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.


The Last Man on Earth
(10th in the Romancing the Plains series)
by Craig Caff

Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister they vanished right into the air.

("The River" - Bruce Springsteen)

More than a week had passed since the Brandt Sister's and Mattie Shaw had stood up to protect Laurie Ann Mecurdy. The stage had come, and gone. Yet, Laurie Ann couldn't climb up into the coach. A second one passed through a few days later and she still didn't leave. She found herself drawn to the town of Curtis Wells and the folks who had cared to help her.

She had become friends with Gretchen Brandt and her two sisters. She delighted in watching Gretchen and Call together and secretly desired to have a love as strong as theirs.

She had also found herself daydreaming about Clay Mosby. It turned out that they were practically neighbors, with her growing up in Severn, North Carolina. It was right on the Virginia border.

She was very much aware of the difference between Clay Mosby and Newt Call. She would say hello to Call and he would barely nod, never showing any smile or emotion. When she said hello to Mosby, he would smile and his eyes flashed with lust. She definitely preferred Clay Mosby and his Southern charm.

Even Victoria Brandt saw the benefits of her remaining in Curtis Wells. With younger sister, Gretchen set to marry Newt Call, they would need someone to take her place in the dry goods.

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

The orphan boy, Dewey, had discovered the entrance to an abandoned copper mine at the foot of the hills past the church, just beyond the thick growth of birch and pine trees. It had been a straight dig no more than forty feet into the mountain. Dewey, being curious by nature, had explored past the timbers that supported the mouth and had found carbide lamps sitting on empty wood crates. There remained a handful of carelessly thrown tools; a pick, two shovels, a box of square nails, and three hammers.

The youngster decided that he would share his magnificent discovery with two other boys that had become his friends, for a small fee. He headed back across the open field to secure matches and report his finding. As he crossed the field near the back of the church he noticed Call standing alone in the cemetery.

******

Call had been standing in front of Hannah's grave for almost twelve minutes. He finally removed his hat and rested it against his thigh as he unconsciously shook his head to see through the tangles of hair in his eyes. He swallowed hard and took a deep breath.

"Hannah," he quietly said. Then he looked down at the ground, lifted his head and turned toward the town. He smiled as his eyes focused on the location where the dry goods store would be standing. He nodded, as if ready to continue.

"Ain't likely that I'm gonna forget you." He hesitated, as if trying to find the right words. "I love Gretchen. A lot." He laughed slightly. I ain't even sure how it happened, he thought. Just did. Something happened. It's like nothing I ever felt be . . . He paused, not wanting to reveal too much of his thoughts about Gretchen Brandt. He shuffled slightly then looked at the grave and nodded. "Goodbye, Hannah." He turned and brushed his hair back as he placed his hat onto his head then walked across the field toward town.

Call entered the livery and saw Gretchen standing by their saddled horses. She smiled and ran to him. He embraced her and swung her around once then lifted her off the ground. Gretchen giggled and smiled at him, causing him to moan quietly.

"Are we going now, Call?" she asked.

"Yep," he replied as he brought his mouth to hers and kissed her deep and passionately.

Gretchen's eyes opened as she stopped kissing him while keeping her face close to his. "Call?"

"I reckon I fall in love with you every time I see you," he said.

Gretchen's heart pounded. "Call," she whispered. "I can't wait for our wedding day. It's all I think about. You and me."

"Well, let's go see if we can do something about it, Gretchen," he said as he squeezed her then let go. "You got the money?"

"Every dollar you gave me to hold, Call. It's here in my pocket," she happily said.

They mounted up and rode out of town.

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

Clay Mosby walked down the side of the gunsmith shop where he saw Mattie chopping wood. "Mattie? I told you I could send a man over to do that for you."

Mattie paused and wiped her brow. "I don't really mind, Clay." She stared at him for a moment. He was wearing his ruffled white shirt with the black and gray silk vest. Mattie liked how the vest looked with his gray pants and gray coat. She thought it brought out more color in his beard. "The door to the bath house has been repaired, Clay." She smiled at him.

"Yes, well . . ."

"Oh, come on, Clay. Call didn't know we were . . . using the bath for our own pleasure. It's been more than a week."

