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.


Never Trust a Reformed Outlaw
(2nd in the Romancing the Plains series)
by Craig Caff

You pick up Little Dynamite I'm gonna pick up Little Gun
And together we're gonna go out tonight and make that highway run

("Rosalita" - Bruce Springsteen)

"Excuse me, Mr . . . Mosby, isn't it?"

Clay Mosby looked up at the well dressed man who appeared to be approximately the same age as he.

"He's the one," Deputy Austin Peale said.

"I see," Mosby replied, as he watched the man nervously look around the inside of the Ambrosia Club. "Well, Mr. . . "

"Whetherford. Eustus P. Whetherford," he said, extending his hand toward Mosby.

Clay rose from his chair to shake hands. "Join us, won't you, Mr. Whetherford." He motioned for the man to sit in an empty chair at their table.

The man sat down. "I arrived here in Curtis Wells only yesterday." He hesitated as if being careful in choosing his words. "Could we speak in private, Mr. Mosby?"

Clay removed a cigar from his jacket as he studied Mr. Whetherford's eyes. "Austin, leave us alone, won't you?" Clay said.

Austin finished his glass of beer in one gulp and without saying anything stood up and walked away.

"Now, just what is it you wish to discuss?" Clay asked, striking a match and lighting his cigar.

"Diamonds! Uncut diamonds, Mr. Mosby."

"And why me, Mr. Whetherford?" Clay asked.

The man looked around the saloon then leaned in closer. "I seem to be in a very uncomfortable situation. I have in my possession . . . well, actually they're in the bank right now. But, I have made contact with a firm that purchases uncut diamonds. The buyer is on his way here as we speak." Eustus P. Whetherford put his fingers on his throat, as if adjusting his tie.

"Do go on," Clay encouraged the man.

"This man, a Mr. Porter, would not be fond of seeing me. If I may speak with confidentiality, he knows me by another name and I must assure you, Mr. Mosby, that I am quite honest and upstanding, being praised and thought of as the most dependable seller in my company's employ. The truth is, I sort of got too friendly with this buyer's wife two years ago."

Clay noticed the man pause and look at him, as if trying to determine just how he was faring. "It would appear you have a small problem, Mr. Whetherford. Just how exactly do I fit into this picture?"

Eustus P. Whetherford now produced a clean handkerchief which he used to wipe his forehead. "The diamonds which are currently locked in the bank's safe are valued at $10,000. There are twelve of them. I fear that not only my employment, but perhaps my life as well is in jeopardy if I were to remain here and meet Mr. Porter, face to face. For although I used another name, he will most assuredly remember my face."

Clay chuckled slightly. "That is a most regrettable position you seem to have brought upon yourself, Sir."

"Indeed it is, Mr. Mosby. I've spoken with people in this town and they all tell me you are the gentleman to do business with. Therefore, I propose this fair and legitimate offer. I will sell you the diamonds for only $5,000. Just half price. That way I still make a profit and you are in the enviable position to turn around and make a $5,000 profit as soon as Mr. Porter arrives, which should be within one week."

Clay sat back, his eyes never moving from Mr. Whetherford. He then stood up and rubbed his chin. "I must say, your offer intrigues me."

"It's a genuine real deal, Mr. Mosby. If not for a lonely woman that I was unable to resist, I would have no need for any help and I would stand to make a much more substantial profit." He shrugged. "I expected the buyers to send another man."

"Give me twenty-four hours to deliberate the matter, won't you?" Clay extended his hand, signifying the end of their conversation.

"Uh . . . yes, of course, Mr. Mosby. I'm staying at the hotel. Good day, Sir." He shook hands with Clay then quickly departed.

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

Across the street in the hotel's dining room Unbob Finch couldn't stand still. "Is she, Mr. Peale? Is Mattie coming back here?" He shuffled with his hands in his pockets as Josiah, Dr. Cleese, and Amanda Carpenter sat at a table discussing the rumor of Mattie Shaw's return to Curtis Wells.

"She sent a telegram, Unbob," Josiah replied, holding a note in his hand. "She's packing up and should be in Curtis Wells some time in the next couple of weeks."

