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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  GENERAL TOPICS  |  Saddlebag Tales (Moderators: Marshal'ette Halloway, Lucky Irish Tom)  |  Topic: Missing Angels --Another Petticoat Posse Tale 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Missing Angels --Another Petticoat Posse Tale  (Read 41786 times)
Patches McDuff
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« on: December 01, 2004, 12:30:37 pm »

(This is a reprint from TFS y'all Smiley Thought we'd share it over here and also be able to work on it if TFS goes down again. Hope you enjoy!)


Patches swam up from the depths of a deep, peaceful sleep, the world slowly coming into focus. Her ears opened to listen before her eyes registered the still Texas darkness.

Thump, thumpthump, thump.

She smiled and sighed with contentment. There was her favorite sound. The sound of Bill's beating heart and his rythmic breathing.

They had worked well into the night yesterday, making more of his "toys". She could still smell the acrid scent of some of the chemicals they had been using and she was sure she was still covered with charcoal smudges.

She slowly unwound herself from Bill's arms, stood, stretched, and tugged at the rumpled hem of her shirt. The "nap" they were going to take had apparently lasted through the night. She supposed it was just too natural, too comfortable, for both of them to curl up on the cot in the corner of the lab. She certainly slept better with him than alone in the telegraph office....

Bill stirred. "Patty?" His voiced still blurred with sleep. She smiled, bent and kissed his forehead. The only time he called her by her given name was when he was half asleep.

"Shhhh, darlin," she whispered. "Go back to sleep. I'll put coffee on."

He nodded slowly, rolled over and within seconds was snoring softly. She shook her head and made her way in the dark to the stove. She built up the fire and put on coffee--the smell would wake him in an hour or so--then slipped silently out of the lab.

She made her way to the telegraph office, the chill of the pre-dawn air waking her up as she went. Once inside she built up her own fire, put on more coffee, and went to clean up and change clothes.

Today was Monday, the start of another weeks work. Generally Monday's and Wednesdays were "town run" days where she would ride out early and pick up mail and supply if there was any. She always left just before dawn, not because she particularly wanted to be back early, but the sun rising on the way was a beautiful sight. It was, after all, a pleasant ride to El Paso and sometimes the sun coming up painted the land the most incredible colors. One of the perks of the job she supposed, seeing as she was pretty much the official courior of Marshal Tensleep's posse.

She smiled as she poured herself a re-heated cup of coffee left over from the night before and sipped. Maybe she'd see if Scarlet was around. She'd been getting up early and working the horses lately. It'd been some weeks since Scarlet went on a supply run with her anyhow.

Quickly she picked out a simple yet practical riding skirt outfit and got dressed. She left a note on Ella's desk telling her where she was going and when she'd be back.

She grabbed a folder of paperwork--reports mostly, stuff that needed to be sent by mail rather than telegraphed--tucked it under her arm, jammed her hat on her head and made her way to the barn.

"Dang!" she said softly to herself as she lit the lamp by the big double door. Looking in she noticed immediately who's horses where there and who's were not. Lucky was not in his stall and neither was Fritz's horse. Tensleep's Buck was gone still too. Tensleep had ridden out with Johnny on Friday to the Fort to gather some intel on someone, they must not be back yet, cuz Velvet ears was gone still too.

Scarlet and Fritz had gone into town for a party at the Ace, also on friday. Apparently they weren't back yet.

"Musta been one hellova party," Patches murmered as she passed both stalls on her way to Thunder, stopping only to spoil Falstaff with an apple real quick. She'd find Scarlet and Fritz while she was there and see if they wanted to ride back with her.

Thunder nickered as she approached.

"Mornin boy," she said as she patted his nose. "Ready to go to town?"

Thunder stamped his foot, Patches smiled. Thunder may not be the fastest horse in the stable but he was always eager. She hummed a bit as she saddled the big roan, then simply mounted up and headed out.

The ride was as pleasant as usual. The sun came up about half way to El Paso and Thunder was feeling frisky, preferring to trot or canter a bit on the way. Patches rode smiling, comfortable in the saddle and watching the world wake up bit by bit, with more than a touch of child-like wonder.

"Howdy Miz Weatherby," Patches said cheerily as she tipped her hat to the school teacher--usually the first person she saw on her way into town. "Off to school already?"

"Hello Miz Patches," Mis Weatherby said with a friendly wave. "Yes off to school. You're out early this morning!"

"Early bird catches the worm, Ma'am," Patches laughed. "Have good day!"

"I will," Miz Weatherby said with a chuckle. "You too!"

Patches nodded and continued on. The land wasn't the only thing that woke up with sun, El Paso did too. On her way down the main street she waved and called out to several people she knew. The Mercantile owner, the banker, the barber, the black smith.

Soon she was at the Ace, riding right into the barn. No sense in paying the stable to board Thunder for a few hours while she made her rounds when Becca and Hank kindly offered to let them all keep their horses there.

She rode Thunder into the nearest open stall, dismounted, shelled out some hay and water for him and grabbed the folder out of her saddle bags. She went out, closed the stall door, turned around and---stopped.

Something wasn't right. Lucky was not in his stall and the door stood ajar a bit.

"Now that's funny," Patches whispered to herself as she approached the stall. Scarlet had been up early lately working the horses and she knew she'd not been sleeping the best lately but....after a probable two day party? She knew Scarlet very well and Scarlet would hardly get up to ride with a hangover. At least not THIS early and not before coffee.

As her hand reached out to open the door further, something fell on the ground with a small thump. Curious Patches stepped in and looked down. There glinting in the hay lay Scarlets badge.

"What the...." Patches muttered now beginning to get concerned. Maybe in the heat of the party she had dropped it or lost it and someone placed it here for her to find later?

She bent to pick up the badge, and then spotted something else. A yellow scrap of paper, wadded up. She picked up the badge then retrieved the paper. It was a yellow flimsy. A telegraph message? Quickly she un-wadded the paper and read it.

"Identities wrong. Cut e r loose."

E.R.? Patches mind raced. Who's ER? She remembered a villian named Eric Rottworth from some months ago. A dandified bank robber they had chased prit near into Mexico, but Tensleep had shot him while he tried to escape.

A warning went off in her head, bright red, like one of Dr. Bill's flairs. She didn't hesitate, she ran into the Ace using the side door.

Becca was just coming down the stairs to start the day, still wrapped in her shawl, camisole and yawning.

"Becca!" She called as she reached the bottom of the stairs.

"Well howdy Patches!" Becca smiled. "I ain't got coffee on yet but you're welcome to stay for some when its made. How are you? You missed one great party you know!"

"Aint come for coffee or to hear about parties," Patches said. "Where's Scarlet?"

"Why I reckon she's still sleepin' hon," she said as she joined the other woman. She winked mischeviously. "With Mr. Fritz no doubt."

"Nuh-uh," Patches said. "Lucky's gone and I found these." She held out the badge and the paper. "Do you know who E. R. is?"

Becca's eyebrows came together as she looked at the badge and then the paper. Then her face went completely pale and all ammenities dropped.

"Oh my god," she whispered. She was visibly starting to shake, her hand clutching at the shawl bringing it closer about her chest.

"Becca? Whats goin' on?' Patches had never seen Becca react this way to anything. She was just as tough as Scarlet or herself.

"Ummm..." she tore her eyes away from the paper and looked at Patches. "I....uh....don't think thats E. R. Patches. I thinks thats "Cutter"."

Patches was confused. "Cutter...?" she started but then a memory came crashing back. Scarlet had mentioned someone named Cutter once when they were sharing stories in the loft of the barn. She wasn't sure of the story but she was sure that that was something so horrible that Scarlet never wanted to really talk about it.

"Cutter, oh god," Becca said mostly to herself. "It can't be....." she had turned around putting her hand to her forhead and paced a bit.

"Becca!" Patches called back to her. Becca turned around, attempting to calm the tornado in her gut. Patches took her by the shoulders. "Where's Fritz?" Was his horse gone too? She couldn't remember.

"Ummm....upstairs," she said shaking her head as if to clear it. "Second door on the right."

Patches pelted up the stairs, prit near slid past the door, cought herself and pounded on it.

"Fritz! Fritz you in there?" No answer. She tried the nob, the door came open. The bed had been slept in, the sun shone through the window...but there was no one there. "Damn!" Patches ran back down the stairs.

Becca was standing by the bar with Hank, a worried look on her face.

"He's not there," she said starting to feel some frustration. Where the hell could they be?

"Patches," Becca said after swallowing hard. "If this is who I think it is, Scarlet is long gone and I don't think she'd take Fritz with her."

Now that was REALLY odd. Fritz and Scarlet were like herself and Bill--salt and pepper, you didn't get one without the other anymore.

"Alright," Patches said taking a deep breath. "I'm goin over to the telegraph to find out about this message. When you see Fritz tell him to high-tail it back to the Southern Star IMMEDIATELY! Tell him its urgent. Can you do that?"

Becca nodded.

"Alright then, if you see or hear from Scarlet before I do have Tink send a message to the Star."

"Oh," Becca snapped back as if she'd just woken from a particularly disturbing dream. "Tinker is not in town, honey. He went to visit his sister. She's having a baby."

Well, that would explain why she didn't recognise the handwriting on the flimsy. Either way though she needed to ask whoever was there about this message.

"Crap! Ok. I'll be back as soon as I can." She said as she headed for the door.

"Patches!" Becca called. Patches turned in mid-stride. "Be VERY careful out there!"

Patches stopped. That was odd. She looked at Becca her face set in an expression of curiosity. "It might be best if you let Scarlet handle this on her own." Becca finished.

Patches eyebrows rose at that but she didn't say anything. Another one of those warning flares went off in her head, this time errupting in a huge explosion. She hurried to the telegraph office.


Patches McDuff
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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2004, 12:31:20 pm »

Patches bounded up the boardwalk practically ran into the closed door of the telegraph office. She turned the nob and shoved her way in, even though the shade was still drawn and the "closed" sign hung on the inside of the window.

Wait. More oddities. If the shade was drawn and the "closed" sign still hung, then why was the door unlocked.

No time for that now, she scolded herself as she approached the counter. The place was empty, silent, and dark. It was also a mess. Yes the counter and waiting area were clean and tidy but Tink's desk was in ruins. Papers scattered everywhere, a plate from the hotel's resturant still with food on it, and a few cups lay scattered about helter-skelter.

"Hello!" she called pounding the bell on the counter at the same time. She probably didn't need to ring the thing so hard but sometimes you just had to hit something. "HELLO!!!"

She heard a russling from the back, the place where Tink normally lived. A skinny kid wearing Tink's robe came hobbling out, scratching his head and yawning.

"Yeah, yeah," he said going to the stove and pouring coffee. "I hear ya, whatcha want?"

Patches was ready to shoot whoever this kid was on the spot.

"I'm Deputy Marshal Patches McDuff, and I have some questions for you." She growled.

He turned and eyed her up and down. "Who?"

Patches had no patience for mincing words. She showed her badge instead and pushed the message toward him. "Patches McDuff. Did you take this message?"

He shuffled over and looked at it. "Yep. Came in around 3 AM. Gave it to Miz Scarlet and went back to sleep.." He stopped as if he were thinking then looked at here. "Patches McDuff ya say? I gotta message for you too," he half turned toward the desk. "Ain't got around ta sendin' it yet though. Damn messages comin in at 3 AM anyhow..."

Patches was fixin to spit bullets. She reached forward and grabbed the boy by the lapels, and drug him over the counter. "How long you been on the key boy?" She growled.

This took him aback some. What a strange question. "Coupla months, not that its any of your business!" He said trying to dislodge her white knuckled grip from him. "Now we aint open yet so why don't you run along and come back at a more reasonable hour."

Patches glanced at the clock. It was barely 8 in the morning and Tink would have been open by six. "Not til you tell me who sent this message," she hissed in his face. Quickly she pushed him back and he stumbled into the desk. She ducked under the counter door and joined him in three quick stride. "Show me!"

"Hey there's no reason fer..." he started, but Patches was right on that. She got up in his face.

"Don't make me shoot you boy," She warned.

He swallowed as he looked in her face. He suddenly had no doubt she would most assuredly shoot him. Uncle Tinker had told him this was a dangerouls job, he should have listened.

