This is a fan fiction story based on characters from the Lonesome Dove television show, which belongs to Rysher Entertainment and Hallmark. No infringement on copyrights is intended.


Like a Savior in the Dust
(1st in the Romancing the Plains series)
by Craig Caff

Met a girl in Arkansas
Took her with a fight
Busted jail that afternoon
And married her that night

("Old Joe Clarke" - Mason Profit)

He heard footsteps coming, but never looked up. They just didn't sound threatening enough to bother with.

"Morning, Call."

He looked up. "Gretchen! . . . You're up early."

She giggled a little, then sat down on the bench next to him, squeezing about as close to him as she could. "What're you doing, Call?"

"Not a whole lot," he shrugged, slowly waving a crooked tree branch back and forth across the tops of his dirty boots. He paused, turning to Gretchen. It was those eyes. Those green eyes that sort of mesmerized him. She was staring at him with a look that made it hard to turn away.

"Do you feel like having some breakfast, Call? We could eat together," Gretchen said in a soft voice, staring into his eyes.

"Breakfast?" he replied, as if eating in the morning were a novel idea he had never thought of.

"Yes, silly," she answered, wrapping her arms around his arm and laying her head on his shoulder. "Paige is scrambling some fresh eggs and making some ham right now. Victoria went down to the store early today. It'll be just us three."

"I ain't so sure your sister would want me in her house."

"Well, it's my house too. And, Paige's . . . Call? Please, Call?"

Call dropped the branch and stood up, pulling Gretchen with him. "Reckon I could eat something. But, not your house. We'll go to the Dove."

Gretchen smiled brightly as she walked alongside him. "Anything you say, Call." She was glad he didn't take her up on her offer. It would have been embarrassing to bring him home and find Paige still asleep in bed.

*******************************************

It couldn't have been more than ten or fifteen minutes later when the door to the Dry Goods squeaked as it slowly opened. A blondish-light brown head poked in. Paige Brandt scanned the store, almost immediately seeing both Victoria and Josiah Peale watching her. Paige instantly smiled.

"Good morning, Victoria. Mr. Peale." She opened the door and walked up to her older sister, kissing her on the cheek. "Are you early?"

"Hardly," Victoria laughed. "You are late, my dear."

"Oh," Paige replied, lowering her head. "Well, I just couldn't help myself, Victoria. Gretchen awoke early and I just stretched out," she said, her arms reaching toward the ceiling. "The bed is so much more comfortable if only one of us is in it."

"Speaking of your sister," Victoria asked, "where is Gretchen?"

"I don't know," Paige replied, smiling, "but she spent a lot of time fixing her hair and picking out that lovely cream colored blouse to go with her brown skirt."

"I must say, if you will pardon the interruption," Josiah said, "the addition of the three of you to our little town is a much needed breath of fresh air."

"Thank you, Mr. Peale," Paige replied, curtseying.

"Yes, thank you for your generous opinion of us," Victoria added. "Oh! There goes Mr. Mosby," she said, seeing him out in the street. "Paige, dear, would you mind running out and asking Mr. Mosby to stop by when he has a moment?"

Paige turned and went back outside. Before she could walk over to Clay Mosby, she spotted Unbob clutching a furry little kitten in front of the Dove. "Oh, it's so adorable," she commented, immediately forgetting her purpose in delivering the message. She walked over to Unbob.

"Morning, Miss Paige. Lookie here what I got," Unbob proudly said, holding the kitten up as if he were the proud father himself.

"Oh, Unbob, it's the cutest little kitty. May I?" she said, holding her hands out to receive the kitten. Unbob nodded and carefully handed Paige the brown and black-striped cat. Paige nuzzled her cheek against it, saying girlish things just like how females talk to babies.

"Her momma had a whole litter," Unbob said.

"Do you think it would be all right if maybe I could have one for our store?"

"Well I reckon it'd be all right. They're gonna be needing good homes." Unbob smiled. "I bet you and your sisters could give one of the kitties a real fine home."

Once Josiah had left the store, Victoria looked outside, wondering why it was taking Paige so long. There was no sign of Clay Mosby and Paige was sitting on a bench with Unbob. She shook her head. Paige was always getting sidetracked. After the scare of both Gretchen and Paige not returning home when expected, Victoria made sure to treasure her carefree, younger sisters even more than before.

**********************************

Since Paige had veered off of delivering her sister's message to Clay Mosby, he returned to the Ambrosia Club. Sitting and watching that damn Call take breakfast with Gretchen was more than Mosby could stomach. He had now promised Victoria not once, but twice, that he would keep Call away from her sister. It was as if Call was spending time with Gretchen only to rub it in his face. Although it was entirely possible that he actually was developing feelings for her.

