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.


Long Chance
(12th in the Romancing the Plains series)
by Craig Caff

If a man ever needed dying, he did.
No one has the right to say what he said about you.

("Indiana Wants Me" - R. Dean Taylor)

The upcoming wedding of Newt Call and Gretchen Brandt had unexpectedly been delayed. An unforeseen ailment had caused the Reverend Daniel Scully, to be bedridden for nearly two weeks. It had been his brother, Abner, and his brother's wife, who had befriended Call and Gretchen, selling the young couple their house and everything in it. The preacher would arrive soon enough and the wedding was now scheduled for November 13th.

During the past few weeks, as October quietly became November, Call had gone out on one last bounty run. It fairly well tore the stitching out of Gretchen's heart to be apart for more than twenty days, but he figured he'd return with more than enough earnings to see them through the cold winter, well into the spring.

Call had trailed a small band of killers south into Wyoming. The trail led through the eastern edge of the Big Horn Mountains, north along Crazy Woman Creek, across the Powder River, ending in the town of Spotted Horse, where he gunned down two men and wounded the other two. His troubles rewarded him with $5,000.

The long nights and even longer days on his way back to Curtis Wells had allowed him far too much time to think. At night he sat alone by a small campfire staring at the photograph Gretchen had given him of herself. She had also cut a lock of her hair and bound it with a small red ribbon, then scented it with a dab of perfume. Several times each night he would inhale the fragrant odor as his thoughts were consumed with the green-eyed girl he loved.

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

Another unforeseen and tragic event had occurred during the past few weeks. Before Mattie and young Dewey returned to Curtis Wells, the man she hired to run her gunsmith shop in Miles City had met his death in an untimely and violent explosion. He had accidentally blown himself up by going to work drunk and lighting a cigar near the Hercules Brand Gun Powder.

It was for this very reason the gunsmith shop had been built and situated away from every other wooden dwelling within the town itself. Instead of returning home to Curtis Wells after two days, Mattie was now forced to remain in Miles City as she set out to salvage as much as she possibly could from the destroyed shop. The highly profitable business she had established with the soldiers from nearby Fort Keogh would now be lost to the gunsmith in the town of Horton, some thirteen and a half miles southwest of the fort, along the Yellowstone River.

Mattie wired Clay Mosby explaining the situation and that she would be back in Curtis Wells by early November. Clay sent his own telegram proclaiming he would ride out to Miles City to offer any assistance he could. Mattie asked him to wait for her to return, however.

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

Mason Dobbs had ridden back into town almost a week ago. He had anticipated arriving just before his nephew and the 'little minx' from Missouri were to be wed. He was surprised to hear that Call had gone off to Wyoming bounty hunting. He was also saddened and relieved to hear about the abandoned copper mine and how the cave-in had almost taken his nephew's life. When Gretchen told Mason that Call hadn't sent her a telegram in over a week, he began to wonder if his nephew was having second thoughts about getting hitched.

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

Call had returned late last night. Now, as most folks were eating their noontime meal he sat close to Gretchen at their secret spot, behind the town. Gretchen was reading to Call.

"Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits." Gretchen lowered the book, resting it on her lap. "Do you like it, Call?"

Call frowned, then nodded. "It's real nice. I ain't sure . . . why's it talking about a garden?"

Gretchen giggled as she laid her head on his shoulder. "That's from The Song of Solomon. It's from the Bible, sweetheart. It's very romantic. About two people that love each other so much and she offers him her body. It's her garden."

Call squinted as he thought about it. Gretchen bit her lip and twisted the ends of her hair as she watched him. He looked at her and smiled. Gretchen giggled happily and hugged him. "I missed you so much, Call. I thought I was going to die waiting for you. I was so worried about you."

He hugged her back though not as passionately as he had before leaving a few weeks ago. Gretchen immediately tensed her body and pulled back. She stared at him for long seconds.

"What it is, Call? Something's wrong. I can tell."

