This story takes place in the third season, soon after

“Blood of Others.”

“Oh, come on Lou, why are you making me go? They’re your brother and sister,” Jimmy whined more like a school boy than a young adult.

“Don’t tell me the fearless ‘Wild Bill’ is afraid of spending the day with two children,” Lou razzed back.

Gray eyes radiated defiance as Jimmy firmly spoke, “I ain’t scared of kids. It’s them that are afraid of me.”

Lou rolled her eyes, “Keep tellin’ yourself that if it makes you feel better, but that’s why you leave your guns here at the station. They don’t know that you’re ‘the infamous Wild Bill.’ Besides that’s just an excuse and you know it. You just feel intimidated by them because you don’t know how to get on their level.”

“And you just don’t want to be stuck with your brother alone,” came Jimmy’s quick retort.

Giving a sigh, realizing that Jimmy had delivered the bullet that penetrated her nerve, Lou responded, “Okay, so we’re both a little yellow.” Lou knew Jimmy spoke truth. She had visited her brother and sister once since the incident with Boggs occurred. Jeremiah was still bitter. Bitter because she “deserted” them when she was a young teen, and bitter that she continued to leave them at the orphanage. She was desperately trying to figure out a way to mend the broken bridge between them.

Lou continued, “But we both need this. I need to try to build a positive relationship with my brother and you need to prepare yourself to be around children. Celinda’s baby is due in two months. Besides, you’ll need practice when you have your own kids.”

The words sunk hard into Jimmy’s heart. He was excited to spoil his soon to be nephew or niece, but the thought of having his own children someday was like grasping for reins on a wild horse that knew no tame. He dreaded the idea of the responsibility children held, along with the fact that children needed stability – neither which he had. He needed the right woman for that kind of life. Elias Mills was right, the woman standing before him matched that description like a fitted glove. However, Lou was not available to pursue.

Although Kid and Lou were not officially back together, Jimmy knew in his heart, Lou was bound to Kid. The signs towards reconciling were always at bay. The note Kid left for her when the search for the kidnapped Amanda began. The punch he himself received from Kid when Lou was captured by Pike. The gentle touch, the longing in her eyes, and the “take care of yourself” she gave Kid as a goodbye as he and Kid headed for Rock Creek. That incident took place before the company was transferred – he got no such farewell. But the writing was clearly written on the wall when Lou turned to Kid for comfort at Mills’ execution. Jimmy longed for comfort in that moment, but was only met with a slight touch of Lou’s hand on his arm, while Kid’s limb wrapped Lou. His feelings were bittersweet. He was happy for Lou and the man he considered his brother, yet he also longed for the same kind of love. He hoped that his sister would have words of advise in getting past his feelings for Lou in the next month when he would travel to see her. He even hoped that another woman would steal his heart, and that he was worthy to allow it to be taken.

“How did I get stuck with this ride to St. Joe with you?” Jimmy appealed.

With a wink in her eye Lou stated, “Luck! Come on I don’t want to be late. I don’t need another excuse for Jeremiah to be mad at me.”

“I’ll go Lou, but I don’t feel comfortable leavin’ my guns here.”

Lou’s quizzical expression was all the question she had to give.

“Look Lou, I’ve been placed in situations just because of my reputation. You know, you’ve been a part of ‘em. I just don’t want some fool to call me out and risk puttin’ the kids' lives in danger.” Concern was written across Jimmy’s forehead as he relayed his message.

Understanding swept Lou. Although she longed for Jimmy to feel at peace with himself, she also knew that his reputation had a way of following him. He was a wonderful man. She just wished the world could see the caring and sacrificing person. Empathy flowed from her eyes into his.

Feeling uncomfortable with Lou’s gaze, Jimmy gave a half cocked smiled and continued, “Besides we don’t live at this station, and I don’t want anyone messin’ with my guns. I’d never forgive you if something happened to ‘em.”

Lou chuckled under her breath. Who needs children, when Jimmy has his baby ‘colts’ to take care of, she thought.

As Jimmy and Lou approached the orphanage, Teresa bolted past the sisters and leaped into Lou’s arms. “You’re here Louise! Just like you promised.” Lou placed Teresa back on the ground.