Mosby poured himself a cup of hot coffee in one of his finer cups. He opened his gray suit jacket and sat at a table, as he unconsciously rubbed his finely manicured beard. He could hire some saddle trash in tent town to beat the hell out of Call. He could order his own men to do it . . . for "fighting wages" no doubt. Being the true gentleman he was, he wouldn't allow any reason for Call to suspect Miz Victoria having a hand in it.

Mosby suddenly jumped, spilling hot coffee in his lap. He shook his head in frustration, as he produced a clean handkerchief, wiping the stain on his pants. "Enjoy your meal, Call," he grumbled, "it's the last one you'll ever have with one of the Brandt sisters."

************************************

While Clay Mosby wrestled with the formidable task of preventing Newt Call from seeing Gretchen Brandt, Victoria had put into effect a bold plan.

It was early in the afternoon when Victoria Brandt stepped out of the telegraph office with a satisfied smile. It broadened even more as she saw Newt Call.

"Mr. Call!" she said, waving the white note to draw his attention. Call had just walked along the side of the Dove, preparing to sit down when he tilted his head at Victoria, wondering why she would even acknowledge him. "I have news that you should find most interesting," Victoria said.

Call reluctantly crossed the street, meeting her in front of the Wells Fargo & Co. Banking House. He looked at her blankly and shrugged.

"I just received this telegram," Victoria proudly boasted, seeming like she was busting to share a big secret. "I think you should read it, Mr. Call." She extended her hand, offering him the message.

Call stood with his hands wrapped around his leather holster belt. "I ain't interested in your note."

Victoria remained steadfast, pulling her unaccepted telegram back close to her body. "Well then, if you insist, I suppose I can read it to you. Perhaps you haven't the skills to read."

Call wrinkled his face, bored and ready to walk.

"This message is in regards to the man who will be arriving Monday to announce his engagement with my sister, Gretchen. His name is Dorian Mowery and he's coming from St. Joseph." Victoria stood there with a conqueror's smile.

Call's eyes widened, but he just stood there, silent.

"You see, Mr. Call," Victoria continued, "Dorian Mowery has been after Gretchen for years. He'll make a fine and decent husband for her."

"She don't know nothin' about this, does she?" Call said.

"Of course not. She would protest to the point of breaking another of my cherished items. However, it is far too late for any type of rebellious behavior since Mr. Mowery arrives day after tomorrow on the stage. I suppose I really should tell her." Victoria couldn't hold back any longer and laughed as she walked away. "I'm afraid you lose, Mr. Call."

Call watched the oldest Brandt Sister walk toward her store. He rubbed his chin, deciding what his next move would be.

******************************

"YOU WHAT?!" Gretchen said loud, almost in disbelief. "Victoria?! How could you?!"

Keeping her composure, Victoria hoped Gretchen wouldn't break anything. "Dorian Mowery is tall and handsome and will make a fine husband for you."

"I don't love him, Victoria! I can't believe what you've done! How could you?!" Gretchen yelled, her eyes searching the shelves and counters for something to pick up and smash.

"Don't you break anything, Gretchen! I will not allow it," Victoria ordered.

Gretchen began crying and ran out the back door, slamming it as she collapsed against a barrel, as the flood gates opened, tears streaming down.

"You were wrong, Victoria," Paige said. "You're our sister. You aren't mother. It's her choice and she's of age to choose for herself."

Victoria remained like stone. "It's for the best. He's been writing and asking about her since we came here."

"Don't you understand?" Paige said. "She doesn't love him." Paige then hurried out back to console her sister.

*************************************

"I salute your perseverance, my dear Victoria," Clay Mosby said, raising his glass. "Shall we drink to the perfect solution for separating that worthless Call from your sister, Gretchen?"

Victoria raised her glass, allowing it to touch Clay's glass. "As much as I dislike Mr. Call, I prefer the means of enforcing their separation not be done by force or violence, as I assume would be next."

Mosby gazed at her, hesitating. She was definitely a woman capable of matching him in many respects. "I tried to warn him . . . twice, as a matter of fact. However, it would now seem Mr. Call will not have to be . . . persuaded, in a more forceful manner."

Amanda brought their meals to the table.

"Enough talk about Newt Call," Mosby said, "I prefer to speak of more interesting matters, such as you, my dear Victoria."

Victoria Brandt lowered her head, smiling. It was a fine Saturday evening to celebrate, though her heart grieved for her sister.

