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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 43353 times)
Doctor Bill
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"You ever see a scientist draw a gun?"

« Reply #50 on: February 06, 2005, 10:03:07 pm »

Someone was calling Bill’s name. He wished they would go away and let him sleep but whoever they were they seemed to be determined to wake him up. Bill slowly opened his eyes. He could just make out Fritz King standing in the door of the room. “Sorry to wake you up, Bill but the Marshall wants to start getting things gathered up and sent me to see what you had in your workshop that you wanted to pack.”

Bill swung his legs over the edge of the bed and picked up his glasses from the bedside table. He checked his pocketwatch and then looked past Fritz across the hall to where Patches lay in the other guest room. She was still asleep in the bed almost in exactly the same position he had last seen her. It was hard to believe that someone could call himself human, much less a man, and treat a woman like that. “Let’s get goin’ Fritz,” he said as he picked up his coat from the back of the chair. We’ve got a lot of stuff to look at and we better get the Marshall as well.”

“I’ve got a lot of the smaller ordinance in here,” Bill said opening the door to his workshop. “The heavier firepower, high explosives, and more dangerous materials are stored out in the bunker and then there is something special I want to show you in the test shack.” He began opening the lockers along the West side of the lab and methodically laying boxes of armaments out on the nearest workbench. Tensleep and Fritz recognized most of the equipment; the small flash, smoke, and pepper bombs that could blind, or confuse an opponent or provide cover for an escape. Then there were the metal-cased fragment bombs which, though looking like nothing more than a soup can, could cripple, maim, and kill several men at a time with the horde of lead pellets each one unleashed upon exploding. Boxes of illumination flares, and signal flares were placed on the table as well as armour piercing shotgun rounds – lead slugs with a hardened steel core. There were explosive charges that detonated on contact, some that jumped into the air and sprayed shot in all directions and also much larger versions that would throw pounds of lead pellets at one time like a giant shotgun. “We just have to decide how much of this stuff we can take with us,” Bill commented as they looked at the plethora of material laid out on the bench.

“Not going to be able to carry a whole lot,” Tensleep commented as he hefted one of the fragment bombs. “And we need to be sure that we don’t hurt Scarlet in the process of taking care of Cutter and whoever else is with him,” he added looking at the mass of equipment.

Bill opened one of the last two cabinets. “Here,” he said as he handed a leather scabbard with a shotgun in it to Fritz. “You’re familiar with this one I think.” Fritz pulled the shotgun out of the leather sleeve and realized that it was not the coach gun he thought it was but the silent rifle he had seen Bill shooting several weeks ago. Now however, the firearm sported a telescopic sight. “I added the sight just a week ago. The barrels are regulated to one hundred yards and the telescopic sight is zeroed to that range as well. Remember whoever uses this has to soak the barrels in water first so the felt and leather packing doesn’t catch fire. The scabbard is waxed leather inside just for that purpose. I’ve got about a hundred rounds cut down and loaded,” he added setting a box of the elongated 0.45 rounds that he called ’45-50-250’s on the bench.

“One last thing,” he said opening the final cabinet. He tossed a leather duster each to Fritz and Tensleep. Fritz nearly dropped the coat in surprise at the weight.

“What are these things made out of, Lead?” Tensleep asked hefting the coat he held.

“Tempered steel wire and silk actually, with padding under it and extra thick leather on the outside,” Bill said flipping the lining back on a third coat he held to reveal the layers of tightly interwoven metal and silk threads. “It’s something that our military is working with based on medieval Japanese armour. They’re hot, stiff, and heavy, but they’ll turn everything except a rifle cartridge or a large pistol bullet at very close range. For a little while anyway,” he concluded with a frown.

“Only for a while?” Fritz asked holding the duster out in front of him and looking at it. “What if you’re wearing this and get hit a couple of times in a row or somebody cuts loose at you with something like a 45-70-500?”

“That,” Bill replied, “would be very bad to say the least.” The implications of the statement didn’t require further explanation. “Come on out to the test shack. I need you to help me with something that I haven’t gotten around to and this is as good a time as any.

The ‘test shack’ in reality was nothing more than an old chicken coop that Bill had adopted to use as a proving ground for some of the equipment he created for the Marshall and the other deputies. By now the walls were covered with patches where burned, splintered, and punctured wood had been replaced as the result of various trials. When the door to the single-room building swung open both Fritz and Tensleep involuntarily flinched. Hanging nose-down from one of the crossbeams of the roof was a large, finned missile. They had seen these weapons tested and knew what the large quantity of blasting gelatine and shot in the nose of the missile could do.

“Oh don’t worry about this girl,” Bill said walking to the weapon and removing the safety cover from the trigger in the nose. “I modified the missile to only have three metal parts, the percussion cap, the firing pen, and the spring that holds the pen away from the cap,” he said pointing to the tip of the nosecone. “I also replaced the normal gallon of blasting gel and lead shot with a large combination flash, smoke, and pepper charge. Now, if the two of you would be good enough to step back outside and close the door behind you,” he added while picking up what was obviously a release line to drop the missile on the floor.

“Bill,” Tensleep said worriedly, “you aren’t planning on staying in there are you?”

“Actually, I am,” he replied. “This device, or more precisely, its twin that is sitting in the storage bunker could well be detonated in close proximity to Scarlet and I need to be absolutely sure that it is as safe as possible. She won’t be able to wear the protective masks that I normally would use so…” he shrugged and stared at the two.

“Bill, I think I need to keep ya’ company in that case,” Fritz said stepping into the room. “One of us might have to drag the other one out.”

Bill handed an oilcloth package from a shelf next to the door to Tensleep. “Here is one of the mask and goggle sets. If we don’t manage to get out on our own, you’ll have to drag us out. There are buckets of water and soap next to the door along with a tin of olive oil; wipe with oil first then plenty of soap and water,” he added as Tensleep closed the door. Bill and Fritz both looked at the missile. “I think it would be better if we faced the door,” Bill said. “And we probably ought to shut our eyes just in case.”

“OK,” Fritz replied. “By the way, you ever tried anything like this before?”

“Nope,” Bill said as he jerked the lanyard and the missile dropped to the floor behind them.

Outside the building Tensleep heard someone yell “Oh Sh..” and the rest was lost in an explosion. On reflection, the actual blast was not all that loud: not much louder than a ten-gauge shotgun. The other effects were astounding. The small building almost seemed to swell from nothing more than the degree of light coming out of it. For a moment every crack in the wood, every joint, even the fibres of the planks themselves seemed to be outlined in searing white light. Tenseep blinked and when his eyes opened, thick white smoke was virtually jetting out of every opening in the building. “Fritz, Bill,” he yelled tearing open the oilcloth package and jerking the goggles and mask over his face.

Inside the building Bill and Fritz had heard the missile hit the floor and then both were knocked to their knees from the concussion. His ears were ringing and Bill could already feel every exposed inch of his skin stinging as if it was on fire. Through the closed lids of his eyes he could see the after-image of the interior of the room. Somewhere beside him someone was coughing.

“Doc” came a single, strangled word from somewhere. A hand landed on his shoulder. Bill grasped the hand and started crawling forward toward what he hoped was the door. His eyes burned horribly in spite of not opening them. Tears poured down his face. “This might have been a mistake,” he thought to himself. Just as it seemed he would have to breathe another hand grasped him by the collar and rapidly began to drag him forward.

The fresh air was wonderful in spite of the fact that it seemed to make the stinging even worse. Bill and Fritz found themselves side by side on their hands and knees coughing while Tensleep stood to one side lecturing them about exactly what a pair of idiots they were for trying such a fool stunt. The oil and soap had helped but they both were still almost incapacitated. “Had to be sure it wasn’t going to be fatal,” Bill finally managed to gasp out as he rolled over and sat watching the shack. The smoke almost completely obscured the building and formed a column that rose for well over a hundred feet in the air.

“Damn,” was Fritz’s only comment as he also moved to a sitting position.

“You two were out of action for nearly ten minutes even with the washing up and olive oil,” Tensleep informed the pair as he studied his watch. “You sure this won’t be fatal?”

“Nothing’s one hundred percent sure,” Bill said without commenting on the aghast look that appeared on Fritz’s face when he heard this. “The metal spring could hit you in a vital location, you could have a pre-existing lung condition, there are plenty of things that could happen but I think it’s about as safe as I can make it and still do the job. Come on,” he said standing up. “Let’s go get the other one from the bunker.

Doctor Bill

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Doctor Bill
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"You ever see a scientist draw a gun?"

« Reply #51 on: February 08, 2005, 03:47:52 pm »

“The Bunker” was another two hundred yards away from the house. When the Southern Star was first built, it was just an earth dugout to store gunpowder and dynamite for blasting out stumps. Concurrently with the building of his new workshop, Bill had asked for permission to renovate and enlarge the old dynamite magazine as well. It now was a storage facility that would make a military outpost proud. The entire structure was topped with a heavy earth and timber cover and it backed into a natural swale in the earth so even the detonation of the entire contents would be directed away from the ranch.

They left Bunsen the mule and the small wagon at the top of the stone incline and walked down to the heavy double doors. Tensleep opened the lock though all three of the men carried keys to the heavy oak and iron door.

Inside a short hallway branched off into a few small rooms. The walls were built of large stone blocks mortared together. Light was brought into the rooms through glass prisms and polished tin tubes that pierced the massive roof structure. Gunpowder, dynamite, tri-nitrotoluene and other explosives were stored here. The rocket was in a room which also held some small stacks of shells for the two cannon back at the main ranch house.

After they had carried the wooden crate containing the missile out into the hallway, Bill went to the metal locker at the end of the hallway farthest from the door. In small, precise lettering the word “DANGER” was stencilled across the two doors. Tensleep and Fritz watched as he pulled a key attached to his watch-chain from his vest pocket and opened the door.

The cabinet was filled with spherical sealed glass containers and metal cans. Some of the vessels were wrapped with a padded cloth mesh. Others simply were unadorned but they all were restrained into the cabinet by cords. Fritz King and the Marshal stepped forward to look at the contents. The liquids that were visible were definitely not water. The materials in these sealed glass orbs were green, yellow, and other unnatural hues. Those that were violently tinted swirled within the glass and even those that were clear seemed to move slightly as they watched. Many of them held an atmosphere above the liquid that was a similar sickly colour.

The metal tins, though fused and looking like a larger version of the fragment bombs, were labelled only with the letters “WP”. While these did not look as ominous as the glass bottles, the fact that they were stored with the other items indicated that they were worthy of extreme respect.

“Bill,” Tensleep said breaking the silence. “You figuring you might want to take something out of there?” The question was not inconsequential. Bill had impressed on all of the regular residents at the ranch the danger contained in any one of these vessels. There was a long pause.

“No,” Bill said and sighed as he began to close the cabinets. “There are limits to retribution and to what it can correct.” He shut the doors, carefully locked them and put the key away again. He didn’t speak again until they had loaded the rocket on the wagon.

“Marshal," he began. "I thought about making the men that hurt Patches suffer like they never did before in their lives; making them scream for somebody to put a bullet into their brains to stop what they were feeling. I actually was looking forward to it but just now it suddenly seemed to be nothing; just an empty act. I need to stay here with Patches. I think right now my being with her is more important that carrying out some act of revenge against someone I don’t even know. I hope you understand.”

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« Reply #52 on: February 16, 2005, 04:37:29 pm »

As Tensleep, Fritz and Bill approached the house they saw Johnny talking to the town Sheriff. It didn’t go unnoticed there was a body draped over the horse the sheriff lead.

The three men could hear the conversation as they approached.

"I sent him out to check out some cattle rustling. The rancher brought him in earlier. Coroner says he's never seen anything like it."

Johnny walked over to the blanket and pulled it back. He wrinkled his nose at the stench of the skinless body.

"I seen Indians do a lot of things, but nothing like this, we didn’t even think it was Indians." The sheriff said watching Johnny.

There was little that made Johnny ill, but suspecting it wasn't Indians who did it and knowing Scarlet could be with the man who did turned his stomach and angered him.

"Ain't indians sheriff." Johnny pulled back the blanket a little further to look at the body better. The bit of sun that had peered through the clouds glinted off the deputy’s badge that was stuck in the chest muscle.

Johnny swore under his breath.

"Ain't a stitch of skin left on him is there?" Sonny's voice came from the porch.

Johnny and the sheriff both spun around.

"How you know?" the sheriff asked as Sonny approached them.

“Tell me Andy, was there a fire going next to the body?” Sonny asked as he loosened the ropes and pulled the blanket back for a better look.


“A fire….he burns the skin as he peels it off.”

“How the hell you know that.” Johnny’s eyes bore into Sonny’s.

"Cuz that's what he done to Tommy. Not even skin left on his eyelids, no finger nails either. That’s what wasn’t in the reports that were filed."

"It was Cutter wasn't it?" Johnny asked confirming his own suspicion.

"Has damn little respect for the law Johnny." Sonny said taking a closer look at the body. "Just like he done to Tom." Sonny shook his head.

“Cutter?” the Sheriff asked.

Rowan is his name, he's called Cutter." Tensleep had stepped up. "We are putting together a posse now Sheriff. Figger he is hold up somewhere not too far away and has some hostages. Just starting to get things gathered up. Dr Bill has a few more things to show me."

As Tensleep turned and walked away he felt as if he would retch. The sight of the skinless deputy was almost more than he could take. Many were the atrocities he had seen during the Late Unpleasantness and his years fighting Indians but nothing had prepared him for what one 'civilized' man had done to another this time.

In his mind he was thinking what he would do to Cutter Rowan when they had him. A small hot fire, a tripod with Rowan suspended over the fire, watch a his brains came to a slow boil. 'Sleep wanted to hear this Rowan scream as smoke seared his lungs. Rowan's skin would char and drop off... his eyes would swell and burst. The Shoshoe had taught him many tricks, maybe now was the time to use them.

Regaining Bill and Fritz Tensleep asked, "How do we get that missle in to where Rowan is? I want that bastard!"

Ella and Rose were in the kitchen making journey bread when the sheriff arrived to talk to Johnny. They heard a bit of their conversation with the other men.

Ella shook her head, "Patches is doing well enough that you and Bill can take care of the nursing she needs, and Scarlet might need medical help when they rescue her, but I don't want to ride out with the posse. I'm afraid I would be more hindrance than help in the event of any fighting." She paused and sighed before continuing, "Probably the biggest reason for my reluctance is that the men are going for blood, and I don't want to see them while they take vengence. Better to send them off as heroes with the provisions and supplies they need and greet them as victors when they bring Scarlet home than go along and risk seeing them act like barbarians."

Rose smiled understandingly. “Ella, I think it’s best if you stay. Cutter…he is…well, Scarlet has always called him a demon. The more I hear of the things he’s done. See what he is capable of I am starting to believe he is the devil himself.

"It is obvious to me by the way they have secured this place they don’t want Cutter to get to us. You should have heard the lecture Johnny gave me about staying close to the house, take one of the men with you, even to the barn. Have you noticed every time you step out of the house you are trailed? Seems they come in pairs. I’m sure they know things they are not telling us.”

Rose dropped her head to her chest. “Cutter has that affect on folks, Ella, brings out the very worst in ‘em.

Scarlet has done things I know she is not proud of and for what ever reason she had, she had Jimmy at her side for the worst of it.”

Rose lifted her head and looked Ella in the eyes. “It’s taken everything I have not to ask him to go and show no mercy. I guess that means Cutter's getting to me too, but I won’t ask any of them to trade their life for hers. Scarlet wouldn’t be very happy if that were to happen.”

It was hard to keep detached; remain unemotional. But he'd been a professional soldier for far too long. Fritz resolved to keep a cool head, even if others lost theirs. He had to trust Scarlet. She was a big girl, and could take care of herself. If there were a way out, she'd find it.

If not...

Fritz smiled at Bill. His respect for the man rose. He decided to take himself out of the equation. As a scientist, Bill knew he must keep his objectivity.

Unfortunately, that meant that Fritz had to become an expert with all of Bill's "toys"...and fast.

"Bill," Fritz asked, "can one of your congreve rockets hoist a payload that large?"

Bill took Fritz over to where the wooden crate lay on the wagon. “An original Congreve rocket was a piece of junk. They used metal tubes, a cast iron cannon ball for the warhead, no stabilization fins and nothing but black powder for the explosive and propellant. I started over with the basic concept of a rocket and redesigned it from the ground up.” As he spoke, he pulled the crate off the wagon and laid it on the ground with Fritz’s help. “To start with I constructed the body of the rocket from layered paperboard and used a ceramic liner for the rocket motor and nozzle. This reduced the weight by half right away. I changed the propellant to a mixture of sulphur, zinc dust, potassium chlorate, and powdered sugar. It provides a steadier, more stable thrust than the black powder and further increases the payload. Finally, I replaced the old thirty-pound, cast iron with a paperboard laminate nosecone and percussion detonator. Even my antipersonnel model, which carries nearly ten pounds of shot and a gallon of blasting gelatine, has a maximum range of over a mile. This one will travel even further if necessary.”

By now Bill had flipped the sides of the crate down to form two legs and the remaining portion of the crate became a trough to hold the missile. “The fins are not attached but they will fit in these slots on the side.” He held the thin sheet-metal triangle in one hand and indicated the slot on the side of the rocket where they would slip into place. “Once you have the front of the trough pointed at the target in a left to right direction by dead reckoning, you have to set the elevation. I didn’t count on anyone who used this thing doing geometric triangulation in their head so I came up with an aiming device.”

He handed Fritz a small telescope that had a third opening in the centre of the tube. Two long pieces of cotton cord were attached one to each end of the brass tube and a small wooden protractor was attached to the end of each cord. “Unfortunately it takes at least two and preferably three men to fire the rocket,” he said as he clamped the tube across the trough above the rocket. “Marshall, if you would give us a hand. Fritz, look through the eyepiece and you will see a split image with two cross hairs like the telescopic sight for a rifle. When each string is aligned with it’s respective cross hair, tell us to stand still.” Bill and Tensleep each took one of the protractors, stretched the cords to their fullest extent and with a moment of hand waving and directions from Fritz they were both in the correct location.

“Now,” Bill said. “I roughly aimed it at the far corner of the berm around the lab. Marshall, use the sights on your protractor to aim at the same point then read the angle where the cord crosses the scale and I’ll do the same.” A moment later both men had called out the angle. “Fritz, you could solve the distance using two right-angle triangles or you could look at the inside of the crate where you will find a table of angles. Match up the two values that we just gave you and where they intersect you will find the elevation for the front of the launch ramp. The legs are already marked in half-inches and can be adjusted. It should be accurate to a few feet at the point of impact. The plunger in the nose will detonate the charge once the safety cover is removed and you simply light the fuse to set it off.”

“It just took us nearly five minutes to set this up and get a firing solution,” Bill said as he rolled up the string. “You may not have that long. I always figure that if it’s less than a hundred yards, the rocket will fly flat enough to aim by rough sight and let it go. Out to one hundred and fifty; aim a little high and light it up. Fritz, I’ve been the only one using most of this equipment for too long. Unfortunately, the only way to get a good feel for how some of this hardware performs is to actually get out and use it. If you could spare an hour or two, I’ve got five missiles that, though they are loaded with shot and blasting gel, would give you some practice in aiming. We also could try out the other gear as well. You and anyone else on the posse at least need some instruction in using the dust mask and goggles since it would be a great advantage to actually attack Cutter while the capsicum and smoke is still hanging in the air. Feel like blasting a few huge craters in the landscape?”

Fritz always enjoyed experimenting with new weaponry, but wasn't sure if now was the time. Maybe it'd be best to stick with the tried and least for now.

But he wasn't the C.O. of this unit.

"Marshal," Fritz asked, using the title as 'Sleep so often did with him, "what are your orders sir?"

"Sergeant I think that you have about three hours til we move out. Practice is in order. I can see a real use for this piece of weaponry."

Johnny stood back for a moment watching the three men.

Finally he had to ask. "What happens if someone takes a shot at that thing with a buffalo gun?"

"Unless you happened to exactly hit the percussion cap in the nose cone," Bill replied, "nothing other than you get a hole in the missile." "Oh, it would ruin the rocket motor; it couldn't fly with a hole in the side of it; but you could tear the nosecone off, knock the charge in the warhead out, pile it up in the middle of the floor and light it off with a fuse and you would still get the same effect. There is nothing in here," he slapped the side of the rocket," that is shock sensitive as there is in dynamite.

"In fact," he continued, "your back-up use of this wepon should be to remove the nosecone completely right here," he indicated a point just behind the junction between the nose and the body of the rocket, "and just worry about getting the nose section into where most of the miscreants are located. Drop it point first, cut a hole in the side a stick a length of fuse in, or even as I said earlier, build a fire under it and wait for it to burn."

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« Reply #53 on: February 16, 2005, 04:38:39 pm »

Cutter rose and went out the door followed by Josh. Rebecca watched them go then sat next to Scarlet.

Scarlet was watching the fire. Rebecca knew the look in her friend’s eyes. Scarlet was most likely trying to figure the best way out, timing, route, and casualties. That’s what was keeping her in line, Rebecca knew it.

Scarlet glanced over at Rebecca. She knew the look in her friend’s eyes, something was eating at Rebecca.

“Just ask me. There are few secrets between us Becca.”

Rebecca looked at the knife in the middle of the table.

Scarlet half grinned. “If I reach for it Harry’ll shoot me in the back, same goes for you. Odds are not in my favor at all. Choose your battles carefully ya know. Without looking I’d be willing to bet he’s eyeballing my every muscle twitch. But that ain’t what you’re wondering.”

Rebecca’s gaze darted to the floor then into the fire watching the flames dance.

“Scarlet, how do you think Fritz would feel about you if you had to lay with one of these men to keep yourself alive?”

Scarlet turned her head and looked at her friend slightly surprised, but she knew she shouldn’t have been. “I’ve known men that would throw their wives into the street for doing something like that. I would like to think Fritz is not that type, I know he wouldn’t be happy but I think he would think it was better than the alternative, where some men wouldn’t.”

Scarlet could see a slight sadness cross Rebecca’s features.

“But that’s not what you wanted to ask me either.”

Rebecca locked gazes with Scarlet.

“I think Tensleep is like Fritz in that respect.” Scarlet said as she took the barrette out of her hair.

“It’s been a long time since I had to be with someone I really didn’t want to be with. I’m afraid of him Scarlet.” Becca said softly.

“I know.” Scarlet said as she rolled the piece that held the wire barrette in place over in her palm for Becca to see.

“That’s beautiful.” Becca said looking at the polished horn.
“Mom gave it to me along time ago.” Scarlet said holding it for Rebecca to see. “A girl can never be to safe.”

Rebecca hid her surprise as she saw it was actually a long thin folding knife.

“Just in case.” Scarlet said winding Rebecca’s hair in the barrette. “What horse are you riding?”

“Cloud” Rebecca’s eyebrows pulled together thinking it was a strange question.

“When the odds change Rebecca I want you to get on that horse and ride for the mountain, don’t stop, don’t look back.”

Rebecca started to object.

Scarlet shot her what Rebecca referred to as “the look”. When you saw the look you knew you were being handed down orders not negotiations.

“You get to Black Wolf. It’s faster and more cover to go there than trying to make the ranch. Once there you send one of the braves to the ranch, one of the ones the boys know so he won’t be shot at. You tell him to tell Johnny or Bo the black road leads to the gates of hell. It’s at the gates of hell the devil will make his last stand.”

“Cloud will never out run that horse Cutter is riding.”

Scarlet chuckled. “There are only a few horses in the Southern Starr stables I would wager on beating that Comanche Indian pony oh ye of little faith.”

Becca half smiled. Black wolf did know his horse flesh and Cloud was one of the better ones she thought.

“Will Johnny know where these gates of hell are?”


Fritz wasn't a ring-knocker. He hadn't attended the Point. If he had, he would've been schooled in artillery. As it was, he was a Mustang; an enlisted man rose from the ranks to a commissioned officer. He served his purpose during the war. Afterwards, he wasn't needed anymore.

And besides, he was a horse soldier.

Fritz never thought of himself as a smart man. His father was an engineer, and had tried to teach his son the trade. But during the war with the Seminoles, they transported the Second Dragoons to Florida. A young trooper, not much older than Fritz, had lent him a Hall carbine. He and the trooper spent many hours firing from the boxcars.

Fritz had an afinity for firearms. He'd mastered almost every weapon he'd put his hands on. But the only artillery piece he'd fired with regularity during the war was his unit's mountain howitzer.

The weapons he'd dealt with were primarily flat trajectory. Even the small brass cannon he used mainly to fire cannister. So this rocket was, at first, a study in frustration. The first round overshot the target by at least fifty yards. But the concussion rippled the air like a rock dropped in a pond.


"I'd guess that you were aiming at about five hundred yards," Bill said, looking through his spyglass. "Prepare a second rocket, and drop your elevation about a half inch."

"I might need more tha five rounds to get this right Bill," Fritz replied.

The explosion was heard in the house, and woke Patches from her sleep.

"What...," she mumbled sleepily.

Ella brought her a glass of water, and said, "Fritz is learning how to shoot Bill's rockets, for the posse going after Scarlet. Bill is going to stay here, to watch after us."

Patches sipped sleepily and murmured, "Bill makes me feel safe," as she drifted back to sleep.

"Part of it's math, part of it's just getting the 'feel' for where a projectile goes. I guess the closest approximation I know is shooting billiards," Bill said as Fritz put a second rocket in the now smoking wooden rack. "Anyway, we're not looking for pinpoint accuracy here. The dispersion of smoke and dust should be pretty large. It would be nice if you can catch them in a building but even out in the open you should have a pretty good area of effect. Of course, if theres any wind you would have to take that into affect in laying the cloud of smoke. Light that one up now and let's see what happens."

Fritz picked up the smoldering punk-stick and pressed it against the end of the fuse that protruded from the tail of the rocket. The pencil-sized cord smoked for a second then began to sizzle and burn. Bill and Fritz both took a few steps away and waited.

With a whosh and roar the rocket jumped into the air leaving a trail of white smoke behind it. After a few seconds of burn the engine stopped and the rocket, which now was nothing more than a small spot, began to drop. Bill raised the telescope to his eye and watched.

"You see, if you can get close enough the flight is nearly flat. The engine burns for almost ten seconds so as I said earlier, for anything less than about one hundred and fifty yards I wouldn't even try to aim it with the cord and," he paused for while several cubic feet of rangeland were vaporized and the ground jumped beneeth their feet. "string aiming device." he concluded. "That was a lot closer to the mark. Why don't we pick out a new target and see how you do."

They were rolling up the cords after Bill had called out the second angle to Fritz. "Remind me to give you a clockwork fuse or better yet two before you go," Bill said. "That would make it possible for you to aim the rocket, set the fuse, and then move in closer to wait for it to fire without having to leave a fuse burning. I'll show you how to set two of them to work on a single fuse so there's less chance of a failure of some sort. I don't want everyone to be counting on some gizmo of mine to save the day and have it fail at the last minute," he added with a frown.

Fritz took a third rocket from its crate, and slipped the fins into place. There was a big-barreled cactus about 200 yards out. Fritz dropped both legs, and set the rocket in the trough. He used the sides of the trough like a rear sight notch, and the nosecone as the front sitght blade. Moving as quickly as safely possible, he aimed the rocket and lit the fuse. The rocket streaked forward and struck the base of the cactus. It, and much of the surrounding flora were vaporized with a flash and a satisfying crump.

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« Reply #54 on: June 23, 2005, 07:27:35 am »

------Interesting!  Verrry interesting!------- Wink

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« Reply #55 on: June 28, 2005, 09:45:39 pm »

Posted by Fritz

Fritz smiled, looking at his watch. "Two minutes, eight that's more like it."


Rose stepped on the porch looking in the direction of the artillery fire, it stirred bad memories of the war. The sound of the hoof beats drew her attention towards the barn.

The sight of the five horses, two mules, Dancer and Moonshine made Rose draw a sharp breath as they stopped outside of the barn. A group of animals the ranch hands had nicknamed the hard stock. It was a name that was earned and worn with pride. The animals had all proven their worth under fire at one time or another and had the endurance to match most of Rose’s Arabians. Some of them required better riders, but Rose guessed Jimmy had chosen them as spare mounts and the men who would be riding them were good horseman.

Sugar and Spice, the two mules, would earn no beauty points and on some days needed attitude adjustments, but they knew their jobs well and would not slow the crew down.

Moonshine had been young when Jimmy rode him off to the war, Rose couldn’t begin to imagine the miles the pale palomino had traveled in his life. To look at him now the middle aged Arabian looked the same as the day Jimmy had ridden off, in fact he looked exactly the same as the day they came home, the McClellan saddle, the long curved knife that hung from the saddle, the only thing missing was the ragged uniform Jimmy had worn. Jimmy had tied Dancer to his saddle as his own spare mount.

Rose watched Jimmy tie the spare mounts to the fence, pick up the lines for the mules then swing into the saddle and head off to where the others were.

Jimmy stopped in front of Johnny and handed the lead lines to Johnny.

Johnny looked him over. He knew by Jimmy’s actions he was headed out, there would be no changing his mind or asking him to wait.

Jimmy saw the way Johnny looked at him. “Takes less than a minute to stop a heart beat. The bastards had too much time already. It’s time to give him something else to think about.” Jimmy said flatly.

“Leave us signs.” Johnny said as he watched Moonshine start to move off followed by Dancer.
Dr. bill

Doctor Bill watched the blast from the last of the missles and nodded slightly. "I think you're getting the hang of it," he said as he lowered the telescope. "It's about time to get things packed up anyway," he added looking at his pocket watch.

He explained the use of the timed fuse for the rocket as he and Fritz rode back to the workshop on the wagon. The small wooden boxes each were fitted with a single timer dial on the face that was graduated from one to thirty minutes. The lever on the top of the box set a hammer inside and the metal gromet on the side was for the insertion of the end of a piece of "quick-fuse". At the appointed time, the internal hammer would crush a fulminate of mercury capsule which in turn ignited a mixture of magnesium ships and an oxidizer that set fire to the fuse. With two of the units both set on the fuse, it should provide reliable ignition of the rocket without the need for someone to sit and wait with a match in hand.

"The whole thing doesn't weigh all that much," Bill added as he and Fritz lifted the rocket in its box onto the wagon. "One mule should be easily able to carry it on top of a packsaddle. All the other gear should be distributed between the various riders anyway since it could be needed at any time." He looked at the various crates sitting on the wagon. "Let's haul this over to the house so it can get loaded."



