Write at least 11 Stories:
1 for each
character in this list:
Buck, Lou, Jimmy, Cody
There were 33
songs to choose from,
all of the songs
are in the Statler Brothers
famous four part
is the THIRD set = 'Encore'
These are all
Post Express Stories
One Will Ever Know
make plans for after
|Woman Without A Home
what you ask for
isn't want you want.
|Angel in Her Face
meets a woman who needs his help
|A Couple More Years
overjoyed to have his brother around... too bad it's not a mutual
Makes a Difference
Lakota tribe is sick
and Tompkins is an unlikely helper.
|All I Have To Offer You is Me
overhears something in the General Store that has her confused,
hopeful, but confused. *accidental duplicate*
with four girls under one roof... is it a dream or a nightmare?
I Stop Dreaming
nightmares won't leave him alone... and he doesn't want them to
|Too Many Rivers
is eager to get home and see Emma, but he's side-tracked by a
mysterious boy... how far will he travel?
Past is Looking Brighter All the Time
so many secrets seeing the light of day... life just seems to get
better and better for Louise.
Owe it All to Yesterday
and Hickok sit down with a reporter
No One Will Ever Know
couldn’t have been older than Jesse James the last time he’d seen him.
have seen anymore of the world than his home town and the forced march
into Virginia, but there he was waiting to fight… maybe to die. Looking across the field as the wave of dark
blue coats swarmed down at them, Kid felt his stomach replace his
seen it before, they’d been outnumbered before, but they’d never been
been days without any real sleep, miles of marching along the way,
supplies… it just wasn’t getting any easier and the men were dying.
Dying in so
many ways. He felt a scream tear from his throat and others followed
trying to rally their flagging strength. The rousing cry did little to
tide of Union Soldiers coming at them. The blue-coated soldiers were
speed from the run down the embankment and they’d probably come to a
somewhere behind the line he was standing on if they weren’t stopped
lifted his musket to his shoulder and stared down the long barrel,
a target in his sights and aiming for the heart.
better this way, he told himself. If he shot the soldiers in the arm or
leg, trying just to wound them, they would linger hours… maybe even
infection ate through their bodies. No, killing the enemy was more
it was done with the first shot. Leaving
them to die a long painful death… that was worse somehow.
The volley went off and some of the soldiers in the advancing Union
down, falling across the path of their fellow soldiers. Men went down
tangled messes and Kid had a chance to reload and fire off another
striking a man through the base of his throat. The red fountain of
bubbled up from his body was lost when he fell face first into the
bothered him. He’d seen men die before, but it was the look on the
Utter surprise. Then again, all the soldiers coming at them were
barely old enough to be out of school, they were little more than
they kept coming.
a flash of red, a shock of hair peeking out from under the brim of a
kepi, and he realized that they were too close. There wouldn’t be time
reload again… wouldn’t be time to do anything more than hope the boy
straight at him wasn’t better at close quarters combat.
took his musket in two hands he sent up a prayer that he remembered all
bunkhouse brawls and the lessons he’d learned. The attack came from
head the soldier swung his weapon in a quick downward arc, hands on the
as the heavy wooden stock descended toward his head.
blocked it, but felt the weakened quiver in his arms as the impact
legs. The force staggered him and Kid had to drop one hand from his
musket to keep
himself on his feet, but it was too late.
the first prick of blood as the tip of the bayonet pierced his belly.
the most pain. From there, it didn’t feel much like anything until the
of the musket pressed up against the wound and then it hurt like hell.
oh God…” It wasn’t his own voice and when he looked up into the other
face he knew it was his own fear talking, “Oh God…”
wanted to tell the boy that it wasn’t his fault, that it was bound to
but Kid had just realized that he couldn’t feel his legs. He swayed one
then another, reaching out for anything to steady himself, but there
anything, nothing but the musket buried in his body.
world went white for a moment, as though an early morning flash of
shone off newly fallen snow. The pain was too much… and as he struggled
out for help, he felt himself falling backwards… his face turning up
sky and he winced as the air was forced from his lungs on impact.
lay, gasping for breath, the stock of the musket twitching in the air
force of his landing.
panted over and over, trying to catch his breath, but it was no use.
felt cold… the air like a cold winter wind blowing over his skin and
could do was sigh. He’d planned on going home. Planned on seeing his
again… planned on telling them his name…
bent over him, his mouth moving but Kid was deaf to his words. Even the
was fading, just like the light. He’d meant to write it in a letter…
tell them before he left, but there never was a right time. There was
left undone and now… now, they’d never know.
Woman Without a Home
Dinner was getting cold on
the table, but for a man used to eating
alone he was in no rush to sit down. Then again, if he were really to
be honest with himself, he wasn’t really hungry after all.
Buck picked up his plate and set it on the top of the stove and didn’t
mind the metallic clatter that assailed his ears. It was, at least,
Sound was something he craved; any sound that wasn’t his own voice. If
he continued on like this, listening for something besides the
murmuring of his own voice he might just admit he was going crazy.
There was a family of coyotes that had made a habit of prowling around
his cabin, their voices called warmly to each other, constantly
alerting the rest of the bunch where they were. If Buck considered
being honest with himself, he’d just come out and say how jealous he
was. Then again, if he said it out loud, he really would have become
the crazy old mountain man of his nightmares.
The last letter he’d read had been from Emma, full of news from Sam and
her children, asking for news of his life. He’d never sent a reply.
What would he say… when there was nothing to say?
Easterly winds rattled the shutters and he looked out the window,
trying to determine if there were more storm clouds blowing in. He’d
bring in more wood if that were the case… he didn’t want to die alone
any more than he wanted to live alone.
The fleeting blizzard the night before had given up less than an inch
of snow and it was just beginning to cover the ground outside with icy
crystals. The covering was just enough to magnify sound and make it
nearly impossible for someone to approach without alerting him.
That’s why when he heard the pronounced clip of a horse he knew one of
two things was true. They were friends and they wanted him to know they
were coming; or that they weren’t and didn’t care. Neither one was very
settling, but it did push any thought of food into the furthest corner
of his mind.
Picking up his rifle, he stepped outside into the winter chill, his
jacket still hanging from the hook inside.
There was a bulk seated upon the horse as it rose above the hill,
pausing for a moment to look down at him before continuing on. Their
gait was slow and steady, nothing to raise an alarm, but that didn’t
still the apprehension that reached through every nerve in his body.
They stopped just a few feet from him. The horse’s sure footing hadn’t
stumbled once as it had made its way down the hillside and the posture
of the rider spoke of someone used to the saddle… and someone with
A pale white hand snaked out of the thick animal hide cape and pushed
back the hood. She stared down at him as though she was a queen and he
a mere servant allowed to be in her presence, but the hand that gripped
the horse’s mane was white-knuckled and quivering. “I have news of your
brother, Red Bear.” He wondered at the catch in her voice, but she
continued before he could ask. “He is dead.” She swallowed, giving his
mind time to wrap around the information, but it wasn’t enough… it was
never going to be enough. “And he sent us to you.”
The hide dropped down to the snow covered ground revealing a child at
her back, strong arms bent at his sides, the boy stared out at him
through long lengths of hair.
The woman spoke again. “He is Proud Eagle, son of Red Bear.”
Buck didn’t doubt her words. The very posture of the child was a copy
of his father. The silent maturity that shown from his eyes was enough
to prove the truth of her words, but what disturbed him the most was
the anger burning behind his eyes. That anger Buck knew only too well,
because he’d lived on it for years when he had been a child.