*************************************************

Paige Brandt took it upon herself to find Mason Dobbs. She enlisted his help in finding Call so Gretchen could talk to him. She needed him now. He would know how to deal with Dorian Mowery. Mason found him sitting alone up in the livery loft. Paige told him what happened and that Gretchen could be found behind their Dry Goods store.

Dusk found Call walking behind the buildings until he spotted a dejected Gretchen staring blankly at the ground. She must have recognized his walk because she suddenly lifted her head. Seeing Call through red, swollen eyes, Gretchen ran into his arms, burying her head in his chest, as the tears flowed all over again.

"Oh, Call. Why won't she leave us alone?"

"Something I wanna show you," Call said. Gretchen nodded and stepped back. Hesitant at first, Call put his hand out for Gretchen to take hold of. She did immediately and walked alongside him as they climbed the hill, veering to the left until they were above the entire town, in the company of protective trees. He brought her to a lone log, which was no stranger to him. He had come here when he sought desolate places that were in harmony with his spirit. As Gretchen sat on the log, she looked up at his face. She knew that only Call could still her grieving heart.

"It's quiet here," he began, glancing at her then gazing out beyond the confines of man-made wooden dwellings, to the open plains.

"Call . . ." Gretchen said, swallowing hard. She then told him everything. Told him about Dorian Mowery and how she had just once allowed him to kiss her and how the balloon went up for him and he hounded her mercilessly, though she swore by everything holy that she had no such feelings for him.

Call wasn't set on exactly what would happen once this fella showed up, but he at least had a plan for tomorrow. Gretchen's face lit up as he told her about it.

*************************************************

Josiah Peale was up early next morning. The arrival of the Brandt Sisters had pumped fresh life into his tired bones and he was all set to lead Curtis Wells in Sunday morning worship in the town church.

Victoria Brandt had volunteered to arrive early and be a greeter to the Christian folks attending the service.

Paige finished putting her hair up then helped Gretchen with her hair. Both sisters now walked outside into the warm summer morning. Paige asked Gretchen about her unusual choice of dress for church, but Gretchen simply answered that she just felt like wearing a weekday dress. So they laughed and with their arms around each other, though Gretchen's heart was troubled, they made their way across the open field to church.

*******************

A well planned bank robbery couldn't have gone any smoother. Call smiled as Gretchen appeared in the church doorway, sent home by Victoria to quickly change into a more appropriate dress for Sunday. Flashing a bright smile and giggling, Gretchen ran out into the field where Call sat atop the Hellbitch waiting for her. She reached both horse and man, extending her willing arm toward him.

"I'm going to be in so much trouble, Call, when Victoria realizes what I've done."

"Guess I best make the surprise I got planned worth it then," he replied, pulling her up behind him.

"You have a surprise for me? Hurry, Call," she pleaded, tightening her arms around his firm waist. Then she whispered, "just being with you is all I'll ever want."

Call guided the Hellbitch across the field but instead of riding away from town, he headed straight in between the Mining Supplies building and the General Merchant, circling to his right past the Ambrosia Club.

Gretchen lifted her head off his back. "Call?" she said, puzzled. He didn't answer her, but instead pulled up in front of the livery.

"Forgot something. C'mon." He helped her down then climbed down himself.

"Call? . . . What did you forget?" Gretchen's brownish-red hair sat piled on top of her head as she placed her hands on the hips of her green polka dotted dress.

"Just shut your eyes. You'll see soon enough, hear?"

Gretchen nodded, closing her green eyes tight. She then placed her hands over her eyes. "All right, Call. Whatever are you doing?"

"Now don't peek," he ordered, pausing a moment to look at her. He stepped into the livery, returning quickly. "Reckon you can open your eyes now."

Gretchen lowered her hands as she opened her eyes. Her mouth dropped slightly and her eyes widened. Call was holding the reins to the brown and white horse she had shown him after they had returned from their night in Red Crow's village.

Gretchen looked at Call. "Call?"

"He's all yours," he replied.

"Mine?" She just stared at him for a moment. "You spent your money to buy this horse . . . for me?"

"Yep," he nodded.

"Oh, Call! Thank you so much! Thank you! Thank you!" Gretchen wrapped her arms around him then just as quickly let go and stepped back with one hand covering her mouth, slightly embarrassed. "Forgive me," she softly said.

"Ain't hardly no cause for that . . . I mean . . . the forgiving."

Gretchen giggled and smiled just about as pretty as could be.

"Gretchen!"

Victoria's voice shattered the moment. Both Gretchen and Call turned toward the pump, seeing Victoria and Clay Mosby.

"You favor riding side saddle?" Call asked, offering to help Gretchen.

"I prefer both legs across the saddle," she replied, mounting up like someone accustomed to riding. She looked back, as her sister and Mosby approached. "Hurry, Call!"

