caleb was involved, for in Caleb's own deranged way of thinking, removing Bonnie would entitle him to her wealth … only Levi knew differently. Bonnie was an intelligent woman. She knew ahead of time how to secure that wealth. But she was out of her boundary on securing her life without some help. Even if it meant the help from someone she hated and distrusted.

There really was no time to sit there and ponder. Levi left at a dead run away from the business district and back toward the hotel, where he knew several other agents were now standing guard in different undisclosed locations.

Levi would have to protect Bonnie at all cost …. Caleb too if that was possible. Caleb was his brother. Caleb would have to answer for his crimes, of course, but Levi would rather that be at the feet of the Justice system and not at the door of the pearly gates.

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Lady Leigh 8-16-10

 

As luck would have it, at least as far as Bonnie was concerned, Mrs. Langtry was performing at the Tabor Opera House in Leadville. Caleb threatened to leave Bonnie in Denver while he rode the train up to Leadville, and with a wave of her hand she bid him fairwell ….. Caleb did not like it when Bonnie did not putting up a fuss. It took all the fun out of attempting to get under her skin. Besides, Caleb did not want to be to far away when Bonnie met with her untimely death and to give his own performance … that of the grieving husband. So, it was to the Denver Opera House they would be attending that evening. In the meantime, there was a Gentleman's Club a short distance from the hotel Caleb thought would be a better suited place for him to spend a great deal of the day. Bonnie could fend for herself, and he would leave word to where he would be …. just in case.

**************

Esther's emerald eyes sparked with seriousness and indignation. The afternoon with Sarah and the twins played over and over in her mind. Other images were flooding into her mind as well. Countless situations, no matter how small or underplayed, also crept into play.

“Dearest?” Linn had been talking about happening during the day, but he noticed Esther's mind elsewhere. He smiled slightly, “Am I boring you my dear?”

Linn was taken aback when Esther spoke. With jaw firmly set, “Linn! Have you noticed Caleb acting oddly lately?” and before he could answer, “And Bonnie? Have you noticed how she have become more private of late?”

Linn had noticed. He remembered Bonnie walking into the doctors office one day recently and wondered if they would all be getting an announcement to another up coming birth. Perhaps Bonnie was nervous … feared the loss of another child …. And as far as Caleb went, who wouldn't know something was amiss. Linn tried on several occasions to get to the root of the matter with no avail.

“Linn. Sarah came to see me today. What she told me warrants alarm.”

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Lady Leigh 8-18-10

 

Fists clenched in tight balls. Anger rearing it's ugly head. Confusion. Ultimate sorrow settling in. Caleb was Linn's friend. Hell! Caleb was family!

Esther saw the emotions run rapid across her husbands face. She remained seated with hands clasped together in her lap as if in prayer. Her eyes still sparked and her jaw still firmly set, and truth be known, her heart was just as heavy as Linn's was.

All that aside, they both knew action was about to unfold, especially in light they knew only a small part of the story. Linn's only fear was the rage that boiled within him. Rage like that was a killer.

*****************

Levi had an agent following Caleb to the Gentleman's Club. Two agents were to keep Bonnie within sight at all times. As for Levi, he wanted to get more information on the connection between the two he overheard the night before, and those he knew who were in pursuit of a financial settlement in which Caleb had failed to pay back on to date. Levi had a great deal of information on the two business men. The leader, a boss man originally out of Chicago. It took awhile to get his proof, but Levi did find out Caleb's bad business dealing began when he and Bonnie lived in the St, Charles area that short time a few years ago. Either Caleb was lucky until now, or the Chicago Mafia had additional plans where Caleb was concerned. Levi needed to determine if these two groups of people had connections, or if Caleb put himself into additional trouble.

******************

“Mr. Rosenthal, would you care to wager?” Caleb had met this gentleman the previous day and found his financial connections to his liking. Caleb liked anyone who showed signs of wealth, which was why he was going to tolerate J.J. Brown.

“Wager on what?”

“Why a good old fashion fists to cuff!” J.J. Brown exclaimed with a huge grin on his face.

Caleb was not necessarily a fan of the Boxing sport, but if he kept this Brown on his side of friendship, then perhaps he could talk the Silver Baron out off some of his money. J.J. Continued, “I understand this here fight is not …. up for public knowledge.” He started to laugh, “Hell! I found out from Molly!” he laughed further.

The two men left the Gentleman's Club and headed in a southwesterly direction toward the Irish district. The Irish born residents made up only three percent of Denver's total population, but they were highly visible in their pubs, churches as well as in their political presence, but they were renowned with their ability to out fight anyone in the ring.

J.J. Brown led Caleb through, 'Noisy Tom Pollacks Pub'. “The ring is set up out back”, J.J. told Caleb. It was not hard for Caleb's eyes to rest upon the girls up on a makeshift stage, showing off what they had and what they could do.

There was a tacky looking bar off to the right side of the pub where a couple dozen men leaned with mugs in their hands. Caleb did not like how the different social classes appeared chummy here. Many of the men saluted J.J. as he walked through. J.J. Brown seemed to have not a single enemy. Caleb thought it would do him well to keep the man on his good side if he wanted any financial assistance, so he ignored his feelings of disgust as he shook hands with the multi classed men.

A bouncer moved away from the back door, waving J.J. Brown and Caleb through, where the two men found themselves under a cloud of cigar smoke, thick in the air despite the ring being out of doors. They now found themselves in the company of 50, or more, other men putting in their wagers for a fight that was about to begin. Caleb passed by some of the railroad workers with as much dignity as he could. The air was not only thick with smoke, but also with the stink of sweat and blood from a previous fight, and the rank of desire and desperation. There were clumsy looking tables set about, as well as cheap booths set up for those placing their wager and collecting their winnings.

Caleb pulled out is wallet from an inside breast pocket in his jacket in order to pull out the precious few dollars in it to make a wager. “This one is on me Rosenthal” J.J. Exclaimed.

“We're off to a good start” though Caleb.