Johnny walked the two mules back to the rest of the string. He eyed Jimmy’s choice of spare mounts with interest.

Dynamite, the lead horse on the string laid his ears back and bobbed his head up and down. Johnny suspected he’d be stuck on the big sorrel with the wide blaze and borderline disposition; one of the few horses on the ranch that didn’t accept treats from people, but a solid ride if one knew how to handle him.

Johnny felt the nose of one of the horses in the corral brush against him and turned. The two geldings eyed him curiously as they waited for attention. Johnny reached up and rubbed the grey face of one of them and removed the note attached to the animals halter.

He chuckled as he read it.
If Doc goes..

“Why didn’t he pull you out for me ay Sam?”

The horse leaned his head down and put his nose in Johnny’s hand. Johnny thought Jimmy had a good eye to match horse and rider, almost as well as Rose and Scarlet. It was no secret that Dr. Bill appreciated a gentler, kind animal.

“There are times I wish I had Jimmy’s attitude.” Bo’s voice came from behind Johnny.

“I don’t think I could handle that Bo.” Johnny half smiled. “But I know you’re thinking the same thing Jimmy said, we need to get on it if we’re goin’ at all.”

He led the mules to where Dr. Bill’s wagon had come to a stop.

“Let’s get ‘em packed up and move out.” He said looking at Bill then turned his attention to Tensleep.

“Best get whoever’s going aboard their horses ‘for Cutter sends us an invitation.”


Fritz hopped from the wagon and grabbed Strider's reins. 'Sleep was waiting for him.

"How ya feel about those rockets son?"

Fritz sighed. "I wish I had more time with them, but I should be able to drop them close to where they're needed."

"Yep," 'Sleep replied. "That's why I want you to stay with the wagon and launch 'em, while we ride in."

Fritz let go of the reins and turned.

"Marshal Ross," Fritz said, trying to remain calm, "I'm a cavalry trooper. I do my best work on the back of a horse."

"That ain't necessarily so," 'Sleep responded. "I've been talking to Ella."


"She told me when you first rode with this posse, you were hell with a long-range rifle. Saved alot of lives down Mexico way."

Fritz took a deep breath, and let it out slow.

"You're the only one who's had time on them rockets...I need you Fritz."

'Sleep laid his hand on the old soldier's shoulder. "You can come in once the rockets are inbound. We'll get her back...I promise."

"Okay," Fritz said. There was no use in arguing...

...because 'Sleep was right.
Dr. Bill

Bill and Fritz tied down the large smoke and pepper rocket and then began to make piles of the smaller munitions for each of the riders. Each man was assigned fragment bombs, smoke and flash bombs, the armour piercing shotgun rounds, incendiary bombs, the impact detonated buckshot bombs, and the smaller hand-thrown pepper bombs. A number of the dust mask and goggle sets were stacked alongside the individual rations of weapons. Additional reserve munitions were left in the wagon along with the large rocket. It only took a few minutes to get everything ready for each of the riders to stow in their individual saddlebags. The noiseless rifle and its ammunition was also carefully stowed in the wagon. The two bullet resistent coats were each packed away as well in case they were needed.

Tensleep walked back over to the two men to inspect the progress. “You sure about wanting to stay here, Bill?” he asked.

“I’m sure, Marshal,” Bill replied. “I think Fritz will do just fine with the rocket and most of the other gear is almost fool-proof.” He was quiet for a moment. “This is the worst I have ever seen Patches be injured and; well, I know how important getting this man is; and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about giving you some of the stuff out of that locked cabinet; but I just have got to stay here with Patches right now. She needs me and I need to be here with her.”

Cutter was becoming agitated; he could feel the tension and stress building. He needed some kind of relief, it had been days since he had the pleasure of feeling warm blood wash over his hands as he took someone’s life. Suddenly he grinned, turned and went into the house.

Cutter went to the chair Scarlet’s slicker was hung over and searched the pockets, delighted to find her badge, he then went to the table and pulled her knife from it.

“Tie ‘em up, I’m going out.”

Harry moved immediately putting his gun to Scarlet’s temple. “Why don’t you try anything?” He whispered in her ear.

It irritated him she didn’t even look at him as one of the others tied her hands behind her back then tied Rebecca’s. The two women were then tied together and to the table leg.

“What about that one?” Harry said leering at Jenny.

“Long as everyone behaves themselves and she doesn’t go near the other two or speak to them you leave ‘er be. If they get out of line…you do what ever you want with them except kill em. You can beat them near to death but leave some breath in their bodies.”

“Come on Josh” Cutter said going out the door.

Cutter’s look outs had reported a small herd of cattle being driven not far from them, four men was all, so he took one of his men and Josh and set out knowing they wouldn’t be out of earshot of gun fire should a posse be spotted.

The cattle looked like they were walking on water as they strolled through the grass just on the other side of the blue flowers that blew in the morning wind. Cutter couldn’t wipe the grin from his face thinking of what was coming until they were almost upon the drovers.

The lead man stopped and cautiously watched the three men riding towards them.

Cutter had pinned the badge on his jacket and flashed it for the man to see as they approached.

“Mornin’ Marshal.”

Cutter touched the brim of his hat. “Mornin’”

“What kin I do fer ya?”

“There’s been some rustling in the area and my deputies and I are checking it out. Ya got papers on these cattle?”

“Yes sir.” He turned in his saddle and waved to one of the other men to come in.

“I’d like to get a closer look at yer men too, just to make sure they don’t fit the descriptions of the outlaws we’re looking for.”

“Anything to help Marshal? I didn’t catch your name.” He said waving in the others.

“It’s deputy actually, US deputy Corbin.”

Cutter pretended to look over the papers the cowhand had given him as he waited for them all to get close.

As the last man rode in Cutter leaned forward holding out the papers. The cowhand reached out to take them as Cutter drew his pistol and pulled the trigger.

Josh and Cutter’s other man had the drop on the other two cowboys.

“Raise ‘em.” Josh said sliding off of his horse. He stepped up to the two cowboys, relieved them of their weapons and pulled them off of their horses.

The fourth cowhand hand not been as close as the others when the gunfire started, he wheeled his horse around and tried to escape. Cutter grinned sadistically as he pulled the trigger shooting the man in the back. The cowboy slumped forward in the saddle but was able to hold on and keep the horse moving.

“We’ve not done anything deputy.” One man yelled.

“String that one up.” Cutter said cheerfully.

Josh and his partner forced the man to a nearby tree. Taking the rope of the cowboys horse they put the noose around his neck and pulled everything tight, securely tying it off before the led the horse slowly away from his rider.

“Take me into town deputy I can prove we are who we say we are.” The last cowhand begged.

Cutter stepped off of his horse, his eyes dancing with excitement.

“No doubt you are who you say you are.” He said walking behind the man.

Cutter kicked him in the back of the knees grabbing the man under his chin as he fell. Taking Scarlet’s knife he plunged it into the mans stomach and jerked it upward until it stopped just below the mans throat. The warm feeling of blood spilling over his hands brought Cutter a feeling of satisfaction and power. He took a deep breath as he let the lifeless body fall forward.

The three outlaws mounted up and rode back to the ranch house. Cutter thought his day had started out perfect, three killings all before lunch. The fourth one might live long enough to tell someone Deputy Corbin shot him in the back, at least Cutter hoped so.


"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 #56 on: June 28, 2005, 09:47:35 pm »


"Sounds good to me Bill." Tensleep turned to Fritz. "Sarge," he said with
a wink "be sure and leave some space in the wagon for some feed for the
horses and mules. As fast as we hope to move there won't be much time
for grazing."

"Hank, you and Sonny gonna ride with us?"
Hank was sitting at a small table on the porch and had busied himself at
what looked like to be drawing. His head jerked up at the sound of
Tensleep's question.

"I ain't no deputy Marshal, and I don't think I want to be deputized."
Hank said standing and handing the drawing and the old wanted poster to

"I'm a bit slow on the draw anymore too, anybody could tell ya that."
Hank continued, trying to ignore the snort he'd heard from Sonny. "Ain't
real good with a long rifle, although I can hold my own. If you want me
ta ride with ya I'm in."

There was no denying the angry look on Sonny's face as he looked at the
drawing. "Son of a bit..." He closed his eyes and shook his head. "Been
here under our noses alla this time. Shook hands at the trial." He
shoved the two papers back at Hank cursing under his breath.

"I'll be ready in under five minutes Marshal." Sonny turned on his heel
and went into the house to retrieve his rifle and tell his wife he was

Hank stepped off the porch and handed the drawing to Tensleep. It was a
man with short dark hair, and wide set eyes.

"Ya recognize him?" Hank asked.

Tensleep could see Hank had traced the features of the face from the old
wanted poster of the man with the long light colored hair and sparse
beard marked Unknown then drawn the dark short hair on it.

"Yeah dammit! It's that Phil character been hangin' round tha Ace lately. That devil is a spy for Cutter!" Tensleep threw down the matchstick he was chewing on. "We got no time left to waste."

Tensleep saw that Johnny was still talking to Bo. "You near ready Johnny?"
"Been ready." Johnny said looking in Tensleeps direction then to the wagon.

Seemed as if there were all kinds of things slowing them down Johnny thought.

Tensleep saw Johnny's look. "Tell one of the hands to ride with Fritz Johnny, we gotta fly an' catch up to Jimmy!"

Johnny chuckled. "Sleep your horse is gonna have ta have wings ta catch Jimmy. If I know that boy he'll not even stop to change horses just slide from one ta the other only slowin them sos they can catch their breath or if he has to check something out. He'll reach the mountain long before we do."

"I thought Dr. Bill said that stuff could be packed up on the mules." Johnny said looking at the items in the wagon. "Fritz, it's up to you, if you think it's best to pack it on a mule do it, if not choose a man ta ride shotgun with ya."

Tensleep mounted Buck and adjusted himself to the saddle. Hank and Sonny were mounted and ready. Johnny stood by Velvet Ears. "I'm gone boys, stay with me if ya can!"

Johnny swung into the saddle, took up the line on the spare horses and waited for Fritz to reply.
Fritz tied Strider's reins off to the back of the wagon.

"Sorry fella," he said, patting the buckskin's head. He leaped to the buckboard seat.

"Zeke!" Fritz yelled. "Grab your shotgun! We gotta go now!!!"

Zeke waved a acknowledgement to Fritz, stopped in front of two of the other hands for a brief moment then ran to the bunk house for his gear.

In the moment it took him to return one of the ranch hand had tied Zeke's horse next to Strider and the other one had stowed some extra harness pieces in the wagon.

Johnny half grinned as he kicked his mule. Efficiency, he was proud of the way the men worked togeather, most of the time. Why Fritz had chosen Zeke Johnny wasn't sure, but it was a good choice.

The sound of fast moving horses filled the air as the group moved out.

The stage driver put his hand out to help the fancy dressed lady down. She was pretty he thought. It was hard to tell her age, he wasn’t sure if she was older or just maybe had hit a few hard times.

She smiled sweetly at him as she stepped down and stood aside for the black dog to step off the stage with her. The driver chuckled, the slick black dog had a fancy leather color. They both must come from a well ta do family someplace.

He pointed her to the train station and telegraph office. She politely thanked him and lead the dog down the boardwalk.

Trixie smiled to herself. She had saved her money and made the fancy dress because she’d fallen in love with the fabric she’d found in the mercantile. Some of the other women had teased her about having the occasion to wear such a dress. It was never intended to be something to hid in, but Kevin was not looking for a fancy lady, he was looking for a working girl.

She stepped up to the counter and told the man where she wanted to go. He smiled at her and took her money, then looked at the dog. “He’ll have to ride in the stock car.”

She pushed more money his way. “Nope”

Trixie noticed the way he was looking her up and down. She leaned close and whispered something in his ear. The man grinned and pulled down the curtain then opened his office door. Trixie laid the leash on the floor and told the large black dog to stay.

Trixie adjusted her fancy clothes and fixed her hair in the small mirror that hung in the ticket masters office, picked up her ticket and went out the door.

The man smiled as he watched her go. He’d never had a fancy woman, just the cheap whores at the saloon. It was worth the private room on the train he’d practically given her he thought.

Trixie had just enough time to go to the telegraph office and ask for a telegram be sent to US Deputy A. Corbin. Southern Starr El Paso, Texas.

Mr. Dawg

She hoped Scarlet would know that meant she was ok and hadn’t seen any signs of her son’s or their henchmen.

The telegraph operator looked up from the note. “Is that all ma’am?”

“Well I’m sure that’s all he told me to send.” She gave him a puzzled look and he smiled thinking her husband sure would be mad if there was more.

“Yes ma’am.”

“Thank you.” She said going out the door back towards the train depot.

She waited patiently for the train to board, handed her ticket to the conductor and was politely escorted to her room.

Some of the gear bounced around a bit, but the ordnance had been lashed down tight. Considering how long he and Bill had worked, Fritz was pleased with the results.

Zeke spoke up above the tinkling of harness.

"Fritz! Give me the reins!"


"Cuz from what I hear," Zeke replied, "you're a better shot!"

Fritz handed over the reins. He took the scattergun and placed it in his lap, the barrel pointed outboard. Reaching behind him, Fritz grabbed the Springfield.

The posse was pulling ahead, and Zeke was set on closing the distance.

Cutter smiled at his own ideas as he stepped off his horse and tied it to the rail of the ranch house.

Now that he’d released some of the pent up energy that had been distracting him could think more clearly. If his mother was dead he wanted proof. If she wasn’t he wanted her, and he had a few ideas on how he might get the new marshal to do it for him.

“Across flat ground spare me not.” Scarlet was famous for rattling off quotes or poems about horses.

“Across flat ground spare me not.” It kept running through Jimmy’s mind as he pushed the two horses as hard as he dare, he knew where he wanted to start looking for Scarlet and Rebecca.

Before Jimmy knew it he was nearing the base of Devil’s mountain. According to Scarlet’s map there were a few different possibilities where Cutter might be hol up. If Jimmy could figure out which way she was headed when she and Patches were jumped it would narrow it down.

He guessed Cutter would not venture inside the mountains so it had to be the outskirts. Scarlet would have picked a spot near water to camp, which was no help as there were many small streams winding through the mountains. Cutter had to be someplace fairly close to have taken Rebecca and been able to jump Scarlet and Patches too, half a days ride at the most, which narrowed it down more.

Jimmy thought about it, if it were him he’d hold up at the old Broken Shoe. You could guard it well and there was an abandoned ranch house there if it still stood. Or there was the small town just south of the shoe, the town nobody asked questions in. Scarlet had had a star on the map for those two places. “Go with yer gut feelings” he thought to himself turning the horses in the direction of the old ranch.

He rode slow and quiet blending with the rocks skirting the base of the mountain. He was beginning to wonder if he was wrong this time when Moonshine pinned his ears against his neck and snorted. The horse had always done that at the smell of death. Considering horses smell was better than peoples Jimmy could understand why the horse didn’t like it.

Jimmy slid off his horse and cautiously looked around before he approached the body. The man’s skull was crushed at the forehead. Horse kick Jimmy was pretty sure of it. Looking on the other side of the river he spotted another one.

Jimmy found a shallow place to cross and went over to look at the other body. The man had a look of pain on his face and his hand was over his chest. Jimmy moved the mans hand looking for a gunshot. Nothing.

Thinking of the first man Jimmy lifted the mans shirt at the collar and looked down. There was a perfect hoof print partially over the mans sternum and ribs. Jimmy pushed on the spot outlined by the hoof print, it to was crushed, the man probably had suffocated.

Jimmy knew this was Lucky’s handy work. The other he wasn’t so sure, but this one, Lucky could have cow kicked judging from the placement of the hoof and the angle of the print.

Jimmy stood and looked around wondering which way they went. The trail had been washed away by the storm. The small low broken branches caught his attention. Something had gone through them like a locomotive. He looked closer examining the flat grass, broken branches. There was a definite trail here, not one used by many, maybe one or two horses. Jimmy stopped at one of the branches and picked the black hairs from it. Between the print on the dead body and the black hair stuck to the branch Lucky had to have come this way.

Jimmy looked down the path the horse had blazed. Scarlet wouldn’t have ridden him that way, she would have made him go around things. Lucky was most likely rider less at the moment. If he stuck to his normal habit he wasn’t far from Scarlet though.

Jimmy mounted up and headed back to intercept the posse.


Jimmy watched the horizon. He knew where the posse should be, what he couldn’t figure was the movement off to the side following them. He wondered if somebody was riding drag.

Jimmy found a high concealed spot, stashed the horses, melted into his environment and began to watch the movement.

The posse was closing fast. When they finally came into view of his spyglass Jimmy half smiled. Somebody had the good sense to have Zeke at the reins of the team. One of these days Johnny was sure to find who all was having wagon races, he had to really know though thought Jimmy.

Jimmy recognized one of the other riders too. It was Phil, the irritating cowboy from the Ace that was always too friendly for Jimmy’s taste. He didn’t recognize the drifter that rode with him, but he did recognize the surge of adrenaline that told him he needed to be on high alert.

He thought for a moment trying to figure out how to warn the posse without alerting the others. Taking the small mirror he quickly flashed it hoping one of the posse members would see it and check their flank.

Jimmy came out of his hiding spot, mounted up and moved out towards where he figured the two cowboys would intercept the posse. The posse would have some kind of cover fire if they needed it.

Fritz scanned the horizon, looking for something...anything. Just when he thought he was going blind, he saw it. A flash caught his eye. The bright reflection of a mirror...or polished steel.

Fritz shifted on the seat, and brought the butt of his Springfield to shoulder. It was then he caught movement off to his left. Two riders coming in. Instinctively, he brought the hammer back.



Zeke looked in the direction Fritz had looked. The two riders weren’t coming in fast but they would definitely all be meeting soon. At first he wondered why Fritz was thinking trouble; it was when the two riders split he got nervous.

“Hang on Sarg we’re not getting caught out here with a wagon full of stuff and our pants down when we could be up there with the rest of them.”

They had been keeping fairly close to the posse but now Zeke wanted to be right up there in the middle of ‘em.

He leaned forward. “HA!”

The wagon surged forward with as the team responded.

Johnny not only had seen the flash of light from the mountain but he could hear the pounding of the team’s hooves closing fast.

It meant trouble. He was sure of it. Johnny saw one rider and wondered who it was and if there were more.

The posse grouped together and came to a stop.

"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 #57 on: June 30, 2005, 09:17:07 pm »

Combined effort of Scarlet & Tensleep

Jimmy had stowed Dancer in the brush then taken Moonshine and ridden to where he could get a clean shot at the incoming riders should he need to.

Unbeknown to the posse they had stopped about twenty yards from where the palomino lay still on his side in the tall yellow grass. He had one ear cocked in the direction his rider had gone.

Jimmy was surprised when Hank had pulled his horse to a stop next to the tree and right beneath him, more surprised when just one rider came in to greet the posse.

His eyes darted, looking for the other man.

Tensleep watched as the rider approached. The glaring Texas sun was as bright as could be and obscured the man's face.

It seemed like forever standing there watching the rider come in.

"Howdy Marshal, gentlemen." Phil said as he slowed his horse to a stop.

Phil noticed there was not a friendly face among them as he looked at them.

"What brings you out here?" He asked.

Jimmy listened as he watched for the other man.

"Why we just like to ride Phil." Tensleep watched the man's face. "What might you be doin' ridin' out here in the middle of nowhere? Oh.... by the way, ask your friend to ride in real slow and keep his hands where we can see them."

Phil smiled his normal happy smile everyone was used to seeing at the saloon and shrugged his shoulders as if he knew the marshal meant it was none of his business what they were doing out here.

“Boss been expecting a few cattle ta come in, they haven’t shown up yet so he sent us to look for the herd.” Phil turned in his saddle and looked the direction his companion had ridden in then looked back at the men. “I’m supposed to catch up with him at the river. He said we didn’t have time ta visit cuz we had our orders and the boss is waitin’ on us. I tol’ him I thought it was you and we best let ya know we were out here too.” Phil said cheerfully, it was the truth, for the most part anyway.

“How is ol' Mr. Elliot?” Hank asked knowing Phil had been working for the outfit since he came to El Paso.

“Doc says if he keeps his temper under control he won’t have no more of them spells like he had couple days ago. Scared the Mrs. almost inta’ having one too. Made things more pleasant around the place him not yellin’ so much.”

Hank shook his head in agreement. He was trying to figure out if Phil had been to his employers recently enough to know the latest news and apparently he had.

“Leave the ladies at home Marshal? I sure enjoy seeing them when I can. Course they never are to chatty, cept Miss Rebecca, she’s always very pleasant.”

Johnny was looking through his spyglass. “You’re friends almost near the river Phil.” He said as a matter of factly just to let the others know Phil had not been lying.

What he didn’t see from the ground and Jimmy did happen to from his vantage point, now looking through his own glass was Phil’s friend meeting up with another man.

"Actually Phil this is a coyote hunt, we are just out for a day of sport." Tensleep noticed the remark about Rebecca but didn't show it. "When we heard that there was a pack of coyotes in the neighborhood we thought we might just do some roping. Lotta fun that.... coyote ropin' that is."

“With spring coming, the cows calving and horses foaling ya might just think of shooting them if they are to close to the ranch.” Phil said in his cheerful voice, wondering what was in the wagon but dare not asking.

Jimmy caught the movement of another horse coming in. He looked closer, it looked as if the rider was either dead or dying by the way he was slumped over the saddle, the horse was completely covered in sweat. Dead men were no concern right now to him so he looked back towards Phil’s companion. Two men at the river now and movement of one heading back to where ever he’d come from.

"Oh I expect there will be some shooting too. You know... whatever it takes. Ropin' an' draggin' coyotes is fun though. Ya shoot 'em it is over too quick, kinda want to see 'em suffer." Tensleep grinned.

The other men in the posse had caught on to what Tensleep was getting at and had a chuckle.

“Ya drag em Marshal then the hides get all messed up. Then they’re no good for skinnin’ and making something out of.” Phil said.

“Oh ya can still skin em’ just fine.” Johnny chuckled.

Sonny turned and looked in the direction of the incoming horse.

“Can I borrow those?” He said reaching out to Johnny indicating the spyglass.

Johnny handed it over.

“What brand them cattle carry you’re waiting on Phil?”

“Lazy G”

“Looks like them boys ran into some trouble.” He said looking at the brand the horse was wearing.

The sweaty horse whinnied and began to move faster towards them.

Jimmy raised the heavy Whitworth and took a bead on the man slowly moving towards the posse, he’d be in range in short order.

"What ya seein' Sonny?" Sleep stood in his stirrups, his eyes going back to Phil, watching him closely. "See the herd?"

“Nope see a dying man on a Lazy G horse.”

“What!” Phil said his eyes shooting in the direction of the incoming rider. He was caught off guard. He knew the herd was out there but he’d told Cutter to leave ‘em be. They didn’t want any reason for the Sherriff or Marshal to be coming that close to the hide out, or so he had thought.

Combined effort of Scarlet, Fritz & Tensleep

Jimmy watched the inbound riders. If they were just drovers that was one thing, if not that was something entirely different.

Jimmy steadied the rifle while he reached in his pocket and took out a pebble. He tossed it towards Zeke, it over shot the wagon and landed between it and Moonshine who’s ear flipped at the noise.

"Damn" he thought to himself.

Jimmy took a second pebble and tried again. This time it hit Fritz on the shoulder.

Fritz' eyes were open and looking over the sight of his carbine. If one of those riders tried anything foolish, their backbones would be found about fifty feet to their rear. Something hit his shoulder; not hard enough to hurt, but enough to get his attention. He didn't want to, but he had to risk a look over his shoulder...

"Should somebody go collect him Tensleep?" Sonny asked handing the spyglass to the Marshal. The horse was getting close enough to see the rider with out it.

Jimmy rolled his eyes, irritated with his poor shot at pebble throwing, he hadn't meant to hit Fritz. It appeared he had somebody already in his sights, but now he had been distracted.

Jimmy took a sugar cube and tossed it. The Sugar cube hit Fritz on the top of the shoulder and bounced into the seat between him and Zeke making a faint noise.

Zeke cocked his head, his eyes glancing down at the seat, he spotted the sugar cube then shot Fritz a curious sideways glance.

"...what the hell?" was all Fritz could muster.

Jimmy wondered if this was going to be fruitless. It would be nice not to be shot outta the tree by his own side if he ended up torching the rifle off. He wasn’t thrilled that Moonshine could be right in the line of Fritz’s fire should the horse stand up either.

He pulled another sugar cube out of his pocket. Surely they would figure out it wasn’t raining the things, besides he’d only have one left after this and that was for his horse, he’d have to resort to pebbles again if they didn’t catch on.

This time threw it a bit harder. It hit Fritz on the shoulder and bounced off his neck before it fell into the seat.

Zeke looked sideways and down again, trying not to draw attention to them, then at Fritz.

“Scarlet calls you sugar but I never figured you’d leak the stuff.”

It would be comical if the situation wasn't so deadly. Fritz looked over his shoulder, towards the high grass.


Fritz took his hand off the stock, and touched the brim of his slouch.

"We're covered," he whispered. "And have the advantage."

"Why don't we all ride since that's the way we are goin'?" Sleep said still watching Phil.

Maybe it was somebody else shot that cowboy Phil was thinking as he turned his horse to follow the Marshal.

Everyone moved to follow Tensleep.

Zeke had the team reined in moving slow so Fritz could keep an eye on the incoming riders and he had liked the idea of being covered with an advantage. The posse rode slow with the wagon making Zeke smile to himself, because they barley had gotten anywhere when the dying man’s horse trotted right up to the Marshal’s.

It took every ounce of what was left of the man’s strength to raise his head off of the horse’s neck and look at Tensleep.

Trying to smile at the face he recognized from some time ago he coughed out.
“Deputy Corbin shot us up”

Phil was shocked when he heard it.

"Get him off that hoss quick." Sleep scowled. Fritz stayed in the wagon but Zeke was on the ground going for the rider. Hank and Johnny had dropped to the ground too.

As he was lowered from his horse Tensleep asked, "What did this Deputy Corbin look like?" The marshal's eyes still had not left Phil and the man knew it. 'Sleep's mind held the sketch that Hank had made.

“said thieves Corbin shot us.” Were the last words the cowhand said as he slid into Zeke’s arms.

“He’s dead Marshal.” Zeke said laying the man on the ground and hurrying back up onto the wagon so he had control of the horses if anything happened.

The men looked somber unwilling to believe the words of the dead man.

Johnny wanted to tell ‘em Scarlet wasn’t a back shooter, but the right time, right place, right circumstances he didn’t know if he’d be wrong or not.

Phil sat with a shocked look on his face.

Tensleep's Remington was in his hand in a flash and covering Phil.

"Step down from the saddle Phil, we need to talk."

Phil looked blankly for a moment at Tensleep, beginning to wonder if they had an idea that he was not just a happy go lucky cowhand, but the dead man said it was a deputy that shot him.

Slowly Phil raised his hands and began to step down. He knew he didn’t have a chance, Tensleep was to close and he knew if the Marshal didn’t shoot him Hank would, there was something cold and deadly in his eyes.


The posse had only gotten a hundred yards or so away from Jimmy so he had a clear view of what was going on with the posse. The two riders had stopped about three hundred yards out and were watching the events.

Being out of earshot of normal conversation he couldn’t hear what was being said but out of the corner of his eye Jimmy saw Phil raising his hands.

He also saw one of the two riders dismount, wrap the reins around his forearm and bring a long rifle to his shoulder. Without looking he knew it was aimed either at the Marshal or Phil.

He’d seen men shoot their own to keep ‘em quiet so he made a decision.

He took aim, let out two low whistles and touched the old rifle off.

Things happened quickly after that. Moonshine was on his feet and heading for the tree.

First the posse heard the roar of the rifle, those who looked in the direction of the noise could see smoke billow from high in the tree.

Jimmy moved immediately, shouldering his rifle and coming fast down from the tree. Johnny’s head jerked in that direction but he couldn’t see how Jimmy made it out of the branches so fast and now stood on the back of his horse.

The outlaw had taken aim on Phil. He had his orders, Phil was valuable to Cutter but he wanted to keep the winning hand, Phil may leak if caught, don’t let it happen was what he said.

The second outlaw had waited to see if his partner was as good with the long range rifle as he claimed to be. What he heard and saw shocked him.

The mounted outlaw had never been close to a man that was hit like that before. The thud it made as it entered the man’s chest didn’t shock him so much as spray of blood, flesh and bone fragments that splattered the rifleman’s horse. The hit had made the rifle fire go wild.

The combination of noise from the rifles and red shower spooked both horses. The dead mans horse bolted dragging the body with him like a rag doll.

The mounted outlaw clung to his mount as the animal bucked then lined him out for cover as he tried to figure out what in the hell had just happened.

“Runner three hundred yards.” Jimmy yelled and pointed in the direction of the fleeing rider, before he jumped to the ground and began to reload.


"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 #58 on: June 30, 2005, 09:24:31 pm »


Fritz swung the muzzle around. "Zeke...DOWN!!!"

The rider was spattered in gore, but had enough sense to wheeel and run.

Zeke fell to the floorboards as the Springfield roared. Zeke's arm was close enough to feel the heat; his sleeve moved with the concussion. The shot caught the rider in the right shoulder, flipping him forward over his mount's head. The spooked mare kept on running...right over her rider.

"Well...that's gotta hurt," Fritz said, reloading his carbine.

Zeke brushed flecks of unburnt powder from his sleeve. "Nice shot."

Fritz shook his head. "Nah...I was aiming center mass."

Jimmy saw the rider go down and half grinned; one could ever be sure if it was a look of approval or one of somebody admiring a job well done. He brought the rifle up and steadied it on the horse’s saddle as he looked through the telescope for the next target. He knew there was another man out there, he’d seen him.

There in the trees he could just make out the rider who had stopped and was looking in the direction of the gunfire. The rider began continue in the direction he was headed.

Jimmy figured the man to be out of range but he knew he was going to have to unload the rifle one way or another so he squeezed the trigger. He could see the horse move off faster but could not tell if the rider had been hit or not.

Jimmy put his rifle in its scabbard and mounted up.

“No doubt they will be expecting us.” He said quietly as he rode by the posse.

“Should’ve saved that ‘un for you.” He growled as he passed Phil on his way to retrieve Dancer.

Rose had slipped in Patches room between Bill and Ella coming and going. She just put the finishing touches on a painting she’d been working on off and on for a short time.

She put it up in the corner of Patches room, stood back and smiled at her accomplishment. Rose didn’t know if Patches could hear her and really didn’t expect any response but she spoke softly anyway.

