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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 43346 times)
Scarlet Angel
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« Reply #25 on: December 19, 2004, 01:02:51 pm »

“My father ain’t in the grave.” Scarlet raised her eyebrow in Patches direction “and I don’t want him there because of me. He’s always understood that.

You got to promise you’ll turn around when we reach that town.” Scarlet said leveling her gaze on Patches.

Patches smiled lopsidedly.

 “Promise me on our friendship Patches. You promise me that and I’ll tell ya a few things.”

“Oh alright, I won’t follow ya if you promise ta call for help.”

Both women snorted with a small half smile.

“Patches, ya got to promise me somethin’ else.” Scarlet’s voice was somber.

Patches tilted her head as her eyebrows came together. “What?”

“When you ride back, you’ll be more careful than normal and you won’t stop til you get home. Not for anything.”

“And.” Patches eyed Scarlet knowing there was something else.

Scarlet kneeled and picked up her badge, ran her thumb across it to dust it off, then pinned it in the inside of her coat.

“Tell Fritz I love him and I’m sorry, but don’t tell him where to find me.”

“Ya know he’s gonna pester me til I tell him something.” Patches snorted.

“Tell him my demons came a calling and I had to answer them ALONE. “ Scarlet closed her eyes, tilted her head back and drew a deep breath, “I’d rather have him hate me and ride away than put him in the ground.”

Scarlet opened her eyes and locked gazes with her friend.

“Patches if Cutter were to find out about him, you, anybody I care much for he’d use it against me, he’d gain the upper hand. Can’t have that.” Scarlet sighed.

“He’d have to get a hold of us first, and what about Johnny ‘n them. Aren’t you concerned about them too?”

Scarlet shook her head up and down. “Yeah, but there’s somethin’ bout Bo that scares him; I think he thinks he’s seen ghosts.

Jimmy, folks say he’s got no emotions, no soul. It’s no fun to torture someone who it doesn’t matter to.

Then dad.” Scarlet chuckled. “He told Cutter once he was going to capture his sprit and keep it earthbound in a little box. Cutter steers clear of him.

The man may be suppositious but he’s smart Patches. He’s mean and he enjoys it.”

“Ok, I understand. But you still have ta gimme sumpthin to tell ‘em. And how Becca fits into alla this.”

“Cutter, his real name is Kevin Rowen.

Mr. Dawg said there was a mistake in identity. I heard the name Rabin. If he’s using that, be easier to pin point him, but I’m not positive. I don’t know the name Rabin so I don’t know how it all fits together. If the Rabin’s had a place Cutter would probably be using it, or headed there.

The official word is Rowens, Kevin and Josh, were both killed in the Federal Penn in Ft. Worth. There was another man, rode with ‘em. Harry something..but I’m not sure where they sent him. Scott tried to keep those things from me. Protect everyone involved ya know.” Scarlet said the last part sarcastically.

She noticed how Patches watched her, reading her every moment. Scarlet half smiled. Her friend was good at reading all kinds a signs.

“Rebecca” Scarlet looked down and shook her head. “I hope she stays close to Hank, the man is resourceful; he can protect her if she lets him.” Scarlet looked back up.

“Joshua, Cutter’s brother, has some kind of sick infatuation with her. I guess it keeps Cutter from hurting her. But I fear if Cutter got mad enough he’d hurt her too.

Josh is…..well..I think a few eggs short of a dozen. Temper..damn hot temper.”

Patches could tell by the way Scarlet furrowed her brow and looked into the distance she was picturing the man and his actions.

“I think if he got mad enough, he’d kill her and not even realize it til it was to late, then probably cry over it or someth….”

It suddenly dawned on Scarlet why Rebecca was so afraid of him. “Damn I’m blind.” She mumbled.

“What?” Patches said.

Scarlet put her fingers to her forehead “Alla these years. I couldn’t figure it out and Rebecca could never tell me why.” She looked at Patches again and started to pace slowly.

“You put Becca up against any man or woman, she holds her own. She’s not as dumb as she lets folks think she is and she’s rather skilled at fighting.  But you mention the name Rowen or things that go along with them; it’s all she can do to hold herself together. 

That R on her shoulder; ain’t sumthin’ she did to herself and it don’t stand for Rebecca. Josh put his brand on her, told her she was eternally his. She’d wear his mark forever.

At the trial when they were taking him away..he was calling to her.” Scarlet stopped she was searching her memories, her eyes darting back and forth.

“You’re mine Martha Ann, I’ll be back for you. I’ll kill any man touches you.”

Scarlet slightly paled. “Aw crap.”

“Martha Ann! What’s that?” Patches snorted.

“I’ll be dipped if I know, told ya he’s not all there.”

“He’s gonna have a lot of men to track down.” Patches stated.

Scarlet gave her a serious look. “Depends on how far back he goes.”

“I know ‘Sleeps fond of her, to put it mildly.” Patches sort of smiled.

“Yeah, well I know that Becca isn’t making the money she was a couple of months ago, personal income if ya know what I mean.”

Patches narrowed her eyes at Scarlet. The look on Patches face told Scarlet she was pretty sure she knew what Scarlet meant, but Scarlet chose to make it crystal clear.

“She’s only been seeing ‘Sleep. She’s asked me if I thought it was possible he could love someone like her. Then asked me a whole lot of questions about my relationship with Scott and Fritz.

But how this Martha Ann name figures into things I have no clue. One person I know might could tell us what or who Martha Ann is.”

Patches was on her feet in front of Scarlet like a shot. “Who?”

“You find Trixie Blue, you find the key to Rowen’s past.”

“What’s a Trixie Blue, er who?”

Scarlet took the telegram and pointed at the signature line. “Mr. Dawg, you find Mr. Dawg you find Trixie Blue. Ya find Trixie, ya find someone who knows about the Rowens before they had wanted posters on em.”

Patches eyebrows drew together.

“She’ll answer telegrams ta Mr. Dawg. There’s only few people who know that Patches. I’m telling you because I know you’ll take it to the grave with you. Trixie is in a lot of danger too. Kevin means to find and kill her too.

I don’t know how she knew they didn’t die. But trust me, if anyone could positively identify them it’s her.”

Scarlet went to her saddle bags and pulled out some maps, flipping through them until she found the one she wanted.

“When you get home, you send a message to Mr. Dawg. Simply say Angel tracking Mr. Dawg. If she checks the telegraph offices or gets wind of the message she will contact me er you in this case.”

Scarlet laid out the map of California. “Here is where she lives, but I’m sure she’s fled.”
She said pointing at a tiny place called Mokelumne hill.
“She may go here.” Scarlet said pointing to Jackson. “Here.” She said pointing to Angels Camp. “She may be making her way to the Starr. Mr. Dawg likes mining camps. If they have a telegraph office he likes that better, because he can check for messages.”

Patches studied the map, memorizing the places Scarlet pointed out. “Uh huh, got it.”

Scarlet rolled up the maps and put them away then went back to the fire and started to tear the message in tiny pieces and slowly feed it into the fire so it wouldn’t cause much smoke.

“As for finding me if you need to. Just follow the black road, seems that’s where I’m at right now. If that doesn’t work Travis always sees where I’m headin’.” Scarlet half smiled.

“What? Wuz that supposed ta mean?”

“You’ll figure it out if you have ta. I know how you love a good mystery.” Scarlet chuckled as Patches snorted.

"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

Scarlet Angel
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« Reply #26 on: December 19, 2004, 04:27:23 pm »

The minute his horse’s feet touched the earth of the Southern Starr Johnny could feel it, something was wrong, and then what he saw made the hair stand up on the back of his neck.

Four out riders, the men that should be out there watching who came and went on the ranch, but men that normally rode in two.

Johnny dropped Velvet Ear’s lead rope and kicked his horse to move faster.

As he rode up to the house he didn’t like what he was seeing at all. Stock in the corrals that should be on the range, men walking the property armed, damn felt like he was riding into the Alamo. And the Star, place was locked down tighter than a bulls ass at fly time.

There were a few men walking the porch on the second story armed with long range rifles and carrying spyglasses, men guarding the barns. The iron doors and shutters had been mostly closed. Only standing open enough to slip through or watch the grounds, ready to be shut quickly should they need be.

damn, fart and someone’s gonna know Johnny thought as he reined his horse in by the back door.

Bo stood in the den and huffed between clenched teeth as he watched Johnny’s feet hit the ground before his horse stopped.

“Bo!” Johnny’s voice boomed, knowing it had to be him or Rose that gave the orders to lock the place down, but guessing it was Bo since he had sent the wire to him.

Bo turned to face Johnny as he heard his foot steps echo the halls.

“What the hell is going on?” Johnny said coming through the open doors of his office.

“Scarlet’s gone Johnny, took the maps from the C bar C. Fritz said there was an oil cloth layin’ on the bed and all her weapons were gone at the Ace.”

Johnny’s eyes narrowed. “She took that knife?! I thought that boy watched her alla the time how in hells name did she get away from him!?”

“Ain’t gonna do no good gettin’ mad at Fritz.” Bo said watching Johnny grow more frustrated.

“So first she slips away from a man thet is always with her THEN she parades onto the ranch, goes into the house takes everything she needs and NOBODY SAW HER!!! WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY GOOD FOR?”

Johnny walked to his desk and opened the draw he started to dig through some papers looking for something.

“They’re good men Johnny you know that. Ain’t a man alive Scarlet can’t get passed if she sets her mind to it.” Bo stated.

“You’re walkin on dangerous ground Corbin defending them like that.” Johnny growled slamming the drawer and yanking another open.

“Shouldn’t have to defend ‘em. You know there good men. They stand ready to fight, give their lives if they have ta. And you’re not the only one upset, Fritz just don’t know how bad it could be.”

Johnny’s eyes could have shot daggers as he looked up from rifling through the second draw then slamming it.

“And what did you tell him? All we need is folks all spread out. Thought he was with her and Patches was following, so where are Scarlet and Patches?!” Johnny growled.

“Fritz thought the girls were headed back here. I ain’t told him anything; don’t think it’s rightly fair neither.”

“Fair?” Johnny growled.

“You know what could happen if he rides out of here half cocked..and he’s just the type that would. Damn hot head. What is her attraction to damn hot heads any how?” he grumbled.

“Just like her father.” Rose’s voice came from the door way. “Look at yourself Johnny. You might as well be foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog. Snapping at Bo like that, shame on ya’.”

She walked in carrying a cup of coffee and set it on his desk. At first Johnny glared then his look softened slightly.

“Bo’s been doing the best he can securing this place and gathering people, avoiding there questions.” She looked at Bo and half smiled. “Cept Ella’s” she mouthed so only Bo could see.

“Ella’s been at the wire a good part of the day doing what Patches asked and something that the Marshal sat in motion.”

Johnny kept at the draws in the desk, soon out of frustration he yanked one open and dumped the contents on the desk top and began going through it.

“Where’s Patches. I suppose she happened to ride out here too without being seen.” Johnny said.

“Couple of the boys said she rode out to the C bar C looking for Scarlet then rode off.”

Johnny shot a nasty look at him.

“She’s allowed to come and go just like the rest of us Johnny, nobody knew there should be any reason to be following or watching them.” Bo said crossing his arms over his chest.

“Johnny, why are we getting so upset, when all the wire from Patches said “Scarlet and Fritz gone, I'm going after her. Message Marshal at Fort gather everyone. Inquire anyone within the last 5 years named "Cutter". What aren’t you telling anyone but Bo?” Rose asked.

She had been worried when he and Jimmy had ridden out earlier and Ella asked about Cutter. But then Bo came back with Fritz and Jimmy. Bo’s actions only confirmed her worries that something was terribly wrong when he started ordering men around.

“You know I get crazy at the mention of his name..there should be no reason to mention it now. He’s supposed to be dead. But I sent Bo to check a few things out on a hunch; unfortunately he didn’t find what I hoped he would. That tell’s me Scarlet, for some reason, thinks Cutter is out there and she’s gone after him.”

Not finding what he wanted in the desk Johnny went to the book shelf and began going through the books. Stopping on occasion and shaking ones to see if anything fell out.

Rose pursed her lips together, knowing Johnny wasn’t going to tell her anymore.

“Bo’s right Johnny, ain’t fair you keep us on a need to know basis. She’s my daughter too ya know, and Patches is like my daughter.

Fritz loves Scarlet.” Rose was stating to become angry because people were keeping secrets from one another. “It’s only fair you tell him what’s going on.”

“What am I supposed to do Rose? Tell the man she maybe gone, but I don’t know for sure. She’s chasing a dead man, but I’m not sure.” He threw the book across the room in frustration. “And I can’t find what I need to even start looking where she might have gone!”

“What ya looking for” Rose asked sadly.

“Maps, there were a second set of maps we had.” Johnny suddenly saw the look on his wife’s face.

“I’m sorry Rose” He said crossing the room gathering her in his arms as the tears began to well up in her eyes and spill down her cheeks.

“That storm has rolled in. Any chance I had of tracking her has been washed away.

I had a second set of maps that traced his movements, notes on his behavior. I could probably do some educated guessing if I was to look at them. But I don’t know where they’ve gotten off to.” Johnny said softly.

“Look for you’re maps. Maybe something helpful will come in on the wire. Maybe Scarlet and Patches are hold up somewhere out of the storm and they will be back in the morning.” Rose said drying her eyes.

She half smiled and headed back to the kitchen where she continued to cook to release her nervous energy. Least there was enough folks around the house this evening to eat everything she’d been cooking once she had helped Ella finish from the bird incident this morning.


Back at the Ace men were starting to come in out of the cold. The place was really starting to get busy. Hank scratched his head thinking to himself he hadn’t see Rebecca all day long, which was strange since Marshal Ross was supposed to be out of town.

On a cold night like this Rebecca liked to wear her long green velvet gown with the black fur trim. Was the perfect night to tell her if she undressed him he would have horns and a tail. Hank chuckled to himself. Rebecca was a smart lady but he had told her that men that belonged to the union army grew horns and tails. She had even written Scarlet and asked if it was true Course it was all a ploy on Hanks part to get her into bed.

Scarlet had written back a letter telling Becca it only happened when the moon was full and it was damp outside or something to that effect. Hank enjoyed teasing Rebecca that way. He was just waiting for her to ask Fritz if he had horns under that slouch he wore.

Hank shook his head chuckling to himself at the entire idea as he walked upstairs and knocked on her door.

Timber who had been following pushed his way through and went to his pillow. Hank opened the door a little wider and called her name.

When she didn’t answer he peeked in. He couldn’t help but notice the note with his name on it. That was very strange he thought going in and opening it.

Hank read the note then folded it and put it in his pocket. It was very strange she would ride off with out telling him fifty times how to take care of her puppy and as of late telling him to make SURE she told Marshal Ross she was thinking about him. Hank rolled his eyes. He had drawn the line when she said “give him a big sloppy kiss for me.”

But he would smirk at the marshal and whisper “Becca says I’m thinkin’ about you hun.” In his best imitation of her and only if no one else was in ear shot. Scarlet had once heard and made some comment about don’t forget the kiss and nearly fell offa the bar stool giggling.

He’d come to love those two women and their antics. He’d been privileged to see the side of them most folks didn’t he thought.

Going to see Black Wolf..that he was used to…but Sonny. Rebecca NEVER went to see Sonny.

Hank decided he’d ride out first thing in the morning to find out what was so important Rebecca would ride out to see retired deputy Daily. Not that they weren’t friends or anything, hell she’d thrown him a retirement party that came close to one of the New Years parties, she just didn’t ride out 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 #27 on: December 24, 2004, 03:11:31 pm »

Bill looked up from tightening the last bolt that held the massive carbon-arc searchlight down to its mounting plate on the roof of his adobe cabin. With the installation of the electric dynamo and the weir dam on the creek the week before, he now could power the two lights that had arrived from England some time ago. When he was attending the university in Edinburgh, he had seen lamps like this in London and the beam of ferociously bright white light they projected was astounding. It was visible for miles at night and could be used for signalling or illumination at great distances. He had attended to install a pair like this at the ranch in Arizona but…

He frowned and scanned the horizon again hoping to see a pair of horses approaching but there was nothing. Ella had said that Patches was going to find Scarlet who had gone after someone named “Cutter.” He trusted Patches implicitly and if she thought that there was any real danger she could not handle she would call for help. As it was she was just asking for information. He still did not like the situation and frowned again looking at the clouds gathering on the horizon. Bill was a planner and always believed in trying to carry enough gear to account for any situation that might arise. He and Patches had been together long enough that some of this had rubbed off on her so he was concerned that she had not come back to the ranch for any provisions. Well, he thought, she must therefore be fairly sure that she would not be gone for too long.

He opened the trapdoor in the roof and climbed down the ladder in the corner of the kitchen. The house was very quiet. Often by this time of the day Patches would have dropped by and they might be working together on some project or occasionally making supper together if it was Ella’s Sabbath and she was not cooking. “Speaking of supper,” he said out loud and looked toward the main house. It should be just about time. Bill put the cloth tool roll down on the kitchen table for the moment and after lighting a lamp near the door and pulling on his coat, started the walk to the main house to see if he could help with the preparations.

Rose smiled warmly as she watched Fritz looking over the big gun that ‘decorated’ her yard.

She wasn't sure what to say to him, she had been so happy to hear Scarlet had found someone that made her happy. At first Rose had not believed it; she thought Scarlet had made someone up to keep her from worrying. Then Rose got to meet Fritz, and the way he and Scarlet looked at each other. Rose felt a great deal of joy when she watched them together.

She liked Fritz right away, and she liked the fact she could tease him on occasion and make him blush. But today, like her she could see he was worried.

Rose poured a cup of coffee and stepped outside.

"You're going to catch cold out here if you're not careful." She said offering him the cup.

Fritz looked up. He'd been trying to occupy his mind with inspecting the guns that sat in on the lawn of the Star.

"Those things still work. Johnny's kept them repaired and fires them on occasion to make sure they do. Probably work better now then when they rolled out of the factory." Rose ran her hand across the barrel.

"I have no doubt," Fritz replied, accepting the cup. He'd seen the craters in the ground 400 yards out. He was sure that Johnny had every inch of ground dialed in.

"I feel like a useless part here." Fritz patted the barrel. "The men all know their jobs. Johnny's been occupied with other tasks. Bo and Jimmy haven't spoken to me since we pulled in." Firtz looked down the sights. "This is something I know. Something I'm comfortable with."

Rose put her hand on his shoulder. Her son's shoulder.

"But..." Fritz sighed, and she felt it through the fabric of his greatcoat. "I know she's a big girl. I know she can take care of herself. She's done it long before I came along." His words came rapid fire. "It's just that she's told me about demons from her past, coming to get her, and now she's out there alone..."

Rose smiled understandingly.

"Fritz, you're as much a member of this family as anyone of them. They just been around here longer, know what to expect, and what’s expected of them.

Bo and Jimmy, they probably don't know what to say to ya. Sometimes it's hard wondering if you're saying to much or not enough, if it's even your place to say things.

Johnny, well that's just the way he can be. He'll calm down." She looked back towards the house. "He better, Bo can only take so much, chewing on." She half smiled.

"I'm glad she's told you about those demons. The difference between then and now is she never had a man she loved the way she loves you to come back to."

Rose's hand slipped from his shoulder. "I believe she'll come home to you son.

If you want her fathers attention you might have to stand up and be heard so to speak. Johnny respects a man who'll stand his ground. Maybe he's never said it to you, but he respects you."

"You're right, of course," Fritz said. "There's a time for fighting, and a time for waiting. When he wants to talk to me, I'll be here."

Rose pulled the shawl closer 'round her shoulders and turned to go.

Fritz put his hand out. "Rose...who are those 'demons'?"

Rose stopped and turned back around a puzzled look on her face.

"I thought you said she told you about them. A name is that what you want to know?"

"She never told me," Fritz said. "All she'd say is that some day, her demons would catch up to her, and she'd have to go and fight them."

Fritz sighed. "She also said not to be surprised if I woke up alone one day."

Rose could feel her heart twist and Fritz could see the sadness in her eyes.

"Did she tell you..." Rose didn't know how to say in or how to ask, this really was not her place, it was Scarlet’s, but Scarlet wasn't here and she wasn't going to shut Fritz out. She looked down then looked back into his eyes. "Did she tell you she couldn't have children?"

"Not in so many words," Fritz replied. "She made it sound like it wasn't in the if she couldn't be a mother, because of the life she'd chosen."

Rose rolled her eyes. “More like her father than I ever knew.” She said under her breath.

She slid her hand over Fritz’s arm. “Walk with me.” She said heading towards the barn.