“My Teresa you’ve grown in just the three months I’ve been gone.”

“Well you know Louise, I’ve had a birthday and I’m now eleven.”

“That you are Sugarbear! And we’re going to celebrate a bit late today,” Lou exclaimed as she started to tickle Teresa.

With downcast eyes, Teresa immediately got silent and pulled away.

“What is it, Sugarbear? Did I say something wrong?” Lou pleaded.

“Well, it’s that I’m eleven, would you not call me Sugarbear in front of everyone?”

Lou looked up and saw that all of the orphans were standing in the entrance with eyes fixed on the newcomers. Lou understood what Teresa was feeling.

“I think I can handle that Teresa,” Lou said bitter sweetly. Although her little sister was growing up, she didn’t want lose the innocent child.

Teresa grabbed Lou into a big hug again, and whispered in her ear, “It’s alright if you call me that when no one else is around though.”

With that Lou whispered a “thank you” and a giggle knowing that Teresa still hadn’t outgrown all of her childhood fetishes.

Turning her head to face Jeremiah in the crowd, Teresa boasted, “See Jeremiah, she came again.

She ain’t going back on any of her promises anymore.”

Jeremiah sauntered towards the three figures. “Yea Teresa, she came again. But that don’t mean she won’t go back on her promises,” Jeremiah bitterly accused.

“See you’re still a bit mad at me Jeremiah,” Lou stated firmly.

Jeremiah grunted, but held his hand out to shake Lou’s. He saw Jimmy standing a bit off to the side and turned his gaze back to Louise. “Isn’t his name Jimmy? What’s he doin’ here? If you were going to bring someone with you, you should have brought the other fella.”

Louise responded with confusion in her voice, “Yes, that’s Jimmy. He had to come on the run with me, so he’s spending the day with us too. And what do you mean the other fella?”

“You know, Kid, the one that ended up shooting Father – I mean, Mr. Boggs. The one that came to visit us two months ago.”

Lou’s mind reeled in the past. Teaspoon had sent Kid to St. Joe on an important run for the army about two months ago. But why didn’t he say a word about visiting her siblings? “You mean to tell me that my friend Kid stopped by here?”

Jeremiah wickedly smiled knowing that he had a secret that his older sister did not know about. “You mean to tell me that he didn’t tell you?”

Feeling a little flustered and hurt by Kid’s secret, Lou continued, sounding a little harsher than she wanted. “Stop playing games with me Jeremiah. Why’d he stop by?”

“Oh Louise, he didn’t just stop by, he took us out to dinner and let us ride his horse,” Teresa said excitedly remembering the fun times she had with Kid. “Don’t get mad at Miah,” she pleaded.

“I’m not mad at Miah,” Lou spoke without the rash in her voice this time.

“Sure sounded like it,” Jeremiah spat and started walking away.

Jimmy witnessed the entire exchange and had enough of Jeremiah’s anger. Grabbing Jeremiah’s arm slightly and turning him, Jimmy spoke, “Hey, if anything, she’s mad our friend Kid. He didn’t tell her he saw you and that hurt Lou’s feelings. Give her some slack Jeremiah, she just didn’t know.”

Feeling ashamed and without looking into Lou’s or Jimmy’s eyes, Jeremiah just nodded.

Teresa broke the moment of uncomfortable silence. “What are we going to do today?”

Sister Margaret sent the rest of the children back to their daily routine and approached Lou. “Yes, Louise, I need to know what your plans are and when you will have the children back.”

Looking back and forth from her siblings, Lou answered, “Well, considering it was Teresa’s birthday, it’s her choice. But I don’t plan on leaving St. Joe. We’ll have them back before bedtime.”

Teresa squealed with delight as Sister Margaret nodded and returned to the binding doors of the orphanage.

“Before we do anything, I’m taking you shopping. What do you both need?”

“Nothin’ from you! The orphanage gives us plenty,” Jeremiah spat again.