“What do you think? I think I captured our likenesses pretty well.” Rose said looking at the portrait she’d painted of Ella, Patches, Scarlet, Becca and herself.

They were on in the gowns they wore at the New Years Eve party at the Ace. Becca and Scarlet sat on the bar their long legs crossed. Rose had caught the devilish grin both women sometimes got. Rose had put herself standing on the floor between Scarlet and Rebecca. Patches stood sideways on Scarlet’s left , her face turned slightly so she appeared to be looking at the painter. Rose had caught the mischievous smile Patches sometimes got when she had an idea. Ella was on Becca’s right standing fully facing the painter. She had a knowing smile and a sparkle in her eyes that told you she could be just as mischievous as the rest of the girls when she wanted to be. Rose had given herself a proud look, because she was proud to know each of the girls and in a way she felt close to each and every one of them. The women all had drinks in their hand and appeared to be toasting.

“I hope I did right by all of you, kind of difficult since it was never posed for.

I know we’re not blood related but you and Ella are like daughters to me too. So you better pull through Patches. You’re a woman of the Southern Star now and women of the Southern Starr are a tough lot.”

Rose looked at the picture for a moment. Even though Patches had said nothing Rose acknowledged her like she had.

“You know I think you’re right.” Rose said. She took her paint brush and neatly wrote across the bottom of the portrait. The Women of the Southern Starr.

“When you feel up to it you and Ella can help me decide where to hang it.”

Rose began to sing softly enough not to disturb Patches as she straightened a few things and arranged a few of the flowers she had brought in earlier.

Rose turned at the soft sound of Ella’s footsteps followed by Bill's heavier ones, she tried to smile pleasantly but could not mask the fact she was worried.

“It’s the waiting I’ve always found to be the most difficult.

Is there any thing else we should be doing for her or anything more we can?” Rose said looking from Ella's face to Bill's.


"It's time for her to wake up and eat lunch," replied Ella, putting down the tray she had been carrying. "I've been feeding her honey water whenever she rouses, to give her some energy, but she should be ready for some more solid food. She hasn't indicated any pain this morning, so I haven't given her any morphine yet today. Bill, why don't you wake her?"

combined effort of Tensleep & Scarlet

"Should've saved that 'un for you." It was probably the most words Jimmy had ever said to Phil.

Phil watched Jimmy ride off then looked at Tensleep.

"I've never done anything to him, that boy just has snake blood in his veins. He's gonna kill me marshal. Did ya see the look he gave me?"

Tensleep studied Phil for a moment. "Ever have any family? Ever have yer family mistreated? Abused? Hurt? Ever feel the pain of loss when you lose someone you love? That boy loves Scarlet... and Rebecca. Scarlet like a sister, Rebecca as a close friend. Jimmy sees lots o' things others don't Phil. Jimmy is one who takes family an' friends seriously. Jimmy thinks you know somethin' an' he's gonna dawg you til he decides whether or not yer friend or foe."

While he talked the marshal had been looking through Phil's saddlebags.

Phil's mouth twisted for a moment. Tensleep had asked him a question nobody had in years.

"My ma died along time ago Marshal." His eyes rolled into the direction Jimmy had gone again and narrowed. "Hell, he's probably the one shot 'er.

I didn't think Jimmy had friends or family. Thought he was just loyal to the brand, heard the Southern Starr has a lot o' men like him." Phil watched Tensleep as he went through the saddlebags.

"Look marshal, I ain't done nuthin'. All you're gonna find in there is grub and some papers on them cattle I'm supposed to be getting. Sounds like you got bigger problems, with one of your deputies shootin' drovers in the back."

"Never in yer life think that one of my deputies shot somebody didn't need shootin' Phil. Why don't you mount up an' ride? See if you can find yer cattle." 'Sleep mounted again as did Phil who turned his horse.

"Oh an' Phil, remember, Jimmy is one o' my deputies when he wants to be.... an' he's watchin' you!"

A cold shiver danced through Phil's body. That boy was probably worse that Cutter he thought.
"Well Marshal I might rethink that statement if Jimmy's one o' 'em. Scarlet, no I don't believe she'd do it, but that 'un." He snorted, then turned his horse and rode in the direction he figured he'd find the cattle just in case he was being watched.

Hank and Sonny watched Phil ride off.

"Sleep, Jimmy didn't see that paper I showed Sonny." Hank said "ya know if he had.." Hank's voice drifted off.

Johnny looked between the men. "What paper?"

"Ya got it with ya Hank?" 'Sleep drew on his pipe. "If ya do show Johnny.
Ever wonder jus' what Jimmy does when he rides off by hisself?"

Hank took the drawing and the wanted poster out of his saddlebag and handed it over to Johnny.

Johnny studied it a moment raising his eyebrow as he did. He thought for a few seconds narrowing his eyes and grinding his teeth.

"I don't worry ‘bout it much Sleep. If I ever want to know I just ask him. If he's been up to no good he'll tell ya ya don't want to know. I used ta have to make him clean out the outhouse or whatever nasty job I could think of to get him to tell me stuff, but he grew out o’ that.

Why'd ya let that boy ride off?" Johnny said as he handed the paper back to Hank.

"Figger he will start to stew an' mebbe do somethin' foolish. If he does, Jimmy will see him do it, might lead us to tha wimmen. That's what I want, wanna find tha girls.... whatever it takes." Tensleep nudged Buck into a walk toward the man Jimmy had shot.

Johnny chuckled softly. "If Jimmy didn't see that paper then sumptin has crawled under his skin about that boy."

Johnny followed Tensleep towards the shaking, blood sprayed horse who had finally come to a stop.

He looked at the man. "Jimmy always was a good shot."

Zeke held his hand out towards Hank wanting to see the paper that was passed between the men.

Hank handed them over.

Zeke studied the wanted poster of the unknown man and the drawing that was obviously Phil. “Damn” Zeke said under his breath as he looked at 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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« Reply #59 on: June 30, 2005, 09:26:11 pm »


When Tensleep got to the body his eyes were on Jimmy who head down, was watching the ground. 'Sleep stood in his stirrups and whistled loudly, the sound like an eagle's scream. Jimmy's head came up and he turned looking back at the marshal.

Tensleep held Jimmy's gaze for a moment then looked in the direction Phil had ridden. Jimmy followed with his eyes then looked back at the marshal.
Tensleep nodded slowly. That was all it took, Jimmy began to drift his mount in a direction that would soon intercept Phil's track.

"Just when did you an' Jimmy git so close?" Johnny was beside Tensleep talking quietly.

The marshal grinned. "Lots o' things happen when folks can't sleep Johnny." Tensleep winked.


Patches listened carefully. Somebody was calling her name. She recognized the voice almost at once. It was Bill. She tried to smile. The side of her face still hurt but she was able to move the corners of her mouth up a bit. “Welcome back, darling,” she heard Bill say. She managed to open both eyes this time though her left eye was still swollen. She swallowed and licked her lips. “Glad to be back,” she replied.

Bill reached for the water glass beside the bed. “Do you want some more water to drink?” he asked her as he turned back toward Patches.

“I . . .” she paused and tried to smile again. “I’m hungry.”

Bill grinned back at her. Those two words were the best news he had heard in days. “I believe Ella has some soup right here so let’s get you sitting up in bed, if you think you’re up to it.” His brow furrowed and the worried look returned to his face.

Patches smiled at him again. “I’m sore and I still hurt darlin’ but I think I can sit up if you help me.” Bill reached forward and carefully placed his arms around Patches being sure to avoid the broken ribs. She leaned forward and laid her head on his shoulder while putting her arms across his back.

For one of the very few times in the last few days Patches felt comfortable. She sighed even though she knew it would hurt her ribs to do so. She could feel the muscles moving across Bill’s back as he gently lifted her into a sitting position while Ella piled the pillows up against the headboard. When Bill started to lower her onto the pillows she grasped his shirt and spoke. “No.”

She could feel Bill flinch under the cotton material. “Did I hurt you, darling?” he asked. She couldn’t miss the sudden concern in his voice.

“I’m fine. Just not yet,” she replied and held onto him for a little longer.


Cutter ground out his smoke with the toe of his boot and entered the cabin. Some of the men were sitting around the table near Scarlet and Rebecca.

“Whacha’ like blonde?” One of them asked as he ran his fingers through Scarlet’s hair.

Cutter could tell by the look on her face she wanted to tear the man into little pieces. He wondered if she would break any teeth the way she was gritting her jaw. By the raw look of her wrists she’d already tried the ropes more than once.

One of the other men put his hand against her cheek “I know what you’d like” he said as she jerked her face away from his touch.

“I know what she’d like too.” Cutter said.

Everyone’s heads spun around to look at him. He was back earlier than they’d expected and while they’d really done nothing but torment the women they didn’t think he’d approve.

“We was only havin’ a little fun boss.” One of them said.

“I told ya to leave the women alone.” Cutter replied half smiling.

Rebecca sat with her knees up and face buried in them. Scarlet glared at him obviously fuming.

“We didn’t touch Jenny, an we only touched those to a little.” Came another voice.

“Yeah boss, you can’t ‘spect us to be gentlemen, cuz we’re not. You n Josh ‘ve had somethin’ warm to hold at night the rest of us would like somethin’ too.” Harry chuckled.

“Shouldn’t have killed Red.” Cutter smiled as he watched the brief look of sorrow play in Scalret’s eyes only to be replaced with more hatred.

“Which one o’ ya wants her bad ‘nuff ta try it?”

“Ya say she’s like a wild mustang. Here tell if ya break one they are a might fine ride. I’ve been a rough stock rider before.” Doug stepped up with a smile and looked down at Scarlet. “I’d be happy ta break ‘er for ya boss.

Cutter looked at the man, he was new to the mob, and a bit cocky. “All balls and little brains. Let’s see how long ya last. My moneys on blonde.” Cutter chuckled as he tossed some gold coins on the table. The rest of the men followed suit naming who their money was on.

“Oh God” Rebecca whispered. “I’m sorry Scarlet.”

Doug grabbed Scarlet by the ankles and pulled her legs straight than sat on her thighs. He smiled as he looked into her eyes. “Ya might just kill me with that look lady.” He said.

He started with her cheeks then let his hands familiarize themselves with her body.

Scarlet’s skin crawled at his touch and she knew what it was like to be an animal in a trap willing to chew it’s own leg off to escape. Doug’s hands stopped just below her breasts and she felt his tongue on her chest.

He felt her muscles ripple under his touch and thought he heard her growl.

“She’s real sweet boss, I don’t know what the problem ya have with her is, maybe she just don’t like y’all.” He chuckled.

Cutter laughed. “Boy it ain’t fair to try and ride a mustang when she’s all tied up.” He swung the sharp blade. “Let ‘er buck.”

Scarlet couldn’t believe her luck when she felt her hands come lose, Cutter had sliced the rope that bound her to Rebecca and the table.

She curled her hands into tight fists and brought them against Doug’s ears as hard as she could.

The man screamed in pain and surprise as he felt her hands on his chest shoving him backwards while she tried to scramble to her feet.

She felt a fist to her thigh then her ribs before he grabbed her by the leg bringing her back down. She kicked at his face missing but causing him to let go of her. She was on her feet then felt him hit her low and lift her up. She balled her hands together and hit him in the small of the back. The two crashed into the door, down the step of the cabin and into the dirt.

“Looks more like a cat fight ta me!” could be heard amongst the laughs and the “Ride ‘em cowboy”

Cutter watched the two figures roll, kicking and punching one another. He figured this would take Doug’s big ego down and maybe wear Scarlet out. The two of them were beating the hell outta one another. He had to wonder where Scarlet learned to fight, because she was sure holding her own against a man who was not being kind because she was a girl.

As they rolled through the dirt Doug felt her reach for it. He couldn’t believe it, she was fast and accurate as she pulled his gun from it’s holster.

He pulled Rebecca close “Who taught her to fight?” He asked.

“Don’t know.” She replied.

The whistles and calls suddenly turned to cursing and men moving about.

Cutters head jerked up as the sound of two shots rang the air. Doug lay at Scarlet’s feet blood running from the whole in his head and his shirt soaking up the blood from the chest wound.

She had a crazy look in her eyes as she stared at Cutter over the top of the pistol.

He pulled Rebecca closer and shoved his pistol into her ribs. “Give it up Scarlet, or I’ll do it.”

Scarlet stood her chest rising and falling as she tried to catch her breath for a brief moment she wondered if this would be the only chance they had. It would be bad at best, she knew Becca would die, with the guns that had been drawn while she stood staring at Cutter she would die too, if she was lucky. If she was not she’d have to live with Rebecca’s blood on her hands as well as Patches. Scarlet let the pistol slide from her hand and drop into the dirt.

She heard it but she wasn’t sure who said it or where it came from. “The battle is lost, but the war is not over.”

“I’ll kill you one day Kevin Rowen.” She mumbled as she walked past him back into the house.

“Or dye trying Scarlet.” He said pushing Rebecca after her.

Scarlet leaned against the wall then sunk to the floor drawing her knees up she took a deep breath. The pain told her her body was bruised. Doug had been a fighter and what had started out fun and games for him had turned into a fight he’d not expected. He had fought for his life never minding it was a woman with whom he fought and the aches were letting her know.

Rebecca sat down next to her and handed her a damp cloth.
“You’re a mess and you’re a fool.” She said brushing Scarlet’s hair away from her face.

Scarlet locked gazes with her.

“Cutter wouldn’t have let him do anything to you, he’s just wearing you down.” Becca said softly.

“I know.” Scarlet said touching the cloth gingerly to her split lip.

“You should have run when you had the chance Scarlet.”

“He would have killed you, most likely slow.” Scarlet whispered.

“Maybe he’d be doing me a favor.” Rebecca’s eyes darted in Josh’s direction then back to Scarlet.

“Do you really believe that?”

“No.” Becca said flatly. “I’ll just have to suck it up and deal with it. After all I been with scary men before. If you don’t like them you just pretend they’re someone you want to be with, makes it easier.” She said it to convince herself as much as Scarlet. What she wasn’t prepared for was Scarlet’s simple answer.

“I know.”

A puzzled look crossed Rebecca’s face. It was the words as much as how it was said that told Rebecca Scarlet had been with someone while she was thinking of someone else.

“If you’re doing that it’s time to cut another pony from the herd.” Becca said softly.

“Yep.” Scarlet snorted.

“Scarlet it’s not…” Her question was interrupted by a man coming through the door.

“We got company boss.” The man said as he sat in a chair near the two women.

Cutter looked at the wound in his arm. “Looks like one of them left his calling card.”

“Little bastard took a long shot at me. What the hell they shooting that can range like that?” He said taking off his shirt and looking at the lump just under the skin in his tricep.

The outlaw took out his knife and cut his skin, the bullet bounced to the ground, rolled and came to a stop at Cutter’s feet.

The outlaw bent over and picked up the hexagonal bullet and examined it. “I ain’t never seen anything like that boss. What’s it from?”

“I’d say you’ve been tagged by a confederate sniper. What would you say Scarlet?”

Scarlet raised one eyebrow. “Dead man walking.” She half smiled.

Cutter grinned back. “I think we need to go meet our guests.” Cutter thought a moment then reached towards Scarlet.

Her eyes flashed fire at him; she was ready to fight him too and he knew it. Cutter thought a moment longer; looking over at Jenny he smiled his sinister smile.

“Come here.” He reached towards Jenny. Smiling even more wickedly he took his knife, grabbed Jenny’s hair and cut a handful. He then took a sack and placed the hair and a spyglass in it. Thinking a bit more he looked Rebecca over.

“Give me the ring.” He said holding out his hand.

Rebecca slid the emerald ring she always wore off of her finger and handed it to him.

Cutter dropped it in the sack then tied it all with the yellow cord he’d taken from Scarlet earlier.

Turning to one of his men he said. “Here go put that on a tree at the head of the trail, just below the cliff. Make sure it’s someplace they will find it.”

He turned back to Jenny and looked her over. She’d been allowed to wear her undergarments and that was all. Cutter took Scarlet’s slicker off of the chair, pinned her badge back on it and handed it to Jenny. “Put it on.” Turning to Harry. “Tie them other two up, same deal as before, if they don’t behave, cept I’ll have Jenny with me this time.”

Cutter looked Jenny over again, picked the ring he’d taken from Scarlet and put it on Jenny’s finger. “Whacha think?”

“Could be her sister. Could be her if you don’t look to close at the face.” Harry replied.

Cutter found another sack and put it over Jenny’s head. “There” he said proud of himself. “Let’s go. You two behave.” He said to Rebecca and Scarlet. Then lead Jenny out the door and put her up on his horse. A small group rode off.
“What you think he’s gonna do?” Rebecca said watching them go.

“You can bet it ain’t gonna be good.” Scarlet replied.


At the base of the cliff the trail widened and split. Well worn wagon ruts headed east and west, but there were fresh hoofprints going staight ahead. Off in the distance there was a house; little more than a cottage really. But smoke rose from the chimney. Horses both in the barn and on the rail. Phil's horse plucked shoots near the hitching post.

Jimmy was first to notice it; a burlap sack swinging in the breeze from a low-hanging branch. He rode foward, covered by Fritz's Trapdoor. Jimmy flipped out his knife to cut the cord it hung by, and stopped. Gingerly, he pulled it from the branch, and rode back to the posse. He could feel eyes on his back from the house.

"Whatya got there?" 'Sleep asked.

Jimmy shook his head. "A calling card. Fritz, come here."

Fritz jumped from the buckboard and walked to the mounted men. It was then that he noticed the cord. Jimmy unravelled the cavalry cord and handed it over. Fritz said nothing. He took off his slouch and replaced the cord. 'Sleep saw the mucles in Fritz's jaw clenching, and noticed the color in his cheeks rising.

"What else is in the bag?" 'Sleep cupped his hands, and Jimmy emptied the contents. The heavier items fell out. A leather-wrapped spyglass, and an emerald ring. 'Sleep recognized it immediately. Lastly, a hank of blonde hair floated lazily out, to rest in 'Sleep's hand. Fritz reached up and took the hair.


Fritz mounted the buckboard and took his seat.

"I think the high ground on the left will be a good spot for the rocket."

"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 #60 on: July 06, 2005, 10:40:51 pm »


The last half mile of the ride Cutter made Jenny walk the rocky trail to the top of the mountain barefoot, she had stumbled and fallen to her knees a couple of times because the only time he took the sack off of her head was to tie the gag in her mouth.

When they reached the spot Cutter wanted to be in he dismounted and pulled Jenny close to him. “Yer so perfect.” He whispered in a heinousness voice.

He removed the rope he’d tied around her neck to lead her. He grinned at the burn it had made against her pretty throat. He fixed the sack as not to show her face but to be sure the rope burn was seen. Then he rolled the cuffs of the slicker so the bruises on her wrists could be seen. Oh they were a thing of beauty; he never knew one could leave bruises that were obviously hand prints. He’d never kept one alive that long he supposed. She had struggled some when he had forced himself upon her, causing him to hold her wrists tight.

Cutter tied her arms against her body the left hand was palm down so they could see the ruby ring she wore, her right was palm up so they could see the wound she had given herself digging her fingernails into her palm while he held her wrists.

Standing back he observed her, and then halfway unbuttoned her chemise exposing another bruise. She had probably gotten hit by one of the boys when they first arrived at the house. Jenny wasn’t much of a scrapper like Scarlet but there were bruises that could convince one different, the bruises around her ankles from being tied were a nice touch too.

Cutter was impressed with the way he’d prepared the blonde woman for the posse to see.

He stepped to the edge of the rocks so they could be seen by the posse. Cutter stood directly behind her. If they tried to take a shot she would be hit, then he’d simply drop her over the edge, if the bullet didn’t kill her the fall would. He had made sure he chose a spot that would be difficult for them to get at him, and the small group of outlaws had the posse covered.

“It’s show time sweet thing.” He whispered in her ear as he brought her hair over her shoulder for the posse to see this was the woman who’s hair he’d sent as a welcome gift.
combined effort of Tensleep and Scarlet

"Greetings ya wet dogs.” Cutter called down to the posse.

“I know some of ya and the rest I know of ya, cept the boy at the lines there.
In case you don’t know I am Cutter, but I 'spect you know that cuz here ya are.

Marshal Ross, who’s that boy at the reins on the wagon?” While he spoke he moved his hand intimately along the woman’s body.

“And before you get any idea’s ya should know you are covered by some of the nicest gentleman I’ve had the pleasure of ridin the river with.” He grinned his sadistic grin.

Tensleep looked up into the rocks and spotted Cutter holding Jenny. "Why that's Zeke, he's always wanted to see a hangin'." Tensleep had noticed that Jimmy wasn't in Cutter's sight and had begun to slip off.

"Hey, one of ya is missing. That boy better get back here or Zeke gonna see a hanging alot sooner than y'all are planning." Cutter looked sideways into the rocks "Spot that ghost." He hissed at one of his men.

"Marshal I'm in the mood to cut a deal, but don't go pissin me off or it's gonna get bloody quick. Yer girl here will be the first ta die. Ask those around you, it won't be quick. Then I will have to go back and punish yer whore for the bad things you are doing. I really thought I was going to be dealing with a smarter man than Hart." Cutter yelled down.

"You mean Bob? We left him back with the wounded drover. We're all here Cutter." Tensleep had raised his voice so that Jimmy could follow what was being said.

"That ghost spilt himself in two and now is calling the other Bob? Come on Marshal I'm not a fool, and I'm beginning not to like you. Look I want to make a simple deal with you. But if ya lie right from the start how can I trust ya?"

"Ghost I know yer out there. Get back to the posse now or Scalets gonna end up like that drover in the field. I know you saw him."

"Now Marshal, lets start again, I'll give you an eaiser question to answer. What's in the wagon?"

"You're starting to piss him off Tensleep." Sonny whispered. "I'm not sure that's a good idea right now."

"Now Cutter just what gave you the idea that I ever wanted you to like me? Kinda hard to even think about you as anything but a rabid coyote after what you have done ta folks all over this country. Tha very thought of you makes my stomach sour."

Quietly Tensleep whispered to the posse, "Give Jimmy time to move and Cutter something else to think about."

Cutter chuckled. “So ya’ve seen my handi werk.
“But ya didn’t answer my question Marshal and I still don’t see the other one.” Cutter was becoming irritated. “What’s in the wagon?”

Cutter drew his knife and stuck the point between the woman’s breasts. “Don’t make me do something I won’t enjoy Ross.”

Johnny and Sonny were becoming uneasy, Cutter wasn’t much of a bluffer and they knew it.

"Why would I ever do that Cutter? Soon as you stick that knife in yer exposed, you can see us, we can see you. Do it and you will have a rifle ball between your eyes. I never expected any of us to leave here alive when we started this. You just as well use that knife and die." Tensleep remained calm as he spoke.


“Ya think I’m stupid don’t you. I ain’t gonna kill her, just make her bleed. So no, I won’t be exposed and you’ll have to shoot ‘er yourself.” He pressed the tip of the knife to her cutting the material and slightly cutting her causing a few drops of blood to wet the blade.. “Scarlet’s always been resilient when I’ve carved on her.” Cutter yelled as the woman pressed her body closer to him trying to escape the pain.

“Rebecca is not so much Ross. Thus far I’ve left her to my brother’s care. He’s not hurt her on purpose, he loves her to much. Keeps her safe from the other men. But if you continue the path you’re on I’m gonna send word back down to those men that they can do what ever they want with her. They been waitin Marshal, waitin along time for me to let em loose on her. She smells like Jasmine ya know, kinda drives the men crazy. I hear it’s hard on a woman when a group has at her. Course maybe being a whore she can handle it.

Now if you want to deal let me know, get the other one back here, and tell me what’s in the wagon or we disappear.”

Jimmy drifted back next to the wagon “We are about as close as we are going to get.” He said flatly “He’s covered the place well. We start shooting they’ll escape on the back trail. I’m afraid if I try to work my way around they’ll spook and run.”

Jimmy watched the two above them. “What the hell has he done to her.” He said more to himself than anybody else.

“What kinda deal you want Cutter?” Johnny yelled up to him.

Cutter smiled. Someone finally to play his game he thought. “Johnny, I always knew you was a smart man. I want Trixie Blue. I’m a reasonable man. I’ll trade one whore for another. What say you?”

“We don’t have her, don’t know where she is. Ask Scarlet how to find her.” Johnny yelled back.

“Scarlet doesn’t give up her friends Johnny, you know that. She’ll die ‘for she tells me something like that so we been having a different kind of fun.”

“Hey soldier. I’m surprised you could handle one as wild as Scarlet, course once ya break her she’s an awful nice ride. We’ve been havin us some good times.” Cutter licked her neck. “So sweet.”

“I’d consider givin’ her back but I don’t think she wants ya any more.”

Cutter buried his face against her neck and whispered. “Your husband is dead Jenny, boys cut him into tiny pieces.”

That had brought her to life, a little more like Scarlet. Jenny began to struggle but Cutter had a good hold on her. One of the reasons he didn’t want to bring Scarlet, the woman could be like a blind bucker, strong, and she fought dirty too. He wouldn’t have had near the control of her that he had on Jenny.

Jenny began to cry as she struggled causing the sack on her face to become wet.

“Oh look King, the thought of me returning her to you upsets her…ya gone and made her cry. Guess I’m going to have to take her home see if I can’t make her forget about you some more.”

Jimmy looked at Johnny he knew they were thinking the same thing even though Johnny’s back was to him.

Scarlet had told them “Don’t give him the satisfaction of breaking me. I’d rather die, if you love me at all and have to make the decision you’ll kill me then you’ll kill him.”

It’s what was making Johnny uneasy; wondering if this was what Scarlet meant. She’d never been afraid of death, at times had prayed for it, but things were different now.

Johnny looked over his shoulder at the man sitting in the wagon. He had tolerated a lot of inappropriate behavior under his roof because Fritz had given Rose and him back a piece of their daughter he counted on never seeing again, because of the bastard that held her so close now.

In some ways Johnny figured it was his own fault. he’d told Scarlet to live every day like it was her last and to do what made her happy. He sort of figured that would be more horses or something, but the thing that made his daughter happiest of all was the soldier sitting in the wagon who seemed to think the world of her too, and that to Johnny was worth the indiscretions he knew went on in his house.

Johnny caught Jimmy’s gaze then looked back up at the situation.

Jimmy’s hand rested on the butt of his rifle. He could work his way back around and do what Scarlet had asked of him, Cutter wouldn’t have the time to get word back to hurt Rebecca.

Johnny’s glance at Fritz hadn’t gone unnoticed by Jimmy, he too wondered what she would say. Scarlet was strong, a fighter. The woman in Cutters arms was a shell of what was left of the woman he knew. He could almost hear her scream carried on the wind.

“I only ever asked one thing from you Jimmy and you wouldn’t do it!!” He knew it was his imagination because Scarlet had not said anything. Jimmy glanced down at Fritz and wondered if he had what it took to bring Scarlet’s soul back from whatever hell Cutter had dealt her this time.

"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 #61 on: July 06, 2005, 10:50:35 pm »


Fritz climbed down from the wagon and dropped to his belly. He took up a good prone position, and flipped the ladder sight up. Fritz put the Trapdoor to his shoulder, and thumbed that hammer to full cock. He took a deep breath; let it out slow, and peered through the sights.

Cutter knew what he was doing. He bobbed and weaved, pushing Scarlet to either side in front of him. Fritz wasn’t sure, but he thought Cutter was smiling. If he’d had his rifle he would’ve taken the shot. But with the shorter carbine barrel, he just wasn’t sure. Reluctantly, Fritz lowered the hammer.

“I don’t have a shot!” he called out, muttering “Damn” to himself, under his breath.

Jimmy looked over at the soldier and mothed the words "take the shot."

Fritz shook his head.

"Save her," Jimmy whispered.

"I can't be sure," Fritz replied.

Jimmy knelt down beside him. He put his hand on Fritz's shoulder.

"Then you can spare her."

The horrific meaning of Jimmy words finally hit home.

Fritz threw the hand off. "NO!!! I won't kill her! There must be another way."


Jimmy looked at Fritz. “How can you be sure he hasn’t already killed her Fritz? Look at ‘er. Can you honestly tell me he hasn’t broken Scarlet’s spirit and sent her soul back to hell?

When our group started riding together we all made a deal. If we thought the other was beyond help to show mercy and not give the outlaws the satisfaction of breaking us or taking our lives.

Take a good look at 'er. Can you tell me you can go into what ever dark place he’s sent her this time and bring her back? Cuz I keep trying to shut out the sound of her yelling at me ta do it."

Johnny was listening to every word the two men exchanged. It wasn’t often Jimmy went searching for reason’s not to carry out an order, or in this case a request by someone he loved.

Johnny took a deep breath. He was ready to back whatever decision that was made. If Scarlet went down he knew it would be as quick and as painless as possible, then he’d splatter Cutter all over the rocks. If they chose to play Cutter's game he would wait it out.

Fritz pulled the big Colt and handed it butt-forward to Jimmy.

"Then you better blow my brains out too," Fritz said coldly. "Because I've learned my life's not worth a damn without her!"

Jimmy just stared at the soldier.

"There MUST be another way. She told me she'd go after her demons one day. If she found them, I won't let her fight them alone."

Fritz threw the carbine on the buckboard seat, and hopped into the back.

Jimmy followed, still holding the Colt. "What the hell are you doing?"

"He wants too see what's in the wagon," Fritz said. "How 'bout we show him?"

Johnny couldn’t believe what he was thinking. She was his little girl, no matter what had happened to her, Scarlet was still his daughter.

He was about to tell Jimmy he didn’t think this was what Scarlet meant when they’d made that pact when he heard Fritz’s response and saw him hand over the colt. If that wasn’t plain enough he didn’t know what else would be.

He looked around his eyes falling on the big grey mare Sonny loved so much, she was probably the best choice other than Jimmy’s horse or Dancer if one had to make a fast ride. He knew Jimmy wasn’t about to leave and ride to a telegraph office, Sonny would be the next best choice.

He then looked back at Jimmy and Fritz. “Wait on that boys.” He said softly.

“Zeke can you get that wagon to the flat Fritz was talking about quickly?”

Zeke eyed the spot Fritz had pointed out earlier and half smiled. “Yep.”

“Back that wagon up slow enough he won’t notice.”

“Yessir.” He said to Johnny then turned to Fritz “Let’s go find us a better spot.”

Jimmy handed Fritz the colt then went to his horse, mounted up and rode out in front of Johnny.