“I don’t know about all the demons Fritz, but I know plenty about this one. Thing that puzzles me, is that he is supposed to be dead, Scarlet always said he was smart. She also said she wouldn’t believe he was dead until his heart was cut out and the ashes spread to the four winds.” She shook her head in disbelief. “Yeah, more and more like Johnny.” She snorted.

“His name is Kevin Rowen, or Cutter. Depends on what part of the country you’ve been standing in if you’ve heard of him or not.“

Rose stopped in front of her stallions stall. The big grey raised his head and approached them stretching his nose out to take the sugar cube Rose offered. She smiled and stroked his forehead.

“You ever hear of the Rowen brothers or a man called Cutter? I know the army chased him along the border states.”

Fritz put his hand out, palm up. The grey sniffed at it, and obligingly lowered his head. "This one likes his ears scratched too," he thought.

"Cutter. The name rings a bell. We didn't do much about him at Riley, but the troopers patrolling the border were fully briefed by the Rangers."

He looked at Rose, and saw the concern in her eyes. "I was briefed too, before my 'unofficial' scouting mission." As Fritz recalled, this Cutter was found of rape, torture and murder. "I promised those boys I'd save a rifle round for Cutter if I came across him."

Fritz took a deep breath. "Rose, what did he do to her?"

Rose twisted her lips. "Some of the stories I heard about that man Fritz...." She shook her head sadly then took her a deep breath of her own. Rose didn’t want to tell him what she’d heard he’d done to that deputy that worked for Scott. She knew it would only cause him more worry.

Fritz took a deep breath. "Rose, what did he do to her?"

“He took her husband, her unborn son, and until you she believed he took the ability for her to love someone else." Rose said softly as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "She tried to love Scott, I guess looking back they just weren't compatible, she thought it was just her. I probably didn't help the situation either. Then Scott started talking about marriage and a family. Scarlet can’t have children because of the life she’s chosen, she can’t have children because of what happened when her path crossed Rowens."

A soft nicker was heard down the breezeway. Rose smiled softly as she looked at the dark sparkling eyes of the bay gelding who hoped he would get some attention. She started to walk towards Dancer stopping along the way to pet some of the other horses.

He'd spent many hours talking to his love, and she'd never mentioned Cutter. They'd spent nights in a loving embrace, saying nothing but sharing everything...yet he didn't know this.

Suddnely Fritz felt very foolish.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I didn't know."

"I'm sure she would've told you, in time," Rose replied. "It may be that she just wanted to keep you keep from losing you too."

"She won't," Fritz said. "I swear it."

The bay nickered again, wanting his attention as well.

“I suspect that maybe one of the reasons she’s not talked to you about setting a wedding date. Every time I ask her about it she just replies you two have yet to discuss it. Much like everyone around her Fritz, she leaves the door open for you to walk away.”

Rose stopped in front of Dancer’s stall. The bay gelding bobbed his head up and down waiting for treats and attention.

“Scarlet tells people she had a riding accident. That’s why she can’t have children. Cutter’s brother shot her horse from under her and he fell on top her. I think the only thing that saved her was the sandy ground. The doc told us she was lucky to have lived.”

“Dancer was Travis’s horse. I often wonder what he would say if he could really talk.” She held the sugar out to him, and ran her fingers through the long black forelock that laid neatly between the horse’s eyes. Dancer lowered his head and closed his eyes as he ate the sugar obviously enjoying her attention.

“This horse has a lot of miles on him, good and bad. He’s a hell of a ride. I’m glad Scarlet’s riding him again, and Patches too.” She stroked the horses neck and thought she’d have to ask Patches what she thought of the horse, she seemed to enjoy his company.

Dancer lifted his head and looked at Fritz. He was used to seeing the man come and go with Scarlet and his stable mate. The gelding’s nostrils quivered as he put his nose on Fritz's arm.

For a moment Fritz and Rose looked out of the barn at the horizon. There was a storm brewing.

And it was coming their way.

Ella sighed as she stood up and stretched. Her watch said she had been at the key for the last eight hours. Now that the key was quiet, and might stay that way until morning, she felt every minute of time in her hands and back.

She had stopped at her room to buckle on her holster and add a box of ammunition to her pockets after delivering the messages to Bo. Rose didn't comment on the pistol while they finished cleaning the kitchen and made a new batch of bread, but had given a little nod of her head as though she approved. They finished the kneading before the key called her out to the telegraph office at a run.

That was a report from the prison, addressed to ECW and signed by Tensleep. After transcribing it all neatly, she started asking questions. When she reached the limits of the information the prison could provide, she turned to the Fort Worth newspaper. They sent her accounts of the buria l, and promised to mail accounts from the trial and photos from the funeral right away.

During one of the pauses between sending questions and getting answers, she noticed that someone, probably Rose, had brought her a lunch tray with a pot of tea. She managed to eat half of it, and drink a cup of tea, before the wire called her back to work.

Ella gathered the papers into a neat pile and carried them to the kitchen. After dinner would be soon enough to discuss what the words written there all meant. Some of the meaning was going to come from Rose, Bo and Jimmy.

Elegant Ella
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Dealer in Bullets and Gun Butter

« Reply #28 on: December 27, 2004, 09:57:55 am »

Tensleep watched Johnny drop Velvet Ears' lead and ride hard into the yard. Buck followed close and stopped when 'Sleep reined the borrowed army mount to a halt in front of the barn. One of the many hands in the barnyard caught Velvet Ears. The marshal dismounted and led his horses into the long hallway tying them each to the rail. He stripped his saddle from the bay and hung it from the rope that had the tag with his name on it. He grinned as he looked at the tag. Scarlet had cut the leather in the shape of his Marshal's badge and Rebecca had carefully carved "10zzz" on the leather.

He hung his bridle on the saddle horn and walked back to the horses.
Slowly he brushed both horses after cooling them down. His mind was on the things he had been told and on how to proceed. Finishing the wipe down Tensleep put both horses in stalls and fed them.

Walking to the cabin that served as both his quarters and office the marshal looked closely at the number of men walking around heavily armed. Bo and Jimmy seemed to have brought in all the hands from all the outposts on the Southern Star. The place was battened down as tight as 'Sleep had ever seen in his life. There were army posts that couldn't begin to compare with the number of men or the measures taken here.

Inside the cabin Tensleep threw his saddlebags on the bunk and saw that there was already a fire in the stove. He filled his coffee pot and set it to boil. In minutes all of the paper that could be found in the file cabinet was spread on his desk. Anything that didn't say 'Cutter" or 'Rowen" was piled to be put away later.

"Damn Scott Hart! Why didn't he write better reports?" Tensleep's report writing wasn't very good so he had started making notes and Patches and Ella would read them, then question him and write the reports filling in the details. To him that was the best way to overcome one of his self known shortcomings. It worked well and the marshal also got different perspectives from his deputies.

After having read everything he could lay his hands on Tensleep knew that there were more holes to be filled. He stood and filling his coffee cup stepped onto the porch in front of his cabin. He looked at the sky and saw the gathering clouds. Then he saw Bo walking from the ranch house.

"Hey Bo! Got some time to talk?"

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« Reply #29 on: December 28, 2004, 09:32:11 pm »

Combined effort of Tensleep and Scarlet

Bo stepped out of the house. He knew what it was Johnny was looking for, just had no clue where to tell him to look. Scarlet was Johnny’s daughter and had been one of his best students when it came to fighting skills and apparently squirreling things away as not to be found unless she wanted them to. The only things he’d been able to say when asked where the maps were was “Where would you put them.” That had only irritated Johnny more. He knew there was a false panel in Lucky’s stall, hell there was one in Dancer’s too. But anything to be well hidden would have been in Lucky’s because nobody went into Lucky’s stall. Bo had found the hiding spot and only turned up a pistol, ammo and a knife. He had searched the C-C and come up with nothing earlier.

He was going over other hiding spots in his mind, wondering if there was anything in the tunnels that led to the house and thinking about asking Fritz if he noticed or knew where there might be any maps Scarlet kept. He’d sent Jimmy to look through the rest of the barns. Jimmy knew of a few spots Scarlet might put things, but so far he’d not found anything but a couple of bottles and a note saying “nothing here Jimmy” with a smiley face drawn on it. Damn that woman.

Bo’s head jerked up when he heard the Marshal’s voice.

“That depends on if you have any more coffee and what you want to talk about.” Bo said stepping onto the porch.

Tensleep could see the frustration in the mans eyes.

"I have coffee aplenty, an' I wanna talk about this 'Cutter' that I keep hearing so much about." 'Sleep poured Bo a cup of strong coffee and pointed to the paper scattered over the desk. "I have gone over everything Hart wrote about the Rowens an' it ain't much. If we are gonna find Scarlet an' catch the Rowens then I need more information. I figger you know as much as anybody but Scarlet, you wanna tell me what ya know?"

Tensleep settled back in his chair waiting.

Bo stood looking down at the paperwork strewn across the desk.

“I know, like you he’s supposed to be dead.” Bo’s finger landed on the paper from Fort Worth informing the Marshal Kevin Rowen and Joshua Rowen had been laid to rest.

“What I don’t know is who set Scarlet off and put Patches on her trail. There’s a missing piece there. You think you could find out what that telegram said and most importantly who it was from?” Bo looked at Tensleep then looked at the papers on the desk again.

Bo spotted the report regarding the deputy Scarlet had called Tom. “Died in the line of duty.” Bo snorted.

“Ya know what I heard Cutter did to this boy.” He said letting the paper flutter onto the desk.

Tensleep shook his head no looking into Bo's eyes.

“Scarlet told me that Cutter skinned him alive. She said Pete told her took him days. Said they cut his eyelids off too.” Bo sipped his coffee and sat across from ‘Sleep.

“Kevin Rowen is a smart man, sick bastard, but smart. The maps Johnny’s tearing the place apart trying to find marked his trails, his hideouts, things like that. The family had a ranch in San Diego at one time.

"His brother Josh, he’s a strange one. I don’t know that he has the blood lust Cutter does but it seems he likes his brother’s praise.

Kevin will do his best to try and figure out how he can get to Scarlet or those that love her, and take advantage of what he knows anyway he can. Mental games Marshal, they are a challenge to him and he enjoys a good challenge before he slaughters his prey.

Men, women, children, babies he don’t care. Rape, torture, sell the women, all depends on the mood of the day. The ones that scream and fight back excite him; like cat and mouse I suppose.

He’s good when he can think about the situation, frustrate him, anger him, he starts to make mistakes. Scarlet is good at that.

There’s a list miles long with names of folks he’s killed. Out of that list there are four people I can think of that have ever escaped him. I think he’s come to collect; Scarlet is one of em. He caught her once ‘Sleep. She wouldn’t tell him anything then and I doubt she’d tell him anything now, especially about you folks.”

Bo leaned back and looked across the desk at Marshal Ross.

Tensleep was taking it all in, listening like he had never listened before. When Bo finished talking the marshal was making a note on a sheet of paper that he had started hours before. Slowly he lifted his head and looked at Bo.

"You said there were four people that had escaped him. Who are the other three?"

"Your deputy Pete, they left him for dead. That's how we knew what happened to Tom. His mother, calls herself Trixie something; you know Scarlet told me his mother prays for his death."

Bo looked down at his cup then back up at Tensleep. "Rebecca is the other one Marshal, Cutter's brother got some kinda of a thang for 'er. If she stays close to Hank she'll be ok.

Cutter went into the Ace once, don't think he'll go back into Hank's playing field again. He'd be the type to wait until someone left there."

Tensleep went cold at the mention od Rebecca's name, he stood suddenly. "You got anyone that can ride to El Paso and to Sonny's? Sonny's name is all over these reports, I wanna meet him. I wanna know right now where 'Becca, Hank an' Sonny are an' if they know what's goin' on. I need to talk to Johnny. We gotta have a plan an' be ready to move. Bo yer gonna hafta stay here an' take care o' Rose an' tha Star. I don't want nuthin' happenin' to these folks. You know that Johnny an' Fritz ain't gonna stay behind. If Sonny will go I want him to be with us. Can ya find two riders?"

Bo eyed 'Sleep knowing when he'd heard Becca's name he'd be upset even more than he was before.

"Sonny rode with Scott for alot of years. He was Scarlet's partner from the day she started til the day he retired; he's chased after Cutter for alot of years too." Bo tapped one of the more completed reports. "He knows all about Cutter Marshal. He's also got a wife and couple of kids. You best be prepared to do some fancy talkin'. You ever even met the man?" Bo asked.

"Never have, but all I ever heard was good. I'll talk to him. I'll have Ella wire Pete, I want him to know the Rowens are alive an' loose. Ya got men that will ride now? I need to talk to you an' Johnny an' Fritz now. If Sonny comes he can tell us lots of things that will help even if he won't ride with us. Tell yer man to see if Hank will come out here to the Star." Tensleep lit his pipe as he looked at Bo.

"Sonny's one of the best in my book. Good deputy from what I know, and a good man fer sure. I can have someone ride out to Sonny's. I'll have 'em tell Sonny what you want and offer for his family to stay here.

Ain't nobody gettin in here unless they are invited, especially with that light Doc Bill has blinking around out there.

You want Hank out here regardless or shall we leave him at the Ace he refuses? And Rebecca, I don't think it would be wise to drag Hank out here and leave her behind, unless someone stayed with her, safer here anyhow." Bo said as he thought of who he was going to send.

"I want Rebecca here, it's the safest place for her. If Hank knows that Scarlet is out lookin' for the Rowens he will come here with 'Becca. He thinks as much of Scarlet as he does of 'Becca.

Bo I don't know if you know it or not but Hank is one of the most efficent killers ever known. He's reformed, but I jist know that he can be one hell o' ah lotta help to us. We need him on our side, we need his help, we need to use things that only he knows. If there is a match for Cutter it's Hank."

Bo raised an eyebrow and looked at the Marshal; Bo knew things about Hank but he was curious just what Tensleep knew. "What makes ya say that?"

"Let's jist say I been to N'orleans, an' I talked to tha lawmen there over coffee. Anytime lawmen git together they talk cases. The 'Iceman' is famous," 'Sleep grinned. "Maybe I should say Infamous in N'orleans. Seems tha he never killed ennybody that didn't need it an' he kinda thinned tha ranks of tha 'bad guys' down there."

Tensleep looked at Bo. "When I got to El Paso I had descriptions of lots of wanted men in my head. I know about lots of things that happened in all kinds o' places. I even know that Bo Corbin had another name for a while."

Bo chuckled softly.

"In my territory if a man ain't caused no problems an' walks the straight and narrow he has no problems with me. You have nuthin' to worry 'bout Bo." Tensleep grinned again. "I might have had another name once myself."

"Then ya probably know the 'Iceman' was killed by a bunch o' boys that didn't like yanks much; or so the story goes.

Hank on the other hand is a little slower on the left draw than he used ta be but I ain't gonna go against him. If Hank doesn't want to go I know someone more efficient than him, ain't me if that's what you're thinking but Hank's more even tempered.

Didn't think the law wanted that other fella you're thinking of Marshal cuz Scott would have arrested him fer sure." Bo grinned as he stood. "I'll get those two riders on their way and find Fritz if you're wanting to talk to him. I don't know if I'm ready to go back in there and tell Johnny we haven't found anything Scarlet might have hidden cept this." He held up the note with the smiley face drawn on it.

"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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Dealer in Bullets and Gun Butter

« Reply #30 on: December 28, 2004, 09:39:03 pm »

The marshal watched Bo walk out. His mind was on Rebecca and Scarlet and what might be happening as he stood here not yet knowing which way to go. Patches crossed his mind next. That girl had a way of winding up in the middle of any mess that was going on.

Ross shook his head. All three of the women were capable and could handle themselves in a scrape. It was just the fact that he had grown close to all these people, they were all the family he had. Rose treated him like a son. He and Johnny could talk about almost anything. Johnny gave damned good advice... except where it came to women. The marshal snorted when he thought of how Rose and Scarlet could twist him around their fingers. Even Rebecca and Patches could make Johnny squirm. Ella didn't even try to shake Johnny. If she stated a need Johnny jumped.

It was true, Johnny was the boss at the Star. He managed the cows and men, Rose managed the horses. It was just the fact that the women managed Johnny that made 'Sleep snort. When it came to women Johnny didn't have a clue.

Johnny was usually low key and easy going. With the news that Scarlet was out of pocket, Johnny was a raving lunatic. He wanted action, but he was like Tensleep, no place to start.

'Sleep gathered his notes and then checked the fire. With the fire banked the marshal left his office heading to the house for his meeting with Johnny, Fritz and Bo.

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« Reply #31 on: December 28, 2004, 09:55:04 pm »

orginally posted by 1st Sgt Fritz King

The waiting was the hardest always had been. Fritz idly wondered how much time he'd spent in uniform, 'just waiting.' He'd checked his gear already. Everything he'd ever needed was on his person, in his saddlebags, or hooked to his McClellan. All the extra kit had ended up dumped on the trail, or put into storage, never to be seen again.

Fritz leaned against the hitching rail, and patted Strider's head. Old words from an old sergeant came back to him: "Don't wait for it to happen, don't even wish for it to happen." Fritz spoke the ending aloud: "Just be ready when it DOES happen."

He pulled a cigar from his vest pocket, and struck a lucifer with his thumb. Fritz drew in the aroma of good tobacco, but didn't savor it as much as he should have.

Scarlet was in danger.

And he didn't know where she was.

One of Johnny's hands apporached him. Fritz hunted his memory for the name.


"Yeah. Johnny wants to talk to you in the house."

"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 #32 on: January 04, 2005, 02:58:20 pm »

Combined effort of Fritz, Tensleep & Scarlet

Johnny was standing on a ladder looking through some of the books on the top shelf of the book case and running his fingers along the top of the case. He looked down at Fritz as he came in.

“Fritz, I’m looking for some maps, with markings on them, and some papers on Kevin Rowen. Do you have any idea where Scarlet would keep something like that?” He said calmly as he climbed down from the ladder. He’d had a lot of time to think as he tore the place apart and knew he’d not find anything in the office.

He wanted to scream “Why didn’t you keep a better eye on her.” But he knew it wouldn’t be fair. She had been on the ranch and not one of his so called trained men had spotted her.

There was tension in the room. Fritz felt it as soon as he walked in the study. He wasn't surprised. Scarlet was his daughter, after all.

"I'm sorry sir," Fritz began. "Scarlet never mentioned Rowen to me. And if she had, I wouldn't have made the connection to Cutter."

Fritz was uncomfortable, but did his best to bear with it. "Scarlet and I talked about lots of things...but never this. She said that one day, her demons would come back to haunt her. And," Fritz took a deep breath before continuing, "to not be surprised if I woke up alone one day."

"Hmmm..." Johnny said, thumbing through the same book a second time.

Johnny was about to say something else when he heard Bo clear his throat.

“Are you bringing me something useful Bo?”

Bo handed Johnny the drawing. “Nope, but the Marshal would like a word with the three of us.”

Johnny looked at Bo unimpressed by what he’d been handed then looked at Tensleep.

“Then shut the door and talk to us Marshal.” Johnny took a seat behind the desk and motioned for the rest of the men to take a seat.

"I want to find out what is goin' on..... I hear this from you Johnny, I hear that from Bo... I want to talk to Sonny and Hank. I have Scott's reports and they don't tell me much." Tensleep paused.

"We all need to know the whole story so we can form a plan. Johnny, why don't you start?"

Johnny ran his fingers through his hair and exchanged knowing looks with Bo.

“Where would you like me to start Marshal? Here’s what I will tell you both.

Fritz she rode out after her demons, most likely afraid if she didn’t kill them, they’d come and take you too.

When she rode out after him the first time I was told I was left behind because she didn’t think she could look me in the eyes after she killed a man in cold blood.

Marshal she didn’t invite you along because she intends to kill him.”

Johnny eyed them both waiting for any comments.

"I don't have a problem with Scarlet killing her demon. I have a problem when she won't ask us to help. I know enough about the Rowens to know that they don't deserve to live and a judge made a mistake by not hanging them on the spot."

'Sleep walked, packing his pipe.

"Bo told me about the same thing. He said you were looking for maps. Have you looked in the obvious place? Her room?"

Johnny shoved the smiley face at him. "Jimmy's been in there. Brothers seem to know where to look for hidden things, although I've seen this before."

What did it mean when you saw it before? How were the maps packed and where did you see them last?" Tensleep grinned when he saw the note.

“What did it mean?” Johnny had to laugh. “Means Jimmy used to take stuff. He was not a very nice kid when he came here. He self appointed himself to irritate her. So she took to hiding things. After awhile it became a joke. You’ll probably find notes like this all over her room if you look hard enough. His pockets are probably full of em by now.” Johnny eyed Bo again.