"Alright! Ok!" He said as he sat down. "Easy lady, easy. Its here somewhere!"

"Deputy," she said. "Aint no lady today. Get on it!"

He started shuffling through papers, knocking things onto the floor, moving dishes. "Here," he said finally. He handed her a peice of tape. Boy was using the graphite key, the message was still in code.

Patches read it and cursed. "Ya damn fool! Don't you know your codes?"

He bristled. "Acorse I do!"

She pushed the tape at him. "No ya don't. Ya made a mistake in your translation. This says C-U-T-T-E-R...not C-U-T space E space R."

"So?" He defended. "I made a mistake! It was three in the blessed morning! I was half asleep!"

"And drunk too no doubt," she said. "Mistakes can't be made like this. This mistake could cost someones life!"

He looked at her as if she'd grown horns. "What?"

"Nevermind," she was in no mood for explaining. "Get up. Let me at the key."

"What?! I can send..."

'Uh-uh. No way. You've made enough mistakes already." She grabbed his collar and shoved him out of the way, then slid into the chair. Quickly she pushed some trash out of the way and started tapping.

"Ella," she tapped--no time for formalities. "Scarlet and Fritz gone, I'm going after her. Message Marshal at Fort gather everyone. Inquire anyone within the last 5 years named "Cutter". Will message when I know something. Patches."

Once that was traveling well down the wire, she stood placing her hands flat on the desk. Her hand fell on a paper. She looked at it.

Fritz and I staying in town, be back monday morning.

She picked it up and turned on the boy. "When where you planning on sending this seein's as its dated saturday morning?"

His jaw opened and he attempted to make words but nothing came out. That was fine, she didn't want to hear his excuses anyway.

"You could learn alot from Tinker boy," she said as she went to the door. "Might wanna pay a bit more attention." And with that she ran back to the Ace.


Patches McDuff
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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2004, 12:32:02 pm »

She came to a sliding halt in front of Thunders stall barely acknowledging the fact that Becca was standing at Lucky's stall looking in sadly. She turned around when Patches banged the stall door she opened it so hard.

"Patches?" Becca said. "Where are you going?"

"Goin' to find Scarlet." She said as she yanked the reins from the hook in the wall. "Any idea which way she mighta went?"

"You can't go after her Patches," Becca said in a voice that was truely haunted. "She'd not want that."

Patches stopped and looked at her. "What are you saying?"

Becca sighed. "Just trust me. She'll want to handle this herself."

Patches walked Thunder out of the stall and looked down on Becca. "Yanno I donno exactly whats goin on here but Scarlets and I have had eachothers backs since the day we met. She's always been there fer me and I'm gonna be there for her. Even if it makes her hate me, I don't care. She's the best friend I've ever had and like a sister to me. Now tell me where you think she mighta went."

Becca turned and started for the side door. "She'd probably stop at the C bar C to pick up some things," she said over her shoulder. "Or she'd head toward Devil's Mountain."

The C bar C? Scarlet hadn't been out that way in ages. Something here was definately very very wrong.

"Alright," she said turning Thunder toward the door. "Thank you."

"You won't be thanking me when you end up dead Patches," Becca sighed as she entered the Ace. Patches never heard a word she'd said.....


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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2004, 01:21:52 pm »

Combined post by Fritz & Scarlet

Scarlet gasped as she sat up in bed. She could feel her body trembling and her heart pound as she looked around the dim room of the Ace. All was as it should be.

She put her arm out behind her and leaned back taking a deep breath trying to relax. She smiled as she remembered the party that had gone on much longer than intended; at least she’d wired Patches so no one would worry.

Feeling his hand on her arm startled her.

“This is the fourth time I count this week you’ve woken up from dreams.” Fritz said softly.

“I know” Scarlet smiled weekly thinking to herself “I count more.” As she lay down and curled against the man she intended to marry one day soon.

“I know you’ve spent most of the last two nights in Lucky’s stall. I wish you’d talk to me about whatever is bothering you.” He could feel her tense up as he said it.

“Just dreams.” She said quietly as she started to rise.

Fritz said nothing. He’d accepted that answer the last couple of times, she knew it was not going to work much longer. She just couldn’t figure out how to tell him he was co staring in her recent nightmares.

Nightmares she shouldn’t even be having. She’d gotten word they buried the Rowen’s near the federal Penn in Fort Worth the end of last month. Tinker had given her the wire himself.

Scarlet was lost in her own thoughts as she got dressed.

“The last few days you’ve become introverted. You’ve tired out two of your mothers horses before the rest of us have even thought about waking up, and you’ve been out there well past when most of us have turned in for the night.” Fritz said as he watched her.

She turned slowly facing him, she could see the concern as she looked into his eyes. Crossing the room she sat on the edge of the bed and placed her hand on his cheek.

“Scarlet, I’ve never pushed you to tell me things. Don’t make me now.” He ran his fingers along the yellow cord she had wrapped in her hair as he spoke, remembering their first date when he gave it to her.

Scarlet leaned down and kissed him. “There’s a place on the ranch, I’d like to share it with you this evening, but for now go back to sleep. I didn’t mean to wake you Sugar.” She whispered.

She would tell him of her dreams later when they rode to the high point on the ranch. It was a climb to the top, but once up there it was like one could reach out and touch the stars. It was her favorite place to go, and think about things or think about nothing.

Fritz watched her go before he drifted back to sleep. He often dreamed of combat. She kept the ghosts of old soldiers at bay while he slept. But not this time...

Fritz commanded the skirmish line. The night was black as pitch, interspersed with violent flashes of lightning. Thundclaps shook the very ground he stood on. Or was it the rippling volleys of muskets?

"Volley fire!" Fritz yelled over the din, jamming a cartridge into the breech of his carbine.

He heard the sounds of his enemy on the wind. It wasn't quite the Rebel Yell, nor was it the screams of indian braves. The sound was an unearthly hybrid of the the keening wail of demons.


His line erupted in red flame. But there were so few few.

Fritz dropped the empty carbine and drew his Navy. "Fire at will!!!"

As his men reloaded, and erie line of soldiers appeared at his front. Their keening reached a fever pitch as they fired. His troopers were struck, their bodies flying from the barricades.

Fritz ran down the line to check his men. He reached the first and turned him over, but it wasn't a man.

It was Patches.


He ran further. Each trooper was one his friends. Bill...Rose...Johnny...all those he'd come to love.

Fritz ran frantically towards the end of the fence line. He could barely make her out. Her voice came to him weakly.

" me..."

He saw a soldier standing above her, a bayonet glinting in the lightning's flash. A gleaming skull leered as it brought the blade down.

Fritz pulled the trigger on his Navy.


Scarlet had fed the horses and gone back to their room closing the bedroom door just in time to hear Fritz yell.


He shot bolt upright in bed, sweat streaming from his body. He looked at her like he had seen a ghost.

Scarlet crossed the room, taking him in her arms she could feel him trembling.

She held him close, stroking his hair. He laid his head on her chest, listening to her heartbeat. The sound soothed him, and his breathing slowed.

To her surprise Fritz got up and quickly dressed. He didn't want Scarlet to see him like this. He slung his gunbelt over his shoulder, picked up his Ithaca, and headed outside.

The early morning stillness was shattered by the sound of gunfire. Fritz drew and fired the Navy as quickly and accurately as possible. Five quick shots struck the old skillet hanging on the fencepost, ringing it like a gong. He didn't know why he'd done it; maybe just to make sure the pistol would work.

He sensed her behind him. Fritz knew what she was thinking. So he told her about his dream, sparing no detail. As he spoke, he reloaded the Navy from his gunbelt. He hoped she couldn't see that his hands were still shaking.

"I watched you die," Fritz said, "and I couldn't stop it." He holstered the revolver. "I swear to you, I won't EVER let that happen."

Scarlet looked into his eyes she didn’t exactly know what to say. Things ran through her mind. Things like; don’t worry that’s not going to happen, I’ve seen your death too and a few others. Finally, after what seemed like a long silence she took his hand in hers.

“Death had his chance to take me willingly, more than once.” She said with a serious tone in her voice. Then she smiled. “Instead the powers that be decided to play a joke on my father by handing my heart to a Yankee soldier.

Someone finding my heart Fritz, I had given up on that you know. Was sure I lost it with the blood shed on the river. Who would have guessed years later, hundreds of miles away you would jump naked into a river and come up with that.” Her smile had turned into a smirk. “Didn’t anybody ever teach you not to pick up strange things.” She said teasingly.

He started to smile and she wondered if she could see a bit of blush in his cheeks.

“Apparently not, and now you are stuck with it.” She stepped closer and put her other hand over his heart. “I finally have my King and I want my fairytale to have a happy ending. Death is not welcome here anymore and I’ll put up a hell of a fight if he comes for me. It’s more important to me that you keep yourself safe, don't ever let it happen to you.” She kissed him softly and whispered “I love you.” Then backed away with a soft smile; turning she went towards the barn leaving Fritz to his target practice.

Once in the barn she picked up Lucky’s brush and began to groom him.

The stallions head rose watching the familiar figure approach them.

She smiled at the young man who looked at her a bit strangely as he handed her the piece of paper. He was not familiar with the name of the man who had sent the telegram, nor did he have the nerve to ask her who he was.

“You’re up awful early.” Scarlet said watching Tinkers nephew approach her.

“This just came in marked urgent.”

“Thank you.” She said as she paid him then started to read the telegram.

She read it once with disbelief, took a deep breath then read it again, just to make sure she saw what she thought she saw.

She could feel, no, taste the hatred as she read the wire. This would explain the nightmares she’d been having, and the reason she’d felt some of her old habits creeping back, like the way she watched folks, the way she looked into their souls as they spoke to her.

Crumpling the paper and threw it against the wall in Lucky’s stall in a fit of rage.

Scarlet was determined it was going to end now. "I'm not about to let history repeat itself with my friends and loved ones" she thought as she raced up the stairs to her room.

Pulling the old trunk from the closet she dug until she found what she was looking for. Picking up the leather bundle she looked at the red and black markings on the outside, then carefully unrolled it, and tossed the leather on the bed. “I knew I should have cut his heart out when I had a chance.” She thought to herself as she looked down at the bowie knife with the razor back saw toothed blade.

Scarlet’s father, Johnny had given it to Travis when they went off to war; Scarlet knew the knife had shed many a man’s blood; if she got that close to Cutter it would shed his too.

Stopping briefly in front of the mirror she looked at her reflection recognizing the woman looking back, although it had been some time since she’d seen that darkness.

Her mind whirled with thoughts as she went unnoticed back to the barn and saddled Lucky.

“To catch a killer you have to climb into his mind, become what he is.” Was one of the echo’s that bounced though her mind, followed by “A Deputy marshal is not a cold blooded killer.”

Her fingers traced over the badge she wore then unpinned it. She placed it on the door to Lucky’s stall, mounted up and rode out of town.

"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain

Patches McDuff
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« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2004, 07:16:00 am »

(originally posted by Elegant Ella)

Ella heard the key chattering while she gathered eggs. The pace of the message sounded like Patches, who had been planning to go to town this morning for mail and the supplies on the shopping list Rose and Ella had put together Saturday night. It was a good thing that Patches would have left the graphite key on Ella's desk wired in. Ella was getting better at decoding by ear, but Patches still sent faster than Ella could follow.

She went into the office and sat down at her desk to read the tape. She read the note from Patches and pushed it aside while she transcribed:

Ella. Scarlet and Fritz gone, I'm going after her. Message Marshal at Fort gather everyone. Inquire anyone within the last 5 years named "Cutter". Will message when I know something. Patches.

She composed her message to Marshal Tensleep and sent it off:

To: Tensleep Ross, Fort Bliss
Everyone is needed back here. Who is Cutter?

That done, she carried the basket of eggs into the ktichen where Rose was starting the Monday baking. She rolled up her sleeves and washed up, then joined in the kneading.

"Patches sent a message from town saying that she is following Scarlet and Fritz. Do you know of anyone named Cutter?"

Rose looked shocked and responded, "Why do you ask about Cutter? He is dead."

"Patches's message said to inquire about anyone named Cutter. I don't know why."


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« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2004, 11:47:40 am »

Rose eyed Ella for a moment. “Patches said she is following Scarlet and Fritz and mentioned Cutter in the same message?”