To somebody watching it didn’t look like Zeke was doing anything but sitting in the wagon. The horse’s heads bobbed up and down looking impatient and occasionally they would back.

Cutter watched for a moment curious of what Jimmy might be doing. When Jimmy came to a stop Cutter yelled down to him.

“I’m disappointed, shooting him with his own gun would have been so very sweet to see. Ain’t that what you were trained ta do. Shoot all the Yankees and let God sort ‘em out?” Cutter chuckled at his own wit.

Jimmy turned his horse to face Cutter the horse arched his neck, Jimmy sat straight in the saddle. He brought his finger up to the brim of his hat in what would have been the perfect salute had he not only used his middle finger.

Johnny rode out next to Jimmy. “Enough, you want to cut a deal lets do it.”

Cutter grinned. “I want Trixie, plain and simple.”

“I want both women.” Johnny yelled back.

“No deal, one whore for another.”

“What about Scarlet?”

“I don’t know Johnny, I haven’t had the peace and quiet to think of what she is really worth to you unless you can grant me immunity, clear my slate of all my past sins and guarantee me a law free future.”

“You know I can’t do that.” Johnny yelled.

“OK lets deal in whores first, we can talk about Scarlet when I am satisfied you can bring me the first thing I want.”

“I have to send a rider, we got to try and find where she is. You have to promise me safe passage for him.” Johnny yelled back.

“Why don’t you all go?”

It was what Johnny had been waiting for, Cutter to think they were moving because of him. “We’ll go, but one rider is faster to get the information you want.”

Cutter thought for a moment. Was it a trick or did he really have them over a barrel.

“Who? Who will ride ahead?”


Sonny looked surprised, but he was willing to do it.
“Ok, Deputy Sonny can go and come back, he has til sun up to bring me some news.” Cutter yelled down.

Johnny turned to Sonny. “I hope that grey mare is what I think she is Sonny. There’s a town not..”

Sonny cut him off. “This mare is better than the day Scarlet gave ‘er to me, I know where the town is and I know what I need to do. Where should I meet ya Johnny?”

“I’ll leave a sign in field with the blue bonnets. Be careful Sonny.”

“You bet.” Sonny said then kicked his horse and headed for the little town.

“Now let’s talk about Scarlet.” Johnny yelled up.

“No, we will talk about Scarlet in the morning. You people leave my sight now.”

“Cutter if you hurt that girl any more I’m gonna keep your soul earthbound for eternity.” Johnny said viciously. “And if you hurt Rebecca, the deals off too!”

To Johnny Cutter seemed to have the strangest grin. “I will not hurt this girl unless she misbehaves Johnny. That I promise. And I will keep Rebecca from the others unless you disappoint me.”

Cutter was so pleased with himself he didn’t notice the wagon drifting off the path they had come in on.

Johnny turned to the rest of the group. “We got til sunrise. I’m thinking we let hell lose on ‘em just as soon as we can.” He looked where the wagon was heading now. Zeke being careful not be seen.

Zeke shifted in his seat briefly, something had caught his attention. Someone was following. He listened.

“Ya hear anything Fritz?” He whispered.

Fritz listened, he heard nothing but noticed Strider and Zeke’s horse looking into the underbrush. They didn’t seem alarmed, just looking. Strider’s nostrils quivered but he made no noise to speak of.

Zeke looked in the direction the teams ears were cocked wondering if he could spot what might be following them. He blinked his eyes a bit as he saw the dark figure of a rider less horse then it was gone.

“I don’t think I’m used to this kind of livin any more.” He mumbled as he tapped the team with the reins to get them moving faster.
When the posse disappeared back from where they’d come Cutter backed away from the ledge, mounted up and pulled Jenny up in front of him.

He’d put scouts out if they decided to come back tonight, but Cutter didn’t figure on seeing the posse until morning.

Cutter rode his horse into the small barn, dismounted then pulled Jenny off. She stood shaking. She couldn’t believe what he’d told her earlier, she’d done everything he’d asked of her.

Cutter pulled the sack off of her head and took the gag out of her mouth.

“You lied.” She sobbed.

Cutter rolled his eyes. “I didn’t. I never touched him. That was the deal.”

“You said he was dead.”

“He is, but I didn’t do it. Tol’ ya the boys done it.” With that he spun her around to face the corpse that was once her beloved husband.

Jenny sunk to her knees, her face in her hands and began to sob. “No.”

Cutter bent down, scooped her up, carried her in the house and deposited her in a chair at the table where she continued to cry.

“You two.” He said as he bent over and untied Scarlet and Rebecca “find something to cook.”

Scarlet and Rebecca stood, rubbing their wrists from where the rope had been tight then went to the kitchen and started to go through the pantry. Both wondering what Cutter had done.

Rebecca was the first to break the deafening silence when she leaned over to Scarlet and whispered. “The only thing eatable I see here I can fix is bacon & eggs.”

Scarlet half smiled. “I’ll do the biscuits, don’t ‘spect Jenny to be much help right now.”

Cutter sat watching. It was nice the women behaving themselves like women ought to, except for that one that wouldn’t stop crying. He stood up and went to Jenny.

“Come here, I think it’s time I gave you something else to think about.” Then he kissed her.

Jenny hit him hard on the chest. “You bastard!” She screamed then started to hit him wildly with her fists.

Surprised Cutter backed away, she came at him screaming, sobbing and hitting. It wasn’t that the hitting hurt so much as it angered him. He grabbed her by the back of her head and chin and twisted with all his strength. Jenny slid lifeless to the floor.

Scarlet and Rebecca froze in shock for a moment at the scene before them. Cutter coming back towards them snapped them out of it.

“Becca member what I told you. Odds have just changed.” Scarlet whispered.
Cutter grinned at her. “Guess it’s your turn now.”

Scarlet wasn’t sure what he meant by that until he reached out put his hand around the back of her neck, pulled her close and kissed her hard on the mouth.

Cutter couldn’t believe the sensations he felt.

Rebecca was shocked by the scene and couldn’t move, her feet seemed nailed to the floor. Her mind whirled with what she was seeing; she just could believe it and the awful noise.

Scarlet wrapped one arm around Cutters back then with her other hand she plunged her fingers as hard as she could into the wound in his thigh.

The pain was excruciating, like nothing he’d ever felt as the charcoal poultice broke against the stitches that gave way. Scarlet pulled her hand back and put more force behind the second thrust. She could feel the stitches break and the wound open. She grabbed hold of open wound and lifted him off of his feet causing Cutter to let out the most blood curdling howl. He started to swing wildly at her, but she wouldn’t let go of him.

Cutter and Scarlet stumbled over the table knocking it and all it’s contents to the floor.

Scarlet heard the shatter of glass, footsteps and someone yelling to put the fire out. She knew there had been a lantern on the table, but she dare not let go of the hold she had on Cutter who was trying to pry her hand from his thigh while he screamed obscenities at her.

“Run!” Scarlet yelled snapping Rebecca back to her senses.

Josh made a move to grab at Rebecca so she couldn’t get away. She looked wildly around for anything to defend herself with, determined to escape this time. Spotting the frying pan Rebecca grabbed it and swung it at Josh. He held up his hand to protect his face cursing as the hot pan hit his forearm and bacon grease splashed on him.

Josh lunged at her, Becca ducked and grabbed one of the chairs from the table swinging it at him. A gun belt slid from the back of the chair she had down her arm. She glanced quickly hoping for a gun, to her disappointment there was none, so she chucked the belt into the fireplace.

“Fire in the hole.” Becca yelled.

“Get out!” Scarlet yelled back.

Becca looked in time to see Cutter bringing his knife down and Scarlet rolling out of the way just in time. The first of the shells on the gunbelt started to go off. The man that had pulled down the curtain to try and put out the fire dropped the cloth and ran out the door.

Scarlet was on her feet. “Run Becca.”

Rebecca turned and ran out the door, Josh trying to follow. He grabbed the back of the long dress she wore almost making her fall. Rebecca reached for the barrette Scarlet had given her. The fancy wire popped and Rebecca had the knife open by the time she turned to face the Josh. She swung it at his face catching his cheek and barley missing his eye.

“Bitch” Josh yelled as he brought his hands to his face.

Becca turned and ran cutting at the gown trying to remove it as she went. She could hear the gunfire and the noises but she didn’t stop, she had to get to help, let them know where they were like Scarlet had made her promise.

Becca looked over her shoulder as she swung up on her horse. She couldn’t imagine what would cause so much smoke to be coming out of the cabin that she could barely see it now.

She turned Cloud intending to go back and help, that’s when she saw Harry and Josh coming after her. Wheeling Cloud around she kicked him and hoped he knew the way home on the back trail like Scarlet said.

Scarlet was nearly to the door when someone grabbed her from behind. She could hear the men yelling, the bullets in the fire going off, then there was a noise she couldn’t identify, it was almost a whistle before the sound of breaking glass.

The broken lamp and bacon grease had caught fire, spread and started to climb another curtain causing smoke in the air, but suddenly the room was filled. Her eyes burned and watered, it was all she could do to catch her breath, her lungs felt like they were on fire.

Whoever had a hold of her let go in a fit of coughing.

She could hear the fear filled screams of the horses tied at the railing. Scarlet felt a hand reach for her just as she bolted out the door towards the sounds of the horses. Between the smoke and her teary eyes she could just make out a horse starting to pull away. She grabbed the rein that was coming away from the rail and made a dive for the saddle landing ungracefully behind it and almost coming off as the horse spun away from the smoking building.

Scarlet wasn’t sure how far they’d gone when she heard him splash through water and finally pulled the horse to a stop. The cover of the trees concealed her position as she slid from the horses back. Wiping her eyes again she looked back. There was a bright light below her position, she knew it was the cabin was going up in flames, she only hoped Cutter was still in 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

Scarlet Angel
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« Reply #62 on: July 06, 2005, 10:59:13 pm »


Fritz worked quickly. He couldn't bear the image of Scarlet bound and crying. He tore the lid of the crate. Fritz fitted the fins onto the rocket and locked them into place. He picked up the string aiming device, and looked over at Zeke.


Fritz tossed it aside, and did what he knew how to do. He pushed the trough over the lip of the wagon. Using the tailfin as the front sidght blade, and the sides of the trough as the rear sight notch, he aimed the rocket at the thatched roof of the house.

"God, please make this a good shot."

Striking a Lucifer on his matchbox, he touched the fuse and turned away. Zeke wasn't sure what to expect, but had seen Fritz in action before. He dove from the wagon, landing face-first in the dirt.

With a "WHOOSH" and a whistling roar, the rocket motor ignited. As the smoke cleared, Fritz trained his spyglass on the rocket's trajectory. It arced towards the roof, but at the last minute, a gust of wind altered its flightpath. The rocket punched neatly through the window.

Zeke yelled "Yeah!"

Fritz whispered "Thank you."

He heard the concussion of the warhead detonating, and smoke billowed from the open door.

Fritz cringed as he heard that damned Rebel Yell. The posse was on the move, firing, whooping and hollering. 'Sleep and Johnny were out front, leading the charge.

His eyes were drawn back to the house. Men boiled from the door way to meet the threat. But somehting wasn't right...

The smoke was the wrong color.


Suddenly, the thatched roof burst into flame. Great gouts of fire spewed from the door and windows.

"Zeke! Mind the team!!!"

Fritz leapt to Strider's back, and rode hard towards the inferno.


Jimmy had Phil’s’ horse in his sights waiting for his rider to appear. Smoke billowed from the cabin, something had gone wrong, Jimmy was sure of it but he kept the horse in his sights, waiting for it’s rider.

The horse was pulling away from the rail, just as Jimmy was about to give up he saw a figure coming through the smoke and making a jump for the broom tail. Jimmy had the figure in his sights and began to squeeze the trigger. It would have been a perfect chest shot, but something wasn’t right when Jimmy looked through the telescope. He could have sworen it was a woman by what he saw. He took his finger off the trigger and looked over the top of his rifle. The horse and rider had disappeared into the smoke cover.

“Damn.” He said under his breath, but he was sure it was a woman, no man had a chest like that, and that meant it was Rebecca or Scarlet.

Jimmy picked another target and fired blowing a neat hole for the mans innards to exit out the back.

Josh was gaining on Rebecca when he heard his brother calling him. He turned cursed and ran back for his brother. It was difficult to tell where the gunfire was coming from in all of the smoke, there seemed to be men and horses everywhere. He and Harry reached Cutter and helped him back to the barn and on his horse. The three outlaws rode out the back of the barn and away from the incoming fire of the posse.

Tensleep rode right into the middle of the men coming out of the small house. He could smell what ever it was Doctor Bill had filled the rocket with and backed off a bit, taking shots and dropping a few of the outlaws that came out.

Johnny made his way around to the side of the small house, dismounting he ran up on the porch. Peeking quickly into the window he saw the flames.

He ducked under the window and made his way around the front of the house, grabbing hold of one of the men who came out. The mans eyes watered and he fought for breath.

“Who else is in there?” Johnny demanded.

“I was the last one. I swear mister.” He yelled as he felt the cold steel of the colt against his temple.

“Johnny get outta there. The place is going up!” He could hear Hanks voice above the rest of the noises.

Johnny kept ahold of the man and drug him clear of the cabin.

He turned as he heard Fritz ride in. "What happened?"


"I DON'T KNOW!" Fritz yelled, as Strider slid to a stop. He dismounted quickly, and drew his Navy. "Where's Scarlet?"

Johnny held his hands palm up. "I just cornered a cowboy. He said there was nobody left"

They threw what water there was available on the blaze. In time, most of the combustables burnt themselves out. It was still warm, but Fritz went in anyway.

There is no smell quite as distinctive as burnt flesh. It has a sickly sweet odor, and once smelled, it was never forgotten. Fritz recalled one time on the plains, when two of his troopers were separated from the column. They were found an hour later. The men had been stripped naked, and staked to the ground. Both had been scalped and disemboweled, and their genitals cut off. What remained had been set on fire. It was as gristly a scene as any Civil War battlefield he’d encountered. Fritz had prayed over the bodies, and saw to it they were properly buried.

He smelled that odor now, and drew back the hammer on his Navy. Fritz rounded the corner into the kitchen, his weapon at the ready. About three paces away, he saw something that froze his heart. Then Navy slipped uselessly from his hand, thumping on the ground. Fritz sunk to his knees, and reached towards the body. It had been burnt beyond recognition, but there was something he recognized. On the ring finger of the left hand, there was a gold ring with a ruby setting. It had been dulled somewhat, but it still stood out in sharp contrast to the blackened flesh.

Sleep rounded the corned and saw Fritz on his knees. “Fritz!” he called out, “Are you hurt? Are you shot?” He got no response, and walked towards him, picking up the Navy as he went. Fritz was holding the smoldering hand, and whispering one word over and over…


Sleep holstered his revolver, and helped his friend up. He looked into the old soldier’s eyes. Tears were coming, but no sound came with them.

Fritz turned away and went to work. He went outside and cut two saplings down to form a travois. Fritz brought Strider over and slipped the poles into his harness. He pulled his greatcoat from the saddle straps, and buttoned the coat around the poles. Fritz stripped off his sack coat, and placed it over her face. Then carefully, gingerly, he picked up the body, not heedful of its condition. Bits of flesh and streaks of blood stained his vest and shirt. Fritz placed the body on the travois, and prepared to mount up.

“I have to take her home” was all he said.

combined effort of Tensleep and Scarlet

Johnny watched as Fritz walked past him and go towards the treeline, Sleep not far behind. Judging from the look on Fritz’s face Johnny knew he’d found something.

“What is it?” He asked Tensleep afraid of what the answer might be.

"He found a body and Scarlet's ring was on it." 'Sleep watched Johnny's face closely.

Johnny stared at Tensleep for a brief moment taking in the words he’d just heard. He slightly paled then his eyes narrowed and he yanked the outlaw to his feet.

“You swore you were the last one!” He screamed putting the pistol under the man’s chin preparing to blow his head off.

“I was, I swear, the blonde was on the floor when I came out.” There was panic in the outlaw’s voice.

"Dammit!" Tensleep spat the word out. "What about the brunette?"

"She bolted when Cutter and the woman started fightin’ then that thing came in tha winder.... I swear!" The outlaw was shaking in Johnny's grip.

“Where’d she go? And where did Cutter go?” Johnny growled.

“I don’t know!” The man retched and coughed. "When the smoke an' flames started it was hard to see. I just dropped to the floor."

"How many people we lookin' for? How many was in that cabin?" Tensleep felt the need to hit something, he was seething.

The outlaw shook his head back and forth. He either didn’t know or wasn’t going to give up the information. Johnny was becoming more agitated with every second.

Jimmy came from the barn carrying a wad of white satin.

“What’s this?” He said as he dumped it on the ground.

The outlaw’s eyes widened. “Part of the brunette’s wedding dress, Josh married her.”

It was now Johnny’s turn to watch Tensleep’s eyes grow wide in surprise.

“Who’s the man swingin’ in the barn in his Sunday clothes?” Jimmy asked.

“Don’t know.” The man choked out.

Tensleep knew by the look on Johnny’s face if he wasn’t standing there the outlaw would be dead.

Johnny watched Fritz walk by carrying Scarlet it was as much as he could bare.

“How long you been ridin with Cutter boy?” He growled.

The man said nothing.

“That long huh.” Johnny said squeezing the trigger on the Colt and letting the man fall to the ground.

“Hank.” He said looking around for him.


“Can you find Black Wolf’s camp without gettin’ killed?”

“No, but I can be found by them, an’ hope like hell they don’t kill me.”

“If Rebecca was smart that’s where she’d go, that’s where she started to go in the first place according to your note.”

Hank nodded his head listening.

“You go and you bring that girl home safe.”

“Yes sir.” Hank replied gathering his gear. He looked at Tensleep who seemed to be a bit confused as to who was in charge and giving orders.

“Comin’ Marshal? I might need someone they’ve seen ridin’ with Scarlet before.”

Tensleep was up on Buck almost immediately.


The wagon had just come to a stop and Zeke was taking in the grizzly scene. He removed his hat and jumped off the wagon when he heard his name.

“Yeah boss.”

Take that pony o’ yers and you catch up to Sonny, tell him what’s happened. I’m going with Fritz.”

“Yes sir.” Zeke replied.

Jimmy watched as Johnny turned to get his mule. “We’re not going to just let that bastard ride off are we?”

“I got to be with Rose….and I don’t know what I’ll say ta Bo.” He mumbled picking Velvet Ears reins.

“Use your own judgment Jimmy, I trust you, Scarlet trusted you.”

Jimmy quickly gathered the gear he wanted on Moonshine, handed Johnny Dancer’s lead line then swung up on his own horse and looked over where Fritz was laying the body.


By this time Johnny was in his own saddle. “What is it?”

“Make sure her soul is safe. I’ll leave ya a trail and check in.” With that Jimmy turned and rode in the direction of the outlaws trail.

Johnny knew it meant the turquoise charm she wore was missing. Jimmy must have seen that it was missing when he was saying something over the body.

As he rode by Johnny took the lead lines of the extra horses and the team and fell quietly in behind Fritz.


Scarlet kneeled down and splashed the cold water on her face, she was glad it was to dark to see her reflection clearly in the water, she felt like she’d gone ten rounds with the men Johnny had told her about on occasion that boxed for a living, even her hands were sore. Looking at them noticed her knuckles were skinned and bruised. She looked up at the horse who stood quietly next to her. It was the Phil’s horse, she wondered if there was any medical kit to speak of in the saddle bags, but then she noticed there were no saddle bags.

“Figures.” She thought to herself.

At least she and Rebecca were out of Cutter’s grasp Scarlet thought. Leaning against a rock she watched the light below her as the cabin burned itself out.

When the light of the fire faded Scarlet leaned her head back and closed her eyes. She whished she was in a hot bath, Fritz’s arms around her. She thought of him often when they were not together, and when she did she could feel his warm touch and see his smile clear as if he was standing right next to her. His eyes always seemed to dance with a great deal of passion and a bit of mischief when smiled at her. He had rekindled the passion for living and loving she had once known. She could not help but smile back at him. Often when she saw him later she would tell him she had thought of him and he would smile the smile she loved so much and tell her he could feel her thoughts.

For some reason she could not see his smile right now and the comfort she could normally feel at the very thought of him was eluding her. Instead she could only see a clear picture of Patches laying quietly her hands folded neatly on her stomach, Bill, Ella and Rose stood around her with looks of concern. It reminded Scarlet of a funeral. She could hear the sadistic laugh of Kevin “Cutter” Rowen. For the first time in a long time she let sorrow take its hold on her and she could feel the warm tears roll down her cheeks.

“I’m sorry Patches.” She whispered as she wiped the tears from her eyes.

Scarlet hoped someone had found the body and knew where to take her instead of leaving her in the cold or in an unmarked grave at the base of Devil’s mountain. Maybe someone had found her still alive and it was not a funeral she could see in her mind. She thought of Bill and the hell he must be going through, he deserved to know what had happened to Patches if she had not made it.

Then there was Fritz, how did you explain to the one you loved you just up and left. He deserved a wife who would stand by him not up and leave with no explanation. The sorrow she was feeling was suddenly over taken by a great deal of rage as she heard Cutter’s laughter on the wind once more. She knew he’d follow her to the end of the earth; they had become one another’s incurable disease that needed to be eradicated.

Scarlet took a deep breath she’d come this far she’d finish the job. “Never ask anything of someone else you’re not willing to do yourself.” Johnny had taught her that from the very beginning.

Scarlet stood preparing to find a good spot for the night when she heard the sound of a twig snap behind her, it was barley noticeable but rang through her ears like thunder.

She ducked behind the rock, the pounding sound of her heart drowning out everything else. Then above it she heard the soft nicker.

“Lucky” she barely spoke his name afraid she might be mistaken.

The big horse stepped from the shadows. Scarlet let out the breath that had become stuck in her throat.

“Thank the Gods.” She whispered as she went to the horse and put her arms around him burying her face in his thick black mane.

Letting go she stood back and looked at him. He looked to be in perfect health aside a few scratches on his chest. Scarlet removed his bridle and hung it on the saddle horn. She mounted the other horse and rode until she found a place she felt was safe for the night, Lucky following close behind.

Once she decided on a spot she unsaddled and rubbed down both horses, tied Phil’s horse to a tree then went through her own saddlebags. Finding her medical kit she first treated Lucky’s scrapes then her own.

She smiled when she found the dragoons she had stowed in her saddlebags. The cartridges for the rifle were a damp and a few were split, probably where Lucky had landed in the river on them, they would be of little use. Looking at the powder flask she wondered if it had kept it’s contents dry.

Scarlet loaded one of the pistols, hoping she wouldn’t need to find out if it would fire or not but just in case. She could feel the exhaustion of what had seemed like weeks taking hold of her as she fell into a light sleep, every noise jarring her awake.


They rode quietly. There wasn't much to say. Both men were lost in their own thoughts. The steady sound of the travois dragging across the ground was their only companion. It was slow going.

Johhny looked at the soldier. He never thought he'd see his daughter with a Yankee. But this one was different somehow. He'd won her heart, and Johnny had sneaking suspicions he'd have made a fine son-in-law.

But none of that mattered now.

His face was streaked with grime. Clean paths of tears cut deep furrows; like an old mask covering a new face. Something inside him was broken, and could never be repaired. Fritz whispered something.

Johnny leaned in closer. "What was that son?"

Fritz looked at him. "He was right, and I was wrong...Jimmy was right. I let her down, Sir...I'm sorry."

"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 #63 on: July 07, 2005, 09:28:56 pm »


“You are no more guilty than the rest of us Frtiz. Wasn’t you she asked to…You aren’t the one took her life. You are the one that made her happy. You are the one who.” Johnny wasn’t sure how to put it in words, Rose was always much better at this kind of thing.

“You are the one that she stood toe ta toe with her ol’ man for and declared “if ya know what’s good for you ya won’t touch him.”

Johnny smiled slightly at the memory.
Scarlet had watched him for along time over her coffee cup.
“I don’t think it will come as a surprise when I tell you I’ve been spending time with Fritz”

Johnny eyed her back with disapproval. “I’ve noticed. Stay away from that Yankee boy Scarlet. He’ll break your heart.”

Scarlet had only chuckled “You forget who you’re talking to.”

“Maybe I should geld him.” Johnny had mumbled.

Scarlet looked a bit shocked he’d said it but not really surprised. Scarlet stood and leaned into him. “If ya know what’s good for you ya won’t touch him.”

“He’ll never know what happened. Don’t forget who you’re talking to” Johnny had been irritated.

Scarlet’s eyes flashed. “Don’t forget, you trained me well Johnny.”

“Ask him Scarlet, ask him where you are on his string of conquests.”

“He’s not like that.” She said sitting back down and picking up her cup.

“He’s a Yankee soldier Scarlet.”

“Wars over Johnny Reb. Been over. You and mom taught be better than that anyway and you know it.”

“Jimmy says he makes you smile.”

One side of Scarlet’s mouth slightly pulled up but she said nothing.

“Scarlet if he is what makes you happy, I will not stand in the way. Lord knows you’ve paid your dues, you deserve happiness and you’re a big girl.”

She had stood and hugged him tightly. “I’d have hated to tell mom ya ran one off.” She had chuckled.

“Watch yerself Scarlet, something tells me he has your heart already.”

“I lost that years ago dad. What makes ya say so though?” She said curiously.

“I threatened Scott once and you’re reply was just make sure you have an alibi.” Johnny chuckled. “Tell that boy I’ll be watching him.”

“Behave you self Dad.” She smiled, finished her coffee and got up to go check on her horse.

“Fritz, you are the one that succeeded in making her happier in the short time you were together than she had been in years. Thank you for that.”

Johnny looked at Fritz. “You didn’t let her down.”

The after hours businesses were in full swing when Sonny reached the small town. He rode the narrow street until he found the place he was looking for. Swinging of the mare he tied her to the hitching rail and went into the saloon.

He wasted no time approaching the man who usually knew most things happening in the town.

“I’m looking for the telegraph operator.” He said to the bartender.

“Who’s looking and what’s it worth.” The man next to him said.

“Depends on who you are.” Sonny said.

“I’m the key man, but the office is closed.” He said taking a drink

“I’m somebody who knows how to show appreciation for a favor.” Sonny slid a few coins on the bar towards the man who smiled.

“Come on cowboy.” He said getting up and leading Sonny to the telegraph office.

Sitting behind the desk the man looked at him. “What you want to say and who to?”

Sonny had had time to think about what he had wanted to send. He wanted to get the information but not put Trixie in danger in case some else picked up the messages.

“Send it to the Southern Starr. Say need information on T. Blue. Search Mokelumnehill, CA. Urgent. Then send a second wire. What do you hear from Mr. Dawg?”

Sonny remembered Trixie had told him she’d chosen her name from a grave stone. The last name anyway then had thought of something that started with a T. Then he hoped to find out what he wanted by the response from Mr. Dawg.

“I need an answer on the first one as soon as ya hear.” Sonny said sliding more coins across the desk making the man smile. He then went out and sat on the boardwalk and watched activities around him. Carefully looking at anyone coming into town.

Patches and Bill were eating when the telegraph started chattering, so Ella dashed out to the office. She transcribed the graphite tape and brought the tape and the flimsy back with her.

"Need information on T. Blue. Search Mokelumnehill, CA. Urgent."
"What do you hear from Mr. Dawg?"

"Patches, are these messages in some code? Who are T. Blue and Mr. Dawg?" asked Ella.

Patches looked up, and said, "That brings to mind somethin' Scarlet said, let me think ... 'You find Trixie Blue, you find the key to Rowen’s past. 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. 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. She lives in Mokelumne Hill, but I’m sure she’s fled. She may go to Jackson or 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 started to swing her legs out from under the blankets, but stopped when she realized exactly what she was wearing. She was not ready for Bill to see her wearing a diaper and nothing else below the waist!

"Ella, get me dressed so I can get to work," she pleaded.

Ella smiled, glad to see Patches regaining her normal spirit. "Bill, why don't you take the dishes back to the kitchen? After Patches is ready, you can help her out to the telegraph office."


As Jimmy followed the trail he couldn’t stop thinking about what he saw through his telescope. With Scarlet dead it had to have been Rebecca he had seen, but there was something that was not right. Had he had time to admire what he’d seen he would have said the woman was indeed well endowed. Rebecca knew how to display herself well and had anybody asked Jimmy he would admit to admiring her from time to time. The man had an eye for detail too but there was something he couldn’t put his finger on that nagged at him it wasn’t Rebecca.

He played the scene over in his mind. He could see the saddle of Phil’s horse through the scope, the horse started to spoke and pull on the reins sitting on his haunches. He had peeked over the rifle in time to see A blur of a dirt streaked black shirt coming out of the smoke the rider had landed behind the saddle and was grabbing for the horses mane as the horse spun towards Jimmy. Jimmy aimed at his target, it would have been a beautiful chest shot, he started to squeeze the trigger but then he saw the curves of a woman’s breast rising and falling as she gasped for air.

He thought on this a moment longer. Her tanned skin was streaked with the colors of smoke, dirt and blood. Suddenly it hit him. Rebecca’s skin was not tan, at least not like that.

Jimmy turned his horse about and headed back for the house to pick up the trail of the woman. Should it lead towards the mountain, towards Black Wolf, he was wrong and it was Rebecca, if not there was a third woman, maybe it was Trixie.

Cutter was smart maybe he was playing a game or buying time when he’d bargained for the exchange of Trixie and Rebecca. If so Cutter would be looking for her too Jimmy thought.

As he rode in a couple of horses raised their heads and watched. One looked to be a wagon horse and the other probably belonged to one of the dead outlaws.

Jimmy dismounted and went into the barn. He looked up at the man who still hung there. “Who are you?” He whispered then cut the man down. He wandered about the barn looking at all the tracks. They told a story if you knew how to read ‘em right.

Kneeling he finally spotted what he was looking for. A shoeless hoof print, Rebecca’s horse had been here. Jimmy followed it out of the barn towards the house. From the looks of it the horse was stopped and turned fast then headed for cover. That didn’t tell him who was riding Cloud or even if the horse had a rider. The torn fabric of the wedding dress could have been put there anytime. Still there was a woman on Phil’s horse and Cutter would pick up that trail as soon as he could. By following it Jimmy figured he’d find out who the woman was and find Cutter too.

He followed the trail until he it became to dark. He found a good spot to hide and settled in for the night.

Sonny pulled his duster up around him and looked down the street. The figure coming in caught his eye. For a moment he thought maybe it was one of Cutter’s men but then he recognized Zeke.

Sonny watched as Zeke rode up and pulled his horse to a stop.