With hands on her hips, Teresa scolded Jeremiah in her best imitated motherly voice. “That’s not true Jeremiah and you know it! What we get is from what Louise sends us from her job. The other kids don’t get nearly what we do. Stop being so mean to Louise. She’s trying her best. You should too.” Turning to Lou, Teresa continued, “He’s lying, he needs new shoes.”

Jimmy couldn’t help but chuckle under his breath. He saw in Teresa a small Lou. How many times had Lou chastised the boys in the same manner?

Meanwhile, Lou’s eyes drifted to Jeremiah’s feet. The soles of his shoes were worn down. She also noticed how much Jeremiah had grown, for his pants were two inches above his ankles. Lou could only guess that since he had grown, that the toes inside the worn down shoes had also sprouted. They probably would burst through if it wasn’t for the confining leather sewn together.

“Looks like you could use some new pants too. How about shirts?”

“He needs those too Louise,” Teresa answered for him.

Feeling embarrassed, Jeremiah pouted, “I ain’t goin' shoppin’ with no girls.”

Understanding that Jeremiah was 13 and feeling awkward, Jimmy answered, “You ain’t going shoppin’ with no girls. You’re comin’ with me. We’re goin’ to make some purchases for us men.” Tipping his hat at Lou and Teresa, Jimmy continued, “If you’ll excuse us girls, we’ll meet you at the hotel restaurant at noon. We men have some purchases to make.”

With wide eyes, Lou shoved some money into Jimmy’s hand as they left. Both Lou and Teresa were standing dumbfounded at the entire situation. Teresa was surprised that Jeremiah didn’t put up a fight, and Lou was shocked more than the cow who was hit by lighting at Jimmy’s offer to take Jeremiah shopping. Jimmy alone, with a child? What Louise didn’t realize was Jimmy’s understanding of Jeremiah’s reaction to shopping.

“Why did you take me with you? Wasn’t it obvious that I wanted Kid to be here instead of you?” Jeremiah asked while walking towards the mercantile. He wanted to rile Jimmy up and was pulling all of the tricks he could think of.

“Hey, I can’t fault you for poor judgement of company,” Jimmy laughed – and surprised that Jeremiah did too, “but I was 13 once too you know.”

“Oh yeah, save me the lecture of ‘I had it rough growing up’ when I was your age.”

“Okay, I won’t tell you how my sister convinced my mom to buy the flowered shirt that ‘accented my eyes’ instead of the brown pinstriped shirt I really wanted.”

“You had to wear a flowered shirt?” Jeremiah asked incredulously.

“Yep. It had tiny yellow, red, and pink flowers on it.”

In disgust, Jimmy heard Jeremiah mutter, “Pink?”

“It only lasted about two days. I got called everything from ‘sissy’ to ‘Mama’s girl’.” Well, that didn’t go over too well with me and I got into severalfights. The shirt got torn. I knew my sister would volunteer to sew it up, so I made sure after the fights were over that I tore the rest to unfixable. I couldn’t let you suffer the same fate by having Louise AND Teresa take you shoppin' now could I?”

Jeremiah genuinely smiled at Jimmy, “Thanks!”

The two were almost at their destination when Jeremiah popped a hard hitting question that stopped Jimmy in his tracks. “Is that why you wear them guns, so people won’t call you names anymore?”

Jimmy looked hard at the boy before him. He was flabbergasted. He didn’t know how to answer his innocent question. He tried to come up with a quick, logical, explanation for Jeremiah in order to skirt around the truth. But something in the back of his mind told him to be open and honest with the inquisitive young teen before him.

Jeremiah took note of Jimmy’s face. “You didn’t think I noticed ‘em did you?”

“I guess it would be hard not to notice them. Truthfully Jeremiah, yes, I didn’t want to be called names. I wanted people to be scared of me. To give me respect. In all honesty, I got it. But I don’t like it. It’s not the respect that I really want. And the problem now is that trouble seems to follow me where ever I go. But the real reason why I strapped the guns on in the first place was because I was scared.”

“You scared? You don’t seem like the type of man who’d be scared.”

“I figured if people were scared of me, I wouldn’t have to be scared of them. But I do get scared a lot Jeremiah. Like the time your sister was kidnapped.”

