Topic #89: He said what? You don't say!
Trapped by: Miss Raye Nanny by: Jo
He Said... by: Dede Did You Hear... by: Cindy
Trapped
by: Miss Raye

Cody leaned back in his chair, his eyes searching around the table for someone… anyone to ask a question of. Buck looked at him for a moment with a glare in his glance and then down at his plate. He had been on the receiving end of one of Cody’s questions earlier and hadn’t fared well, at least not in his own mind. He wasn’t going to have any of it.

Jimmy’s look promised a beating if he was next in line so it wouldn’t be him. It was only a moment later that Cody’s gaze fell on Kid, sitting next to an empty chair. “Hey Kid?”

“Yeah Cody?” Kid’s expression was open until he saw the mischievous glint in Cody’s eye. His eyes narrowed. “What?”

Spearing a piece of potato with his fork he stuffed it into his cheek so that he could chew and talk at the same time. “I got a question for ya.”

Ike leaned away so that the speck of potato flying from Cody’s lips didn’t get on his shirt.

“I dunno, Cody… I think we’re all a little tired of your questions.”

Cody bared his teeth at Noah. “I’ll get to you next.”

Noah waved him off and picked up his cup to take a long drink of water.

“So, Kid… I’ve been wonderin’… since you’re such a ‘ladies’ man-” he gave Jimmy a wink, “if Katy and Lou were stuck in a barn and it was on fire, who would you save?”

Kid’s expression went through a few different incarnations before he shrugged. “Get ‘em both out, I guess.”

Jimmy snorted water through his nose and Buck had to pound between his shoulder blades to keep him from choking.

Young mister Cody looked offended. “That’s not fair, Kid!”

The young southerner pushed a piece of meat around in his gravy. “That ain’t a question you should be askin’, Cody.”

“I think it’s a fair one, everyone here knows how much you like your horse.”

“But Lou’s a person, Cody.”

*and the woman you love* Ike interjected, trying to keep out of it as much as he could.

Kid shook his head. “It’s a silly question.”

“Then,” Cody’s tone was wheedling for an answer, “what’s the problem answerin’ it… just say which one… ONLY ONE.”

Kid lifted his chin, knowing all eyes were on him as he decided on his answer.

“Well? Come on, Kid… it’s just us men in here.” Cody’s prompt was punctuated by a wad of potato that sailed out of his mouth and landed smack dab in the center of the table, just missing a platter of Emma’s beans. “Katy or Lou?”

Kid lifted a slice of bread from the plate in front of him and shrugged. “Katy, you see-“

“Hey boys!” Lou pushed inside the bunkhouse, her hair dripping on the collar of a clean shirt. “I’m starved… what’s for supper?”

“Here, Lou, I saved you a place.”

She gave Kid a smile. “Thanks, Kid, I-”

“Kid was just tellin’ us-”

“Here’s the rolls, Lou.” Kid cut Cody off, his eyes full of warning.

Kid put the basket at her eye level and she had to grasp the rim to lower the basket enough for her to see inside and pick out a roll. “Thanks, those last ten miles were tough… all I could think of was gettin’ Lightning in the barn and-”

“Speaking of barns-”

“Come on, Noah… leave it alone.” Kid’s tone had become more pleading along with his eyes.

“Here, Lou,” Jimmy handed her a covered plate, “got some chicken left over. It wasn’t too near the flame… so it ain’t burnt.”

“Thanks, Jimmy, I-”

“Speaking of burnt,” Buck’s smile had returned, “Kid was sayin’-”

“Fine… keep it goin’…” Kid stood up and straddled the bench and reached for her plate, “let’s go outside and you can eat your supper in peace, Lou.”

She held her plate down on the table. “I’m fine here, Kid, thanks.” She gave Jimmy a smile as she picked out a piece of chicken and set it on her plate. “What’s this about somethin’ burnin’?”

“See the Kid here said if-”

“ Cody, dang it!”

Lou turned on the bench to level a look at Kid. “If you don’t want to hear what Cody has to say, then don’t… on the other hand, he’s talkin’ to me and I want to hear what he has to say.” She turned back to Cody. “You were sayin’?”