Red Bear was gone. It was almost too much to believe and it had Buck
shaking his head, saddened by the loss.
“He was my husband.”
The pain in her voice drew his sympathy and his eyes. “I believe you.”
She didn’t look convinced and she hadn’t moved a muscle to get down
from the horse. “My husband cared for us. He wanted us to be protected.”
He didn’t miss the look that the boy gave his mother. Buck knew the
pride of a Kiowa child, knew the pain that came from knowing you were
less than a man when your heart said you were worthy.
“He sent you here. He wanted me to take care of you.”
She gave an almost imperceptible nod at his words. “He knew you would
Buck shook his head and held out his hands for the boy. “You are
welcome in my home.”
The truth in his eyes must have been enough, even for the mother of Red
Bear’s son, for she nodded toward Buck. “Go with him.”
The boy, eyes dark and grey like the gathering snow-laden clouds,
didn’t wait for his aid. He slid down the side of the mare’s barrel
chest and moved a few feet away to watch his mother. His limbs were
lithe, with just the barest hint of baby-fullness at his middle,
probably six or seven summers at best. Had it really been so long since
he’d seen his brother?
She was less than eager to leave her superior position on the horse,
but like any attentive mother she went with her son. She didn’t try to
take his hand and he did not offer it. The two stood side by side near
his door, watching his every breath.
Buck’s thoughts were frantic. He had lost his brother. Lost the one
connection to the Kiowa that remained for him and now, he had two
people that would depend on him. He had a new family, who by the looks
of them… hated him on sight.
As he went to stable their horse with his own bay, he had a moment or
two to replay the last ten minutes in head. His brother was dead and he
didn’t even know how it had happened… not that it mattered at the
moment. They had come to live with him; with nothing more than the
clothing on their backs in the dead of winter. It wasn’t going to be
Then again, when had anything ever been easy?
When he returned to cabin, they were still standing beside the door
like two statues that were soon to be made of ice. He cleared his
throat and gestured to the door. “It’s warm inside. I was just about to
“We will wait.”
He looked at her, his eyes and heart troubled at her words. “I meant
for you to join me.”
The boy looked up at his mother; hunger in his eyes for a split second
before he remembered who he was and stared at his host with all the ire
he could muster.
“We have nothing… they cast us out when he was gone… they said we were
not Kiowa. We had no place with them.”
Buck felt shame for them, hurt within his soul for what they had
endured from the very tribe that Red Bear had lead for all of his adult
life. He had no words fit to express his pain and he knew that the
tears he felt welling up in his eyes were not fitting for a brave as he
claimed to be. He turned his back on them to quiet his feelings before
he could face them with the dignity they deserved.
The whisper of fabric behind him was the only indication that they had
moved. Getting a grip on his emotions, Buck turned and stared. She had
advanced forward a step, leaving her son behind her. He was the son of
a chief, but even he shouldn’t see the lengths that his mother willing
to go through to protect him.
Her blouse was undone to the point where her camisole dipped below her
corset. She reached for the next hook, her eyes distant and staring at
the wall behind him.
She didn’t hear him or perhaps it was just that she didn’t dare stop.
Not with so much riding on her courage to get through the next few
“This isn’t… what I want.”
Reaching up a hand, she pulled the leather tie free of her hair and
Buck watched the wheat colored lengths fall around her shoulders. “I
want nothing for myself. It is my son that needs your protection. I
have no husband… no status to trade on… no riches to give you. All I
have to offer you,” her hands reached for the hook at the top of her
corset, “is me.”
Angel in Her Face
favor.” Jimmy cracked an eye open and managed to lift his head a few
voice was apologetic, put-upon, and Jimmy grasped the top edge of the
before him and raised his head enough to see over the edge. “No.” This
priest was serious, he tone spoke volumes even before Jimmy could see
son, he needs
can offer him
neither if it his father that he runs from. How do I know…” he looked
a split second and Jimmy could see the wall that grew up to hide his
feelings, “… that you haven’t merely angered his father and now look to
here? That is not the purpose of the church.”
her son’s shoulders, her back bent like the mountains looming out the
window. “Please, he has done
was drawn by the child. He’d moved nearly half a step forward, putting
mother squarely behind him, a little hand reached out to clutch her
on, giving excuse after excuse, his own hands stuffed into the front
his robe, poking his own shoulders up in a helpless gesture. “I have no
for the boy…” he looked at her with dwindling patience, “…and his
let out a moan
and her knees buckled. Jimmy stood, intending to help, but the boy was
staring, wide-eyed and white-knuckled as he grasped his mother’s skirt
seems to be
three stared at
him as though he were some mythological creature, half believing and
disbelieving at the same time.
woman bowed her
head and for the first time he caught a glimpse of the small rosary
from between her fingers. “Perdón.”
he wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand, trying to brush away
that clouded his mind. “Just tell me.”
though the man
had just refused her the help, the woman looked up at the priest as
asking permission to speak.
priest was busy
staring back at Jimmy. He’d been caught unawares at Jimmy’s appearance
eyes were measuring him against some unseen ruler.
are you giving
up your child?”
downcast, but there was a bright intensity that struck him in contrast
demure posture. Her gaze flickered over him, lighting for a moment on
his gun belt.
is nothing left
child should be
with his mother.”
would give my
life to protect him.”
softly spoken, but carried the crushing weight of a mother’s
understood the message in her words… remembered his mother’s feverish
when the pain was too much to bear. The sound of her voice roared in
and his gaze swept over the others, wondering if they could hear it too.
herself. Jimmy doubted that she did it consciously. He doubted if she
realized how the motion spoke to him. “He does not want him.”
you do… you
love him enough-”
give him away, si.” She smoothed a hand over his hair
and let out a breath. “He is my life.”
looked away, even when his mother’s hands moved over his shoulders and
though she were committing every inch to memory.
the pews, leaning down until he was nose to nose with the boy. There
indication of fear in the boy’s eyes, his chin lifted so that he looked
straight at the stranger.
saw what distance and candlelight had concealed. A bruise, several in
mottled the color of her skin along the side of her face. Some were
faded, others just beginning. It was a mess, one that needed cleaning.
nodded at the priest. “What have you done to help?”
hard and stepped back away from him. “I… I look after their souls. I… I
cheek?” Jimmy knew his answer was snide, heard the harsh recrimination
tone, and he meant it. “I thought you were supposed to be a shepherd to
am.” The priest
recovered a bit of his bravado and gave him a harsh look. “I take care
they are my children just as sure as they are the children of God.”
volumes as he reached into his pocket and withdrew his billfold.
first new grip of fear and pulled her child closer. She lifted her face
the light. “He is not for sale.”
“He’s… what?” A
sudden revelation proved to be his undoing. “I’m not buying him… no.”
react, her son held tightly against her body she watched him warily and
began to wonder why he’d gotten involved in the first place. With a
shake of his head he reached into the billfold and pulled out the cash
left. “Here,” he offered, but she didn’t immediately take the bounty,
stepped forward and put it down on top of her rosary, “take this and
find somewhere that you can live… safely.”
sputtered, muttering some nearly incoherent ramble about supplanting
church. Jimmy gave him a hard look and ground out, “it ain’t so much me
God, it’s about givin’ folks a hand when they need it. You weren’t
help...” Jimmy turned toward the door at the back of the Church and
took a few
steps before looking back over his shoulder at the woman. “Take care of
other… a boy needs his Mama.”
woman sank to
her knees beside her child and brought him down into her lap, his head
naturally fitting into the crook of her neck.
tripped over the other as his steps ground to a halt as he stared at
The fierce relief of a moment ago had been replaced. She ran a hand up
her son’s back as she whispered into his ear, a slight smile gracing
The child had relaxed into her embrace, his arms circling her neck as
quietly on the stone floor of the church.