Call mounted the Hellbitch and the two of them sped off, their laughter lingering like a cloud of dust.

**********************************

They rode harder than Call expected. Gretchen's ability to handle her new horse impressed him as she showed authority and knowledge of riding. After riding for some time they jumped a narrow creek leading into a wide open field, where they pulled up. They were nearly surrounded by low rolling hills and scattered trees.

"I guess we could rest a spell," Call said, slouching forward as he held both hands on his saddle horn. He looked back toward the direction they had come from. "Ain't likely Mosby or your sister'll trail us out here." Gretchen's eyes burned into Call's eyes as they both dismounted into the tall brown grass.

"Didn't know you could handle a horse," Call said, admiring Gretchen as she stood near him. She smiled, waving her hand in front of her face like a fan.

"I'm so warm, Call. And it's so hot with this dress buttoned up." She looked around the field. "Could we sit under that tree for a few minutes, Call?" Gretchen asked, pointing to the nearest pine. Call nodded willingly as they went and sat down next to each other. Gretchen's eyes were glued to Call's eyes as she lifted her hands to the top most button of her green dress. She unbuttoned first one, then two, then three small pearl white buttons, revealing just a glimpse of cleavage.

Call now reached out, placing his hand behind Gretchen's head. Without saying anything he took hold of the large pin that held her hair up, then slowly pulled it out. Gretchen's long brownish-red hair tumbled down over her shoulders. She shook her head once, maybe twice, spreading her hair in all its beauty. Time had now stopped. They were both consumed in a trance that no sound could penetrate. Gretchen took hold of Call's hat, lifting it off his head. She watched with fascinating interest as his hair fell into his eyes and cheeks. She lightly brushed it aside, staring long into his eyes. Call's mouth now drew closer to Gretchen's lips. Lips that were begging to be kissed. They both felt each other's warm breath as their mouths were now inches apart.

"Gretchen!"

The sound cut through both flesh and bone like a dull knife. Gretchen and Call groaned painfully as Gretchen wished her name right now was anyone else's but her own. Their moment had been snatched away before it could even begin. Time began moving again as agonizing sounds of intrusion echoed.

"Gretchen!"

It was Victoria. Mosby sat alongside her in a buckboard. They resembled a pair of undertakers come to claim a not-yet-dead soul. They had actually followed the two of them. It would be futile to up and run to their horses and ride off to some faraway land that no human had ever set foot in. For if such a place truly existed, it would not be their destination on this day.

"Climb up here in the wagon, Gretchen," Victoria ordered, as she glared angrily at Newt Call.

"I will do no such thing!" Gretchen defiantly replied, buttoning her dress.

"Gretchen, we've already missed Sunday Meeting. Please do not make matters any worse," Victoria calmly said.

"Make it worse?" Gretchen angrily laughed. "You've already ruined everything, Victoria!" Gretchen turned to look at Call, then to her horse grazing near the Hellbitch. "That's my horse. Call bought him for me."

"And how did you acquire the funds to purchase that animal, Call?" Mosby asked.

Call ignored Mosby as Gretchen paused close to him. Her woeful eyes revealing all the pain in her heart.

"Go on," Call quietly said, "I'll see you tonight." He nodded ever so slightly, reassuring her and giving her reason to smile at him.

Gretchen went and mounted up on her new horse, then without acknowledging her sister or Mosby, rode off toward Curtis Wells. Mosby steered the two-horse team around, pausing near Call.

"Mr. Dorian Mowery will arrive by stagecoach tomorrow Mr. Call. I hope you will be dignified as a man and not interfere in my sister's life any more."

Call stepped closer to the buckboard. "Maybe I ain't set on letting go of Gretchen. Maybe she's worth fighting for." He said this with cold, unfliching eyes, aimed directly at Clay Mosby.

Mosby shook his head as Victoria appeared slightly startled. "Let's go, Victoria." He snapped the reins, leading the buckboard away.

Call walked back to the tree they had been sitting at, picked up his hat then sat back down, right where he had been moments before. He turned to look at the empty spot where Gretchen had sat.

*******************************

Paige Brandt stepped out of the brown church house looking around for one of her sisters. She placed her hand across her eyebrows, trying to block the sun. Unbob called out to her, then joined her. She had never seen him look so happy before.

"Why, Unbob, you just look so full of joy. Has some good tidings come upon you?" Paige asked.

"Yes ma'am, Miss Paige. There's a rumor that Mattie's coming back. She's my bestest friend in the whole world."

Paige smiled. Unbob was acting like a small child on Christmas morning. "I'm afraid I don't know who Mattie is, Unbob. Please tell me."