He looked at her then lowered his gaze to the ground.

"Call?!" she said, her voice shaking. "Did . . . did you meet someone else?"

"No!" he quickly replied as he looked her in the eyes. "Gretchen, I love you. And you know that."

"Then . . . why do I get this feeling that something isn't right? Call? Please?"

His eyes darted as he struggled to get something out.

"Call, maybe you're just nervous. I'm nervous too. Our wedding is in less than two weeks," Gretchen said as she could no longer hold back. Tears slid down her cheeks.

"I don't know what I am," he groaned. He walked off down the hill, leaving Gretchen standing there. She thought about pretending to faint but decided not to. She knew that it would be difficult for him because of what happened a few years ago. She knew he needed to be alone to sort things out.

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

Mattie looked up from stirring her coffee and smiled at Clay Mosby. "It meant a lot to me when you offered to ride out to Miles City and help."

"You do mean a great deal to me, Mattie," Clay said. Then, he leaned over so no one would hear him. "Not for just merely reasons of passion. I consider you a fine woman."

"Clay, I don't want to spend my life just selling guns. I want someone to share my life with. I want love and romance," She looked at the table and laughed. "If someone like Call can have it, then why can't we?"

Mosby stroked his jaw, running his fingers over the coarse black hair of his beard. He opened his mouth to say something when Austin Peale walked up to their table.

"Am I interrupting anything?" Austin asked.

Clay and Mattie both looked at each other then at Austin.

"What is it, Austin?" was Clay's slightly tense reply.

The sheriff sat down in an empty chair and removed his hat, dropping it on the table. He motioned for Amanda to bring him a cup of hot coffee.

*********

Call's insides were tearing him up. He felt miserable. Seeing the pain and hurt he had caused Gretchen made him feel like his guts would burst. She didn't deserve it. All she ever did was treat him good.

He angrily pushed his way inside the Ambrosia Club and went up to the counter. He threw two coins on the bar and told Carson to leave the bottle. Josiah Peale had been sitting alone at a table and immediately rose and approached Call.

"Hello, Newt," Josiah said with a friendly smile.

"Josiah," Call quietly replied.

Josiah stared at him for a moment then said, "I want you to know, Newt, that I am very pleased that you are about to wed Miss Gretchen Brandt. It's quite obvious that she brings out the good in you."

Call turned to Josiah. "I'm scared, Josiah. The responsibility . . . so big. I don't want something to happen to Gretchen."

Josiah's eyebrows raised slightly. He watched Call guzzle his first drink then just as fast down a second shot of whiskey. "No!" Josiah said. "Don't say that. Being alone is a curse. You belong with her, Newt. It's the truth. She belongs with you, too."

Call poured a third shot. This one didn't even reach the half way mark of the glass. He lifted the glass then paused as he heard two men commenting that he and Mattie Shaw were out of town at the same time. He swallowed the whiskey then turned to look at the end of the bar.

"Hey, Call," Antonio Perez said, "I had me a fine time watching that girl of yours while you were gone the last few weeks. I must have undressed her in my mind at least three times a day. She looks good enough to eat."

Call grabbed a chair and swung it as hard as he could into Antonio, knocking him and the man next to him onto the floor.

"Aaaarrgghhhh!" Antonio yelled.

"Newt! No!" Josiah protested.

"You sonofabitch!" Call yelled as he leaned over Antonio and slammed the chair across the man's back and head.

"Uuunnhhh!" Antonio groaned as the wooden chair splintered into pieces.

Call grabbed Antonio and began pounding his fist into his face over and over again, with more fury each time. "You bastard! I'll kill you!"

The other man had rolled over and gotten to his feet.

Ike ran out of the saloon straight across the street to the Dove, where Mosby and Austin were standing outside with Mattie.

Gretchen stood in front of the dry goods store as both Victoria and Paige tried to offer comfort and encouragement to her.