Jeremiah’s eyes got really wide and fear entered his voice, “Louise was kidnapped?”

So, young Miah does care about his sister, Jimmy thought. Then realization set in. No wonder

Jeremiah was angry with Lou, Lou never told her siblings of all the dangers she encounters.

Jeremiah had no understanding of the sacrifice Lou goes through everyday just so she can one day have a home with Jeremiah and Teresa. The only thing Jeremiah understood was that Lou left them, and continued to leave them. Well that was about to change. He would help Jeremiah understand, while helping Lou at the same time.

“Actually she was kidnaped twice.”

This time, Jeremiah’s face paled and it looked like he was about to faint at hearing the news of his sister. “Twice?”

Jimmy lead Jeremiah to a bench to save him from passing out. He began his long narrative. “Yup. The first kidnapping was my fault. You know how I mentioned I wear my guns to scare people. Well, I scared off one fella pretty well, but then he decided he wanted revenge and built up some courage. Your sister and me were in a town called Willow Springs. They had a traveling carnival and Lou was called up as the magician’s disappearin’ act. Well she disappeared alright. This man kidnapped Lou and used her against me.”

“Sounds like he wasn’t very courageous to me if he had Louise to get to you. Sounds like he was still scared.”

Jimmy was astounded at how well this child understood human nature. “You’re right. But his plot worked. You see, makin’ someone scared of you makes you have control over them. Control can become very addictive and dangerous. At first I wasn’t sure what to do other than keepin’ your sister safe. In the end...”

“You had to kill him,” Jeremiah solemnly said while placing his hand on Jimmy’s arm. Jimmy appreciated the compassion that was expressed towards him. “You had to. The man gave you no choice.”

“Once again you’re right Jeremiah. I had to protect Lou. But, if I hadn’t made the choice a long time ago not to strap on a gun, there wouldn’t have been a kidnaping or a choice for the man or me to make.”

Jeremiah let the story sink into his mind. The wheels in his head were turning faster than a stage being attacked by bandits. Then he softly spoke. “That’s what my father did. He would scare people and that got him a lot of control and power.”

Looking shocked, Jimmy said, “But that man wasn’t your real father.”

“I don’t understand why big folks think they can trick us kids. We’re not as stupid as you think. I know Louise was just trying to protect us, and I play along for Teresa’s sake, but Mr. Boggs was our father. That’s why Kid came to visit you know?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, he came and took us to dinner and talked about that day at the compound. I think he felt bad for killin’ our father. Although he played along too that ‘Mr. Boggs’ was just a mean man. He explained why.”

“What’d he tell you?”

“That Mr. Boggs was going to kill Louise and probably you and him, and that he couldn’t let that happen. You helped him you know,” Jeremiah blurted out.

Defending his and Lou’s pride Jimmy retorted, “Well, we couldn’t let him kill Lou or let him take you and become exactly like him. That’s what he wanted.”

“I know. I don’t fault you or Kid for what happened to my father. It’s like you said, power is addictive. I even told Kid in secret that I knew he was my real father.”

“Do you see now why Lou came for you – away from your father?”

Hurt filled Jeremiah’s eyes. “I understood after thinkin’ about all that happened--after she left us again.”

Comprehension entered Jimmy’s voice, “You’re more upset at the visiting and leaving than anything else.”

Tears swelled in Jeremiah’s eyes. He was too old to cry, he thought, and he did the best he could to prevent the tears from falling. “Why’d it take her five years to come visit us? Why does she constantly leave us here? How come she doesn’t tell us much about her job? Why does she think I will believe her that Boggs wasn’t our father?”

This time it was Jimmy who showed compassion towards the lad. “I understand your hurt

Jeremiah. My father left us alone a lot too for a cause that he believed would better our country.

It was kind of like a job for him. I never understood why his work was more important than us, his family. But you know what? As I’ve gotten older I’m finally starting to understand.”

“Don’t tell me I have to wait until I’m that old to understand Louise.”