Ella looked at her inquisitively “Yes, why who is Cutter?”

Rose’s eyes darted back and forth as she thought about what Ella had said. “Cutter is dead.” she mumbled wondering who of her new family Scarlet might have told about the killer and just what she would have told them.

The more she thought about it the more concerned she became. Going to the door she opened it to look out hoping she would see any sign of Scarlet, Fritz or Patches. Rose felt something brush over the top of her head; she turned in time to see a bird land in the middle of the kitchen.

Rose’s face went ghostly white, her mouth dropped open. All she could think was it was a bad sign to have a bird in the house, Patches, Scarlet, Fritz & Cutter. She pointed at the bird “bad” was the only word that came out before the room spun, went black and her legs gave out.

To be continued.

"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain

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« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2004, 12:48:07 pm »

Ella watched the bird land, then turned back to Rose just in time to see her knees buckle.  With a lunge, she caught Rose's shoulders with floury hands in time to prevent her head from hitting the corner of the table, and eased her down to the floor.   Rose was breathing normally, but her color was very pale.   

Ella left her side to throw a dishtowel over the raven that had hopped up to the table to peck at the bread dough.  She gathered up the towel and struggling bird and threw it out the door, then closed the door behind it. 

She was deeply disturbed by the raven in the kitchen.  One had flown into her grandmother's kitchen the morning before her grandmother suffered her final stroke.  She had been 13 then, and school had been teaching her to doubt some of her grandmother's teachings as pure superstition, so she had not bothered to burn the herbs and say the prayer after wringing the bird's neck. 

This time, she would complete the ritual to resist the omen that had started with throwing the bird out unharmed.  Going to the herb cupboard, she pulled out what was needed. 

When Rose regained consciousness, she smelled sage and hops and heard Ella chanting. 

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« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2004, 10:49:44 pm »

Cutters group of three had gathered a few more as they rode to El Paso. He still had the charisma to attract others to join his cause, he liked that, it gave him expendable men and they never even realized it.

As they rode Cutter looked over at Phil, chuckling again at the dark hair.

Phil looked sideways at him knowing what he was thinking. “Maybe you should try it, maybe you could get close ta ‘er. Lord knows I get close to Rebecca.” He grinned.

“It’s Martha Ann, and you stay away from her!” Josh snarled as his lip curled up on one side.

“She likes men with dark hair, don’t think she likes your color much.” Phil suppressed a smirk.

Harry shook his head Phil just couldn’t help himself when it came to Josh, he and found out how to torment the man and took advantage of it. He wondered when Josh would get up the nerve and just shoot Phil. Squabbling amongst the men was never good he thought.

Phil turned in his saddle and looked at Josh. “What is it about Martha Ann you like so much?”

“She’s so sweet and beautiful.”

Phil shook his head in agreement. “That she is Josh, that she is. What about Scarlet?”

“She’s not very sweet.” Josh said flatly causing his brother to chuckle.

“You like that Re…Martha Ann is afraid of you Josh. Scarlet, she just hates ya.” Cutter snorted.

“She ain’t very fond of any of us Kevin. At least my Martha Ann never tried to geld one of us.” Josh said bitterly.

Cutter rolled his eyes towards Josh “Yeah, I bet you give her half a chance you’d see another side of her.”

Cutter had heard things about Rebecca Valentine, he’d seen a few things too. Rebecca’s only failing as a fighter was there was something about himself and his brother that scared the hell out of her. Maybe it was there first meeting. He was sure laying that hot branding iron on her shoulder still gave her nightmares.

“Scarlet can be very pleasant you know.” Phil smiled.

“Tell me.” Cutter looked at him.

“Just small talk, she hangs around that saloon. Pleasantly declines my offers to buy her a drink. But she seems like she could be real hell fire too.

Those two women that are deputies, they are real spit fires too. You want to get to her Cutter, go after the other two women.

Deputy Coatsworth, I hear she is a healer of some sort. Think you still have those contacts that liked to buy women. Wonder what kind of price a healer would bring?”

“If she can heal you she prolly knows how to poison a man too.” Harry spoke up.

“Well there’s Deputy McDuff. She’s got pretty long red hair, that would bring a nice price, she’d be a nice prize should you not want to trade her.” Phil chuckled. “She rides into town most Mondays and Wednesdays.”

“If I could have it my way I would catch and kill each one of her friends; slow while she watched.” Cutter took a deep breath and smiled enjoying his idea.

“If you could have it your way, she’d ride at your side.” Josh looked sideways at his brother.

Cutter opened his mouth to deny it, but he couldn’t he’d said that himself some years ago.

“You were jealous of Hart and you’re probably jealous of that soldier she rides next to.” Josh smiled, proud of himself that he’d gotten a dig at Kevin, it didn’t happen often.

“Guess I’m just gonna have to kill him instead of Hart.” Cutter said kicking his horse into a lope.

"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain

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« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2004, 09:01:56 pm »

Combined effort of Scarlet & Fritz

Fritz shouldered his shotgun, and pulled both triggers. There was a satisfying thump to his shoulder, as the bottle he aimed at was vaporized. Fritz shucked the empties and reloaded. He looked at his shotgun. It looked funny. New wood on an old action. Kinda like him...a new badge on an old soldier.

Scarlet’s kiss was still warm on his lips as he walked back towards the Saloon. He figured that since he was awake, a cup of coffee wouldn't hurt.

But something was nagging at Fritz. It wasn't so much what Scarlet had said, as what she didn't say. She loved him, and he loved her. But Scarlet was holding something back; he hoped that when they rode to her "secret place," she'd be of a mind to tell him.

Becca took a deep breath. She didn’t know what to tell Fritz, maybe she should just play stupid and tell him Patches left a message for him to get back to the Starr immediately and Scarlet had already gone. She knew if she told him the truth he’d ride out after Scarlet. That was all she needed, people strung all over Texas looking for someone who obviously didn’t want to be found.

Damn she hated this, they were her friends but so was Scarlet. If Scarlet had wanted company she would have taken someone and not gone alone. She loved Patches and Fritz but her loyalties lied with Scarlet first.

Becca could still feel herself shaking, if it was true she was in danger. She had seen the signature line on the telegram, Mr. Dawg.

Mr. Dawg…it was the signature Trixie Blue used, and Trixie wouldn’t send something like that unless it was true. It meant Trixie was in danger too. Cutter had been gunning for his mother longer than Scarlet had been gunning for him. Becca thought about it a moment the only folks that knew the identiy of Mr. Dawg were herself and the retired deputy Sonny Daily, maybe she should warn Sonny, he might be on Cutter’s list too.

Becca’s head jerked up as Fritz came through the door, she swallowed, put on her smile and tried to act normal.

“Fritz, honey, Patches was here she says you need to get back to the Starr immediately. She rode out not to long ago and Scarlet is gone too.” She smiled her usual warm smile and hoped he couldn’t detect anything wrong. After all, she did have a pretty good poker face.

"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain

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« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2004, 09:02:47 pm »

Scarlet pushed Lucky as fast as he would go. She still couldn’t believe it. Cutter alive.

Slowing the stallion as they neared the road that led to the C bar C; she made sure none of the riders from the Star saw her as she rode to the old ranch house.

Once in front of the ranch house Scarlet dismounted and went inside. She knew exactly what she wanted and where it was. Going into her old room she opened the trunk that sat at the foot of the bed and looked in.

Things she’d put in there when she started working for Marshal Hart lay undisturbed beneath the maps she’d placed on top the day the Rowens had gone to prison.

She took the leather cuffs from the trunk and laced them on her wrists. She ran her fingers along the shallow cut made by her enemy’s knife; they had saved her skin once she would take the precaution and wear them now.

Scarlet then looked at the maps making a mental note of her next stop. She wanted to know what had happened. Mr. Dawg’s message said Cutter was still alive…but how? There was someone close that might know, one just had to know where to look for the crazy man.

She rolled the maps up and looked around the house. There were good and bad memories here, it seemed like two life times had been lived and had anyone asked she would tell them she was on her third with her new family and a man she loved.

Fritz…Scarlet hoped he would forgive her for this. She had once told him she would answer when her demons called; and if he couldn’t forgive her, she preferred he lived rather than die fighting her monsters.

Then there was Patches, Ella, Dr. Bill & Tensleep, she hadn’t made friends like that since Becca latched onto her. She hoped they all would understand in order for her to go on with this life she had to bring an end to the last one, and that meant finishing the job she had started out to do so long ago.

Scarlet went out the door, put the maps in her saddlebags, secured a few things then mounted up and rode to her next destination.

The shack was tucked back in a thick grove of trees; if you didn’t know it was there you’d ride right past it. Course the pungent smell that came from the grove alerted one that something was in there.

Once there she tied Lucky in the shadows then snuck up to the shack, making sure there were no other visitors but her. Stepping over the corpses of half rotted rabbits and chickens she knocked on the door. Looking around she noticed the old whisky bottles some were empty some only half empty; the smell in the air made her eyes water.

“Go way, nobody’s here” came the high pitched agitated voice from inside.

Scarlet snorted and shook her head. “Open up.”

“Nobody’s lives here.” The agitated voice called again.

“I can see you, now open up.” She called to him.

The man’s eyes grew wide and he ducked behind a small table as he looked around the room wondering where the voice that could see him was. “Go away. Nobody’s home.”

Scarlet rolled her eyes. “Smiley I can see you hiding in there if you don’t open the door I’m gonna come through it.”

Smiley jumped to his feet and ran to the door. “How do you know my name and how can you see me.” He said yanking open the door.

Scarlet looked into the shock stricken face of the man most folks thought was crazy. He spoke in riddles or sing song often and his face did not help. The scar went from the corner of his mouth and curved upward to his ear giving him the appearance of always having a strange smile on his face.

Scarlet was never sure if the man was really insane or if it was a good act, but she had learned years ago if you listened some of his ramblings were true. Folks said things in front of him with little concern because they thought he was crazy.

Smiley jumped back and pointed at her. “Witch. I know you. Have you come for my soul?” He ran across the room looking over his shoulder trying to put distance between them.

“I have only come for information.”

“I don’t know nuthin.” He shrieked.

“You know about Cutter?” She said leveling her gaze on him.

“Cutter is dead, Cutter is dead.” He chanted over and over.

Scarlet rolled her eyes. “Cutter lives, tell me how.” She hissed walking towards him.

Smiley smiled lopsided then started to dance about the room. “Rowens are dead, Rowens are dead…someone cut off their head.”

Scarlet had been told they were killed in their sleep…stabbed to death, the cutting off their head part she figured was part of his crazy talk.

“So how did they leave Fort Worth?”

The man stopped dancing. “You are the witch, why do you ask me?”

Scarlet’s eyes flashed, she’d had enough of this time wasting. Drawing the bowie “Tell me what I want to know!” she screamed as she plunged the knife into the rickety table causing it to splinter and split.

Smiley nearly fell over himself backing away from her, his eyes filling with fear. “Like you witch, they change.” He hissed.

“What” She said leaning towards him.

“Today you look just like you did years ago, but I have seen you around and you look different Angelina Corbin or is it Scarlet Angel? What did you call yourself yesterday bounty hunter, deputy marshal, witch?” He cackled moving away from her again.

Scarlet thought a moment as she put her knife away. “Identities wrong…of course they had taken on some one else’s identity.” “I call myself executioner today, what do they call themselves?” she smirked.

He smirked back. “Scarlet Angel the executioner. Gonna take more heads? That’s what executioners do, cut folks heads off.” Suddenly he paled. “You’ve not come for my head have you?”

“Only if you don’t tell me what I want to know.” She growled.

“Lawyer said the headstone reads Rowen, but no Rowens in the ground. Headstone should read Rabin but it don’t.”

“Have they visited you?”

Smiley straightened his back and looked her in the eye. “Not even the Indians come here. He fears me more ‘en he fears you Angelina Corbin, crazies is bad luck. How is it you are able to come here?”

“Rabin is my bad luck, and I’m not sure that you’re as crazy as folks think you are.”
Scarlet said as she backed out of the door. She had the information she wanted now she just wasn’t sure how to use it; it did however confirm Mr. Dawg’s statement that the men still lived. She wondered what had happened to Trixie.

“Beware of the man with fake hair.” Smiley called after her.