Bo looked down and pulled more notes out of his pocket and handed them over.

“Oh this is cute, isn’t my baby talented.” Johnny said sarcastically as he held up the paper with the smiley face’s tongue sticking out. Better luck next time written across it.

“The maps were in a leather folder, last time I saw them they were tucked in that book.” He pointed to the book that lay on his desk. “It’s a blood line book of the horses. Before that it was tucked in this book.” Johnny held up the book that had notes on loads for the different guns Scarlet used. “That was in her room.” Johnny said flatly. "I am out of places to look gentlemen. Unless somebody else has a good idea?”

"Scarlet have a secret place as a child? Somewhere she went to be alone? Every child has one, think it might be there?" Tensleep was grasping at straws.

“The horse barns was where she went to be alone. You seen grown men digging under my water troughs? She hides stuff everyplace. Rose ran them out of the garden earlier..I think that’s Rose’s hiding spot anyhow.” Johnny sighed.

“I looked in the bird house roof.” Bo said quietly.

Fritz thought hard...would she put them there?

"Gents," Fritz began, clearing his throat. "Back at the Ace, she has a bookshelf. There's an old book on Camelot."

He got questioning looks form the men around him.

"You know...the Arthur legend...knights in armor?"

“Fritz if she would have had the maps at the Ace why did she take the ones from the C bar C? I mean it’s a good idea, but if it were me, I would have taken the one’s from the Ace and not taken the time to ride out to the ranch. Whatcha think?”

Johnny stood and went to the fire place, carefully he put his hand up inside and felt around, coming out with nothing but sooty fingers. “She used ta put stuff up there but I guess she decided it got to hot.” He said.

“That’s a summer hiding spot Johnny, didn’t ya’ know that?” Bo snorted as he watched.

Johnny sat in his chair. “We wouldn’t be so lucky Hart would have noted the places they went would we?”

Tensleep sadly shook his head no.

Fritz was at a severe disadvantage. These people knew Scarlet better than he did, and this was her home ground.


"Damn!" Fritz exclaimed. "I was right on top of them. Johnny, when was the last time you fired that parrot rifle out front?"

"I dunno...six months ago maybe? Why?"

Fritz headed for the door.

The three others exchanged curious looks and followed him. Johnny the most curious of what he was thinking.

Fritz reached the gun first, with all the others in tow. He pulled off the muzzle cover, and removed a wooden plug from the bore. Once done, he peered inside.

Johnny asked, "What the hell do ya think you're doing?"

The bore was dark, but not from rust or carbon. Fritz ran a finger around the muzzle crown. "Grease," he said, smiling.

"" Bo replied.

"You said yourself that Scarlet liked to play games, right? So it stands to reason she'd make it harder for you." Fritz stripped off his blouse, and rolled his sleeve up as far as he could. He reached into barrel of the Parrot rifle, feeling around on the inside. "Ella's gonna hate me for this," he thought.

"Aha!" Fritz exclaimed. "Got it!" He pulled his arm out, and opened his hand. Sitting in his palm was a brass skeleton key.

"What's this Johnny?" Fritz asked.

"That," Johnny said, "is the mystery."

Bo was looking at the key trying to figure out what it might go to. Only one box he could remember that would take a key that size and shape but he’d not seen it in years.

Suddenly it dawned on Johnny. “What the hell is she doing shoving things in the barrel of my guns?” He blurted out.

“She always knows when yer gonna fire ‘em because you talk about three days ahead of time.” Bo said under his breath only to receive a glare from Johnny.

“Yeah I’m afraid to know what else she might have put down the barrels, now I’m gonna have to check them over real good.” Johnny snorted.

Tensleep had watched as the frustration grew in Johnny and Fritz. Bo was uncomfortable because Johnny was frustrated.

Finally the marshal spoke. "Johnny since we can't find the maps do you think that between you, Bo, Jimmy and Sonny you could recreate the maps fairly closely?"

Johnny looked at Tensleep for a moment. “Yeah, we might come close. I have the maps she started with, Sonny might be able to fill in the places the rest of us can’t. Jimmy can tell us a lot; thing is if we find those maps Scarlet has we might find the notes she had on him. Seemed she had figured out just where to find him, if the notes are with the maps.

I found the information I had on Cutter in the beginning, if we go over that we might find a place to start too.

When Ella gets all the information she sent for that will tell us how long he’s been out, maybe could figure where he’s at.” Johnny was talking to whoever was listening.

“We can work on the maps, I asked Jimmy to fetch Sonny, so that part will have to hold til they get back.” Bo stated.

Johnny nodded his head in approval as he watched Fritz reaching into the barrel of the second big gun. At least he’d know the barrels were clear now.

Nobody figured they’d be lucky enough to find anything in the other gun, but since Fritz was already dirty it didn’t hurt to check and they all would have felt foolish if something had been there.

As the men walked in Rose met them in the foyer. “You men need to eat something.”

Johnny opened his mouth to object.

Rose raised her hand. “Look I know how you men are, you’re not going anywhere in the dark and the rain. I expect the moment you get some lead you’ll be high tailing it out of here. First food, then you all can go do what ever it is you were headed for.”

Rose raised an eyebrow at Fritz “Cept you, you get to clean up before you rejoin them, unless they are going to make you go someplace else filthy.” The way she looked at the men and the tone in her voice told them there was no denying her request.

Johnny sat next to Ella. He was tired and he knew Ella had had a long day but like most women he knew you had to look close to be sure.

“Rose told me about this morning, the bird ‘n all. I want to thank you for doing what you did. Want to thank you for everything you do ‘round here Ella. I’m glad Rose has other women to talk to here.” Johnny smiled. “Have you heard anything from your inquiries?”

Ella posted:

Dinner was a far more somber meal than usual, with Patches and Scarlet both absent, and everyone else concerned about them. Ella and Rose tried to keep conversation moving lightly, but it was a strain. It was a relief when Johnny asked, “Have you heard anything from your inquiries?”

"I was waiting until after dinner to bring it up," said Ella as she got up to bring her stack of papers from the kitchen.

"Tensleep had the prison at Fort Worth send me information. They wired that the Rowan brothers were sentenced to life imprisonment, had bounced around the prison system for almost a year with trials and appeals and such, arrived at that prison on March 15, and were murdered in their beds on March 22. That was all they sent, so I started asking questions.

"The Rowans' personal effects were turned over to Kurt and Jerry Rabin, who were released on March 23, having completed their sentences for petty theft. The Rabins had been the only friends the Rowans made in prison, but the four got to be inseparable almost as soon as the Rowans arrived.

"I couldn't get any more information about the week the Rowans were in prison, because the prison guard who checked the Rowans in died of fever in the middle of March. Other guards fell ill of the same fever, so the whole crew was replaced.

"The Rowans were murdered by strangulation. The bodies were chewed up pretty bad by rats before being discovered, so the identification was based on what they were wearing and where they were sleeping.

"I tried the newspaper, and got an account of the Rowans burial, which was attended only by the Rabin brothers. The paper is sending me copies of the pictures taken of the bodies and the burial."

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« Reply #33 on: January 05, 2005, 04:13:24 pm »

Johnny sat next to Ella. He was tired and he knew Ella had had a long day but like most women he knew you had to look close to be sure.

“Rose told me about this morning, the bird ‘n all. I want to thank you for doing what you did. Want to thank you for everything you do ‘round here Ella. I’m glad Rose has other women to talk to here.” Johnny smiled. “Have you heard anything from your inquiries?”

Dinner was a far more somber meal than usual, with Patches and Scarlet both absent, and everyone else concerned about them. Ella and Rose tried to keep conversation moving lightly, but it was a strain. It was a relief when Johnny asked, “Have you heard anything from your inquiries?”

"I was waiting until after dinner to bring it up," said Ella as she got up to bring her stack of papers from the kitchen.

"Tensleep had the prison at Fort Worth send me information. They wired that the Rowan brothers were sentenced to life imprisonment, had bounced around the prison system for almost a year with trials and appeals and such, arrived at that prison on March 15, and were murdered in their beds on March 22. That was all they sent, so I started asking questions.

"The Rowans' personal effects were turned over to Kurt and Jerry Rabin, who were released on March 23, having completed their sentences for petty theft. The Rabins had been the only friends the Rowans made in prison, but the four got to be inseparable almost as soon as the Rowans arrived.

"I couldn't get any more information about the week the Rowans were in prison, because the prison guard who checked the Rowans in died of fever in the middle of March. Other guards fell ill of the same fever, so the whole crew was replaced.

"The Rowans were murdered by strangulation. The bodies were chewed up pretty bad by rats before being discovered, so the identification was based on what they were wearing and where they were sleeping.

"I tried the newspaper, and got an account of the Rowans burial, which was attended only by the Rabin brothers. The paper is sending me copies of the pictures taken of the bodies and the burial."

Fritz hadn't eaten much. Ella's cooking was excellent, as usual. But he didn't have much of an appetite. He'd pushed his food around the plate a bit, and sipped at some coffee. But his mind was on Scarlet, and would be...until she was safe.

"I'm sorry," Fritz said, placing his napkin on the table. Eyes fell on him. "But I can't just sit here. I'll be over at the lab should you need me."

Johnny watched Fritz go, he didn't envy how Fritz felt, at least Johnny was doing something to keep himself busy.

Johnny turned back to Ella. “I’m impressed.” Johnny said as he looked at the papers Ella had “You didn’t happen to find out anything about the Rabins did you?” Johnny furrowed his brow. “Like if they had any family that might be able to identify them? Cutter might think those people need to be disposed of.” He was thinking out loud again. He looked at Ella and smiled. “I’m sure you have thought of all of that.”

Johnny rose “I’ll be in the den working on those maps if anybody needs anything.”

"No, it looks like the Rabin brothers had no family left. They came from Georgia after the War, and started a small ranch east of Fort Worth. They probably met the Rowen brothers in jail awaiting trial in March last year. A neighbor had accused them of rustling his stock. Their lawyer, who happened to be the same lawyer defending the Rowans, convinced them to accept a plea bargain with a sentence of one year. The telegraph operator in Fort Worth thinks their lawyer sold them down the river, since the charges against them were created by the neighbor in order to take over their ranch."

Ella straightened up, "That's it!. The Rabin ranch is the first place Rowens would have gone."


"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 #34 on: January 06, 2005, 09:21:49 pm »

Hank lay in his bed listening to the wind scream through the street and alleyways. He’d heard some of the patrons talking about how bad the storm was. He sat up at the sound of the thunder and the pounding of the rain. Taking a deep breath he swung his legs over the side of the bed and looked down at Timber. Timber sat up and made a low whine as he looked back.

“Is no rest for man or beast is there.” Hank said leaning over petting the dog’s head.

He reached for the letter he had placed on the nightstand. The weather was turning cold yesterday and Rebecca would have known it before she left. One thing Hank knew about Rebecca Valentine was the woman didn’t like to be out in the cold weather.

Warm bed, hot lovin’ and good whisky, not necessarily in that order, was her philosophy on how to handle a cold night. She’d told him that on more than one occasion. She also told him she’d spent enough cold nights under buffalo robes and inhaling camp fire smoke she didn’t want any more.

So why would she ride out to the Indian camp to spend a cold night under a buffalo robe when she could have stayed home, entertained a house full and then gone to a warm soft bed? The question ate at his insides until he couldn’t stand it any longer.

Gone to see Sonny..her false smile…the conversation with Patches, then Fritz, who both had ridden out of town directly after. It didn’t add up and reeked of deception.

Hank pulled on his trousers and boots then made his way to the kitchen for something to eat and cup of coffee; made his rounds checking the place then back to his room.

Lighting the lamp he looked around for some warm clothes and his gear. It was second nature to put on the shoulder rig he wore under his jacket in the saloon. He stopped just as his fingers touched the leather. Something told him he better be more prepared for this outing.

Hank reached for the rig that lay hooked over his bed post. About the only time he strapped on the gunfighters rig anymore was to practice his quick draw. He grinned, there was still some satisfaction in knowing he was as fast and more accurate than most; one never lost the instinct. Occasionally there were folks that asked him about the stories he’d heard about a gunfighter called the Iceman, but as far as he knew there were very few that really knew where to find the man, or if he still lived.

He’d never forget that night. He’d heard about knife fighters, but until that night had never stood toe to toe with one.

The group had come at him for having the wrong kind of accent and asking too many questions, his gun had misfired. He still felt the ache in his shoulder where the blade had been sunk, especially in weather like this.

He could still hear Travis Corbin’s deep southern drawl behind him. “Knifes always loaded boy.” He was sure he was dead when he saw the flash of the blade, but the spray of blood that hit his face was not his own. Then all hell had broken loose. When the dust had settled he and two of the biggest men he’d ever seen stood over a group of dead men; who he understood were fed to the hogs later.

Strange how folks paths intertwined Hank thought as he made his way to one of the girls rooms and knocked on the door.

The dark haired girl answered the door smiling as she looked Hank up and down. “Sorry Darlin’ you missed out.” She grinned as she pulled the sheet closer around her.

Hank grinned. “I need to talk to your friend, Jack, in there.”

The girl pushed the door open and stepped aside. “Awful early for you to be rousting the customers Hank.”

Hank chuckled as he stepped in. “Jack, I need ya to fill in for me while I ride out to see someone.”

Jack opened his eyes. “Yeah, ok. When ya coming back and where’s Rebecca.”

“I’m not sure, but I trust you’ll run the place as you always do when I need ya.”

“And if I don’t?” Jack chuckled.

“You don’t have ta ask that Jack. To many folks be hunting your hide you do wrong here.”

Jack grinned. He knew he was one of the very few people the owners of the Ace of Hearts trusted behind the bar when no one was looking.

Hank turned to the girl. “Will you watch Timber for me?”

“Always Hank, anything for Becca ya know that.” She ran her hand across his cheek and smiled.

“Thanks” Hank said as he shut the door behind him making sure the dog was safe inside so he wouldn’t follow.

Hank went back down stairs and out to the barn. “Come on Blaze.”

The sorrel dun looked at Hank then out into the storm and back at Hank like he was insane.

“Yeah I know, been along time since we’ve been out in something like that, we’re getting soft old man.” He said saddling the horse.

He was thinking to himself he was worrying for nothing as he mounted his horse and rode out into the pouring rain.

Blaze jumped at the lightning and the sound of thunder that followed soon after.

“Damn all I’m gonna do is get shot riding up on Sonny’s in the middle of the night like this fer nuthin’.” He said to his horse as he patted Blaze’s neck.

Over the sound of the rain he thought he could hear the sound of hoof beats. Hank turned in the saddle and saw nothing in the darkness.

“Must be jumpy too now.” He thought…but there it was again..hoof beats.

The lightning lit the sky and he saw it, a horse and rider coming up the road at a fast clip but suddenly they were gone.

Hank kicked Blaze off of the trail, waited and listened; nothing came, nothing but the sound of rain. The hair stood up on the back of his neck from the feel a presence.

He waited for what seemed like an eternity, the rain just pounded down harder. Hank rode off the trail for awhile before he finally steered Blaze back onto it.

He couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched he turned in the saddle to look, just to confirm to himself he was paranoid when the lighting lit up the prairie again and he saw the pale horse.

Hank spun Blaze about drawing his pistol. The horse and rider had vanished off of the trail again. “Am I seeing ghosts?” Hank wondered as his eyes scanned the trail.

“I’m not gunnin’ fer ya Hank, put it away.”

It was Jimmy’s voice. Hank turned Blaze to face where the voice had come from only to hear the faint sounds of hoof beats as Jimmy’s horse moved.

“What are you doing out here on a night like this following me then?” Hank turned his horse again.

Jimmy rode up onto the trail where he could be seen. “I’m going to fetch Sonny back to the Starr.”


“Ross wants to talk to him about Cutter, they’re sayin’ he’s still alive, and runnin’ lose. Whatcha doin’ out here?” Jimmy said eyeing something on the ground as he rode closer.

“Ah Crap! Well that explains a lot; Becca left a note saying she was going to Sonny’s then…”

The lightning flashed again, Jimmy he slid off his horse to retrieve what he’d been looking at.

“What is it?” Hank asked watching him pick it up.

Jimmy ran his fingers over the hearts and roses engraved on the stock then cracked open the shotgun and picked the shells out. He tossed the empty one up to Hank.

“Becca was here but something tells me she didn’t make it to Sonny's,” Jimmy said handing Rebecca’s shotgun up to him. He looked for signs, if there were any they’d been washed away.

“Somebody better get word to Scarlet, I can ride on to..” Hank was saying.

“Forget it, Scarlets gone too.” Jimmy interrupted as he mounted his horse.

“Then we better be making tracks.” Hank said. Kicking his horse, the two raced towards the home of retired US Deputy Marshal Sonny Daily.

"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 #35 on: January 10, 2005, 03:59:14 pm »

Cutter paced the floor. He could feel her, she was thinking about him. He poured the whiskey into the coffee cup then took a long swallow.

“What was she thinking?” He stared into the fire. She was close, it wouldn’t surprise him if she was looking down on the cabin as he thought of her. “Where are you?” He mumbled.

Phil rolled over and looked at him. “None of us is getting any rest with you pacing like that. She’s probably curled up next to her lover. We all ought to be curled up next to something warm.”

Cutter turned and threw his cup at Phil in anger causing Phil to jump to his feet as the cup and hot liquid bounced where his head lay seconds before.

“I want to know where she is!” Cutter growled.

“Why don’t you ask Rebecca?” Phil said walking to the table rubbing his eyes as he sat down.

Cutter slowly grinned then turned, went to the bedroom door and banged on it.

“What?” Josh replied.

“I want to talk to the Mrs.”

“Can’t it wait til morning?”


Rebecca felt instant fear. “Don’t let him hurt me Josh.” She whispered.

Josh looked down at her. “Just be a good girl and tell him what he wants to know.”

Rebecca felt already defeated as Josh led her to the door and opened it.
“What do you want?” Josh asked standing between Rebecca and his brother.

Cutter reached around Josh grabbed Rebecca by the hand and pulled her close.

“I want to know where she is.” He said staring into Rebecca’s eyes.

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t lie or I promise I’ll hurt you.” He chuckled with sadistic glee.

“I swear I don’t know, people been asking all day, and I’ll tell you what I told them. I don’t know.” She said taking a ragged breath.

Cutter grabbed by the jaw and narrowed his eyes.

“Look I can feel her heart beat, means she’s closer than I would like her to be. If you had to guess where might that be?” He snarled.

Rebecca put her hands around his wrist. “You’re hurting me.” She was hoping Josh would intervene but he just stood watching.

“I’m just getting started.” He squeezed harder.

She tried pulling away but he had to tight of a hold.

“I don’t know, just kill me know.” She spat.

“I’ve always been a man of my word, haven’t I?” He said in low tone.

Rebecca shook her head in agreement.

Cutter grinned sadistically as he watched fear take hold of her. “I’m not going to kill you, but I will hurt you and you’ll wish I’d killed you.”

“She went to the ranch earlier.”


“Help to come after you.”


“Don’t know.” Rebecca’s eyes watered from the pain.

“Guess.” He growled.

She finally slipped his grip and started to back away. But he was quick and grabbed her by the back of the neck.

“You lived with the Comanche; are they fond of cutting a mans tongue out?” He said as he drew his knife and drug her towards the fire place.

“NO!” She screamed.

Josh stepped close causing Cutter to shoot an evil glare at him. “Don’t worry I won’t kill her.”

“If I tell you will you leave me alone?” Make you’re men leave me alone?” Rebecca said in a voice filled with defeat.

Cutter chuckled. “You’re not dumb are you; tell me what I want to know and I’ll give you back to Josh, and leave you alone until I get back.”

“The only place I know she might go is the mountain.” Rebecca’s heart twisted with the pain of feeling like she’d just sold out her friend.

“Damn, I hate that place.” Cutter mumbled as he let go of her.

Rebecca slid to the floor and put her head in her hands. “If you had any kindness, you’d kill me now.” She whispered.

“I told you I wasn’t going to kill you. Maybe I’ll let Scarlet have a go at ya though.” He laughed. “Come on men we’re riding out now.”

Josh was next to her almost instantly. “See I told you. Be good and you’ll be ok.” He went to put his arm around her.

Rebecca glared up at him. “What kind of husband are you to let your brother man handle me. How can I ever trust you to protect me?” she said through tear filled eyes. Hoping she could turn the two on each other.

Josh was shocked at first. “He didn’t hurt you.” He finally said flatly.