He grinned back at her and puffed up his chest a little, a natural reaction to the combined attentions of the assembled group. “Kid was tellin’ us how if it was you ‘n Katy stuck in a barn that was burnin’ he’d go an’ get Katy if he-”

“He said what?” The serving spoon fell from her fingers and flopped into the mounds of mashed potatoes left in the dish.

Noah swept a daub of potato off his cuff and smiled. “That’s right, Lou… he said he’d go in after Katy first.”

It was a second of silence as the words settled in her head. The riders were divided, some watched Kid’s reaction as he braced for the inevitable wave of ire from the young woman, the others were riveted on Lou’s face. Neither group was disappointed as an impish smile froze on her lips. “You don’t say.”

Author’s Note: Sometimes you find inspiration in the strangest places

http://z8.invisionfree.com/TYR_WritersRanch/index.php?showtopic=264

Nanny
by: Jo

“Hey Buck, where’s Ike?” Jimmy called from the barn door.

“I think he’s over at Old Mrs. Marsden’s place. He’s been helpin’ her get the place ready to move back east” Buck answered. “Why?”

“Have you seen the new stall in here?” Kid replied as he walked out of the barn behind Jimmy.

“Ah, noooo….should I?” Buck answered cautiously and started walking toward the barn. Ike’s ducklings were now full grown ducks but Buck couldn’t imagine they’d need a stall.

“Do you know who, or what, Nanny is?” Jimmy asked pointing Buck toward the back of the barn.

Buck groaned in response but kept walking until he reached Sampson’s stall. The donkey stuck its nose out for a scratch, and while Buck obliged scratching the donkey’s head, Sampson sniffed Buck’s pockets for carrots. “Sorry buddy, I don’t have anything for you today…. Looks like you’re going to get a new neighbor….All right fess up what do you know?” To Buck’s surprise and everyone else’s amusement, Sampson brayed.

“I guess he told you!” Lou laughed. Kid and Jimmy were nodding behind her.

“Yeah well, unfortunately I don’t speak Donkey, I guess Ike does though. You’ve been helpin’ Mrs. Marsden close up her house….is there anything over there named Nanny?” Buck laughed rubbing Sampson’s nose.

“I know she had a couple of cats but they make Ike sneeze. She’s found homes for them anyway. She sold all the other animals to pay for the trip to Philadelphia, that’s were her daughter lives. We could ask Emma when she comes back…” Lou said looking at the small make shift stall with a neatly painted sign over it that read ‘NANNY’

“Yeah I guess….” Buck said turning away from the empty stall.

“Watch it…..Buck” Lou was laughing so hard she had to lean on Kid to keep from falling.

“OW! Alright Sampson, I’ll find you a carrot or something, that wasn’t nice.” Buck cried out rubbing his backside.

“Ike warned us…..” Kid began but had to stop and take a breath he was laughing so much. “not to….I’m sorry Buck, turn your back on him….” Kid wiped a tear from his eye.

“Did he actually bite you Buck?” Jimmy asked hanging on to a post to keep from falling on the barn floor, he had one arm wrapped around his stomach.” Oh my sides ache!” Jimmy finally gave in to gravity and sat on the floor laughing.

“What all is goin’ on in here?” Cody popped his head in the door.

“I turned my back on Sampson and he, um, nosed me in a rather sensitive area.” Buck wailed but Kid, Lou and Jimmy laughed harder and louder. Sampson decided to join in braying his opinion. And no he didn’t bite me….not that you all seem to really care…”

“I wish I’d seen it….” Cody said catching the laughter bug. “Goin’ to be sitting a bit funny in that saddle for a while huh?” Cody teased.

“Some friends you all are…..” Buck said walking slightly bowlegged out of the barn; his friends’ laughter followed him.

About an hour later Sampson had been given a treat from each of the riders, except Buck, and they were all sitting on the bunkhouse porch enjoying the late afternoon sun when Kid looked up and said “Wagon comin’!”