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Linn Keller 8-20-10

 

I pulled waaay back inside myself, like a man will draw back in a cave, facing the open mouth with a shotgun in his hands.
I needed to get rock around me and behind me so I could study on this one thing.
Betrayal.
Caleb, my friend! How could you HIT HER???
I felt my bottom jaw start to crowd out and I looked down, like I was looking through two peep-holes in a mannequin, and I was surprised at the hands I saw, closing slowly into fists, trembling fists, white-knuckled and corded.
I saw the white scars smooth over the knuckle joints and across the back of the one hand.
I took a long breath and relaxed my hands with an act of sheer will.
Women in this era, and children too, were more property than anything else.
It was certainly not unknown for a man to beat his wife.
In many cases it was the rule and not the exception.
I had made it my business all these years to stay out of another man's business.
Bonnie is the man's wife, not mine, I thought, and immediately recoiled from my own thoughts: Mein Gott, man, you fought in that damned war and you're letting him keep a woman like property, beating her as he pleases?
Caleb!
I set down and pressed my elbows into my thighs, my forehead onto my palms.
Caleb, I called you friend, I thought.
I looked up at Esther and didn't even see her.
Caleb, I thought, betrayal like lead in my belly, I trusted you!

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Lady Leigh 8-20-10

 

Levi found nothing new on the man and woman he spied on last night. The news of these two individuals was new information to the agency as well. At present, it was the Mob men out of Chicago the agency was keeping tabs on. Levi made his way back to the hotel deep in thought piecing things together. One of his runners told him what Caleb had been up to during the day, and upon entering the service entrance to the hotel he was caught up on Bonnie's activities. All was quiet. Levi was pleased with the news, of course, but quiet, followed by the activities leading up to now, were somewhat unnerving.

******************

Bonnie and Caleb in their rooms were preparing for the evening. Opera followed by a customary late dinner with the Reeds and the Browns. The Reeds and Brown's were sharing a box, while Caleb and Bonnie would be sitting in the lower audience area 12 rows from the front. They were excellent seats considering the tickets were purchased late. “Should be an enlightening evening” Bonnie surmised. She was growing very fond of her new found friends, especially Molly Brown. Molly had spunk and Bonnie latched onto that with both hands. She absorbed it, relishing in its strength.

As Bonnie was dressing, she thought of the times she used to dress for her husbands pleasure. She remembered the times he would look at her adoringly and sweep her into his arms. Times of makeshift music and dancing around a room. The times he would gently lay his fingers alongside her cheek. The times he would pull her to himself and kiss her with love and gentleness, followed with the urgent kisses of love and need. The times … the times …. the times ….

Now her mind was muddled with whiskey bottles and glasses thrown about. An unshaven Caleb ranting about his need for money. An angry Caleb, with Bonnie's shoulders clasped firmly in his hands, shaking her. The yelling. His absolute need to have control of her. Her Business. Her finances.

In the early days of Caleb's unrest, he was sincerely sorry for the suffering he caused Bonnie. Weeks would go by before another episode. Now days, his moods were often and not even held in check. Bonnie paused in thought … Bonnie knew Caleb feared Linn's retribution, so he was intelligent enough to keep himself in check around Linn. That is what made it so difficult the night Linn and Esther brought Caleb home. Bonnie felt horrible making it look like an isolated happening …. when it was anything but.

Bonnie took a deep breath and put on her diamond and pearl earrings. Looking in the mirror, she patted her beautifully coiffed hair. She was thankful, beyond hope, she had Micheal Morrino begin to draw up the divorce papers. Upon returning home, she would confess all to Linn and Esther, and proceed with a process that had to be easier than what she had been dealing with to date.

With that, she planted a smile on her face and went to join ….. her husband.

****************

The Denver Opera House was spectacular. White marble floors greeted the eye immediately upon entrance and wide richly tapestried carpet covered the ultra wide staircase going up the the second floor. Celestial cool of blue and frosted white on the walls and ceiling made Bonnie chill. Floors so pale, it looked like an untrodden field of snow.

Utterly spectacular. There was not a woman in the building who did not feel beautiful standing in the grandness of the place.

Levi stood to the far right eying the Rosenthal party. As Caleb and Bonnie made their way into auditorium, he spied none other than Angelo Russo. Even from the distance Levi stood, he could see the scared face of Ricco Conti.

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Charlie MacNeil 8-20-10

 

Charlie was halfway home. He'd gotten a late start out of Firelands and with the moon merely a slim crescent in the sky the trail had steadily dimmed into obscurity. With a resigned sigh, the ex-marshal stepped down from the roan at a spring that watered a small patch of grass under a spreading cottonwood. He unsaddled his horse, led the gelding to water and picketed it on the lush feed nearby. Spreading his blankets, he was soon asleep.

Minutes later, hours later, who knew exactly, the rolling snort of the roan brought Charlie eeling from his bed and into the deepest shadow of the cottonwood, where he went still, Remington in hand. Silvery starlight was the only illumination and he could barely make out the roan standing, ears pricked, staring toward the west. Strain as he might, Charlie could make out only shadows.

Charlie relaxed a little, keeping watch all the while, but was jolted almost to his feet by the primordial wail of the wolf; not a wolf, but the wolf. Somehow he knew that the call was that of the great silver beast that had led him to the train robbery. Then the animal appeared, limned by starlight and its own light that seemed to glow from the tips of the silvery coat. The wolf tilted its nose to the stars again and loosed the drawn out wail of its kind then gazed calmly at the man, amber eyes glowing. "Damn!" Charlie whispered, the hairs on his nape standing at attention.

The roan snorted again, then dropped its head to lip the sweet feet around its feet as if nothing had happened.

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Lady Leigh 8-20-10

 

Bonnie had first heard of Emma Abbott's operatic talent when she and Caleb were living outside of Chicago shortly after they were married. Tonights performance of Maritana was sure to be a thrill. Not only was Emma Abbott preforming, but to Bonnie's great delight, she was part owner, along with her husband, Eugene Witherel. Caleb, too, was reading the program, “She owns this traveling Opera Company?”

“As I understand it, yes.” Bonnie answered

“It says here she owns it along side her husband.” Caleb's tone was less than impressed sounding, but at least his voice was quiet.

“So it does.” Bonnie stated equally as quiet

Caleb leaned over toward his wife and whispered into her right ear, “I wonder if she trusts her husband to signing bank drafts and financial freedom, or if she hordes it to herself”. The venom of each spoken word was hissed into Bonnie's ear.