"I for one would favor seeing Miss Shaw return to our little town," Ephraim Cleese commented.

"Well," Amanda began, "as a woman, I know Mattie had feeling for Call. He just didn't feel the same about her."

"That's because he's nothing but trouble," a new voice said, causing the four of them to turn and notice Austin. "Call only cares about himself."

"Well, that's not true," Unbob cried, "he helped me . . . and he just saved those three sisters from that man."

"He's trouble, Unbob," Austin insisted. He looked at Josiah. "I have some dinner for you, father."

Josiah stood up to leave. Since the Brandt Sisters arrival he had been feeling better. As he headed for the door the others continued to discuss the news of Mattie's return.

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

Once Whetherford, the diamond seller, had gone away, Clay thought about the offer. It sounded on the square but a man like Mosby wasn't one to take foolish risks. He stepped out of his saloon and walked down to the jail.

"Come on in, amigo," Mason said, looking up from his desk as Clay entered.

To Clay, it appeared as if Mason Dobbs had been taking a nap. "How's that arm? It would seem to be healing quite well."

Mason lifted his left arm to show Clay. "Almost like new. Still tender to touch but no complains. What brings you here?"

"Uncut diamonds and perhaps a big rat. Interested?"

Mason sat up, giving Mosby his undivided attention. Clay sat down and told Mason about Eustus P. Whetherford and the story he had told him. Once Clay mentioned the second man, the diamond buyer, Mason grew wary. Something just didn't feel right. He opened the middle drawer of the desk and pulled out a stack of wanted posters. Clay suggested Mason come see him if he found anything unusual. Mason agreed and Clay returned to his saloon.

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

It was closing time at the Dry Goods and Clothing store. Tenderly caressing the little kitten Unbob had given Paige, Victoria rubbed her fingers gently under its neck and chest. The sisters had welcomed adopting the kitten as they embraced it with love and affection.

Victoria looked up as both Gretchen and Paige hastened to the door. "Where are you girls off to in such a hurry?"

"Call's taking Gretchen riding," Paige replied as both girls giggled. "I bet it'll be some ride," she added.

"I'll be fine, Victoria," Gretchen said as she shot Paige a mock angry glare, causing them both to laugh. "And I will be home early. I promise."

"Please do come home early. I still do not think Mr. Call is right for you, Gretchen," Victoria said, stroking the kitten's tiny head. The girls closed the door and ran down the middle of the street toward the livery. Victoria sighed. It would be difficult to separate Gretchen from Call now that he had saved their lives a week ago.

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

Gretchen and Paige ran inside the livery looking for Call. He was down near the end, saddling Gretchen's horse.

"Heyyyy Call. Oohhh Call," the girls said, still giggling as they ran through the livery to join him. He looked up, smiling at Gretchen. Gretchen put her hand on his face, brushing the wild strands of hair off his cheek.

"Your cuts are getting smaller, Call. This gash under your eye is healing just fine," Gretchen said, staring into his eyes.

Call nodded then looked at Paige. "Didn't know you were riding with us."

"Why thank you, Call, for inviting me, but I don't think Gretchen wants me along on this ride," Paige said giggling.

"Just you and me, Call," Gretchen whispered, wrapping her arms around his waist. "Goodbye, Paige," she said with a muffled voice as her face pressed into Call's chest.

"Have fun you two. I'll try to keep Victoria occupied," Paige replied as she turned and skipped to the front of the livery and then away.

Neither one heard her as they stared into each others eyes. Gretchen grabbed some of Call's tangled hair that hung under his hat and tugged slightly as she shook her head. "Do you suppose I should have brought along some soap to give you a good washing if we come to any water?"

He just stared at her and smiled. "Nope."

"Me either. I don't think I would like you quite as much if you were as clean as that Mr. Mosby. I think you look perfect just the way you are, Call."

Gretchen let go of his hair and turned to mount her horse but Call pulled her back close to him, wrapping his arms around her small waist as she brought her arms around his neck.