Jimmy chuckled, “Boy, I don’t think you’ll ever understand women, but the one regret I have is that I didn’t ask my father when he was still alive. If I had, maybe it wouldn’t have taken me this long to figure him out. All I’m suggestin’ is that you simply ask Louise the truth.”

“Ah, she’ll just tell me stuff that she thinks I want to hear.”

“Then be persistent dammit! Don’t let her stubbornness wear you down!” Jimmy forcefully stated. Jeremiah looked at Jimmy with wide eyes. Realizing who his company was and with downcast eyes, Jimmy corrected himself sheepishly. “I mean dag-nab-it.” Jeremiah broke out into sudden laughter. This was the first time an adult swore voluntarily in his presence and he found it rather amusing. Immediately Jimmy joined the ruckus, knowing full well that Lou would have given him her evil eye for swearing in Miah’s presence. Onlookers stared at the two thinking they were mad, as both were roaring with laughter. Finally catching their breaths, Jimmy commanded, “Come on, we need to go shoppin’ before lunch time. If we’re late, Lou will have the army out lookin’ for us."

As both gentlemen stood up and began walking, Jeremiah remembered Jimmy’s previous confession. “You told me Louise was kidnapped twice. When was the other time?”

“Once again it was a man who filled fear into others. His name was Frank Pike. But I guess kidnapped isn’t really the best word for that situation. More like captured.” Jimmy started relaying the story to Jeremiah as they entered the mercantile.

“Wow! Louise has done all of those things?” Jeremiah asked Jimmy walking out of the mercantile on their way towards the restaurant. Along with telling the Frank Pike story, Jimmy had rambled several narratives about Lou and her adventures with the Express while purchasing shirts, pants, and a new pair of shoes. Jeremiah’s favorite tale was how Lou hit Tompkins over the head with a frying pan defending Buck. He also had gained something he thought he’d never have for Louise – respect. He didn’t realize the danger she went through everyday just to earn money for a good life for herself, Teresa,...and for him.

“Yup! She’s quite a lady,” Jimmy pronounced with fondness in his voice.

Jeremiah couldn’t help but notice the admiration in his eyes. “Do you love my sister?”

Once again, Jimmy wasn’t prepared for the blow he received. He thought just a moment so he could phrase his response, not for Jeremiah’s sake, but for his own liking. “Simply put, yes. But there are different kinds of love. I’m fond of Louise. I’ve never met a woman like her. She’s more than a friend to me...she’s a sister.” Jimmy himself recoiled at the word sister, but what more could Lou be to him than that?

Jeremiah took his response at face value. “Then that means we’re brothers!”

Smiling, Jimmy responded, “I guess it does.”

“I’ve always wanted a brother.” The two walked the rest of the way to the restaurant in comfortable silence when Teresa spotted the two. With a rush like a mighty current in a river, she sailed towards her brother.

“Oh Miah, Louise bought me a beautiful dress with little pink, red, and yellow flowers on it!” Both “brothers” couldn’t contain the irony of the situation and exploded like a keg of gun powder into hysterics.

Lou, although confused at the antics before her, hadn’t seen Jimmy laugh that hard since the day the other riders informed him of the revenge Cody received from the “Spirits” after stealing Buck’s pouch. It was good to see him enjoy himself again. And he thought he wasn’t good with kids, she reasoned. “I’m glad the two of you had such a good time together,” Lou pronounced as she had to raise her voice in order for the fellows to hear.

“The best!” Jeremiah proclaimed. All four turned and walked into the restaurant. As Jeremiah passed Lou, he grabbed her arm and humbly said, “Thanks sis, for everything.”

Startled by Jeremiah’s profession, Lou surveyed Jimmy. “Let’s just say the bridge has started to rebuild Lou. He’s beginnin’ to understand the sacrifice you’re makin’,” Jimmy conveyed. “But

I think you two should have a talk before we leave.”

Lunch was full of laughter and discussion of life at the orphanage since Lou’s last visit. When finished, the group decided to go fishing following the meal. On the journey towards the orphanage to retrieve the poles, the party passed the bank. All stopped in their paths as they realized a handful of townsfolk were dead in their tracks. They were witnessing a bank robbery in progress through the dirt streaked bank window. Lou was weaponless. Having donned a dress to visit her siblings, she also went gunless.