"Mr. Mosby! Sheriff Peale!" Ike yelled loud enough for everyone to hear. "Hurry! Call's killing Antonio!"

Gretchen tried to run for the saloon but Victoria held her back.

Clay, Austin, and Mattie all ran toward the Ambrosia.

Call's hat had fallen off and he couldn't see through the wild strands of hair hanging in his face but he kept landing blow after blow. The other man grabbed a broken chair leg and rushed Call. As Call noticed him he tried to raise his arm to block the attack but the other man swung the wooden chair leg catching Call across the cheek.

"Uuunnnhhh!" Call moaned. He hit the ground then shook his head. There was a ringing sound in his ears and small flashing lights in front of his eyes. He jumped up and grabbed the other man by his hair and in one motion slammed his head downward while driving his knee upward into the man's face. The sick sound of a broken nose and broken teeth was heard as the man's blood squirted in several directions.

"CALL!" Mosby yelled as he burst through the open doors.

"Stop it, Call!" Austin yelled.

Two of Mosby's men grabbed Call from behind but he growled and shook them off his back before they could hold him. He turned toward Antonio who was bleeding and laying unconscious on the wooden floor. Call's eyes had a wild glare as he raised his fist to hit Antonio again. He never threw the punch as everything went black in front of him

"I wish you hadn't of done that," Clay Mosby said to Austin.

"There was no other way, Mosby," Austin replied as he held the butt end of his gun over the now unconscious Call.

"Get him out of here," Mosby ordered. "Some of you men carry these other two over to Dr. Cleese's. Straighten up this place. I'll pay for a round of drinks on the house."

Austin and Josiah dragged Call out the door while Zeke and a few other loyal employees of Mosby dragged the two other men outside. Those remaining set about to cleaning the broken chair and glass or just picking up tables that had been knocked over.

***

Gretchen and her sisters were standing outside watching as Austin and Josiah dragged Call into the street.

"Call!" Gretchen cried out as she ran to him.

"Go watch the store with Laurie Ann, Paige," Victoria said to the youngest Brandt sister.

"Yes, Victoria," she replied, and hurried back to the dry goods.

"Don't drag him like that!" Gretchen loudly complained as she caught up to the sheriff and his father.

Mason Dobbs had just come from tent town and moved quickly to reach his nephew.

"Mason! Please help Call," Gretchen begged.

"I'll carry him," Mason answered as he stepped in front of Austin. He bent low enough so he could lay Call's unconscious body over his shoulder then stood up, grunted, and walked the short distance to the jail where he carried his nephew inside.

Gretchen followed them inside and went into the cell with Call.

"I'll go fetch Doc Cleese," Mason said.

"Forget it, Dobbs," Austin said. "He's going to be tending to the two men Call beat up in the Ambrosia before he comes here."

Gretchen looked up from the cot. She quietly lifted the hem of her skirt and searched the bottom of her slip for a worn out spot. Finding one, she easily tore a fifteen inch strip and began gently dabbing Call's cheek to wipe the blood.

Mason stepped into the cell and looked at both Gretchen and Call. "Take care of him. I'll be back directly," he said to Gretchen and went to fetch the doctor.

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

Clay Mosby and Mattie Shaw had gone to the back table to continue their conversation that had been interrupted by Austin. As Clay finally was about to discuss their relationship, Robert Shelby entered the saloon and walked straight to their table.

"Not again," Mattie grumbled under her breath.

"Clay, we need to talk," Robert said.

"I heard you were shot, Mr. Shelby," Mattie politely said. "It looks like you've healed."

Robert moved his right shoulder slowly. "Yes, Miss Shaw. The cold in this northern territory causes much discomfort but I suppose it could have been much worse."

"What it is, Robert?" Clay asked.

"I thought we might ask Mason Dobbs to meet with us. He's back in town, Clay."

"And we will, Robert. Perhaps you would be so good as to inform Mason?" Clay replied.

Robert looked at both Clay and Mattie then stood up. "Forgive me, Miss Shaw. Clay, I will see you later."