"Reckon I like you just fine the way you are too."

Gretchen's eyes lit up as she looked deep into his eyes. "Call," she whispered. He slid his arm up her back and pulled her tighter, kissing her mouth. Gretchen closed her eyes and moaned softly as her mouth met his. Both of their hearts quickened as Gretchen's hands moved up to his head where she knocked his hat off. Call's hands slid down both sides of her thin waist, tightening on her hips, then rode back up her side.

"Why don't you two take it to the hotel."

They immediately stopped kissing and turned around.

"Get the hell out of here, Austin," Call angrily said.

Austin shrugged his shoulders as he held a piece of straw in his mouth. "It's a public stable. I just might decide to stand here and watch." He leaned against a stall just to irritate Call.

"Call, no!" Gretchen pleaded as he turned to move on Austin. "Let's just ride some place else. Please, Call?"

"You better listen to your little girlfriend there, Call." Austin laughed slightly and turned to leave as he threw the piece of straw on the ground.

Call looked at Gretchen and nodded. "Mount up, Gretchen."

"Anything you say, Call," Gretchen smiled.

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

Mason Dobbs stepped into the Ambrosia and walked down to the far end of the mahogany bar, where Clay Mosby stood with his arms folded, lost in thought.

"I'll wager you're thinking about those diamonds, amigo," Mason said.

Clay looked at him and nodded. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I am. And just what have you found out, Mason?"

"There's a paper on him, as well as the other scoundrel he works with."

"I see," Mosby replied as he drew his Remington and placed it on the counter. "Perhaps it would be more satisfying to put a bullet in Mr. Whetherford's head rather than arrest him."

"Mosby, if I am a good judge of this type of fellow, and I'd speculate that I am, then throw down with me and by working side by side we'll lick these boys at their own game."

Clay looked Mason in the eye. "Just what do you propose we do?"

Mason Dobbs winked ay Mosby. "Here's what we do . . ."

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

Deputy Austin Peale still wanted the sheriff's badge that Call's uncle, Mason Dobbs was wearing. As he fantasized about ways in which he could become sheriff he noticed his father talking to Unbob outside the Montana Statesman. Being the nosy sort he was, Austin walked over to join the two men.

"Oh, Austin," Josiah replied.

"Father," he said, then looked at Unbob.

"Unbob is quite excited concerning the news about Mattie Shaw," Josiah said.

"I'm gonna go get things ready for when Mattie comes back," Unbob said, "that way it'll be just like she never went away."

"You do that, Unbob," Austin said.

"You know, Austin," Josiah began, "perhaps you and Mattie could . . ."

"No, father," Austin interrupted, "I just might take away that Gretchen Brandt from Call."

"Well there's still two more of them sisters," Unbob suggested.

"I want the one that Call likes," Austin said as he walked away.

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

The summer sky was filled with countless stars by the time Newt Call and Gretchen Brandt returned. Aside from the occasional customer either entering or leaving the Ambrosia down the street, it was quiet. Call and Gretchen both dismounted and walked their horses into the livery.

"Thank you so much for buying Sugar for me, Call. I think he's the most handsome horse in all of Curtis Wells," Gretchen said.

"It's late. Suppose I should be bringing you home," Call reluctantly said.

"Uh . . . where are you . . . where are you sleeping tonight, Call?" Gretchen asked, quickly changing the subject.

Call rubbed his chin. "Too warm to spend in the Dove." He pointed above in the direction of the loft. "I reckon I'll put down up there for the night."

"I want to stay with you tonight, Call," Gretchen whispered as she wrapped her arms around him.

"What about your sister? Ain't likely she'll abide us spending the night together," Call remarked as he returned an equally passionate embrace.

"Oh! Didn't I tell you? Victoria decided not to interfere since you saved us from Dorian Mowery," Gretchen said as she bit her lip and held her breath for a moment.

Call frowned and looked at Gretchen. "She really say that?"

"She did, Call. She really did say that," Gretchen replied as she squeezed her body tightly against his.

Call tilted his head and squinted. "I don't think she'd come around that soon."