How Bonnie wanted to fling the words back into his face. As the curtain began to rise, she whispered, “Crawl back into your hole like the miserable serpent you are”

Caleb glanced at Bonnie out of the corner of his eye. There was no mistaking … he had heard her comment. Caleb then reached for his wife's gloved hand and gave it a squeeze. Bonnie flinched with his initial touch which was followed by pain. “Be careful Bonnie … Dear. Unless you want to begin soothing your conscience and performing as a wife should.” Caleb removed his hand from hers and she moved herself away from him as far as she possibly to within the confines of her seat.

Above them sat the Reeds and the Browns in their box. Molly elbowed J.J. “I reckon they are not as happy together as you claim Caleb says he is” Molly stated. “Why, ya know? I don't think I've heard Bonnie say more than a few words said about him.” Molly may not have been able to completely see the interaction between the Rosenthal's below, but one thing Molly did know was body language. The body language between her new found friend, Bonnie Rosenthal told Molly something was afoot with that husband of hers.

Levi moved silently down the side isle toward the stage and slipped into a curtained side door. He determined earlier in the day he would have his brother and sister-in-law in good sights from this advantage point. Like Molly Brown, Levi, too, saw the quiet interaction between the two. “What was Caleb thinking these days?” Levi questioned to himself.

One of the agency's runners slipped in behind Levi coming from one of the many hallways the The Denver Opera House had within the buildings confines, “Russo and Conti have a box above us to the left” With a clearing of his voice, the man continued, “Leopold and MacGarth saw what looked like co-workers of Russo enter the building from the back.”

Levi focused in on this, “What direction did they go?”

“A couple of different ways”, he answered, “Two guys went up above the stage and then disappeared into the attic space over the auditorium area. A couple others look as if the are playing body guard to Russo and Canti …. and that is just the ones we have noticed.”

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Linn Keller 8-20-13

 

Sarah looked long at their little whitewashed church.
She'd not been able to talk more with her Uncle Linn about shooting that man that tried to shoot her and Angela.
Sarah did not take lightly the fact that she'd helped end a life: she also did not flog herself over the fact: the man tried to kill her, she'd help stop him, end of story.
Still ... Sarah was young, and Sarah was troubled.
So much, so very much had happened in such a short time.
The twins were leaning against one another in the back seat, sound asleep: Sarah had carefully washed the sticky off their hands, and off their faces, and she smiled as she remembered Angela's expression when she presented her little cousin with a stick of penny candy, there in Aunt Esther's office.
Twain Dawg rode beside her, his hind quarters planted in the foot well and his chin on her thigh, regarding Sarah with shining adoration.
Sarah gathered her reins in one hand and rubbed Twain Dawg's ears.
The great, plumed tail brushed happily against the side and seat of the fine Rosenthal carriage.
Sarah raised a hand, smiling as she waved at the Irish Brigade: as usual, they were polishing their fine steam "Masheen" while their cur pup snuffed around the front door, nose to the ground, trailing some unknown creature.
To a man, the entire Irish Brigade stopped what they were doing and, grinning, returned her wave.

Jackson Cooper pressed the stem on his watch, dropping the cover open to check the time.
He, too, smiled; it was near to supper time, and he could almost smell the good cookin' his lovely wife Emma would have ready by the time he rode up to their house.
Jackson Cooper looked up the street, down the street; he crossed over to the Jewel to make one last pasear before heading for his house.

Jacob carefully folded the diaper into a triangle: grasping his wiggling, active son's feet in one hand, he lifted the lad's bottom a bit and slid the triangle under him.
"Now holt still," he murmured, and little Joseph squealed and chewed on his fingers.
Jacob ran the safety pin carefully through the overlapped cloth, frowning as he ran the point into his finger again.
Annette smiled a little, pressing her fingers to her lips: she dared not laugh at her husband's grunt, but merriment bubbled close to the surface, and her eyes danced as Jacob wrapped the baby in a blanket and handed him to his Mama.
Little Joseph uttered sleepy little baby-noises of approval, for he knew it was suppertime, and Annette drew the shawl around her to cover the feeding infant.
Jacob bent a little and Annette tilted her head back to receive the gentleness of his lips on hers.
"I love you," he whispered.
"I love you, too," she whispered back.
Young Joseph was too occupied to offer any further comment.

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Linn Keller 8-21-10

 

A wise old feller, seeing my distress at hammering my thumb instead of the nail I'd meant to hit, waited until a most profane silence had passed before he asked quietly, "Did you talk to God about it?"
His quiet and gentle humor got a laugh out of me, in spite of the throbbing of my damaged digit.
I considered his words as Esther and Angela and I climbed into our buggy and I clucked up the mare.
Outlaw was tied on behind; Jacob still had my Witch-horse, and would have until those ribs mended.
I knew what it was to have hurt ribs and I allowed as he could have that horse for just however long he wanted.
Angela sat between us.
She'd been getting independent and before today generally voiced her preference for the back seat.
Today she asked in an uncertain little-girl voice, "Daddy, can I sit with you and Mommy?"
I don't know what it is about the young, but she knew something was not good: she might not have known quite what, but she knew something was not right.
I tried not to think about Caleb and of course when you try not to think about something you can think of nothing else.
I remembered Bonnie, the first time I saw her, there in front of the Jewel.
I remembered Sarah holding her hand and happy for it.
I remembered that scoundrel Slade, that crooked lawyer they probably screwed into the ground instead of buried. I'm satisfied once he reached his infernal reward, he'd probably plant a grove of corkscrews for shade, or try to... and I recall how good it felt to cock my good right hand back and start my punch right about boot top level, and how I tried my genuine best to drive his chin right out through his scalp.
I did that for Bonnie.
I didn't know how hard my fists had got, nor that I was shaking a little with their tightness, until I felt a couple knuckles pop with the effort and Esther laid a gentling gloved hand on mine.
I relaxed my hands with an effort and felt the strain a little above my wrist.
"Thank you," I whispered.
"Daddy?"
I looked down into Angela's innocent, upturned face.
"What, pumpkin?"
I couldn't help it. I smiled. I can't stay mad looking at that little face.
"Daddy, you gonna kill someone today?"
Her question was cold water dashed in my face.
I shivered in a breath and looked out across the mare's ears at the road ahead.
"Not unless I have to, honey."
"Who ya gonna kill?" she asked matter-of-factly, her eyes big and devoid of guile.
Think fast, my mind-voice whispered.
"The Boogey Man," I said solemnly.
Angela turned a little and planted her little fists on her hips.
"Dad-dee!" she protested. "You already killed da boogey-man!"
"I did?" I asked, pretending to be surprised.
"Yes you did! You got him with the broom gun!"
"Oh." I looked back down at her.
Angela nodded emphatically, her eyes bright and sparkling.
"Then I don't have to do it now."
Angela shook her head briskly, finger curls swinging with her effort.
"Well!" I strutted a little sitting there in that buggy seat. "Look how much work I just saved myself!"
Angela laughed and I looked slyly down at her.
Angela hugged me around my middle and leaned her head into my ribs.
"Daddy, you're silly!" she scolded gently.
I reached over, my arm around Esther's shoulder, and drew my ladies both into me.
"I know, Sweet Pea," I said quietly. "I know."
It should have been a quiet, happy moment and free of any tension or stress.
It wasn't.
I imagined the opera house in Denver, and wondered what was going on.
Dear Lord, I thought, watch over Bonnie, and bring her home safe!
I hesitated a moment, then added:
Give me the wisdom to tend to Caleb as You would have me do, I thought, but if Your will is otherwise ... Your will, Lord.
No more, no less and nothing else!