Sensing the immediate danger, Jimmy passed one of his guns to her along with numerous spare bullets and furiously whispered, “Why are they just standing around? Ain’t anyone goin’ for help.”

As Lou took his gun and placed the bullets as strategically as possible in her dress, she whispered back, “Doesn’t look that way. I think they’re all in shock. Maybe they ain’t used to seeing this type of action around here.”

“Well it seems to follow us where ever we go,” Jimmy fatuously smirked back. His tone immediately turned serious, “You know, I’m gettin’ tired of cleaning up other people’s messes.”

Lou nodded, but vocalized, “Ya, I do know! But if we just stand here, we’re no better than the rest of ‘em.”

With a hint of cockiness, Jimmy retorted, “Did I say we were gonna just stand here? I’ll go ‘round back. See what you can do to distract them here, and get the kids out of danger.”

Teresa and Miah froze, understanding that once again, they were in the middle of a serious showdown. Lou squatted down to be on the children’s level. Gazing into Jeremiah’s eyes, she urgently commanded, “Go to the marshal’s office and tell him what’s going on. Take Teresa with you. Then go back to the restaurant and hide until I come for you. I’m counting on you Miah.”

Like the force of earth’s gravitational pull, in that moment, Jeremiah felt empowered. But this power didn’t come from inflicting fear into others, this power came from within. He felt like a man. He knew his older sister trusted and depended on him. He had to save the city’s money, plus he had to protect his younger sister from the evils that lurked behind the door and windows of the building looming in front of them. It was up to him.

“Come on Teresa!” Jeremiah demanded.

Ridden with fear, Teresa stood helpless. “No! I want to stay with Louise!”

Lou knew time was running out. “Sugarbear, I need you to go with Miah, Now! This is important. He won’t let anything hurt you.”

Reluctantly, Teresa was dragged by Jeremiah as they sped off towards the marshal’s office.

Noticing three untethered horses, Jimmy not only discovered how many desperados they were against, but also the bank robbers plan of departure – escaping out the back. He was grateful for his intuition and the knowledge of his odds. Between he and Lou, three would be a pretty simple match, especially if the law arrived. He silently shooed the horses away, while planning his next move.

Unfortunately, the horses rounded the front and the thieves took notice through the window. They immediately became desperate. Desperation always caused confusion and rash judgement. With what money they had in tow, they eliminated their previous plans and exited out the front door. Lou hadn’t the time to take cover, so she courageously spoke, “Stop right there, or I’ll shoot!”

The thieves were surprised at what stood before them. They even eased up a bit thinking their escape wouldn’t be too hard after all. Especially since the horses were only thirty feet away.

“Looky what we got here boys, a female with a gun,” one of them spoke.

“Ain’t you a might pretty to be handlin’ such a manly weapon,” another sneered.

“I know how to use this, and unless you surrender you may just lose some of your manly parts,” Lou hissed.

All three chuckled at the woman.

One desperado, still chortling, raised his cocked gun at Lou’s head. Before, he even uttered another snicker, Lou shot the man in self defense.

Jeremiah had informed the marshal of the bank robbery and all three exited the office. His next move was to run to safety with Teresa. Plans changed when he recognized the fear that enveloped his entire body at the scene down the street. He placed Teresa behind a water trough, and said, “Be brave and stay here! I’ll be back with Louise. I promise!”

Teresa was in such shock and fear, that she couldn’t move and obeyed Jeremiah’s command.

Jimmy swore under his breath as he heard Lou yell for the robbers to surrender. Although he managed to fool the escape route, he knew precious moments were wasted on his journey around to the front of the bank. What he witnessed made his blood run cold.

Another thief immediately aimed, but Lou dove hard to the ground to avoid the shot directed at her heart. Unfortunately, the fall knocked Jimmy’s colt out of her hand. The marshal appeared and yelled at the men to give themselves up. Meantime, the other scruffy outlaw scurried towards Lou, pulled her up by the hair, grabbed her around the waist, and pulled his gun to her temple.