“You look like a motherless calf, what’s happened.?” Sonny said looking at the man, it didn’t dawn on him it was something bad until Zeke wiped his red eyes with the back of his hand.

“Fritz.” Zeke started to speak.

“What, what’s happened to Fritz?” Sonny could feel panic starting in the pit of his stomach and spreading through his veins.

Zeke shook his head back and forth then spoke again. “He found Scarlet.”

Now Sonny could feel himself holding his breath as he hung on every word Zeke spoke.

“He’s taking her body home.”

“Oh God no.” Sonny whispered closing his eyes tight then taking a deep breath “What about Rebecca?”

“Hank and the Marshal ‘ve gone after her. They figure she’s headed for the Indian camp. Johnny went with Fritz and Jimmy is following Cutter’s trail.” Zeke said sadly.

Sonny thought a moment. “Zeke, I was asked to ride down an outlaw and to help bring those two women home. One’s still out there and the other one wouldn’t want me standing over her grave crying while the bastard thet killed her is still out there. Jimmy’s good, but a man can always use back up. It’s up to you what you do.”

“Sonny, I know you always been particular about who you shared the trail and your campfire with. Fritz chose me to ride along with him for some reason and I’ve never been the type to quit in the middle of a job. So if you’ll ride with me..”

Sonny half smiled. “Zeke I’ll ride with ya.”

“Hey you got any money for a cup o’ coffee or somethin’? I have a feeling I’ll be giving all mine to that telegraph man.”

“I can buy us a few things. Then we hit the trail in the morning.”

Sonny walked back in to the office and told the telegraph man where they could be found should anything come over the wire.

By the time Fritz and Johnny reached the house word had spread that they were coming in. By the look of the two men and the fact that Strider was pulling the travois everyone knew it was Scarlet they had brought home. The men removed their hats and bowed their heads as Fritz rode by. Some saying prayers, while words of condolences could be heard from others, some let tears roll down their faces while others held them back.

As they came to a stop at the steps of the house Johnny stepped off of his horse and caught Rose in his arms before she could make it to the body.

“What happened.” She sobbed softly then tried to move towards the body. Johnny pulled her back.

“You don’t want to see her.” He said softly.

Bo’s gaze locked with Johnny’s “Who’s bullet?” He mouthed.

Johnny closed his eyes and shook his head no.

“What happened?” Rose asked again.

“There was a fire….she didn’t make it.” Johnny replied.

“Where are the others?” Rose managed to ask through her tears.

Johnny looked at the group of people that were looking at him for answers, took a deep breath and began.

“We found them hol’ up in a small cabin, the Broken Shoe, the cabin caught fire, from what we can tell Rebecca made it out and we hope she is headed towards the Indian camp, Hank and Tensleep have gone after her. Sonny rode out to send a telegraph from the nearest town so I sent Zeke after him. Jimmy is following Cutter and Josh’s trail.”

Bo drew a ragged breath. Running hand across his face he could feel the scar that his beard mostly hid. He wanted to scream at the horrible memory of his wife’s burnt body coming to life in his mind again. He closed his eyes tight and clinched his jaw trying to make it go away but he could see Travis holding her. “They shot her Bo, she would have never made it.” He wanted to scream but he could feel Scarlet’s arms tight around him. “We’re here Bo. I won’t let you go.” She whispered.

Bo could hear Rose’s questions it brought him back to the here and now.

“How is it Scarlet didn’t make it out?” Rose looked up at Johnny wiping her eyes.

“I don’t know Rose.” Johnny said sadly.

“Maybe its not Scarlet?” Rose said hopefully.

“Rose, it’s Scarlet.”

“How do you know?”

Johnny looked over his shoulder at Fritz then back at his wife.

“Come inside we can talk about it.”

Rose stood fast on the steps staring at the body covered by Fritz’s coat. Her eyes moved slowly over the team then the horses that had come home with them.

“Where’s Lucky?” Her voice barley a whisper.

“What?” Johnny asked a bit confused.

“Where’s Lucky?” She repeated softly.

“I don’t know Rose, we never saw him. Jimmy mentioned seeing a trail Lucky left but that was all.”

Rose looked at him again. “Johnny if that is Scarlet than Lucky would be here.”

“Rose y’er grasping for straws.”

“If that is Scarlet” she pointed to the body “Lucky would be here. He’s never left her side.”

“You’re putting a lot of faith in a half wild stallion, who’s been rider less on the open range for days Rose.” He said softly trying to calm her.

His words only irritated her as she continued to deny Scarlet’s death.

“From the day he was born Johnny that horse has followed her, slept outside her window many nights, ya know he’s even followed her into the house. He’s stood over her body more than once. Don’t you try and tell me this time is different.” She began to cry again.

Johnny put his arms around her and took her into the house.

Bo took another deep breath trying to get ahold of himself, he could feel his hands shake as he straightened his back and walked down the steps.

He looked from Fritz to the body and back. He wanted to tell Fritz he understood what he was going through, if he needed someone to talk to, to listen to him or to keep him from crawling into the bottom of a bottle like he had he would be there, but there was a time and a place for everything and all Bo could manage was to softly say “Lets put her in the cellar until we can bury her properly.”

Fritz & Scarlet

Fritz sat alone in their dark room. He hadn’t changed. He still smelled her perfume, mingled with the blood. The plate of food Ella left lay untouched, the bottle sent by Patches unopened. All he saw was the body in the basement.

Bo had wanted him to talk, but there was nothing he could say. He was afriad that if he'd opened up, he wouldn't be able to control what came out. So for now, Fritz stayed silent. He hoped Bo would understand.

There was a piece of paper in his vest pocket. Bo had given it to him. Fritz opened it up and looked at it. He recognized Scarlet's writing.

"When I am with Fritz I don’t find myself wishing he was you. He fills places in my soul that have been dark, cold and empty for so long I had forgotten what it was like to be whole, to feel safe and be able to sleep through the night because I trust he will protect me."

Tears fell freely again.

"I told you once I believed God had abandoned me. When I look at him, well, I wonder if maybe I was mistaken."

He read the last line.

"I just hope I don't fail him the way I failed you."

That was all it took. Fritz set to work. He lit the lamp on the desk, and set pen to paper. Fritz wrote two letters: one to the Department of the Army, and One to Marshal Ross. They said essentially the same thing. To the latter he pinned his badge.

Fritz gathered up his gear. He took his boots off, so as not to disturb the others. As an afterthought, he wrote a note to Ella, and slipped it under his plate. It read, “If I die, sell my traps, and put the money in the company fund. Bury me next to her.”

Fritz blew out the lamp and closed the door.

"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 #64 on: July 07, 2005, 09:51:02 pm »


Ella had taken the job of preparing the body for burial, leaving Johnny and Rose time to grieve.

She had had enough practice during the War that she could continue washing even with her tears were flowing freely. Part of carrying on with the job entailed thinking of it as "the body" instead of by name. After all, the soul attached to the name had departed, leaving only the shell of flesh.

The body had been lying on the floor of the burning cabin, and had only been burned superficially on the front. A lot of the char came off with washing, but the face still looked wrong. The lace-trimmed handkerchief that she had made to give Scarlet on her wedding day would cover that.

Ella rolled the body over, to wash the back. Something was wrong. The head flopped loosely. A little probing revealed the broken neck, that was probably the cause of death. No wonder she hadn't made it out of the cabin.

Something else looked wrong. The shoulder wound that Ella had stitched had not left a very big scar, but there was no scar there at all.

Ella ran to find Doctor Bill.

She found him in his lab, working on something that might be a new Ghost Machine for Patches.

"I don't think she is Scarlet. How do we verify that? I don't want to raise doubts and then be wrong. That would be cruel."

Dr. Bill

Bill stood up slowly from the workbench. Ella noticed that he was still wearing the double holster rig that he had adopted during the long night after Patches had been brought back to the ranch. It had only been a couple of days now but it felt like it had been years. “Patches has already begged me to make sure it was not Scarlet,” he replied and paused to sigh. “When Fritz showed me the ring I couldn’t believe it either. Give me a minute to gather a few things and I’ll see what I can do. Don’t tell anyone yet,” he added.

They both looked at the body when they entered the hospital room in the main ranch house. “This is what I noticed first,” Ella said pointing to the shoulder. “I sewed a bullet wound up on Scarlet and there is no scar here.”

Bill frowned slightly and opened the bag he had brought with him. He extracted a small carbide lamp that he lit and handed to Ella after adjusting the flame and reflector to produce a bright spot of light. He then removed a small clamp, a short metal ruler, and dental mirror. “Many of the police departments in the east are starting to use dental measurements to supplement the other Bertillon identifiers and photographs. What can you tell me about Scarlet’s teeth?” he asked as he carefully opened the corpse’s mouth and placed the small steel clamp between the teeth.

“Scarlet had all her teeth,” Ella commented as she carefully aimed the light.

“This body does not,” Bill replied looking in the small mirror that he was holding inside the body’s mouth. “One of the molars is missing and it has been gone for some time. The socket is completely healed. She also did not die from the fire,” he added. “There’s no sign of searing of the tissues at the back of the mouth.”

He paused for a moment and moved the mirror slightly. “Didn’t Scarlet have a little chip on one of her incisors from a fight with her brother when they were young?” he asked.

“She certainly did,” Ella replied leaning forward slightly. “I remember her telling that story to embarrass him more than once.”

“Look here,” Bill said turning the body’s head first one way and then the other so the little dental mirror showed backs of the teeth. “No chips on either incisor. I don’t know who this is but . . .”

“You stay here,” Ella interrupted as she blew out the lamp and placed it on a side table. “I have to tell the others that this is not Scarlet and especially I need to tell Fritz.” And with that she was gone.

Bill looked down at the body then carefully pulled the sheet up over its face. Later he would offer a prayer for this poor unknown woman and for Scarlet wherever she was.

Ella knocked first on Fritz's door. When he didn't answer, she opened the door. The light from her lamp fell on the note with her name on it. When she had read it, she exclaimed, "You rock-headed, simple-minded, soft-hearted FOOL of a YANKEE."

She knocked next on the door of Johnny and Rose's room. Her news was important enough to wake them even if they had managed to sleep at all.
Johnny was still fully dressed when he opened the door.

"It is definitely not Scarlet's body. Teeth don't match and scars don't match. But Fritz has already gone, probably looking to get himself killed. I am going after him at first light. Can you send Bo with me? And loan me a faster horse?"

Johnny stood frozen as the news sunk it. At first he wasn’t even sure if he’d heard her correctly. “Definitely NOT Scarlet’s body.”

“We were right on top of them and we left her out there.” He mumbled irritated with himself.

Rose was at his side in a flash, she too was fully dressed.

“I told you, no Lucky, no Scarlet.” She said softly as she pushed past Johnny.

“Thank you.” She said giving Ella a tight hug. “I remember what you said about not wanting to be out there. You don’t have to go Ella. We can send somebody else.”

"I have to go. I was Fritz's angel during the War, and I feel that he needs me again. With any luck, I'll catch up with him before he does something stupid and dangerous," replied Ella. "Besides, Scarlet would not forgive me easily for letting him get himself killed."

She continued, "Patches is out of immediate danger. What she needs now is normal nursing that Rose and Bill can do. Mostly you have to make sure she eats enough and keep her from doing something more active than is appropriate with broken ribs and collarbone. Bill has pain medicine for her, and knows how much to give her."


Quartermaster Sergeant Keith Gaines fed another chunk of wood into the potbelly stove. Rank had its privileges after all, and his position gave him some privacy. The fire was the only light in the Quartermaster’s office. He stayed there to provide security…or at least, that’s what he told the troopers. He sat by the fire with a tin cup full of good black coffee, and a hefty dollop of Irish whisky for good measure. He was trying to remember a time when his bones didn’t ache in the cold. “It had to be some time before 1861,” he thought. Keith liked to stay awake late into the evening. It kept the dreams at bay, and he could choose his memories. Right now he was thinking about campfires under the stars, good cigars, and the company of soldiers. He knew he wasn’t long for this least, not as a soldier.

Keith was surprised by a knock at the door. “Come in! It’s open,” he barked, expecting the Sergeant of the Guard to come begging for coffee. The door opened, accompanied by a blast of cold air. He saw an old trooper wearing the outdated, sky-blue greatcoat. “Fritz, that you?” Keith asked.

The figure nodded. “Well come in dammit, it’s cold outside!” Fritz entered and closed the door. Once inside, Keith looked his friend over. Even in the dim light, he knew something was wrong. Fritz usually took great pride in his uniform. It was dirty and stained. Fritz’s eyes looked sunken, and deep circles sat beneath them. Despite this, Keith noted that his eyes seemed to glow with a fierce intensity. He asked, “Are you okay?”

“No,” Fritz replied.

It was then that Keith smelled the blood.

He poured some whisky in a tin cup, and splashed in some coffee to add some color. Fritz accepted the cup, and squatted by the fire to warm his hands. The first sip burned a hot trail down his insides.

“I need a favor,” Fritz said.

“Tell me,” Keith replied.

Fritz reached behind his back, and unhooked the Springfield carbine from the cavalry sling. With practiced hands, he opened the breechblock. The cartridge case ejected and spun for a moment in the air, reflecting the firelight. Fritz caught it in his right hand, and handed the weapon over, butt-first.

“I need something a bit more ‘substantial’ than this,” Fritz said. “Something that’ll reach out and touch someone at distance. Preferably, something that won’t be missed.”

Keith took the Trapdoor, closed the action, and lowered the hammer. “I might be able to help you,” he replied. Keith stood, and pulled a large ring of keys from his vest pocket. He walked back into the darkness, and pulled a long rifle from the gun rack.

“Nobody wants these conversions anymore,” Keith lamented. “All these kids today know about is the Trapdoor.” Keith opened the action, and handed the rifle over. “I ‘acquired’ this in a poker game…it’s been well done. Converted at the arsenal.”

Fritz took the rifle. “Rock Island?” he asked.

“Springfield” was Keith’s reply. “Did you carry the Sharps?”

“Not at first,” Fritz said. “We carried the Smith ‘til the summer of ’63. Then we were forced to turn them in. I suppose it was a smart move…commonality of caliber and all. But I sure do miss that carbine.”

By all accounts, the Sharps was in good condition. The stock had some dings, but nothing major. The exterior had some bare spots, but no rust. Fritz looked down the bore. As expected, it was clean with no pitting, the rifling sharp.

“The barrel was sleeved to .45 caliber…like you said, a pro job.” Fritz closed the action, and noted with surprise that there were two triggers under the guard. He quickly turned the rifle over. Sure enough, at the left wrist, were the stampings “Co. F, 2d U.S.S.S.”

“It’s a Berdan!” Fritz exclaimed.

“Yep,” Keith sighed. “I figured I’d keep it, or sell it to fund my retirement. But you’re in greater need than I.”

“Can I get some extra ammo?” Fritz asked.

“Sure,” Keith said. “How much do you need?”

“About a hundred rounds ought to do…plus fifty for the pistol.”

“Come on,” Keith said. Fritz set the Berdan by the door, and followed his friend back to the racks. On the way, Fritz saw three wooden crates on the floor. He knelt to read the writing on the boxes. “1874 Camel,” they said.

Fritz’s face broke into a wide grin. Keith noted that the grin wasn’t entirely pleasant.

“Oh no,” he said. “We aren’t even supposed to have those. They’re earmarked for the Seventh.”

“Who’s gonna know?” Fritz replied.

“They haven’t even been tested in the field!”

“I’ll test ‘em for ya,” Fritz said, patting the lid.

Keith looked at his friend, and saw the seriousness of his expression. “Marshal’s business I suppose?”

“Yeah…something like that.”

“If you get caught with this thing, I don’t know you,” Keith replied. “I won’t burn for you. I’ll tell ‘em you hit me over the head or something.”

It took the men most of the night to set up the cavalry cart. The manual recommended two horses, one for good roads, and two for bad. As Fritz strapped Strider and Dancer into the traces, he thought it was fortunate that he’d brought two horses.

Fritz turned to his friend and shook his hand. “If I don’t see you again, it’s been an honor knowing you.”

“Just get that thing back here in one piece,” Keith said.

It was about an hour before dawn when Fritz rode out the gates. Keith looked towards the horizon and mused…

“What did he mean by that?”

“I’ll find Bo and tell him to get ready and choose a couple of the faster horses. Some one will need to send a wire to Sonny that we have the wrong body.” Johnny said going down the stairs.

Rose’s eye lit with a new hope as she yelled after him. “Johnny you tell Bo Ella’s riding Diamond and he best find a horse to keep up with her!”

“When you’re ready I’ll take you to meet Diamond, in the mean time what else can I do to help?” Rose asked. Ella could see the change come over her, from one in mourning to the strong woman Ella had seen giving orders around the ranch at times.

Johnny made his way down to the barn, somehow he knew he’d find Bo in there.
As he walked the breezeway he noticed Dancer missing and wondered if Bo had gone without saying anything. Walking farther he heard Bo’s voice coming from Gypsy’s stall.

“Scarlet sure was looking forward to winning the bet she had with Rose on who’s baby you’re carrying.” Bo said softly.

The blue roan mare moaned as she got to her feet, she still had about three more months before the foal would come, but Scarlet had brought her in so she could keep an eye on the aging mare.

Johnny stopped at the door that stood ajar and looked in. Gypsy was sniffing at the whisky bottle in Bo’s hand.

“Scarlet wouldn’t like this.” Johnny said softly, afraid Bo would be in no condition to ride with Ella.

“You ever ride this horse Johnny.” Bo said looking into the mare’s big gentle eyes.

“Oh hell no.” Johnny Chuckled. “She’s the sweetest horse if you’re not ridding her but a man would have to be insane to put his leg over that mares back. Even right now, old and in foal I bet she’d give you a ride make you’re hair stand on end.”

“I got sumpthin’to”…Johnny started to say when Bo cut him off.

“Scarlet ever tell you I rode her?”

Johnny was a little surprised. “No, she never mentioned it but..”

“Bout three months after Marie was killed. The one thing I remember as drunk as I was was Travis bout beating the hell out of me when I got mad at her for trying to take the bottle away from me.

I also remember I wanted to put that pistol to my head and pull the trigger so bad.

Scarlet told me she wanted me to go for a ride with her and if I still wanted to do that when we got back she’d let me have my pistol back.

We rode to the top of the peak. I remember when we were up there Scarlet rode Gypsy as fast as she could across the flat top. She let go of the reins and held her arms out as the mare ran. I was riding Dancer at the time and she tried to make me do the same thing.” He sort of chuckled at the memory.

“Course I didn’t want to. So she told me just to try it once on Gypsy, and after I did we could turn around and go home. Of course I was all for that. This horse has a gallop smooth as glass. I took her once across the top of the flat.

When I came back Scarlet asked me if I thought life was worth living and I told her no.

So she said we could head back. She mounted Dancer spun him around and took off across the flat as fast as she could. I don’t remember what she said but Gypsy took off right after her. I couldn’t get her to stop for love nor money. I remember Scarlet’s smirk as Gypsy raced past Dancer and down the side of that mountain like the devil himself was after us. She stopped when we reached flat ground.

I remember jumping off of her and losing everything I’d drank or eatin. I remember accusing Scarlet of trying to kill me. It was then I guess I realized I wasn’t ready to put that gun to my head Johnny.

This bottle was the one Scarlet took away from me.” He held it up so Johnny could see.

The bottle was covered in dust, was a bit wet from where Gypsy had licked it and to Johnny’s surprise was still sealed.

“This bottle reminds me of the kind of friend Scarlet was when I was at rock bottom. Care to join me in a toast to one hell of a woman?” Bo stood and looked at Johnny.

“No, you save that and share it with Scarlet when she comes home. Tell her yourself how much she means to you. Where’s Dancer?” Johnny said pointing to the empty stall.

Bo looked confused. “Fritz went out of here some time ago with him. What do you mean tell her myself?”

“Ella says that body Fritz brought home isn’t Scarlet.”

“Is she using Rose’s theory?”

“No she and Bill been looking at teeth and scars. All I know is she has something physical to base her statements on. She wants to ride after Fritz at first light and she’s asked you go with her. Will you be sober by first light?”

“I’ve only been drowning in sorrow Johnny I ain’t been drinking. I’ll be ready when ever she wants to leave.”

“Good. Rose says Ella is riding Diamond and you best find something to keep up with her. Guess it’s a good thing Gypsy’s in foal huh?” Johnny chuckled.

Bo laughed he could feel his sprit lifting thanks to Bill and Ella’s discovery.

The two men exchanged knowing looks. “I’ll not let anything happen to Ella Johnny.”

Johnny shook his head up and down. “I know ya won’t Bo, and so does she.”


"I can use your help packing as much of a field hospital as possible into saddlebags," answered Ella. "I can't predict how much of a battle I'm going to find at the end of this ride, nor how many patients to patch up. I'll take all the prepared bandages and ointments, and need oilcloth and canvas enough to make an enclosure in case a sterile field for surgery is needed."

She sighed, "Even if I catch up with Fritz, he won't be willing to turn back until we bring Scarlet home. At least we won't need to track him because we can head straight for the scene of the fire, until we find sign from Jimmy."

"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 #65 on: July 07, 2005, 09:59:13 pm »


Rebecca rode through the night driven by determination to get the message to Johnny. She stopped once to rest Cloud and lose the two sets of riders dogging her trail.

She was sure she heard Harry’s voice among the first set. When the second set of riders went by she imagined she’d heard Tensleep and Hank. Figuring that to be just her imagination drumming up something she wished for she shook the idea from her mind and waited.

Striping the once bright white wedding dress off left her in her undergarments; she figured that to be better than a giant white target moving into the open. At least her underpinnings were dark colored. She swung onto Clouds back, said a small prayer and moved out.

Cloud was at full stride by the time they hit the open space. Becca could hear gunfire erupt behind her. Thinking they had seen her she kicked Cloud faster and never looked back.

The pony raced along old familiar ground his rider never having to guide him, she only slowed him when she saw the figure on painted horse on the trail above.

The warrior watched cautiously as the horse and rider followed the trail that brought them up to him. Recognizing the pony and his rider made him wonder about the woman’s choice of clothing what was happening.

“Point me to camp. I need to see Black Wolf.” Rebecca said looking at the warrior.

The man said nothing as he turned his horse and motioned for her to follow.

Once in camp the warrior dismounted and went to wake his leader while Becca warmed herself by the small fire.

After a short wait she saw Black Wolf approach carrying a blanket for her to cover herself with.

In the firelight he could see the black and blue bruises on Little Fox’s white skin. He held the blanket out to her.

In the firelight she could see the anger building in his eyes. “Is this how your white lawman treats you? I will kill him.” Black Wolf growled.

“Bring him.” He said turning to some of the warriors who had begun to gather.

Black Wolf was speaking his native tongue and it took Rebecca a moment to comprehend what he had said, not because she didn’t understand the language, it had just been the farthest thing from her mind.

“No!” She yelled.

Everyone stopped and looked surprisingly at her.

“No. I was not Tensleep.”

Black Wolf eyed her as he circled. “Do not try to protect a man who does such things.” He ground out.

“No. Listen to me.” She was now jumping from English to Comanche. “I need a rider to take a message.”

“I will send a message he will not forget.”

“No. It was Cutter’s men who did this.”

Black Wolf eyed her questioningly.

“Cutter.” Rebecca said. Thinking a moment she turned and pointed to the R on her shoulder. “The men that did this. The outlaws.”

“The one’s you said to leave to white mans law.”

“Yes. I need a rider to take a message.”

“I will not send a rider to the white man’s law.”

Rebecca wanted to scream, he kept interrupting.

“If not for me then for Scarlet if not for Scarlet then for Longknife!” She yelled.

Now she had the attention of almost every man in camp she’d awakened.

“Where does this message have to go.” Black Wolf said.

Rebecca could detect the irritation in his voice. “To the home of Longknife.”

Black Wolf was somewhat hesitant.

“What is it’s purpose?”

“Scarlet needs to get a message through. Brother I need a rider with a fast pony who can speak to them, or give me the pony. I will go. I must get the message through.”

Black Wolf’s wife approached. “You need rest Little Fox.”

Rebecca stomped her foot. “Is there not a warrior among you brave enough to ride onto the Southern Starr.”

Rebecca recognized the warrior who came forward.

“I will go”

Black Wolf shook his head in approval.

Rebecca stepped forward, there was something she had to know, something she’d never asked Scarlet, she’d only seen the tell tale sign. She had seen his reaction when she mentioned Scarlet’s name. Taking his hand she turned it over and looked at his wrist, the tiny line matched the one on Scarlet’s opposite wrist.

“She’s told me great stories of you. Do you know Bo?”

The warrior shook his head yes.

“You must find Bo or Johnny. Tell them the black road leads to the gates of hell. It’s at the gates of hell the devil will make his last stand.”

The warrior repeated the phrase back to her then mounted his horse and rode the familiar trail to the river that ran through the Southern Starr. Scarlet had always met him there, he knew some of the men had seen them together and guessed his best approach would be out in the open from there.

Hank and Tensleep both saw it at the same time, they were to far away to do anything.

The outlaw was leveling his rifle at someone. Looking beyond the outlaw they saw the dark figure of a horse with a rider leaned close to his neck moving fast across the open desert.

“Rebecca.” Tensleep unknowingly said out loud.

Hank did the best thing he knew to do. “Take cover!” he yelled at Tensleep as he drew his pistol and shot in the direction of the outlaws.

Tensleep rolled up behind a rock Hank right behind him.

“What ya do thet fer? We’re outta range.” Tensleep said eyeing the man he thought had better sense than that.

The outlaws shot went wild at the sound of the voice and gunfire. Both outlaws had immediately moved to take cover from the men coming up behind them.

“We may be outta range but it gave him sumthin’ ta think about and he missed his target.” Hank half smiled.

Tensleep returned a half smile.

Much to Hank and Tensleeps frustrations the outlaws seemed to keep them pinned while managing to waste their ammunition.

After what seemed like hours Hank looked at Tensleep.

“Got any good idea’s when that sun comes up?”

Tensleep looked at the horizon. The sun would be making it’s appearance any moment.

The warrior had tried his best to ride in the open once he’d crossed the river. He followed the trail he’d watched Scarlet come down many times. Maybe it was to much in his nature to move with the shadows, of that he was not sure. He’d gone unnoticed except for the two outriders he recognized. They had followed at a distance watching him, apparently deciding he was of no threat they broken off and gone their own way.

Every thing had been peaceful in the predawn hours until he’d nearly reached the cabin.
Grey Eagle recognized the man who was closing the door him. He was the tall man that rode the big horse. He could not remember the man’s name it was Doctor something, but he did remember Scarlet talking about the colored smoke.

Dr. Bill had gone to his cabin to retrieve some items for Ella’s departure; he’d turned to take one last look inside before he went back to the main house.

It all erupted at the same time, the voices, the sound of running feet and rifles making ready for a fight.


“Doc! Doc! Look out!”

Bo had lead the horses from the barn headed towards the house to get Ella.

Rose and Ella had just opened the door to carry Ella’s supplies to the horses when they heard the commotion.

Bo’s head jerked up and looked in the direction of the running men. “Crap…. Stand Down!” He dropped the reins to Ella’s horse as he swung up onto his own and headed after them.

Johnny pushed past Ella and Rose, grabbed Diamond’s reins, swung up and followed Bo.

It wasn’t the sounds in the distance that worried Bill so much as the sound of the horse snorting that came from directly behind him. There had been nothing there when he stepped out of the door.

Grey Eagle eyed the oncoming group with concern, but stood his ground.

Holding up the lance with the white material tied to it he hoped they recognized their own “flag of truce”.

“Greetings Man of Colored Smoke. I bring message from Little Fox.”

"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 #66 on: July 07, 2005, 10:12:17 pm »

Dr. Bill

Bill stood still for a moment pondering what he should do next. “I’ve been called a few odd things in my time but ‘man of coloured smoke’ is a first,” he thought to himself. The white flag was a good sign though. Bill took a measured, deliberate step toward the Indian and held out his right hand. “I’m pleased to make your acquaintance,” he said. “Might I ask your name?”

Grey Eagle paused a moment. He had seen the whites greet one another in this manner; extending an empty hand to show that they did not hold a weapon. He found it ironic that these men would make this greeting while still armed, even as this one was doing now. Still, this was one of the men he had been told to look for had he seemed to be honest in his intentions. Grey Eagle reached down from the horse and the two men grasped each other’s hands for a moment. “I am Grey Eagle,” he said simply.

“William Curtis McDowell,” Bill responded with a slight nod. “A pleasure to meet you,” he added. “Now, you said you had a message from someone called ‘Little Fox?’” he asked as Grey Eagle swung down from the horse. Both men looked up at the sound of approaching horses from the main house. Bill stepped partially between Grey Eagle and the others. Whoever this was he apparently had important information and Bill didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.


“Little Fox, yes.” Grey Eagle searched Dr. Bill’s face for recognition of the name.

By the look Grey Eagle gave him Dr. Bill knew he should know this person, but the name meant nothing.

Grey Eagle new she had a name her people called her but he couldn’t recall hearing it. He eyed the group that was coming closer.

“Little Fox…she wears the white man’s brand on her back.” Grey Eagle touched his shoulder indicating where Little Fox had the brand.

“Rebecca.” Dr. Bill said understandingly.

“Little Fox says I must tell Longknife or Bo the black road leads to the gates of hell. It’s at the gates of hell the devil will make his last stand. Wild…..Scarlet follows the black road.”

The men slowed hearing Bo’s order to stand down followed by the pounding of his horses hooves as the animal covered the distance between the house and Dr. Bill’s cabin.

Bo pulled his horse to a stop a short distance away and watched Dr. Bill talking to the warrior he recognized as Scarlet’s friend.

Johnny pulled Diamond to a stop next to Bo.

“Do you know him?” Johnny asked.

“That is Grey Eagle, I’ve only ever seen him with Scarlet. We’ve never been formally introduced. You?”

“Grey Eagle, I’ve heard Scarlet say the name, he rides with Black Wolf.” Johnny looked at Bo. “He is the one Scarlet rides down to the river to meet?”


Johnny half smiled.

Bo looked back curious to Johnny’s reaction. “Why?”

“The few times I have met Black Wolf, he’s been riding with his better warriors. It is my understanding that man has taken a lot of scalps, but I never knew his name. That would explain where Scarlet has learned some of the things I have not taught her.”

Grey Eagle continued to watch the group of men cautiously.

Johnny turned and looked at the group behind him. “Go back to what you were doing, there’s nothing to worry about here.”