Scarlet narrowed her eyes wondering what the crazy man meant or if it was just more ramblings. She made her way back to where she’d left Lucky and mounted up. She’d spend the night in Devil’s Mountain; it would be difficult to find her if Cutter dared looking for her there.

"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain

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« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2004, 09:02:01 pm »

late the night before

Trixie smiled as her last gentleman caller left for the evening. She picked up her bundle of packages and tossed them on the bed, then went to the stove and poured herself a cup of tea. She went back to the bed, put her tea on the night stand, propped up the pillows, and flopped down.

The large heavy jowled black dog jumped on the bed and laid next to her. Trixie sipped her tea and petted the dog’s soft fur.

“Lets see what’s in the paper tonight” she said to him.

The dog pushed the papers towards her with his nose as if he understood what she was saying. Trixie chuckled. The big dog, who she affectionately called Mr. Dawg, had been her companion and protector since she found him under the stairs of her apartment nearly six years ago.

Trixie picked up the newspaper from Fort Worth TX. She had been reading it since her sons had gone to prison there. She wasn’t really sure why, maybe she hoped to read their obituaries some day.

Trixie flipped through the pages reading some of the articles. Then the headline caught her eyes.
Notorious Rowen Brothers murdered

Trixie’s heart raced as she read the headline again then looked at the picture of the two men in the caskets.

“It can’t be.” She whispered nearly spilling her tea in her lap.

“Oh dear.” She said putting the cup down and wiping the tea off her robe.

She leaned forward and looked at the photo closer. The men in the caskets were definitely not her sons. Not only did she think she would recognize them anyway, but she had looked right into their eyes the year before. The men standing in the background looked more like her boys.

She scanned the pages until she read the tiny blurb on Jerry and Kurt Rabin being released.

Frantically she flipped the pages back and forth comparing the release date to the date of the burial of the Rowens. The dates matched. She could feel the fear building within her as she came to the realization there had been a mistake in identity and her sons were lose.

Trixie jumped to her feet, pulled on some clothing and ran out the door with Mr. Dawg on her heels.

She pounded on the door of the telegraph office until a sleepy eyed man answered.

“Ms. Trixie you’re gonna wake the dead. Whats so dern important you don’t think it can wait til morning?”

“I gotta send a message to a US Deputy in El Paso. I’ll pay extra for your trouble.” She was beginning to look around nervously wondering who he’d send after her and where they were.

“Ok, I’ll send it.” The man said.

Trixie followed him to the counter wrote down the message then laid the money on the desk.

“Mr. Dawg talks a lot” The man chuckled as he looked at the signature then started tapping out the code.

He looked up in time to see the tail of the black dog going out the door.

Trixie ran back to her room, reached under the bed and pulled out the travel bag. She’d never given up the habit of keeping that emergency bag packed. Wiping the tears from her eyes she went back out the door and locked it behind her. Rent was paid for a month so the room was safe in that respect, maybe she could go someplace and try and figure out what to do next.

Trixie made her way to the stables where she kept her horse, saddled him mounted up then disappeared into the darkness with her companion.

"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain

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« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2004, 09:30:17 am »

Tracking someone going into a bustling town like El Paso was easy. Tracking someone going out was prit near impossible. Too easy to cover tracks with other tracks. But Patches trusted Becca's words on the situation, knowing she'd known Scarlet a lot longer than she had.

She made a B-line to the C bar C, easing Thunder into a comfortable lope. Thunder may not be the fastest horse in the Territories but he was built for endurance.

Naturally, she picked up no sign of Lucky or Scarlet. Of course, Scarlet was an expert at covering tracks--her own or someone else's--but even a horse had to answer the call of nature from time to time. Patches, therefore, concluded that she had either not gone to the C bar C or she had taken a round about route. No time to check on that theory though.

Three men were sitting on the porch of the ranch house when Patches pulled up. One of them stood.

"Howdy, Ma'am," he said tipping his hat and smiling. "What can I do ya for?"

"Howdy," Patches returned. "Sorry to barge in on y'all like this, surely don't wanna interrupt ya. But have y'all seen Scarlet recently?"

"No," the man said thinking while scratching his chin. "Ain't seen hide ner hair of Scarlet since last month. I figgered y'all was jus' busy. Why? Is there sumpthin wrong?"

Patches shook her head. "No sir," she lied. "Nuthin' wrong. Just gotta message for her from a friend and thought I'd deliver it in person instead'a waitn' fer her ta git back. If ya see'er, will ya tell'er I'm alookin'?"

He smiled. "Yes Ma'am, we'll do that."

"Thankye, Sir," she said cheerily. "I'm oblidged."

And with that she turned her horse and rode out. She had just crested the ridge and there it was, looming like some kind of shadowed thing out of a fairytale. Devil's Mountain. It'd take the rest of the day to reach its base even at a fast clip. But there was no civilization betwixed here and there, which meant a possibility of picking up some kind of sign.

Patches bent down and patted Thunder on his neck. "Reckon you can git us ta that mountain boy?"

Thunder bobbed his head and snorted, stamping one foot. That horse surely did love a good long trip!

Patches crossed herself, sent up a quick prayer to St. Francis (which always gave her a tingly feeling at the nape of her neck--as if the Saint had suddenly appeared on her shoulder to guide her and the horse) then urged Thunder forward.

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« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2004, 09:32:38 am »

Co-posted by Tensleep and Scarlet

As US Marshal JB "Tensleep" Ross and Special Deputy Johnny Longknife were signing the transfer of custody papers and sworn evidence papers a messenger ran into the Master at Arms office, stopped in front of the desk and spoke.

"Sarge, wire just came in!"

The big Irishman behind the desk stood and gave the private a stare. "Well don't just stand there lad, give it to me."

"It's for the Marshal and deputy Sarge."

"Then give it to them,and get back to yer post!" The sergeant dropped back to his chair as the trooper handed over the message and departed.

Tensleep took the paper and Johnny signed the last document.

"Thanks sarge, you keep that deserter this time. We don't need him in El Paso." Tensleep winked at Johnny and made his way outside.

Once outside Ross opened the wire. He read and then looked at Johnny.
"Ella says everyone is needed back there. Who is Cutter?"

Johnny's head comes up quick.

"Johnny, who is Cutter?"

Johnny's blue eyes darted back and forth trying to think why anyone would be asking about Cutter.

"Kevin Rowen. 'Member that message came from Fort Worth saying they were killed?" Johnny was walking away from Tensleep as he said it. His pace gaining speed as he went towards the post's telegraph office.

The man behind the desk looked at Johnny as he came in, Tensleep on his heels.

"I need you to send a message." Johnny said to the man behind the desk.

"Yeah, write it down and I'll get to it as soon as I can." The man never looked up.

"Look son, it's urgent, needs to go now and I'm gonna wait for a reply."

The man snorted. "Yes Sir" He shoved a piece of paper over the desk and never looked up. "Write it down and I'll send it after I get these others done for the Army."

Johnny's eyes flashed anger. 'Sleep had heard Johnny was fast. "Damn!" he thought as his mind processed the fact the man behind the desk was now on top of it and one of the knives Johnny carried was near the man's throat.

"I'm tellin you, you send a message NOW!"

The mans eyes were wide as saucers. "Y Ye Yes Sir." He sat at the key and waited.

"First one goes to ECW at the Southern Starr." Johnny thought a moment it had to be quick and clean. "Where's Scarlet?"

The man sent it.

"Second one goes to Fort Worth Federal Pen. Please send all information on the Rowen brothers. Have them send the responce to the Starr and sign it Marshal Ross."

Johnny turned on his heel and went out the door towards the livery.

Tensleep followed and watched as Johnny grabbed the saddle and blanket for his mule. Calling softly to Buck Tensleep began to brush the straw and loose dirt from the buckskin's hide.

"Johnny.... gonna tell me about this Cutter... and who are the Rowen brothers.... wait a minute! Scott was always cussing some Rowen... is it one of these brothers? What tha hell is goin' on? You better tell me what ya know an' what has Scarlet got ta do with it?"

Johnny quickly bushed his mule who could feel the tenseness building in his rider. Johnny looked over his shoulder at Tensleep then past him.

"Same one's Scott must have talked about, don't know any others. Hey you!" He called to the trooper tending some of the horses.

"Yes sir." He smiled recognizing Johnny.

"Can I beg, borrow or do I have to steal a couple extra horses?"

The mans eyebrows came together as he thought about it. "Mr. Longknife I got a complaint about a couple o horses you sold me. They are to high strung for some of our less experienced riders." He said with a smile.

"Bring 'em forward, I'll take 'em and replace 'em with something else." Johnny said shaking his head up and down in approval.

Then he turned back to Tensleep. "Where were you out of before you hired on with Scott? Rowen's seemed to have a reputation from Lousiana to California. Ain't you ever asked Rebecca where she got that brand?"

"Denver." A pause. "Never figgered it was my business Johnny, 'Becca told me it was something she did when she was young and foolish." Another pause. "One of the Rowen's do that to her? Johnny if he did, when I find him he's a dead man. That woman means a lot to me."

Johnny looked sideways at 'Sleep and snorted.

"Let me put it this way 'Sleep. The man earned his nickname Cutter. He enjoys his life on the wrong side of the law. And if Scott ever told you anything about a woman bounty hunter who collected bounty on dead men. That was Scarlet. When Cutter killed her husband, changed her 'Sleep. For that name to come up coming from Ella, don't give me warm fuzzy feelings." He took deep breath and tried to wait calmly for the other two horses to be brought up and give the telegram time to get answered.

The man that sent the telegraph came running in and handed Johnny the response from Ella.

"Thanks." He looked it over.

"Crap. Says Scarlet and Fritz gone and Patches went after them."

Johnny looked at the man who had handed him the message, pulled out his billfold and handed him some money. "Send another message to The Starr. Bo check for Travis's things. Ella give Bo Patches info. Sign it JL."

The man shook his head. Money was always better than violence.

Mounted with spare horses on lead ropes both men dug in their heels and thundered out of the stockade gates. The ride from Ft Bliss to the Southern Star was about 35 miles or six hours on a fast horse. By starting just after nine in the morning 'Sleep hoped to be there before mid afternoon.


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« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2004, 11:45:35 am »

Originally posted by 1st Sgt Fritz King

It was a cool morning, but not so if you dressed for it. Becca was still in her underpinnings, but she had a warm shawl wrapped tightly about her shoulders.

Why was she shaking?

“Becca,” Fritz started, “you all right?”

She batted her eyes and smiled coyly. “Of course, good, kind sir,” she replied.

Fritz hesitated a moment. There was something about the look in her eyes that bothered him…but he let it pass.

“Okay,” he said. “I’m going upstairs to get my weapons.”

Becca watched him go, wondering if he’d believed her.

Fritz climbed the stairs and pushed the door to their room open. Something was amiss. Scarlet’s weapons were gone; nothing else, and that concerned him. That, and the old trunk sat out in the middle of the floor. The lid was wide open. He’d only seen her open it once before: when she gave him the grips for the old Navy...grips that Travis might have put on a similar gun a decade ago. Fritz didn’t recall the other contents, so he wasn’t sure what was missing. He was positive that something WAS.

Fritz took his Henry and Trapdoor from the rack on the wall, and headed out to the barn. Strider was waiting. The horse’s eyes sparkled, for he knew a good ride was coming. He always looked that way when his master rode with the lady, and the big black horse.

Fritz rubbed his friend’s head between the eyes. “I wish you could talk buddy,” he said. “Can you tell me why Scarlet left without me?” Strider whinnied and nodded his head. “Well, I wish I understood you better,” Fritz thought, as he took his McClellen off the stall’s door. Once Strider was saddled, and his guns were stowed, Fritz mounted up and headed out of town.

As he rode, he remembered a time in his youth, when he helped his dad nurse a damaged locomotive back to the roundhouse for repairs. There was a whistle attached to the emergency release valve. As steam pressure got too high, the whistle screamed louder and louder, until the pressure was released, or the boiler blew.

He heard the whistle in his head, and it was getting louder.

Fritz pushed his mount a bit harder as he headed for home.

"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain

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« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2004, 11:46:37 am »

Hank had over heard only part of the conversation between Patches and Becca then Becca and Fritz. His instincts told him something was very wrong.

“What’s goin on Becca?” He asked watching Fritz disappear upstairs.