"And I suppose you think it amusing that he brought me a brand new bar of soap to provoke me?" Clay replied.

"I guess he has a sense of humor," Mattie laughed.

Clay frowned then cleared his throat. "I was hoping you would be receptive to having a late supper with me tonight, Mattie?"

"I'd like that, Clay," she replied as she smiled warmly at him.

"Well good. I'll see you inside the hotel at 8 o'clock."

"I'll be there, Clay," Mattie said as Mosby headed back to his saloon.

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

Amanda paused at the table where Dr. Cleese and Josiah Peale were enjoying their lunch. "How long is Austin going to have that concussion?" she asked the doctor.

Dr. Cleese placed his fork on his plate and lifted the napkin to carefully wipe his mouth."I'm afraid it is not quite that simple, Miss Carpenter. A concussion of the brain is actually a paralysis of its function. The consequences of a concussion may be of short duration or perhaps last for even weeks. Sometimes longer."

"He has been quite dizzy and his head continues to ache," Josiah said.

"The fact that Austin has not vomited or had cold perspiration is a positive sign," the doctor added.

"Well, I need to speak with him," Amanda replied.

"Mr. Shelby is the deputy," Josiah said, "perhaps you could speak with him."

Amanda nodded then went to another table to see other customers.

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

Inside the sheriff's office Austin Peale laid on the bed that was located in the back of the room. He had a dirty, white towel across his eyes. Deputy Robert Shelby paced across the floor making loud thud sounds with every step he took.

"Damn it, Shelby," Austin finally barked. "That's irritating."

Robert paused, then revealed a wicked smile. "You must feel embarrassed, Austin. Your first performance of duty and you allow a prisoner to escape."

"Go to Hell," Austin grumbled as he rolled to his side, away from Robert. "You should have hung for killing Manny Duggan."

Robert stared at the large man. "That, Sir, was an accident."

Austin didn't respond. He just pulled the towel over his head. Robert walked to the door and left the office, slamming the door on his way out.

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

"Good afternoon, Mr. Mosby," Laurie Ann Mecurdy said with a big smile. "My, but don't you look dashing today." She watched him enter the dry goods store.

Clay Mosby paused as he looked at the nineteen year old woman who had temporarily remained in town.

Victoria quickly put her pencil down and rose from where she sat filling out the next order supply for Sand Springs. "Hello, Mr. Mosby."

Clay smiled at Victoria, as well as Laurie Ann. "Good day, ladies. I was passing by and couldn't help but notice that fine looking coat in the window."

"I'll get it for him, Victoria," Laurie Ann immediately replied as she rushed to where the new dark gray coat hung.

Victoria looked at Clay and sighed. Clay smiled.

"Here you are, Mr. Mosby," Laurie Ann said as she held the coat up. "I'll hold your coat for you while you try this one on."

To Victoria Brandt, it was quite obvious that the young woman was smitten by Clay Mosby. Victoria could hardly fault the girl. Almost every woman in Curtis Wells had been put under Clay's magic and mysterious spell. Every woman except Gretchen Brandt.

Clay removed his coat and allowed Laurie Ann to fit the new one on him. He rolled his shoulders twice to allow the coat to fall evenly across his back.

"There is a full length mirror back here," Victoria suggested as she led the way.

Laurie Ann just stared at Clay as he walked toward the mirror. She looked at his coat in her hands and suddenly noticed something. Moving with discretion she allowed her hand to slide inside his coat pocket where she found his wallet. Looking quickly at Mr. Mosby and Victoria as they discussed the new coat, Laurie Ann removed the wallet and immediately opened it. She found a great deal of paper money. Moving without hesitation, she pulled out a few notes and tucked them inside the top of her new red dress that Victoria had permitted her to keep in advance of the pay she would earn. Laurie Ann shoved the bills down to where her cleavage swallowed and hid the money. She removed her hand and replaced Mosby's wallet just as he and Victoria returned.

"That coat suits you, Mr. Mosby," Laurie Ann said.

"I agree," he replied. "Miz Victoria, I believe I shall make this purchase while I am still here." He took hold of his coat from Laurie Ann, and pulled his wallet out. He opened it as he took a few steps toward the counter where the cash register sat. "Hmm?" he mumbled quietly as he noticed the stack of money.