My lips traced the word "Amen" but no sound came from my suddenly dry throat.
Somehow, something very bad was happening, or about to happen, and not one single solitary thing I could do about it.

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Lady Leigh 8-21-10

 

Maritana was in its intermission time. Bonnie was enjoying refreshments with Molly and Leena while their husbands were elsewhere enjoying a cigar. Molly was keeping a close eye on Bonnie. There was something afoot, Molly was sure of it, but it did look to Molly that Bonnie was good at the facial hiding game. Bonnie's mouth smiling, but her eyes were serious. “She's passin' the 'clean-as-mud' final with flyin' colors,” Molly thought to herself.

The men just entered the lobby and were joining their wives. Bonnie was never fond of cigar smoke. She much preferred pipe tobaccos. The memory of her Father rushed in on her and she could almost smell his pipe tobacco. Fresh, robust, laced with black walnut and vanilla. She took a deep breath in remembrance swearing he was standing right next to her, and with eyes closed briefly, she smiled seeing him. A hand latched onto her elbow severing her memory. She opened her eyes and prayed sadness would not show in them, so she turned slightly to not be directly in front of anyone in their little party. The 15 minute announcement was made for the people to return to their seats.

Caleb and Bonnie bid farewell to the two couples at the base of the staircase, and the Rosenthal's made their way back into the auditorium area. It looked as though the majority would be waiting until the last minute to return to their seats. The large room had but a hand full of people scattered here and there and small parties visiting in various places. As they were walking down through the isle to their seats, Bonnie did not notice her shawl slipping from her arm and it lazily fell to the floor without a care to the world. Caleb, taking the lead to their seats did not take notice, so he simply sat and picked up his program to read about the Act to follow. As Bonnie was smoothing her skirts and readying herself to sit, a voice called to her from down the isle, “Excuse me, Madam. You may be needing this later. “ And an elderly gentleman, who Bonnie noticed in the lobby was not a sure footed man, was attempting to bring her shawl to her. “Wait, please, Sir. I'll come to you.” And she moved back down the narrow isle to the end of the row toward him with a gracious face expression. She stood there, with her shawl back into her hands, and was making polite conversation with the elderly couple who was introduced to her as Mr. and Mrs. William Lang. He just turned over his business to his son William Lang, Jr. who were architects having designed many of the mansions which graced Capital Hill, and more in the northwest section of Denver called Mount Olivet.

Levi was peering out of his vantage point area thinking how proud he was of his sister-in-law. She was not only tall and beautiful, but rich with poise and grace. She had the ability to talk to anyone regardless of their social class. “Caleb is a fool,” Levi muttered aloud. Levi saw Bonnie lift her head as she laughed musically at something the elderly couple had said to her. Levi's gaze followed her head upward and then something caught his eyes. Dust particles were falling from a chandelier not far from where Bonnie stood.

In his private box, Angelo Russo sat contentedly back in his chair with a smile on his face. He laced his fingers together over his substantially sized belly and looked relaxed. There was an addition to the evenings show which was about to take on a new performance.

As Caleb was reading his program, so as not to see Bonnie having a good time, he brushed dust from his jacket sleeve, only to find more of the particles taking their place.

Mrs. Lang let out a gasp and put her hand on her husbands arm. Bonnie's eyes followed where Mrs. Lang was looking and saw up over her shoulder one of the beautiful gas lit chandeliers was falling. The happenings which followed took place in slow motion.

Instinctively, as if Mr. and Mrs. Lang were children, Bonnie swept them aside and they fell fairly gracefully to the floor and Bonnie atop them hoping to protect the elderly couple from an element of the debris. She looked over her left shoulder just as the chandelier crashed.

Levi pushed through the doorway so quickly, the curtain tore off from the rod holding it. He saw Bonnie sweep the elderly couple aside and what looked like they were all going down. “Boooonieee” he heard himself yell just at the time the chandelier met with its target area of floor, seats and …...

Bonnie pulled her arms up shielding her neck and head, as she heard Mrs. Lang cry out. The floor shook, and glass and metal flew all around them. She heard her name called, but it did not sound like Caleb …. J.J. Brown perhaps? No the sound was more lateral than that. There were more voices raised as the chaos proceeded. More debris. Incredibly huge amounts of dust and plaster. Roaring sounds in her ears.

Levi saw the flames escape and rise from the gas lit chandelier and he raised his arms with the initial blast. Bonnie was on the other side of the flames. “Where's Caleb?” He thought.

Bonnie felt the heat and looked up. Her eyes shot open wide in alarm. As she looked to the base of the chandelier and flames, there was no mistaking the blue star sapphire ring she saw. It was her gift to Caleb on their second wedding anniversary. “Dear God in Heaven!” She tried to pull herself up off of the Lang's, but her skirts were twisted in and around her ankles making it impossible. She glanced back and her eyes looked at the ring. It was attached to a hand. “Oh no!” she gasped. What little she was able to see of Caleb was underneath what was left of the chandelier. It was a horrific sight. The flames were spreading and the heat was intensifying.