Harry looked at Cutter. “Are you kidding? Ride at this time of night in this weather?”

“Yeah. Some of ya need to stay here and watch after the women. Don’t let ‘em do anything foolish, like try ‘en run, or hurt themselves. The rest of us are riding out now.” Cutter said then went out the door to the barn followed by his men.

Phil caught up to him. “What are we doin’ this for?”

“It’s the last place she’ll expect to see me. She knows I don’t like that place, probably why she goes there. If I’m going to catch her, gonna have to surprise her.”

"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 #36 on: January 10, 2005, 04:00:01 pm »

Patches watched Scarlet stand at the opening of the cave looking out into nothing. She finally stood and walked up next to her.

“Whatcha looking for?”

Scarlet looked at her. “Just listening.”

It seemed to both women there was more silence between them tonight than the entire time they’d been friends.

“There’s nothing out there.” Patches finally said. “what is it you’re listening for?”

“Listening to ghosts is all.”

Both women turned and walked back to the small fire and sat down.

“Ya know, if Travis was the kind of man I think he was, he’d forgive you if you broke that promise to bring his killer down.” Patches said softly.

Scarlet half smiled. “He would, he’d scold me for runnin’ round out here like this if that was all it was about. Somewhere, somehow it changed from that. There have been days I wished it was just that, there are things now that would have made it easy to break that promise. Same as there are things now that drive me to make sure he dies.”

Patches watched Scarlet run her thumb across the bottom of the ring she wore. Patches wondered if Scarlet was aware she did it when she was thinking.

Patches had been thinking too. Thinking about what Scarlet meant when she’d said Travis sees where she’s at. There must be something hidden that would help them find Scarlet where he could see it; perhaps behind a picture.

“Scarlet, how we gonna find you if you need help?” She asked.

“I told you already.”

“Well much as I love a mystery, how can I look for something when I don’t what it is I’m looking for?”

Scarlet grinned. “Got a point. There’s another set of maps. Like these.” Scarlet held up the leather pouch with the maps they’d looked at before. “And a notes on Cutters habits, with it.”

Patches was immediately trying to envision where a picture would be that would hold something that bulky.

“The only ring I’ve ever seen you wear is the one Fritz give ya.” Patches motioned with her eyes at Scarlet’s hand. “When you stop wearing your wedding ring?” Patches had never seen the ring and thought maybe it was in the same safe place as the maps.

“I took it off along time ago. You have to put the past behind before you can move forward. I tried to move forward, yanno.” Scarlet said a bit regretfully.

“What did you do with it?”

Scarlet half smirked. “Travis had a box that he kept valuables in. I put it in the box, so he could watch over it too.”

Patches was about to say something else when Scarlet rose. “It’s time to go.”

Patches looked outside. “It’s still raining and dark.”

“Yep. The rain will cover our tracks. If we wait til it stops the mud could leave a trail a blind man could follow. It’ll be daylight soon enough. You could be home by this afternoon.”

"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 #37 on: January 10, 2005, 04:00:49 pm »

Combined effort of Tensleep and Scarlet

The rain had pounded the ground all night. Sonny had awoken his family and they had ridden out as soon as they could gather a few belongings for their stay at the Star.

Katharine Daily was a gentle, kind, hard working woman who never questioned her husband’s decisions. She was a supportive wife of a US Deputy and proud of her man and their family. But as she rode in the rain and dark listening to the men talk and telling her baby girl there was nothing to be afraid of she was beginning to wonder what kind of man the new marshal was. He’d sent Jimmy instead of coming himself, although there were reasons for that, she’d heard Jimmy tell Sonny.

Rose spoke well of Marshal Ross, and for Johnny to be letting them live at the Star meant something to her. But why did she want Sonny to ride, after Cutter of all people! He had so many men at his disposal and he had called on Sonny. Would he give Sonny a good partner to ride with, or some idiot that would tuck tail and run at the first sound of gunfire? He had no right, Sonny had done his duties and had a fair amount of scars to show for it!

Katherine didn’t know if she should be ashamed of her thoughts or not. After all Sonny was going to help Scarlet and Scarlet had not only been his favorite partner but the best one.

Katharine remembered having fits when Sonny told her he’d be riding with a woman, then she remembered seeing Scarlet in the Saloon. She had gone to the saloon without Sonny’s knowledge and accused Scarlet of having wicked intentions of getting a married man alone because that’s what those kind of women did. Katharine had been so embarrassed when she realized she was calling her good friend Rose’s daughter a blonde hussy. She remembered Scarlet not saying a word until she was done. Then the woman had simply stated “I have no intentions of bedding your husband but I promise you I’ll never leave him alone.”

She wondered if this Marshal had other deputies that had that kind of grit. Just thinking of what could happen to Sonny made her madder and more upset. By the time they reached the Star she was determined to find out what Ross was made of.

Katherine dismounted and politely handed the reins and her daughter to her husband then without another word she went into the house. She smiled at Rose who smiled weakly back. Skipping the formalities because she knew once Sonny started talking to the marshal she’d probably not get either one of their attention she asked. “Where’s the Marshal?”

“In the office with Johnny.” Rose pointed as she said it.

Katharine straightened her shoulders and took a deep breath as she entered the room of men. Her eyes swept the room until they landed on the man she remembered being pointed out as the new marshal.
She walked up to him ignoring the rest of them, hands on her hips, mad as a wet hen and somewhat resembling one.
“What kind of man are you JB Ross?” she demanded.

"Mrs Daily, it's a pleasure to meet you." The marshal's hat was off in the house and he held his right hand out to her just as he would have had it been a man. "I have heard quite a lot about you and Sonny and your family, now I finally get to meet you all face to face.
If you would like to freshen up please feel free, if not, I would like to talk with you.
Please, come sit down and have some hot coffee or tea. I'm sure that you are cold and damp from the long ride"

Katherine had taken the marshal's hand when he offered it. It was strong but not over powering, work roughened but not hard callused. His touch on her hand was firm but gentle as he led her to the leather sofa near the giant fireplace.

"Thank you so much for coming to the Southern Star, as you know the Rowen's are on the loose again. I need information from Sonny. I need he, Johnny, Bo and Jimmy together so that I can get what I need all at once."

Tensleep had poured steaming tea from a porcelain set that Rose had brought into the room earlier. He poured it in a heavy mug rather than the small cups that let it cool too quickly. Now Katherine was holding the mug warming her hands as she listened.

"I think that we are all safe here and that is the main reason I asked that you and Sonny come." He paused. "You ask what kind of man am I." Here he paused again.

"I hope that I am honest and straight forward. I am a man who works with people, my deputies do not work FOR me, but with me. I am concerned about their welfare and the welfare of their families. I will never ask a man or woman to do something that I would not do myself. I also believe in what is right, and I try to do what is right. I do not court the favor of the town or county."

Tensleep sipped his tea. "I am sure that you have questions."

She eyed Tensleep suspiciously. "Well that alone begins to set you apart from the man you replaced, working with your deputies, it was a lesson hard learned for Scott at times.

Jimmy says you are thinking of having Sonny ride with you. You know he will, under the circumstances, but where does that leave my family marshal?"

Katharine shifted a bit nervously. She knew Sonny would not be impressed she had come in here before he'd had a chance to even introduce himself.

"Mrs Daily, I have not asked Sonny to go with us to find Miss Longknife or to chase the Rowens. What I need from your husband at this time is his knowledge of the way the Rowens travel, think, act, where they go, what they do. I really need Sonny to help recreate a map that Scarlet had made that is lost."

"I understand your concern for your husband and family. I leave it to you and your husband to decide how much you will be able to help us."

The marshal stood. "Would you care for more tea, or perhaps something else?"

"Huh" Katharine snorted "Once a law man always a law man Marshal." She stood when he did. This was something she rarely did, stick her nose in his business, and she was uncomfortable with it.

Katharine looked out the window. Sonny was still making sure the horses were cared for but he'd be along any moment and she didn't want to be in the middle of anything when he came in.

"Something else Marshal. Has anyone asked why Scarlet didn't invite any of you along?"

"We have talked about that. Some think that she feels she must face these "devils" alone. Others feel that she fears for our safety. Personally I believe that she doesn't want any of us to see her die if that is what happens." Tensleep looked at the growing light. "I need to be out there, she is one of the good ones."

"Scarlet always has a reason for doing what she does Marshal." She was watching him, judging his character and he knew it. "Why Marshal? Because the Rowens are bad and the law needs to round them up, or Scarlet is out there and you're going to ask your deputies to risk their lives for her?"

Tensleep turned and looked into Katerine Daily's eyes. "Ma'am I goin' out there for two reasons. One it's my job an' I don't ask anybody to do my job. I ask no man or woman to do something they don't want to do or something that scares them."

He paced then stopped in front of the woman. "The second reason I will go is because I need Scarlet, I like Scarlet and I want to be there if she needs help. No one should have to think they have to face their devils alone. Scarlet is my friend. I'm goin' if nobody else moves a foot outta this house."

The marshal turned and walked to the window and stared into the coming dawn for a moment.

Katharine smiled behind his back. "Marshal, when you step outta this house you'll most likely find a group of good men saddled and ready to ride with you." She wanted to dislike him, but she couldn't. "Thank you for your time Marshal Ross, I suspect Sonny will be along shortly." She turned and took her cup into the kitchen.

Tensleep walked outside to his office where he began to pack. In the distance he heard hoofbeats approaching. Was it Hank and 'Becca? Maybe it was Patches....

He was disappointed to see it was only the rider Bo had sent for Hank and Becca, alone. He turned at the sound of the men coming from the barn, Hank among them, but Rebecca was nowhere to be seen.

"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 #38 on: January 10, 2005, 04:01:44 pm »

Orginally posted by 1st Sgt Fritz King

Fritz opened the door and reached for the matchbox. He struck a Lucifer on the bottom of the box, spilling long shadows down the room from its guttering flame. He moved to the desk and lit the lamp. There was a pot of coffee still warm on the stove. Fritz took one of Bill’s spare cups and poured himself some. He grabbed the key ring from the hook, and started moving towards the lockers.

Fritz stopped for a moment, taking it all in. He felt strangely comfortable in the lab. The overhead pipes and the smell of the boiler brought him home. It was like the cab of a locomotive. Fritz imagined his father at the throttle and smiled. Happier times…

Footsteps behind brought him out of the revelry. Fritz turned slowly.

“You caught me off guard at the table,” Bill said, pouring himself a cup of coffee.

“Besides the prairie, I find this place peaceful,” Fritz replied. Fritz handed the key ring back to its owner.

“So, what can I do for you?” Bill asked.

“I was wondering if you’d had the chance to work on those rounds we talked about.” Fritz hadn’t bothered Bill much since their move to the ranch. The destruction of his old lab had hit Bill pretty hard. Most of his time and energy had been devoted to getting the new facility up and running. By all accounts, Bill and Patches had done a great job. And the half-empty coffee cups and unmade military cot told Fritz Bill lived here most days too.

“Come on,” Bill said, smiling as he went. Bill used the keys to open one of the big lockers on the left wall. Inside were boxes of ammunition; enough to rival the arms room up at the fort. Bill pulled a loading block from the top shelf.

“Help me get the lamps lit, and I’ll show you what I’ve got.” Bill set the block on his workbench, and started lighting the carbide lamps along the wall. Fritz worked down the other side.

Bill handed the block over. There were four rows of five holes drilled into the wood block. The rounds sat on their primer end. The first appeared to be an ordinary .38 long colt round. “What’s this?” Fritz asked, picking one up.

Bill smiled. “That’s the standard projectile. However, I increased the powder charge. I had to be very careful. I had to make a charge that’s safe enough to shoot, without blowing up your pistol…it has a bit more kick.”

Fritz wondered how Bill had tested them.

“The second round is what we talked about.” Bill picked one up. “It’s the ‘hollow point’ round. It’s by far the most effective, and consistent round I’ve come up with.” Fritz noted a large cavity in the nose of the projectile. “The cavity causes greater expansion, forcing the round to expend all its energy on the target.”

The next round was capped with sealing wax. “This one’s interesting. What is it?”

Bill frowned a bit. “Ah. That round is a bit disappointing. I envisioned creating a heavier bullet. The method I chose requires filling the cavity with mercury. The wax cap is the only safe way to trap the liquid. Molten metal and mercury tend to react, ah…badly.”

Fritz asked, “How does it work?”

“It’s quite effective at close range,” Bill answered. The mercury causes the bullet to shatter on impact, creating several projectiles. Unfortunately, the round drops quickly.”

“How much?”

Bill sighed. “Eight inches at 25 yards. Your intended target would probably die of peritonitis quicker.”

Fritz pointed at the last row. “And these?”

“Another disappointment I’m afraid,” Bill replied. “In another attempt to add weight to the projectile, I cut tungsten rods and cast them into the bullets. They will penetrate heavy clothes, or even a suit of armor.”

Fritz wondered if he HAD a suit of armor…then thought better of it.

“However,” Bill added, “they begin to keyhole at 25 yards. Not nearly as accurate as you need.”

Bill walked toward the far wall, opening the windows as he went. At the end of the room was a large planked stop on wheels. He rolled it into place, and locked the wheels. Bill then took some squashes from a bushel basket, and stuck them to nails protruding from the surface. Satisfied, Bill walked back to the bench, pushing chunks of sealing wax into his ears.

“The gourds and squashes best simulate human tissues,” he said, handing Fritz a leather pouch.

“Cotton?” Fritz asked.

“For your ears,” Bill said. Fritz was skeptical, but did as he was bid. Once done, he pulled the Navy and emptied the cylinder. He took one of each round from the block, and carefully reloaded.

“Ready?” Fritz asked.

“Fire away!” yelled Bill.

Fritz cocked the Navy and squeezed the trigger. The recoil jerked his arm up and back, and flame erupted from the barrel. But the round found its mark, shattering the first gourd.

“Ouch!” Fritz said.

“What?” was Bill’s reply.

The second round was the hollow point. The recoil wasn’t as fierce, but the results were more dramatic. The squash exploded, covering the backstop with orange liquid. Fritz said one word…


The third round missed the gourd by a good eight inches, just as Bill had said. But it blew several large chunks of wood from the backstop.

The fourth and final round clipped the right top corner of the target, splashing lead fragments back towards the men. But the round drilled a nice smooth hole through the exterior wall.

“Sorry, Bill.”

Fritz emptied the cylinder. Bill handed him a box covered in wax paper. “The hollow points,” he said to the unasked question. “I’ll work on the others some more. Who knows?”

Fritz shook his hand. “Thanks Bill. I appreciate it.”

Bill grabbed his shoulder. “She’s all right you know. Besides,” Bill smiled, “Patches is with her. What could possibly happen?”

Thunder crackled in the distance.

"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 #39 on: January 10, 2005, 04:02:26 pm »

Scarlet and Patches skirted the base of the mountain, the rain washing away any tracks they made. Both women were quiet, listening and watching their surroundings; nothing seemed amiss until they reached the river.

Lucky stopped suddenly and eyed the water suspiciously. His nostrils quivered as he lowered his head and snorted at the water.

Scarlet patted his neck and looked into the water. It was murky from the rain and running a little faster than normal. She wondered if the horse had seen a snake; seeing nothing she urged him forward.

Lucky balked for a second before he rose up on his back legs and made an attempt to leap the river. He landed three quarters across and Scarlet could feel him gather himself to jump again. She felt him rise to make the jump then his back feet slipped from beneath him. As they splashed into the river she thought she heard Patches yell “Ambush!” she was sure she heard the sound of gunfire.

Scarlet felt the stallion thrash as they went under the water then roll back to his feet, she held tight as he leaped up and out of the water still kicking his back leg. Scarlet slid off his back, still coughing from the water she’d inhaled, and ran her hand along his leg surprised to feel a rope around his ankle. She slipped it free just before it was pulled tight.

Scarlet’s first instinct was to draw her pistol and fire when she saw the men coming out of the rocks at her but she knew the guns had gotten soaked in the river her powder would be wet and useless.

She drew her knife as she felt Lucky move into her. The man with the other end of the rope was closer than she realized. First Scarlet heard the thud then the man gasped for air as he went down holding his chest.

The second man made a dive for her; Scarlet sidestepped and sunk her knife as deep as she could into the oncoming target. As she pushed the man by she saw him.

Scarlet couldn’t believe her eyes. Cutter in this place, it couldn’t be. He’d never come here.

Everything seemed to move in slow motion from there.

She watched him level the rifle. At first she thought it was aimed at her then she realized it was aimed at Lucky.

“No! Lucky GET!” She screamed as she let go of the big knife leaving it stuck in her attacker.

In one fluid movement she reached behind her drew the small throwing knife she carried and let it go. It struck Cutter in the back of his trigger hand causing him to jerk the gun off target.

She could hear the stallions hoof beats as she felt a full body hit from behind.

The two rolled to the ground. She felt him roll her over and grasp her by the wrists. He smiled at the position they had ended up in. She smiled back just before she wrapped her legs beneath his ribs and squeezed as hard as she could. The man laughed at first, but then he couldn’t catch his breath and her hold just kept tightening. He let go of her wrists and tried to pry his hands between him and her to get away.

Scarlet felt herself being yanked off the ground. There was a struggle between the three before she finally let go of the man she had her legs around.

“Bitch” he gasped as he lay in the dirt.

She knew it was Cutter who had his arms around her and held her tight.

From across the river a voice came. “What do we do with ‘er boss.?”

“Kill her.” He replied.

“Oh God Patches.” Scarlet thought as she struggled to reach the knife that hung on her belt trying to twist away from him at the same time.

Cutter’s hold loosened just long enough for Scarlet to reach her knife and plant it in his thigh.

Cutter gritted his teeth as he felt the sting of the blade. The pain of her dragging it up and out was almost unbearable. As she turned on him he took the rifle from his shoulder.

Scarlet turned into it. The hit wasn’t so much painful as it was just hard and it rocked her. She blinked her eyes and tried to focus. Everything came clear for a split second then went fuzzy. Her head swam, she could feel her legs give out then everything went black.

"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 #40 on: January 13, 2005, 04:16:07 pm »

To say that things happened too fast or all hell broke loose was the worlds biggest understatement. Upon reaching the river things got real hairy real fast, literally.

Patches was contemplating the rolling water and watching for water mocs when the hairs on the back of her neck stood up and began to tickle. Instinctively she rested her right hand on her crossdraw pistol, while holding both reins in her left. Quickly she attempted to look in all directins at once, when out of the corner of her eye she saw Lucky jump for the water.

THEN she saw the human shaped shadow slipping like oil from the rocks.

Fast she drew her pistol, shouting the single word "AMBUSH!" as she did. No sooner was her finger pressing the trigger when out of nowhere 200 pounds of solidity slammed into her back from the left.

She got one shot off, which went wild, before the gun flew from her hand. She and whoever had jumped her slammed to the ground with numbing force and she took two punches to the kindeys before she could even gain her breath back.

Thunder, in the meantime, had screamed and reared, then attempted to take off away from the water. But he was no dumb horse, realizing that someone was trying to catch him. He spun on a dime, half in mid air, bucked and kicked his attacker in the head - killing him instantly - before running off to the shelter of the rocks.

Meanwhile, Patches struggled with the greasy smelling thing that straddled her back. His arm circled around her throat, choking her and bending her backwards at the same time.

She reached up with both hands, trying to see through the stars obstructing her vision, and gouged as deeply as she could at the mans face. He screamed as blood tricked down both cheeks, raising his hands to his wounded face. Patches took that opportunity to spin underneith of him and slam the heal of her hand squarely into his nose. He fell back screaming and kicking, and Patches sprang to her feet.

Next thing she knew...they were all over her. What truely couldn't have been more than 7or 10 men seemed like a horde and Patches did the only thing she could do -- she started throwing punches.

The scuffle couldn't have lasted more than half a minute (although it seemed like an eternity), before Patches found herself face down in the mud attempting to roll with each kick what surely had been coming from 20 or 30 different boots. Not that she didn't get her share of licks in, but one blow to the gut doubled her over and she was done for.

She heard someone ask someone else what he should "do with'er", and another person answer "Kill'er". She was rapidly losing consiousness and the only thought in her pain filled head was "Don't worry Bill, I toldja if I die, I'd haunt ya for the rest of your life."

She had every intention of doing just that too. Returning as soon as she could as a ghost to haunt the lab at the Southern Star forever, or until someone at the Star could hear her message....

~Several hours later ~

Patches swam out of a deep darkness, her eyes coming open slowly. It was still dark. Dark like it was when she and Scarlet first left the cave.

That could only mean one of two things. One: She had not been unconsious for too long or two: She had been unconsious for most of the day.