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

It was evening now. Gretchen had remained with Call until he awoke. Victoria Brandt entered the jail and suggested her younger sister go eat something while she stayed with Call. Gretchen grudgingly obeyed. Victoria walked up to the cell and looked at Call. He sat on the edge of the cot with his head down.

Victoria stared at him for a few moments. "You look a mess, Newt," she said as she shook her head.

Call lifted his head enough to look at Victoria then lowered it again.

"And don't you give me that look, either, Newt. We're going to be family. And since I'm older than you, I have the right to call you Newt. Now you listen to what I have to say."

"Ain't like I'm going anywhere, is it?" he mumbled.

"You know that I was very much against you seeing my sister. The truth is . . ." She paused and turned to Austin. "Would you allow me ten minutes alone, Sheriff?"

Austin looked at Victoria as if trying to show he was in charge. "Ten minutes," he finally said then picked up his hat and strolled out of the office.

Victoria turned back to Call. "When I was younger I met a bounty hunter who said he loved me. I thought we would always be together. He ran off with another girl and I judged you to be the same. I was wrong and I do apologize, Newt. I hope you will find it in your heart to be forgiving. I have no doubt that you love Gretchen and will provide for her."

Call raised his eyes a little then quickly lowered his chin.

"You can't run away from life, Newt. Bad things happen to everyone. You can't play God. You can't protect Gretchen every moment."

"You don't understand! I have to try," Call said.

"Yes, you can try. But if she were to become sick, could you heal her? Look, Newt, you proved you love her. She needs you and you need her. I know you expect to inherit all three of us but Paige and I are going to be your sisters. Don't be afraid of what could happen. Just love her."

Call looked up at Victoria then stood up. He stepped to the bars and wrapped his hands around them.

"Gretchen loves you so much that she will wait until you're ready, Newt. You're ready now. Otherwise you wouldn't have asked her to become your wife. I remember there was a man from Texas who relocated near us after the War. He used to talk to our father about riding with General Hood's wild Texas boys. He used the term long chance. He said it was a Texas saying. That it meant a chance against long odds. Like drawing to an inside straight."

Call stared at Victoria. She giggled slightly at the poker remark.

"Sometimes folks make the long chance work. I believe that you and Gretchen are that rare time it works." Victoria took her hands and placed them over Call's cut and bloody hands. "Don't be afraid, Newt. Treasure what you have. It's a long chance come true."

Call smiled slightly embarrassed and nodded. "I reckon you're right, Victoria."

She put her hand to her lips. "I believe that is the first time I have ever heard you say my name. I'm going to become your big sister, Newt. Paige and I will be there for you. We know you'll be there for us."

Austin opened the door and walked back inside.

"Sheriff Peale. Please open the door and release my soon-to-be brother-in-law," Victoria said.

Austin stood there slightly caught off guard. "Mosby didn't say . . ."

"Are you the sheriff or is Mr. Mosby wearing the badge?" Victoria demanded. "Why aren't those other two men locked up?"

"Because Call nearly killed one of them. They're both up in Dr. Cleese's," Austin replied.

Victoria folded her arms and began tapping her foot impatiently on the floor.

"Alright!" Austin finally exclaimed. He grabbed the ring of keys off of his desk and slowly stepped over to Call's cell. He unlocked the door and handed Call his Colt.

"Come on, Newt," Victoria said. "Gretchen's waiting for you."

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

Dr. Ephraim Cleese paced nervously across his office floor. Antonio Perez had lapsed into a coma from the severe head beating Call had unmercifully given him. Antonio was one of the riff raff that had migrated to Curtis Wells after Sweetwater had burned down. He had his own Mosby-like power in the tent town section of Curtis Wells. Drunks and shiftless troublemakers looked to him as their leader. He was known for holding cock fights on the side of the hotel, and had thrown Ike out of the barber shop when he had tried to sell what he claimed as the only photograph of Abraham and Violet Phillips shown dead, after their ghastly murder by the hand of their daughter, Francis.