The two men stepped off of their horses.

“Take her to Ella.” Johnny said handing the reins to one of the men.

“Greetings Grey Eagle.” Johnny said walking up.

Grey Eagle looked at Dr. Bill then to Johnny. Johnny has always observed their customs when they met and now Grey Eagle was in Johnny’s world. He repeated the gesture that Dr. Bill had made by holding out his right hand. “Pleasure to meet you Longknife.”

Johnny grasped his hand and shook it. “That is Bo.” He said gesturing towards the man that stood slightly behind him.

The men nodded to one another.

Johnny looked into the distance.

“I come alone.” Grey Eagle stated.

“What brings you?”

“Little Fox says I must tell you the black road leads to the gates of hell. It’s at the gates of hell the devil will make his last stand. Scarlet follows the black road.”

Johnny and Bo exchanged knowing looks of concern.

“You know where the black road leads?” Grey Eagle asked.

“Yes.” Johnny replied.

“You have seen Little Fox?” Bo asked stepping forward.

“She is in camp.”

“Is she alright?” Dr. Bill asked.

“She is..”he thought on this a moment trying to put the words together correctly. “black and blue but otherwise unharmed.”

“Have you seen Scarlet?” Johnny asked.

Grey Eagle shook his head no. “Little Fox is only one I have seen.” He said stepping back towards his horse. The message had been delivered and understood.

He grabbed a handful of mane and swung back up on his pony, nodded and began to back away.

“Ride in peace Grey Eagle.” Johnny said

“Good bye.” Dr. Bill said.

“Until we meet again.” Grey Eagle said turning his pony.

Tinker’s family had been operating the telegraph wire for El Paso since it had come to the town. Tinker enjoyed the excitement that often found it’s way to El Paso and the colorful people who lived there. He had been out of town for a spell and upon his return the man who he’d left in charge of the wire told him the entire goings on in recent days. He was going to ride out to the Southern Starr for a visit later and to make sure things were as they should be.

The sound of the morning stage mixed with gun fire and cowboys whopping it up was not uncommon, especially if there were some new “working girls” arriving. But this morning’s noises were different. Tinker was good at detecting the noises, he recognized some of the gunfire as being a shotgun, maybe the stage man, some was pistols, men yelling, the strangest of all was the low growl of a dog, he was sure of it and the fact that the stage had stopped at the edge of town.

“Get him offa me!” Came the voice of a man.

“No!” was the woman’s voice again.

Tinker retrieved his rifle and headed for the door. He’d almost reached it when the sound of the pistol discharging rang in his ears followed by the yip of a dog and commotion in the streets.

Going out the door he could see the stage, the driver was hit, people were running to and from the scene.

“What happened?” He asked reaching the driver.

“They took the strong box and one of the passengers.”

The town sheriff reached them along with the doctor. Tinker stepped out of the way to allow the others to do their job. Feeling something under his foot, Tinker bent down and picked up the leather collar.

Felling the wetness on his fingers he looked at the inside of the collar, there were a few dark spots, looking at his fingers Tinker recognized it as blood, he also recognized the name on the inside of the collar.

Tinker looked around there were paw prints following horse tracks headed out of town. Tinker went into the office and sent a wire to the Starr.

“Mr. Dawg trouble in town.”

Fritz was going to do what was expected of him…to a degree. He would set up his camp in an obvious location. He knew all about ambushes, and the way he’d lay it, Cutter couldn’t resist. Fritz picked a spot just off the main trail, close to a babbling brook’s edge. There were a couple of shade trees, and spots where the grass was still long enough to feed his horses. Satisfied, Fritz collapsed his spyglass and put it away.

There were numerous hills in the area, but this one commanded it. The front dropped off sharply: not an easy approach, while the back sloped up to the summit. There was enough scrub brush for concealment, and some small rocks for cover. Fritz estimated the range at about 500 yards. He dismounted and removed his mounts from the traces. Strider and Dancer moved a short distance away and began grazing. While the buckskin and the bay ate, Fritz set the cavalry cart in place. He braced the wheels with stones, pulling back on the staves to ensure they were set. Fritz placed sticks at his left and right lateral limits, and ensured the oscillator was engaged. There would be no time to test fire the piece; it would attract too much attention.

Fritz poured out half his canteen on a shallow rock with a dished-in surface, and dumped enough grain from his haversack to sustain one horse. He tied off Dancer’s lead line to a low-hanging branch, and fed him a cube of sugar. The horse munched contentedly.

“I’ve got to leave you here fella,” Fritz said, scratching the bay behind the ears. “I’ll be back for ya…if this works.”

He mounted up on Strider, and rode down the hill to bait the trap.

Johnny saddled his mule while he watched Ella and Bo ride off. He still couldn’t believe what Grey Eagle had told them; somehow it was poetic justice he supposed.

A memory surfaced as he shoved the old rifle in it’s boot.

They sat on top of the hill over looking the river. It was the first time Scarlet had been back to that spot since her husband’s death. Johnny looked over at her, she seemed to be so full of pain and hate and there was nothing he could do.

“Are you ok?” Johnny started to reach out to her.

“It’s like looking through the gates of hell, knowing you have to go through.” Scarlet said as she leaned forward and kicked the blue roan mare causing Gypsy to leap forward and race down the hill followed by her black colt.

The sound of Patches’ voice interrupted the memory.

“Bill! Something is wrong.”

Johnny peeked towards the telegraph office. Patches was doing her best to stand outside while she held a flimsy.

"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 #67 on: July 07, 2005, 10:23:48 pm »


Fritz dismounted by the shade trees he’d seen up above. He took his time, and set a camp as close to regulation as he remembered it. He drove a picket pin into the ground, and tied his lariat to it. The other end was looped around a tree and tied off. There was enough room for six horses. Fritz tied off Strider’s reins to the rope, between the two trees. Maybe they’d think he was expecting company.

Fritz set up a fire pit, and gathered kindling. In a few moments, he had a good fire going. He cringed, thinking it was way too big. But then he remembered, he was putting on a show after all. Fritz set a small pot of coffee to the boil, and began frying some salt pork and hardtack. “This better be worth it,” he thought, as the smell brought him back to his war days.

Fritz pulled Strider’s saddle and blanket, and wiped his mount down. The McClellan was staged on the ground, his long guns placed against it. Once he’d fed the buckskin, he fed himself. The sun was low on the horizon as he lit a last cigar. Fritz drank coffee and enjoyed his smoke while the sun set, wondering if Ella had posted his letters, and read his will.

Once the sun was fully down, and the blanket of stars spread above him, he pulled his greatcoat from the saddle straps. Fritz unbuckled his prairie belt and hung it on his saddle. He slipped the Navy from its holster, and set it on the ground within reach. Fritz pulled his boots off and bedded down for the night. His mind was on Scarlet, and thoughts of her kept his mind alert.

Cutter winced at the pain that shot through his leg as he mounted his horse.
Josh had cleaned and tried to restitch the wound. Scarlet had torn the stitches, and in general made a bloody mess of his thigh when she’d attacked him.

He thought about it a moment a grin slowly parted his lips, she had accomplished awakening a feeling no one else could, fear. She knew his weaknesses and played on those, but whatever he had done to unleash the reaction she had last night made him aware he was alive. The pain he felt made him aware he was human.

He shifted his weight to straighten the saddle on the horses back and took a breath.

“I know you’re waiting for me.” He whispered.

Scarlet’s head jerked up from checking Lucky’s shoes. She could have sworn she heard something, but nothing was there. She paused a moment to look at the sunrise. She could remember a time she prayed not to see the sunset, those had been replaced by prayers of living long enough to see Cutter die, which not long ago had been replaced to keep those she loved safe, Scarlet clinched her jaw as she thought of Patches.

“Come on Cutter, it’s time to send you home.” She said softly as she climbed onto Lucky’s back.

Jimmy followed the trail, it was puzzling trying to figure out who he might be following. Another horse had joined the one he’d set out to follow, and who ever was riding them was making very little effort to cover their trail.

It didn’t take long before the tracks were joined by others. Jimmy knew it was Cutter’s gang long before he saw them.

Cutter turned in the saddle, he couldn’t see anybody following yet instincts told him someone was back there.

“You two check it out” He said pointing at Phil and one of the men that rode next to him.

“Ok boss.” Phil said peeling off from the group.

A Few hours earlier...

There was no moon, and the stars only belayed the darkness of the night. They gleamed like chips of diamonds. His brother had tried to teach him about the constellations, but he just didn’t have the interest. Fritz did appreciate their beauty, however.

Once the fire had burnt down to small embers, Fritz slowly wriggled out from under the coat. Making as little noise as possible, he picked up the Navy and crawled away from his camp. He’d moved about a hundred yards on his hands and knees before he stood, running towards the gun position. He’d have to replace his socks after this jaunt, but the end result was worth it.

Dancer snorted a welcome as he arrived. Fritz shushed the horse, and rubbed the spot between his eyes. It would be a cold night…Fritz kept close to Dancer to share his warmth.

Fritz grimaced. “Now all we have to do is wait…”


Sonny looked at the papers the telegraph man had handed him.

“Damn.” He mumbled.

Zeke was looking over his shoulder. “What is it?”

“Told ya I was gonna end up givin’ alla my money to him.” Sonny said as he handed over what he had left. The telegraph operator gave him a strange look when he asked for a receipt.

“Seems Patches is up and at it. These are from her.” Sonny said as he flipped through them.

The first one read. “T. Blue in Mokehill cemetery. Confirmed by town Sherrif”
Sonny smiled at that. Somebody had followed his lead, but it would do little good now.

“Mr. Dawg on way to see Stars.” Sonny smiled if he was right Mr. Dawg was on his way to the Southern Starr.

Both Sonny and Zeke read the third incoming wire twice. “Body not Scarlet.”

“That’s about the best news coming down the wire I think.” Sonny said looking at Zeke.

Zeke smiled back.

Sonny had sent a wire asking how many posse members in the field. The reply came. “8 with you”

Zeke stood running down a list of names and counting on his fingers. “Jimmy, Marshal Ross, Hank, Me, Sonny.” He stopped with a puzzled look. “Maybe Fritz and Johnny rode back out, but that’s not right.”

Sonny looked sideways at Zeke who was now trying to solve the mystery.

The wire came to life as Sonny stood reading the papers.

“Looks like one more for ya Mr.” The key man said as he wrote then handed the transcript to Sonny.

“Hells bells” he whispered as he looked at the paper. “Mr. Dawg in trouble.”

This time Zeke had to pay the man.

Sonny thought for a moment on where to back up and start. If they had Trixie where would Cutter’s group meet up? The only logical place was the cabin unless they had a different arrangement.

“The best place to start is back at the Broken Shoe I would guess.” He said to Zeke. Then turned to the telegraph operator.

“Send one last wire. Tell them we are on the trail.”

Johnny had never been the type to wait for trouble to find him, he’d ride out and meet it head on. That was one of the reasons he’d hired the men he had to work the ranch. They all had their own way of doing things but when things were coming down they worked better together than any men he knew.

Rose was no stranger to taking the reins when he was away either, the men all respected her and took her orders as if they’d come from him.

He led Velvet Ears out of the barn and mounted up.

It was good to see Patches up, Rose would be able to help her with anything she needed, now it was time for him to see if he could help Scarlet. Johnny touched the brim of his hat as he rode by Dr. Bill and Patches.


Bill put his arm around Patches and carefully helped her back into the telegraph office and eased her into the overstuffed chair that had been moved near the telegraph key. “You don’t need to be moving around so much darlin’,” he said as she sat down.

She smiled up at him. “I’ll be fine,” she replied. “Just really sore and my ribs still hurt a lot.” She touched her side where Bill knew the bandages were still wrapped around her chest. “Is Johnny going out to check on what happened in town?” she asked.

Bill paused before answering. “I don’t think so,” he said. “He didn’t mention anything about it. I think he’s going to try to catch up with Tensleep and the others. Ella and Bo have gone after Fritz to try and stop him from doing somethin’ foolish and getting’ himself killed. It looks like we are just about out of deputies here.”

Patches smiled again. Bill never got tired of seeing that smile when she looked at him. It was like nothing else mattered in the whole world for just a few minutes. “There’s still one deputy marshal left who can still ride,” she said as she placed her hand on his chest. Bill opened his mouth to protest but she stopped him by placing one finger on his lips. “Ella told me what happened while I was asleep and the things you were saying. You know you can’t always be here with me.” Again he started to speak and she stopped him again. “Darlin, you’ve always been here when I needed you to be and I know you always will be. Right now, someone else needs you as well. Rose will take care of me just fine,” she winced a bit as she changed position in the chair. “Now, you need to get goin’.”

Bill carefully hugged Patches and kissed her. In only a few words she had managed to dispel the ghosts that had plagued him for the last several days. As far as he was concerned, there truly was not another woman like this one on the face of the planet. “All right darlin’. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Within half an hour he had bribed Falstaf with a carrot and a sugar chunk and was headed into town on the big half-perchon’s back with Bunsen the mule in tow behind him.

Bo and Ella had ridden nearly half way to the Broken Shoe. Bo had been watching the trail for any sign of Fritz.

“Ella I don’t see any sign of Fritz coming this way. We can pick up the trail of the others and see if we come across him, but you have to know we could end up right in the middle of it all.”

"The middle of it is one place we are sure to find Fritz," replied Ella calmly. "Maybe he made a detour to fetch something. That actually gives us a better chance of meeting up with him before he throws himself at Cutter."

She smiled warmly at Bo and said, "I'm not worried about getting into the middle of it all. I was concerned about watching the menfolks act like barbarians when they rode out hot for Cutter's blood. They might be a bit calmer after we tell them the body was not Scarlet and that Patches is recovering well."

Bo tried to smile back. "I'm almost ashamed to admit it to you Ella, but if we cross Cutter's path I will attempt kill him. I don't believe there is a jail that can hold him and it seems he's always managed to sidestep the law when it comes to getting what it deserves."

Bo turned his horse in the direction of the place Grey Eagle had spoke of. "If you see him, don't give him a chance."

"I've no complaint with trying to kill Cutter. He has earned death several times over with his murders. I was worried that some of the men might be inclined towards torturing him first," replied Ella. "I promise that if I see him, I will shoot to kill and not wait for him to make the first move."


Bill turned over the few thoughts he had in his mind on the ride into El Paso. Patches had told him that there was some connection between Trixie and Mr Dawg and Trixie was one of the people Cutter Rowan was after. That lead to an obvious conclusion about the contents of the follow-up telegram that Patches had received: “Stagecoach robbed. Strongbox stolen. Female passenger kidnapped.” This could just be a coincidence but he was not going to bet any money on it.

The first stop was the passengers who had been on the stagecoach. A boy on the street was all too willing to tell a US Marshall that all of the people from the stage were still in one of the saloons not too far from where the coach still stood on the street. Bill touched his badge as he rode down the street. He rarely wore it, even when he was working a case since until now he was never working alone and the other members of the posse were always around to lend any authority that was needed. This time, he was glad he had remembered to pin it on.

The stories from the passengers all reinforced the few facts that were in the telegrams. Four men had stopped the stage just at the edge of town. They had taken the strongbox and then tried to pull a woman, a smartly dressed strawberry blond, from the carriage. Her dog, an enormous black mastiff simply named “Dawg” that had been friendly and well behaved for the entire ride, had attacked one of the men who shot the dog though not without taking some serious bites from the canine. The outlaws had quickly beaten a hasty retreat taking the woman and the strongbox with them after this. The driver of the stagecoach didn’t have anything else to add though he did give Bill the woman’s bag which contained nothing unusual except for a collection of newspaper clippings about the Rowans.

The next stop was the telegraph office to check with Tinker. The bell on the door jangled as Bill pushed it open causing Tinker to look up from where he sat behind the desk. “Afternoon marshal,” he said standing up and extending a hand. “Didn’t expect to see you though. Thought it would be Tensleep or one of the others – not that you couldn’t handle the job. No offence meant ya’ know,” he added a bit sheepishly.

“None taken, Tinker,” Bill said shaking the offered hand. “Patches got the telegram you sent a little while ago. Most of the other’s are out chasing the Rowans and so I thought I would take care of this. You see the robbery?” he asked.

“Didn’t see the robbery but I heard it,” Tinker responded. “It was all over by the time I got outside. Found this though,” he added reaching behind the desk to hand a large leather dog collar to Bill. Bill turned the collar over in his hand noting several spots of what appeared to be blood on it. As Bill looked at the collar Tinker elaborated on his description of the sounds of the robbery; the shooting, growling dog, and the sound of a dog being shot.

“No sign of a dog out there on the street though,” Bill added.

“Nope,” Tinker replied. “They didn’t kill him. From the size of that collar he must be a big one and from the prints he left – size of dinner plates almost they were - it looked like he was following those owlhoots that jumped the stage. I’ll tell you something else too. I think that woman they took was named ‘Trixie’. Heard that from one of the other passengers.”

“One more thing,” Bill said. “The woman had a lot of press clippings about the Rowans in her bag.” Bill pulled the file out of the bag.

“Let me see that,” Tinker said his eyes lighting on the top article that was headlined “Outlaws Buried – Rowan’s Reign at an End.” “That ain’t the Rowans” he said pointing to the bodies in the coffin. “That’s the Rowans,” he concluded pointing to a small group of men at the back of the photograph.

“Are you sure?” Bill asked

“You know it,” Tinker responded. “I met the Rowans once a couple of years ago. They stopped in here to send a telegram. I didn’t know it at the time but when the law came by a few hours later lookin’ for em’ he had a picture. Still gives me the shakes sometimes to think how they just walked in here. . .” He let the though trail off as he looked into the distance.

“Tinker, I don’t mean to be rude but if that was Miss Trixie on that stage, I need to get goin’ as soon as I can,” Bill said. He left the bag behind the counter at the telegraph office and in a few moments was heading out of town following the dog prints in a direction that he knew, from his brief conversations with Fritz a few hours before, lead toward the cabin where the Rowans had been holding Scarlet.

As the sun broke the horizon Tensleep and Hank were walking their horses down a draw that was behind the position that they had occupied in the rocks. A small contained fire was left burning and sticks had been rigged to drop into the flames as the supports burned through.

Reaching the end of the draw the two men mounted and walked their horses circling slowly. With any luck they would be behind the outlaws before the sun was high enough to show that they had pulled out.

With rifles in hand howling like madmen the two rode full tilt into the Rowen camp.


"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 #68 on: July 07, 2005, 10:31:14 pm »


Hank and Tensleep had ridden all day with very few words, both lost in their own thoughts. Neither one could say it was a surprise not to find men in Rowen’s camp that morning but a man could hope.

Hank pulled his horse to a stop. “It’s gettin’ dark, we should camp here.” He said stepping out of the saddle.

Tensleep looked questioningly at him.

“I don’t know them Indians all that well and I’m not riding in there in the dark. We can go in at first light. Hell I barley speak their tongue, and I don’t believe the words the girls have taught me would get us a warm welcome.” Hank chuckled softly as he pulled his saddle off.

Once the horses were settled in Hank took his rifle and found a good look out point.
He heard Tensleep walk up behind him.

“I would have liked a chance to get to know the woman Scarlet kept hidden. The woman that was beginning to show herself again. I met her a couple times before Travis was killed and I’ve seen her on occasion since there, more so since Fritz come along. I hope whatever God she prayed to let her in.” Hank said softly.

Bo and Ella had spent most of the day following the tracks of many different kinds. He had pointed out Lucky’s tracks earlier in the day. He knew she was being followed by a large group of riders, Cutter and his men most likely. He had pointed out Jimmy’s horse too, which was a bit of a challenge. Jimmy was taking care to cover his trail. Bo also pointed out where two of the riders had split off.

They had even crossed Dancer and Striders tracks. Bo had made the comment to Ella they were pulling something although he was not sure what it might be.

Movement against the sinking sun caught Bo’s attention. Taking out his spyglass he looked across the plain.

Coyotes were running around and jumping at something hanging in the tree. Bo focused on the object in the tree. Hanging upside down from a rope around his foot was what Bo was certain was Phil. He had been opened up like a gutted pig and left for the coyotes.

Not far from that was another on the ground, buzzards sat atop him picking at the man. Since they had not been to far off and not heard gunfire Bo guessed the man was also cut.

“I think Jimmy is about. Phil won’t be bothering anybody again.” Bo said putting the glass away.

“I think we should make camp up in them trees. Beyond that is the river and we could riding into a mess o' trouble if we go in the dark. We can head out again at dawn.”

“We should be able to find Fritz quickly in the daylight.”

Scarlet pulled Lucky to a stop; she wondered whose fire it was in the distance she saw. Lucky raised his head and pitched his ears forward, his nostrils quivered but he didn’t make a noise.

Scarlet knew there was something on the wind he recognized, perhaps one of his stable mates.

If it had been Johnny he would have left a sign if he was expecting her, besides this was not the spot she’d sent word she’d be.

She kicked Lucky forward heading for the bend in river. If Cutter kept the speed he’d been all day he’d catch up to her about sunrise. The sun would be at her back.

Scarlet rode onto the small island that parted the river. She tied Phil’s horse behind a tree where he was hidden but someone looking for her could see him. Once she was satisfied that he was hidden like she wanted she mounted Lucky and finished crossing the river.

She rode back to the spot she figured Cutter would stop to survey the tied horse, unsaddled Lucky and rubbed him down. Taking her rope she went to the tree and tied one end high enough to catch a rider at the neck; she planned to tie the other side hard and fast in the morning.

Scarlet checked the rig she was wearing. She didn’t know why she had put the shoulder rig in her saddlebags that morning, maybe she felt with Patches next to her she didn’t need to be wearing it, maybe it was the had of fate, she didn’t know, but it gave her something to fight with now. Cutter had the gun belt with her own gear and her knife, she made a mental note to retrieve it.

She leaned back and looked at the line of trees. In the dark she couldn’t see it but she knew the scars from the shotgun blast were still there. Scarlet ran her fingers across the butt of one of the pistols she carried; she could fell the engraving on it. She had never asked Travis if the old guns had ever failed him, there had been a time up until recently she wouldn’t have cared. The knife, a larger version of the one she normally carried, was only as good as the person who wielded it. Scarlet knew she knew would be a challenge to Kevin if they got that close. A slow wicked grin played on her lips as she looked at the long knife strapped to her rifle scabbard. Scarlet strapped the second knife to the back of the shoulder rig before she settled back for the night.

Cutter had slowly followed her, taking his time seeing how long it she would wait before moving on. The trail she left told him she was taking him somewhere. Scarlet was better than that at hiding her tracks. He took delight in knowing it frustrated her that it took him almost all day to make a less than half a days ride. As they rode the landscape took on a familiarity, but he couldn’t figure out why.

Cutter reined in his horse. “We’re camping here. I’m not riding in there in the dark.” He said pointing towards the river where he knew she’d be waiting.

Josh took his spyglass and went to a nearby rock, sitting low against it he started to look at his surroundings.

“Hey Kevin, there’s a camp out there.” He pointed into the distance. “You think it’s the boys with Trixie?”

Cutter slid up next to him. “Maybe, maybe not. They are supposed to meet us at the cabin, course we ain’t there now are we. Ride in before morning, if it’s them it will be a good day. If it’s not kill who ever it is, it will be a good day.” Cutter chuckled as he slapped Josh’s back.

A villainous grin played on Josh's lips.

"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 #69 on: July 07, 2005, 10:33:40 pm »


It was early afternoon when Bill first saw the dog as a tiny black dot on the horizon. He had been following the huge footprints for a couple of hours and the distance between them never seemed to change more than an inch or two. He urged Falstaf into a lope and closed the distance quickly.

The dog was truly enormous. Bill guessed that he easily weighed two hundred pounds. The animal must have been some indeterminate breed of mastiff Bill mused to himself based on the large round head and jowls that bounced slightly as the dog trotted along – eyes fixed on the trail ahead. “Hello Dawg,” Bill said as his horse pulled alongside the dog.

Dawg favoured him with a quick glance but didn’t break his pace.

“I’m looking for Miss Trixie too so I guess we’re going the same place,” Bill mused out loud more to himself than anyone in particular. To his surprise, the dog stopped and promptly sat down staring at Bill.

Bill pulled Falstaf to a halt and regarded the dog. From this angle he could see where the bullet had struck him; passing through a fold of flesh on his neck and upper chest. The dog was still bleeding a bit though the wound did not look to be all that serious. “Wonder if you might like some water,” Bill added leaning forward on the saddle horn.

The dog thumped his thick, ropy tail slowly on the ground while looking up at Bill. “I’ll take that as a yes,” Bill said as he swung out of the saddle. He rummaged in one of the bags on Bunsen the mule’s back and found the waxed canvas and leather bowl that he used for washing up. He poured some water in it from the bag hanging on the mule’s packsaddle and placed it on the ground a few feet in front of the dog then stepped back.

The dog stood up, slowly walked forward, sniffed the bowl and then began to noisily lap the water up. Bill squatted down on his heels while contemplating the top of the dog’s head. “Tinker said you chewed up one of the bandits pretty good but you sure don’t seem all that dangerous right now. How do you know I’m not going to hurt you?” he asked.

Before Bill could move, the dog looked up took two steps forward and bumped him with the top of his head. Bill toppled over backward and suddenly found himself looking up at the dog who for all the world looked like he was smiling. The animal “woofed” quietly and then nosed the tin star and crescent marshal’s badge that was still pinned to Bill’s suit coat. “Just how smart are you?” Bill asked as Dawg backed up and returned to his sitting position.

After dusting himself off, Bill came close to the dog and carefully reached out to touch the skin around the wound on his neck. The dog didn’t move but simply sat still and panted. “How about you let me see about cleaning that up?” he asked as he stood up and turned toward the pack mule again. Behind him he heard the thumping of Dawg’s tail once again.

With a little phenol to numb the wound so it could be sewn up – Dawg was interested in the activity but didn’t even whine – and a generous application of one of Ella’s preparations to fight infections – Bill figured if it worked on a man it should work on a man-sized dog – the two started out again with Bill following Dawg since he seemed to know where he was going.

It was just after dark when Dawg stopped trotting and sat down just below the crest of a small rise in the countryside. He didn’t bark or whine this time; just sat down then looked back at Bill and then looked up at the top of the rise. “If I’m readin’ this right, you must be smelling something that is pretty close,” Bill said. The tail wagged again, but only the last few inches this time so the thumping was less like a man vigorously stomping on the ground and more like a hand gently patting on a pillow.

The camp was nearly two hundred yards away Bill figured looking through the binoculars. They had camped in front of the burned-out remains of a small farmhouse. From the surrounding terrain and the description Fritz had given him, Bill realized that this was the location where the fight between the posse and the Rowans had taken place a short time ago.

He looked through the binoculars again. He could see four men near the fire and one woman who had to be Trixie. There was a fifth man, much closer to them, who was wandering about in the brush. The only way Bill noticed him was when he walked in front of the fire. The moon was not up yet and the man would frequently vanish in the shadows for several seconds at a time.

“That is not a desirable situation,” Bill said as he rolled over on his back and slid down from the crest of the rise. “I would need to be at least half Indian to catch that fellow out there in the dark. Guess I could set up a timer with flares and some fireworks to illuminate the area and draw their fire then . . .” He let the sentence trail off as the dog quietly stood up and trotted off into the darkness. Bill crawled forward on his elbows until he could look over the crest of the hill again. He quickly scanned the area with the binoculars again and after searching for a moment found the silhouette of the bandit lookout picking his way through the brush again.

It was as if a huge shadow simply rose up out of the ground and swallowed the man. Bill thought he might have heard a branch crack but other than that there was absolute silence. One second the man was there and the next second he was gone. Bill crawled back down the hill and sat there a moment pondering what he had just seen. About the time he stood up and was heading back to the horse, Dawg appeared around the hill. Bill didn’t mention the fact that the animal’s muzzle now appeared to be matted and smeared with something other than dog spit.

“I still don’t know what I’m doing here,” Bill mumbled to himself as he pulled flares and fireworks out of the pack on Bunsen’s back. I’m not one of those ride in and shoot em’ up types.” He continued to quietly talk to the dog who simply looked at him with its head tilted to one side. Bill filled the rifle scabbard partially with water from the sack and then dropped the silenced rifle into it. “And what am I doing out in the middle of nowhere trying to stage a rescue like something out of one of those dime novels with a dog for my partner?” he asked the animal as he pulled the rifle out of the scabbard and attached the telescopic sight to it.

Dawg snorted quietly.

“All right, a very smart dog, but you see my point don’t you?” Bill replied. “This is really bad, usually you’re the only animals I talk to,” he commented to Falstaf and Bunsen. The two equines didn’t reply. Bill pulled a pair of thin leather gloves on and started carefully picking his way toward the camp with Dawg close behind him.

Sometime later, they had closed to less than fifty yards away from the campfire. They had stopped for a moment while Bill set up a flare launcher and started a small timer while he pressed the alarm setting on his stopwatch. Now, they sat behind a clump of brush while Bill carefully placed the double-barrelled rifle across a branch and peered through the telescopic sight.

The four men had not noticed that their companion was no longer on watch. Bill shuddered slightly at the thought of what he had seen through the binoculars. “This is not what I do,” he thought to himself and pulled his face away from the eyepiece of the rifle sight. Then he remembered how Patches had looked when she had fallen off her horse into his arms. He raised the rifle to his cheek and centred the lower crosshair on the man closest to Trixie just as the watch buzzed slightly in his vest pocket.

Joey was concentrating on rolling another cigarette when he heard the sound. It was sort of like a man slapping his thigh at a good joke: sort of, but not exactly the same. The next sound was altogether different. It was a strangled gasp from Curt who was sitting next to the lady they had kidnapped. Joey looked up just as Curt turned toward him. There was a red spot on his chest and a crimson streamer was falling down Curt’s shirt. “Joey I think I been . . .” He never finished the sentence because as Joey heard that slapping sound again, Curt’s head jerked back and blood sprayed from the gaping wound in his forehead.

Gunfire suddenly erupted from straight ahead of the camp and a searing white light caused Joey to blink. Someone was shooting at them but he couldn’t see who it was. He lunged toward where the woman should be tied up and gagged, tripping over Curt’s body as he moved forward. There were more shots, from his men this time, and then he heard that sound again followed by somebody falling to the ground.

“I’ll kill her!” Joey yelled at the top of his voice. “You shoot one more bullet and I swear I’ll kill her.” He was scared now. Cutter had said this was going to be easy and now he was pinned down by who knew how many men and at least two of his companions had been shot. The bright light faded and the popping gunfire tapered off.