It was still raining too. Each drop coming to crash on her badly bruised back making her feel like a cushion full of holes.

Obviously she wasn't dead. She hurt way too much to be dead.

She raised her head attempting to blink the liquid out of her eyes. Only one eye was working properly. She groaned at the sharp pain in her neck as she lifted her head.

"Aw crap," she mumbled through swollen lips. This was not good. Carefully and with a great deal of effort she managed to roll over, letting the stinging rain wash the blood from her face for a moment. Again, she slowly opened her one good eye and attempted to make sence out of a water coated world.

A soft blowing from her right cought her attention and she turned her head to look. Peaking out from between two rocks, tentative, was Thunders head, his reins dangling down.

"C'mere boy," she said as loudly as she could. At what point did her throat become filled with ground glass? The horse took a slow step forward. Patches patted the ground with her hand, hoping the horse would realize she was alive and in desperate need of a hand up.

It took some doing but finally he came up to her, bending his head to softly blow in her face. She reached up and tugged at a rein.

"Gotta lay down," she whispered, still trying to find her voice. Thunder looked at her as if she were speaking in tongues. She tugged the rein a bit harder. "Lay down....need help."

God only knew how long later Thunder finally got what she was saying and laid down next to her. Using the tack, the reins, and the saddle horn as leverage she was finally able to slide down and wriggle around enough to get one leg over the saddle even though every little movement caused an excrusiating, seering pain throughout her body.

Surely this operation had taken hours.

"Up..." she said and this time the horse obeyed, instantly gaining his feet. Patches' head went dizzy and her vision greyed to almost nothing as Thunder rose. She sat as still as possible on the nervous horse, doubled over, until it cleared.

She reached for the reins, but could only catch one. Finally, short of breath and weakening more with every movement she just let go and wrapped her arms around Thunder's neck.

"Go home boy," she whispered into his wet main. "Gotta go home and get help."

That seemed to be a command the horse understood and he took off.

Patches was in and out of consiousness during that half a days ride, never really sure how long it took or why she never fell from the saddle. Thunder only stopped once or twice to drink from some ouddle before pushing on. When she was consious she spoke to the horse as she could, urging him to go faster, but he was very aware of the condition of his rider and didn't jostle her too much. When he thought she was slipping from the saddle he'd stop, and the stop always woke her.

~Somewhere around 8 PM~

Dr. Bill stood under the shelter of the porch roof of the telegraph office smoking a cigar, listening to the rain coming down, and staring into the inky blackness of the night.

Where was she? She should have been back long before now WITH Scarlet in tow. Something had happened. Something terrible and hurtful and by God he could feel that in the core of his very bones.

His eyes frantically searched the land he could not see, although his body was held in a stance of calm like never before. To look at him, a person would think he was casually standing there smoking, perhaps enjoying the sound of the rain before turning in, but every muscle in his body was tense and ready to spring should the need arise. His normally active mind that held a myriad of thoughts at any given time now only screamed one sentence: "Where are you?"

He realized quickly that in this weather, as dark as it was, his eyes would easily deceive him, perhaps tricking him into seeing that which was not there to begin with. Several times already he thought he saw movement where there was none. But he recalled a lesson in listening from back in Arizona, where Patches had taught him to seperate sounds.

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and listened.

Rain, spattering down, not as hard as it was earlier. Horses in the barn. Running rain water from the roof of the house. A voice calling to someone, also from the house. Hoof beats...coming in fast.

Hoof beats?

His eyes snapped open, searching the darkness. Where, where were they coming from? Patches? Hoof beats, closer now....

Then the flair went off. Bright yellow lighting up the night. THERE! A shadow of a horse running in, with a lump on its back. Thunder?

He had no time to make his mind register exactly what he was seeing in the eerie yellow glow, he simply tossed his cigar and ran as fast as he could into the rain.

Bill came to a screetching halt just as the running horse did the same. There was a moment when horse and human simply looked at eachother. Thunder was covered in foam and scratches, his head down, breathing hard. Bill took a tentative step toward him, hand held palm out. Thunder looked over his shoulder, then back at Bill.

Bill stepped around, his heart slamming full throttle into his throat. Fast he stepped to the saddle and cought Patches before she could slide off and fall to the ground.

"Oh God," he said as he cradled her in his arms. She was hurt and bad. Even her knuckles were scraped and bloody. "Patches? Patty!"

"My God what happened?" Johnny's voice by the horses head.

"Where's Scarlet?" Fritz's voice at Bill's shoulder.

Bill wasn't even aware they had joined him. He stood and turned around, his face set in a mask of concern. Johnny and Fritz took one look at the limp form in their friends arms and all three men rushed to the house.

Ella ran down to the kitchen in response to Johnny's bellow and met the men coming in.

"Lay her there on the kitchen table," she ordered while pulling her supply box out of the pantry. "Fritz, fetch water and boil two pans full. Johnny, bring lanterns in here for extra light. Bill... ," her voice trailed off as the naked emotions on Bill's face stopped her from sending him away.

She took out a piece of soft cloth and moistened it with her disinfectant. Handing it to Bill, she said quietly, "Clean her face and hands."

Ella turned to assessing the injuries. Patches had broken ribs for sure, and only a miracle could have prevented a punctured lung, but both lungs sounded clear and sound. She had a broken collar bone as well. The bruises on her throat were going to be more dramatic-looking tomorrow, but were not an important problem now. Her eyes were responding to light normally, so her head wasn't damaged too badly.

Rose had come in with the lanterns, and sent Fritz and Johnny out. Then Rose helped Ella undress and bathe Patches. Ella bit her lip at the sight of blood that could only have come from kidney damage.

The jar of bruise ointment was empty by the time Ella and Rose had applied it to all the places that needed it. After Ella had bound Patches's ribs and set the collar bone, Rose helped her dress Patches in a soft nightgown. "We can take her out to her bed in the telegraph office in the morning. I don't want to move her until then," said Ella.

The probability of surviving any injury or combination of injuries was a mathematical equation. Since the human body was not a series of independent variables the total probability was a summation and not a summation of squares and root of the sum. SHE’S GOING TO DIE SHE’S GOING TO DIE SHE’S GOING TO DIE SHE’S GOING TO DIE. Per istam Sanctam UnctioXnem, et suam piisimam misericordiam, indulgeat tibi Dominus quidquid per visum deliquisti. Amen. Per istam Sanctam UnctioXnem, et suam piisimam misericordiam, indulgeat tibi Dominus quidquid per auditum deliquisti. Amen. YOU’RE NO PRIEST. YOU COULDN’T FINISH ANTHING. YOU WERE’NT THERE WHEN SHE NEEDED YOU THE MOST! SHE’S GOING TO DIE. SHE’S GOING TO DIE. SHE’S GOING TO DIE. SHE’S GOING TO DIE. SHE’S GOING TO DIE. Assigning a value of “X” to the probability of successful recovery and solving for the cumulative percentage we arrive at a statistical negative result that normalizing SHE’S GOING TO DIE. SHE’S GOING TO DIE. SHE’S GOING TO DIE. SHE’S GOING TO DIE. SHE’S GOING TO DIE Per istam Sanctam UnctioXnem, et suam piisimam misericordiam, indulgeat tibi Dominus quidquid per odoratum deliquisti. Amen. Per istam Sanctam UnctioXnem, et suam piisimam misericordiam, indulgeat tibi Dominus quidquid per gustum et locutionem deliquisti. Amen. FIND THEM KILL THEM FIND THEM KILL THEM FIND THEM KILL THEM FIND THEM KILL THEM FIND THEM KILL THEM FIND THEM KILL THEM FIND THEM KILL THEM.

Through this holy annointing, and His most loving mercy, may the Lord forgive you whatever wrong done. Amen

“Bill?" A voice from far away, too soft to break through the litany in his head. He couldn't take his eyes off the battered form on the table. For some reason everything was swirling.

"Bill?" He should have been there. He could have protected her, SHOULD have protected her...

"BILL!!" His head jerked around, his eyes finally meeting with Ella's. Thankfully -- for the moment -- the internal clamor stopped. "I think that’s all we can do for right now,” Ella said, calmly. “I’ll put the coffee on and we can sit here with her.” She handed him an unused bit of leftover bandage so he could clean his glasses before turning toward the stove to start on the coffee. He sat near her head and cleaned his glasses all in one fluid motion, removing the tears that had accumulated on the lenses.

Once his glasses were back on his face he noticed some dirt and twigs or something in Patches hair. The fact that her hair was loose and so unkempt bothered him terribly for some strange reason. Ella must have unbraided it in order to check for head injuries, and all 40 inches of it was balled up under her neck.

"I need a brush," he said gruffly. Those were the first words he'd spoken since he found her drapped over the back of her horse.

Ella turned. "What?"

Gently Bill lifted Patches head with one hand and began straightening out her hair with the other. "She doesn't like to sleep on her hair," he said. "I need a brush."

Ella looked at him, then down at her. Was the brushing of Patches hair something that he needed to do for her or for himself? She supposed it didn't matter as long as Bill was occupied enough to stay sane. She smiled just a tiny bit. "I'll get you one." She said and went to retrieve a brush.

"Bill?" Another voice disturbed his attempt to sort out all the other voices that threatened to fill his ears again. Bill looked up. It was Tensleep. His mustache drooped and he held his hat in his hands. "How bad is it?"

"Bad," Bill said, as Ella handed him the brush. Ella poured coffee for both men.

"Has she said anything yet?" Sleep took a step in the room.

Bill shook his head. "Not yet," he said quietly as he carefully began to remove bits of dirt and grass from Patches's hair.

Tensleep sagged against the wall. "Patches hurt, Scarlet missing and Fritz is goin crazy with worry. Sure wish I knew what happened out there."

"I'm sure you'll find out as soon as Patches regains consiousness," Ella stated guiding 'Sleep into the room to sit down with his coffee.

'Sleep looked up at her and nodded, then looked at Bill. "She'll make it Bill. She will," he said comfortingly.

Bill nodded, never looking away from his methodical brushing, his mind recalling every last scientific fact he knew about human hair. He thought that he looked forward to watching all that fiery red turn to gray, slowly, over time. Years and years and years watching her hair turn. He wondered how long it would be in 20 years if she still refused to cut it. But will he be able to after this? The first 24 hours were always crucial. How long could a hair grow in 24 hours?

"Ella," Fritz and Johnny had come in the room followed by Bo and Jimmy.
Ella turned, reached down more cups, filled them then went to the kitchen door. "How is she?" Johnny asked.

"She's breathing slow and steady," she said with a glance over here shoulder. "But hasn't woken up yet. It's going to be a very long night. And don't even think about asking Bill to leave her or get some rest because I can tell you right now, he won't."

"Wouldn't dream of it," Fritz said, staring. If that was Scarlet laying on that table, 25 pounds of TNT couldn't get him away. He tore his gaze from the scene in the kitchen, accepted the proffered coffee and sipped although it held no flavor for him.

"Bill and I will stay with her, I assume you and Tensleep will come on and off. For right now though, we'll give her room to breathe. I'll let you kniow when she wakes or if she says anything. Alright?"

Fritz and Johnny both nodded and then left, taking Bo and Jimmy with them.

"Bill's holding in a lot of pent up anger," Fritz noted to Johnny once they gained the hall.

"Wouldn't you?" Johnny asked.

"Oh yeah. Figure he might need something to do while waiting. He can't brush her hair forever."

Johnny raised one eyebrow. "I think you've got tetched." He quipped as best he could under the circumstances.

"Maybe so." Fritz agreed. "But I know that if I was in his position I'd wanna be killing something. All that waiting is enough to drive a man mad."

Johnny sighed. "Is Scarlet the only person in this world who can make sence out of what yer sayin?"

Fritz almost laughed. "I think so. I'll be right back."

And so Johnny Longknife stood in the middle of the hallway and watched his soon-to-be-son-in-law stride out door. A few minutes later he came back with a long branch, his unsheithed knife still in his other hand.

"Figure Bill might want to make her a cane. With broken ribs she might need it. Might give him something to take his agressions out on too."

And with that he strode back into the bedroom.

~ Somewhere around 3 am ~

Patches groaned softly. Bill sat straight up in his chair, the branch Fritz had given him sliding off his lap to clatter to the floor. Ella lifted her head from the table at the sound, took one look at Patches and went straight for warm water and a cloth.

Bill took her hand, very gently. "Patches?"

Her one good eye fluttered open. "Bill...."

Bill smiled inspite of himself. "Yes darlin. It's me."

By this time Ella was swabbing her face gently. It must have felt good to her because she closed her eye and moaned softly.

"Bill..." Her voice barely above a whisper, her eyebrows coming together with the effort of her thoughts. "Tell Johnny...."

She stopped. Bill glanced at Ella who indicated he should encourage her to go on. He leaned down closer to her, one hand on the top of her head.

"Tell Johnny what darlin?" He asked.

"Tell ...Johnny...Travis sees..." She managed.

"Travis?" Bill was confused. "What does Travis see darlin?"

Patches moved her head to the side, almost a jerking motion. She swallowed hard twice then Ella gave her a sip of water while Bill held her head.

"Travis...sees...where going." She whispered. "Travis you darlin. Be alright." And with that she fell back into oblivion.

Bill, his eyes beginning to tear up again, leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "Love you too darlin." He whispered. She squeezed his hand.

"I think I need to get Johnny," Ella said.

Elegant Ella
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« Reply #41 on: January 13, 2005, 04:17:13 pm »

Johnny’s frustration grew, he tried not to show it but he wondered if Scarlet lay dead in the rain someplace. Hell maybe Patches hadn’t even caught up to her. He was impressed with the effort the men had put into recreating the maps. Unfortunately, they had approximate places. With approximates they could be a half a days ride one side or the other and not even know.

He had dozed at his desk in between trying to remember little details and checking on Patches.

Bo had done what he could and when he was no longer any help he picked up a small piece of paper and wrote on it. He remembered the question Tensleep had asked earlier and wrote it on the note.

Places where Scarlet goes alone.
He drew the barns of the Starr and some of her favorite horses stalls. In one corner of the paper he had put Devils Mountain. She used to go there a lot. He drew the high point on the ranch she liked to go. The big tree near the rose garden, the horse fountain…he put a little star next to that. She loved that thing, just like her mother.

He drew the trails she took the horses on to exercise them, the culvert she jumped along that trail, then looped down around the cemetery and home. He was getting to tired to think so he just started to doodle. Filling the small details in of the cemetery; his drawing wasn’t big enough to put people’s entire names on so he put initials. He finally laid the drawing on the floor and put his head back falling asleep.

“Johnny.” Ella said softly.

Johnny jerked his head up and blinked. “What is it, everything ok? Is Patches”

“Patches is saying things, I don’t know if she is delirious but she seemed like it was awful important to tell you.” Ella said as she watched Johnny jump up and move swiftly with her to Patches side.

By the time they reached Patches room she was quiet.

“What did she say?” Johnny asked.

Bill gave him a puzzled look. “She said Travis sees where Scarlet is going. Does it mean anything?”

Johnny rubbed his chin. “I don’t know.”

He picked up the cloth that Ella had been using and gently dabbed Patches forehead and cheek. She’d come to mean so much to him in such a quick time. Johnny always had a place in his heart for spitfires. He sort of grinned wondering what it would have been like if Patches and Scarlet really were sisters. He could only imagine having to chase after both of ‘em.

“Don’t you give up on me.” He said softly.

Patches reached for the voice, instead her hand landed on Bill’s arm. “Ring.” She said weakly.

“What?” Bill leaned closer to her.

“With ring.”

Bill, Johnny and Ella all exchanged puzzled looks.

Patches grew frustrated. In her mind she could hear herself asking full sentence questions but nobody seemed to understand.

“Travis sees…maps with ring. He watches….Bill…love you.” Patches hand slipped from Bill’s arm and she was out again.

Johnny had started to write down what she’d said, mumbling something about more damn codes he went back to his office.

A trail of men seemed to continuously stream in and out of the house all day long; some coming in for food, some for instructions. Sonny had followed Jimmy straight into Johnny’s office followed by Hank. The men working on the maps didn’t show themselves until they got the news on Patches.

Sonny had walked by the kitchen and stopped momentarily in the doorway. If anybody noticed the look on his face they would have seen sorrow but not shock. He’d seen plenty of Cutters work close up.

Sonny bowed his head and said a quiet prayer asking God to look after the young lady. Then he was heard to say a few more words in Comanche before he went back to Johnny’s office.

Hank spotted Marshal Ross standing over Patches as he went towards Johnny’s office. They had not had time to speak with all of the activities and he didn't even know how he was going to tell the man Rebecca hadn't made it to Sonny's, especially now. She could have been jumped by any outlaw but Hank figured it was a pretty safe bet it was Cutter's men.

Hank vaguely heard Johnny introduce Sonny to Tensleep as he stood looking at Rebecca's shotgun leaned against the wall. He was lost in his own thoughts.

After shaking hands with Sonny 'Sleep was just about to ask how they’d done redrawing the lost map. Before he could get the words out his eyes took in the shotgun against the wall.

"Hank..... where's 'Becca............ Hank?"

Hank's eyes fell on Tensleep. It took him a moment to realize the man was talking to him.

He handed the two shells they'd found to Tensleep. "Found these about five miles from Sonny's long with the gun." He pulled the letter from his vest and handed that to Tensleep. "She left this where she knew I wouldn't find it until later in the day. She was at the Ace for breakfast, but I don't remember seeing her after that."

"Awwwwwwwwww Gawd! Now they got 'Becca!" Tensleep just stood and shook with rage. Finally he gathered himself.

"I don't know what to say." Hank said softly.

"Nothin' to say Hank. Hell.... you couldn't have stopped her if you had known what she was gonna do. That is one strong willed woman. Never since I have known her have I seen anything that would scare her, but it looks like this sure has. It's really hard for me to believe."

Tensleep felt as if his world had turned upside down. He didn't know what to do or say. He was having feelings that he had never had before.

Tensleeps words made Hank feel a little better. "We all have things that scare us. Marshal, how can I help?"

"Hank.... I really need to know everything that you know about Scarlet..
an' now 'Becca... Everything, stuff that you know that they might not tell me. I need to know how they think so we can find them, and so we can get them back when we do. Please Hank?"

Hank looked a little puzzled. "You want to know about Scarlet I can help you some but you should be asking Bo. Becca...I can help you there.

Ya know Scarlet once told me the most important lesson Johnny taught her was not to expect others to do things you wouldn't do yourself. Becca's the same way. It shows in how they treat folks. The people that work for her. She treats them all the same, nobody is any better than somebody else. They are both liked and respected for that. Ask any of the men on the ranch about Scarlet they'll tell ya the same."

"How they think...I'm sure Becca took off because she didn't want to bring harm to anyone. You don't find anybody in that mountain if they don't want to be found. I don't know a lot about Cutter, only the things I've heard from hanging around Scarlet an them.

I'm pretty sure he'd not ride into a Comanche camp. That's where Rebecca was going..ta see her brother."

"Scarlet" He thought about it for a minute then he half smiled. "I often heard her say 'my fight, I'll choose the battle ground.'

Sleep that man has taken alot of things over the years from Scarlet. Loved ones, morals, the feeling of being safe.

I can tell you she's tired of him. For her to ride outta here without anybody. She means to kill him. Ain't no law gonna stop her this time. Law stopped her last time. I'm sure she's got some wanted poster says dead or alive on it. She covers herself that way." Hank waited for a response.

"Hank I don't care if she kills the whole damn bunch, what I know now, they deserve whatever they get. All I want is 'Becca, an’ Scarlet back here safe fast as we kin do it.

"If these deputies of mine don't kill tha Rowens then I will."

"Just don't get yourself killed in the process, or worse from what I understand captured. He's the type that enjoys what he does yanno.” Hank bowed his head thinking of Patches.

There was another one in the prison system. Don't rightly member his name. I'm sure Sonny does if it's not in your reports. Maybe you could find where he is and get the right person to get some information out of him." Hank half grinned.

“Harry Montgomery. That’s who you’re looking for; was Cutters right hand man. He was tried in El Paso the same time but sent someplace else to serve time.” Sonny said without looking up from what he doing.

When Scarlet regained consciousness her ears rang and she could feel the swelling on her chin; it took her a few minutes to figure out the world was black because they’d blindfolded her. She could feel an arm around her waist and judging from the large size of the horse and the smell of the man behind her it had to be Harry.

Scarlet wasn’t sure how long she’d been out or how far they’d ridden. She was cold and her clothes were still damp, maybe from the river maybe from the rain, but it had stopped raining.