"Is something wrong, Mr. Mosby?" Victoria asked.

He looked up at the oldest Brandt sister then smiled. "No. Everything is quite good."

Laurie Ann quickly disappeared behind an aisle and began to stock canned goods on a shelf.

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

Gretchen Brandt had worried most every second during the past week while Call was out running down bounties in the territory. He had captured two more desperados, bringing the total to over fifteen hundred dollars toward their future. He had handed most of it over to Gretchen, trusting her to look after it. She considered this special and made sure not to lose any of it.

Call and Gretchen dismounted in front of the house whose barn they had spent the night nearly a month ago when the wind storm made it hard to travel.

Gretchen turned to Call and took his hand. "Are you sure you want to do this, Call?"

He looked into her green eyes and nodded. "I'm sure."

She hugged him tight. "Oh, Call," she whispered, "I want this so much."

"So do I," he quietly replied in her ear.

"Are you two going to stand outside sparking all day?" Abner Scully called out as he opened the front door.

"Saints be preserved," Mrs. Scully replied as she stepped outside and waved for Call and Gretchen to come inside.

Gretchen giggled as she buried her face in Call's chest and walked with him into the house.

Mrs. Scully welcomed them both as she ushered them to the wooden table. She brought hot coffee and fresh baked blueberry pie. The four of them sat down and began discussing their business over the pie and coffee.

"It's a strong home," Abner Scully boasted. I built it with my own sweat. This here room is big enough for cooking over there and sitting and reading by the fireplace over here," he said as he pointed first in one direction, then the other. "I built another small room back there last year when we thought my brother was coming to stay a spell."

"You'll have two bedrooms now," Mrs. Scully replied. "One, of course, for the two of you. The other would make a wonderful room for your first child."

Gretchen's heart skipped a beat as she squeezed Call's hand tight. "Our first child, Call." She wiped a tear of joy from her eye.

"I reckon that'll be real nice," Call said as he stared at Gretchen.

"You both already know about the barn," Mr. Scully said as he laughed some. Call and Gretchen's faces both reddened slightly. "You're not that far from town. Game is plentiful year round out here. Because of the creek yonder, the well never runs dry."

"I love this house," Gretchen said. "It's perfect for us, Call."

"Guess we're set," Call nodded.

Mr. Scully pulled out a large piece of paper. "I suspect it'd be best if we each hold a paper that we both signed. Now, if you have the money with you . . .?"

Gretchen smiled at Call and reached into her skirt pocket, pulling out a folded, old envelop. "Here, sweetheart," she said as she handed it to Call.

"Eight hundred dollars. Cash on the barrel head," Call said as he counted the money and put it on the table. He then placed the remainder back into the envelop and handed it back to Gretchen.

Mr. Scully signed the two pieces of paper then gave them to Call to sign.

"We'll be leaving directly," Mr. Scully said. "We found us a place just outside of Curtis Wells and we don't have need of most everything here. We're giving you the bed and table. The stove and rockers." He looked at his wife and smiled.

"Consider it a wedding gift for the two of you," Mrs. Scully said.

"Thank you so much," Gretchen replied as she hugged Mrs. Scully. Call nodded and extended his hand to Abner Scully.

"Wait a minute!" Mrs. Scully said. "Have you found a preacher to marry you?"

"Not yet," Gretchen replied.

"Abner!" Mrs. Scully said, "your brother is a preacher. He's on his way to Curtis Wells right now to meet us." She took hold of Gretchen's hand. "You two aren't wed yet, are you? I don't see a ring on your hand."

Gretchen turned to look at Call.

"I have the ring," Call smiled.

Her eyes lit up and she smiled brightly at him. "You have the ring, Call?"

He nodded and smiled even more. "Yep."

"We're hoping to be wed very soon," she replied to Mrs. Scully, then stared happily at Call.

"Well, Mr. Scully's brother, the Reverend Daniel Scully, will be arriving any time now. I'm sure he would be delighted to perform the ceremony for the two of you," Mrs. Scully said.

Gretchen turned to Call. "Call?"

"Someone has to do it. Might as well be him."