“Now,” the scruffy one holding Lou shouted, “we’re leavin’ and if any of you have any fool notions about stopping us, this pretty lady here dies.” His words were directed mainly at the marshal.

Knowing he had to do something, Jimmy took aim at the gunman who wasn’t holding Lou and shot him in the arm. Both played a battle of cat and mouse until the leader holding Lou shouted, “Stop this game or I pull the trigger.” In fear for Lou’s life, Jimmy stopped. The outlaws scooted closer towards the horses, dragging an agitated Lou with them.

No one noticed the thirteen year old boy crawl on the ground towards the fallen colt. The only time he handled a gun was when his father commanded him to load a rifle. He knew nothing of aiming and shooting. But the fear he had when he saw his sister caused him to act out of love. His mind was spinning. What could he do? What would he do? He didn’t want to do anything that would cause Louise’s death.

Jimmy spotted Jeremiah and cursed again, thinking the boy would get himself killed. Then he pinpointed the direction of Jeremiah’s eyes. Seeing his own colt in Miah’s hand, he knew what the boy was thinking. Right above the crooks and Lou was the huge bank sign swinging overhead. Jimmy knew Lou could get hurt, but he also understood that Lou wouldn’t die. Jeremiah had also come to the same conclusion. Jimmy was able to catch Jeremiah’s eye and nodded that he understood Miah’s plan. Jimmy averted his eyes to the outside rope holding the sign signaling he’d take that shot. He knew Jeremiah would have an easier shot with the rope closer to the building.

Mind reeling, Jimmy silently prayed that Jeremiah would make the impossible shot. He gave

Jeremiah the shot closest to the building because it gave the boy more focus to aim. It also gave the hopes of the bullet backfiring off the roof if he missed. The odds were slim, but possibly the ricocheting bullet would actually hit the rope. Jimmy’s stomach twisted not knowing what to do if their unspoken plan failed.

Jeremiah sat up slowly into a kneeling position so not to draw attention to himself. Once up on his knees, Jimmy gave a final nod.

Like vibrations of fireworks on the Fourth of July, the shots pierced the air scaring the horses further down the street. The heavy sign fell onto the gunmen and Lou. The trick worked. It gave Jimmy and the marshal enough time to apprehend the criminals before they realized what had hit them.

Lou stood up, a bit shaken. Since the gunmen were taller than her, they had received the brunt of the hit. Realizing that most of her bruises were from the fall, she sighed in relief. Jeremiah ran to Louise.

“I’m alright Miah,” Lou said a little apprehensively. Jeremiah couldn’t think of anything else but to hug his sister. Lou smiled and hugged him in return. She realized how much he had grown up. He was almost as tall as her now. But more than that, she understood he was becoming a young man.

Pulling him out of the hug, Lou immediately got angry. “How could you do that Miah? You could have gotten yourself killed!”

“I couldn’t just stand there and let them take you, or worse kill you. They tried to scare me, so they’d have control over me.”

“But they didn’t know you were even there,” Lou whispered.

“No, but they had the whole town scared. That’s when they knew they had power,” Jeremiah proclaimed. Lou gazed at her brother, seeing for the first time the understanding that her brother possessed. “Jimmy and I talked about it earlier. Kid too, two months ago. It was the same way Father got his power.”

“What? But that man...”

“You don’t have to lie to me anymore Louise. I know that man really was our father. I know I didn’t then, but now I appreciate you coming for us.”

Tears built up in Lou’s eyes. Yes her brother was growing up. Why shouldn’t he, she thought.

She was just about his age when she left the orphanage to find them a better life. “We have a long talk ahead of us don’t we Miah? Come on let’s go get your sister.”

By this time, the marshal had things under control and Jimmy walked up to the siblings. “That was a pretty brave thing you did Jeremiah. You did good.”

“Thanks. But I couldn’t have done it without your help.”

Smiling, Jimmy continued, “Where’d you learn to shoot like that?”

“I didn’t. I just knew I had to help Louise. She would have done the same for me.” Correcting himself, Jeremiah rephrased, “She has done the same for me.”