She took a mental inventory of herself. Her hands were bound and tied to something. She thought for a moment.

Trying to make as little movement as possible to let her captors know she was awake she tried to feel what she was tied to; the saddle horn. Nice she thought, kept her from bailing off and running or trying to take control of the horse. She continued to think and thankfully decided nothing was broken.

They stopped once to let the horses rest. She could hear a stream and the breeze blew across what sounded like tall grass. Scarlet heard one of them comment on the field of blue. That didn’t help her figure out where she was, blue bonnets where everywhere.

The ground soon turned hard, in spite of the rain; the horses hooves made a hollow sound as the hit the ground, like they would on rock or a road that had been traveled heavily and packed down and the wind now blew through trees.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity of smelling the greasy foul odor mixed with blood they came to a stop. She heard the men dismount. Someone hurried up two wooden steps and through a door. Then she heard Josh’s voice and the man from the Ace?

“What the hell ya doing!!” Josh shrieked.

“I told you it’s what she does for a living. Get over it, ya won’t be her first.” Phil yelled back.

“Who else, who else has she been with?!”

“Can’t count that high.”

“Martha Ann you tell me he’s lying.”

It was faint but Scarlet was sure it was Rebecca’s voice. “Oh geez they had her too.” Scarlet thought.

“Your Martha Ann’s not been with anybody.” Then the voice got louder and Scarlet was sure it had to be Becca. “I’m so glad you’re home. He’s been making advances on me all day.”

Then the sound of two men fighting rang in Scarlet’s ears, the sound of gunfire made her jump.

“STOP IT” Cutter Growled as he holstered his gun.

Scarlet was untied and yanked off the big horse then the blindfold was removed.

Josh and Phil sat on the ground exchanging hateful looks. Rebecca stood on the porch in a wedding dress looking at Scarlet with fear on her face.

Josh looked up a Scarlet. “Who is that woman?” He gestured with his head towards Becca.

Scarlet shook her head in confusion. “Martha Ann?”

She could see the relief wash over Becca’s face.

Josh glared at Phil “Told you. Keep your paws off.” He said standing.

Cutter limped up to Scarlet. “I don’t care what you call her. If you misbehave, I’ll kill her, then I’ll kill the other one.”

Scarlet’s eyes darted around looking for someone she recognized. They fell on the blonde who stood in the doorway. She was relieved that it wasn’t one of her friends, then felt guilty for thinking that.

She looked around the landscape before she was shoved towards the house. The house seemed to sit in a circle of cliffs except at one point where the cliff almost looked broken; the place had two exits, the break in the cliff and the way they came in.

Then it dawned on Scarlet “beyond the field of blue lies the broken shoe. Egads! The broken shoe homestead.” It was a good day’s ride from the Starr.

The place had been abandoned for years. Old man Garrett died and left the place to a son that lived in the East. As far Scarlet knew the son had never come to live here. They had called it the broken shoe because the valley where the house sat was in the shape of a horse shoe, open at one end except for the broken part.

She had the place marked on her maps as a highly likely place for Cutter to come. How she wished she’d just told Patches where to find those maps.

“Ah Gawd Patches.” Scarlet felt ill as she thought about the scene at the river.

“Come on.” Cutter said pulling her into the house with the rest of the group.

He sat at the table and laid Scarlet’s gunbelt and gear he’d taken from her on it; then looked up at Scarlet. “I ought to do the same ta you.” He said looking down at his leg. “But instead you’re gonna stitch it up for me and if you’re not nice about it. I’ll have a discussion with my brother about who Martha Ann really is.

Phil is very knowledgeable about the company she’s been keeping lately.” He leaned towards Scarlet. “Cept I might put a little twist on reality and make up a few stories of my own.” Cutter smiled sinisterly.

When it came time for them to turn in for the night Cutter tied Jenny and Scarlet back to back with Jenny’s hands to Scarlet’s ankles and Scarlet’s hands to Jenny’s ankles.

He leaned down and kissed Scarlet on the cheek. “There are two guards in the house watching you at all times.”

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« Reply #42 on: January 13, 2005, 04:17:37 pm »

A cold wind blew desolaton through the deepest, darkest recesses of her mind. A darkness surrounded her, and the only thing she could hear was a steady throbbing beat.

Thump, thump...thump thump...weak but there.

On the table in the kitchen her body shivered. Dr. Bill leaned toward her, gently placing a hand on her arm. Ella turned from pouring yet another one of the hundreds of cups of coffee for Bill to look at her. Something was definately happening.

"Where am I?" Patches said. Bill glanced at Ella who shrugged.

"In the land of peace," an invisible voice answered her.

It was quiet here, but the darkness was too thick. And the silence surrounding the thumping was also too thick. She couldn't see a thing.

"Ssssshhhhhh...." that invisible voice, cold. "It is time to rest now."

Patches sighed. "Rest...."

"Yes. Rest. Sleep. You are safe here. Let the silence comfort you."

Silence never comforted her. She couldn't remember a time when silence made her feel safe. Nor dark either for that matter. Her head twitched on the table.

"It's dark here," she stated. Ella lit a lamp and brought it closer. Patches eyes moved back and forth rapidly under the lids.

Bill looked up at her. "Is she dreaming?"

Ella's face was set in an odd expression. She shook her head no, then reached for a cool cloth.

"The dark is soft, it covers you like a blanket. It is a good place. Just like the silence." The voice was starting to sound a tad bit patronizing.

"I hurt." She said.

"There is no pain in the dark, in the silence. Come with me into the dark."

The silence was getting thicker, suffocating the sound of the thumping. She strained to hear, but she caught another sound. Clop...clop. Hoofbeats? Here? She strained to see.

"Don't listen Baby Girl," a very familiar voice spoke. "The pains what lets you know yer still alive."

"Sarbuck?" Her eyebrows knitted together. "Yer dead."

"Ella. What's going on?" Bill asked.

"I believe she's delerious," Ella said, lifting her eyelids to check her eyes. The pupils dialated but there was no other movement. She was literally out cold--yet speaking too.

Sarbuck laughed. "Dead? Me? Never." Then she saw him partially materialize. Sitting there proud on the jet black stallion with the red glowing eyes. "Always lookin out fer you Baby Girl. Always have, always will."

The other voice hissed like an angry snake. "Don't listen to him. He is a demon. He will trick you. Come to me. I will keep you safe."

Patches looked at her brother. "I'm dying."

Bill's head snapped up and he took her hand in his.

"You are if you listen, Baby Girl," Sarbuck said.

"Ain't ready to die, Buck." She said.

Bill would have said something but his heart was stuck in his throat.

"Then don't, Baby Girl," Sarbuck said. "Reach out."

As if it were that simple. Right now she couldn't move.

"See? The pain is going away," the hissing voice spoke. "No more pain, no more feeling, no more emotion. Its safe here. Here in the dark, here in the silence."

Her body moved a bit on the table. "Who are you?"

"I am God," the voice seemed mocking now. "And it is time for you to come with me."

There was no way she would believe that heaven was filled with dark and silence. Her body shivered, she was so cold.

"He lies Baby Girl," Sarbuck said, the two dogs at his side materialized and began growling. "Reach out. Find Bill."

"You MUST come with ME!" The other voice close now in her ear yet loud as if it were yelling.

The thumping sound quickened a bit, became louder.

"Bill..." she said.

"I'm right here darlin," Bill whispered to her.

"Bill can't help you," the voice said. It felt suddenly as if tenticles had wrapped around her chest and began squeezing. She gasped for breath and was met by a sharp pain. "Bill cannot defy the word of God."

"Reach out Baby Girl!" Sarbuck said urgently as his horse stamped and the dogs began to howl.

"I can't breathe," Patches said haltingly. "Bill. Where are you?"

Bill placed his hand on the top of her head. "I'm here darlin. Right here!"

"Louder, Bill," Ella urged suddenly. "She can't hear you."

"Don't be afraid of the pain," Sarbuck encouraged. "Dark and silence are no place for you. Reach out!"

"Patches!" Bill said intently to her face. "I'm here darlin. Right here!"

"No! You will come with me!" The voice screamed, the tenticles gripping her tighter.

"NO! BILL!" Her head twisted toward him as if she were seeking him. Her whole body jerked. Her arm reached upward.

"Look for the light Baby Girl," Sarbuck said.

"There is NO LIGHT!" The other voice screetched.

Patches hitched trying to find a breath. "Bill, please..."

Bill grabbed her hand hard, placing his other hand on the back of her neck.

"Sit her up! She's choking!" Ella said as she helped Bill sit Patches up.

At the exact moment Bill grabbed her hand Patches heard a sound very similar to breaking glass. Shards of the darkness flew around her and she instinctivly ducked even as she felt her spirit core turn toward it.

There was the light. Not the bright light she was expecting, but a warm orange yellow light. Light like what would come from a lantern, a candle or a fire in a hearth.

"Patches hold on!" Bill urged as loudly as he dared in the silence of the room. "Come on Darlin, hold on!"

In the middle of the light was a figure. A head, neck shoulders, part of a torso, silohetted against the warm light. The light of comfort, of home, of safetly.

"Come on Patches! Take hold!" Bill's voice from the shadow. His arm reaching out.

"You cannot have her!" The voice screamed. "She is MINE. It is her TIME!"

"NO!" She screamed as well as her wounded throat would allow her. "Not today!"

"Grab hold, Baby Girl," Sarbuck said and she could hear the smile in his voice. "Bill's got you."

She looked up, saw the urgency on Bill's face, the dark wind blowing his hair across his brow, his glasses halfway down his nose, one strong arm reaching for her from above, the fingers of his large hand splayed, the other bracing himself on a jagged peice of broken darkness.


"Take hold, Patches!" He said to her his fingers working her hand. "I've got you!"

With every effort she could muster she reached up and grabbed his hand, hard, squeezing with all her might. In her mind he pulled her out of that deep hole, in the kitchen that was the precise moment she sat up and began coughing.

She threw her arms around Bill's neck. He slid her onto his lap sitting back in the chair at the same time. Ella was right there patting her back slightly until she coughed up whatever obstruction was in her throat.

"Patches?" Bill asked breathless while he cradled her.

"Don't...let go...please," she managed.

"Alright," he said with a smile. He'd never felt more like laughing in his entire life. "I'm here. I won't leave you."

She heaved a sigh, then groaned. Sarbuck was right. The pain let you know you were still alive.

After a few minutes she drifted off to sleep and Bill looked up at Ella.

"What just happened?" He whispered. Although he already knew he simply wanted confirmation.

Ella smiled. "I'd say you pulled her from the brink of death."

Marshal Ross cleared his throat, then said, "Ella, if you've got a few minutes, I need some information run down."

Ella turned to face him. "Patches doesn't need me right now, she just needs Bill to keep holding her hand. What information do you need?"

"Present whereabouts of Harry Montgomery from Cutter's gang."

"That name was in the records of Cutter's trial. Harry Montgomery was sentenced to ten years in Huntsville State Prison. I'll send the query out, but don't really expect any answer before morning," replied Ella. "By the way, did what Patches said earlier about 'Travis sees where Scarlet is going' make any sense to Johnny and Bo?"

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« Reply #43 on: January 16, 2005, 03:50:07 pm »

Originally Posted By Scarlet:

Johnny’s frustration grew, he tried not to show it but he wondered if Scarlet lay dead in the rain someplace. Hell maybe Patches hadn’t even caught up to her. He was impressed with the effort the men had put into recreating the maps. Unfortunately, they had approximate places. With approximates they could be a half a days ride one side or the other and not even know.

He had dozed at his desk in between trying to remember little details and checking on Patches.

Bo had done what he could and when he was no longer any help he picked up a small piece of paper and wrote on it. He remembered the question Tensleep had asked earlier and wrote it on the note.

Places where Scarlet goes alone.
He drew the barns of the Starr and some of her favorite horses stalls. In one corner of the paper he had put Devils Mountain. She used to go there a lot. He drew the high point on the ranch she liked to go. The big tree near the rose garden, the horse fountain…he put a little star next to that. She loved that thing, just like her mother.

He drew the trails she took the horses on to exercise them, the culvert she jumped along that trail, then looped down around the cemetery and home. He was getting to tired to think so he just started to doodle. Filling the small details in of the cemetery; his drawing wasn’t big enough to put people’s entire names on so he put initials. He finally laid the drawing on the floor and put his head back falling asleep.

“Johnny.” Ella said softly.

Johnny jerked his head up and blinked. “What is it, everything ok? Is Patches”

“Patches is saying things, I don’t know if she is delirious but she seemed like it was awful important to tell you.” Ella said as she watched Johnny jump up and move swiftly with her to Patches side.

By the time they reached Patches room she was quiet.

“What did she say?” Johnny asked.

Bill gave him a puzzled look. “She said Travis sees where Scarlet is going. Does it mean anything?”

Johnny rubbed his chin. “I don’t know.”

He picked up the cloth that Ella had been using and gently dabbed Patches forehead and cheek. She’d come to mean so much to him in such a quick time. Johnny always had a place in his heart for spitfires. He sort of grinned wondering what it would have been like if Patches and Scarlet really were sisters. He could only imagine having to chase after both of ‘em.

“Don’t you give up on me.” He said softly.

Patches reached for the voice, instead her hand landed on Bill’s arm. “Ring.” She said weakly.

“What?” Bill leaned closer to her.

“With ring.”

Bill, Johnny and Ella all exchanged puzzled looks.

Patches grew frustrated. In her mind she could hear herself asking full sentence questions but nobody seemed to understand.

“Travis sees…maps with ring. He watches….Bill…love you.” Patches hand slipped from Bill’s arm and she was out again.

Johnny had started to write down what she’d said, mumbling something about more damn codes he went back to his office.

Originally Posted by 1st Sgt Fritz King

A bit earlier that evening...

Fritz led Thunder back to his stall. The horse followed without argument. He took an old wool blanket and wiped him down. It came away covered in blood. Not great gouts of it...but enough. Only problem was, Fritz couldn't tell WHOSE blood it was.

He took the saddle off and hung it on the stall. Fritz took the battered can of salve down from a shelf, and began daubbing it on the small wounds that littered Thunder's legs. Ella said the stuff was "good for man or beast." In truth, he'd used it on a few of his own cuts too.

Fritz lifted each of Thunder's hooves, and inspected them for damage. He'd hoped to find bits of rock or clay; something, ANYTHING that might point him in the right direction. Unfortunately, his search was in vain.

Once done, Fritz forked over about half the horse's usual ration of oats and water. Thunder gobbled them down, and looked at him greedily.

"No, no...not right now. Let's have some time to settle down. Don't want you to get sick." Fritz brushed the horse for awhile.

" I'm talking to 'em."

"There are two possibilities," Fritz said to himself. "Either Scarlet's been captured...or...she's dead." The latter was too terrible to contemplate.

Patches and Scarlet were like sisters. There was no way she'd leave her while she still had fight in her. Although Patches wasn't as foul-mouthed as another frontier woman he'd known, she was just as tenacious.

"All right," Fritz replied. "Captured then."

He finished with Thunder and and headed to Strider's stall. He'd not removed the McClellan from the buckskin's back. Fritz checked the cirsingle, ensuring it was tight. The rain fell in torrents. If there had been any sign, it was long gone now.


Originally Posted by Patches McDuff

"Dagummit Buck!" Patches cursed as she threw the long grass from her mouth and into the bubbling water. "Why's everything gotta be so hard?"

She looked out over the creek, squinting in the Georgia summer sunlight. She could just barely see the back of Daddy's workshop through the trees.

"Where's the fun in that?" Buck said with a lopsided smile. "Ever'thin' bein easy?"

She looked at her brother, sitting there with his dogs. For as long as she could remember he'd always had two dogs.

"Yeah but Scarlets in trouble and I got information and I cain't seem ta git it out." She said picking up a pebble.

Sarbuck looked at her. "Anybody ever tell ya why Pop named ya Patience?"

Patches rolled her eyes. "Yeah. Cuz I kept'im outta the Gold Rush in '49. Heard that story hundreds'a times, specially when HE was losin patience."

Buck chuckled. "Yeah well that aint the whole truth. See cuz I was there when you was born."

She looked at him attempting to see his eyes through the dark glasses he wore. Glasses not unlike her own but instead of blue lenses like hers, his were pitch black. "So?"

He turned to face her for the first time. "So. You come outta Ma real quick like. Ya took one cough, looked around, then settled inta Pops arms."

She looked at the cabin again. "So?"

"So," He said looking out over the water again. "You always had patience. Was Pop that needed it." He smiled. "Now you need it too. Ever'thing happens fer a reason Baby Girl."

Patches sighed and tossed the pebble in the water. She watched the splash then the ripples. Then she watched the ripples get swallowed by the current of the water running around the rocks.

"So that's what I do? Get patient? Hurry up and wait?"

Sarbuck nodded. "Yep. Scarlets gotta chase her demons. We all got our demons."

Patches turned to him once again. "Like you Buck? Whoever that voice was before said you was a demon. Last I heard demons were evil. You aint evil, least not ta me."

"All demons are bad, Baby Girl," he said factually. "But not all demons are evil. I ain't never killed nobody what din't deserve it."

She reached over and put her hand on his arm. "You aint an angel?"

He tossed his own rock. "Nope. Just did what I had ta do ta make sure you made it through."

"Like now?" She grinned.

He grinned too. "Yep. Like now. Ever'body's got two roads ta follow."

"Whatcha mean?" She asked. He tapped her forhead with his fingers.

"Gitcher head outta that religion ya hold so dear an' remember whatcha learned from Little Skunk'n them. Theres a black road anna red road. I took the black road even though it was fer red reasons."

"Scarlet said sumpthin about that. I was supposed ta tell Johnny." She frowned, then looked at her older brother. "Did I?"

He shook his head once. "Nope. Not yet."

"Dang." Another frustration her condition wouldn't let her solve immediately.

There was silence for time then Patches stood and brushed the red clay from her tan canvas pants. "Reckon I gotta get back, ya think?"

Sarbuck stood too. "Reckon so. One more thing though."

She turned, shaking her head a bit because he should have been right behind her but now he was up on his horse and to her right. "Huh?"

"When ya talk next? Remember thet Travis is a ghost."

"Geez," she mumbled. "Ghosts and demons."

Sarbuck laughed as he began to fade. "Yep. We all got'em."

Patches heard the sound first. The steady scraping of metal on wood. A sound she was very familiar with and comforted by. Back in Georgia, where she had grown up, her father was a wood worker. He built furnature and cabinets and had even built their home in Blossom Creek. He was always scraping wood to prepare it.

She opened her one good eye. It was still dark, but there were sounds coming from all over the house.

"Bill?" She couldn't see him and turning her head was not an option. Way too painful for right now.

Originally Posted by Scarlet Angel

Patches squinted her eye. “Bo?” She whispered. He stepped closer, a coldness seemed to surround him as he looked down. Patches couldn’t remember when Bo had grown that mustache, how long had she been out? She didn’t remember his eyes being that blue either. When he spoke his voice was deeper with more of a drawl.

“The first battle is lost but don’t let the bastards win the war little sister.”

“Bill” she said a little louder.
Patches moved slightly. The whole side of her head hurt so much that it didn’t seem to matter that she couldn’t see out of that eye. If anything the rest of her hurt more; almost more than she could stand. If she had the energy she would have cried or screamed it hurt so much. She was on something soft though. She vaguely remembered Bill picking her up and carrying her somewhere. “Bill?” she weakly called again. It was very quiet. She could hear the big clock down the hall and for just an instant she thought she was alone.

“I’m right here darling,” she heard from somewhere to her right. There was the sound of an object being placed on a table and a chair creaking. He moved into her field of vision. The oil lamp next to her bed reflected off something. Bill was wearing both of his Remington pistols. “Strange,” she thought to herself. “Never wears those things anymore even when we’re going to town. “Patches?” she heard him ask again.

“Thirsty,” she finally managed to get out. Bill disappeared and then came back into her view a moment later. A few drops of cool water dribbled between her lips. It even hurt to swallow but the water was good. Patches opened her one good eye again. Bill was patiently spooning water from a cup to her lips.

“It’s nearly dawn,” he said. “You’ve been asleep for almost four hours this time. I thought you would sleep longer considering the shape…” he paused for a moment.

“Hurt too much.” Patches said. There was something she was supposed to tell Bill. Something Sarbuck told her.

“I was afraid of that, darlin’,” Bill said. “I can’t give you any buffered salicylic acid. I’ve tried that on myself enough to know it thins the blood and you don’t need that. I’m goin’ to give you some morphine. It’ll be bitter because I’m goin’ to mix it with water.”