"Well, Mattie was our gunsmith. Me and her worked together in her shop. We got along real nice like. I'll be real happy to introduce you to her when she gets here," Unbob said, barely containing his joy.

"It's just a rumor, Unbob," Dr. Cleese replied, stepping over to join the two of them. "Good day, Miss Brandt. Did you enjoy the service?"

"Good day, Dr. Cleese. Yes, I did enjoy it. I found it most interesting that Mr. Peale spoke about an eight year boy named Josiah who was a king. I simply cannot imagine a small boy running a country."

"Well, I believe he had wise and experienced guidance from older men," Dr. Cleese replied.

"But . . . but . . . Mattie has to come back," Unbob said, "she has to."

"Perhaps we should be patient and wait," Dr. Cleese said to Unbob.

Paige stood around for a few more minutes talking then excused herself to go home and change.

***************************

After changing and making a picnic basket of smoked meats, corn on the cob, apple pie and whatever else she could find, Paige went to meet Mason Dobbs in his office. As they loaded the wagon outside the sheriff's office, Call came riding back into town. It had been more than three hours since Gretchen had rode back alone, with Victoria and Mosby trailing no more than five minutes behind.

Call raised his head as Paige hailed him. Without showing much emotion, he guided the Hellbitch to where she stood near his uncle.

"That was so sweet of you to buy Gretchen that pretty horse, Call." Paige said, smiling. Call liked her. She never took Victoria's side in discussions or arguments concerning him and Gretchen.

Mason stepped close. "That horse wasn't cheap, Newt. This girl must be special to you. I'll wager you paid twenty-five, maybe thirty dollars for it."

Call nodded then looked at Paige. "Your sister paid me fifteen dollars to bring you and Gretchen to Sand Springs and back." He shrugged. "I didn't rightly earn the money . . . never made it to Sand Springs. Didn't feel right keeping it neither. Samuel owed me a favor."

"Well that was very sweet of you to donate your wages, which you did most certainly earn, Call, to buy Gretchen that horse. She's in love with him . . . uh, the horse I mean," Paige replied.

Call looked around at the sleepy town. "Where's Gretchen?"

"She said she'd meet you behind our store tonight," Paige said, brushing a loose strand of hair out of her face. "We have to go now. Mason's taking me on a picnic."

Call nodded as his uncle winked at him and helped the youngest Brandt sister into her seat. But it wasn't meant to be. At least not today. A young boy, frantic, came riding up to Mason. He stumbled over his words but Mason was able to figure out that some rustlers had run off some of his pa's cattle from a ranch outside of town. Mason apologized to Paige and hurried to mount his grey. He knew it would likely take at least one night out to trail the rustlers. Call offered to ride with his uncle but Mason assured him he could handle it alone.

**********************************

Clay Mosby seemed preoccupied as he sat in the Dove with Amanda. He shared the news Victoria had revealed, about a Dorian Mowery from Missouri arriving tomorrow. Amanda didn't care either way what happened between any of the Brandt Sisters and Call or anyone else. She actually considered it all harmless and that Call would never get serious with any woman. She also knew that the longer Call openly defied Mosby the more dangerous things would become regarding the two men. As she had done on previous occasions, Amanda tried to show Clay the importance of both men co-existing in Curtis Wells.

Ike interrupted their little meeting to inform Mosby that he was needed back in his saloon.

******************************************************************

Night finally overtook the day, bringing with it the anticipation of dreams yet to be fulfilled. Gretchen refused to listen to Victoria, longing to run into Call's waiting arms. She hurried off to meet him behind the Dry Goods.

Call had been uncommonly nervous. The feeling didn't set well inside his belly. Maybe he was interfering in something he had no business being a part of? Maybe this Mowery fella from Missouri was better suited for a girl like Gretchen? No woman walking the earth was going to change him or his ways. There was no way around that. He wasn't about to cut his hair or clean up for anyone. And yet, Gretchen seemed perfectly content with him just as he was. She never complained about his drinking in saloons or fighting or even the killings that would result. She seemed well cut out for the West.

Call walked out from behind the Montana Freight & Transfer office, across the street from Twyla's. Except for the whorehouse, saloons, and hotel, most everything was closed. He headed up the street toward the Dry Goods. He quietly went down the side of the sister's building and stepped behind the store. He saw Gretchen scribbling something on a piece of paper.

"Call! You're here!" Gretchen happily cried, jumping up to meet him. "I want to go back up where you brought me last night. It felt special. Like it was our place, Call. And no one else in the whole world knows that it's our place."

Call nodded. "What's that you were writing?" he asked, pointing to the piece of paper in her hand.