The three started walking towards Teresa’s hiding place when Jeremiah spoke once more. “Hey Jimmy, I think I figured out what it is that beats those who have power because of fear.”

“Oh yeah, enlighten me,” Jimmy mused.

“It’s loving someone more than the fear that’s inside yourself.”

Both Jimmy and Lou stopped dead in their tracks. Learning something that profound from a thirteen year old flabbergasted them. Yet his words of wisdom enlightened both their minds like a lantern in a cold, dark cave. Not only does the lantern provide light, but it warms those close to it. Jimmy and Lou had been warmed in body and mind.

Playing tag with Teresa and the other children, Jimmy kept occupied. Jeremiah and Lou finished their long awaited bridge building on a fallen log just outside the orphanage boundaries.

“I know now the sacrifices you’re making with your job and why we can’t live with you just yet, but there’s just one thing I still don’t understand Louise. Why did it take you five years to come back to visit us?”

Feeling ashamed, Lou knew she had to be as honest as possible with her brother without giving her darkest secret away. “Plain and simple. It was pride. For five years I wandered from job to job. I had nothing secure. I wanted to be stable before I returned to you. I wanted you to be proud of me. This is the first job where I’ve felt pride in what I do.” Sensing pain in his sister’s eyes, he didn’t press the issue farther. Lightening the mood Lou continued while ruffling her brother’s hair, “But mark my words, I won’t let that happen again.”

Jeremiah smiled. “I believe you.”

“Look Jeremiah, I know it will still take time. Five years is a long time, but if that’s how long it takes to gain your forgiveness, I’ll wait five years,” Lou said optimistically.

“Two more questions Louise.”

“Shoot,” she smirked at the double meaning.

“Why did you lie about Boggs not being our real father?”

“Well Jeremiah,” Lou started as her promise to her mother ran through her head again, “our father was a good man. He loved us and Mama a lot. About the time Mama was with Teresa, Daddy got mixed up in the wrong crowd. He got money hungry. I’d never seen Daddy so concerned with getting more and more money. After Mama had Teresa, Daddy was power hungry too and into some illegal stuff. At that point, the Daddy we used to know was dead to us. To protect us, Mama took us away. The trip was hard on her, and you know the rest of the story. On her death bed, Mama begged me to tell you that our father was a good man. She wanted the father we’d remember and the man she loved held in high esteem. Not the man that was shot and killed by Kid. I’m sorry for deceiving you.”

Jeremiah shrugged after finally hearing the truth. “It’s not your fault. You were just doing what Mama asked of you. You both just didn’t realize that I’d grow up to be so smart.” Lou snickered and grabbed Jeremiah into a big bear hug.

“What was the other question?”

“Oh yeah. Why do you think Kid didn’t tell you he visited us?”

Smiling, Lou knew full well why Kid didn’t tell her. He didn’t want her to think he was crowding her. Yet he cared enough to care for her siblings. Yes, she loved Kid and his honorable intentions. She herself wondered how long it would be for the right time to come again. “Well, that’s a long and complicated story Jeremiah. When I figure it all out, I’ll let you know.”

“Oh, so he’s in love with you.”

Again, Lou was surprised at how sharp Jeremiah picked up on things. She didn’t deny or accept Jeremiah’s last statement, but chose to simply ignore it. “Well it’s time that Jimmy and I head back to Rock Creek and I promise I’ll visit again as soon as I can.”

While both horses led the riders back towards home, Lou pondered about the events that took place and spoke to Jimmy. “You survived two kids you know.”

“You were right Lou, we both needed this trip. You were able to mend the bridge, and I realized that being around kids is hard work, but I can do it.”

Lou witnessed first hand the sincerity that Jimmy showed towards her siblings. Yes, she thought, he will make a terrific uncle and a wonderful father someday. In Jimmy’s own way, he grew up a little during their time with the children.

Lou finally understood that not only had her brother grown up physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Once again awe entered her body as her thirteen year old brother taught her that love overcomes fear.

Finally, Lou responded passionately, “Well, I guess you can say that in each of our own ways, we all grew up on this trip.”

The End

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