"Don't worry about her, Call," Gretchen said, then she whispered in his ear, "this will be our very first night to be alone." She kissed him lightly on the ear.

"We best get up there then," he said, smiling. "Best tend to the horses first."

"Anything you say, Call," Gretchen replied as she smiled happily. "We can look out at all those stars. It's such a beautiful night."

They looked after the needs of their animals, then climbed the ladder and moved to the front, near the open doors. Call unbuckled his holster to remove his gun and knife. Next, he pulled his boots off so his spurs wouldn't cut Gretchen's legs. He sat with his back against the wall as Gretchen reclined into his chest. She removed her hairpin so her hair would fall out the way he liked it. Gretchen smiled at the thought of the two of them finally being alone.

"Call? Do you remember the night we sat up on the roof here?"

"Ain't likely to forget it."

"I wanted to kiss you that night, Call," Gretchen said as she snuggled against him a little more.

"I didn't wanna kiss you that night. Just wanted you to get off the roof," he said.

Gretchen turned to look at Call. "Are you sorry you kissed me the other night?"

"Maybe." He shrugged, then laughed.

"Call! That was mean," Gretchen said as she pretended to be angry. She stood up and placed her hands on his shoulders but her foot caught his leg and she lost her balance. "Call!" she screamed as her weight shifted, pulling her toward the opening above the livery.

Call lunged forward catching Gretchen around her hips as her upper body hung out the opening. Tightening his arms he pulled her back inside the loft, and rolled over. Gretchen reached desperately to take hold of Call and tighten her arms around him. The whites of her eyes were big as silver dollars and she breathed hard as her chest heaved in and out. He stared back at her shaking just as much as she did.

"Call, I'm sorry! I'm sorry," Gretchen exclaimed.

"It's all right," he nervously said. "Don't you ever scare me like that again."

"I won't, Call. I promise you I won't." Gretchen hugged him tight, not wanting to let go. She laughed a little. "My heart is pounding so fast and so loud, Call."

"Yours ain't the only one," he said as he pulled her away from the opening. Her head was buried in his chest as he tucked his chin down and kissed the top of Gretchen's head, holding his lips against her soft hair. She lifted her head to stare at him.

"Hold me close to you tonight, Call. Please? Don't let go of me, Call."

"I won't," he whispered as he moved her further away from the open doors. He laid on his back as Gretchen laid on top of him so he could wrap one arm around her back.

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

"Paige, if you know something you're not telling me I think now would be the time to speak. Where is Gretchen? She said she would be home early. You heard her. She promised me. Now . . . where is she?"

"Uh . . . Victoria . . . you know . . . we are living in modern times. It is after all the 1880's. I think she might have said . . .? Now what was it she said?"

"Oh, for the love of . . . Paige! What does living in modern times have to do with this conversation?"

"Things are changing, Victoria. Haven't you heard of that woman in the Dakotas? Calamity Jean from Deadwater."

"That woman is Calamity Jane. And the town is Deadwood."

See!" Paige giggled as she pointed her finger at Victoria. "You do know."

"I will not allow you to change the conversation. Now, where is Gretchen?"

"Spending the night with Call," Paige said sheepishly as she lowered her gaze. "But don't worry, Victoria. She promised me she wouldn't do anything wrong. Victoria? We are both of age. Trust us."

Victoria folded her arms across her chest. She was upset and would most definitely have a serious talk with Gretchen in the morning.

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

It was sometime after midnight when two figures silently rode into Miles City. They dismounted and walked their horses down the side of the building whose sign out front read Miles City Bank, and disappeared around the back. Except for a few stray cats moving in the shadows and the distant barking of a dog, the entire town was asleep. The two men tied their horses to a nearby low, overhanging tree branch, then moved quietly to the back door.

"Strange that a bank such as this would fail to have bars on the windows," Clay Mosby whispered.

"No need to," Mason Dobbs replied. "They have a Pierce & Hamilton 1878. It can't be opened by listening to the tumblers and the walls of the safe are eight inches thick. Dynamite won't blow it. You just be careful with that nitro, amigo. Wouldn't want to blow us up." He winked at Mosby.