He was right. It was terribly bitter. Patches cringed in spite of herself from the taste and her face hurt from the effort. Almost at once though she could feel the pain starting to ebb away. She still hurt but it was almost bearable. Bill leaned forward and gently kissed the right side of her face. “I’ll be right here as long as you need me,” he said. “I’ll never leave you as long as you need me.”

She was getting sleepy again. There was still something she had to tell Bill. Just as she was falling asleep again she remembered it. “Sarbuck says Travis is a ghost. Love you Bill,” and then she was asleep again.

Bill stood over Patches watching her for several moments and then reached into his pocket. Taking the rosary from it he hung it over the bedpost by Patches’s head and then sat down in the chair again and picked up the small leather pouch from the table. He placed a pinch of dried leaves in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. “Travis is a ghost”, he said to himself. Travis certainly was a ghost. Scarlet’s late husband had been dead for about five years. Scarlet had once said that he haunted the Southern Starr. Bill would have to think about that for a while. He picked up the cottonwood branch and knife and began carving again.

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« Reply #44 on: January 18, 2005, 09:43:18 pm »

Combined effort of 1st Sgt Fritz King and Scarlet Angel

Johnny had gotten all the words down verbatim. What Ella had said Patches said and what he had heard.

Bo and Fritz had woken up at the sound of Johnny leaving the room. They watched him walk back in. The looks on their faces told Johnny they feared he would bring back bad news.

“Patches is about the same.” He said handing the pad of paper to Bo. “Cept now she’s talkin’ to Scarlet’s ghosts too.”

Bo looked over the words thoughtfully. “I don’t ever member those maps having rings on them.”

Fritz had looked over Bo’s shoulder at the words but then the drawing on the floor caught his eye. He was started to think about the key he’d found. It had been in the barrel no more than six months, which meant she had to have put it in there sometime after they came from Arizona. They’d practically gone everywhere together since then. She had mentioned wanting to take him the high point Bo had marked on his map. The only other place she had been with out him was the cemetery. He wondered.

Johnny had the paper again and was trying to make sentences out of what Patches said.

Travis sees where Scarlet is going.

With the ring.

Travis sees the maps with the ring.

He watches Bill. Johnny scratched through Bill so it read Travis watches…

Travis sees the maps.

Johnny looked at Bo. “You guys checked behind any pictures didn’t ya?”

“Yep.” Bo replied.

It suddenly dawned on Fritz. "Quick! What the name of Travis and Scarlet's old ranch?"

Johnny seemed annoyed. "The C-Bar-C. Why?"

Fritz smiled. "We're looking in the wrong place!"

“That’s where she took the first set of maps from; the main house.” Bo sighed. “ And I looked in the spots I knew didn’t find anything. Unless yer thinking of the house they lived in together. I don’t think Scarlet will go back into that house Fritz.”

“I think he’s right Fritz. Scarlet gave that house to Bo. Told him if he didn’t want it to burn it to the ground.” Johnny said wishing Fritz was onto something.

"Damn it...what else would Travis see....Travis C?"

“Why don’t ya just ask ‘em. Hell that’s what Scarlet would say.” Johnny huffed as he got up to go fill his coffee cup. “That or one of them horses.” He was heard to mumble on his way out.

Bo narrowed his eye’s at Fritz. “What are ya’ thinking?”

"We've been thinking that Scarlet would've hidden the maps here, in this house. What if Scarlet hid them at the C-Bar-C? Are there any paintings or pictures of Travis over there?"

Bo sort of smiled. “There’s a painting there. If ya want to go for a ride we can go look.” Bo said doubtfully.

The two men walked towards the door, pausing in front of the kitchen. “We’re gonna take another look out at the ranch.” Bo said to Johnny.

“Good luck.” Johnny replied.

Out in the barn Bo pulled his saddle off the rack and started to saddle his horse.

“Why don’t you talk to me like Scarlet says ya talk to her.” Bo mumbled thinking of his brother. He pulled his coat around him as a cold wind blew through.

“You still got that key don’t ya’?” He called to Fritz.

“Yeah.” He heard Fritz reply over Dancer’s pacing. The bay gelding stopped at the gate of his stall and pressed his chest against then began to paw furiously.

Bo went over and put his hand on the horse’s nose. “Quit.”

Dancer stopped for a moment and when Bo turned his back he nipped and snagged Bo’s coat. Bo looked at the horse. “Bad.” He said pointing at the horse.

Dancer pinned his ears and raised his head then began to paw the railings finally rising up on his back legs he turned and ran out into his paddock spun around and ran back in. Bo was back at his horse tightening the cinch when Dancer began to paw at the gate again.

“He probably thinks it’s time to go and run, this is about the hour Scarlet was taking him out. I haven’t seen him act like that in a long time. Usually he’s WELL BEHAVED.” Bo said looking at the horse who was now ignoring him and pawing at the gate so hard he was beginning to break a fine sweat.

“What’s going on in here?” Jimmy’s voice echoed thorough the breezeway as he walked towards them.

Dancer stopped pawing, nickered and looked hopefully at Jimmy.

“He’s pissed about something.” Bo answered.

“He’s been in the stall to long, Patches is laying there with us all wondering if she’s gonna make to sunrise, Scarlet’s gone, he knows Bo.” Jimmy said as he took Dancer’s bridle off the wall.

The horse nickered and hung his head over the top rail so Jimmy could put his bridle on. “Take him instead of your horse you’ll get where you’re going faster.” Jimmy rubbed Dancers neck then opened the gate and led him over to Bo.

“Scarlet rides him again, you can too.” Jimmy said flatly.

Bo sighed, unsaddled his horse and put his gear on Dancer, then swung into the saddle.

“Lets go.” He said as much to Fritz as he did Dancer.

Dancer arched his neck and held his tail up making it look like a long black flag flying behind him as he loped through yard.

Bo noticed some of the ranch hands looking twice as he rode by. From the kitchen window Johnny stared, blinked his eyes and looked again. “Damn.” He mumbled.

“What is it?” Tensleep said looking out the window.

“I’m seeing ghosts too.” Johnny replied.


"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 #45 on: January 22, 2005, 10:48:21 am »

Combined effort of Fritz & Scarlet

Bo and Fritz rode towards the main ranch house of the C-C. They had gone halfway when Bo pulled Dancer to a stop and looked up the road that led to the house Scarlet had lived in with Travis.

“All my instincts say no, but we are here we might as well be sure.” Bo said turning down the road.

Stopping at the three room ranch house the men dismounted, tied their horses to the rail, then stepped up onto the porch. The porch was covered in dust, showing signs that no one had stepped there in along time.

Bo pushed the door open and looked in. The house that was once filled with laughter and warmth stood cold and empty. A thin layer of dust evenly covered the inside.

Bo stepped in and went to the window pulling back one of the curtains to let in the light. He remembered coming back with Scarlet once or twice to get a few things after Travis’s death and judging from the layer of dust in the place they were the last ones to have been here.

Fritz stepped in behind him and looked around. The house whispered with the sounds of once-happy voices. Such voices never completely died away. The house could've used a woman's touch. But since he began riding with his posse, he wasn't quite sure what that meant anymore.

Bo walked to the first room and opened the door. The same layer of dust was all over everything. Fritz could see a picture of a woman with long hair draped over her shoulder on the dresser. Bo looked at her for a moment, smiled a bit sadly and closed the door.

“I used to live here too, after she died. I don’t know what I would have done without Scarlet at the time.” He said quietly.

Bo pushed open the next door. The light danced across the carved wooden ponies hanging above the crib. The same thick layer of dust on everything and no foot prints saying anyone had been here.

“Thought the trips down memory lane were supposed to be good ones.” He mumbled going to the next door and pushing it open.

“I guess my instincts were right, nobody’s been here. But now we can say we looked.” Bo said looking into the room that Scarlet and Travis had shared.

A picture on the dresser caught his eye. He walked in and picked it up.

Blowing the dust off he carried the picture back into the main room looking at it.

He showed it to Fritz. “This was taken not to long after they moved in.”

Fritz looked at the picture. It was a picture of what he thought at first was Bo standing behind Scarlet with his arms wrapped around her taken in front of the house.

He was about to ask why there were pictures of Bo with Scarlet but he hadn’t seen any of Travis yet when Bo turned on his heel and went out the door. He stood back looking for something.

The picture had been taken of Scarlet and Travis near the front of the porch. But there was something different; something was missing from the front of the house that was in the picture.

Bo held the picture out as Fritz approached him. “What’s missing?”

Fritz studied it for a moment “What happened to the stone?” He asked pointing to the large stone leaned up against the corner of the house in the picture. “And what is written on it?” He said looking closer trying to make out the writing.

“It’s the C bar C brand. Travis painted it on that stone the day we finished building the house. I member pop let him pick the name of the ranch when we moved out here. He told us the ranch would be ours someday to share. Travis chose the C bar C because it was the initials of both our last name er something like that.”

“Travis C’s” Fritz thought unaware he’d said it out loud.


“Where’s the stone now?”

“In the cemetery someplace.”

“She wouldn’t have put the maps in Travis’s tomb would she?” Fritz was almost afraid to ask thinking it would be a bit macabre.

Bo half grinned. “Maybe if he was in a tomb and maybe if she didn’t want to ever get it out, but Travis is buried up on the hill.” He pointed to the top of the knoll.

Bo and Fritz mounted up and rode to the top of the hill. Dismounting they walked to the gates of the small cemetery. In some places, it would've been called a 'family plot.' Fritz put his hand to the gate and pushed. It moved freely enough, but screamed in protest. It swung on its hinges, sounding like a wounded animal.

Fritz removed his slouch, letting it hang on its stampede strings. Bo thought it a bit odd, but followed suit. He stood before the stone. Its granite face was a bit worn, but shone with care. It read:

"Here Lies Travis Corbin...Beloved Husband and Father."

Fritz turned, with the stone to his back. In the distance was the mountain.

"Travis sees where she's going..."

Bo turned and looked. He’d been here plenty of times, but never really looked at the surroundings. You could see the Starr from here, Devil’s mountain, turning the other way you could see what Scarlet sometimes referred to as Heaven or the high point, from which you could see almost everything.

Devil’s mountain. No doubt she was headed there. She would feel safe there, would be a place she could gather her thoughts. Bo thought to himself.

“There’s got to be more to it than that.” He said turning back to the grave stone. He walked over to the small circle of stones, kneeled down and looked at it. “She used to sit leaned up against the back of that headstone for hours sometimes; would build a fire when it got cold. Dancer would stand under that..” Bo looked up to see the bay horse standing under the big tree just outside the fence his head dropped, his eyes closed and his back leg cocked resting on the tip of his hoof. He was and entirely different animal than what had left the stables.

Bo stood and turned back around to face Fritz. His eyebrows knitted together as he looked at the back of the headstone and he half smiled. “So that’s where she put it.”

“What’s that?”

Bo pointed to the stone that was mounted in the back of the headstone. “That stone that was in the picture. It’s right there.”

Bo and Fritz locked gazes. “You don’t think?” Bo said with disbelief.

"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 #46 on: January 26, 2005, 03:44:49 pm »

Combined effort of Fritz & Scarlet

Bo and Fritz stood behind the headstone looking at the stone with the C-C painted on it.

“Travis C’s” Fritz said.

“With the ring… Scarlet once told me she gave her ring back to Travis. I didn’t know what to think at the time…It can’t be hollow can it.” Bo said looking at the headstone.

Fritz looked it over. The slab on the front was one piece; the back had been built to incorporate the stone with the brand on it.

“There’s not anything in any of those stories that tells us how to open it is there?” Bo asked seriously.

Fritz kneeled behind the stone, and tried to think of all the things he read and heard about. Nothing helped. So he asked God.

"Dear Lord, someone I love is in great danger, and I ask you, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, to help me in my quest. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit...Amen"

He'd crossed himself without thinking.

"It can't be that easy...can it?"

Fritz pressed the top of the stone, then the center, then the left and right sides. With a click, the face of the stone swung down on well-oiled brass hinges.

Bo whistled. "The Lord DOES work in mysterious ways!"

Frit peered cautiously inside the dark hole trying to see inside.

“Ya thinking there’s some kinda trap in there.” Bo chuckled thinking Fritz was smart to be cautious.

“I wouldn’t put it past her.” Fritz said looking around for something to stick in the hole besides his hand.

Bo picked up a stick and handed it to him then stood back and to the side.

Fritz stood to the side and ran the stick around the inside of the opening. The two men almost looked surprised when nothing happened.

Fritz moved a little closer putting the stick in deeper he felt something. Using the stick he tapped it, it made a metallic hollow sound. Just as both men smiled they heard the unmistakable sound of rattlers. Fritz jerked his hand out as he jumped back.

“You ok?” Bo asked looking suspiciously at the opening.

“Yeah.” Fritz said taking a deep breath.

“Something ain’t right.” Bo said looking at the headstone that now sat quiet.

”Really.” Fritz said somewhat sarcastically.

Bo chuckled. “If we were diggin’ round in one of Jimmy’s or Johnny’s hiding places, I wouldn’t put my hand back in there for anything, but this is Scarlet, and if there’s one thing I know about Scarlet is she has about the same amount of love for snakes as I do. If she wanted to retrieve something from here she wouldn’t be puttin’ no snake in there.”

Bo found a longer stick. “Just in case I’m wrong.” He said as he went back to the headstone and placed the stick inside. Moving it very slowly he heard the slow rattle, the sound of the rattle matched the speed of how fast he swept the stick around. Bo half grinned and fished around a bit more hooking the rattles he pulled them out. The rattles were tied to a piece of horse tail and hung just above the small metal strong box.

Bo took a deep breath hoping he knew Scarlet as well as he thought as he reached in and lifted out the box.

“I bet that key fits this.” He said handing the box to Fritz.

"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 #47 on: February 03, 2005, 08:00:03 am »

It was nearly 8:00 in the morning when Ella looked in on Patches. What she saw made her smile in spite of the worries about Patches’s condition and the unknown whereabouts of Scarlet. Bill had pulled his chair close to the bed and had gone to sleep sitting in it with his head lying on his crossed arms next to Patches. Though she was asleep as well, the fingers of her right hand grasped one of Bill’s hands and she seemed to be resting comfortably for the moment.

Ella stepped into the room and the floor creaked slightly under her foot. Bill opened one eye to look at her but didn’t move otherwise. “I thought I would check on the two of you and see if you might want some coffee or breakfast,” she said as she crossed the room and placed her hand on Patches’s forehead. “No fever,” she commented. “And she does seem to be sleeping well. “Did you give her anything?” she asked looking at Bill.

Bill had carefully placed Patches’s hand on the bed and was stretching. There were several noticeable “cracks” as he did so. “Only half a grain of morphine,” he said as he stood up from the chair. “Given what I estimate her weight to be it should have been just enough to dull the worst of the pain without puttin’ her in a stupor.” He reached for the small leather bag sitting on the bedside table but stopped when Ella “tut-tutted” and picked the pouch up before he could reach it.

“I’ll let you know if anything happens. Why don’t you go get a bite of breakfast and change shirts? Anyway, I want to check Patches’s bandages in a little while and I think I can take care of that by myself.” Bill started to protest but Ella had already taken over the chair and opened a book to read while she sat with Patches. In any case, Bill noticed that Ella did not seem inclined to give the leather bag of cocoa leaves back to him right now so he might as well find something else to do for a while.

The kitchen was empty but there was still a pot of coffee on the stove and from the smell it was not too old. He poured a cup and sat there looking out of the window. The sky was still darkly overcast but it was not raining as it had nearly all the previous night. He knew he should be worried about Scarlet but right now all his thought were with Patches as she lay in the bedroom down the hall. Bill refilled the coffee cup and wandered out the door toward his adobe cabin and laboratory.

It was cold and the wind was blowing but he didn’t notice. He had made a terrible mistake. After months of staying near the ranch he had forgotten how dangerous this job truly was. In an analytical way he realized that, but when he spent most of his time either at the workbench or picking through the scene of a crime long after the violence had occurred he became removed from the hazards of the job and had forgotten that he, and the people he loved, could be affected by it.

He walked through the door of his adobe house and straight into the hallway that lead to the workshop on the other side of the berm. After pulling the chains to open the skylights and then turning the polished tin reflectors on the roof to gather as much of the meagre sunlight as possible, he lit a few of the carbide lamps, started a fire in the stove and set to work.

He laid the cottonwood branch on the workbench across the room from his desk. He had carved the wood into rough shape the previous night but now he wanted to put some finishing touches on it. With a thin-bladed coping saw he removed the top portion of what was now obviously a walking cane and mounted it on the lathe using an eccentric chuck. After making sure that the boiler and steam engine outside the other end of the lab was running well, he pushed the drive belt from the lathe into place with a long wooden pole and started working on the spinning wood.

Normally, this was a time for him to relax and clear his mind. It was one of the few pursuits he could enjoy without “spoiling it by thinking too much” as Patches frequently accused him of. But that was the problem. Right now all he could think of was Patches and how close she had come to dying because he wasn’t there when she needed him. He stopped and looked at the wood. It was nearly done now. He would glue the pieces of cherry and ebony inlay in place later and then reattach the handle this evening. Patches wouldn’t need it for a few days at least. If she ever… He stopped the thought before it was finished. He had to make sure he didn’t fail her again. He placed the chisel aside next to the lathe and quickly walked to the cabinet that held several firearms in various states of repair.

It was after lunch when he finished. The two shotguns he had started out with had been cut down to a bare six inches of barrel and the pistol grips. The hammers had been severely bobbed as well. The thumb-rests were completely removed leaving only a semicircle of metal to strike the firing pins. “Have to create some lighter loads for these things” he mused to himself as he looked at the two guns. He might not be the fastest or most accurate but with something like this any shot that was even close to being on target would end a fight in a hurry. Now, if he could just get someone to design a harness rig to hold all this hardware.

Originally posted by Scarlet Angel

Combined effort of Fritz & Scarlet

Bo reached back into the opening, feeling around he pulled out a few loose papers setting on the stones wondering if they were notes that may help in their search. He unfolded the first one and looked at it.

He recognized Scarlet’s handwriting; she used to come here a lot to talk to ‘em he remembered. He frowned as he read the first few words.

There’s nothing I know to say except I am sorry. I guess I wasn’t very good at keeping our baby safe.

Bo stopped there and unfolded the next one.

They follow me at a distance; I know they are afraid I will take my life like Connie did. Some days I wish I could.

He took a deep breath remembering how he and Jimmy would take turns watching her. They thought she never knew, he continued to look through the notes to see if there was anything that would be informative.

Some of the notes told Travis she loved him and were full of guilt of what had happened. Some of them talked about significant things that had happened over the years. He smiled when he read Bo has been my shoulder to lean on. I don’t know what I’d do without him. Bo opened the last one, he recognized the date as the day of the party Rose had when the posse signed on with the new Marshal.

I know it’s been sometime. I’ve been away for awhile. You know how I like a good adventure. I’ve found a new family, you would like them.

I have fallen in love again too, which after the past few years I was sure would never happen.

Bo read the next line then folded it up. He stepped over to where Fritz was kneeled down looking at the contents of the box.

He tapped Fritz on the shoulder and held out the folded paper.

He didn’t know if he should be giving it to Fritz, hell he probably shouldn’t have read what he did. They were her personal thoughts, but sometimes folks should say things to one another and Bo really didn’t know how often Scarlet had told Fritz her feelings or if she did. She’d managed to shut people off from that side of her along time ago and until recently if you didn’t know her well you weren’t welcome to knock on the door she’d locked them behind.

“It’s sumthin’ Scarlet wrote not long ago, you may or may not want to read it.” Bo said.

Fritz held the note for a long time. He wanted very badly to read the words inside. But he remembered all the times he'd packed up the belongings of his dead troopers. Fritz had to read their letters and journals. He scoured the contents just to make sure there was someone back east to send the traps to. So many times those possessions just sat in his office, collecting dust. Someone would throw them away one day...

But not Fritz.

"She's still alive," he insisted. "And I won't stow her gear until she's dead. I won't let her die, Bo."

He put a hand on the old soldier's shoulder.

"I know," Bo said. "So, what's in the box?"

Originally posted by Elegant Ella

Patches woke up while Ella was changing her bandages.

"How are you feeling, Patches? " she asked.

"Finer than frog hair, but mebbe not split. Thirsty," Patches answered. "Where's Bill?"

"I sent him off to eat while I change your bandages. I confiscated his cocoa leaves, so he might fall asleep if he lets himself relax. He watched over you all night, and is pretty worn out," answered Ella while she fetched a cup with a straw and held it to Patches's mouth.