"Why don't you two stay here as long as you see fit. You own it now," Mr. Scully said. "If we forgot anything we can come back another time."

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

Mattie walked out from behind the glass counter after hearing a strange sound. She looked in the back room where Dewey was trying to hide behind some empty rifle crates.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"Oh? , , , uh . . . um . . . nice day, isn't is?"

"Dewwwwey?" Mattie said.

He smiled.

"I am not going to ask you again, Dewey," Mattie insisted.

"Aw, shucks," he snapped his fingers. "I just want Dewey Jr. to see your shop."

"Dewey Jr?" Mattie replied. "Who is Dewey Jr?"

Dewey pulled on the rope he was holding and a small pig grunted and squealed. "My pig. See? Unbob give him to me. I can keep him, can't I? He's my little brother."

Mattie wasn't sure if she was going to laugh or yell. She decided to laugh. "Dewey, you can't keep a pig inside a building. Pig's live outside."

"Yes'm," he sighed and with his head down he pulled the pig out the back door.

Mattie watched as he ran behind the general store and tonsorial parlor to go find his friends and put Dewey Jr. back in his pen.

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

"Call, this is our home now. This is our house," Gretchen excitedly said as she twirled around once. Call watched her coarse brown skirt spin wide then drop.

He stepped close to her. "I reckon we best see how our new bed feels."

"Anything you say, Call," Gretchen whispered as she began unbuckling his holster belt. It fell to the floor as they pulled each other into the bedroom. Gretchen giggled as they climbed onto the bed with the multi-colored square patterns for a spread.

They laid close together facing each other. Gretchen's warm smile and green eyes were hypnotic to Call. He sat up and placed both his hands on her left leg, where the bone slightly protruded. He gently rubbed her leg through the material. Gretchen's heart pounded as she bit her lip watching her husband-to-be.

Call's hands paused as he looked at Gretchen. She read his eyes so easily as he gave her a desirous smile.

"Call! No! Not yet," she giggled. "I want to as much as you do, sweetheart. I really do. We have to wait until we're married."

"Maybe I'll just . . . " he said, playfully.

"Oh, no you won't," Gretchen giggled then pushed him with her other foot, causing him to fall off the bed onto the floor. Gretchen jumped off the bed laughing and ran out of the bedroom.

"You little . . ." Call said as he jumped up and chased after Gretchen.

Gretchen screamed playfully as she got behind the table and stuck her tongue out at him. Call faked to one side to draw Gretchen to the other. As she fell for it and went the opposite way, so did Call. He grabbed her as they both laughed happily.

"Call, I love you so much. I love you. I love you," Gretchen said as she kissed him over and over again.

"I love you, Gretchen," he said as he squeezed her tight and kissed her back.

"Call, please don't ever leave me. Please. Not ever," Gretchen begged as she looked seriously into his eyes.

"I won't, Gretchen," Call replied. "I won't ever leave you. Not ever."

"Oh, Call," she moaned and put her hands on his cheeks so she could kiss him again. "I'll be your wife forever."

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

Clay Mosby and Robert Shelby sat in the Ambrosia together. "What's troubling you, Clay?" Robert asked. "You're playing inferior poker today."

"I can't help but wonder if I somehow misplaced some money," Clay replied.

"There will be plenty more. We should be making plans. Have you heard from Dobbs?"

"Mason Dobbs should return soon. I fail to see how a man such as he would not join our ranks, Robert?" Clay said.

"Show me your hand, Clay."

Clay smiled as he put his cards down. "Two pair. Jacks over nines."

Robert laughed. "You lose again, Clay. Three sixes."

Clay stood up. Robert watched him. "How are things progressing between you and Victoria Brandt?"

"Slow," Robert replied. "You know me, Clay. I don't rush into things. I told her we were attempting to bring Miss Lotta Crabtree here."

"I know. Have you heard anything in regard to your wire?"

"As a matter of fact," Robert said, "I have. She is currently traveling east. She left San Francisco about a week ago and is considering our generous offer, weather and time permitting."

"Well, good," Clay replied.

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

Clay Mosby walked outside to the street. Laurie Ann had been waiting for an opportunity to make amends for her shameful behavior and hurried to meet him in the street.