Ike was driving the wagon with Emma sitting beside him. The riders all stood up to greet the wagon. Ike hopped down first and started toward the back of the wagon. Jimmy extended a hand to help Emma down which she gratefully took. “We dropped Mrs. Marsden off in town to catch the stage tomorrow so she’s all moved out. I’m a little late starting dinner so if you’ll excuse me.” Emma said reaching for a basket she had placed in the back of the wagon.

“Naaah, Naah....” The sound came from the back of the wagon causing everyone to look. A small head popped up with floppy ears, a long thin face and big blue eyes. “Naaaah, Naaah!”

“NANNY” all the riders exclaimed at once and Buck groaned rolling his eyes.

“Does Teaspoon know about this?” Buck asked turning and looking at his best friend. Puff the dog leaned over from the wagon and licked the side of Buck’s face. “EWW Puff, give a guy some warning…” The dog barked. Everyone laughed except Buck. “too late” he mumbled.

*Yes Teaspoon knows* Ike said defensively. *He said he likes goat’s milk!*

“Uh huh, anybody ever seen Teaspoon even drink milk?” Buck asked skeptically looking at the goat.

*Nope, must be cos we only ever had cow’s milk!* Ike retorted

“Emma, does this mean we have to milk the goat too?” Cody asked.

“Well, she won’t milk herself, if someone could give me a hand carrying these things into the house, I’ll go get dinner ready.” Emma laughed and Buck wiped the Puff kiss off his cheek.

Ike picked the goat up and placed her on the ground. He took the short leader attached to her collar and began leading the goat to her new home. Buck looked around sighed and picked up the larger basket from the wagon. As he climbed the stairs Emma noticed he was walking a bit funny. “Did you hurt your leg or something Buck?” she asked. Behind her the riders began laughing again.

“Or something….” Buck mumbled entering the house.

He Said...
by: Dede

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes; but he that listens to counsel is wise. Proverbs12:15

Jimmy opened the door, slamming it back, nearly ripping it off its hinges. Teaspoon didn't look up from the report he was working on because he knew who it was by the sound of the footsteps.

"Ya've really got to do somethin' about that fool boy," Jimmy spat. "He's gotta watch his mouth. Do you know what he said?" Jimmy didn't wait for an answer but bellowed on, "He said I…."

Teaspoon glanced from his papers to Jimmy and back again. Jimmy was pacing and ranting about something Jesse had said. Teaspoon was getting tired of the riders complaining about the young boy. Jesse had been there for only a few days and already the others wanted him gone. Teaspoon would admit that Jesse could be somewhat bothersome, a pest at times, but the boy meant well. He was really just trying to fit in.

It was impatience and Jimmy had it tenfold. Jesse looked up to all the riders but mostly Jimmy, though it was probably Jimmy's affinity with the gun and that made Teaspoon uneasy. Nevertheless, Teaspoon was sure Jesse could learn a few things from Jimmy and the others, if they'd just be patient. Teaspoon thought how Jimmy had been like Jesse when the Express started, so Jimmy should show Jesse some sympathy. Jimmy just didn't have sympathy.

Teaspoon suddenly realized that it was quiet and looked up. Jimmy was staring at him. "Well?" Jimmy's stance told Teaspoon that the rider was waiting for a specific answer.

"I'll talk to him," Teaspoon said vaguely. Jimmy's grimace told the marshal how much Jimmy believed that. The young man turned and stomped out the door, slamming it shut. Teaspoon sighed and went back to his paperwork.

Just as he was finishing up the first of the many reports he had - he hated paperwork - Kid came into the office, doing an excellent imitation of Jimmy. Teaspoon wondered how long the door would last at this rate.

"Teaspoon that, that fool has got to….I mean ya' need to….Do ya' know what he said?" Kid sputtered, waving his hands in the air. "He said Lou…."

Teaspoon watched as Kid paced the same path as Jimmy had just moments before. Teaspoon groaned inwardly. He had had a feeling that Jesse was sweet on Lou, especially considering how they met. But that was no reason for Kid to lash out at the poor boy. Jesse was an innocent, young and naïve, and Kid's reaction was just jealousy. Jesse couldn't be that bad. Again, the silence. Teaspoon looked up to see Kid standing there, hands on hips, staring at the marshal.