"This? It's poetry, Call. I feel so good when I'm near you. I get these thoughts and I just have to write them down or I'll forget them."

"What's it say? What you were just writing," he asked, now strangely curious.

Gretchen smiled. "You really want to know? All right." She unfolded the paper, moving it so the moonlight would provide adequate reading. She looked at him, smiled once more, then began reading what she had just wrote:

The night was cloudy,
But the moon he found a hole,
Said that he felt bad for me,
Cause I had no place to go.

Call frowned. That don't make no sense at all, he thought. "Read it again."

Gretchen read it again. She looked at him, as if she had just revealed a secret about herself that no one else would ever know. She held her breath.

Call squinted, as he mulled it over, then smiled. Maybe it did make sense. Yeah. It was good, he thought. Real good.

"Do you like it, Call?" Gretchen softly asked.

He nodded. "I like it just fine."

Gretchen's heart began pounding harder in her chest as she stared at Call. He looked so good to her. "I'm glad you . . ."

"Call! Come quick!"

Ike came running up to them, out of breath. Gretchen's heart sank. It wasn't fair.

"Call! Your uncle just came back. He's been shot. Doc Cleese asked me to find you." Ike said.

"Where is he?" Call asked.

"He's up in Cleese's office."

"C'mon," Call said to Gretchen, taking her hand and hurrying beneath the moonlight, as they crossed the street and climbed the stairs. Gretchen stayed close by him, wanting to share in anything she could with him.

Call opened the door to Cleese's office and stepped inside with Gretchen at his side. Mason Dobbs was sitting up, shirtless.

"Howdy, Newt. Gretchen," Mason said. "It was an ambush. Someone knew I was coming." He held up his left arm, which Dr. Cleese had just bandaged. "Just hit my arm. How're things with you and the little senorita here?" he said, winking at Gretchen.

*********************************************

Monday morning found Dorian Mowery inside the stage to Curtis Wells. He was about the same size as the big man driving the stage with the long hair. He was well dressed and instead of wearing a holster around his waist like most men, he wore a shoulder holster similar to some of the Pinkerton Agents. His weapon was a Colt Model 1849 pocket revolver, .31 caliber. He preferred secrecy. It appealed to him.

He was handsome with strong features. He had short black hair with a thin black mustache and long black sideburns. He already showed signs of aging with gray at his temples, causing him to look older than his thirty-one years. His eyes were dark brown and he had a large, arched nose. Dorian's hands were big enough to cover a man's face and he bragged about being one of the strongest men in all of Missouri.

As the stage rocked and bumped its way closer to Curtis Wells, Dorian thought about the benefits of being an only child. He had grown up in a well-to-do family where he was said to have a silver spoon in his mouth. He ran up expensive bills drinking with friends and making frequent visits to whorehouses in neighboring towns like Clarkesdale or Stewartsville. He boasted to his friends that once he brought back one of the Brandt Sisters as his wife, he would still visit the whorehouses whenever he felt like it. After all, Dorian believed a wife was nothing more than a two-legged animal put here to serve men.

*******************************

Gretchen felt sick to her stomach as she sadly stared off at nothing. Victoria had insisted she come to the store, for fear of her disappearing with that troublesome Newt Call. Paige had run over to check on Mason and his gunshot wound. She smiled at Gretchen as she returned to the store but there was only despair and hopelessness in her sister's eyes.

*******************************

Austin Peale raised a glass to Clay Mosby. They were both eagerly looking forward to Dorian Mowery's arrival, if only to anger Call.

*******************************

It was afternoon when Luther Root pulled the stage into town. Four people; three men and one woman got off the stage. Dorian Mowery stood out, towering about everyone except Luther. Victoria went out to greet the answer to her problem, acting as if some royal blue blood from across the sea had just arrived. Clay Mosby joined her, satisfied that any means outside of violence would be preferred in dealing with a short fuse stick of dynamite like Call.

Dorian Mowery presented himself as a gentleman as he took Victoria's hand. Though he would have rather made straight tracks for the town's whorehouse, he agreed to head over to the Dry Goods and become reacquainted with his future bride. Austin Peale also joined the small welcoming committee. Victoria appreciated the fuss both Clay and Austin made over Dorian, feeling quite secure that Newt Call would never bother her again.

Moments later, Victoria led Dorian into the sisters Dry Goods store. Paige alone was in the store. Unable to face seeing a man she cared nothing for, Gretchen had slipped out the back door and climbed the hill, retreating to the spot she now adored that Call had taken her to. Victoria acted puzzled, wondering out loud why Gretchen wasn't there. Paige boldly defied her by announcing that Gretchen had gone to be alone, not wanting to see Mr. Mowery. This embarrassed Victoria and Dorian laughed it off, saying he would check into the hotel across the street then return in a little while.