"Mr. Mosby? I must speak with you. I . . . I have a confession to make," Laurie Ann said.

Clay paused. "It would seem to be quite urgent, by the look of it."

Laurie Ann held out her hand toward Clay. "I took this from your wallet when you were trying on that coat."

Clay's appearance changed. "You what?"

Laurie Ann began crying. "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mosby. Please forgive me? I have had to live like a thief these past months so that murderer wouldn't catch me. It was just a shameful reflex that allowed me to do such a terrible thing. I'll accept any punishment you decide on."

Clay observed the young woman. He believed she was being genuine. "We will forget the matter, Miss Mecurdy. However, if it is ever brought to my attention that anything is missing from the dry goods store . . ."

"Oh, it won't, Mr. Mosby. And, thank you so much!" Laurie Ann returned to the dry goods feeling like a heavy load had been lifted from her shoulders.

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

By late afternoon Call and Gretchen had returned to town. They tended to their horses then stepped out of the livery.

"Call, I'm so happy. We have our very own house. I can't believe it."

Call wrapped his arms around Gretchen and pulled her close. "You best believe it, Coyote Girl."

Gretchen giggled and bit his lip. "I just want you to say Gretchen Call."

He smiled. "Gonna be soon."

"Will I see you tonight, Call?" she asked.

"I reckon there ain't nothing gonna keep me from being with you tonight, Gretchen."

Gretchen kissed him and pulled away. "I really have to get back to the store. I love you. I'll see you here tonight." She turned and ran down the street.

Call headed toward Mattie's to buy some shells for his Colt.

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

Clay Mosby was out behind Mattie's gunsmith shop chopping wood for Mattie. He had removed his coat and was sweating. He wiped his forehead with a clean, white handkerchief. The sleeves of his ruffled shirt were rolled up to his elbows and his black and gray, patterned vest unbuttoned, revealing his suspenders.

Call had just paid for a box of .45s when he heard a commotion out back. Mattie was tending to another customer as Call walked out the back.

"Now calm down!" Clay urged the two animated boys.

Call stepped down the stairs to watch.

"Dewey fell into a hole in that mine over there!" one of the boys said.

"It's too dark and too deep for us. We couldn't reach him," the other said.

Call stepped over to the boys and Mosby. "You saying he fell down a hole and can't climb out?"

"Uh huh," the first one said.

"All right," Call said, "go on home. I'll get him."

"Just a moment, Call," Clay replied. "Those boys came to me first. I'll get him."

"Suit yourself," Call shrugged as he ran across the field to find Dewey.

"Damn it, Call," Clay said as he ran after him.

The two boys were afraid they would be in trouble and ran off toward their homes.

*****

Call was first to reach the entrance to the abandoned copper mine. He stepped inside and quickly picked up one of the carbide lamps and lit it. Clay Mosby joined him inside moments later.

"DEWEY!" Call yelled.

"Down here," came a reply.

"He's over there," Clay said, pointing toward the direction the sound came from.

"Shut up, Mosby," Call said as he walked carefully to where the hole was. He bent down and shined the lamp down the hole.

Clay lit another lamp and then saw a length of rope long enough to reach Dewey. He grabbed it and brought it to the hole. "Dewey? I'm dropping some rope down to you," Clay said. "Wrap it around your stomach. Tightly! Do you understand?"

Dewey nodded.

"Are you hurt?" Call asked.

"No."

Dewey tied the rope around his belly then squinted as he looked up at the light. "I did it."

Both Clay and Call placed their lamps on the ground and began slowly pulling Dewey out of the hole. He seemed to be about ten feet down.

"He seems to weigh more than he looks," Clay grunted.

"Maybe you're too weak, Mosby," Call replied as they continued pulling until Dewey's hands were high enough for them to grab and pull him up.

"All right," Clay said. "You're safe now. Go on."

Dewey ran out of the mine and back toward town.

"I must say that I am rather perplexed about you, Call. You live in the dirt and don't care about anyone but yourself. Then, you fall in love with a girl from Missouri, who by the way, isn't even the prettiest of her sisters."

"Shut the hell up, Mosby!"

"Then you rush out here to save a young boy. You've become quite tame," Clay said.