"Let's just get this done," Clay nervously said.

Mason nodded as he forced the door open with a crowbar. The men then quietly entered. The shades were all drawn as Mosby lit a lamp and placed it on the floor near the safe. Mason squatted near the safe and looked at it admiringly.

"It's a beautiful piece of work," he mumbled.

"Yes well, I have some paintings I'll be more than happy to let you admire," Mosby replied.

Mason laughed quietly. "All right, amigo, take everything out of the bag."

Mosby exercised extreme caution as he placed the wooden box containing the bottle of nitro on top of the safe. "Are you sure four ounces will be enough?"

"Plenty. Get the red seal putty out first."

Mosby removed the can of quick drying putty.

"Open it and seal the sides and door tight. There can't be any air getting inside. Be sure to cover the seams."

Clay began following Mason's orders. Once the putty was sealed tightly Mason informed Mosby to set the alarm clock for forty minutes.

"That's how long it takes the putty to harden," Mason revealed.

"So that's why you insisted upon bringing an alarm clock," Clay mumbled as the ticking began. In the dead of night the clock's ticking appeared magnified. Clay went to a window and pulled back the shade slightly, as if expecting the whole town to hear the pounding drum-like noise.

Mason watched Mosby with amusement. "You ever rob a bank, Mosby?"

Clay looked at Mason and hesitated. "Two men were killed last time. One was quite unfortunate." There was bitterness in his words. He sighed. "You do have the imitation diamonds in your possession?"

Mason tapped his fingers on the pocket of his jacket. "You know, amigo, I endeavor to stay away from lawless activities. I would regret this not being seen in accordance with lawful enterprises."

"Well spoken, Sheriff. I too have tried to put my past behind me. However, it isn't always as simple as that."

As soon as the small clock's alarm went off Mason turned it off. Mosby held his breath for an instant. Mason handed his partner the clock.

"Set it for sixteen minutes now. That's how long it'll take us to pump the air out of the safe.

Mosby set the clock then handed Mason the Bryant Pump they had brought along to suck out the air and cause a vacuum inside the Pierce & Hamilton safe.

The minutes dragged on agonizingly slow. Tick, tick, tick. Once the alarm rang a second time, Mason moved very carefully as he lifted the small bottle containing the explosive nitro. Mosby placed a funnel into the tip of the rubber hose used with the Bryant Pump. Now came the dangerous part. Mason barely moved as he ever so carefully poured small quantities of the deadly liquid into the hose. The vacuum they had created was sucking the nitro into the safe.

Once they had poured enough nitro Mason carefully placed the bottle on top of the safe. "Hand me one of the blasting caps and the roll of safety fuse."

Mason slid the fuse inside the cap and tightened it. He then slid it into the small opening at the top of the doors that had been filled by the hose. He looked at Mosby. "Ready, amigo?" Mason lit the fuse and winked. Both men took cover behind the other side of the counter as they awaited the blast that would blow open the thick cast iron, steel-plated doors.

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

It was nearly an hour before the first rooster would crow. Gretchen awoke with Call's arm still around her. She gazed at him peacefully asleep in the early morning darkness and smiled. Brushing the hair off his cheek she leaned close and lightly kissed him near the gash he had received in the fight with Dorian Mowery.

Call stirred a little as he lazily opened his eyes. He smiled contently at her and whispered, "Gretchen."

She smiled back at him. "Oh, Call," she whispered. "I have to go."

"Go? Why?" He sat up slightly and pulled her close to him. "Don't go."

"Ooohhh," she moaned softly. "Don't make it any more difficult than it already is. I don't want to leave you, Call. I don't."

He buried his face in her neck and began kissing her soft, smooth skin.

She pulled back a little and stared longingly at him. "I have to leave. It wouldn't be proper . . . not yet, Call"

A tear welled up in her eye and overflowed as it slid down her cheek. Call tilted his head and wiped the tear with his thumb. "Why are you crying?" he asked.