*******************************

Angered and embarrassed over Gretchen's sneaking out, Victoria went out back looking for her sister. It was obvious within moments that she had most likely run to find that shiftless, no-account Call. Victoria decided to enlist the help of either Clay or Austin to find both Gretchen and Call.

**********************************

Flashing a smile, Deputy Peale agreed to help Victoria search for her sister and Call. His first stop was the livery. Seeing the Hellbitch in her stall, Austin figured they were both somewhere in town. They checked the Dove next, finding neither of them downstairs. Austin then went upstairs and threw open the door to Call's room, finding it empty. Their search lead through town, ending up in front of the No.10 Saloon, which Austin entered, while Victoria waited outside. He spotted Call sitting alone in a corner, his head down.

Call had become sullen, retreating into clouds of darkness. He had been drinking, trying to make sense of things. There was something about Gretchen that was pulling him to her in a way he didn't know how to rationalize. A man was expected to defend and protect his woman, and Call had failed once before. He just wasn't sure now.

"Where is she, Call?" Austin asked, invading his privacy.

"If you don't mind, Austin, I ain't in the mood for socializing."

Austin knocked Call's bottle onto the floor, shattering it and causing the customers to jump. Call merely lifted his head.

"Where's Gretchen Brandt, Call?!" Austin repeated, more forceful.

"How the hell should I know?"

"She's missing. She has to be with you. Where did you hide her?" Austin persisted. "I'm talking to you, Call!"

"I haven't seen her since last night. Leave me alone, Austin."

Austin hesitated then left. He told Victoria that Call was inside but Gretchen wasn't anywhere to be found. Victoria reluctantly agreed to return to the store.

*************************

Gretchen wiped the tears away. She sat on the log looking out beyond the town. She wished more than anything that Call was beside her here right now. But it seemed hopeless. He had disappeared and Dorian Mowery was in town to snatch her away from everything. Her sisters. Call. She began to contemplate the easy way out, and that perhaps if she were no longer among the living she would never suffer the pain and heartache of a life without Call. She closed her eyes.

"Knew I'd find you here."

Gretchen's eyes opened. "Call!"

He pulled her up from the log, bringing her close to him. Gretchen stared at Call as he stared back at her. He suddenly pulled her even closer as his mouth met hers. Gretchen softly moaned as Call kissed her. She tightened her arms around him as it had finally happened, their first kiss. He had finally taken her in his arms. To Gretchen, this was the most incredible feeling.

"Don't let him find me. Please, Call?" Gretchen whispered, looking at him with desperation.

"I ain't gonna let him take you away. You hear me? I won't," Call said.

"Yes, Call. I hear you. Anything you say." She held on tight.

He let go just a little, still holding Gretchen by her arms. Looking down at the town, he made a decision. "We'll go saddle the horses. I'll bring you out to Red Crow's village. You'll be safe there till this fella leaves."

She threw herself back into his arms. "No, Call! I don't want to leave you. Can't I stay here with you? Please, Call?"

Between her green eyes and his idea, he didn't have a chance. He gave in to her. "All right. We best saddle the horses anyway. Need some time to think things out."

He took her hand as they quietly made their way down the hill, staying out of sight of the Ambrosia Club and the Brandt house, behind the Montana Statesman. Moving silently between the Statesman and the jail, his actions were like a jungle cat as he peered down the street. Gretchen stood close to him, staring at him. She saw the intensity in his eyes. He motioned for her to hurry across the street with him. They ran together into the livery. Call began saddling the Hellbitch. They would both ride double on her.

"Gretchen Brandt!"

Dorian Mowery stood in the doorway, blocking part of the light with his size.

Panic struck Gretchen. "Don't you come near me, Dorian Mowery. You're not going to hit me again! Call?" She dug her fingers into his arm.

"He hit you?" Call said, looking first at Gretchen, then the much taller Dorian Mowery.

"You ain't getting her," Call said, as Dorian walked toward them. Call's hand moved for his gun, by reflex alone.

Dorian paused, holding his hands out. "Don't draw on me. I don't have a gun." He walked toward them.

"Call! He's lying," Gretchen said, trying to hide behind him.

"Shut up you little bitch!" Dorian said loud as he charged Call. Call had only time to push Gretchen out of the way as the huge Missourian tackled Call.

"Bastard!" Call yelled. But Dorian had the advantage and outweighed Call by almost a hundred pounds. With his back on the ground and his arms pinned, Call was only able to throw a weak punch at Dorian. He laughed, barely feeling the sting. Dorian suddenly reached into his coat, pulling out his gun.