Dr. Cleese cautiously peeked out from behind the curtains as he tried to gaze through the lamp's flickering glare into the dark street. Some men from tent town had gathered outside. They were drinking heavily and yelling as they threatened violence if anything happened to Antonio.

Walking back to inspect his patients, Dr. Cleese found Antonio had died. A sense of alarm overcame the doctor and he quietly slipped out the door as he headed to the Ambrosia to inform Mosby of the news.

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

Victoria Brandt opened the door and stepped inside the Brandt house as Gretchen and Paige quickly rose from where they sat at the table.

"We have a visitor," Victoria said with a smile as Call stepped inside the house.

"Call! Oh, Call!" Gretchen cried as she ran into his arms. "Sweetheart, are you all right?"

Call squeezed her extra tight and lifted her off the ground. He looked into her eyes. "I reckon I owe you an apology, Gretchen."

Gretchen stared into his eyes with her green eyes. "No, Call. It's all right. I understand." She turned her gaze quickly to Victoria with a confused look.

Victoria giggled. "I had a . . . sister to brother talk with Newt." She smiled.

Gretchen turned back to Call. "Really? Call . . ."

"I ain't gonna cause you no grief, Gretchen. Seems to me we got us a wedding to get ready for," Call replied.

"Anything you say, Call," all three sisters said in unison and then giggled.

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

Dr. Cleese approached the back table where Clay Mosby sat with Robert Shelby and Mason Dobbs.

"It is most fortuitous and advantageous that you gentlemen have been relegated to this location," Cleese said.

Mason squinted. "How about saying that in English? For us poor folks, Doc?"

"What is it, Cleese?" Mosby asked.

"I fear a riot of minor significance may be developing as we speak," Dr. Cleese replied.

Frustrated over the continuous interruptions, Clay drove his fist into the table and stood up. "Damn it, Cleese! Just tell me what's going on!"

Ephraim stepped back. "Antonio Perez died. And there are some of his friends down the street firing their guns and yelling about lynching Call."

"Call killed Antonio?" Clay replied. He shook his head. "Damn him!"

Mason kicked his chair onto its back and stood up. "Now, hold up, amigo. You're a gentleman. Virginia bred. Me and Newt are Texas boys. If I recollect, he warned that cur after he crossed the line with Gretchen Brandt last time. Down in Texas, we give one warning, them we kill if someone don't respect another man's woman."

Robert Shelby let his hand rest on the handle of his Remington. Just in case things got ugly at the table.

Mosby rubbed his chin. "All right, Cleese. Well done. Get one of my men to help you carry the body to Mattie's." He turned to Mason. "You better find Call and warn him, Mason."

Mason winked at Clay. "On my way, amigo."

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

"What if he starts asking questions?" Amanda said to Austin.

"Lie. You should be good at that, Amanda," Austin angrily replied as they shared a table inside the Dove.

"Mason Dobbs is too smart to fool," Amanda argued. "I know he came back to find out who tried to capture him."

"For all we know," Austin said as he stood up to leave, "Mason Dobbs merely returned for the wedding."

Amanda placed her hands on her hips as Austin walked out of the hotel.

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

There was a knock on the Brandt Sisters' door. Paige opened it. "Hello, Mason," she said.

Mason pulled his hat and nodded. "How do, Miss Brandt. Is Newt here? It's urgent."

Call stepped to the door. "Something happen, Uncle?"

Mason looked around at the three sisters. "That fella you beat up. The one who bad-mouthed your girl. He died."

The sisters' all let out a sound of shock.

"Some of his pards might get nasty. You want in on this, boy?" Mason said.

Call nodded.

"Call?!" Gretchen cried. "We have to go with him," she said, turning to Victoria and Paige.

"No!" Call said. "You stay here! Stay inside this house."