Levi dodged around the chandelier and lept over row after row of seats. His lungs breathed a sigh of relief as he spotted Bonnie, helpless, though, in her efforts to right herself. Her face expression alarmed as she looked … “what was she looking at?” As Levi reached her, he saw what it was she was seeing …..

“Bonnie!” He shook his eyes away from the sight, “Bonnie! Listen to me!”

Bonnie looked up, “Levi?”

“Bonnie we all have to get out of here!” Levi was untwisting her skirts and helped Bonnie off of the elderly couple. He noticed the woman crying and the gentleman was passed out. Levi took a quick check of his pulse. Beating, but shallow.

“Bonnie! Listen to me … you have to help me” he said as calmly as he could.

Bonnie's eyes were darting in every direction as panic settled in, “Levi? What are you doing here? “ Then she pointed, “Caleb! You have to get Caleb! Please Levi!”

Levi shook her by her shoulders, “Bonnie … God, I'm sorry, but it's to late for Caleb.” Her green eyes darkened and she just starred at Levi. Stared for what seemed an eternity. Then she blinked twice and nodded her head.

“Help this woman out and I'll carry him, OK?” Levi instructed. And Bonnie did as she was instructed, and together they made their way out to the lobby where chaos continued. They made their was through the front double doors, were chaos continued. They made their way across the side walk and across the Street where chaos was not as evident. Levi laid the man down and took off his own jacket and laid it across the old woman's shoulders, then began yelling for help. A man Bonnie recognized from the hotel, as he delivered her food earlier in the day, “I'm here boss, what do you need me to do?”

“Boss?” Bonnie thought in puzzlement.

Bonnie looked across the street and saw people running to this place and that. Cries and screams took the place of coherent words. The flicker of flames back beyond the huge doorway of the Denver Opera House were intensifying. Bells were ringing down the road and getting louder as they approached. Firetrucks? “Yes … firetrucks”, Bonnie thought. Then she looked up at Levi and narrowed her eyes, “What are you doing here, Levi?” What she saw looking back at her were saddened gray eyes. Then he laid his hand gently on her arm, “Bonnie … I will explain everything. Nothing will be left out. I promise.”

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Lady Leigh 8-22-10

 

“You have to find it within yourself to trust me, Bonnie”

Trust …..

Bonnie looked into the face of her brother-in-law. His eyes were honest. Straight forward.

Everything in Bonnie was a contradiction. Life as she had known it was showing itself as a shambles, making her feel instantly lonely, but she did not want the company. Not if the company was going to continue to lead her down the path she had obviously been walking. “Who are these men?” Bonnie thought desparately. Inside a burning building lay her husband crushed by a chandelier. She closed her eyes to the last vision she saw of Caleb. She opened her eyes and looked at Levi and saw the man who could have changed her hellish life those not so distant years ago. He could have given her salvation from a life of bondage. There, looking at her with his imploring gray eyes was the man who kept from her the only surviving family member he had. That man was now asking her for her trust?

Bonnie circled her arms around Mrs. Lang who slumped over her husband, shedding tears of fear over the man she had probably spent the biggest part of her life with. Why could Bonnie not cry for Caleb? Mrs. Lang cried out her husbands name as Mr. Lang's eyes lids fluttered open and the first words from his mouth were, “Estelle …. my glorious Estelle ….” There were thoughts going through Bonnie's mind concerning Caleb that had nothing to do with glorious. Bonnie did not know what was wrong with her. The numbness she felt was consuming.

Her head bounced up at hearing her name. It was Molly. With skirts hitched high enough to be running without hindrance. Molly falling to her knees and cradling Bonnie's head in her arms. The hysterical sound was coming from Lenna. “Oh my!” Lenna shrilled, “Your leg!”

Bonnie looked and saw the dark red stain on her skirt. She then felt how the fabric stuck to her leg. She marveled how the pain was non existent until her eyes took in the sight, and instinctively she put her hand over the mark and felt the sticky moisture, and smelled the coppery scent. Bonnie looked up seeing no one in particular, “Help me ….” Her heart thudded once. Hard. Hot tears rolled out of her eyes. “Crying?” she wondered. “Why? …. Anger? …. Frustration? …. Fear? ….” She took her hand away from her leg and looked at the red soaked satin glove and briefly wondered if its darkness was seeping into her, sufficating her soul.

Besides hearing Lenna's hysterical cries, there was Molly's , “Come on now Bonnie ...stay with us”, and Levi's continued calls for help and instructing those who answered back, she faded into blackness with the word trust in her mind and the word help on her tongue.

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Linn Keller 8-22-10

 

Sarah's eyes snapped open, her young body suddenly tense.
Sarah listened for several long moments, eyes darting to the far corners of her silent bedroom.
Her heart rate was up -- not the hammering, panicked leaping-rabbit feeling of a nightmare, of the nightmares she'd had since childhood... no, more the something-is-wrong, I-don't-know-what dread she had on occasion.
Like the barn fire, she thought, and this time panic did seize her.
Throwing her covers back, she rolled out of bed, seizing her Winchester rifle she kept beside the bed: her Papa had not approved of her having a rifle, but she'd bought it with her own money, her Mama gave her a wink and a finger to the lips, and her Papa had not seen fit to take this fight head-on.
He would have lost, Sarah thought, and smiled the smile of a young woman in happy conspiracy with another woman on a matter of their agreement.
Sarah stood slowly, thumb on the hammer spur of her '73 rifle, muzzle level, ready.
Sarah looked to the foot of her bed.
Twain Dawg, faithful friend, boon companion and unfailing guardian, snored.
Sarah relaxed.
If Twain Dawg isn't alarmed, she reasoned, nothing is wrong.
Then she remembered the barn afire.
Sarah stepped over Twain Dawg and over to her window, drawing the curtain, looking out, her breath fogging the glass pane --
The barn loomed dark and solid in the moonlight.
Sarah's eyes were busy, looking about, seeking anything out of the ordinary.
Twain Dawg's nose, cold and wet, thrus itself against her forearm.
Sarah reached down, rubbing Twain Dawg's neck.
"I can't sleep," she whispered.
Twain Dawg reached up and licked her jaw.
"Come on, Twain Dawg. Let's get dressed."