He didn’t remember
leaving… didn’t remember the sunlight pouring down onto his face as he
for days all he could remember was the expression on the woman’s face,
seemed that a measure of that that peace went with him, tucked
in his soul.
A Couple More Years
“Oh, I dunno, Bobby, I think
I still got a couple more years in me.”
Polly paused in the doorway, tea tray in her hand and rolled her eyes.
A languid tickle across the top of her boot signaled the appearance of
their somewhat loving, always aloof kitty, Ms. Frizz.
“Come now, Al… you can’t think to keep on bein’ Marshal for years?
She saw his offended look, felt the hurtful pang of age reach up and
bite him... and she just wanted to cuddle up with him and fix it.
“Are they arguin’ again?”
Polly straightened up and looked at her young friend. “What makes you
Louise settled young Edward on her hip and looked across the room.
“Don’t they ‘always’ argue?”
“Sometimes,” confided Polly, “finding Sugar’s brother was the worst
thing that happened to us. The man just doesn’t stop pickin’ on him.”
Nodding, Louise gave Polly a sympathetic grimace. “Who knew that
finding one of Teaspoon’s family would be so…”
“So much like Teaspoon that it’s amazing they haven’t seen each other
in over fifty years?”
“Papa!” Edward wasn’t content remaining quietly in the hall and
announced their presence to the room.”
“Don’t think I didn’t see you two standing in the doorway lettin’ the
tea go cold.” Teaspoon’s gruff words were tempered with his lofty brow,
arched for this very occasion.
“Tea?” Groused Bobby. “That’s all we’ve had for days!”
“And,” Polly laid the tray on the table between the two older men,
“that’s all you’ll have if you’ll be around our grandbabies.”
“Humph, then I’ll go on over to the Greenhorn Say-loon and have myself
Polly stopped mid-pour and settled a hand on hip in a saucy pose that
had Lou looking up from her seat on the floor, where she was trying to
interest her son in a wooden horse. “Then by all means, Robert, don’t
let us stop you from having your fun.”
Teaspoon lifted himself up from the sofa and he skirted around toward
Polly. His impish grin had the desired affect and even as she murmured
words of protest, once he put his arms around her she was giggling like
a school girl. “Now, hold on to your temper, Sweetie… Bobby didn’t mean
nothin’ by it. He’s just an old grump who doesn’t know any better.”
“He’s thinkin’ if he talks about me like I’m not here in the room, I’ll
Polly opened her mouth to give Robert a piece of her mind, but Teaspoon
saved them all by planting a solid kiss on the lips of his lady love.
Edward punctuated the moment with a wet and wild raspberry of noise and
Robert fell back into his seat with a huff. “I know how you feel, boy.”
Teaspoon whirled around and gave his brother an exasperated look.
“Bobby, I’ve had just about enough-”
The elder Hunter brother held us his hands in surrender. “Well, so have
I. I never asked you to come lookin’ for me, but there you were,
standin’ on my doorstep, like I’m supposed to be grateful.” He folded
his arms across his chest and looked over at a spot on the wall. “You
bring me back here to your ‘happy little tribe’ and shove it under my
nose that I’m alone. That jus’ ain’t fair, Al.”
The only thing left in the silence was the sound of Edward bumping his
wooden train against the leg of a chair, his lips leaking out the soft
pulse of a ‘choo choo’ sound.
Teaspoon rubbed at his chin. “Sorry to hear that, Bobby. Didn’t really
think about it that way. I thought you’d be happy to see me.”
“We’ve been apart nearly all our lives, Al… it’s no fault of yours that
I ain’t the type to be happy over surprises… I think you got yourself a
right nice life here… it just ain’t mine.”
Nodding slowly, Teaspoon gave his brother a ghost of a smile. “Sorry,
Bobby… I was just too wrapped up in makin’ you a part of the family.”
He looked around the room at the extended family assembled for a Sunday
meal. “I am, Al… I’m just not part of… this.” Robert moved through the
room and lifted his coat from the rack beside the door. He paused as he
shrugged on the woolen long coat. “I came because I missed ya, Al. I
came to give it a try, but it just ain’t me to be a part of a big ol’
family… never wanted one in all this time and it ain’t likely to
change.” He gave Polly an apologetic smile. “Sorry to step out ‘fore
supper, but I’d best be goin’.”
She nodded her head. “You’re welcome… anytime.”
His hat settled onto his head as he opened the door against the wind.
“Thanks… and I might be back…” He looked at his brother, “maybe soon.”
If It Makes Any
Tompkins thought that of
every cockamamie thing he had been forced to do in his life... This had
to be the worst.
Word had come to
the Town council that the Lakota tribe had been holed
up at one of the nearby lakes, and some traders had come back with news
that the Indians were sick.
can't we go any faster?"
"This isn't a race
track, ladies and I'm going as fast as I see safe
for my wagon."
Louise huffed out
a sigh and Rachel took a nicer tact. "William, this
is a well used road, I'm sure it won't prove dangerous to your team or
"Fine." He flicked
the reins and the horses shot forward, nearly
jostling both women from the wagon seat.
The rest of the
trip was in silence and Tompkins preferred it that way.
It helped him to avoid looking directly at any of... Them. He’d avoid
it if he could.
A brave, one who
looked more like he should be in bed then on watch,
struggled to block their wagon as they came to the edge of the camp.
down to the ground and held up her hands. "We're not
here to cause trouble... We're here to help."
They'd never know
if it was her words or the kind look on Rachel’s'
face that got them past the sentry, but they did. Lou took the reins of
the horses and let them in on foot, Tompkins folding his arms over his
chest, made every effort to stare at his feet.
Tompkins was in
fine form that day. He didn't do anything more than
what he was asked by the two ladies. He carried water and boxes. He
unloaded supplies, all the while ticking off in his mind how much this
was all costing him to be a 'good neighbor'... A 'good neighbor' to the
people that had stolen his family. Stolen them and turned them against
Damn Indians. Damn
He turned, hearing
the immediacy in Louise's voice, he set the box down
that he was carrying and quickly found her knelt beside an older man.
There was no mistaking his weathered face. It was the same face that
his wife had found so appealing.
Louise felt the
shadow fall over her and turned around holding out a
hand. I need you to hold this for me, while I prepare the medicine.
"I'll get the
medicine." His voice was darker than he thought possible.
"It'll take longer
to explain it than for you to...” She gave up trying
to explain and grabbed his hand to pull him down beside her. "I need
you to bathe his forehead with this cloth... Keep him cool while I
prepare the tea."
There was no use
being petulant with Lou...she wasn't going to have any
of it. She’d had too many kids in her life to be affected by a pout. He
watched her back retreat as he wrung the cloth out and placed it on the
Tompkins became a
quick study in nature... His eyes were drawn by every
tree, every bush and bird in the clearing. They were fascinating, well…
not really, but they weren’t something he hated.
breathy voice rising up from the ground was a distraction
and Tompkins wanted to ignore the man's pain. Didn't he do the same to
Wasn't that the
heathen name they'd given Jennifer?