"We'll be safer near you, sweetheart," Gretchen replied. "Don't leave us alone here." She grabbed his hand.

"Gretchen? I can't let you go. It's too dangerous. Just wait here. All of you," Call ordered.

"What if someone tries to come inside our house?" Paige replied. "Remember what happened recently when Laurie Ann was here?"

"Do you have any firearms in the house?" Call asked Victoria.

"Yes, Newt. We have a rifle," Victoria said.

"Good," he nodded. "Lock the doors and have the rifle ready. Hear?"

"Let's move," Mason ordered.

"Be careful, Call," Gretchen said as she held him tight.

The other two sisters added their concerns for both Call and Mason.

"I'll come back soon as it's over," Call said to Gretchen.

Outside, Mason and Call moved quickly to the street just as Mosby and Robert were heading to get them.

Mosby stared at Call. "You couldn't just walk away, could you, Call?"

Call glared at Mosby. "Would you?"

Clay shrugged. "I suppose not."

"There they are! Let's get them!" a drunken voice yelled.

About a dozen men congregated in a tight pack advanced from the pump in the center of the street.

Inside the Brandt Sisters' house, Gretchen couldn't stand not being with Call. "I have to go out there," she said.

"Then we will all go," Victoria agreed. The sisters snuck out the front door and quickly keep up behind Call and the others. Victoria held the rifle.

Sheriff Austin Peale stepped out of the Lonesome Dove Hotel with Amanda. "Maybe that mob will kill Mason Dobbs and settle our problem," Austin commented.

"You better made it look like you're on his side, Austin," Amanda said. "We don't want him getting any more suspicious."

Austin nodded and slowly walked into the street.

The mob of angry and drunken tent town dwellers closed in. They paused near the Ambrosia. "Get out of the way, Mosby! We want Call! He murdered Antonio! We saw his body being carried down the stairs," the one in charge ordered.

Suddenly, a bottle was hurtled. "Aaaggrrhhhh!" Paige cried as the bottle crashed against the side of her head.

Call spun around and seeing Paige drop to the ground he immediately drew his Colt and turned and fired, hitting the man who threw the bottle right in the stomach. The man groaned and slumped to his knees, then keeled over, slowly dying.

Screaming and chaos were set to explode on the street. The tent town mob yelled as Mosby tried to restore order.

"Now wait! Stop it!" Mosby yelled.

Gretchen and Victoria bent down to help Paige. The bottle had cut the back of her head. "Call!" Gretchen cried. "She's bleeding! She needs a doctor!"

Call's head spun to acknowledge Gretchen then turned back to watch the mob. Amanda ran to get Dr. Cleese as Austin joined the small party of defenders.

"All of you go on home!" Mosby yelled.

"The hell with you!" one man hollered and threw his torch at the roof of the Ambrosia. "Let's burn the town!"

Mason fired two quick shots and hit the torch on the third shot, cutting it in half and sending the flames down in the mud. Robert Shelby fired on the man who threw the torch, killing him.

With two tent town rioters dead, most of the mob dropped their torches and turned and ran in all directions, no longer willing to die for their friend.

Dr. Cleese came running up the street with Amanda trailing him. Victoria and Gretchen hailed him and he immediately began working on Paige's cut.

Call stormed into the street toward the two remaining tent town fighters. They decided it was time to quit and turned and ran off toward tent town. Call watched for a minute then quickly went to Paige.

"You are most fortunate, Miss Brandt," Dr. Cleese said. "This could have been a much worse cut."

Gretchen took hold of Call and held him close. "Call? Please forgive us? It was my fault, Call. I was so worried and afraid for you, sweetheart."

Call held Gretchen close. "It's all right, Gretchen. I couldn't bear anything happening to you." He looked at Paige, then back at Gretchen. "That's why I told you to stay put."

Clay Mosby and Robert Shelby stepped over to where Dr. Cleese was cleaning the wound. "I trust your sister will be fine?" Clay asked Victoria.