Jacob could not sleep either.
He'd dreamed he heard a buggy approach, but dismissed the thought -- not this time of night! he reasoned -- then Annette slipped out of bed to feed little Joseph, and Jacob ended up half dressed, in the kitchen and drinking from the stamped, enameled dipper that hung off their left handed pitcher pump.
Jacob smiled a little as he worked the pump's cast iron handle.
He'd special ordered a left handed pump from the Sears and Sawbuck catalog: this put the pump on the far left end of their sink and to his way of thinking was a handier way of pumping water.
Now, though, he drank and drank gratefully of good, cool well water.
He'd wakened dry enough to sneeze and blow dust.
Annette and little Joseph were in the upholstered rocking chair in their parlor.
The moon painted the meadow in shades of silver and charcoal and Jacob studied the scene through the kitchen window.
I wouldn't be surprised to see that wolf, he thought, and chuckled a little.
Imagination, he thought, and cat footed his way into the parlor, silent in his fur lined house moccasins.
Annette looked sleepily at her slender young husband.
Outside, in the distance, a wolf howled, a drawn out lament directed at the lunar orb and the cold, glittering stars scattered like gems against the velvet firmament.
Jacob's hand snapped to his belt, where his Colt usually rode, as a quick tattoo punctuated the nighttime hush.
Annette looked at her husband, startled.
Jacob reached over to the rifle over the mantle, laid his thumb on the hammer.
He did not need to look, to know it was chamber loaded.
Jacob opened the door a little, then drew it wide.
Sarah stood there, rifle propped against the door frame, a drowsy little girl in each hand.
"Can we come in?" Sarah asked. "I couldn't sleep."

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Lady Leigh 8-22-10

 

Bonnie could feel a cold cloth wiping her brow, which was a welcome relief. She could hear humming and heard a gentle voice speaking from time to time, but the words were not always clear. The voice was familiar. It was soothing. Like a welcome sound from a long lost friend. It had been a long time since she felt calm and at ease.

Whenever Bonnie would feel a nightmarish vision begin to dig it's ugly claws into her mind, the calm voice would calmly say, “Hush now Bonnie dear. Be strong, my dear friend. Remember how we used to support each other? I well remember all the times you were there for you. Now it's my turn to return the favor …. hush now …. be calm.”

Bonnie was once again resting comfortably in the Denver General Hospital. Levi, J.J. and Molly Brown where out in the hallway outside her private room. Doctor Jacobs had just informed them Bonnie would be fine. The metal and glass pieces were removed from her leg and was not believed to be any pieces of debris left behind, though they would keep her in the hospital to check for infection and to allow her the rest needed, also in light of the large amount of blood she had lost.

Dr. Jacobs was also the attending physician to Mr. Lang, who would likely be released the next day. Mrs. Lang had just left the three in the hallway to go back to her husbands room. “If Mrs. Rosenthal awakes, would you kindly let me know? I would like to thank her again for ….” a sob escaped Mrs. Lang, “for seeing to mine and Williams safety.” Placing her small, delicate, wrinkled hand on Levi's arm, “And thank you again, Mr. Rosenthal … and …. I do bid you my condolences on the death of your brother.”

All Levi could say was you're welcome and thank you, and watch the small woman retreat down the hall.

*****************

Across town, Angelo Russo and Ricco Conti were drinking a glass of Cognac. Russo put his glass in the air as if saluting, “To the departure of one and to the gaining of someone who will, at last, give us what we want.”

Conti raised his glass as well and with a touch to Russo's glass, “Mrs. Rosenthal.”

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Lady Leigh 8-23-10

 

“Has Mrs. Rosenthal awaken yet?”

“No, Dr. Jacobs, not yet …. and someone has been with her at all times.”

***

“I do not want to wake up. If I wake up I have to face things I am not ready to yet.”

“Bonnie, you do not have to do anything of the kind. Relax.”

“That is easier for you to say than it is for me to do, and you know it.”

The voice laughed her usual laugh. The laugh Bonnie had missed hearing. The woman patted Bonnie's arm, “Yes, I suppose you are correct on that one. So, let us talk about something else. Remember how we used to go down by the creek and just sit there?”

Bonnie felt a smile come across her face, “I most certainly do! That is probably the most serene place God could have placed in the Firelands area. After you were gone, I would find myself walking out there, and I bet you will never guess who I would find there at our favorite place.”

“Who might that be?” asked the voice even if she already knew who it was.

“Bill!”

“Really?”

“Yes! I was so angry at Levi ….”

Bonnie's breathing began to labor and the nurse called out the door for Dr. Jacobs to return as he had just departed to make his other rounds. He came running back into the room and gave instructions to the nurse.

“Bonnie! You must calm down! You are worrying everyone.” The voice said into Bonnie's ear quietly and calmly. “I know the subject of Levi troubles you, but my dear friend, we'll work through it … you will see. We will work it out.”

As quickly as Bonnie's breathing labored, it calmed. Dr. Jacobs and the nurse stood looking at each other rather mystified. They continued talking to one another, so the voice began talking to Bonnie again, “So tell me about Bill at our favorite place by the stream.”

“Yes,” Bonnie replied, “You are right … at any rate, Bill told me the most interesting story! It was of his past!”

“Really?”

“Yes! Did you know he was a Jesuit Priest? And that he had the fortune of falling in love with a woman …...” the two continued to visit for some time.

***

Levi finally left the hospital to send a telegram to Firelands. He felt it was best to send the initial telegram to Sheriff Keller as he would need to be made aware of what had transpired, as well as be made aware of what could be further problems set into action because of Caleb. It was also imperative they know Bonnie was expected to be alright, though had not awaken yet, and to do what he thought best about informing her daughters, managers at her business and her attorney. Then Levi needed to meet with the agency and talk about what had happen and discuss what needed to be done here on out. Levi suspected the trouble concerning Caleb was far from over.

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Linn Keller 8-23-10

 

Opal and Polly were barely awake during their ride, and were instantly asleep in Jacob's strong arms: he tucked them into the spare bed and instantly the twins were rolled together and deeply, dreamlessly asleep.
Young Joseph was most definitely not awake in spite of the meal he took: Annette rocked slowly, drowsily in their parlor, and Jacob motioned Sarah out to the kitchen.
The bread safe squeaked a little and Jacob withdrew a wrapped loaf of bread, fresh made not hours before: he tried his best to set cutting board and knife, butter and plates silently on the tablecloth, and was very nearly successful.
The serrated knife buzzed loudly in the nighttime hush as Jacob sawed off one, two, then a third slab of bread, fragrance teasing Sarah's nostrils and sharpening the appetite she didn't realize she had.
As if on cue, Annette floated silently through the doorway, a ghost with a sleeping infant propped against her shoulder.
Jacob buttered the first slice of bread,anointing it thick with that day's churning: he slid it off his palm and onto a plate, and the plate in front of Sarah.
"Now what brings you all this way at this hour?" he asked, eyes bright in the lamplight.