Like I’d tell
concentrated on performing the task that Lou had set for him.
That would keep him sane.
"Don't talk about
her like that. Her name is Jennifer."
wind blew cool over his face and Tompkins
paused. He heard in that one name... Three syllables, the longing
that this man felt... As if he really cared for “Jennifer."
Louise returned in
a whirlwind of long brown skirts and settled between
the two men, the back of her hand gently touching the older man's
forehead. "Much better, thank you Mr. Tompkins... Can you take this
other pot over to the children and help them? I'll be over as
soon as I can."
With her back
turned to him she didn't see the tight knot of tensions
between his brows... The anguish that was quietly stealing over his
Picking up the pot
of tea in his left hand, he held the cup attached to
its handle in his other so it wouldn't dangle in the dirt as he walked.
He bent down next
to the first child he came across. A young girl her
face flushed red with fever; he poured a cupful into the ladle and held
it up to her lips. Her first look at him was tentative. Almost as
though she knew what was in his heart. The next child was barely
able to lift his head and so that left it up to MR. Tompkins and he did
his best to get the healing tea into the child without spilling any of
The same scene was
repeated again and again around the small camp and
it wasn't until he had nearly made it back to his starting point that
he realized there was one more child... off at the edge of the trees,
He couldn't stay
away from the child. It was like that horrible feeling
when you've seen burned by the fire, but it still has that hypnotic
connection to you... drawing you closer. This boy... this child...
His throat closed
up and even if he wanted to say something… even if he
knew what to say, he doubted he could make any noise besides the empty
flap of his lips. Those eyes had focused on him through the fever and
they were watching him.
confusion, Tompkins poured tea into the ladle, running short
of a full bowl, but he still held it up to the child’s lips. Nodding
after a moment when the boy didn’t move.
The child looked
from him to the bowl of the ladle and then taking a
moment to consider folded his arms across his chest and looked away.
anger and Tompkins resisted the impulse to walk away. To
close that door forever. The boy, regardless of who his papa was… was
So he did what he
swore he’d never do. “Go ahead,” he grumbled, his
voice coming out more gruff than he’d intended, “have some, its
“No.” For such a
small thing, his voice was true and strong.
“Well then…” he
waited, considering the solemn press of the boy’s lips,
“I’ll just have to wait on ya, until that no becomes a yes. Everyone
else has had their medicine,” he heard soft footsteps coming up behind
him and knew he wasn’t alone, “and Miss Louise behind me would probably
knock me over the head if I left without you getting’ your share. Isn’t
that right, Lou?”
She knelt down
beside him, an earnest look on her face. “That’s right.
Mr. Tompkins knows how hard I can hit.” She slanted him a look peppered
with silent laughter and tilted her head to look at the boy. “Seems
like you’ve got a fever just like everyone else… we’re here to make
sure you make it through this… get you back on your feet.”
as Louise inched her way closer to the boy, her skirts
barely getting in the way as she lowered herself into the dirt beside
him and crept her arm around his tense shoulders. Her voice was low and
sounded like she was closer to singing then taking, but it seemed to do
the trick. The boy relaxed, his shoulders falling away from his ears
and his body swaying up against her side. She kept up the patter when
she looked his way and gave a nod.
ladle Tompkins watched as the boy allowed the lukewarm
brew past his lips and into his empty stomach. It wasn’t much, but it
was something. It was a step to healing up and that’s all that they
could hope for at the moment… and when he realized that he’d been
holding his breath, he let it out in a slow huff of air.
The boy’s lashes
slowly dropped down onto his cheeks, the rise and fall
of his chest… less labored. Lou laid him down in the shade, covering
him with a blanket and smoothing his hair. “He’ll sleep for awhile…
give his body a chance to heal.” She stood slowly, passing him by with
a gentle pat of her hand on his shoulder. “Time to get back to town.”
Tompkins knew it
was time to go, but as she slowly got to his feet he
found himself a little less than eager to climb back up into the
buggy-seat. He told himself it was the pain in his back… or the way his
legs had fallen asleep under him while he’d waited on the boy. It
wouldn’t do to admit the truth… it wouldn’t do at all.
If he did… he’d
find himself sitting there through the night waiting
for Sally to speak to him through her son’s eyes.
All I Have to Offer You is Me
Rachel pored over the meager
assortment of yarn that Tompkins kept in stock at the store and tried
yet again to fall in love with the pale green yarn tickling her
fingers. It wasn’t quite the color she had in mind, but then again,
folks that shop at Tompkins’ store couldn’t really be choosers could
Deciding against the skein she turned her attention to the ready-made
shirts on the next shelf, perhaps there she could-
“I couldn’t believe it myself, John. He wanted to buy it… here!”
The two men laughed heartily at the shared joke and Rachel did her best
to ignore the sharp tone in his voice as Mr. Tompkins continued on.
“Don’t people like him understand that the kinds of goods I carry ain’t
for folks like them?”
John Hadley, the owner of the livery shook his head, tsk-ing at the
“I guess they don’t.”
“They sure as hell don’t, John… and that’s the truth.” Tompkins whipped
paper sack and slid a stack of papers inside. “Can you imagine, Janusz
Tar… Taka… that European fella, wantin’ to buy something that fine… a
ring for God’s sake! Don’t he know any better?”
“Who was it for, Tompkins?”
“Hell if I know, John,” chortled the larger man, “alls I know is that
he stood right there at that jewelry case and wanted to buy one of my
“If that don’t beat all… humph,” the liveryman huffed, “like any woman
in her right mind, with half a thought for decency would ever marry a
man like him.”
“Uh huh,” added Tompkins, “convicted criminal and all…” the two
disappeared into the back room and Rachel quickly walked over to the
jewelry case that
Tompkins had pointed out to his friend.
There was an assortment of necklaces, a few cameo pins and lockets, and
there, nestled in a worn piece of cotton velvet were three silver
rings. Two were plain bands that looked to be in good shape, and then
there was the one in the middle. It had a chip mounted on it that
looked something like a diamond in the middle.
Hadley’s words sprung up in her memory, “… ever marry a man like him…”
Rachel’s heart dropped into the pit of her stomach and she bit back a
gasp of air. “Marry him…”
Taking her basket into her trembling hands she quickly left the store
and headed over to the blacksmith shop. Before she could even see into
the structure she knew he was there. Sure the banging of metal might
Jesse, but it was the sheer melodic sound of the sure rhythm of skill
and strength that told her it was Janusz. In a few years, Jesse would
be able to build up the upper body strength of a man, but for now, that
of each stroke meant that Janusz was at work.
She had been known over the past few weeks to come to see him early and
stand there, a respectful distance away and watch him swing his mallet
up and over his head, only to drop it down on a tight precise location.
She had done it before, become lost in the sheer magnificence of a man
dedicated to his work, singular in his ambition to be treated as an
equal member of the community.
Folks around Rock Creek forgot that his conviction had been reversed...
The real killer found. Still, most remembered the sight of him shackled
and in chains, humbled by grief and confusion. Most were told to watch
him careful, lest prison had made him into the killer they thought he
Rachel, well, Rachel believed that he was a man innocent of many
things, including the simple acceptance of friends.
Around the riders and Teaspoon, he'd sometimes forget himself and
smile... Join into their jokes and laugh into the night.
Today, he was hard at work, holding within his long metal pinchers
something small and round. She tilted her head to the side to get a
better look, but the shadow falling from his shoulders blocked her view.