Joey looked around. Curt was lying face down on the ground, as was Pete. Sandy was still standing with his pistol drawn. Carl was supposed to be on watch. “What had happened to him?” Joey thought to himself. “Now come on in here and show yourself. Be quick or I’ll kill her. I swear I’ll do it!” he yelled again as he stood up while holding his pistol to Trixie’s head.

Bill laid the silenced rifle against the brush and stood up. Dawg was nowhere to be seen. He pulled the heavy coat together buttoned the front then walked forward.

Joey looked at the man walking out of the darkness toward him: one man, wearing glasses and dressed like a schoolteacher had done this? “Where’s the rest of ya?” he asked as he roughly jerked Trixie to one side. Sandy paused in the process of frantically reloading his pistol. He almost grinned at the sight of one “city slicker” walking into their camp.

“You open that coat and let me see what ya got,” Joey said motioning with his chin but keeping his pistol against Trixie’s head. She jerked against the ropes and cursed him from behind the gag.

Bill swung back the sides of the coat to show the two Remington revolvers. “Lookie here,” Joey said starting to smile. “The dude’s got something after all. Take those two pistols out nice and slow and pitch em over there.” Again he gestured with his chin. “And keep yer hands out front where I can see em.”

“Like this?” Bill asked holding his hands in front of him, palms toward each other and roughly at chest level as he took a step forward.

“That’ll do,” Joey said. “Sandy look at them gloves,” he was grinning now. “Now, where’s the rest of you?” Joey yelled into the darkness. “Get on in here or I’ll shoot the lady and this schoolteacher.”

“There’s just me and one other person,” Bill said. “Do you want to see him?”

“The hell yes we want to see em,” Sandy said aiming his pistol at Bill’s face. “Get him in here before I kill you right now!”

“Dawg,” Bill said quietly.

Dawg must have been very close the entire time. Bill only heard two or three steps before the animal flew into the firelight. His mouth closed on Sandy’s head at about the level of the man’s eyes. There was a wet crunching sound and a muffled crack as the dog jerked the man completely off his feet. Sandy hit the ground and didn’t move.

Joey yelled from the shock of seeing the giant dog and also from Trixie scraping her boot along his shin and stomping on his foot. He swung his pistol around to shoot the man standing in front of him. As he did, Bill raised his right hand and sharply bent his wrist outward to expose the single twenty-gauge tube strapped to his forearm. The half-inch slug caught Joey squarely in the centre of the chest.

Dawg got to Trixie even before Bill did. The big animal was bumping his head against her side pushing her into a sitting position. “Are you all right ma’am?” Bill asked as he pulled the gag from her mouth.

“I need to find Marshal Tensleep as soon as I can,” she said as soon as the rag was gone. She then proceeded to throw her arms around Dawg’s neck and hug him for several seconds. The dog pushed himself against her and made quiet whining sounds as she scratched his ears. “I’m fine and I missed you too,” Trixie said to Dawg.

“Would you happen to be Doctor…” she asked as Bill helped her to her feet.

“Doctor McDowell. Yes ma’am,” Bill replied, removing his hat as an afterthought. “Marshal Tensleep is chasing the Rowans and what’s left of their gang.

“Scarlet told me about you. Said that you were almost like a magician; always with something up your sleeve. Guess it was true this time,” she said regarding the tattered sleeve of Bill’s suit coat. “How is Scarlet?” she asked with more than a trace of concern in her voice.

“Scarlet was kidnapped by the Rowans,” Bill replied. “We thought that she had been killed in the fire but,” he paused a moment – “It was some other poor woman. As best we can tell, Scarlet escaped and is after the Rowans though she's not with the posse”.

Trixie set her mouth in a thin line. “I hope Scarlet catches up with those boys first,” she said. Bill looked at her questioningly. “The marshal would catch those two but Scarlet would make sure they get what’s coming to them.” She looked at Bill again. “Doctor McDowell, do you believe in evil?” she asked. “Not sin,” she continued, “anybody can sin, but - evil: something that’s not properly part of a normal man.”

“Well, I do believe in evil, ma’am but fortunately I’ve only rarely been in it’s presence,” Bill replied.

“Unfortunately, I’ve spent a good many years in its company,” Trixie replied with a sigh. “There were three of them you know, three brothers. Scarlet managed to do what nobody else could do before, she sent one of them to meet their father. I’ll be a lot happier when all four of them are together in some private little corner of hell.” Her voice was shaking with anger by now. Bill was sure that she would have killed her sons herself if she could.

“There’s nothing else I can do right now,” Trixie concluded with a final brush at her dress. “If by some faint chance Scarlet and the marshal both miss them, they’ll come after me again.” She looked around. “I know it sounds like I’m afraid of them and truth be told I am. Is there somewhere I can go where I might stand a chance of being safe from them?

Bill smiled at the older woman. “Ma’am, there certainly is and as it would happen, that is the same place I would like to be right now. Nothing is certain, but with the work I’ve done at the Southern Starr it would take a company of infantry and a cavalry squadron to breach the defences.” For the first time a hint of a smile appeared on Trixie’s face. “If you think you are up to the ride, I believe we could be back at the ranch in time for a late breakfast.”

"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 #70 on: July 07, 2005, 10:47:31 pm »


Cutter saddled his horse in the predawn hours, his men following suit.

“Feel that?” Cutter said slapping Josh on the back.

Josh stood a moment, deep in thought trying to pick up on what ever it was Cutter was talking about.

“What?” He finally said.

“Ya can’t feel it? There’s death in the air this morning Josh. It’s such a rush, I can almost smell the blood.” His malevolent laugh echoed through camp.

“I’ll catch up to ya.” Josh said with half a smile as he looked towards where he had spotted the camp fire.

“Make me proud, kill ‘em all lil’ brother.” Cutter said as he mounted up.
“You two come with me.” He said pointing at two of the men who were mounted up.

Cutter kicked his horse forward then turned in the saddle. “Hey, if it’s that posse bring me the heart of someone close to her.” He laughed again as he rode towards the place he had remembered his path had first crossed Scarlet’s, his men following close behind.

He caught a glimpse of the horse she had stolen through his glass. “You two circle round I want her surrounded when we get there.” Cutter said as he motioned his had for them to go in opposite directions.

Josh motioned the riders to spread out and move in slowly as he looked into the camp. He recognized the buckskin horse tied there. He wondered if the man was alone or were some of the other posse members about.

He could feel the “rush” that his brother often talked about. It would be a pleasure bringing Kevin the soldier’s heart.

Cutter waited until his two men had gotten far enough ahead of him to be able to flank her. There was a strange stillness in the early morning air. Something was wrong he could feel it. Looking around he spotted it on a rock at the rivers edge.

“I’d shoot you if I didn’t think she’d hear it.” He hissed at the black raven who squawked as it took flight.

Then came the other sounds. Cutter spun his horse around and raced towards them.

The morning was damp and cool. The sun’s rays hadn’t broken the horizon. The sky was the color of slate as the boys rode into the cold camp. The horse tethered to the picket line gave them a look, and continued munching grass. He was a cavalry mount; the “U.S.” tattoo was clear on his shoulder. The rider, however, hadn’t stirred. He lay asleep under a beat up slouch hat, and an old, sky-blue greatcoat.

“Looks like we caught ol’ Billy Yank a-sleepin,” Josh said, his face breaking into a wicked grin as he dismounted. There was a long-barreled Sharps and a double barrel shotgun propped against the saddle. Josh drew his Colt, and cocked the hammer.

The other boys dismounted and took the weapons. One stepped up and hollered, “get your ass up!” He kicked the sleeping figure. The greatcoat and slouch fell away, exposing a pile of dirty clothes and sticks. “What the…?” was all he got out. His head exploded in a pink mist.

“He’s got a Gatli..!” a second exclaimed, shot twice in the chest before falling.

The Gatling gun chuffed along, doing its terrible work. The concussive blasts and tinkling of brass cases filled Fritz’ ears. But the sound was soon replaced by a high keening wail…



The sound of firing pins striking empty chambers brought him back. Fritz ripped the empty magazine from the receiver. As the smoke cleared however, he realized he didn’t need to reload. All in his camp was still. Fritz grabbed his Navy, and leapt on Dancer’s bare back to go finish the job.


Josh crawled towards his dead horse. All he could think about was his rifle. The butt stuck out of the scabbard, beckoning him. A round from the Gatling struck his Colt, tearing his right hand to shreds in the process. Fragments of the barrel were deeply lodged in his thigh. So through the pain and fear, all he could see was the rifle. He didn’t hear the rider come up until he was almost on top of him. Josh rolled over slowly, and stared down the muzzle of a Colt conversion. He gasped weakly, “What the hell did I ever do to you?”

Fritz cocked the Navy and stared down the sights.

“You shot a hole in my soul,” he said, and pulled the trigger.


The unmistakable sounds of a gatling gun echoed long the river. Cutter could feel his heart race as he rode towards where he was sure the sounds were coming from. It had to have been some kind of trap, maybe set by the posse, maybe they had sent for the army, he didn’t know.

Cutter pulled his horse to a stop where he could see the camp through his glass yet still be out of range of the gatling.

Rubbing his eyes he looked again. One man, all he could find was one man sitting atop THAT horse. He scanned the area for anyone else, finding no one.

Cutter could feel the hatred building as saw Fritz looking down on Josh. He was sitting atop of that damn bay horse who’d Cutter'd become to familiar with over the years.

Cutter pushed down the urge to ride screaming into the camp. “Think, Think” he told himself.

His sinister grin danced on his lips as he glanced down at the Hawkins resting in it’s scabbard. He had used this gun to shoot the horse’s first rider, he would use it again.

Cutter carefully slipped within range. “This is going to be very sweet” he thought to himself as he stepped off his horse. Loading the rifle he aimed for Frit’z midsection and squeezed the trigger.


An iron fist struck Fritz in the side, spinning him from Dancer’s back. His Navy went flying. Fritz hit the ground hard on his left shoulder. He heard a loud ‘pop’ and saw stars before his eyes. When his vision cleared, Fritz saw that his pistol wasn’t far away. He tried to reach for it, but his left arm wouldn’t work. When he reached with his right, pain lanced through his body. A warm patch was spreading under him. “Blood,” Fritz said aloud, and wondered how bad the wound was.

He forgot about the Navy and his pain. Fritz reached into his sack coat with his right hand, and pulled the pocket revolver from its holster. Placing it in his left arm-pit, Fritz waited for the rider he heard approaching.

Cutter slid the Hawken into its scabbard, and looked down on the crumpled form.

“Go ahead,” Fritz spat through gritted teeth. “Finish it.”

“Na,” Cutter replied. “I won’t waste a bullet. You’ll be dead soon enough.” Rowen eyed the slowly growing pool of blood. “’Sides, I’ve done far worse to you.”

Fritz was getting cold. It was a bad sign. “What do you mean?”

Cutter grinned viciously. “I’ve TURNED you. Made you like me.” He looked to the bodies on the field. “These men who rode with me are dead…YOU killed them.”

The realization began to sink in.

“And you didn’t do it for your God, your country, your flag, or that uniform you wear.”

Could Cutter be right…?

“You’re just like me now Blue Belly… a KILLER. Know that before you die.”

The edges of his vision were beginning to blur. Shock was setting in. He didn’t have much time.

Fritz whispered, “Please God…”

Cutter laughed. “God won’t help you now, boy.”

Fritz focused all of his energy, the last of his will into a final, desperate act. He stared at Cutter like looking through a tunnel. His right hand came up quick, thumbing back the hammer of the 1849 Pocket. Fritz saw shock register in Cutter’s eyes, and a blur of movement. Fritz squeezed the trigger…

…and the world went black.

"That sounds like a Gatling gun," exclaimed Bo. "Must be what Fritz was towing."

They followed the sound in the dawning light, and continued when the gun fell silent. They heard one more gunshot just before they got to where they could see Fritz mounted on Dancer.

When Fritz fell, Ella had Diamond racing towards him before the distance-faded boom of the large-caliber rifle reached Bo. By the time Bo reached her, Ella was kneeling beside Fritz, pulling his clothing away from a wound that looked as deep as a well and wide as a church-door to Bo.

With her hands flying to pull things from her pockets and minister to Fritz, Ella ordered, "Bo, hand me a length of oilcloth, then use the canvas to set an enclosure up around us."

"Cutter is still out here, Ella. It's not safe for you," protested Bo, handing her the oil cloth.

"Fritz doesn't have time for me to worry about safety," she retorted, spreading the oil cloth.

Fritz didn't rouse at all when Ella moved him onto the cloth, but she spoke to him anyway, "Fritz, that body was NOT Scarlet. You need to hang on, because she is still alive." She opened one of the bottles of sterile salt water Bill had prepared for her, and started flushing the wound, trying to find the source of the blood.

"Bo, take this syringe, fill it from this bottle, and squirt it into the wound, so I can see where to stitch," she ordered, taking a threaded needle from the inside of the cork sealing a bottle of disinfectant. Appearing as calm as when she embroidered, Ella got the bleeding stopped.

Fritz's pulse was terribly weak, and he was almost as pale as death. He had lost a lot of blood, maybe too much.

Ella tried to remember something Alan and his partner had discussed after the 1866 cholera epidemic. Someone had saved people dying of the dehydration caused by the disease by injecting sterile salt water into their veins. She had another bottle of saline - it was worth a try. She got a hypodermic needle into Fritz's arm, and started pushing fluid in.

Once all of the salt water was in Fritz, his pulse was a little stronger, but he was still terribly pale and deeply unconscious. Ella finished dressing the entry and exit wounds, and checked him over for other injuries.

The left shoulder was dislocated. With Bo's help, she reduced the dislocation, then sat back to watch over him.

Scarlet turned into the direction of the faint sounds of what she knew was a Gatling gun. Lucky had raised his head, his ears pitched forward almost to the point of touching, his eyes grew wide. They both knew it was a noise that they should not be hearing.

Scarlet mounted up and cautiously made her way towards the sounds. She slowed when she reached Cutter’s now deserted camp. They had spent the night very close to one another Scarlet thought.

The low roar of the Sharps Johnny carried interrupted her thoughts. Scarlet listened for a moment, there was no return fire. She knew he had her back.

Scarlet kicked Lucky forward at a faster pace. The camp came into view just as Fritz fell from the saddle. She recognized the sound that echoed across the hill, it was burned so deep in her memory she’d remember it forever, she’d heard it in her dreams and occasionally when she was awake, the bellow of the Hawkins Cutter carried.

Scarlet kicked Lucky forward heading towards the camp; Ella seemed to appear at Fritz’s side from nowhere.

Scarlet pulled Lucky up short. She could see Cutter not far from Ella. Pulling her Sharps from its boot, Scarlet took aim “If anybody up there is listening let this work.” She said softly.

Cutter’s attention was drawn from Ella to Scarlet, she could see his facial expression change realizing he was well within range of the gun lining up on him. Cutter quickly slipped into the trees.

Scarlet replaced the empty rifle and followed, passing close enough to the camp to see Ella in deep concentration. Bo was setting up some kind of tent affair and pulled the last side closed but not before Scarlet saw all the blood.

The whole scene made Scarlet feel ill. She’d tried so hard to avoid this dream coming true. She could feel her heart growing cold and dark, feelings of hate she had let Fritz chase away came back ten fold.

Cutter had made it across the open field and stopped just short of the trees. He stepped off his horse and pulled the Hawkins from it’s scabbard. The open field was about 200 yards long. “As soon as she rides into clearing I can finish her too.” he thought to himself as he began to load the rifle.

Scarlet saw him stop and remove the rifle. She knew Jimmy could reload his rifle close to four times in a minute, Cutter was not that good, she’d be within pistol range about the time he would be loaded if fate was smiling on her.

Cutter saw the horse break the cover of the trees at a dead run. He could feel the adrenalin pump through his veins as he hurried to load the rifle, the ground shook as he finished loading. Reaching for a cap he slammed it on the nipple and twisted it in place.

Scarlet kicked Lucky to move faster, Cutter was nearly ready to fire, she drew her gun, pulled the hammer back and squeezed the trigger. Her pistol didn’t fire but the sound of the Hawkins going off rang in her ears. Lucky broke stride and fear shot through Scarlet. It took a moment for her mind to register the gun lay on the ground and Cutter was holding his hand. She felt Lucky regained his stride.

Cutter stood for a moment in disbelief, his thumb had exploded sending pain through his body. The sound of the horse’s hooves pounding the earth brought him back. He reached for his pistol just as the horse’s chest hit his shoulder sending him spinning to the ground in the opposite direction of his pistol.

Cutter lay on the ground and began to laugh. “Here we are again Angel. I left him laying in a pool of blood, just like the last one. You gonna go find another for me to kill in a few years.” Hearing nothing he struggled to his feet drawing his own knife.

She was right behind him, he spun around trying to grab her swinging wildly at the same time. He ducked the flash of the blade that was meant for his throat.

Scarlet’s blade caught him at the temple and sliced neatly across his forehead. The blood flowed freely down his face into his eyes. Cutter wiped his face trying to regain his vision. He felt the blade slide across the bone of his thigh. Screaming he sunk to his knees trying to see his attacker. Cutter flinched as he heard the click.

Scarlet cursed softly when the gun failed to fire.

“I’ve always told you you couldn’t kill me. I’m lucky like that.” He chuckled.

Holstering her pistol Scarlet reached behind her pulling the long knife free from where hung off of the sharps.

“Your luck has run out Rowen” she hissed as she drove the knife into his windpipe sinking it as far down as it would go.

Johnny rode down the hill, he could see it was finally finished. Scarlet had finally fulfilled the promise she’d swore she’d keep. Scarlet sat on her knees next to Cutters lifeless body. He scanned the landscape for anybody else. The sound of the Dragoon firing brought Johnny’s eyes back to Scarlet. Her body was leaned forward and the pistol lay next to her.

Johnny couldn’t get to her fast enough. They’d been through so much he couldn’t bare the thought of losing her now, after all of this, riding back and telling them he'd been to late.

Johnny was dismounting before Velvet Ears was stopped.

Scarlet heard the animal coming up behind her she was running on reflexes now.

He was surprised at the speed Scarlet grabbed the gun and rolled to her feet, her eyes wild as she found her target.

“It’s dad. It’s over Scarlet.” He said throwing up his hands.

She eased the hammer down and holstered the pistol.

“The cost was to high.” Scarlet said as she bent over and took back the knife Cutter hand taken from her.

Looking at the body Johnny realized with relief the shot he’d heard was Scarlet putting a round through Cutter’s heart.

“War is not for the weak Scarlet, you knew that going in.”

“It wasn’t Patches war nor was it Fritz’s. I’ve traded one nightmare for another.” She spat as she walked to Cutter’s horse and began to retrieve her things.

“It was Patches choice as it was Fritz’s. Like everybody that rides with you.” Johnny said.

Scarlet narrowed her eyes at him.

Suddenly the reason for her sour mood dawned on Johnny.

“Patches is recovering nicely, she was at the telegraph when I rode out.”

He watched Scarlet take a deep breath she was obviously relieved from the news.

“Scarlet you know your bleeding.” He said softly as he watched her struggle back into the saddle.

“I got someplace I need to be.” She replied.

Bo couldn’t help but smile as he watched the familiar figure on the black horse ride towards him.

Scarlet slid from the saddle and walked towards where he stood just outside of the enclosure.

“Tell me something that’s going to bring a smile to my face.” She said as she gave him a hug.

“You look like hell and smell of death giggles n’ wiggles.” Bo grinned as he looked at her.

Scarlet laughed softly. “I told ya not to call me that in earshot of others, and that's not exactly what I had in mind.”

Bo pulled the canvas back and let her walk through. Catching Ella’s glance as she looked up Bo held up his hand. Ella could see the blood smeared across his palm. He pointed at Scarlet’s back.

Scarlet sunk to her knees and looked at Fritz. She ran her fingers gently across his face.

“How bad is he?” Scarlet asked looking at the wound and back to Ella.

“Are you ok?” Scarlet asked before Ella had a chance to answer.

"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 #71 on: July 09, 2005, 10:28:16 am »


"He's very weak from loss of blood, and hanging to life by a thread. Talk to him, and encourage him to hang on to that thread! He was unconscious before I reached him, so he may not have heard me tell him that the body he brought back to the Starr wasn't you. He had left the Starr before Bill and I verified that, so I borrowed a fast horse and Bo, and followed after him. I hoped to catch him before he went looking for death. And while you are talking to him, I can deal with why you are bleeding," replied Ella, reaching for the bloody patch on Scarlet's shirt. "You know, it was the scar from the last time I stitched you up that told me the body wasn't you. The fire had charred the front but not the back, and that scar," touching it, "wasn't there."

When Fritz came to, he was lying in her arms. The sky was a brilliant blue. Sunlight, halo-like, surrounded her. Scarlet's hair framed her face like burnished brass. Her tears fell, warm on his face.

Fritz whispered, "Thank you."

She smiled through her tears. "For what, darlin'?"

Fritz replied weakly, "for letting me into Heaven."

Scarlet laughed. "This ain't Heaven, darlin''s Texas!"

"It's close enough," he said.

Scarlet touched her lips gently to his. "Sleep now darlin' need rest."

He closed his eyes and rested, safe in her embrace.

"He'll mend now," said Ella confidently. "Since I've been up for the past two days, I'm going to take a nap until time to fix dinner." She stood up and stretched, and left the enclosure, smiling.

"Fritz woke up for a minute," she reported to the men outside. "I think he's going to recover, but we should wait until tomorrow to head back."


Scarlet laced her fingers between Fritz’s and held his hand close to her chest while she continued to speak softly.

“I promised to take you to the point on the ranch Sugar. You’re going to have to pull out of this if you want to see how the sun sets on the Southern Starr and turns the sky purple and pink before it gives away to the bright stars.

In the morning the sky turns yellow and red before the sun rises. The smell of jasmine hangs in the air this time of year. It’s something much more beautiful when you share it with someone you love.

There’s a darn good chance if you invite me in swimming I will not turn you down this time.

I love you Fritz.” Scarlet said as she softly traced his cheek with the finger tips of her other hand. She kissed his cheek one more time before she gave into exhaustion and let sleep overtake her.


Hank awoke with a start. His rifle was not in his hands but in the hands of a Comanche warrior standing over him.

Tensleep felt a presence and slowly opened his eyes. One of the biggest Comanche he had ever seen wassquated on the balls of his feet by the fire. The warrior's eyes were boring into the marshal.

"You are the one called 'Rides for many days' by our Shoshone brothers?"
Grey Eagle asked.

"I am that one."

"You are the man of Little Fox?"

"She is the one who fills my heart with joy." Tensleep spoke with feeling.

"Good, you will come to our camp to meet her brother."

“That ain’t no huntin’ party, least they ain’t huntin food, judging by the way they are dressed.” Hank whispered eyeing the five warriors while he saddled his horse.

Once they were mounted Grey Eagle motioned Tensleep and Hank to follow. As they moved out three of the warriors feel in behind the two white men.

When they reached the trail head that lead into Devil’s Mountain Grey Eagle stopped and turned on his horse.

“Can I trust you to blind fold yourselves?” He said looking at the two men.

“Can we trust you not to kill us?” Hank asked.

“I would have already.” Grey Eagle replied. “The blindfold will keep you safe.”

Tensleep and Hank used the bandanas they wore to oblige his request.

They had not gone far when the sound of a man’s voice filled their ears.

“Marshal, help me Marshal Ross!” Harry yelled as he struggled against the ties that held him spread out against the desert floor.

“Shoot ‘em Ross! Their going to do this to you…they done killed my partner!”

Tensleep and Hank heard the sound of an arrow slicing the air then the scream of the man. “My leg!”

They continued to ride. Tensleep now counted only four horses besides his and Hanks. The trail they rode twisted as it rose and feel. Finally after what seemed like hours Grey Eagle spoke to them again.

“Remove blindfolds.”

The mountain seemed to touch the sky all the way around them. The grass was green, the river flowed through the middle of it. One could envision paradise looking upon this place.

Grey Eagle looked at the two men. “Heaven on Earth.” He said showing a bit of a smile.

“You all don’t speak English do you?” Hank asked.

Grey Eagle shook his head no.

“Who taught you?”

“Some from Little Fox, some from Wild Ponies.”
He kicked his horse forward and rode into camp.
By Scarlet and Tensleep

"Damn! What a place!" 'Sleep said as he looked at the beauty all around him.

He and Hank rode easily now as they were guided into the camp.

"There's her horse." Hank said softly to 'Sleep as he pointed at the herd of horses trotting through the shallow crossing of the stream.

The people they rode past stopped and looked at the strangers.
Some of the children ran along after them.

Grey Eagle came to a stop in front one of the teepee's, slid off his horse, and spoke to the woman who was working the deerhide near by.

She disappeared and soon returned with her husband.

Grey Eagle spoke briefly to him before he turned back to Tensleep and Hank.

"This is Black Wolf." He said to the two men.

Tensleep slid from Buck and his arm slapped across his chest. "Ho Black Wolf! I am called Rides for Many Days, this," He points to Hank "is Pours Firewater. We seek news of Little Fox."

The woman standing next to Black Wolf looked the two men up and down then quietly disappeared.

"She is safe. What you know of her injuries?" Black Wolf spoke slower than Grey Eagle choosing his words carefully but it was plain he spoke and understood the white man's language.

"We know nothing, that is why we came to you. You are her safety."
Tensleep spoke with feeling.

Black Wolf watched him closely "What you know of the men she seeks safety from?"

"I know that they kill for fun, they kill anyone. They are like the dog with the 'fear of water' sickness. They kill to see blood."

"Can you not keep her safe from these men?"

"If she would let me, yes I can. You know her, she has the will of the wild horse. I would take her for my wife Black Wolf. I would have her with me."

"Yes and the cunning of the fox. Why does she not let you keep her safe?"

"She fears what people would think of me and say about me. She sees herself as 'used' and wants to protect me. She is here? Is she hurt?"
Tensleep was getting edgy. "I would like to see her. I have a burning in my heart for Little Fox."

"She is here. She is..." Black Wolf paused searching for the correct words "Colored like the day and night sky. Here" He touched his cheek "here." Touching his arm. "and here." He indicated his ribs.

"One who helped do this is feeling what it was like." Black Wolf watched Tensleep's reponse closely.

"I hope that he still feels the pain when he is burning in hell. The plague of killing must stop and the killers must be punished."

Tensleep had dropped Buck's reins and was standing only two feet from Black Wolf. His eyes never waivered.

"He will welcome hell when we are done." Black Wolf's dark eyes held Tensleep's gaze. "You think different than many of your white brothers. You are like Longknife?"

"In many ways Longknife and I see alike. I am of the Shoshone, it is right for one to suffer when he causes suffering. Longknife and I have talked of this. The warrior kills to live and eat, the wolf kills to kill. The wolf needs to take lessons from the coyote and learn wisdom."

Black Wolf nodded in agreement. "Come."

He walked up the river where the horses were milling about. One of the braves had one belly deep in the water trying to mount.

"There." Black Wolf pointed to the figure sitting at the water's edge watching him. From the back the woman looked like any of the others in camp except for the brunette hair.

Tensleep dropped his hat to the ground, his shirt followed. He started to walk to the river. When he reached the woman he knelt and whispered, "Little Fox, are you alright?"

Rebecca turned her head. She was shocked to see him here. "John" She whispered before she smiled and hugged him with her good arm careful of the one that was in the sling. "How did you find me?"

"Hank and I rode to the base of the mountain and let Grey Eagle find us. I had to have you back in my life, I had to know that you were alright."

Rebecca was suddenly aware of the bruises he could see. "I'm alright. I've survived much worse." She managed to smile again. "How's Scarlet? She looked bout like I do...cept that split lip."

Tensleep thought that the question would come sooner or later. "We don't know about her. The posse split up, Hank and I followed your trail and came for you." 'Sleep took her slender body into his arms being careful he let her hug him closely. His arms formed a cradle for her.

She layed her head on his shoulder and relaxed against him. "I would love a long soak in a hot bath. Is it safe to go home?"

"It's safe to go to the Starr, we need to get you to Ella and the care that she and Rose can give you darlin'. Do you think that you can ride?"

"Scarlet looked at me she didn't think anything was broken. I can ride though, and a real bed sounds so very nice."

With Rebecca in his arms Tensleep rose, his heart felt at ease, she was safe. Carrying her, he walked to Black Wolf.

"I would take Little Fox to the wife of Longknife. Can you have a warrior lead us from this hidden place?"

"Grey Eagle will take you." Black Wolf replied.

"I will say my good byes." Rebecca said moving out of his arms.

She gathered up the few things she had brought with her then she hugged Black Wolf's wife and the young boy who brought up her horse.

The boy looked wide eyed at Tensleep and Hank then turned to the two women said something before he smiled widely and ran off to play causing them to smile.

Rebecca found a stump and climbed onto it then slid onto Clouds back.

Tensleep turned back to Black Wolf. "Before we go I must ask you, how many ponies for Little Fox? I want to make her my wife. I need your permission, she says that you are her brother. I am not a rich man but I have ten ponies that Grey Eagle can bring back to you."

Black Wolf looked at Tensleep a moment then to Rebecca who was talking to his wife.

"I am told your world has different traditions. I am told she will not take a husband of my choosing if he had a thousand ponies. Little Fox lives under her own roof and cannot be traded for ponies." Black Wolf's tone and the way he tried to choose his words told Tensleep he was not the first suitor, and it had most likely been Rebecca that had informed her brother of what she would do. "When Little Fox agrees to take you as a husband then Rides for Many Days can speak to me of how many ponies."

"Thank you Black Wolf, one day I shall return to you with my heart in the clouds and we will talk of ponies and life."

"Go in peace."

Grey Eagle moved his pony out followed by Rebecca, Tensleep and Hank.
When they reached the clearing where they had removed their blindfolds they were asked to put them back on. To Hank's surprise even Rebecca wore one until they reached the trails they had ridden before.

"Fastest way to the Starr is there." Grey Eagle pointed to the trial that lead out of the mountain. "You can take the trail of the pony soldiers towards your village then the trail to the Starr."

"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 #72 on: July 09, 2005, 10:34:43 am »

Written By Dr. Bill and Patches

Rose rapped lightly at the telegraph office door, holding a tray laden with herbs, potions and various medical accoutrements in one arm.

"WHAT?!" Came the sharp reply. Rose winced just a little bit but she was resigned.

"Patches it's me, Rose," she said to the closed door. "It's time for your changing."

There was an audible sigh from within. "Oh, sorry. Come in. The electricity is off."