“Nothin Sugar.” She smiled her practiced smile.

“Don’t you use that smile you use on customers Rebecca. I’ve know you to long for that, I can see right through it.”

“I AM NOT.” She snorted then rolled her eyes.

Truth was she didn’t want Hank to know. He’d do everything in his power to keep her safe, not only was it his job, but he was her friend. She didn’t want him to go up against the Rowens.

Hank narrowed his eyes at her. “I don’t believe ya.” He said flatly.

“Just some deputy stuff..Patches ought to be on stage she’s so good at drama. But I guess that’s good, gettin’ things get done as soon as possible.” She shrugged her shoulders then went up stairs and dressed for the day.

Becca waited until later in the morning when Hank was starting to get busy with the early arriving customers. She slipped out of sight and hurried to her room. She’d decided what she was going to do.

First she’s ride out to Sonny’s. She had convinced herself he needed to know. First of all he had seen the Rowen brothers, ridden their trail, and been at their trial. He also had met Mr. Dawg, like Rebecca he knew it was a code name that until now, had gone unused for some time. Then she’d go stay with Black Wolf for a spell. One had to know where to look to find him and then only if he wanted to be found were they successful. She’d leave a note so Hank would find it when he started to miss her.

First she packed a few things then put on her riding clothes.

She jotted out a note.

I’ve gone to see Sonny, then will be spending a few days with my brother. Have Scarlet come get me when you see her. Take care of things til I get back. Thanks for everything. Love Becca

She wrote his name in big letters on the envelope then put it in the middle of her neatly made bed.

Becca kneeled down and called her puppy. The puppy Scarlet had given her for Christmas bounded across the room, his entire body wiggling with joy. She gave Timber a great big hug and kissed the top of his head then let him out. Luckily Hank had taken a liking to the dog and watched out for him when Becca was working.

Rebecca smiled as she thought of how the puppy sat at the end of the bar and watched the saloon floor when it came to life. Hank slipped him tidbits from the kitchen and denied it along with every one of the girls that worked in the kitchen. Timber would be well cared for.

Picking up the shotgun she went out the door, leaving it slightly ajar, and went down the hidden stairs that led right to the stables.

“Ha, and think I criticized Scarlet when she wanted a secret stair case.” Rebecca thought as she opened the door down stairs and entered the spotless tack room.

Bo was about the only one that went into this tack room as it held mostly broken leather pieces; he liked to make things out of and old saddles that nobody used anymore. Rebecca had teased Scarlet for keeping the floor spotless. Suddenly it dawned on her; there was no dirt or dust to leave tracks in. She shook her head and chuckled.

Becca quietly led her paint pony out of the stall, saddled him and mounted up. She took a look around; there was an uneasy feeling in the air; she figured it was just the mention of Cutter’s name. She pointed Cloud in the direction of the Daily place and set him at an easy pace.

She’d nearly made it to Sonny’s when she noticed another horse coming up the trail. She could feel panic rising, recognizing Phil her panic subsided.

"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain

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« Reply #15 on: December 13, 2004, 01:18:06 am »

Doctor Bill was awake before he opened his eyes. The smell of strong coffee filled the corner of the lab where he lay on the cot next to the desk and wood-burning stove. He had finished putting the last of the supplies in place only a few days earlier and had been busy ever since working on equipment for the ranch.

He picked his glasses up off the edge of the desk, swung his legs off the side of the bed and looked for Patches; confused for a moment at not seeing her and then remembering speaking to her when she got up some time earlier. She had probably gone to the telegraph office and then into town. Generally he would saddle Falstaf and go with her or if he were expecting another shipment of laboratory equipment they would hitch Bunsen and Plato, the two mules, to Bill’s wagon and take that. However, since the electric dynamo had showed up nearly a week ago he wasn’t expecting any shipments of laboratory equipment and the only piece of mail that was highly important had been delivered on Friday and was safely squirreled away in one of the desk drawers here in the laboratory. He smiled to himself thinking about Patches and the package in the desk.

Bill poured a cup of coffee and sipped it as he looked around the laboratory. He was amazed that it had been built and stocked in such a short time. He had been emotionally destroyed when his previous laboratory in Arizona had burned and then exploded in an attack on the ranch there. He had not even bothered trying to recover anything from the remains as the stories in the letters he received indicated that the blast had destroyed everything and what little was not obliterated in the explosion had been burned.

He had no idea how he was going to replace all the equipment, books, and notes he had collected over the years until Patches had presented him with a letter she had received from a Prussian, “German” he reminded himself now that Bismark had forcibly united the little southern kingdoms and won the Franco-Prussian war barely two years ago, chemical and dye company. Without Bill’s knowledge, she had found the name of one of his colleagues at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin. She had gotten Ella to help her with the translation of the letters between English and German and in the weeks and months since the destruction of Bill’s laboratory and their departure from Arizona, and with the assistance of “Herr Doctor Professor Manfred Johachen von Gobenz” (Ella had always shaken her head at the officiousness of the title) she had negotiated the sale of Bill’s buffered salicylic acid preparation. The payment was not a fortune but it was more than enough to build and equip a new laboratory as well as replace many of his books. He had never thought that the two pages of instructions and drawings that he penned in less than an hour would be worth so much money.

The new building was larger than the old one. He also had built a thick timber and earth berm between the lab and all of the other buildings at the ranch. His adobe cabin was on the far side of the berm and connected by a narrow zig-zag passageway through the wall. Wide skylights brought illumination into the laboratory during the day and lamps with polished tin reflectors behind them could be lit after sunset. Workbenches ran along most of one wall and the middle of the room with the heavy metal working equipment, the smelting and forging furnaces, and the large distillation stoves at the other end of the room with vent chimneys over them to remove the fumes and heat. Shelves and locked metal cabinets on the other wall of the single rectangular room completed the interior furnishings.

Bill finished the cup of coffee refilled the mug and after quickly changing his shirt in his adobe house, started the short walk to the main ranch house to see if there was anything left of breakfast.

Marshal Tensleep had been more than willing to let Bill make contributions to law enforcement in his own ways. Bill knew he was certainly not as fast with a gun as most of the other deputies. He was an acceptable shot with the big Sharps cartridge rifle but there were lots of folks as good as he was. What he really excelled at was the mechanical devices and scientific insight he brought into cases and the marshal was more than happy to have that without requiring Bill to ride with every posse.

The new ideas were what he loved. Bill already had one as he took another sip of coffee. Surely there would be a way to build some sort of clockwork driven system to start the coffee boiler in the morning. A wood or coal fire would be too hard to ignite but a gas burner would work. He already had a digester that generated methane from the stable waste for use in the lab. An electric spark would light the flame and an electromagnet could open the gas valve. Since Patches had showed him that at least a few of his ideas might be worth selling he pondered on a name for such a machine as he sipped coffee and walked; “Automatic Boiler”; no that was too vague. He needed something with “coffee” in the name. “Gentleman’s Novel Efficient Household Automatic Coffee Boiler”; that was much too long and complicated. He needed a name that was short and expressive: only a few words “-something- Coffee”, “-something- Coffee”: just two words. He finished the cup and stepped onto porch of the main house. Perhaps Ella or Patches could help him with the name. It was too good an idea just to forget about. He would ask Patches about it as soon as she got back or he might saddle Falstaf anyway and ride out to meet her.

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Elegant Ella
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« Reply #16 on: December 13, 2004, 01:42:52 am »

Bread-making day was usually Ella's favorite work day. Kneading the dough while talking to Rose took her back to her girlhood in Grammy's kitchen.

But today was different. Once Ella had finished the chant to deflect the bad omen, she found that Rose was awake, and ready to get to work doing her own work against the omen. The dough that the bird had pecked was thrown into the bucket for the pigs, and then the table and floor were scrubbed.

Ella was called out to the telegraph office in the middle of the scrubbing by a question from Fort Bliss asking where Scarlet was, and sent the reply
..- -. -.- -. --- .-- -. --..-- / -... ..- - / .-- .. - .... / ..-. .-. .. - --.. .-.-.- / .--. .- - -.-. .... . ... / .. ... / ..-. --- .-.. .-.. --- .-- .. -. --. .-.-.-
Unknown, but with Fritz. Patches is following.

She stayed in the office, trying to work at her lace, but she kept having to go back and fix the mistakes she kept making. It was a relief to drop the bobbins when the next message came in. She wrote this one down neatly, and took it and the message from Patches with her to find Bo.

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« Reply #17 on: December 14, 2004, 04:02:17 pm »

Bo groomed the young horse as he listened to the steady beat of Jimmy shoeing his horse.

Seeing Ella the horse nickered. Bo looked up. "Morning."

"Good morning Bo." She said holding out the telegraphs. "Just got this one from Johnny and he wanted me to give you this one from Patches."

Bo clenched his teeth as he read the notes Ella had handed him. She heard him curse under his breath, and could see his muscles tense even under the clothes he wore.

“Thought that nightmare was over.” He mumbled to himself.

“Bo.” Ella put her hand on Bo’s arm “who is Cutter, every time his name is mentioned I’ve gotten reactions but nobody has said who he is.”

Bo looked down at Ella. “Cutter, or his real name, Kevin Rowen. Was, is a killer who made his territory along the border. He’d ride into the states, kill, rape, steal..whatever the feeling he had for the day then slip back across. Most people that followed him back across died by his hand.

Then one day.” Bo cleared his throat and hesitated. He looked into Ella’s eyes not really knowing how to say it and obviously somewhat uncomfortable.

“Ella, my brother died trying to save his wife and their unborn child, a couple that were long time friends and our cousin.

When Jimmy and I made to the scene it looked like a damn massacre. They thought they’d killed everyone but Connie, our cousin. We interrupted them taking turns with her.

Scarlet was the only one that made it, sides Connie. Scarlet had a real bad time recovering from it. Connie shot herself.

Law told Scarlet they had no jurisdiction in Mexico, she’d have to send a hired killer unless they caught him in the states.” Bo shook the bad memories.

Ella if that devil is runnin round out there you stay close to the house.”

Bo had turned the horse lose as he spoke. When he was done he turned on his heel.

“JIMMY!” Bo was yelling as he closed the distance between them.

Jimmy was finishing putting the last shoe on his horse when he heard Bo yelling. Bo never yelled unless he was real mad or if something was very wrong.

“I’m out here.” Jimmy yelled back as he put his horse’s foot down.

Bo came through the doorway and handed Jimmy the notes.

Jimmy stared for a moment. “Hell fire. Ya really think she took Fritz with her?” He said looking at Bo.

James Bradbury was a victim of many bad circumstances before had come to live with Scarlet’s family when they were kids; even though he was a shirt tail relative Rose had taken him in and treated him like family. He and Scarlet had had their moments but now she called him her brother.

He remembered when Scarlet had come to him and asked him to ride after Cutter with her. Scarlet had slipped into his room put her hand over his mouth as she grabbed his right hand. She leaned low and whispered into his ear.

“I’m going now. Will I have a ghost on my shoulder?”

She let him go and slipped out of the room.

Jimmy rose and slipped out behind her. ‘Ghost’, that’s what Johnny called em, came from the war. He’d taught the boys how to sneak into a camp kill em all and disappear, hide in the shadows and wait for their targets and a lot of other things. He had the most confirmed kills among the group Johnny had trained.

He remembered what she had said as they rode in the darkness after the killer. I asked you to come along because, outta everyone, I figured you had an idea of what it was to hate someone so much you wait for the chance to exterminate them and you know the felling of the fear that they will return if you don’t.”

“No. I don’t, I can only speculate, and it’s all bad what could have happened.”

“What we gonna do?”

“I want you to ride to the Ace. There’s a trunk in Scarlet,s room. Most everything she used to carry when she was chasing Cutter should be in there, cept some maps. They are in a different trunk with a few other things at the C-C.”

As the two men began to saddle their horses; Bo couldn’t help but notice Jimmy had pulled the old McClellan saddle off its rack.

“We’re not going to war Jimmy.” Bo mumbled.

“Hope not.” He said as he cinched up the saddle. “This saddle is lighter than my other one. Lighter load the faster we can go.” Jimmy patted Moonshines neck as the palomino bobbed his head up and down. “We logged a lot of fast miles with this saddle.”

Jimmy’ horse snorted and danced as he mounted up.