Call threw a punch, hitting Mosby in the mouth. Clay backed up then grabbed Call and hit him in the face. "Stop it, Call!" Clay yelled.

"You bastard!" Call yelled and charged Mosby. He swung his left fist from his boots and missed Mosby, driving his fist against the timbers that resembled a doorframe. "Aaagghh!" Call yelled as his arm went limp and he grabbed it with his other hand to cushion the throbbing pain.

The timbers, old and decayed, groaned as Mosby stared in disbelief. "No!" he yelled, realizing they were about to be buried. Call's blow had loosened the ordinary post-and-cap method of timbering inside the mine. Beams of wood supporting rock and dirt suddenly gave way as Call stood there. Clay grabbed him and pulled him back just as the beams collapsed. Clay threw both of them to the ground as the cave-in completely blocked the exit.

Call jumped up, favoring his left hand. Clay could see that Call was unable to even make a fist now.

"Damn you, Call!" Mosby yelled.

"You started it, Mosby!" Call yelled back.

"Well, it really doesn't matter much now who did what, does it?" Clay said as he coughed. "Give me a hand now."

Call could only use his right hand to try and dig away rubble and rock while Clay used both hands to dig. They did this for at least an hour without stopping then Clay stepped back. "It's no use." He turned to Call. "You might as well stop, Call."

Call paused. He walked over to where they had placed the lamps earlier and picked one up. "Ain't that just like you, Mosby? To give up."

The comment angered Clay but he tried to ignore it. "I'll let you in on something, Call," Clay said as he sat down against one side. "If this is to be how I die, I want you to know that you are absolutely the last man on earth that I would have picked to be with me in here." He grinned at Call.

Call looked at his left hand and tried to squeeze his fingers into a fist but could barely move them. He looked at Clay. "That goes double for me, Mosby. I'd sure as hell rather die with anyone but you."

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

It was now 8:15 PM. Mattie wondered why Clay hadn't shown up for their late supper in the Dove. She got up from her table and walked outside. She crossed the street and entered the Ambrosia.

"Robert, have you seen Clay?" Mattie asked.

"I was just going to look for you and ask the same thing," Robert Shelby replied.

"You don't know where he is?" Mattie said.

*******

Gretchen Brandt ran into the livery looking for Call. "Call? Where are you? Are you hiding on me? You better not scare me! Call?" She paused and turned around. "Call?" She went and climbed the ladder, thinking he was waiting up in the loft. When he wasn't there she became concerned. He wouldn't forget about us. He would never leave without telling me. Call? Where are you? Gretchen hurried outside and began looking everywhere.

*******

Gretchen and Mattie ran into each other on the edge of tent town.

"Have you seen . . . ?" they both said at the same time.

Call?" Gretchen asked.

"Clay Mosby?" Mattie asked.

They looked at each other.

"Call's missing too?" Mattie said.

"Yes. Is Mr. Mosby also missing?" Gretchen said.

"What's going on?" Mattie said. "Where could they be? It isn't as if they were friendly toward each other."

"I think something might be wrong," Gretchen said. "Call's horse is still in her stall."

"So is Clay's," Mattie replied.

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

"Ow! Damn it!" Clay Mosby yelled. A two-inch sliver of wood sunk into his palm.

Call laughed as he continued to dig with his right hand. Both men were growing tired. No food. No water. There wasn't a lot of air. Clay took his handkerchief and wrapped it around his hand where the sharp wood had cut him.

"I highly doubt that orphan will even realize we aren't around for maybe a couple of days. Then, it will be too late."

Call ignored Mosby as he continued to try and move rock.

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

Mattie stepped out of Twyla's and shrugged. "That was the only place left."

"I told you Call wouldn't be in there," Gretchen said.

Mattie paused, as if remembering something. "Clay was chopping wood behind my shop and there was a commotion. Call went out the back . . . and that's the last time I saw either of them. Come on!" Mattie said as she ran back toward her gunsmith shop. They ran up the stairs to the room above her shop and entered it.

"Dewey?" Mattie said.

Dewey looked at her.

"I heard your friends, I think, out behind here earlier. Do you know anything about Mr. Mosby or Mr. Call? Where are they?"