Patches sipped from the cup for a minute, then drifted back to sleep. Ella finished changing the bandages, then went down to the kitchen.

Rose asked, "How is she?"

"Sleeping. I think she'll be hungry the next time she wakes up," answered Ella, putting a pot on the stove to start some broth cooking.

Once the broth was simmering, Ella went looking for Bill and found him in his laboratory looking at the oddest firearms Ella had ever seen. "Patches IS going to recover, Bill. But you are not going to do her any good by fretting yourself into a fever."

Originally posted by 1st Sgt Fritz King

Fritz folded the paper up and put it in his vest pocket. He'd give it back to Scarlet once they'd found her. If she wanted to tell him what was on it, it was her business.

The key fit smoothly into the lock. With an audible click, the lid popped open. Inside the box was a leather-covered binder, and some papers tied with a piece of latigo.

"Must be the maps," Bo said. "We'd better get them back to the Star."

In the bottom of the box was a simple gold band. Fritz touched it, and looked at the stone. He closed the box, and slipped it back into the compartment.

"This belongs to you sir," Fritz said, closing the trap.


Bill leaned on the workbench and closed his eyes as Ella watched. He did not speak for several moments. “I’m sorry,” he said as he removed his glasses and placed them on the bench. “I just can’t give up feeling that I should have been there with her. Patches may be awfully independent natured, and I love her for it, but…” He let the sentence trail off.

“Bill, Patches has made it through nearly the first twenty-four hours without any sign of a fever and she just had some more water and spoke to me for a moment before she went back to sleep.” Bill started to say something but Ella stopped him. “Now, why don’t you let me help you shut things down here and then you can come back to the main house and try to take a nap in the other guest room across the hall from where Patches is convalescing. After that, Patches might be awake and you can apologize to her if you feel that you really need to.”

Bill slowly put his glasses back on and with Ella’s assistance closed the shutters over the skylights and put out the carbide lamps. Together they walked back to the ranch house as the sky began to darken in the West. Just before stepping into the guest bedroom Bill stopped and turned around. “Ella, I don’t know if anyone has said this enough but, thank-you. I sometimes don’t know what the rest of us would do without you. I don’t know if I can sleep or not but I’ll just lay down for a while.” Ten minutes later when Ella walked back down the hallway, Bill was sound asleep on the bed.


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« Reply #48 on: February 03, 2005, 08:00:50 am »

Originally posted by Scarlet Angel

Scarlet’s eyes flew open as she felt his touch on her breast. “You’re either braver or stupider than I thought.” She hissed as she glared at him.

Cutter leered at her. “You seem to be harmless in the position you’re in.”

“You’ve called me a witch for years; I’m surprised you’d touch me.” She smirked.

“What you going to do to me?” He chuckled.

Scarlet thought a moment, she knew she’d not cleaned the cut before she sewed it up, and she’d not cleaned the blade after she’d gutted the rabbit for dinner the night before. If she was right the wound in his leg should be red, sore and inflamed by now.

“I’ve been cursing your rotten soul for along time, but last night you let me touch you.” She rolled her eyes and chuckled.

Cutter narrowed his eyes at her. His leg was sore but he had figured it was from the stitches and the cut, like all the cuts he’d had before.

“What’d ya do?”

“If you’re lucky there’s no red streaks, if there are your time is limited, curse is headed towards yer heart, if not you may only get gangrene.”

Cutter stood up and backed away unbuttoning his union suit as he did. He pulled the garment down until he could see his leg. The area was bright red, puffy and weeping. A small red line ran up and down his leg. He gingerly touched the inflamed area, suddenly aware of how sore it really now was.

Cutter pulled up his union suit and glared at her.

“What did you do to me!” He stepped forward and kicked her in the stomach.

Normally a blow like that would have doubled her over but in the position she was tied she couldn’t bend over. Scarlet closed her eyes and gasped.

“Go ahead, you hurt me to bad and I won’t be able to help you even if I wanted to.” She choked.

Cutter leaned over and untied the two women. “You’re gonna fix it now.” He growled at Scarlet.

“and you’re gonna make me something to eat.” He spat at Jenny.

Rebecca followed Josh into the room.

Scarlet was glad to see her still in the white gown and wondered how long she’d be able to put him off. They had to get away.

Cutter’s words interrupted her thoughts. “You’re going to tell Martha Ann how to fix my wound. I don’t think I’m going to take the chance of you touching me again.”

He turned to Phil. “Take somebody, ride into El Paso and find out what’s going on.”

Phil went out the door taking one of the others with him.

“Tell her how to fix it.” Cutter said flatly eyeing Scarlet.

Scarlet told Rebecca how to make a charcoal poultice using the burned wood from the fire and boiled water. She then instructed Cutter to change it a couple times a day. “It should be better in about four days.” Scarlet said as he watched Rebecca tie Scarlet’s hands to her feet, at least this was more comfortable than she was before.

“I’ve seen that work and I’ve seen it fail.” Rebecca whispered.

“It will help with the oozing and I hope we’ll be long gone by the time we know if it’s going to work or not.” Scarlet said softly.

Cutter dressed then came and sat next to Scarlet.

“Such passion burns in your eyes.” He half smiled. “Who is it for?” He said as he pulled the ring off of her finger and examined it.

“Don’t confuse the passions of love with blood lust for you.” She growled.

He looked at the yellow cord weaved through her hair. “Oh come now, there’s someone, I’m going to guess a soldier by the looks of this.” He leaned back and took the barrette out of her hair that held it up.

She watched closely as he laid it on the floor between them, relieved he’d not looked too closely at the piece that held the fancy wire in place.

Cutter ran his hand along the long braid.

“Taking chances again?” She said with a glare.

“Come on Angel, who’s the man who has your heart?” Cutter said as he started to take the cord out of her hair.

“You cut my heart out along time ago, I buried it with my husband. You just haven’t been man enough to manage to take my life.” She had a few other choice things she thought about saying. Things about being a man after seeing him wander around half naked but decided to hold her tongue for now.

“Phil says he’s a Yankee soldier, rides with the new marshal.”

“How well do you know the group of men I ride with?”

Cutter raised an eyebrow “Why?”

“Really” she rolled her eyes and snorted “how close do you think they’d let a Yankee to me?”

“Then what’s this?” He pulled the cord from her hair and held it out towards her.

“I’ve been known to take a few souvenirs now and then. Yellow cords, belt buckles, sometimes the entire head.” She smirked as she looked him in the eyes.

Cutters eyes flashed anger. He stood, walked to the table and sat down laying the things he’d taken from Scarlet in front of him. He stared at them thinking about what she’d said, wondering if Phil had been mistaken in his information.

Phil couldn’t be wrong, but Scarlet had only been back for a short while. Phil had told him stories of her spending time alone with the bartender, dancing with the man who folks said was her brother in law, would a man who she was engaged to tolerate such behavior, he wasn’t sure.

Cutter looked over the table at Scarlet. “Who’s the big man you spend time with?”

“Who do you mean?”

“The one they call you’re brother in law.”

“Well that would be my brother-in-law.” She said sarcastically.

“He looks just like the one I killed.” Cutter grinned.

Scarlet shot him a confused look. “No he doesn’t, you seein’ ghosts through him or something?”

Scarlet held a straight face but on the inside she was grinning ear to ear. She could tell by the look on Cutter’s face she had him spooked and questioning himself now.

“What about this Marshal you’re working for?”

“Ya seein’ ghosts through him too?” Scarlet retorted.

“Which one of you he sleeping with, Phil says it’s her.” He glanced Rebecca’s way.

Scarlet rolled her eyes and turned her head. “If Phil is so knowledgeable ask him.”

Josh’s head snapped up and he looked around. “What do you mean she’s sleeping with the Marshal, I thought that was her job.” He said gesturing with his chin towards Scarlet. “Or is it the army?”

Cutter chuckled at the comment. “Martha Ann been sleeping with the Marshal, Angel been sleeping with the army, keep up.”

Josh bolted out of his chair sending it tumbling across the floor. “What Marshal! You said you’d wait for me while I was away.”

He grabbed the poker from the fireplace and went after Rebecca.

Rebecca tried to evade him but one of the other men standing around caught her by the wrists as Josh swung at her side sending her to her knees.

Rebecca pulled her wrist away quick enough to block the next blow with her arm.

Josh raised the poker again.

“STOP IT JOSH YOU’RE GONNA HURT HER!” Scarlet’s voice held a tone of anger and authority at the same time.

He wheeled around glaring at Scarlet. “Why shouldn’t I?. She’s been cheating on me!”

“It’s not Martha Ann sleeps with the Marshal.” Scarlet was trying to think fast, bits and pieces of conversations with Trixie racing through almost forgotten memories.

“If it’s not her, like Phil and Kevin say then who is he bedding?” Josh’s eyes held a crazy look that nearly unnerved Scarlet.

“Rebecca….Marshal sleeps with the whore that runs the Ace of Hearts, Rebecca Valentine.”

All eyes were on Scarlet even Rebecca’s.

Cutter had leaned forward. This is gonna be interesting he thought to himself.

Josh stepped closer to Scarlet. “They been saying she’s Rebecca.” He gestured towards Becca with the poker.

“That’s Martha Ann, your Martha Ann..she promised to wait for you before you left for the war.” Scarlet said frantically

“How do you know?”

“She told me..she told me you were the only one she loved and she’d wait forever for you.”

“How do I know she’s not the whore?” he growled.

Scarlet hoped she knew Rebecca as well as she thought as she spoke. “Your Martha Ann would never wear the kinda clothes Rebecca would. What was she wearing when they brought her to you?”

Josh thought a moment. “What kind of clothes would Rebecca wear?”

“Corsets she wears corsets even to church, and lace lots and lots of lace.”

Josh turned and looked at the woman on the floor with her feet tucked under her holding her arm. “She was wearing one of those skirts you ride in and a button up top, made of some heavy weight material.”

“No corset, on the outside anyway or lace where someone could see?”

“No.” Josh mumbled letting the poker slide out of his hand and bounce on the floor.

He went back over to Becca and kneeled down taking her hands in his. “I’m sorry Martha Ann. Will you forgive me?”

“I forgive you Josh, I love you how could I not forgive you. You were only doing what you thought best.” Rebecca sighed.

Josh helped her to her feet. “Are you hurt?”

Rebecca shook her head slowly up and down. “Will you let Scarlet look at me and make sure nothing is broken? She is good with that kind of thing and I am unfit for you to look upon.”

Cutter chuckled and shook his head back and forth. “Very good Angel, very well played. Look at her wounds, but if you try anything I will beat her to death myself.”

Josh narrowed his eyes at his brother as he untied Scarlet. “If you misbehave I’ll beat you.” He whispered to Scarlet.

The two women disappeared into the bedroom. Jenny tried to follow but Cutter called her back.

In the bedroom Scarlet looked at the bruises while she told Becca what she could remember of the girl Martha Ann.

“I don’t think you broke anything but you’re going to be sore. Ella would have ointments for stuff like this, everything I had was in my saddlebags.” Scarlet said as she pressed on Becca’s ribs.

“I seen Lucky. When they brought you in, he was skirting the tree line.”

“Thank the Gods.” Scarlet said “I don’t think he was hit, Cutter took a shot at him. Least I got some extra gear and a ride outta here if he’s ok.”

Before they walked back into the main room of the house Becca told her Jenny’s husband was the son of the man who used to own the place. They were new to frontier living and were looking forward to the adventure.

“Damn” Scarlet snorted.

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« Reply #49 on: February 03, 2005, 08:03:23 am »

Originally Posted by Patches McDuff

"Damn," Patches mumbled. She heard the door open and soft footsteps coming in the room. That could only be Ella.

A soft touch to her forhead. "What 'damn'?" Ella said kindly.

"Hurts." Patches mumbled as her hand drifted to her midsection. "Like a knife." So far she hadn't even opened her eyes much preferring to listen to see.

"Hmmm," Ella said. "And no wonder too with all those broken ribs. It's a miracle you didn't puncture a lung."

Patches attempted a half snort. "Wadn't me that broke ribs. Was the fella with the silver tipped boots."

Ella raised an eyebrow at that comment and made a mental note to tell the Marshal. Now she had to venture into another territory even though she really didn't want to.

"Patches?" She asked softly as she held the morphine laced water.

"Hmm?" Patches returned as she swallowed. She grimmaced but didn't complain about the taste. Whatever that stuff was it made the pain go away and sleep come. She'd been having some pretty interesting dreams since Bill had given her the first dose. They were kinda neat, what with Sarbuck and Travis being in them and all.

"What happened to Scarlet?" She held her breath. The last thing she wanted to do was upset Patches but she had to find out something.

"They took her." Patches said her eyebrows knitting together as if she were trying hard to recall every last detail.

"You mean kidnapped?" Ella asked. Patches nodded.

"Stunned her. Picked her up. Went away." The morphine was already doing its job. Suddenly her thoughts were all jumbled. "West I think." She said after a moment. "Might have been east. No sun to tell. Where's Bill?"

"In the other room resting. Right across the hall." Ella said softly brushing Patches's hair. "Do you want me to get him?"

"Is it lunch time?" Patches asked seemingly on a whole different subject.

"Not quite but are you hungry?"

Patches head nodded once. "Wanna take lunch with Bill," she said even as she drifted off. "Cuz we do"

Originally posted by Elegant Ella

With Patches and Bill both asleep, Ella decided she had time to check the telegraph office. She had heard the key chattering when she went out to check on Bill.

She lit a lamp and pulled the strip from the graphite key. It looked like several messages had come during the day. Sitting down with a sheet of paper, she transcribed them.

Harry Montgomery sentenced to 10 years at Huntsville State Prison.
Huntsville Prison and inmates leased to Ward, Dewey Co. of Galveston.
Harry Montgomery leased to Lake Jackson Plantation.
Montgomery went missing from Lake Jackson Plantation March 20.

Ella thought some of the words that would never pass her lips, and took the flimsy in to the Marshal's office.

Originally Posted by Scarlet Angel

Cutter watched Scarlet and Rebecca enter the room. Why couldn’t women just behave and do as they were told. He thought to himself. Like horses, if their rider was killed they just accepted the new one, happy with whoever gave them their next meal.

He watched Scarlet bend down, pick up the barrette he’d taken out of her hair earlier and put her hair back up. There was something he liked about her. Was it the fire that burned in her soul? The fact she was more dangerous to him than anybody he’d ever known? She’d kill him first chance she had, he knew that. Even now as they looked at one another he could tell she was figuring her next move. She knew how to get to him. Maybe there was something to be said about a woman who had a mind of her own. He smiled, he’d break her one way or another, she was a challenge, maybe that’s what he liked the most.

“Why didn’t just kill me back there? You could have you know.” Scarlet said dryly.

She was looking his way but deciding what her odds at getting her knife back. No doubt it would be a distraction and the two of them would probably go rolling across the floor trying to kill one another. With the men that were standing around, Josh in the equation, the odds were not good for Becca to get out, worse for Jenny. At least Rebecca would fight or run, Scarlet wasn’t sure about Jenny.

“You’re my ticket to wherever I want to go. Those men that ride with you, they’re not gonna let anything happen to ya. My guess is if I tell them to jump, they’ll ask how high to keep you alive. Then…..I can kill em one by one and watch you suffer.”

Cutter smiled and moved slightly back from the knife as he put his hand on his own.

“Those men that ride with me. They will kill you without mercy if I don’t first. If they think I am suffering they will kill me.”

Cutter chuckled. “I have observed them well enough to know better than that. Trade their lives for yours, yes, like you would them. Kill you, I think not.”

“Longknife I finally figured out he’s your father. Kill men, he would without a second thought, kill his own daughter, no.”

“Bo Corbin, the man has spent more time stitching you back up and covering your ass than I can count. There’s a loyalty there, his life for yours…absolutely…put a bullet in you..I doubt it.”

“Then there’s your ghost, James Bradbury. Kill his own brother, they say he did that. Hell woman we used to tell spook stories round the campfire during the war about the man they called the Confederate Ghost. I believe if either one of those other two raised the gun to shoot you James would kill them.”

“Then there’s the soldier you deny having feelings for. Love does crazy things ta folks..look what it done ta you. How long you been chasing me because I killed the one you loved? You would have shot yourself before you shot him. I suspect that soldier is cut from similar cloth Scarlet or you wouldn’t have looked twice at him.”

“Marshal JB Ross, I’m guessing my ticket to freedom with him is having both you women. If that ain’t enough them other four men will keep him in line. I’ve seen it before you know. Done it enough times ta know.”

“Oh wait lets not forget the scientist guy. He’s probably gonna shoot some gaseous thing at me. Course again, there’s you and Reb..Martha Ann. He’s got five against him gonna keep you ladies safe.”

“And I’m not letting any woman posing as a doctor within miles of me. Mite slowly kill ‘em all off though. The red head put up a good fight, she was tough. You always surround yourself with interesting people.” He grinned at his analogy while Scarlet looked at him in disgust.

She hated talking to him, was still trying to figure out the pleasure he got from talking to her. The only benefit was getting deeper into his mind, and frankly she was in as deep as she wanted to go.

“At least she went down fighting, not on her knees begging.” Scarlet snorted.

Cutter tried his best to ignore the last remark.

“When’s the last time you heard from my loving mother? I might have my hands on her too.” He smiled evily.

Scarlet knew he’d been fishing for information on her loved ones and now he was starting to dig for information on Trixie.

“You don’t have her.” There was irritation in Scarlet’s voice.

“What makes you think so?”

“I was at her funeral. Don’t lie Cutter. You’re mother is buried in the local cemetery in Mokehill, died of the fever two months after your trial. I guess she thought she could finally rest in peace.” Scarlet lied.

Cutter watched her, it was always very difficult for him to tell when she was lying or not.

How he’d love to get his hands on that good for nothing tramp that was his mother. She’d ruined their lives and she had to pay. He had no intentions of keeping her alive. He wasn’t sure what he really wanted to do with Scarlet. He wondered what would be more fun. Watching her suffer as he took the lives of her friends or watching them as he took her life. His lip curled up in a sadistic smile.

Jenny stepped timidly up. “May I take my husband something to eat? It was cold last night and he’s not had anything.”

Cutter’s sadistic smile turned charming as he looked at her. “I won’t let you near him, I wouldn’t want you getting any crazy ideas. But Harry will take him something for you.”

“Thank you.” Jenny said politely making a plate and handing it to Harry.

Harry smiled and went to the barn. Sitting on the milking stool he looked up at the now blue body that hung from the rafters and began to scarf down the food. “She’s a good mrs. Wonder if the boss will let the rest of us have a turn at her.” He grinned up at the dead body and wiped his mouth on his sleeve then went back into the house.

Originally posted by Tensleep

As Tensleep walked from the house to his cabin his mind was moving in a hundred different directions.
Was Patches going to be all right?
Where were Scarlet and Rebecca... his beloved Rebecca? Were they still alive?
Were they together? Did Cutter have them? If so, where?
Were Johnny and the others going to be able to redraw the map?

Ross looked out the window and saw Jimmy standing looking across the open plain.

Opening the door Tensleep hollered to Jimmy. "Can you come in for a while?"

Jimmy turned and walked to the marshal's cabin. "What can I do for ya?"

"Jimmy I figger that we need to start to load up. Gonna be ridin' shortly an' there's lots o' stuff we gonna need. I figger two mules to pack stuff on. Grub an' bedrolls, tent, medical supplies you know as well as I do what's needed." Tensleep had fallen back into the vernacular of the range hand he had been for most of his adult life.

"See if you can find me two big strong mules with good feet, legs an' lotta heart. We gonna travel fast an' I woan 'em to keep up. Pack saddles for both, coupla hunnert foot o' rope, some dynamite, caps an' fuse. I need to see what Bill has in tha lab that we might use.

Jimmy turned and walked out without a word. Tensleep knew that the requests that he had made would be filled and everything would be done as if it were the only task in the world. The marshal took his rifle from the wall and laid it on his desk along with enough ammunition for both pistols and rifle to last an eterity. Only then did he leave the cabin. When the fresh air hit his face so did the sight of Bo and Fritz riding into the ranch yard.

Both men swung down from their saddles and Bo said, "Found it!" He waved the maps. "Gonna go see Johnny." Fritz made to follow Bo.

"Sergeant!" Fritz stiffened and came to attention, did an about face and then saw the grin on Tensleep's face. "You did it again didn't you Captain?" Fritz smiled referring to Ross' former rank in the Union army.

"Sure did... Fritz we need to see Bill, think you can find him?"

Remington Revolver Shooter
League of the South
Alchemist and brewmeister extraordinaire
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