“Hey, find out what Rebecca knows, even if you have to drag her back here by the hair. And don’t be telling Hank the confederates have come for him.” Bo said looking at his friend.

“I’m not wearing the uniform, only my horse is. Sides I don’t have time to mess with Hank today.” Jimmy snorted as he let Moonshine have his head.

Jimmy had not gone far when he saw Fritz coming up the trail at them. Jimmy pulled his horse to a stop. Moonshine danced in place feeling the anxiety in his rider as they waited for the buckskin to stop along side of them.

"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain

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« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2004, 04:03:01 pm »

Combined effort of Fritz & Scarlet

At first Jimmy was happy to see Fritz, it took a moment for it to sink in Scarlet was nowhere to be seen.

“When was the last time you seen Scarlet, do you know where she is?” Jimmy asked.

Fritz reined in and came alongside Jimmy. The whistle was screaming louder now. He wasn't in the mood for games, and this chance encounter didn't make him feel any better.

"What the hell are you talking about?" he replied. "I got word from Becca that Scarlet and Patches were headed back to the ranch, and I was to follow immediately."

It was then he remembered the look in Becca's eyes.

"Oh shit..."

"Fritz," Jimmy asked. "What did you see in the chest? Did you see a bowie knife? A BIG bowie knife?"

His mind was running a mile a minute. "I never...wait." Fritz thought back. "There was an oilskin..."

"We'd best be getting back." Jimmy turned the palomino about. "If the bowie's gone, things are gonna go south fast."

It hadn’t taken long for Bo to ride out to the ranch and confirm his thoughts.

He tore the place apart looking for any map she’d left behind, or anything that told him where she might be headed.

Bo felt his heart in his throat when he rode up behind Jimmy and Fritz. She had gone after the killer, and Patches was following.

“At least Cutter didn’t get his hands on Fritz and Scarlet was chasing him for that.” Bo thought.

Bo stopped long enough to talk to one of the ranch hands. “Bring the stock and the men in, nobody rides alone. Lock this place down tight. Spread the word. Until Johnny’s home I want to know when someone sneezes.”

"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain

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« Reply #19 on: December 14, 2004, 10:39:03 pm »

Combined effort by Scarlet Angel and Tensleep

Johnny and Tensleep rode as if their tails were on fire, neither talking for they had talked enough before they mounted. Each man was lost in his own thoughts. The fear that rested in their hearts was not for themselves but for their friends and loved ones.

'Sleep's mind turned back to the last time he had seen Rebecca Valentine. It had only been four days but it seemed a lifetime to him. 'Becca was someone that he had searched for all his life, finally he had found her and had done his best to do everything he could to endear himself to her.

Four days earlier.

US Marshal JB "Tensleep" Ross and Rebecca Valentine, owner of the Ace of Hearts Saloon stood in the hall upstairs in the Ace.

"Rebecca, we need to talk, I'm ready for us to move our relationship on."

Rebecca took his hand and walked to a door, opening it she pulled him in. "I thought that you wanted to move slow."

Tensleep took her in his arms and said, "'Becca darlin', we have walked out together, kissed and held hands... that was moving slow...... Now is the time to pick up the pace."

Tensleep massaged her back as he kisses her passionately.

"You want to slow down darlin'?" He asks.

Becca smiles a genuine smile at him as she thinks about her next move.

Tensleep had treated her like a lady and so far she had responded as such. Now she was having most unlady like thoughts of what she'd like to do with him.

Any other cowboy she'd been this interested in would have been different, most of them only wanted one thing from her and she knew how to handle that but this man was different.

She couldn't remember what it was like to be a 'proper lady' when it came to the advances of men. Hell there were times she made the moves. But this man made her a bit nervous as she was not quite sure what he really wanted. Her heart? a friend, she felt they had a good friendship, he'd worked on that with her for the last few months. Or someone to keep his bed warm at night? He could have had that the first time she laid eyes on him.

"Darlin'.... what I want is a long term relationship, not a one night stand or a sexual only relationship. I want you, all of you. Your mind, your heart, your body. But I want it just for me. I don't care what you do on the saloon floor in front of the crowd, but I really want you to be just for me up the stairs." 'Sleep paused, "Tell me what you want."

She kissed him passionatley as she traced her fingers gently along his cheek.

For the first time in years she was concerned about what she really was.

"You lead I'll follow Darlin'" She whispered.

"Becca, first and foremost you are a lady... I want you to be MY lady. I have needs and desires. All men do. I don't give in to them easily. I want you to be the one to meet my needs. I want to meet all of your needs and desires too. But it needs an agreement from both of us."

'Sleep kisses Becca again, softly this time, gently. His hands are on her hips, holding her, not pulling. He is tender and slow.

"I am willing to lead, but this is gonna be a mutual thing, not fast and furious. I want both of us to enjoy what we share."

He looked deep into her eyes."If this is what you want, then tell me so 'Becca."

As he looked into her eyes he could see the concern. He was getting serious and it spooked her. He was respected in the town. It was one thing for a respected man to fulfill his needs and desires but for a respected man to have a relationship with a woman such as herself was something different. The last thing Rebecca wanted was for the Marshal to lose respect because of her.

"If you want a long term relationship with a lady, maybe you should be looking someplace else. I clean up good darlin', but I am no lady. I thank you for holding me in that regard though." There was a bit of sadness in her voice. "I'm much better at sexual only relationships. There's a few in here this evening that can vouch for that."

Becca was suddenly having flashes of how angry Scott used to become when Scarlet danced with some one else, and she'd never propositioned them.

"You sit in on some of the poker games, drink with some of these cowboys, ask them about me. Then come back and tell me if what I do on the saloon floor doesn't bother you. Or better yet when ya happen to run across the right ones and they can knowingly discuss my little indescresions upstairs how much that will bother you."

She could feel her heart tighten, but she was a good actress and flashed her well rehearsed smile then took a step back. "I've seen the way the proper ladies look at you Marshal Ross. It's been fun hun, but if you're looking a relationship maybe call on one of them."

Tensleep pulled Rebecca back to him, the step back tha she had taken wasn't what he wanted. With his hands now around her waist the two stood thigh to thigh and Rebecca had to look up slightly in to Tensleep's face.

"Rebecca Valentine listen to me. I don't care that you own a saloon. I don't care that you have girls who entertain men upstairs. I don't care what you have done in the past, all that I care about is what you do in the future."

Tensleep kissed 'Becca's full lips.

"What I am trying to tell you darlin' 'Becca is that I love you and I am in love with you and I don't care what the town folks will say, I don't care what the men downstairs are gonna say and I don't care what folks are gonna think of me. I am the US Marshal, appointed by the Chief Marshal in Washington. I have a job to do."

He kissed her again.

"If you are willing to love me back and willing to love only me, then word will soon spread and you will soon find that people will stop talking about us and find something else to gossip about."

The look in Tensleep's eyes was burning. His hands held her tightly to him. His face was so close Rebecca could see his razor stubble.

"Rebecca, I don't want any other woman. I want you and only you. I want you now and I want you forever. One day I want you to marry me. I know that you make more money than I do. I know that I can't give you the things that you can buy for yourself, but, I can give you love."
"I want you now 'Becca, right now! And for always." Tensleep kissed her again as he held her tight.

She caught his hands in hers and moved back a little.
Damn he wasn't making this very easy. Would have been easy if she didn't care about him. She and Scarlet had talked about the 'knight in shining armor' and here he finally was. What was the matter with her?

Truth was she hadn't had another man in her room in sometime, but Scarlet was the only one that knew. She knew she was starting to have feelings for Tensleep sometime back, she should have stopped it then.

"I care darlin'. I care what folks think of you, what they say about you, and I think you would start to care what men say about me. Ain't ya heard my nickname?"

"You know that I don't get into town much darlin'. I also don't listen to gossip. And no, I don't know your nickname. My name is John, folks call me Tensleep... long story. I like to be called Jack, that was what my mother called me." 'Sleep held her hands and led her to the setee.

"Will you sit with me?"

Rebecca sat, then 'Sleep did.

"I know that you think folks would think less of me if you and I get serious. Folks don't think much of me now. I drive the townsfolk crazy. I don't give in to their whims. I don't have to. I'm not elected. You might not know this but the last woman I was with was my squaw. That was before I became a Deputy US Marshal. I lived with the Shoshone for 3 years. She died from the fever one winter, I left after she died. Do you think less of me now?"

Rebecca looked at him. "As long as we are sharing things we might think we'll judge one another on I'll tell you something." She said softly. "If you get up and walk out of here I will understand, but I trust what I am about to tell you will not leave this room." Rebecca stood and walked to the small table pouring herself a drink and one for Tensleep then walked back and handed it to him.

She sat back down and swirled the liquid in the glass before she took a sip, thought about how she wanted to word what she was about to say than began.

"To make a long story short, I don't remember how old I was when we went to live with the Comanche.

"I married Spotted Owl when I was young. He was a good loving husband, until he was killed by white men. After that" She shifted a bit in her seat. "Well being one of the white captives some of the other warriors took liberties with me. In order to survive I learned this profession I practice now very well. After my mother's death."

Sleep noticed Rebecca was staring into her glass now as she talked.

"Well, I became very angry, and some of the men responsible died. I suppose I learned to kill men at a young age too. Inspite what white folks think of Black Wolf I think he is a good man and I am proud to call him my brother."

Tensleep knew Black Wolf was the current chief of the tribe that was rumored to live in Devil's Mountain.

"He felt in order to keep me alive it would be best to send me back to my own people. That's when I latched on to Scarlet."

She had told the short version but Sleep could tell by the way she looked into her glass, by the way her jaw was starting to clench she'd just relived some very long and painful memories.

Rebecca downed what was left in her glass, stood and walked back to the small table. Setting her glass down she refilled it as she began to speak.

"Like I said Marshal I'd appreciate if what I told you didn't leave these walls, be bad for business if the good folks of El Paso knew I was a Comanche whore too."

Rebecca had her back to him and fully expected to hear him leave.

Tensleep stood and walked to Rebecca. His arms went around her waist and he held her from behind. "Darlin', I never want to hear you use that word again when you talk about yourself. Women do what they have to do to survive. It's a hard land. Did you think that I would be so small and narrow minded as to walk away from a good woman because of her past?"

As he slid her arms around her waist he felt her muscles tighten. She'd let herself be vulnerable and she wasn't used to it, nor did she care for the feeling it gave her.

"Tis what I am marshal." She said as a matter of factly. "I don't think you're narrow minded." She said softly as she took a deep breath.

"I just think you deserve someone who doesn't hide her past. I'm not exactly the kinda girl ya take home to the family."

"If I had a family then they would have to like you, and I know that they would. My Ma could see what was in people's hearts."

He turned her around so that she was facing him.

"Rebecca we aren't going to hide anything. You will walk on my arm if you will have me. I will never be anything but a man in love with a wonderful woman."

"You know I often walk the streets in the same clothes I wear down stairs, and down stairs my clothes don't hide much. I don't even know if I can be this woman you speak of."

"Do you think that you could love me? Do you think that you could be one man's woman? Do you think that you could find a place for me in your heart? Clothes don't make you any less the woman that I see, that I have fallen in love with. Clothes don't matter. What matters is in your heart Rebecca."

"Most propsitions I get like this are from men who only want to talk their way into my bed. They think that a girl wants to hear things like this." She looked into his eyes and knew these were just not empty words.

"I'm afraid I'll hurt you."

"And may I ask how you would do that if you loved me as I love you? I loved Little Bird, but I didn't love her the way that I love you 'Becca. I have never wanted a woman like I want you. I don't just mean to bed, I mean to be my partner for life. I need you 'Becca. You would never hurt me."

"How do you feel when you see me down stairs flirting with some other man?"

"If you were only flirting and had promised me that you were mine then I reckon I wouldn't hafta kill him."

"Night after night."

"I ain't gonna be in here night after night darlin'. I have a job and if you tell me that you are mine and mine alone, then I will believe you."

She smiled softly. "If I was to invite you to my room for a proper drink and to talk you wouldn't misinterpret that as some other kind of invitation would you?"

Tensleep looked around the room and for the first time realized while it was a nice room it most likely was not where she spent her personal time. He could tell by the look in her eyes she was extending an offer for him to see a the more personal private side of her, one she shared with only her closest friends.