Dewey squinted. "Um . . . last time I saw 'em was back in the mine."

"What?!" Mattie said.

"Mine? What mine?" Gretchen asked.

"Out past the church in the trees there's the entrance to an old copper mine," Mattie said. "What were they doing in there, Dewey?"

"Um . . . um . . ."

"Dewey! Answer me! Now!" Mattie said.

"They pulled me out of a hole," Dewey replied. "Am I in trouble?"

"Did you see them come out of the mine, Dewey?" Mattie asked as both her and Gretchen were growing fearful.

"No," Dewey said.

"They're still in there," Mattie said to Gretchen. "Something must have happened. "Dewey! Take us there right now."

"Now? But, it's dark. Crawlies are out now," Dewey said.

"Dewey! I will tan your hide if you don't get up and take us . . ."

Dewey jumped and ran to the door.

********

"The mountain fell," Dewey said as they reached the mine. Gretchen screamed and Mattie yelled as the two women held their lanterns in the dark.

"We have to dig them out!" Gretchen said, feeling herself grow faint.

"Dewey, listen to me," Mattie ordered. "You run back and find Mr. Shelby and Sheriff Peale. Tell them this is an emergency. Tell them Mr. Mosby and Mr. Call are trapped in the old mine. Can you do that?"

Dewey nodded and ran off toward town. Gretchen began trying to use her hands to dig away the fallen rock and earth just inside the opening where the cave-in was.

"I'm going back to get all the help I can. I'll get your sisters, too," Mattie said but Gretchen didn't hear her as she tried frantically to move the heavy rocks.

"Call," she whispered as she shook. She wiped the tears from her eyes. "Lord, please?"

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

Within a half hour a good sized crowd had gathered to try and save Mosby and Call. Folks worked through the night digging and trying to haul the rock and beams out of the mine's opening. Robert Shelby, Dr. Cleese, Ike, Unbob,and Josiah tried in vain to move heavy pieces of beams.

By early morning the crowd was tired from lack of sleep and weak from laboring against the heavy load of the mountain.

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

Clay Mosby and Newt Call had found themselves losing strength as the hours slowly passed. Lack of air caused their arms to grow heavy as they finally couldn't lift any more dirt or rock. They both were light headed and had become sullen as they rested on the ground.

Clay coughed. "It would appear as if I will not be able to attend your wedding, Call." He coughed again.

Call coughed. "You ain't invited."

"Isn't that just like you, Call," Mosby laughed. "Both of us are nearly out of air and perhaps close to dying and you're still as surly as ever."

Leaning heavily on his right hand, Call forced himself to his feet, though he was unstable. "I ain't giving up. You hear? I ain't gonna lose Gretchen. She's the best woman ever made. You hear me, Mosby?"

Clay turned to look at Call. Then he quietly said, "I believe in your own eyes, she is."

"Get up, Mosby. We can . . ." Call suddenly fell forward to the ground. Clay tried to get to his feet but his legs felt as if they were tied to cannonballs.

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

Mattie stared as if in shock. She could hardly believe that both Clay Mosby and Call might very well never be found in time.

Gretchen began crying as she ran to the opening. "Call! Call!" She pounded her fists against a beam. Both of her sisters came and took hold of her as they pulled her away. She sunk to the ground helpless as the tears rained down her cheeks and onto her clothes.

Victoria sat down and held Gretchen, placing her younger sister's head in her lap as she stroked her hair. "I can't lose him. I love him more than anything," Gretchen sobbed. "We just got our very own home. Call! Please don't leave me. You said you would never leave me. Call!"

Paige stood there crying. She looked at Victoria. Tears were in Victoria's eyes as she felt her sister's heartache. Seeing her sister fall apart had deeply upset Victoria.

"Get out of my way! My friend, Call, is in there! Move, I said!"

Paige looked toward the blocked opening and saw the imposing figure of Luther Root begin moving rocks that three men together couldn't budge. The stage had just come in and Luther heard about the cave-in and rushed over to help.

"Where's Austin?" Luther yelled. "I need Austin to move this one beam."

Paige immediately ran back through the trees and across the field as she held her dress up a few inches to run. She was out of breath when she entered the jail and saw Austin drinking coffee.