"Kid," Teaspoon said, but decided since he hadn't heard what the young man had said any reasoning would be misdirected. "Fine, I'll talk to him."

Kid pursed his lips, uttered a loud "humph," and stormed out the door. The glass rattled as he slammed it shut. Teaspoon went back to the papers on his desk, muttering, "If they break that door, someone's gonna -"

"Teaspoon!" Noah barged in with such force, he set the door to shimmying so much that Teaspoon thought it was done right then but the door held on. The rider didn't wait for even the slightest greeting. "What's with that crazy fool?" Noah barked a laugh. "He's seriously mad. He actually said that…."

Teaspoon stared at Noah, watching the young man's mouth move but not listening to what was coming out. Teaspoon didn't need to; he knew it was just more venomous words against Jesse. Noah laughed a few times, a dry sounding laugh, and smiled but it wasn't a happy smile. Teaspoon knew Noah wasn't giving Jesse a chance, that the rider was just intolerant. It annoyed Teaspoon because Noah had been new not that long ago, so why wasn't he being lenient and showing Jesse, helping the boy? Noah came to the end of his diatribe and Teaspoon gave him the same answer, "I'll talk to him."

Teaspoon waved as Noah stormed out in the same manner as Kid and Jimmy before him. Teaspoon was relieved the door took the abuse and hoped that was the end of it.

It was for about an hour. He was able to get two more reports finished and ready to send off. As he started on the fourth one, the door slowly opened. Teaspoon smiled and looked up, only to have his smile fade as he saw Buck's expression. The Kiowa's jaw was clenched and he looked ready to set someone aloft above a pit of rattlers.

"Buck?"

Buck closed the door quietly and faced Teaspoon. "He's not gonna be long for this world Teaspoon if he doesn't learn to keep his mouth shut." Buck shook his head and, to Teaspoon's annoyance, started pacing. Teaspoon leaned back in his chair as Buck began his tirade. "How can anyone be that foolish? He needs to think before he speaks. Do you know that he said…?"

And again Teaspoon tuned out the malicious talk. Teaspoon thought that Buck of all people would give the benefit of his past to help Jesse; to guide the boy down the right path and show him understanding. Teaspoon sighed softly. Buck too was lashing out at the boy. Nodding his head, Teaspoon interrupted Buck and said, "I'll talk to him."

Buck cocked his eyebrow and looked curiously at Teaspoon but didn't say another word. Shaking his head, he turned and left as quietly as he'd entered. Teaspoon was glad for that; the door couldn't take much more.

Another hour passed and Teaspoon was putting the final touches on the fifth report, unfortunately he smeared the ink as Ike threw the door opened. Teaspoon gritted his teeth dropping the pen in disgust. As he tried to mop up the excess ink, Ike fidgeted in front of the desk. Tapping his foot, Ike waited for Teaspoon to look up.

"What can I do for -"

*He's got to go. He's a fool and won't stop. He needs to…*

Teaspoon was busy trying to fix his report when Ike knocked his knuckles on the desktop. Teaspoon glanced up. 'Huh, I need to actually look at the boy when he says something,' Teaspoon thought grumpily. "Go on." He leaned back in his chair, rubbing his chin as if he was actually paying attention. He was until he saw Ike sign, *and he said I was….* That's when Teaspoon's mind drifted off.

How could he have been so wrong about his boys? He thought for sure they'd take Jesse under their care and show him what to do and how to act. He supposed he could understand Jimmy, as brusque as he could be, and Kid, with his attachment to Lou. Noah was also understandable; the young man seemed to have a chip on his shoulder. But Buck and Ike disturbed Teaspoon. Those two should relate to Jesse. Teaspoon's eyes focused and he noticed that Ike was standing there, arms crossed over his chest, waiting. Teaspoon sat up and, as he had four times before, said, "I'll talk to him."