"Until you say different I intend to be your suitor. I am not someone who would use a woman and cast her aside. If you say drink and talk, then it will be drink and talk no matter where we are.. I may ask to hold your hand, I may kiss you, but until I see a sign from you Rebecca, that is all. I would like to see your room."

Rebecca took his hand slid her fingers between his and led him out of the room, locking the door behind her. She went down the hall to the other side. They past the spot at the top of the stairs where he often saw her standing watching the floor below and went around the corner. There were only two doors on this side. She stopped at one and unlocked it.

"That other one is Scarlet's when she chooses to stay here." She said pointing at the other door.

Rebecca turned to Tensleep. "I want you to know the only folks come in here are my family and close friends."

She pushed the door open and stepped inside gesturing for him to follow.

Tensleep noticed the room was much larger than the other and the only thing it lacked was a kitchen.

Rebecca closed the door behind him then walked to the other door in the room and locked it. "There's a bath that seperates our rooms, door locks from both sides. If you want to go in there just make sure ya knock." She said as a matter of fact.

The room was decorated in the same dark green as Rebecca's eyes and much more elegantly furnished than the other room they had been in. It was tidy but lived in. The other room had been more sterile.

From the looks of the table near the window Rebecca liked to sit there while she read the newspaper and drank her coffee.

The blanket on the floor next to the bed had a stuffed toy that looked like it had seen some better days, laid in the middle, alterted Tensleep she shared the room with a dog. He figured it must be the partially grown wolf dog he'd seen her playing with. There was a picture stuck in the frame of the mirror on her dresser. From where Tensleep stood he could only tell it was three people.

Rebecca went to the small cabinet opened it and poured them both another drink. She smiled as she walked with Tensleep to the setee. She seemed a bit more at ease now, but still somewhat nervous as she sat and curled her feet beneath her.

"You asked if I thought I could be one man's woman. I'm willing to try, you've already found a place in my heart." She smiled and her eyes sparkled like dark emeralds.

"Do you mind telling me how your love for me differs from the love you had for Little Bird?"

"That is one long story darlin'. Her father was chief of one of the Shoshone bands that lived in Wind River. I had helped him by giving him some cows in the starving time, winter, you know." Tensleep paused, holding his pipe, Rebecca smiled and nodded for him to go ahead and smoke. He began to fill it.

"White Eagle, Little Bird's father, found me. I had been shot twice. I was near frozen. He took me to his lodge. Little Bird was a widow at 20. Her man had gotten killed in a buffalo hunt. She had moved back to her father's lodge. Little Bird nursed me til I was well. She laid in the robes with me to share her body heat. As things happen, when I was almost healed, our bodies took over and we joined. From that day on she was my woman. I grew to love her, but I was never in love with her. We supported and provided for each other." Tensleep looked at Rebecca, watching for a response.

Her smile was warm and understanding. "I'm sorry you lost her."

"I'm sorry too. She saved my life. But the way that the other squaws looked at her let her know that they thought she couldn't get a real husband, a warrior, you know. She needed her people, I needed mine. I had thought of leaving when the spring came, but she died, then there was no need for me to stay."

Tensleep once again took her hand. "So Rebecca Valentine, will you be my woman? Will you think about being my wife? Will you try to love and hold only me? I promise, I love only you. I have no desire for any other woman."

She squeezed his hand gently and spoke softly "Jack, I will stop entertaining men upstairs, and we will see how that works out. It is not that I don't have feelings for you, because I do. Like I said, I'm afraid to hurt you. We can talk about the other after we see how this part goes." She took a deep breath trying to figure out how to make him understand.

She'd watched Scott change towards Scarlet. He had told her he trusted her, Rebecca figured he never really did. She didn't want to repeat the same mistake Scarlet had.

"I realize we are not Scott and Scarlet, the situation is different in many ways, but in some it is the same. I don't want to turn you into that kind of man, and I want to be sure that you're not already."

"Darlin' take your time, but I'm gonna be true to you and I believe that you will be true to me. You know that I will be on the trail sometimes with Scarlet, Patches and Ella, but they are just friends. I only have one love and that is you for as long as you will have me."

"I believe if they know about us, well know that we are becoming serious, they will keep us both in line should the occassion ever arise." Rebecca chuckled. "I also don't think any of them are the type to betray their current loves. Ella, she is married and I don't think is the type. Patches and Scarlet. Hell I seen they way they look at Bill and Fritz." Becca chuckled mischeviously.

"Kinda like I look at you darlin'? I really think that they will keep an eye on us." 'Sleep reached for 'Becca. With his arms around her he kissed her slowly and tenderly.

She traced her fingers along his arms as she returned his slow, tender kiss.

"Rebecca?" He kissed her again. "Darlin', is this too slow?"

"What makes you ask something like that?"

"Because I want to kiss you for a long time tonight sweet 'Becca."

She leaned in and kissed him passionately.

Tensleep lifted Rebecca onto his lap and his arms went 'round her tiny waist. They didn't break the kiss that joined them.

Tensleep awoke the next morning to the sound of Rebecca carrying a breakfast tray back into the room. She smiled lopsidedly at him as she looked at him laying in her bed.

She set the tray down on the small table and made her way around to his side.

"Good morning" she whispered as she kissed him softly on the cheek.

He took her face in his hands and kissed her lips softly. "Rebecca Valentine, I love you."

His thoughts faded as the Southern Star came in sight and Johnny raced ahead dropping the lead rope to his mule who followed anyway.

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« Reply #20 on: December 15, 2004, 08:56:29 am »

Patches hunkered down next to a rapidly drying wet splotch in the sand. She reached out, touched the splotch with her gloved hand and rubbed a bit of the sand between her fingers. She held it up to her nose.

"Horse piss," she mumbled softly looking in either direction. Thunder blew. Patches stood. Devil's Mountain loomed dark and forboding in front of her. "Whatcha think? We close?" Thunder huffed twice.

The sun was fixin to set soon, and the wind had come up. If she was gonna catch up to Scarlet, if this WAS Scarlet, she'd best push on. No one wanted to be cought in the shadow of the mountain after dark, but that was the best place to be if a wind storm were to blow in.

Patches checked her loads--pistol and rifle. She wasn't too worried about the human element way out here, but the coyote and moutain cat could be visious.

"Next time we do this remind me to bring Dawg," she said as she mounted up. "Coulda used a good sniffer. Git on, GIT." Thunder took off at a trot.

By the time Thunders hooves hit the rocky soil at the base of the Mountain, the whole world had turned dark purple with the twilight. Patches once again dismounted and stood motionless listening. The wind made eerie sounds as it passed through the millions of cracks, crevises and caves that made up Devil's Mountain. Anything could hide up here. Anything or any one.

Scarlet would have chosen a place well out of sight, and the rocky ground made any tracking impossible, even if it were broad daylight. Of course she'd need water and shelter but most of the larger caves had some kind of water system running through them.

Patches shook her head slowly as if saying "no" to herself. Relying only on what she knew of Scarlet to help her determine where she was, she figured Scarlet would not hole up in some big cave. Those were too high up, and difficult to reach by horseback. Not that she didn't have time, Patches figured she was at least a half a day behind her. More like Scarlet was sensible about these things. She'd want a place near the base, a place with good cover, a bit of water, and facing east. It'd be a place easy to get out of, yet unseen by just about any direction. It'd have to break this wind, yet have some dry wood for fire--it was, after all, a bit chilly.

A gust of wind blew sending a high pitched keening wail to Patches' sensitive ears. The Song of the Dead, the Indians called it. If you knew what to listen for, it would fade in softly at first then grow louder until it reached an almost painful pitch, then it would slowly fade out as the winds split and sailed down other avenues.

Patches tilted her head. The sound didn't fade out. It simply stopped as if it had run into a wall. Other sounds were missing also. She didn't hear the call of the little owls that lived in the cactus near here, or the howl of the coyote and wolf.

"Geez," Patches whispered to herself sarcastically. Nothing like trying to track someone by which way the wind blows.


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« Reply #21 on: December 15, 2004, 01:37:33 pm »

Two hours later it had come up cloud and the wind was like invisible ice daggars blowling sharp sand around every nook and cranny. Lightning flashed from time to time although there wasn't a hint of moisture on the wind, nor a single clap of thunder.

Patches made no moves to conceal herself or her sounds. If anyone could hear above the wail of the wind they'd know she was coming and the last person she wanted to sneak up on was Scarlet. That'd be the best way in the world to get oneself shot.

She had just rounded a rather large rock outcropping when a bolt of lightning lit up the sky. In the instant it provided light Patches saw  the form of a wolf or coyote standing above her looking down. Once the light faded however, the glow of the animals eyes remained--but only for an instant longer.

That suggested another light source somewhere near, Patches thought. But before she could complete the thought she heard a scraping sound, so soft she almost missed it.

Instinctively she ducked, even as the shadow seperated itself from other shadows and slammed full on into her body. She fell to the ground, heard Thunder nicker and back away, heard another nicker further off, then the tussle began.

Twisting her body she rolled to her back, grabbing for anything she could get her hands on. It turned out to be a double hand full of coat. Something soft brushed against her face as her opponent sat squarely on her chest. Then she felt the cold steel of a knife blade against her throat.

"Nice to see you too Scarlet," she said softly, not releasing her grip on Scarlet's coat but not making any other moves of defence.

The body on top of her hesitated, the knife lifted up just a hair. "Patches?"

"Yeah," she said. "Unless you cut my throat, then I'm nobody."

Scarlet cursed, but got up. "What the hell are you doin' here?" She demanded.

Patches chuckled and held her hand out. Scarlet took her hand and helped her up--more out of habit than anything else--while simultaniously replacing her knife with the other. "Come lookin' fer you. Guess I found ya."

Scarlet sighed. "C'mon. Get outta this storm."

"Sounds like a plan," Patches mumbled as she cought Thunders reins. Scarlet lead her around the outcropping and into a narrow crevice which then widened into something like a small cave. Patches smiled to herself. Just as she thought, shelter on most of three sides, out of the weather, facing east.

A small, smokeless fire burned in the center. Patches stowed Thunder next to Lucky and then went to it. Scarlet joined her a moment later.

"I coulda killed ya, yanno." She stated.

Patches nodded, rubbing  her hands together. "Ya coulda, but ya wouldn'ta. I figgered it was you."

"Yeah? How's that?"

Patches smiled out of half her face. "Even a crazy indian wouldna be out onna night like this. You on the other hand...." She grinned.

Scarlet sighed and squatted by the fire. "Whatcha want Patches?"

Hmm. Nothing like cutting to the chase. She dug in her pocket. "Ya left this back at the Ace," she said tossing Scarlets badge at her feet. Scarlet looked at it but didn't touch it or move to pick it up. "Figured ya lost it."

Scarlet looked up at her friend. "I didn't lose it, I left it."

Patches nodded. "Yeah, figured ya lost it."

Scarlet was about to scream in frustration. Patches could be stubborn as an old mule and nine times outta ten she did it on purpose.

"Wouldn't hurt ta show that to the bad guys though," Patches said indicating the badge. "Sometimes when ya do they just give up."

"Who said anything about me goin after bad guys?" Scarlet said with a squint of one eye.

Patches smiled. "You did. Just now." She dug in her pocket again, this time coming out with a wrinkled yellow flimsy. "Who's Cutter, Scarlet?"

[size=18]TAG SCARLET[/size]


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« Reply #22 on: December 17, 2004, 01:17:57 am »

“That note doesn’t say anything about a Cutter.” Scarlet said flatly.

Patches mouth slightly twisted up on one side and she narrowed her eyes at Scarlet as if she’d just been insulted.

“Yeah that kid Tinkers got coverin’ the telegraph could use some lessons. I saw the tape, the code that was sent. It said Cutter.” Patches snorted.

“Cutter died last month, got that message from Ft. Worth, member? And I’m not going after bad guys.”

Patches smiled. This was going to take a little more work than usual. Scarlet had been quiet like this when they’d first met, but then they became best friends and Scarlet would tell her just about anything when she asked and some things she didn’t ask, specially if she’d been drinking, but it would not be so now.

There was something different about Scarlet now, besides the way she was dressed. Patches could feel it in the air, almost hear it move when Scarlet did, a cold presence, a darkness that shadowed ones soul.