"Sheriff Peale! Please come quick! Call and Mr. Mosby are trapped in the old mine. Luther needs you. You're the only one that can help him."

Austin laughed at Paige. "I'm not well enough to go out."

Paige stared angrily at Austin.

Austin had heard already but was using his concussion as an excuse. He believed that if both Newt Call and Clay Mosby died in the mine cave-in, things could be like they had been before.

"I don't understand you, Sheriff Peale," Paige said. "I hear folks laugh at you behind your back. You're not very smart, are you?"

"What're you talking about?" Austin asked.

"Don't you understand that if you help Luther to rescue Call and Mr. Mosby folks will look at you different. You'll be dependable and respected for being a strong sheriff." Paige shook her head. "All you want to do is sit here and feel sorry for yourself." She turned to leave.

"Wait!" he said as he stood up. "Maybe you're right. All right. I'll help them."

Paige ran up to him and hugged him. "Thank you, sheriff."

***********

Call opened his eyes and looked around. The lamps were beginning to dim. He licked his lips and tried to swallow but his throat felt dry. "Mosby?" He coughed then noticed Mosby laying quietly. Call crawled over to Mosby and shook him. "Wake up, Mosby. You ain't gonna die that easy."

Clay moaned as he opened his eyes. "I wish you hadn't of done that, Call. I was dreaming. I was back in Virginia before the War. I was with Mary . . ."

Call lowered his eyes. All he wanted out of his life was to be with Gretchen. He loved her more than anything and wanted her so bad. He closed his eyes. It was so hard to breath now. He figured he would just close his eyes for a moment.

***********

"Pull, Austin. More!" Luther yelled. "Aaarrgggg!"

"They got it!" Unbob cried.

The large, heavy beam that had blocked a small opening was now out of the way. It took the combined strength of Luther and Austin to move it. They quickly moved smaller rocks until there was enough room to get inside.

"We're in!" Luther yelled. "Hey, Call! Mosby!"

There was no answer. Gretchen stood by as Victoria held her. Mattie stood with Dewey. Luther grunted and heaved the last remaining obstacle. There was room to bend and get inside.

"They're both alive!" came a voice moments later. Gretchen cried, this time for joy. Mattie cried as well.

Both Call and Mosby were unconscious as they brought them out. Victoria asked if Dr. Cleese would bring them to her and her sisters' house. Mattie wanted Mosby in her shop. Cleese agreed to both requests, feeling the two of them might not like being in the same room.

Paige went and hugged both Austin and Luther.

Since Clay was the older of the two, Dr. Cleese decided to check him first. Mattie sat with him until he woke up, strong and hungry.

After seeing to Mosby, Dr. Cleese hurried to the Brandt Sisters' home to check on Call. Gretchen sat on the bed next to him, holding his hand. Both Victoria and Paige stood close by.

It wasn't long before Call began to wake up. Dr. Cleese said both men would be fine but should probably take it easy for a day. Victoria and Paige walked outside with Dr. Cleese to allow Gretchen and Call some time.

"Call, I was so scared," Gretchen said as she laid close to him. "It was the most horrible feeling I've ever had in my life."

Call smiled and reached for Gretchen's hand. "I couldn't give up, Gretchen. I wanted you so much."

"Call, we can't wait. Let's get married as soon as Mr. Scully's brother arrives. Please, Call?"

Call nodded. "Soon as he gets here, Gretchen."

***********

"Dewey?" Mattie asked. "Here. I'm giving you ten cents to buy candy for you and your friends. Go out and play for a while."

Dewey took the money and ran down the stairs to find his friends.

Clay laid in Mattie's bed and smiled. "That was awfully nice of you, Mattie."

"I almost lost you, Clay," she said as she locked the door to her upstairs room. She began unbuttoning her shirt as Clay smiled. "I want you to know what you almost lost as well, Clay."

Clay Mosby grinned. Newt Call may have been the last man on earth he wanted to be stuck with in a cave-in, but Mattie was definitely one of the first women he would want to be stuck with in a bedroom.

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

Feed the author here!


AMBROSIA FANFIC CLUB:
[Homepage] [Reading Room] [Art Gallery]