"No!" Gretchen screamed, but it was too late. Dorian brought the handle of his gun down on Call's head like a hammer. He did it a second time then lifted the dazed Call. Gretchen searched for anything she could to help Call. Finding a shovel, she turned to Dorian, threatening him if he didn't stop. Dorian backhanded Gretchen, knocking her into the wooden stall and onto the hay-covered ground. He turned back to Call and slammed his gun into Call's head once more. Call slumped to the ground where Dorian kicked him hard in the side. He holstered his gun and grabbed Gretchen, lifting her off her feet.

"I'm going to teach you a lesson here and now," Dorian angrily bragged. He threw Gretchen on the ground and climbed on top of her. She screamed with all her might as Dorian shoved her skirt up. "When I'm through here, you'll never look at another man." He began pressing his face into her chest. Gretchen reached back, trying to pull her hair pin out of her hair. It wasn't much, but it was the only weapon she could reach.

Realizing her intent, Dorian backhanded her in the face, drawing blood on the edge of her mouth. "You bitch! Now I'll really hurt you."

Gretchen screamed again as Dorian raised a fist the size of a cannonball to strike her in her face again.

"What are you doing?! Stop it, Dorian!" a new voice cried.

Surprised, Dorian Mowery looked to the front of the livery. Both Victoria and Paige were there. They had been searching for Gretchen and were fortunate enough to hear her screams. Dorian got to his feet, pulling Gretchen up like a rag doll.

"He's trying to rape me!" Gretchen yelled. "He hurt Call."

"SHUT UP!" Dorian exploded, raising his fist to hit Gretchen.

"Don't you dare touch my sister!" Victoria cried out, realizing perhaps too late that Gretchen was right.

Dorian now reached inside his coat and drew his pistol once more. He aimed the gun at Victoria and Paige. "Close those doors and come over here. NOW!"

Paige thought of running out, she was closest to the doors. But she knew that if she did she would never see her sisters alive again.

"What have I done?" Victoria said, shaking her head, as Paige pulled the doors closed.

It would be dark outside soon and Dorian expected to hitch up a wagon, tie Gretchen, and ride out for Missouri. As he watched the three Brandt Sisters, Call began to stir. He opened his eyes, seeing everything hazy and double. He frowned, closing his eyes again. He opened them once more, this time seeing clearer, but still not perfect. He took in the situation quickly. Silently getting to his feet, his legs buckled as he felt a sharp pain in his side. He saw the shovel laying nearby in the stall and grabbed it. As he stood up, the sisters noticed him, causing Dorian to react to them. He spun around as Call swung the shovel as hard as he could into Dorian's face, knocking him back.

"You sonofabitch!" Call yelled, swinging the shovel into Dorian's side. Call dropped the shovel from the pain shooting into his side as Dorian fell down. All three Brandt Sisters huddled around each other tight as Dorian reached inside his coat to draw his gun. Call kicked his hand, sending the gun flying out of the way. Dorian grabbed Call's boot and shoved him back. As Dorian got to his feet, Call ran and lifted himself off his feet, throwing every ounce of strength he had into the punch. The blow snapped Dorian's head as he hit the stall hard.

Call now paused, looking at Gretchen. He saw the line of blood on her mouth and lost his civilized ability. "You bastard!" he yelled, picking up the shovel and slamming it into Dorian's head four times before the huge man could move. Call had turned his face into a mass of bloody flesh. "You like hitting women," Call said. Dorian could feel himself losing for the first time ever. He streched his arm to find his gun.

"Call! Look out!" Gretchen screamed, running to shield him with her body. Call dropped the shovel and in the same motion drew his shooter, as both men fired. Gretchen fell to the ground.

"NO!" Call yelled. He fired his Colt repeatedly, filling Dorian's body with the five remaining shells. Dorian was dead and Call turned to Gretchen as both Victoria and Paige were screaming now. Call dropped down to Gretchen. She smiled at him.

"Call, I slipped. I don't think he hit me."

Call lifted Gretchen up to her feet. "You saved my life, Call."

"He saved all of our lives," Victoria added. "Mr. Call . . . "

Clay Mosby and Austin Peale, along with other town folks opened the doors and came inside. There was a cloud of dust rising from the livery floor. Victoria would explain everything to them.

Gretchen and Call both stared at each other, realizing what they had nearly lost. "Take me to our special place, Call," Gretchen whispered in his ear. Call nodded as they both put their arm around each other and walked past all the others into the street.

+++++++++++++++++++++ The End +++++++++++++++++++

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