He muttered something and she blushed. She didn't understand the
language, but she did understand his meaning. "It can't be all that
bad, can it?"
Janusz missed his stroke, the mallet falling down on the edge of the
piece and sent it flying into the dirt. He turned around a smile died
on his lips.
"Yes... I thought you'd be happy to see me."
And that would have been the truth, four days ago. "You haven't been by
the house. We've... I've missed you."
The admission struck him hard and she saw him wince. "I've been..." he
motioned to the shop around him.
"Busy." She finished the thought for him, but neither of them believed
it. Most folks in town didn't trust him enough to bring him their
business. "Still, I just thought I'd stop by and ask if you'd like to
come over for supper tonight. The boys wanted a roast and I'd like you
The question startled her from her thoughts. "Why? What do you mean?"
"Why invite me? You... You know that I am a criminal-"
"They found the real killer, Janusz."
He opened his mouth to say something and seemed to think better of it.
He dropped his mallet on the bench and turned toward the back of the
shop. "Go away, Rachel... Save yourself."
"What?" Setting down her basket she moved into the shadows of the shop.
"I don't understand."
"Get away. You don't want to be here."
"Yes... I do."
"Not anymore." He reached for another tool and Rachel grabbed his hand,
turning him to her.
"What's really wrong, Janusz, tell me."
She'd learned something from hanging around Teaspoon and the boys.
Stubborn men could be broken down... and it was worth it when they did.
"I'm staying... And I'm sure that'll cause quite a stir, so if that's
what you're tryin' to avoid; you'd better just tell me know and get it
He wouldn't look at her, his gaze focused on her hand clutching his.
"My hands... They are dirty."
"It'll wash off," she fired back, "I have a lot of soap."
"It would not do... for people to see you here."
"I don't care, Janusz. I want to be here." She tugged on his hand
and brought his gaze up to her face. "With you."
The words were nearly his undoing. He saw the truth of it in her face
and he nearly fell apart. "You can't..."
Rachel followed his gaze to the piece of metal that lay in the dirt of
his shop. She released his hand and evaded his grasp as she bent down
to pick it up. An iron circle, small enough to...
Holding it gently in her fingers she turned to look at him, but he was
bent over his workbench, his eyes focused intently on something.
“What were you going to do with this?”
His hammer fell again and again and still he offered no answer.
She moved over to his side, careful to avoid the backswing of every
frustrated pounding as he tried so hard to avoid her. “Janusz… tell me.”
He let it fall from his hand and the wooden handle dropped with a thud
to the bench. “It is the end of a silly dream, myszka.”
She heard the emptiness in his voice and felt it echo in the cavern
around her heart. “You know…” she began, putting more wistful hope into
her voice than she could possibly feel, “if I was still a little girl
who believed in fairy tales, I’d say this circle here… was really a
ring, forged in the fires of a knight’s love. A ring he would give her
when he finally decided that she was the woman he wanted to take to
“You read… many of these tales?”
“Not anymore… I’m a grown woman now… but I still believe in what I
“Gnomes and witches?”
“Love and the magic it creates.”
Janusz turned his back and rubbed his hand over the back of his neck.
“There is no magic… no love that I can have.”
Rachel rounded the bench and moved to stand in front of him… keep him
from walking away. She caught his gaze and held out the ring. “This… if
it is what I think you meant to make… can make its own magic.”
He glanced longingly at it for a moment before waving it off. “It is
iron… a ring, worthy of you, should be gold. I have no gold… no jewels
“I don’t want any. Even better… I don’t need any. My Henry and I didn’t
have much… but we had each other and it was enough to hold each other
when the wind blew cold and share the warmth of the sun when it
was out. I can’t make you tell me what’s in your heart, Janusz, but I
can tell you what’s in mine.”
She watched his knuckles turn white and flush again with every flex of
his fist. He was worried… then again, so was she.
“I want you in my life, Janusz. Whether as a friend or husband that
would be your choice, but do not make the mistake of thinking that I
care what the rest of this town thinks. When the town knew me as a
woman accused of murder, it was Teaspoon and the boys that stood by me.
I owe them my life and my love… and they love me back. I’d like to
include you in that family… if that is what you want.” She took
hold of his hand and set the iron ring in the center of his palm. “When
you make your decision… let me know. I have to get back and finish
supper for my family.”
Her smile was warm, no demand evident in her eyes… just hope… and love.
She left him standing there, the flames dying in the forge… metal
cooling on the brick edge surrounding it. Janusz looked at the ring,
turning it over and over in his palm as he considered her words. It was
impossible to believe that she meant what she said. He could offer her
so little… when she deserved so much.
Then there was her smile. The way she touched him. The way she included
him in her life… her family.
“Rachel.” He looked up and saw her walking down the street toward the
Express Station. “Rachel?”
He set out after her, calling her name. “Rachel!”
Myszka = darling
Emma put out the lantern in
the kitchen and stepped into the hallway to check on the girls and
found Sam already sentinel in the doorway. Slipping her arms around her
husband she placed a kiss on his shoulder. “I thought you would be
sleeping by now.”
Sam nodded, but he didn’t move anymore than lifting his lantern to get
a good look at the room full of children.
Sarah was their oldest. Her bed closest to the window was piled with
coats. “Funny,” Emma chuckled, “I thought we told the girls to put the
coats up on the wall.”
Sam shifted and wrapped his free arm around his wife and pulled her
close. “You did. I did. But,” he nodded toward the next bed, “I’m sure
they had something to do with forgetting.”
The next bed was rounded at the headboard and two dark heads could be
seen just over the edge of the quilt. “I’m glad Emmy had a chance to
visit. Maddie’s right in the middle of the others at school and she’s
usually off by herself. Emmy gives her someone she can talk to.”
Giving a little huff, Sam looked down at his wife. “Can’t she talk to
me? Seems like she’s always talkin’ up a storm… what’s it got to do
with havin’ another girl her age around.” He didn’t like Emma laughing,
it only darkened his mood. “She’s eight, Emma. What’s she got to say
that she can’t say to her Daddy?”
Emma stroked his arm and make soft cooing noises as if she was calming
a frightened child. “Sam, there’s some things that a girl just needs a
girl around for. It helps to have someone that understands things from
the same perspective.”
Sam pondered her words for a moment and his eyes went wide when he
finally caught on to what she was saying. “Boys?”
Grabbing at his arm, she managed to keep him in place. “Where do you
think you’re going?”
“I’m gonna get my shotgun… no,” he changed his mind, thinking better of
his original idea, “I’m gonna get my rifle and my shotgun.”
Emma threw her arms around her husband and leaned into his chest with a
laugh. “You’re missing the point, Sam.”
“The hell I am…” he paused in his emotional tirade and looked down at
Emma’s tears of laughter and sighed, “I’m her Daddy and this is the
first I’m hearing of a boy in her life.”
She shook her head and touched his cheek with a gentle hand. “That’s
because there isn’t a ‘boy’ in her life besides you, Sam.” She turned
back to the room, watching intently as one of the girls shifted beneath
the quilt. “Right now, she’s at the age when she needs to giggle and
wish and dream. It’s a precious time in her life and she needs a friend
of her own age to share it with.”
We never had that problem with Sarah.”
“She had Alice Carney and Ellen Olivera; they still write each other
every chance they get.”
Alice Cain mumbled in her sleep and Sam stepped into the room. “I’ll
check on her, honey… you go get ready for bed.”