Ike threw his hands in the air and, shaking his head, strolled to the door. Ike opened the door easily, so Teaspoon thought the door was safe. Not so. Ike walked outside and forcefully pulled the door closed. The door groaned from the action. Sighing, Teaspoon went back to his messy report.

Just shy of an hour after Ike's visit, Teaspoon was finishing up his sixth and final report when the door slammed open causing Teaspoon to jump and knock the papers onto the floor. Grumbling, he bent over as Lou tramped in.

"Teaspoon?"

He peeked over the edge of the desk. "What." He didn't try to hide his annoyance.

"Sorry," Lou muttered. She stood silently as he gathered the papers and sorted through them. After a few moments, he looked up at Lou.

"Ya' want somethin'?" Again, his tone was sharp.

"Um, yeah," Lou said quietly. Teaspoon watched as a variety of expressions crossed her face; finally it fixed on determination with an underlying hint of irritation. "Yeah I do want somethin'. I want that idiot fool to shut his trap and think before he speaks. He had the nerve to say…."

Teaspoon had to consciously stop his eyes from rolling. He really was at his wits end with these complainers. And like Buck and Ike, Lou should be showing compassion for Jesse not contempt. It wasn't long ago that she was acting as 'he' and having to put up with a lot. That Lou had helped Jesse when he needed it most should make the two closer than the others, so Lou should show even more concern. Teaspoon's agitation must have been apparent because Lou's words faded to a soft mutter.

Teaspoon took advantage of this lull and said emphatically, "I will talk to him." He flipped his papers in the direction of the door. Lou's mouth dropped open but the only sound she made was a grunt. She turned and walked out the door, slamming it harder than any of the boys had. The glass made an odd creaking sound and Teaspoon was sure it was going to shatter but the door held firm once more.

"Thank the Almighty that Cody ain't here," he grumbled as he fixed his papers in the right order. "That should be the end of it." Hoping everything was calming down, he heard footsteps outside but by the slow, methodical trudge he knew who it was. And he wasn't in the mood at all.

"Howdy Teaspoon," Barnett drawled as he sauntered through the door. He hummed as he strolled over to the stove and tested the coffeepot to see how hot it was. Smiling, he pulled his finger away quickly and grabbed the cloth to wrap around the handle. He picked up his mug and poured the steaming liquid into the cup. Clasping the cup in one hand, he walked over to stand by Teaspoon's desk. "Ya' know who I was talkin' to?"

Teaspoon closed his eyes and sighed heavily. He had hoped that the "howdy" was all Barnett would say but Teaspoon knew that the man could only do one thing at a time and coffee had been the first item on his list.

"No who?" he asked. Teaspoon also knew that if he didn't answer, Barnett would stand there staring at him.

"That new boy at y'all's place," Barnett said as he put the mug to his lips. Startled that the coffee was so hot, he jumped as it touched his tongue and he dropped the mug - all over Teaspoon's desk and papers. Teaspoon jumped up with a yelp.

"I swear Barnett, yer about as clumsy as a bear from hibernation," Teaspoon growled. "Move!" He pushed Barnett away and snatched the towel the deputy was still holding from the coffeepot.

"Well, that boy sure knows you," Barnett said, chuckling softly, as he leaned over and picked up his mug.

Teaspoon stopped and looked up at the man. "'Scuse me?"

"Jus' somethin' he said 'bout ya' is all," Barnett replied innocently. He picked up a couple papers and moved them to the table to dry.

"And what exactly did he say?" Teaspoon suddenly felt as if he was the fool. This time Teaspoon listened.

"He said that ya' always acted like ya' had a burr in yer saddle. And that he thought you was too old to be marshal."

"He said that…humph, ya' don't say," Teaspoon grumbled. Tossing the towel at Barnett, he added, "Clean this up. I've got a few people I need to talk to." He stomped out of the office and slammed the door behind him. The door gave up.

A/N: I was reminded by my marvelous beta, Cindy, that Barnett wasn't in Rock Creek but I just love the guy and he was who walked in the door so I decided not to stop him! d;-)

Did You Hear...
by: Cindy

"He said what? Well, good heavens, you don't say!"