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Linn Keller 8-24-10

 

Sarah hefted young Joseph, an expression of wonder and delight in her eyes: Annette had lighted a single beeswax taper, and in the darkness, it was enough: Sarah's fair skin glowed and her eyes shone, and little Joseph gave a squeal and chewed on his little pink knuckles.
"Mother said he looks just like me," Joseph said quietly, his voice barely above a whisper, "but I wouldn't wish that on any child!"
Annette reached over and swatted him. "Jacob Keller, shame on you! The best looking man in all Firelands and you talk like that!"
Sarah blinked, turned a little to cast the candle light on all of little Joseph's face.
"I think he looks like himself," she said.
Jacob noticed the gentleness in her eyes, and considered this was something he'd not seen in some time.

Annette and little Joseph retired for however long Joseph would sleep -- Jacob gave little hope for a night's rest -- and so he and Sarah returned to the kitchen.
Jacob fired a sliver of wood in the stove's firebox, and shielding the little flame with his hand, lighted the oil lamp.
Patting his knuckles against the tea kettle, he said "Water's still warm, would you like some tea?"
"Just water, thank you." Sarah propped her elbows on the kitchen table i a rather un-ladylike, typically-Sarah manner, and Jacob chuckled.
"Now that's the Sarah I remember," he said, his voice warm and reassuring.
Sarah folded her arms and dropped her forehead to her crossed arms.
She heard the squeak and grunt of the pitcher pump, and raised her head as Jacob set the heavy tumbler of sparkling, cold water before her. He held the blue-granite dipper in his other hand and took a noisy slurp, then another, and hung the dipper off the pitcher pump again.
Jacob drew out a chair and sat down beside Sarah.
"Now what brings you clear out here at such an hour?" he asked quietly, confidentially, his voice rich and reassuring.
Sarah looked across the kitchen, to the corner where Jacob had parked her rifle.
He followed her glance, looked back at his cousin.
"Something's happened," he said: it was a statement, not a question.
Sarah nodded, swallowing hard.
Jacob nodded slowly, as if encouraging her with a go-ahead.
Sarah gave an abrupt, stifled laugh, pushed back from the table, looked from Jacob to Annette in the next room, and back.
Annette was rocking little Joseph, her eyes closed: in the single candle's light, she looked like a Madonna.
Madonna in a rocking chair, Sarah thought.
"You're going to think I'm just a silly girl," she said, her voice catching and then rising in pitch -- not loud, but tight: Jacob recognized this as not a terribly good sign, and placed his slender, callused hand on hers.
"If it's enough to bring you out here, it's not silly," he said and gave her hand a little squeeze. "Now out with it. I don't care if it's bad dreams or indigestion, let's have it."
Sarah took a long breath, let it out her nose.
"It's Papa," she said, "and -- something, I don't know what" -- she glanced again at her rifle, then looked again at Jacob. "Maybe it's tomorrow's inquest. Mama said they would be back late tonight so they could be here for the inquest and they didn't come back on the late train."
Jacob nodded slowly. "I remember my first time testifying," he said slowly, then grinned that broad, boyish, Jacob-grin that had always before set Sarah's young heart to fluttering.
"I was afraid that-there Judge was going to butter my butt and swallow me like a biscuit." He chuckled and Sarah smiled wanly.
"He didn't."
Sarah nodded.
Jacob tilted his head, regarded his cousin curiously.
"You said your Papa ...?"
The question hung in the still air.
Jacob let it hang.
Sarah blinked and looked to Jacob like a boxer who draws in his elbows and raises his gloves to guard position.
Something's bad wrong here, he thought.
Sarah took a deep breath.
"Papa has been drinking," she said abruptly, taking the plunge.
She looked sharply at Jacob. "I mean drinking. A lot." She sat up very straight. "He's been spending Mama's money. I heard Mama say he'd spent all her inheritance."
Jacob looked over at Annette, one eyebrow raised.
In the parlor, Annette stroked little Joseph's silky-fine hair with one finger.
Little Joseph yawned a great yawn and cuddled into her again.
Jacob looked back at Sarah.
"Go on."
"Papa has been yelling at Mama, and at me."
Jacob's lawman's eyes did not miss the hard set of Sarah's jaw, nor how obdurate her eyes had become: they were like polished agate, flinty, cold.
"He hit Mama." Sarah's voice was flat. "He hit Mama and she said if he ever laid another hand on her, she would beat him to death with the marble rolling pin Aunt Esther gave her, and they would never find his body."
Jacob felt his own body respond to this information. He felt himself grow very quiet, very centered, and he found himself considering just how to best educate this Chicago interloper that dared marry someone Jacob absolutely adored.
"Papa said he was sending me to boarding school." Sarah's fists were pressed against the edge of the table. "He said Polly was his blood and he would keep her, but Opal ... he would get rid of Opal."
Sarah's eyes were full of misery.
"Get rid of Opal," she hissed. "He may as well have said he would drown an unwanted puppy. He's going to get rid of her!"
"No."
Jacob's word was quiet but it might as well have been chiseled in granite.
"You are going to no boarding school, and Opal is staying right where she is."
This is another man's family, the voice of reason whispered somewhere in the back of his mind. You can not interfere in another man's business --
Jacob looked into his own past, and remembered the man who'd taken up with his own Mama and ended up horse whipping her until she died, and horse whipping Jacob as well.
Jacob shoved the voice of reason over the edge of a cliff.
"Sarah, would you be safer here?"
Annette had come into the room, young Joseph asleep on her breast: she held their son with both hands, but her eyes were bright: she had been listening carefully to the quiet words, and now spoke.
"We have the extra room," she said. "You are welcome to move in, all three of you."
Sarah blinked. She hadn't expected such a generous offer.
"I can't leave Mama with him," she whispered, her throat suddenly dry.
Jacob's jaw thrust out and his lips were pressed together and he looked around and down beside him.
It was Sarah's turn to see something in someone else, and her heart sank as she realized her words had just brought this man she so admired, to a quiet, intense rage.
"How can we best keep you safe, Sarah?" Jacob asked finally.
"Never mind me," Sarah said briskly. "What about Polly and Opal? If he'll hurt Mama he'll hurt them. And Mama? She can't just leave and we can't all just move in with you."
Jacob nodded, knowing Sarah was working this out in her mind by talking it out, throwing ideas out on the air so she could see how they sounded.
"Mama will know what to do," Sarah said with a sense of finality. She smiled grimly as she looked Jacob in the eye.
"Mama will know what to do, and she's not the only one who knows how to use a rolling pin."
Jacob squinted a little, leaned back in his chair and studied the far corner of the ceiling.
He stood.
"Sarah, come with me," he said, and Sarah stood as well.
The two of them walked into Jacob's study.
"Sarah, do you have a rag doll at home?"
Sarah blinked.
"I think so, one or two of them. Why?"
"Just an idea."
Jacob opened the roll top of his desk, opened a drawer and withdrew a gunbelt wrapped around a holster.
He withdrew his old percussion Army revolver.
"Ever use one of these?"