"Thank you, Mr. Mosby. Mr. Shelby," Victoria replied. "It would have been serious if only Newt and his Uncle Mason were here." She looked down the street. "Do you think they will attack again?"

"No, Miz Victoria," Robert said. "They are nothing more than craven cowards, strengthened by numbers and alcohol."

"She about set to go home?" Call asked Dr. Cleese. Gretchen stood close to Call waiting to bring her sister home.

Dr. Cleese smiled. "Yes. I would have to say Miss Brandt was incredibly lucky. The bottle shattered and instead of slicing into her skull the shard of glass merely sliced across the skull."

Call frowned. "You saying it ain't a bad cut?"

"That is correct, Mr. Call," Dr. Cleese said. "There. Try to stay off your feet until tomorrow, Miss Brandt."

"Thank you, Dr. Cleese," Paige replied. She turned to her sisters and Call. "I'm ready."

Victoria stepped over to Call. "Newt, I'm sorry. I take the blame for not obeying you. It won't happen again."

"I reckon that's fair enough," Call replied.

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

The next day, outside of Miles City, Pea Eye Parker and Lippy pulled into Hat Creek and began unloading supplies.

Woodrow Call stepped out into the doorway of the cabin. "You get all them supplies, Pea?"

"Yessir, Cap'n," Pea replied. "Uh, Cap'n?"

The Captain looked at him.

"A telegram . . . for you," he said.

"It's from Newt," Lippy added as he hefted a bag of flour. "And that gal he's getting hitched to."

"Magg . . ." Woodrow involuntarily said.

"No Sir, Cap'n," Pea replied. "Her name was Gretchen."

Woodrow stared straight ahead for a brief moment then nodded. "Gretchen."

"Here, Cap'n," Pea said as he handed him the telegram. "What's it say?" he asked as he rubbed his hands on hid sides by his hips.

Woodrow didn't answer him. He opened the white piece of paper and read it:

Dearest Captain Call,
Newt & I to wed, Nov13
at our new house
8 miles east CW
Old Pokerville rd
west at Alexandria post
house in valley 11am
please come, our love,
Newt & Gretchen.

Woodrow looked up at Pea and Lippy. "The boy's going through with it."

Pea thought for a moment then said, "Are we going, Cap'n?"

"As I recall, we got a lot to do before first snows," Woodrow said then walked back inside the cabin.

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

That afternoon, up on Cemetery Hill, Antonio Perez was buried. Call and Mason stood in full view below the cemetery daring anyone from tent town to walk up the hill. No one did.

After Mattie and Unbob buried the troublemaker, Call and Mason walked ominously through tent town. They entered the No.10 and stared at every man.

"You recognize any of those curs from last night?" Mason asked his nephew.

"Yep," Call said as he nodded toward one man in the corner.

Mason stepped over to the man. "I'll be back in one hour. If I smell your blood anywhere in this town, I will bury you on that hill before the sun sets today. Understood, amigo?"

The man nodded and stood up. "Where do I go?" he asked.

"Far away," Mason answered. "Adios." He winked at the man then motioned for Call to follow him outside.

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

"I can see the resemblance," Mrs. Scully said to her husband as they stepped inside the dry goods store. "You are most definitely Gretchen's sister."

Victoria smiled and approached the older couple. "Yes. I'm Victoria. Gretchen's older sister. Sitting over there is Paige, her younger sister."

"Why is he marrying the other one?" Mr. Scully quietly asked his wife. "These two are both prettier."

"Hush, Abner," Mrs. Scully replied as she jabbed him in the side. "This is my husband, Mr. Scully. I'm Mrs. Scully. We sold Gretchen and Mr. Call our house."

"Oohh!" Victoria replied. "We adore that cute house. Do come in, please? Gretchen's stocking shelves in the back." Victoria turned to Laurie Ann, who was petting the kitten Unbob had given Paige. "Laurie Ann? Would you get Gretchen?"