She pushed the door open with her free hand and immediately turned to set the tray on the small table that stood sentinel near the door. She took a moment to arrange her various bottles and tins then looked up. Patches was not in the bed. Ella's head snapped around and she gasped when she saw Patches standing by her desk looking out he window.

"Patches!" She said rushing over to her. "What are you doing?!"

Patches turned to look at her and glared. "I'm STANDING. You know, that thing people do when they are tired of SITTING or LAYING DOWN? Geez Rose."

"You really must get back into bed," Rose said taking her by the elbow in order to guide her back to bed. But Patches was stubborn and didn't budge. "Ella said bed rest!"

"Oh to hell with what Ella said," came Patches' retort as she yanked her arm out of Rose's grip. "I’m so sick of that bed I could scream!"

Rose pursed her lips and put her hands on her hips. "Well at least come and sit down so I can change your dressings."

"I'm not getting back into that bed," she stated with finality. "Not for a few hours at least."

"The chair then," Rose swept her arm toward one of the two chairs that sat in front of the little stove. Patches looked to the chairs. One was a comfortable cushioned rocker the other was a wingback. She almost smiled. She always thought of the wingback as "Bill's Chair".

"Alright," she sighed. She took up a cane that Bill had made for her due to a slight fracture in her left hip. He had stayed up the night she had come in badly beaten carving that long cottonwood branch that Johnny Longknife had given him. He had carved it sitting next to her bed, watching her through a long, rather painful, drug induced night and well into the next day. Ella had urged him many times to go to his cabin and rest, to get some sleep. He politely declined until he finally tired of her insistence. When they finally began begging him to rest his answer was to simply take a pinch of cocoa leaves between his cheek and gum. God Himself couldn't have drug him away from her at that point. After that everyone gave up trying to convince him.

Once he had gotten the basic shape the way he wanted it, and was satisfied that she was finally sleeping peacefully, he had taken the cane to the workshop where he used the lathe to work some very intricate detail on it. When he had returned to her a few hours later, she was still asleep and hadn't moved. He had set it by her bed, and allowed himself to muse that perhaps, someday, when she was much older, when her long red hair had since gone white, she might have occasion to use it again.

"Is your hip paining you?" Rose asked as Patches sat in "Bill's chair".

"Only when I lay on it,'" was Patches' grumbled answer as Rose drew the drapes and Patches undressed. Rose lit a lamp in the now darkened room, and then began unbandaging Patches' ribs.

"Your side still hurt?" She asked as she smoothed on the cooling cream she used to heal bruises. They were concerned with Patches' ribs as she'd sustained breaks to them before and the men who jumped her had kicked her repeatedly between her neck and knees. Fortunately there were no breaks this time and only one small fracture to the middle rib on the right side.

"No, its much better."

"How about your back?"

"Just the ache from the bruises, nothing more now." Patches said but her body tensed and she hissed when Rose touched the bruises along her spine.

"Uh-huh," Rose intoned in disbelief. "Are you lying?"

"Dagummit, Rose!" Patience had finally lost her patience. "Doesn't hurt nearly as bad as when you poke at it for Pete's sakes!" But she regretted her sharp tongue the minute the words left her lips and once again she sighed. "I'm sorry Rose, I'm just ...UGH!! I’m going crazy in here laying down all the time! I feel like if I don't get OUT of here for a while I'm gonna simply suffocate!"

"I understand your frustration," Rose said as she unwrapped Patches wrists, cleaned and redressed the abrasions there. "But I'm not sure you are ready for any heavy activity just yet."

Patches entire body sagged, she was so frustrated. "I just want to go outside. I’m not going to ride or run or climb trees!! I just want to go for a little walk. Get some exercise, some fresh air. Its a beautiful day!!" That at least was the truth. The sun was warm, the sky clear, and although Patches couldn't feel the spring breeze, she could hear it.

"Are you still bleeding?" Rose asked, as her fingers gently probed Patches' abdomen.

"No, that stopped yesterday early."

Rose checked her watch, then began wrapping Patches up again, fortunately only around her middle unlike last time when she had to wear a brace for almost three months. "Well, that’s a good sign," she said. "I have an idea. Why don't you set the rocker next to the window and read? You seem to enjoy reading and the window would make it seem as if --"

"I've read all my books," Patches growled slowly gaining her feet so she could dress. "I've run out of ideas of things to draw, I'm tired of sleeping, and that yarn we ordered hasn't come in yet. I JUST want to go for a walk!! Please! I promise I won't over do it! I'm not going to put myself at risk! I just need OUT for a while! Besides my legs feel like they are going to rot off due to misuse."

Rose sighed and sank down into the rocker. "If you go for a walk where would you go?" She asked folding her hands in her lap and looking primly up at her friend.

"I don't know," she said honestly with a little shrug, her voice calming down some. "Not far. Go visit the horses maybe; perhaps visit Bill in the lab. Just...around, you know. Don't think a hike down the river would be a good idea, too much harsh ground down there." She looked at Rose with pleading eyes. "Please, I'm really going insane here. And I promise I wont be gone long and I'll stay close and I'll go slow and I won't get too close to the horses and I won't go shooting and --"

Rose's giggle stopped her. She stood up and handed her the housecoat that was draped on the arm of the chair. "Stop begging, it's degrading," she said. "Go and visit with Bill, I know you want to and he can take care of you if you hurt. But don't be gone long and make sure if you start to get tired you come straight back."

Patches beamed and allowed Rose to help her with the robe. "Thank you! Thank you! I PROMISE I'll take it easy!" Patches hugged her briefly then took up the cane and headed straight out the back door. Rose watched her go, making sure she was indeed going slow and being careful. She was. She shook her head a little, smiled and bent to retrieve her items. She would put them back in the hospital and then stand watch at the telegraph for a while. They were still waiting for word from the posse, other law enforcement people and with any luck, Scarlet.

Bill was so intent upon constructing the tubes for the new alarm flares that he failed to hear the soft knock on the door to the lab. His mind, although calm and smooth as always when he was working, still couldn't shove away some of the images of what Patches had gone through this last few days and he was bound and determined to make her as safe as possible at least when she was here. He had spent a great deal of time yesterday riding across the surrounding countryside and marking out game trails. He found a very distinct pattern between them and now as planning on placing a literal wall of flares in between them. The animals along the trails wouldn't disturb the tripwires but nothing short of ghosts would ever get through them without setting something off.

He had just laid the last of the tubes in a neat line when he turned around to see Patches poking her head in the door. "Bill?" Her voice was soft as she looked around for him.

"Patches!" He beamed, crossed the distance between them in less than a heart beat and opened the heavy door so she could come in. Once she was in she smiled at him and held her arms out. He gently hugged her, and then led her further into the lab. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you still be in bed?"

"I came to see you," she said as he pulled a comfortable chair over to the workbench where he would eventually continue to work and guided her into it. "Rose gave me a few hours reprieve but I had to beg to get it." She looked up at him as he leaned against the workbench. His smile told her he was indeed very glad to see her. "I ..uh..." she shrugged a little. "I've missed you. Haven't seen you since yesterday."

"Yes, well, " he said clearing his throat. "Two hundred acres is a lot of ground to cover." He spent the next few minutes describing his ride, finding the game trails and discovering the most fascinating natural patterns to said trails. "Now I'm making more," he concluded. "Want to try and get it done by tomorrow so these can go up quickly."

"Oh," she said looking past him. There must have been hundreds of tubes on the table. "Am I interrupting? Do you want me to go?"

"No, no!" He said perhaps just a little too quickly, but that was all right, Patches loved him more for it. "I would like you to stay."

"Well," she smiled at him. "Is there anything I can do to help that doesn’t require a great deal of standing? I mean, with both of us working..."

He rewarded her with the most brilliant smile she thought she had ever seen. "Yes," he said pushing himself off the bench and going to gather various powders. "As a matter of fact there is. Feel like mixing up some fireworks?" He set a few containers down on the bench and then went to retrieve more.

"That sounds like fun," she said. She never took her eyes off of him though, and for God only knew how many times, she once again thought he was the most beautiful man in existence.

"Wonderful!" He exclaimed, and then bent to kiss her quickly on the cheek. "What color would you like to make? Purple?"

She laughed. "Oh no! I'll do green. NOBODY can make purple fire like you can." Her gaze caught his and there was silence for a moment. "Mr. Wizard." She concluded in an almost reverent whisper. He blushed some and dipped his head, then looked up at her again. Somehow his hand and wandered to her hair and his fingers fiddled with it some.

"Green it is," he said then got up to retrieve more supplies.

He spent the next half hour or so teaching her how to measure and mix the various powders and charcoal. She asked intelligent questions to which he was more than happy to provide answers. Soon they were working diligently, speaking in low tones about other various theories, sharing ideas. He asked how she liked the new four-line switchboard and she sang the praises of that for quite some time. She told him of some the books she had been reading and they discussed those like scholars.

When she was feeling a little stiff, she would tell him and they would walk a few slow laps around the lab, her hand curled around his elbow, his hand placed gently on top of hers. She didn't think she ever told him but that was absolutely her favorite way to walk with him. They continued to discuss things as they walked, then when she felt she was ready, he once again guided her into her chair and they went back to work.

Once green and purple were done, they each worked on yellow, and Patches commented that she thought it was fascinating that each of the different chemicals had a different sound. Bill explained that it was due to mass and weight and by the time he was done she knew exactly what it was, what it did, and what all it could be used for. It wasn't until hours later, when the piles of powders had grown to enormous heights that the talking died down and they were both comfortable in the silence, simply enjoying the fact that they were together doing what they both loved doing.

They were nearly done when suddenly Patches said, "Ah! Dagummit!"

Bill looked up to see only the top of her head and the back of her wrist pressed to her eye. "Patches? What’s wrong?" He asked as he rounded the workbench and knelt down next to her.

"Got something in my eye," she said blinking rapidly for a moment then squeezing her eyes shut. They were already beginning to tear.

"Does it burn?" He asked placing his fingers gently under her chin and lifting her face toward him. Some of these chemicals could do real damage to eyes.

"No, it's just gritty," she said. He looked at her face and suddenly realized they were both literally covered in charcoal smudges.

"Probably a bit of charcoal," he said. "Keep your eyes closed and try not to move them." She obeyed having heard him say that on more than one occasion, and simply leaned her head back and relaxed. He was forever concerned about the sensitivity of her eyes, and they seemed to be a magnet for the slightest irritant. He had spent a goodly amount of time developing special drops for her eyes just for that reason and he always kept some handy. Besides, her eyes were so deep green, so incredibly expressive and so unbelievably beautiful he couldn't bear the thought of anything hurting them.

She heard him walk to the sink and thoroughly wash his hands, heard him move to the self that contained the bottle of her eyewash, heard him go to the cupboard for clean towels, then walk back over to her. She smiled to herself. He took such good care of her she was almost overwhelmed with it and she loved him so much it hurt. She was always afraid that she wouldn't be able to reciprocate this care but he never complained and she was always there for him when he needed her. Fortunately he seemed to always need her, even if it was just for company.

After a few minutes she felt him lay a towel across her chest. This was a habit with him and he'd done so ever since the first time he had "doctored" her eyes. He was always worried he'd get her shirt damp, but he never did.

"Alright," he said. He was so close to her she could hear his heart beating, her absolute favorite sound. "Now just relax and let me open your eye." She nodded, just the slightest of movements and took a deep breath. He could literally see every muscle in her face relax.

He took a damp cloth and wiped away the smudges that were close to her eye then gently placed his fingers on it. Ever so gently he spread his fingers, opening her eye and he watched as her pupil contracted making her deep green iris larger and somehow brighter. He saw the offending material immediately, a tiny black speck on the white near the tear duct. Carefully and slowly he flushed out her eye, one drop at a time, until he was certain that the grain of charcoal was gone.

"Do the other too please," she asked softly as he started to move away. He smiled and she shrugged, a tiny movement of her shoulders. "It feels good." He complied and washed out her other eye.

"How's that? Better?" He asked as she raised her head. She blinked some then looked up at him.

"Much, thank you," she returned. He stood and went to the sink then came back with two damp towels. He knelt in front of her once more and pressed one of them into her hands so she could at least wipe away some of the charcoal from her hands. He took the other towel and gently began cleaning her face. She didn't mind him doing this; in fact it felt rather good, the cool, soft cloth and his gentle touch.

"You know," he said suddenly. "I could do this for the rest of my life."

"Do what?" She asked glancing up at him.

"This," he said his voice gone soft; the voice of contentment. "This day, this work, you and I."

"Hmmm, me too," she agreed absently. At the moment she was working at a particularly stubborn spot on the palm of her hand. There was silence for a moment as Bill wiped away a smudge on her forehead.

Later he would tell her that he had no idea what he would say. The words simply came out with no apparent rational, planned thought on his part. "Patches?" He said as he lowered the towel. "Will you marry me?"

She gasped softly, her eyes snapped to his as if they were electro magnets suddenly turned on, locking with his, immovable. He watched as almost immediately tears began to well up in them, turning her bright eyes into livid pools. Seconds later the first tear fell and he noticed her lower lip was quivering. A small sound escaped her throat; as if she were desperately trying to say something but her vocal cords had been choked off. And then she froze.

"Patches?" He asked suddenly unsure. He had dreamed of what of her reaction would be for months, but none of his fantasies had anything to do with tears. He thought she'd give him that smile he loved so much, jump up and fling her arms round his neck hollering "YES!" at the top of her lungs and practically choking him. He thought she would simply kiss him, hold him and whisper "Yes, oh yes". He even thought that perhaps she might just look at him and say "Absolutely" as she did when she agreed whole-heartedly with anything he might say or do. Dear God, what if he'd been wrong in thinking she felt the same for him as he did for her? What if he had somehow offended her? It would break his heart into a thousand shards if she said no, if she didn’t love him. For some inexplicable reason he felt that now was the "right time" he had been looking for, but what if he was wrong?


"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 #73 on: July 09, 2005, 10:35:55 am »

He watched as she slowly closed her eyes, tears flowing freely down her cheeks; her head tipping back just slightly. Her hands had come up to cross themselves on her chest, over her heart and she was actively forcing herself to breathe. Her lips parted and she made more sounds, but she just couldn't seem to make those sounds become words. And really, who could have when one suddenly realizes that one's fondest wish has just come true? How many nights had she dreamed of how he would ask her? How many days had gone by that she didn't wish with all her heart that he would just turn to her and blurt it out? She didn't think it would be like this, but that was no matter, at the moment she couldn't remember a single detail of the fantasies she'd had since she realized that he was the only man for her.

She brought her head forward again, her eyes opening at the same time. She reached down very slowly, took his hand in hers and brought it up to her chest. She placed it palm down on her heart and he felt her heart beating so fast it was likely to explode. He looked down at his hand as she did this and then slowly met her gaze once more. She was smiling, although the tears still flowed, her cheeks were flushed; her eyes sparkled. She reached up and draped her arms over his shoulders, and slowly leaned into him and finally, after what seemed like an eternity, her sounds became a single word spoken over and over again.

"Yes," he heard in his ear, "yes, yes, yes." All of this took less than 10 seconds.

He had never been so relieved in his life. His eyes pressed shut and he held her for all he was worth, although still consciously aware of her injuries, burying his face in her hair, gently stroking her back. She was trembling.

"I love you Patience Annabella," he whispered softly yet intensely. "I love you so much."

He felt her nod against him, but "yes" was all she could manage still. Finally he pulled back and rested on his heels for a moment. He looked down and put his hand in his pocket. He dug around there for a moment then looked up at her.

"I've been carrying this around since your birthday," he said as he watched her look down, and then watched her eyes grow big. "It's not much but ..." He took her shaking hand in his and slipped the ring on her finger. He was more than satisfied when it slipped on easily and fit perfectly as he had to guess at the size. It was a simple gold band with a single, small diamond placed in a delicate filigree setting, but to her it was the most precious gem in the entire world and completely priceless.

She looked at it then at him. "Its perfect, Bill," she said and once again tears of pure joy flowed. "It's heavenly." She reached up and cupped his face in her hand, brushed his hair with her fingers and he thought there was never a more loving touch. "I love you Bill," she said. "I would be proud to be your wife. . .Absolutely."

He laughed. He threw his head back and laughed heartily. He knew "absolutely" would be in there somewhere and right now he was the happiest man alive. He stood and scooped her up in his arms, she embraced him, and then he kissed 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 #74 on: July 09, 2005, 10:40:43 am »


Jimmy drifted into camp with the setting sun, Sonny and Zeke in tow leading the horses that belonged to the dead outlaws.

“Show up after the work is done.” Bo snorted.

“Figured I was doing Fritz a favor by lettin’ Johnny keep busy.” Jimmy chuckled as he swung off his horse.

Bo raised his eyebrow questioningly.

“Well look at ‘im over there.” Jimmy looked over at Johnny “Ya think Rose be jealous she saw the way he’s lookin’ at that gun? Figured if he was busy, he’d have less time ta try an’ figure out a plan on how ta keep it. Figure somebody’s going to miss it sooner er later.”

Both men chuckled.

“It was left here, needs a good home.” Johnny said with a grin as he walked up.

The soft voices outside woke Scarlet. She was suddenly aware of the dried blood and dirt ground into her skin; she could see it streaked through her hair, but didn’t know if the blood was hers or that of her enemy.

Scarlet quietly moved, feeling Fritz’s fingers tighten between hers brought a soft smile to her lips.

“I’ll be back soon.” She whispered, gently squeezing his hand before she let go and slipped out.

“Ya left a trail a half blind man could follow.” Jimmy said with a suppressed grin when he saw her.

“Took you two days to catch up to me, must be losing your touch or going blind.” Scarlet retorted.

“I was taking care of some of your business.” He said before he hugged her.

“How many are still out there?” She asked.

“I saw a trail, two followed Rebecca, the Marshal and Hank followed them. The rest of them, they won’t be bothering us anymore.”

“That’s good to hear. You got any sugar cubes?”


“What ya do run out you usually carry them for Moonshine.”

“I threw ‘em all at Fritz.” Jimmy said with a chuckle.

Scarlet shot him a questioning look then shook her head “You can tell me about that later.”

She went to her saddle bags and dug out the extra shirt she had and the bar of soap. Bo moved to follow her.

“I’ll go.” Johnny said walking past him following Scarlet and Lucky towards the stream.

Johnny watched Scarlet kneel by the stream and begin to splash the water on her face then rinse the blood from her hair. He saw the spot Ella had stitched when she peeled her shirt off.

“Are you all right?” He asked as he turned around.

“I will be. Ella said you took a body home?”

“Fritz thought it was you. She was wearing..”

“Jenny, I know she had on my ring and was wearing my badge. Do you know what happened to my ring?”

“I don’t know, Ella might.”

Scarlet reached in her pocket and pulled out a gold band with a diamond in it holding back towards Johnny. “It is Jenny’s. She should have it back. Her husband inherited the Broken Shoe. She loved him a great deal, they should be buried together.”

“I hope Fritz can forgive me for the hell I’ve put him through.”

“He loves you Scarlet. He’s a good man, you’ll do right by one another.” Johnny said softly as he remembered his ride back from the cabin with Fritz.

Scarlet was somewhat surprised to hear Johnny say it. They had butted heads on the issue in the beginning. Fritz was free to come and go as he pleased but if it was Johnny’s doing that he chose to go there would be hell to pay. She had told her father that on more than one occasion. After time he had given in and accepted the fact she loved Fritz then simply began to tease her about fraternizing with the enemy. It was more than that and she knew it, Johnny had always been very protective of her.

Scarlet stood and wrung the water out of her hair then slipped on the cleaner shirt.
“You don’t realize how little is left inside until somebody fills the empty space.” She said as turned to face her father. “He is my light in the darkness. Something I thought I would never have again.” She replied just as softly as she looked at Johnny.

“I know. Why did you go alone?”

“He was watching for more than one rider. I never followed him alone. Habits can get you killed unless you change them every now and then, you told me that once.”

Johnny shook his head in understanding, he knew there was more to it but Scarlet didn’t offer so he didn’t push.

Johnny took her hand and they started to walk towards camp.

“I met Grey Eagle.”

“You have met him before.”

“Yes, but I didn’t realize he was the one who you spent so much time with…explains a few things I’ve seen you do.”

Scarlet half smiled.

“He’s one of Black Wolf’s best warriors. I bet he could win you in combat.” Johnny grinned and his eyes danced mischievously.

“Grey Eagle has a wife, and I am not good at sharing my man with another woman. Besides he doesn’t have connections to things like Gatlin’ guns.” She smirked and hugged him.

“You have a point there.” He chuckled.

Scarlet sat near the fire drying her hair while she watched Sonny pour her a cup of coffee, he splashed some of the dark liquid from his flask into it and handed it over.

“You always knew how to make it just right.” She said as she took the cup.

He touched his cup against hers. “Here’s to old friends.”

“Old friends and the future.” She smiled again. “Don’t be such a stranger Sonny I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve sort of missed this. Course it’s kinda nice not dodging bullets.”

He stood as Ella approached. “What can I do to help?” he asked her.


"Hunting up some meat for dinner would be good. Or help me inventory what foodstuffs and pots are available in the various saddlebags," answered Ella. "I worried more about medical gear than about cookware this trip, but now that things are settling down, it would be nice to eat something other than journey bread and jerky."

Sonny drained his cup, set it down then picked up his rifle. "I can usually find a rabbit or two." He said heading off.

Scarlet began to help Ella search through the saddlebags.

"Ella, thank you for everything, figuring out that body was not mine, for coming after Fritz." Scarlet said, she paused for a moment before she asked. "Do you know what happened to my ring, Jenny was wearing it."

Ella reached into her pockets, and pulled out a folded-up lace-trimmed handkerchief. "I pulled it off her finger before we left, counting on giving it back to you," she said, handing the package to Scarlet. "It still needs a good polishing. I hadn't had time to do that yet."


Scarlet hugged Ella. “Thank you.”  

Scarlet opened the handkerchief and took the ring out, then neatly folded the handkerchief. “That’s beautiful.” She said handing it back to Ella.  

Scarlet used the bottom of her shirt to wipe the ring, she half smiled realizing Ella had wiped it off the best that one could. “I’ll polish it when we get home.” Scarlet said as she slid it back onto her finger.  

“I’m not sure what happened to my badge, it was pinned to my duster, which Jenny was wearing at one point.” Scarlet took a deep breath and closed her eyes shaking the memories of the past few days.


Scarlet quietly slipped up next to Fritz; she changed the bandage careful not to wake him. Thinking she’d lay down for a moment before dinner she drifted off into a restless sleep.

She didn’t know how long she’d laid awake listening to the noises, it brought some peace knowing what each of them was. She recognized the men’s footsteps, they were taking short turns at guarding camp since there were four of them, Ella was up at one point. The horses stood quietly where they had been left. Johnny’s mule, Velvet Ears, was a heavy breather almost snoring on occasion. When she heard Lucky sniffing at the canvas she got up, put on her boots and gun belt then went out.

Scarlet put Lucky’s bridle on then swung up on his back.

“I’m gonna ride along the river.” She said when she heard Bo’s footsteps behind her then kicked the black horse into a lope.

Bo watched in silence as the shadows closed around horse and rider wondering if he should send someone to watch her back.

Scarlet rode along the river back to the spot she had been the night before. As she passed the old twisted tree she pulled her rope out of it then crossed the water onto the small island that parted the river.

Sliding off Lucky she removed his bridle and sat at the waters edge picking some of the wild flowers and tossing them into the river. She watched them swirl in small circles before they drifted along to some unknown destination much like she had done for so long.

She watched the sun peek over the horizon happy to see it this morning, thankful that the times she had wished she’d never see another were fading.

She felt Lucky lay down behind her and leaned against him, she automatically ran her fingers along his neck scratching his favorite spots as she turned a question over in her mind Patches had once asked her. “What makes us different from killers?”

She wondered if that line that made her different was fading for her. At least killers didn’t have friends they felt guilty for getting killed along the way, maybe that made her worse. Revenge and bloodlust is what drove Cutter, but the same things had driven her. He enjoyed it, maybe she had too, she wasn’t sure, but she would do it over again if she had to, maybe just a different approach to keep those she cared about safer.

She had once told Fritz the eyes of a killer stared back at her when she looked in the mirror. He’d told her that’s not what he saw; as she leaned her head back against Lucky she wondered if he would still feel the same.


Ella came up beside Bo as he watched Scarlet ride off. He commented, "I wonder if I should send someone to watch her back."

Ella responded, "I'll go".

She came back with a barebacked Diamond. "Give me a hand up?" she asked.

Bo boosted her onto Diamond's back, and Ella followed the direction Scarlet had gone.

The splashing as Diamond crossed the water attracted Scarlet's attention, but she relaxed again when she saw it was Ella.

"Ella, what makes us different from killers?"

"We are killers, but we are not murderers," answered Ella, sliding off Diamond and coming to sit beside Scarlet. "The commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' is a poor translation. It should really be 'Thou shalt not murder'. There is a lot of discussion about that distinction in the commentaries about the Torah, because of self-defense. The conclusion is that it is lawful to kill one who comes to murder you. We do kill but for business, not for pleasure. We kill those whose lives are forfeit because they have taken innocent lives."

Scarlet half smiled. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard it put like that. You have a unique way of putting things into perspective Ella.

Mother says I always judge myself harshly. But I have to check myself every now ‘n then ya know. And dad he told me there’d be days like this. I should worry when I don’t ask myself that question cuz it means somewhere I stopped caring what makes me different.”

Scarlet flipped another flower into the river as she spoke. “I used to love to come here, there was a peacefulness about it.” The half smile she wore spread curling both sides of her mouth up. “A lot of good memories too. It’s time let the hurt go and the wounds heal I think.”

“I think you’re right.” Ella said with an understanding smile.

Scarlet looked up at Diamond. “Mom gave one of her best you know.”

“I asked for a fast horse and Rose told them to saddle her for me.” Ella replied looking at the bay horse with the perfect diamond shaped star on her forehead.

“You up for a ride Ella, always been one of my favorite things just to let’em run for the joy of running.”

Scarlet didn’t wait for Ella’s answer she knew by the smile that played on Ella’s lips the thought intrigued her.

“Come on I’ll give you a leg up.” Scarlet said standing.

Zeke picked up his rifle, squinting he scanned the horizon for whatever devil might be on the tail of the two fast coming horses.

“I don’t see anything.” He said to Bo.

Bo looked through his glass and shook his head back and forth with a grin as he watched the two women smiling as they rode. “Don’t worry, that my friend is just a couple of women letting their hair down so to speak.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it.” He replied as he admired the two horses race across the grass, their tails in the air and ears perked forward. The two women sat slightly forward the horse’s mane swirling around them.

"One of the prettiest sights I've had the pleasure of lookin' at." Bo said.

The two horses pranced into camp.

Johnny patted Lucky on the neck. Judging by the smile on Scarlet and Ella's faces whatever they had talked about looked to have had positive results.

He patted Diamond's neck. "Do we want to break camp or stay another day? If we want to stay I can send someone back to the ranch and let them know we are ok." Johnny said watching Ella as she slid off of the horses back.


"We should head back. The nourishing tonics I want to feed Fritz to help build up his blood supply are at the Starr, and I can't prepare them here with the supplies on hand," replied Ella. "He doesn't have any broken bones, so he can tolerate a fair amount of bouncing."


Scarlet slid from Lucky’s back then removed his bridle. The stallion moved off next to where the other horses stood.

Scarlet laid the bridle over the back of her saddle. Wondering if Fritz might be thirsty she picked up her canteen and went to check on him. She set the canteen down and picked up the bandages and ointment Ella had left earlier. She carefully began to change the dressing trying not to disturb him.

Part of her wanted to scream at him for being there.

If it hadn’t been for Ella…she stopped the thought there.

She knew she couldn’t be mad at him for being there; he’d done nothing she wouldn’t have done herself. She didn’t figure she had any right to tell him how the fear that froze her heart when she had seen him fall had nearly made her ill. She already knew the pain he must have felt when he found Jenny and thought it was her.

Felling his hand cover hers Scarlet looked up and smiled tenderly into his eyes. No she couldn’t be mad.

“You ready to go home soldier?” She said softly.

Fritz opened his eyes. Light was dim, emanating from glowing embers under the rocks. Steam filled the air. Fritz realized he was in some sort of sweat lodge. Sitting across from him was the most magnificent warrior he’d ever seen…Comanche by the looks of him. Fritz hoped he wouldn’t have to fight him. He couldn’t, in any case. He wore no weapons here.

“I am Grey Eagle,” the warrior said simply.

Fritz cleared his throat. “I’m First Serg…”

Grey Eagle cut him off. “We know who you are, Yellow Sleeve. Our sister has told us."


“I speak to you as one who will listen. I know your heart is sore.”

Fritz was confused. “What do you mean?”

Grey Eagle leaned forward. “I see the tiredness in your eyes. You are old past your years. There is pain there too.”

“I don’t understand…”

“In the past,” Grey Eagle replied, “you fought for the Blue Suit. You fought for a colored flag. That is not why you fought today, is it?”

Fritz shook his head.

“You fought for the one you love…to avenge her. Is that not so?”

“Yes…it is.”

“Now you know why we fight.” Grey Eagle nodded. “We fight for those we love…we fight to stay free. Do you understand this?”

“I always have,” Fritz replied.

“Then come…walk with me.”

Grey Eagle lifted the hide flap. Bright daylight spilled inside. Fritz shielded his eyes against the glare. Outside, the men stood at the top of a hill, overlooking the largest Indian encampment Fritz had ever seen. Warriors swarmed up the hillside like ants. On the opposite slope was a squadron of cavalry; Fritz couldn’t make out which one. He watched with horror as the organized skirmish lines broke down into scared knots of men, fighting for their lives. The fighting was hand to hand and gruesome. Finally, the guidons fell.

Fritz turned angrily to Grey Eagle. “Why are you showing me this?”

His face was impassive. “You die…we die…and for what?”

Fritz wanted to tell him about manifest destiny. He wanted to say that he was a soldier, and soldiers follow orders. He wanted to say that it was a right to protect oneself. But the words seemed hollow in his ears.

“You must speak for us.”

Fritz was taken aback. "Why me?"

“They will listen to you. You have friends who will listen.”

Grey Eagle reached out and took his hand.

“You ready to go home soldier?”

His vision swam for a moment. When he opened his eyes, Scarlet held his hand, smiling sweetly.

Scarlet touched his face. “I said, are you ready to go home?”


“Yes,” Fritz replied. “I guess I am.”

"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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