The sound of Mabel Purdy's surprised voice carried across the store, reaching Bill Tompkins' ears - and piquing his interest. Good gossip had been hard to come by recently, especially after the Pony Express had shut down a few weeks earlier. That meant he couldn't even count on those bothersome riders to bring in any rumors from outside of Rock Creek. And with the cold snap that had hit the area in early November, fewer people were traveling.

So whatever had gotten Mabel's interest was definitely worth checking out.

Tompkins set his inventory pad down and started out from behind the counter - only to be stopped by old Gus Greevy.

"Guess that'll do 'er for today," the old man said, dropping a few items on the counter.

Tompkins looked down at the counter, then over to where Mabel and Betsy Haskell stood by the soft goods, heads together, sharing the news in hushed voices. Damn it, he couldn't hear anything…

"You gonna figger what I owe ya?"

Greevy's voice brought Tompkins' attention back to the counter, and he reluctantly started to add up the sale, still watching the two women out of the corner of his eye. Whatever they were talking about, it sure seemed to have set their tongues wagging. Well, he'd head over that way when he finished…

"Hey, ya counted that twice!" Greevy's cane banged against the counter in a series of quick knocks to make sure his objection had been heard.

"Yeah, yeah." Tompkins looked down at the items again, realizing he had no idea what he actually had counted. The businessman in him finally took over and he started again to add up the order. "That's three dollars even," he finally said.

Greevy squinted up at the shopkeeper as if not quite convinced, but then he nodded and pulled out a pouch. "Guess that's about right," he said, dumping the contents onto the counter.

It took all of Tompkins' patience - which, admittedly, wasn't always very much - to not leave Greevy at the counter. But instead he watched as the old man counted out coins, mostly pennies, for what seemed like hours before nodding his head. "That's it. Three dollars."

"Yeah, thanks." Tompkins pushed the coins to one side. If he got over to the women now…

"Best take care o' that," Greevy warned. "Heard there's been some drifters comin' thru, an' I ain't payin ya again!"

Tompkins sighed and reached for the coins, only to be interrupted by Greevy again.

"Ya gonna give me a box for my goods, or ya gotten too cheap?"

Tompkins swore softly as he turned around and searched for a box. He finally found the size he wanted and plunked it down in front of the old man. He was going to slip out from behind the counter…

But Greevy was blocking the way, slowly packing his purchases.

Tompkins grabbed items from the counter and dumped them into the box, then lifted the box and held it out. "Looks like you're all set."

Greevy looked down into the box as if checking to make sure everything was there, then he nodded. "Ayup, guess I am," he agreed as he turned and started shuffling slowly toward the door. "Take care o' that money now!" he called back.

Grumbling to himself, Tompkins hurriedly swept the coins into his cash box. He could sort it out later, after…

They were gone.

While he'd been dealing with Greevy, Mabel Purdy and Betsy Haskell had left the store - and he still didn't know what they were talking about!

"Hey, Greevy," he called, catching the old man just before he reached the door. "You, uh, heard any news today?"

Greevy thought for a moment and then grinned, exposing a big gap on the left side of his mouth where several teeth were missing. "Heard old Dempsey's cow died. And them Prussian boys what moved in south o' here are fixin' to brew beer."

"Uh, yeah, thanks," Tompkins said absently, waving his hand in what he hoped Greevy would understand to be dismissal. Somehow he didn't figure it was a dead cow or beer that had had the two women so deep in conversation, so he still didn't know what was going on.

~*~*~*~

It went like that all day. People wandered into the store talking about some big news - but someone else always needed help just when he thought he'd finally find out what it was. And no one he actually got to talk to knew anything about big news at all.

All in all, it was driving Tompkins to, and past, the point of distraction.

What was even worse was that it was affecting his ability to do business. He was adding things up wrong, losing his train of thought with customers. When Caleb Henkel asked for a bag of flour, Tompkins had distractedly gotten a bag of rice instead. And he'd cut red ribbon for Lulu Shaw instead of the blue she'd requested.