Gretchen didn't answer. She locked her mouth on his, kissing him passionately then she hurried to climb down the ladder. Wiping the hay off her dress and out of her hair, she ran home crying.

Call sat up and hunched himself over. Something that felt so good had suddenly turned to sour apples. At least it felt like that in his belly. Grabbing a handful of hay he flung it angrily then laid back down and stared at the roof. No way he was going to sleep now. He pulled his boots on then grabbed his holster belt and climbed down the ladder. He was out of sorts and wasn't sure what to do about it.

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

The first sign of light appeared off in the distance as Clay Mosby and Mason Dobbs neared Curtis Wells. They had ridden at a steady pace in order to return home so they could complete the plan they had devised.

"I imagine the banker will be most perplexed to find his safe blown wide open with nothing missing," Clay said as he laughed slightly.

"Once I reopen that J. Halls Lock & Safe Co. safe and plant the real diamonds, all you have to do is agree to the deal and pay that slick fella with the counterfeit bills you say you have. I'll wager there won't be a more profitable occasion to use that money, amigo."

"I do believe you are correct, Mr. Dobbs," Mosby said.

The two unlikely partners reached Curtis Wells where they quietly stabled their horses then moved behind the jail, Statesman, and Ambrosia. They easily entered the back door of the bank where Mason quickly opened the safe to place the real diamonds in the empty spot where the fake ones had been placed earlier.

"This door can't be more than three inches thick, amigo," Mason said. "Wouldn't take much dynamite to blow it open."

"Fortunately we do not have to resort to such extremes," Clay replied as he peered from the crack of a window shade out at the quiet street.

Mason closed the safe's door and spun the tumblers. "We're done, companero."

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

Inside the Dry Goods store an unpleasant conversation was taking place. Victoria stood over a sad looking Gretchen. Paige quietly took it all in.

"Heaven help us if anyone would had seen you, Gretchen," Victoria said. "That kind of behavior cannot be tolerated. Mother raised all three of us to be respectable women. My goodness, Gretchen. You don't think!" She turned toward youngest sister Paige. "Both of you. Do you think life out here on this frontier is easy?"

Paige lowered her head. She was more in tune to Gretchen than Victoria. Gretchen sat quietly and took her scolding.

Victoria extended her hand and grasped Gretchen's hand and squeezed it between both her hands. "I know how much you treasured all the stories father used to tell you and Paige when you were children. You were always fascinated by the pony express riders, Gretchen. But Newt Call is not one of them. I hope you will think about the possible consequences facing you, facing all of us next time you want to spend the night . . ." Victoria paused. She couldn't say it. "Did anything happen?"

Gretchen looked up slowly. "No, Victoria. Nothing happened," she quietly replied. "Call just held me close to him the whole night." Gretchen stood up and walked to the back of the store. "I don't feel very well, Victoria. I'd like to sit outside in the fresh air if it's all right with you?"

Victoria nodded. Gretchen stepped outside and quietly closed the door. Paige ran back and went outside to join her. She sat down next to her sister on the new bench Mr. Mosby had personally delivered for their comfort.

"Oh, don't pay her any mind," Paige said as she waved her hand toward the door. "Tell me all about it, Gretchen. Was it special?"

Gretchen mustered a half-hearted smile. "It was absolute magic. It was so wonderful, Paige."

"Then why do you look so sad? You should be happy."

"I was. I was so happy. Call didn't want me to leave. I wanted to fall into his arms and let him hold me forever. I think he wanted to do that, Paige. He seemed like he wanted to. Why does it hurt so much?" Gretchen asked.

Paige hugged Gretchen. "Because you've fallen in love with him."

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

Eustus P. Whetherford stood in front of the Lonesome Dove Hotel watching Clay Mosby converse with the town's sheriff. He shuffled nervously in front of the doors. A man in his line of work had to be suspicious of everyone. He waited for the two men to part ways then he walked across the street to read the stage schedule that hung outside the telegraph office. He already knew what it said. There wouldn't another stage passing through until noon tomorrow. He had to decide whether to pull out if he had a bad feeling or roll the dice and see it through. The lure of swindling this Mosby fella out of $5,000 was too strong. He would stay.