Scarlet looked at Patches and took a deep breath. She’d said it before, if she could have chosen family, Patches would be her sister. Not the kind you fought with but the kind you laughed and shared all your secrets with, the kind you stood by when the going got tough, the one you protected with your very life, and he would use that against her if he knew.

“You shouldn’t be out here Patches. You’re gonna catch a pneumonia and get sick on me.” Scarlet was trying to find some excuse with out lying to her why she should go home.

Patches smiled lopsided and crossed her arms in a show of stubbornness “Not til ya tell me what you’re doing out here instead of curled up in front of that big fire place at home with…Where’s Fritz?” Patches looked around Rebecca had said Scarlet would go alone, but that had been hard to believe. The signs were bad all day and still getting worse.

Scarlet bristled at the question. “Probably followin you.” She hissed. “Ya come someplace to be alone, ya figure folks won’t follow, pretty soon I’m gonna have the entire posse riding in here.” Scarlet was starting to lose her temper, she could feel the anger taking hold.

Cutter did something to her that she could not control. The thought of his existence made her angry. The fact he’d slipped through her fingers irritated her beyond belief. The fact she could feel his presence and hear his heart beat sickened her. The fact she’d been having dreams about him slaughtering her friends and family made her feel like she was going insane. And finally, the knowledge he would not stop until he’d killed them all and destroyed her awakened the kill or be killed instinct within her with a vengeance that had all but consumed her. She hated for anyone to see this side of her.

She stopped a moment to compose herself, took a deep breath and straightened her back.
She wanted to hug Patches for being a sister and at the same time kick her out for following.

Scarlet looked down at the badge again, she could feel sadness mixed in with all the other emotions and hear the words bouncing around in her mind. “A cold blooded killer doesn’t wear a badge.”

“Damn you Scott” she mumbled to herself then looked back at Patches. “Just do me a favor and go home in the morning.”

The statement was followed by a long silence as the two stubborn women looked at each other, both knowing they were not getting what they wanted from the other.

“Why?” Patches finally asked.

“I don’t want you involved; don’t want any of you involved.” Scarlet said softly.

“Involved in what?”

Scarlet wasn’t about to tell Patches what she’d dreamt about.
The dreams confused her. They were mixtures of bits and pieces from the past with people in her present.

What she was sure of was she had told Scott she’d seen him die in a knife fight. Marshal Hart was poor at best in knife fight. When she expressed her concern and encouraged him to learn how to at least defend himself well he’d told her she was crazy…been living with the Indians too long, then he died from knife wounds.

Travis had held her close and kissed her then told her he’d heard pregnant women often had bad dreams when she told him she had seen him shot. He died from a gut shot.

She’d seen Fritz standing over her grave, he had told her he watched her die. That unnerved her some. She’d also dreamed of him being shot from Dancer’s back just like Travis, maybe she was crazy. He’d never been on the gelding and didn’t have any reason to.

Then there was Patches. Scarlet could hear Cutter’s voice. “Kill her” as he held Scarlet tight making her watch as Patches’ throat was cut.

Scarlet could feel her skin crawl.

“Look Patches, Black Wolf calls em visions, Scott used to call me crazy and Travis said they were just dreams of someone who worried. All I’m gonna tell you is I gotta follow them alone and if I told you what they were…well I told Scott and Travis, I think it’s bad luck to tell.”

"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain

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« Reply #23 on: December 17, 2004, 01:18:41 am »

Cutter always believed fortune smiled on him at times. He’d been shot, but never killed or lost a limb. He’d been jailed but walked out a free man, and now he’d found a good place to hold up while he plotted against his enemies.

The best part of the cabin they had found was the new bride that came with it. It had been along time since he’d had an untouched woman, and never one wearing a wedding dress.

He’d told her if she cooperated he wouldn’t kill her man. Cutter was pleased she only whimpered quietly, so being a man of his word, most of the time, Cutter never did lay a hand on her husband. What she didn’t know while she let him take everything he wanted with out much of a struggle, and then prepare his dinner; Cutter had left her husband to his men.

They had tied and gagged him then used him as a target for knife and tomahawk throwing. All they were told was not to let the mrs see a dead body.

Something intrigued Cutter about the woman; normally he would share them when he was done, but not this one. He really hadn’t figured it out, maybe it was just the fact she was something fresh to play with; and then Rebecca was shoved through the door.

Phil had tried to make it easy on Rebecca trying to trick her by offering her money to come with them for a private party at his place, which she denied. He tried telling her there was a woman in need of help and he was riding for the doctor then suggested Rebecca help, she denied and was obviously becoming suspicious. That’s when Harry had become impatient and nearly gotten himself shot wrestling the shotgun away from her.

Rebecca’s instincts to take flight screamed. She could almost hear her own voice. “RUN BECCA!!” She had backed her horse away from them and pulled the shotgun from its scabbard. The big man leaped on her sending them both to the ground, she’d gotten one shot off that was aimed at the man’s head, but he ducked and yanked the gun from her grip.

Harry tossed the gun to the side and straddled her trying to get control of the situation. He screamed as he felt the sting of her fingers dig deep into both cheeks. Harry backhanded her, grabbed her wrists and pulled her to her feet as he stood. They had tied her to her horse and led her to some place she didn’t know even existed.

Harry pulled Becca roughly from her horse and shoved her up the step and through the door into the small house. He had pushed her so hard she stumbled and fell in.

Looking up she saw the back of the woman with long blonde hair standing over the stove.
“Scarlet” she whispered in shock.

The woman turned around, Becca recognized the pride stripped look in the woman’s eyes.

“Jenny” She said softly. “My name is Jenny”

Rebecca couldn’t believe it, Jenny looked a lot like Scarlet, cept Jenny’s eyes were blue and up close there were differences but from a distance one could easily mistake the two.

Jenny stepped around Becca and placed the dinner plate in front of Cutter. He looked her up and down. That was it! The woman looked like Scarlet. He chuckled to himself thinking of the accusations the men had made about him wanting Scarlet at his side.

Maybe he did, but it wouldn’t happen. They were mortal enemies with some sick need to torture and ultimately kill one another. But they would have made a hell of a team he thought with a grin.

Josh looked at Rebecca, anger crossing his features. She drew back afraid of what he was going to do as he quickly closed the distance between them.

“What did you do to her!” he yelled crossing the room towards her glaring at the two men that had brought her in.

He reached down and wiped the dried blood from the corner of her mouth, then caressed her swollen cheek.

“I’m sorry they did this Martha Ann, but you’re going to have to learn how to cooperate.” He said sweetly.

Rebecca had met some crazies in her life but Josh Rowen was a real piece of dangerous work.

Josh grinned and turned to his brother. “Hey, since you’re done with the dress can I have it?”

Cutter raised an eyebrow questioningly.

“Martha Ann can wear it and you can marry us.” Josh grinned.

“You get it on her..I’m sure Jenny darlin’ has a bible in the house and we’ll marry ya.” Cutter chuckled.

Josh pulled Rebecca to her feet and drug her into the bedroom.

“You become some kind a preacher while you was in the penn Kevin?” Phil asked.

Cutter laughed. “No, but it will shut him up about her.”

In the bedroom Rebecca refused to put on the wedding dress at first. It angered Josh.

“If you don’t marry me Martha Ann then the things Phil says must be true about you being a whore. I don’t think I could stand the thought of you being with other men. I’m not sure if I’d have to kill them or you first, but I’d damn sure beat the desire out of you. Be your first lesson in being a good wife.” He walked to the fire place and started to turn the poker in the hot embers.

Rebecca had no idea why he called her Martha Ann and when he’d gone to the fireplace she didn’t care what he called her as long as he didn’t come after her with that hot iron.

So she slipped on the dress, surprised he didn’t turn to watch yet relieved at the same time.

It was all Rebecca could do to keep from vomiting as Cutter read a few words from the bible and pronounced them man and wife.

When Josh took her to the bed room she began to cry and tell him she was afraid she couldn’t be a good wife to him because Harry had hurt her when he landed on her.

Josh pulled her close and held her. “That’s ok, I’ll look at you in the pretty dress for awhile. I promise as long as you’re good Harry won’t touch you.”

Inside Becca was screaming in sickness and terror but she’d been with men she didn’t particularly care for before and her acting skills were paying off. She thanked God he was happy just looking at her until she could figure something else out.

"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain

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« Reply #24 on: December 17, 2004, 10:32:08 am »

Scarlet could feel her skin crawl.

“Look Patches, Black Wolf calls em visions, Scott used to call me crazy and Travis said they were just dreams of someone who worried. All I’m gonna tell you is I gotta follow them alone and if I told you what they were…well I told Scott and Travis, I think it’s bad luck to tell.”

Patches hunkered down by the fire and put her hands out to warm them. Scarlet studied the thoughtful expression her best friends face. Maybe she'd hit on something?

"Bad luck," Patches mumbled, tilting her head. "Can't rightly say I haven't had my own experiences with that kinda stuff."

Scarlet nodded and there was silence between the two women for a time.

"But," Patches said. "I can't rightly leave ya alone in this either."

Scarlet sighed heavily and rubbed her eyes. She just wasn't gonna give up. "I suppose ya have a plan," she said sarcastically.

Patches snorted. "Ya mean b'sides 'ride in and kill'em all'?"

Scarlet almost laughed. "Yeah."

"Nope," she said. "Can't say that I have. But I'm thinkin' on it."

Scarlet nodded and threw a stick on the fire. She looked over at her freind. "I really can't letcha come Patches."

Patches sighed and looked up at the ever darkening sky. Omens and portents. Stuff never seemed to end. She looked down. "Yeah, I know. But facin this thing by yourself just aint wise. Ya got friends, people who love you--"

Scarlet shot to her feet. "People who I don't wanna see die cuzza me Patches!"

"And a man who you love and wanna marry but can't till this thing is over for good. Am I right?" Patches just sat there looking at her. Scarlet turned to face her. The look on her face was enough, she didn't need to say anything. "Uh-huh. I thought so. Tell me sumpthin' though, before we get too deep into the ins and outs of philosophy," she continued rather dryly. "Whats Becca's place in alla this?"

Scarlet became frozen. "What makes ya think Becca has anything to do with this?"

Patches stood. "Cuz actions speak louder than words, Scarlet." She said in all seriousness. "Just like you're talkin to me now, without sayin a thing. Ya see, cuz if sumpthin were to happen to Becca then Tensleep would find out soon enough. And between Fritz flyin off the handle lookin for you and 'Sleep flyin off the handle lookin for Becca, and Bill prolly flyin offa the handle lookin fer me...well...thats the whole danged posse anyhow."

"Aw crap," Scarlet mumbled.

"Yeah." Patches agreed. "Aw crap. So what we gonna do? We gotta tell'em somethin' make'em understand. And if you keep insistin on goin by yourself then we gotta be ready to roll if you need help. Cuz aint a one of us willin to lose you to some grudge."

Scarlet just threw her hands up and shook her head.

Patches hunkered down again. "If I'm thinkin right we're here." She drew a cone shape in the sand then marked it with an X on the one side. "Figger theres a small town here," she drew an S shaped line and marked it with another X. "That's about a quarter day's ride if I got my bearin's right." She stood.

"Yeah," Scarlet agreed, "that's right."

"Alright. Let me ride with you to that town. I'll telegraph the Star from there and let everyone know I found ya and yer alright. I"ll tell'em I got information that can't be thrown down the wire and I'll be back to tell'em in person."

Scarlet snorted and put her hand on her hip. "With all the codes you know? Do ya really think Ella won't figger that for bullspit?"

Patches shook her head. "Alla the codes I know aint alla the codes Ella knows. Least not yet. I tought her some but not ever'thing. And this really is very sensitive information. Kinda useless ta send a message in a code only I can read, don'tcha think?"

Scarlet crossed her arms over her chest. "Good point. So whatcha gonna tell'em when ya get there?"

Patches smiled out of half her face. "Gimme sumpthin ta tell'em. If nothin' else we can do whatever kinda investigatin we need to do from the Starr, but you gotta leave me some kinda trail. We gotta be able to get where you are if you need us and you gotta promise me on yer fathers grave that you will hollar if you need help. Otherwise you'll have to just shoot me right now, cuz I"m stickin to you like glue, and that'll make yer visions come true in whole different way."

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