He'd go out of business if this continued!

It just wasn't right that he, a self-appointed pillar of the community, couldn't find out what was going on. And of all the days for the store to be so busy, especially with Frank, his only employee at the moment, out taking care of his wife and new baby. Never should have agreed to that…

"Well, I heard it from Marshal Hunter himself!"

Hunter? Lem Wilkes walked out the door as he said the words, so there was no chance to get more information. Well, at least he knew where the news was coming from now.

"Mr. Tompkins? I thought you might like…"

"Frank!" Quick as anything, Tompkins untied his apron and dropped the neck loop over the other man's head. "Watch the store."

"But…" Frank was left standing there, jaw dropped open, holding out a cigar. "I just came by to give you…"

"Yeah, yeah." Tompkins was already heading for the door. "I'll be right back. Oh, uh, congratulations," he called back over his shoulder as he stepped outside.

Crossing the street in the late afternoon shadows, he wished he had grabbed his jacket. The November wind had a promise of winter in the air. But it only took a couple of minutes to cover the ground between the store and the jail. Tompkins stepped up on the boardwalk, pushed the door open, and walked in…

What???

Teaspoon Hunter was there, one hip resting on his desk as he sipped at a cup of coffee. The Dunne woman was there too, unpacking a basket of food. But the biggest surprise was in the middle of the room where the half-breed stood on a crate, arms held out, as Aaron Rosenburg, the town's tailor, busied himself with a measuring tape.

"What's going on?"

"Tompkins," Teaspoon greeted, raising his cup. "You ain't heard the news?"

"It's very exciting," Rachel added.

"No." Tompkins looked back and forth among the other people in the room. "People been talkin' 'bout somethin' all day, but I never heard what."

Teaspoon got to his feet and stepped over next to Buck, clapping the younger man on the shoulder. "Well, couple o' weeks ago, Buck here stopped a stagecoach robbery. Turns out the governor's niece was a passenger. Governor Phalen's comin' here personal next week to present Buck a commendation."

Tompkins just stared. The governor was coming to Rock Creek, and this was the first HE was hearing about it? And all the fuss was about the half-breed?

"I really don't see why I need a new suit," Buck grumbled as Rosenburg's tape wrapped around his thigh. "I have a suit."

"Ain't everyday you get recognized by the governor," Teaspoon pointed out.

"That's right," Rachel agreed. "And you'll want it in Washington too."

Washington? Tompkins shook his head, certain he hadn't heard correctly. "What?"

"The governor's sendin' Sam Cain to Washington to talk to the Indian commissioner," Teaspoon explained. "And he's asked Buck to go along."

"I still don't know what I can do," Buck said, obediently lifting his arms over his head at Rosenburg's urging.

"Nonsense, Buck." Rachel set the basket aside and stepped forward. "You can see both sides of the issues, white and Indian, because you've lived both sides."

Teaspoon nodded. "That's true. I think you an' Sam can make some real good points."

Tompkins backed slowly toward the door, shaking his head slowly. Waiting all day to find out the big news, only to find it involved the half-breed getting a governor's commendation and going to Washington?

What was the world coming to?

But the main thing now was that the territorial governor was coming to Rock Creek. The town council needed to be called to a meeting. They had to spruce up the town, make a welcoming banner, set up a stage, decide who was going to introduce the politician and make speeches, arrange for a meal…

Would the governor be there for lunch, dinner, or both? Was he staying overnight at the hotel? Or just in and out of town?

Tompkins paused and looked back at the jail. He really didn't want to go back in there and ask questions. Hopefully someone else on the council had more information.

So many questions, so much to do. If only he'd heard the news earlier in the day…

Tompkins stopped in the middle of the street, considering. It was hard to believe he hadn't been consulted earlier, but there was still time to fix this, time to put his mark on things.

Yes, he'd show them - show them all - why they were lucky to have him in town and on the case. He'd make sure everything was ready and the town showed off its best.

And when he was done, it wouldn't be Buck Cross the people of Rock Creek remembered from the day. No, it would be William Tompkins…

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