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Linn Keller 8-24-10

 

I don't usually go to the door naked.
Well, I wasn't naked but I was near to it.
Oh, I had my boots and pants on, my shirt on and buttoned, but when a man appears in public without at least a vest to cover his shirt, he may as well be running around in his long handles or less.
It just ain't decent.
Still -- the knuckles on our front door beat an urgent tattoo, and I pulled open the door, wondering what brought our telegrapher to my threshold with such a worried expression.
Fred Jerome removed his shiny-billed cap. "This just came, Sheriff," he stammered, "and I thought you'd want it right away."
"Thank you, Mr. Jerome," I said gravely. "Have you had breakfast? We've a little --"
"I'm sorry, sir, I have to get back," he interrupted. "I'm the only one working right now. I won't have a boy until two hours from now."
I nodded. "If you've not eaten yet, stop by the Jewel and tell them I said to fetch you down a bite."
"Thank you, sir," young Mister Jerome nodded, turning and moving with quick, jerky steps to his shining new velocipede.
I heard him rattle into the bicycling equivalent of a brisk trot as I turned and drew the door shut.
I unfolded the flimsy, read the precisely printed, immaculately formed characters.
It started out bad and did not get any better.
Caleb murdered stop Bonnie injured stop Sarah and girls in danger stop Urgent they be protected stop Levi.
Esther came gliding up behind me, laid a hand on my arm.
"What is it, dear?" she asked, her voice concerned.
I handed her the telegram.
I felt sick.
Esther's hand went to her mouth.
"Oh, no," she murmured. "Poor Bonnie!"
I grunted.
"Re-read the last lines."
Esther scanned down, re-read them.
Sarah and girls in danger. Urgent they be protected. Levi.
I raised my head, thinking fast.
Jacob's house is most easily defended, I thought. He will have room enough for guests.
"How can we help?" Esther asked briskly, the question and the voice of a woman accustomed to getting her own way peacefully or otherwise, a woman used to making things happen.
"First order of business," I said in clipped tones, and seized my beautiful bride in a crushing embrace.
I put my mouth on hers and left absolutely no doubt in her mind that I found her beautiful, and desirable, and irresistable.
I lit a surge of heat in my own belly, and I made her knees weak: holding her around the waist with my left arm, I brushed her hair back with the other hand and whispered, "That's the first thing, Mrs. Keller, never ever doubt that you are a most desirable woman!"
I released her and took several long strides, into the kitchen, and snatched Angela up out of her chair.
I tickled her and I cuddled her into me and I took her under the arms and thrust her up toward the ceiling, then I lowered my giggling, laughing little girl to chest level and hugged her tight, tight, kissing her on the forehad and calling her my princess.
"Now," I said, "I have the important things taken care of. Pardon me, dearest, I must get dressed," and with that, I rigged up in gunbelt and vest, coat and hat: picking up my engraved '73 rifle, I stepped out the back door and whistled for my Outlaw horse.

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Lady Leigh 8-24-10

 

Bonnie listened to what the woman had to say, and though only in a partial agreement where Levi was concerned, it was agreed Bonnie would give him a chance.

Bonnie had to ….

Her life, and possible the lives of her daughters, and those she loved, could very well depend on her reaching out to Levi with understanding and trust.

“Bonnie. You need wake up now. You need to get back to Firelands. Sarah needs you for moral support as she faces a Judge soon. All of the girls need you and you need them. Together you will always be stronger” The woman' voice was it's usual voice of reason.

Duzy was always a voice of reason ….

Bonnie opened her eyes. Though she did not recognize the room she was in, she did recognize the uniform of a woman standing by a table against the way. A nurse. Bonnie made the realization she was in a hospital. Her leg, she surmised.

'Enough of being tired. Enough of being afraid. It is time to live and time to be strong' …. Bonnie remembered the words of her friend and knew the words rang true.

“Bonnie?” Levi walked to the side of her bed.

“Levi …..” she looked at the man and was glad he only marginally resembled Caleb. The thought of Caleb made her stomach churn. “Levi, I will listen to your side of the story. But I also need to get to my daughters.”

“ The doctor is making his rounds and is due back here at most anytime. I'll see what I can do.” Levi looked down at his sister-in-law. “Thank you, Bonnie”

“No promises other than I will listen. I have had it up to my nose with scoundrels … those known and unknown, Levi. Do you hear me?” Levi recognized this voice expression. With a slight smile on his face, he knew she would be fine.

Levi sent the nurse to see if Dr. Jacobs was close at hand. When the nurse had left the room, Levi asked, “Bonnie? Who is Duzy? You spoke her name often.”

Bonnie looked up at the ceiling before looking over to him, “Long story.”

***********************

“Ricco, I want you to take two others with you to Firelands. See what you can find out about Mrs. Rosenthal's family, friends and her business. Maybe Caleb could not get the money out of his wife's holdings ...” Angelo paused to light his cigar, “But I believe we will have a higher success rate.” The large man, who was so immaculately dressed in his finery looked over to Ricco Canti. His voice boomed with his large, loud laugh.

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