He didn’t wait for her agreement; he took the lantern in with him and
set it on the table by Alice’s head. Her honey gold curls darkened in
the lantern light and she looked so pale against the dark green woolen
blanket that they’d given her for her birthday.
Another mumble and a half cry were all that got out of her lips before
he swept her hair back from her face and placed a gentle kiss on her
forehead. “You rest yourself, sweetheart. The day will come soon enough
that I won’t be enough to make you happy… so for just a little while,
get some sleep and we’ll have our selves a fine time of playing
Alice cuddled against her father’s arm, her breath warm and light over
his skin. She was the youngest of the Cain girls and most likely the
last of their children. He’d never regret the lack of a boy in their
family. He had his hands full with the girls. The boy… well the boy
would most likely kill him with worry.
Once the littlest of the ‘Cain three’ was safely back in a deep sleep
he backed out of the room, taking his lantern with him, making the
journey back to his own room. The room he shared with…
Emma was seated at her vanity table, combing out her hair. He stood in
the doorway watching each careful stroke as it combed out the tangles
left by the day’s exertions. It took him a full half a minute to
realize she had stopped.
“You planning on staying there in the doorway, Sam?”
He smiled as he met her eyes in the mirror. “If it means that I get to
watch you all day, Emma…”
She set her brush down and started to braid her hair. “Is Alice
He nodded, unable to speak as she wound a ribbon around the bottom of
her hair. She noticed his gaze and laughed. “Not quite as pretty as it
used to be… I miss the time when I had hair like the girls…”
“I don’t.” She met his gaze as he walked toward her, his hand extended
to help her rise. She took it, not because she needed it, but because
she loved the feel of his strong hands in hers. “You’re more beautiful
“Are you sure you’re not Irish Sam… you certain do know how to talk to
H pulled her tight against his chest and kissed the top of her head.
“You know when I knew I was going to marry you?”
She knew. He’d told her probably a million times in the fifteen years
that they’d been married, but it never hurt to hear it again. “When?”
“When I couldn’t close my eyes to sleep at night without dreaming of
Sam bent down and kissed her on her cheek.
“And now,” she whispered.
He felt her head rest right up against the beat of his heart and he
smiled. “I’ve never stopped, but at least now I get to hold you in my
arms instead of just dreaming about it.”
“I love you Sam Cain…”
“… and I you, Emma… I love you.”
When I Stop
was RED. The sun… the earth beneath his feet, the color of his hands.
He looked over at the bed beside him and saw the pallor of Ike’s skin.
The bandage wound around his chest. The life slipping from his body
faster than Buck could pray it back in.
hands, reached for him… begged him… wordless lips prayed… *save me*
no!” Buck sat up in bed, his heart exploding in his chest, fear
pounding through his veins. “Ike… no!”
Buck clawed his
way out of the darkness, the pain subsiding as he slowly became aware
of the soft hands caressing his skin… sliding over his chest, wrapping
around his body.
Lips, soft and
tender, plied over his skin, fingers through his hair. “What’s wrong?”
He settled back
into his own skin and turned to his wife, gathering her tight against
his side. “It’s just a nightmare… sorry I woke you.”
He felt her
laughter vibrating against his shoulder, her breath tickling his skin.
would have woken up the neighbors if we had any.” She nodded toward the
window and Buck knew as she did that there was a good four miles
between their place and the next homestead.
leaned back against the wall pulling her down with him, “it was just a
struggled to sit up and look him square in the eye. “I don’t believe
He looked away,
steadying his voice as best he could. “It is what I said. A nightmare.”
“Your heart,” she
settled her hand against his chest, her palm spanning the distance
between his muscles, pressed in tight to feel the pounding beats, “is
trying to leap out of your chest and you tell me it’s ‘just’ a
nightmare.” She sat back, her fingers trailing down his torso
before coming to rest on his abdomen. “You’re not a man that lies well,
Buck. You have no talent for it.”
He bit his lip,
trying to keep them closed. Needing to keep this from hurting her since
it already claimed his sanity. “It’s not a lie…” he took her hand in
his and lifted it to his mouth, brushing a kiss over the tips of her
fingers, “more like a wish… a hope.”
“Hope?” She didn’t
sound convinced, but she hadn’t thrown him out of bed yet and Buck
considered that some kind of victory. “You’ve barely mentioned Ike
before, Buck… what’s going on.”
Sweeping her hair
back from her face, Buck drank in the sight of her features. “He was
dead before I knew you… my oldest friend… my brother in heart but not
“He was killed.”
She didn’t need to ask, she’d heard the pain in his voice when he woke
up beside her, crying out in pain.
“Is it always the
Buck lifted his
head to meet her gaze. This wasn’t the first time that he’d had the
nightmare… but it was the first time he’d woken up screaming for Ike.
“There are ways…”
her voice was soft… gentle, “to overcome the nightmares… my grandmother
knew ways… and I’m sure the Kiowa-”
dismissed her idea and moved a few inches away from her, “I don’t want
the dreams to go away, Dee.”
She took his face
in her hands and stared him straight in the eye. “You don’t want to?
Buck, do you hear yourself?” Her volume raised a bit as she struggled
to understand. “Did you hear the anguish in your voice… did you hear
the pain… it was like someone had cut out your heart! Why would you
want to feel that again… to live that again?”
“I’m not trying to
hurt you, Dee. I just-”
She kissed him for
a moment, cutting off his argument and showing him the wealth of love
that she felt for him. “You’re just being your lovely hard-headed self.
I’m not hurting because of you, Buck… I’m hurting for you.”
“I can’t let him
brushed his long hair back from his face, tucking the ends of his hair
behind his shoulders. “You can’t let the pain go? Or Ike?”
answering both… and yet still not really sure of the truth. “I feel
like I’m walking on the very top of the mountain; a steep mountain with
just a narrow path on its summit. If I lean one way or the other I’m
going to fall.
“I can’t see him
anymore… not during the day… not when I ‘try’ to see him. It started a
few months ago, I’d sit down and remember something… some time in our
lives together that made me smile, but I couldn’t see the picture of
his face in my mind.” He avoided her calming touch and shrugged away.
“The only time I can see him… remember what he looks like is-”
dreams.” Buck nodded and took her in his arms, burying his face
against her neck. “But they’re nightmares, Buck… nightmares.”
He lifted his head
and looked into her eyes, pain hollowing his eyes. “It’s better than
Too Many Rivers
Horses don’t like water. Ask anyone
that spends any time around horses and that’s what they’ll tell you.
Folks’ll also tell you that if you spend enough time will someone
you’ll pick up their… mannerisms… affectations. Right?
Sam looked out
over the river in front of him. It had been a creek a few days ago, but
with the sudden onslaught of rain in the area it had swollen to the
size of a river in no time and now it was going to be a bear to cross
It wasn’t his
imagination. Nope. It was just not the day for this. Sam sat back in
his saddle and stared out at the water about as enthusiastic about
setting out as his horse… maybe even less.
He pushed his hat
back on his head and scratched at the itch along his hairline. Emma’d
say he’s being silly… letting something like this bother him.
She’d say it, and
she’d be right.
“I wouldn’t go
across if I was you.”
Sam turned in his
saddle and stared down at a little boy leaning against an ironwood near
the bank of the river. “Really now… why not?”