Laurie Ann went to the back to get Gretchen.

"There's the cutest little boy outside with a piglet tied to a rope," Mrs. Scully said.

"That's Dewey and Dewey Jr." Paige said. She was still lightheaded from being hit in the head last night.

"Mrs. Scully! Mr. Scully!" Gretchen excitedly said as she walked up the aisle.

"Hello, dear," Mrs. Scully replied as she hugged Gretchen. "We have good news for you. Where's your husband-to-be?"

"Call's with his uncle right now," Gretchen replied as she twisted the end of her hair.

"Mr. Scully's brother, the Reverend Daniel Scully will be here within the week," Mrs. Scully happily revealed. "Are you two having a big wedding?"

"No, ma'am," Gretchen replied. "Call wouldn't feel at all comfortable around a lot of folks. Our parents can't make it. I hope Call and I will take a trip to visit them either before our first child is born, or after. They live in Missouri."

"You're going to be a beautiful bride," Mrs. Scully said. "Are you wearing white?"

"No, ma'am," Gretchen said. "It won't be very formal. We would really like it if you two were to attend. We really would," Gretchen said.

"You would?" Abner Scully said.

"Yes. You two have done so much for us. Please say you'll be there?"

"We'll be there," Mrs. Scully replied.

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

The other man Call had beaten up yesterday in the Ambrosia left Dr. Cleese's and went back to his friends in tent town. He tried to find someone to help him attack Gretchen Brandt to get at Call. The survivors of last night's riot all backed off. They said it wasn't just Call now, but Mason Dobbs, Clay Mosby, and Robert Shelby. The man decided to mount up and leave Curtis Wells after hearing about the other two killings and Mason running one of them out of town.

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

Clay Mosby looked at Mattie Shaw. She had her arms folded across her chest. He liked how her hair fell on the sides of her face. "You look quite attractive today, Mattie."

Mattie could only muster a half-hearted smile.

"Mattie . . ."

"Don't say it, Clay. I'm tired of being alone. Now I'm trying to raise a nine year boy all by myself and I lost the contract with Fort Keogh."

"Do you realize that the odds of two people such as ourselves becoming romantically involved is like drawing to an inside straight?"

"Spare me your gambling phrases, Clay. If all that matters to you is power, I don't exactly see you building that great empire."

That comment angered Clay but he held his tongue. "I have to return to my saloon. Perhaps we can discuss this over supper tonight?"

"Really?" Mattie said.

"I honestly don't know if I desire a relationship right now or not, Mattie. I do know that you would be a most accommodating and passionate partner." He smiled seductively at her.

Mattie blushed. "Oh, Clay. You and your Southern charm."

"Well, good. Shall we say eight tonight?"

Mattie nodded.

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

"I can't wait till we're husband and wife, Call," Gretchen said as she laid back against his chest.

"Another week is all," Call said as he wrapped his arms around Gretchen's shoulders. They were up in the livery loft with a lantern.

"Do you prefer our first born to be a boy or a girl, Call?"

He shrugged. "Never really thought on it much. I reckon whatever the Good Lord sees fit to give us I'll want."

"Oohh, Call, sweetheart. I love you more than anything." She twisted her shoulder so she could kiss him. "I want to read you some more."

Call tucked his chin down to softly kiss Gretchen's head. "Your hair smells nice."

She giggled and turned to hold the book where the flickering light illuminated it. "I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me. Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge . . .? Call?"

Call grabbed the book and gently pulled it out of her hand. "Sounds real nice, Gretchen." He looked into her green eyes. Gretchen forgot about the Song of Solomon and stared at Call. "We made it, didn't we, Coyote Girl?" he said.

She smiled warmly and nodded. "We did, Call. Not many find what we have. A love so strong."

"You send that telegram to the Cap'n?"

Gretchen nodded.

"Guess this'll be our last time up here before we get hitched," he quietly said.

Gretchen turned down the lantern and laid close to Call.

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

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