“It’s a perfect
day to do nuthin’… and with you up on that fancy horse of yours… seems
like you’re headin’ somewhere to do somethin’ and that’s just a
Sam gently tugged
on the left rein and his horse turned a few shuffling steps in that
direction. “Don’t you have somewhere to go?”
The boy considered
the question for a moment before he shrugged and shook his head. “Don’t
reckon I do, Mister. Why?”
Sam pulled his hat
down to block the mid morning sun from his eyes. “Well, when someone
asks you somethin’ generally you ask it back… and I guess you can say
I’m curious what you’re doin’ all the way out here.”
The boy looked
around and straightened his back along the tree trunk. “I live out
here.” He considered his words for a moment and then looked back up at
“What are YOU
doin’ all the way out here?”
Sam leaned down a
few inches, giving the boy a measuring look. “My job.” He pulled his
jacket aside, revealing the silver star pinned on his shirt. “I’m the
Territorial Marshal. You know what that is?”
did. A moment later, the boy scrambled out from under the tree and
disappeared over a rise behind the tree line.
regret it, Sam kneed his mount into pursuit.
The boy’s tracks
were easy to find and soon he was just a hair behind the boy.
A small wooden
shack had been cobbled together and barely looked big enough for one
person, let alone two.
As Sam reached the
clearing the boy was screaming at the top of his lungs as he ran for
the shack. “Papa… papa… the Marshal!”
The door cracked
open and Sam barely had his hand on is rifle before the barrel of a
shotgun poked out of the darkness and turned toward him.
He pulled back
sharply on the reins as he tried to turn his mount away from the
impending danger, but he was too late. Too slow. Too old.
Sparks spat from
the weapon and Sam squeezed the trigger of his rifle answering.
A gruff yell and
the erratic wave of the barrel meant that he’d hit his target,
but he didn’t have a chance to celebrate or even take a breath when
pain spasmed through his chest.
His arm dropped
limp at his side, the rifle falling from useless fingers as he looked
down and saw the bloody tattered cotton barely covering his chest. The boy flew at
him, letting out his shock and anger on both rider and horse, unable to
reach more than Sam’s knee.
He knew he should
take the boy home with him. Knew the child couldn’t survive on his own
out here… survive on his own and take care of his father’s body.
He’d killed the
boy’s father and he still didn’t know what it was they had to hide.
Bile and blood
rose up in his throat and Sam coughed, bloody spittle covering the palm
he held in front of it. Emma. He had to get home.
He knew it was
going to take a miracle to get there, but he had to try.
Sam didn’t bother
to wipe the blood off his hand, instead picked up his reins and turned
back to the river. He sent his horse forward even as the boy
followed behind him waving his fists and screaming curses at his back.
He knew his horse
didn’t know the pain he was suffering through, knew it wasn’t
jostling him any more than it normally did, but still the stars that
blazed through his vision weren’t helping him at all. Weren’t going to
help him stay in his saddle.
The thought of her
smile sobered him up… kept his gaze on the trail ahead… had his nose
searching for the smell of muddy water… his ears searching for the rush
of sound that meant water was close.
Then, just went it
seemed he’d lost his way, the brush parted and he was on his way down
the bank of sandy dirt that was even now sliding into the rushing
current. Sam braced his teeth together for the chill of the water
always hit him like a fist in his jaw. This time was no different. The
water was cold… nearly the chill of ice where it had started up in the
mountains and hadn’t picked up the heat of the sun, too bad for him.
Too bad for his horse…
Too bad for Emma.
As his horse
fought to keep its head above the rushing waters Sam struggled to stay
in the saddle. Struggled to keep hope alive.
Then end was in
sight. The opposite bank seemed to reach out to him, soft green grass
piled up on the side just out of the reach of his hand. His mount
caught the bank beneath hooves and lurched up, digging into the sand
even as it started slipping away into the water.
Sam reached his
good hand up, letting the reins slip away into the current.
Reached up and
took a handful of grass into his hand and pulled.
Pulled the grass
from the bank… roots and all. He held it aloft in surprise as his body
floated off the saddle, arm held high above the current.
“Emma,” the name
gurgled from between his lips as his head slipped beneath the water,
his hand still holding that tuft of grass between his grasping fingers.
My Past is Looking
Better All the Time
Standing out front of the Marshal’s
office wasn’t usually something that
to pass the time. There was always so much to be done, especially no
now that she was getting married. Still, today had been just another
day of rain… and there was something relaxing about watching it pour
Watch the rivers
slosh down over the storefront signs and splash into the rain barrels
that now dotted the street. Rain was water, no matter how much everyone
hated the rain, water wasn’t to be wasted… so out came the barrels.
She watched the
men pull up their collars and pull down the brims of their hats. Women
silently cursed the rain under their voices and retreated into the
stores for some excuse to stay dry.
Barnett swept the
walk, offering small talk and conversation to keep her distracted from
the rain, but she didn’t mind, except when Teaspoon had to set out into
the deluge for his rounds. She offered to go with, but he wouldn’t hear
of it and so she stayed and let her mind wander through her thoughts.
The clouds opened
up just a little past noon, but there was no one around to see it. Most
were still huddled inside. Most weren’t even looking out, expecting to
Louise took the
chance to step out into the street. She walked right the middle of it,
the hem of her skirts held just above the mire and much of the mud and
her boots sloshing through the worst of it.
Old man Nichols
popped his head out of the barber shop and shouted out a greeting. “Are
you out of your mind, Missy?”
Louise raised a
hand to wave and called back. “I guess so, Mr. Nichols… have a nice
The door slammed
shut and ended that conversation, but the noise had drawn others. Mrs.
Borden and her daughter stood on the boarded walk and tittered behind
feathered bird atop Mrs. Borden’s made-to-order hat from New York
bobbed and flapped in the ensuing breeze created by the woman’s
Borden,” Louise called out, “looks like your hat my head home before
you do.” She smiled and waved over her shoulder as she passed by,
enjoying the flame tint that now covered the woman’s cheeks.
The maid from the
Hotel stepped out from the alley and leapt up onto the steps.
She nearly fell
back into the mud when she saw Louise. “You’re that fella that’s a
girl, ain’t ya?”
passin’ along at that moment nearly collided as they tried to see what
the maid was talkin’ about. Louise certainly didn’t look like any
cowboy they knew. One even remembered enough of his manners to tip his
hat to the young lady and ended up elbowing his friend in the chest,
starting a scuffle between them as Louise continued on.
It was easy to
enjoy the day… easy to feel the sunlight on her face after so many days
of rain. ‘Really,’ she thought, ‘how could anyone stay inside when
there was a break in the clouds?’
She stepped around
a puddle that looked a bit too deep to go through and nearly bumped
into a man going in the opposite direction. She put her hands up to
keep them from colliding into each other, but she wasn’t prepared when
his arms circled her body and pulled her into an embrace. “Careful
where you’re goin’, Louise…”
barely snaked her arms out from between them and surrounded him
in a hug as best as she could with his crushing embracing holding her.
“What are you doin’ in the mud?”
He turned and kept
an arm around her shoulders as they walked to the side of the street to
avoid a wagon that had just pulled onto Main Street. “I could ask you
the same thing, Lou.”
“And I’d tell
you.” She sat down on a bench that Mr. Hardy had left out in front of
the Newspaper office and waited while Jimmy settled himself beside her.
“I was going for a walk.”
He didn’t laugh.
That was good for him and his toes. “I saw that.”
She continued on
besides the hint of wry humor that nearly lifted the corners of his
mouth. “It’s a beautiful day.”
Jimmy looked up
and saw the ring of dark clouds that circled the town, but sure enough
over their heads the blue sky winked through and clouds had the decency
to offer up something white and fluffy for her. “I can see that.”
“You think I’m
She’d never be
sure if it was a true answer or more self preservation that had him
shaking his head. “I like seeing you like this.”
Louise elbowed him
in the side and leaned back against the wall. “This is me… now.” She
gave him a little look that was more smile than anything else.
I’ve been running from my entire life is behind me. Boggs, the
orphanage, Wicks…” She felt his hand squeeze hers, their fingers laced
together. “It’s all behind me now. I don’t have to hide it or anything
everything to look forward to.”
She nodded and
smiled even as the rain started to fall on them. “I don’t even mind
lookin’ back anymore.”
We Owe it All to
interview, this one with the right outlook.
please, have a seat.”
Cody took the hand
of the reporter, noticing the strong grip and the smile that seemed
open and genuine all at the same time. “Mr. Porter, I believe?”
Flashing his PRESS
credentials with a lifted thumb, Rowley Porter gave Cody a nod. “I
wanted to thank you again for taking the time out of your schedule to
meet with me. My readers are anxiously awaiting the article.”
Cody nodded, his
flat brimmed hat bobbing with his enthusiastic movement. “Glad to be of
assistance…especially,” he leaned in as if it was a secret, “if it
helps put people in the seats, son.”
“Son?” A grumbly
voice barked out a laugh. “You gone and made yourself a Papa again,
There was an odd
mixture of emotions on Buffalo Bill’s face, but the showman turned it
all back into a smile. “Mr. Porter, this is none other than ‘Wild Bill’
Hickok, himself.” He indicated the empty seat beside them. “Grab a
chair, Jimmy and talk to the nice man.”
Jimmy looked him
over and sniffed as though he was worried about the smell. “A reporter?
Humph, I don’t care much for them.”
brooked no argument and Jimmy slowly settled himself into the chair.
Mr. Porter was
curious. “You don’t ‘like’ reporters, Mr. Hickok?”
“Hell no, Marcus
is the reason that-”
Cody stepped in.
“Jimmy, Marcus was a writer… he wrote fiction. Stuff that wasn’t real.
Don’t get your knickers in a twist. Mr. Porter here is real… genuine
reporter. Workin’ for a real newspaper from New York City.”
“New York City!”
Hickok’s cackle of laughter was heard through the lobby and folks
laughed at the over-the-top pronunciation of the words. “Well then,
let’s waste our day talkin’ to the likes of him!”
“Hickok here met
up with a dime-novel author by the name of Marcus and his *ahem*
sterling skill with sweet-talkin’ left Mr. Marcus with such a
delightful memory that he returned the favor and made a star out of
Hickok looked off
to the side, squinting at the folks passing by outside the window.
“Some big arse favor he done me.”
cleared his throat to get Jimmy’s attention. “I’ve noticed that Mr.
Cody calls you Jimmy… but if you’ll excuse me, it seems a far cry from
Bill… or William. Is it just to avoid confusion with Mr. Cody?”
Jimmy slapped the
table. “Confusion?” Slapping his knee so hard it drew tears to the
corners of his mouth, Hickok pointed at a grumpy Cody. “Mr. Porter,
you’ve met us… do you think I could ever be mistaken for that dandy
boy, even if there weren’t none of them Photo-graphy parlors?”
Porter was busy
scribbling away on his note pad. “So the name ‘Wild Bill’ was a
‘creation’ of this man Marcus.”
yeah… I should’a taken him to court a long time ago… made myself a
bundle of money claimin’ libel and then I could’a gone off into the
mountains and live like a hermit.”
“Oh,” chided Cody,
“you already live like a hermit, Hickok… and I think its slander.”
Hickok raised an
eyebrow and looked at the reporter who took a deep breath before
informing them both that, “I believe Mr. Hickok was correct, Mr. Cody.
Libel is the printed form of slander.”
Cody waved it off,
“Oh well,” a long dramatic sigh covered his attempt to wriggle free of
the losing end of an argument, “besides lots of folks change things
around when they write a book… helps to keep things fresh… interesting.”
That set of a
little light in Porter’s head. Flipping through his notes, he jabbed
his finger at the start of one line in particular as if making sure he
wasn’t going to lose his place. “Funny you should bring that up.” He
held out the book, his finger still at the start of the line. “It says
here that you rode for the Pony Express when you were fourteen… and,”
Porter lifted his hand and voice in an attempt to gain the attention of
both me, “I’ve also heard tales that you were older when you started
the Express. Which one is correct, Mr. Cody?”
Cody got that
impish grin on his face and shrugged. “It’s no harm no foul… just make
me the age you think I am.”
Tipping his chair
back onto the rear legs, Jimmy’s big booming laugh was heard by all. “I
can only guess if anyone started ‘that’ story, it would be you Cody…
you never were too good at math.”
“And you,” Cody
shot back, probably look old enough to ‘be’ my papa so folks thing I
might be your son-”
“Shut your trap,
Cody leaned in and
growled at the larger man, upper lip curling back in a snarl which
‘Wild Bill’ returned. A moment later both men were laughing heartily,
both slugging each other half heartedly on the shoulders and upper
waited through a moment of confusion before he too was swept into the
joke by the two showmen. “With you two, it’s hard to know when you’re
joking and when you’re serious.”
schooling his features into the deadpan that only truly dangerous men
can achieve. “You’ll know when I’m serious.”
paused, his pen at the ready to take a note. “How?”
Cody raised an
eloquent brow and answered. “You’d be dead.”
them both and soon they were wiping tears from their eyes. “We should
let him get to a few questions before we fall apart, Hickok.”
“That would be
your cue, Cody… not mine.”
“I can see that’s
you’re old friends Mr. Cody… Mr. Hickok. Is this show an idea that you
had together in the Express?”
Jimmy waved his
hands to dismiss the thought. “Not me. This is all Cody.”
Cody beamed. “Nice
to know you respect my talent, Jimmy.”
The older man
groaned. “He’ll be sailing away if his head inflate anymore.”
Sobering for a
moment, Cody leaned in toward the reporter. “The idea did come early
on… I remember the times we spent at fairs and rodeos and how we
couldn’t get enough of the action.”
“And how all them
‘prissy’ town folk would pay to watch what we got filthy dirty doin’
every damn day.”
continued. “So I knew… knew like I was breathin’ that if I could bring
the ‘every day’ West to the rest of the world. I’d make a name for
“It’s all about
you, right Cody?”
Cody waved him
off. “This is my stage… this is my… our story! Out here with the
crowds and the excitement working in our favor we can tell folks about
what it was like in the ‘glory’ days of Western Movement. We can tell
them what it was like to face down slavers… or to lose a good friend to
a bad situation.”
nodded, his head bouncing to the speed of his thoughts… memories crept
through his head like Mary Ellen Martin’s fancy carriage rolling past
the Marshal’s office.
Cody smiled and
covered his heart. “Noah.”
“Long gone…” Cody
cleared his throat and smiled. “But every night the show opens… the
crowds cheer… and our friends get to live a little longer. The legend
spreading and growing.”
like Cody’s ego… too big for a theater so he had to have some tents to
“Shut it, Hickok.”
“Make me, Cody.”
Mr. Porter smiled.
One day these two legends would fade away… but through his stories…
they’d live again.