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

"Austin, that is the most preposterous idea I have ever heard," Clay said.

Austin hadn't expected Mosby to say that. He leaned over Mosby's private table. "Well why not? I thought sure that you would be willing to help me."

Clay looked across at Deputy Peale. "Yes well, I've decided not to interfere any more."

"Hah! You not interfere? I thought you were trying to win the favor of Victoria Brandt? What happened, Mosby?"

"There are other means in which one may win the favor of a proper lady such as Miz Victoria Brandt, Austin."

Frustrated, Austin stood straight up. "Then I'll do it without you if I have to."

"I do wish you would reconsider," Clay calmly replied."Call seems to be quite taken by Miss Gretchen Brandt. Leave them alone. I intend to."

"What made you change your mind, Mosby?"

"I'm afraid that's my business. If you intend to separate them and win Gretchen just to anger Call, you're an even bigger fool than I realized, Austin."

Austin grumbled and walked out of the saloon. He would put his plan into motion and take Gretchen from Call.

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

Eustus P. Whetherford watched Clay Mosby walk down the street and enter the dry goods. He then noticed the town sheriff go inside the Ambrosia Club. He thought about things for a moment and then hurried across the street to go inside the saloon. It was fairly active for late morning. He noticed the sheriff standing alone at the far end of the bar and went to join him.

"Hello, sheriff. Mr. Mosby has quite a fine saloon, wouldn't you agree?"

Mason looked at the man. "If you're a friend of Mosby's I'll be asking you to leave. I don't care much for that cheap, backstabbing sonofabitch."

That comment caused Eustus Whetherford's eyebrows to raise. "Then I take it you are not a friend of his, sheriff?"

"Do I look stupid to you? If you drew a pistol and shot the bastard dead all I'd do is say, 'Mister, let me shake your hand.' Mosby may have friends, I'm not one of them." Mason downed his drink and then headed for the door.

Eustus Whetherford smiled a little, then grinned.

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

Clay Mosby stepped inside the dry goods store and slowly walked toward the shelves that were stocked with men's clothing. Victoria noticed him and felt that strange sensation again. She looked around quickly, almost as if her mind had been spread wide open for the whole town to see. She had been alone in the store while her two sisters were out behind the building talking. Clay removed his hat and took her hand.

"As always, you look simply delightful, my dear Victoria."

She smiled. "And as always you are such a gentleman, Clay."

He motioned with his hand toward his black boots. "I could use some black polish for my boots. I fine it quite a task to keep a decent shine on them with all the mud we seem to produce in this town. Perhaps you could show me where it is?"

Victoria moved around Clay and looked on one of the shelves. She reached out and grabbed a small red and yellow container and handed it to Clay.

"Walther's Genuine Black Boot & Shoe Polish," Clay read aloud. "Hmm? I've never seen this brand before. Do you recommend it, Victoria?"

"The man we buy our supplies from in Sand Springs assured me this was a new product and superior to other brands similar in purpose."

"Well then," Clay replied, "I must give it a try."

"Could I be of assistance with anything else?" Victoria asked.

"Perhaps you would join me across the street in the hotel for tea later this afternoon?"

Victoria nodded. "I'll look forward it, Clay."

She wrapped the container and they chatted for a minute. Clay then took her hand and bid her good day until tea time.

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

Newt Call's head was filled with too many thoughts. His mind was troubled and he found himself retreating to the livery's loft. He couldn't pretend any longer. He thought about Gretchen Brandt a lot of the time. He felt himself drawn to her. And what he felt for her was powerful and it was strong. And this scared him more than anything else. He was so afraid of letting someone get close to him again. But her long brown hair, her green eyes, her thin figure that was so shapely, and her warm smile and soft voice. How she wrapped her arms around him and laid her head on his shoulder. The way she talked and the things she said. The way she looked at him. He groaned.

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

As Clay Mosby returned to his saloon, Eustus Whetherford was waiting. He felt a great deal more confident after his interesting conversation with the town's sheriff. Eustus was even ready to lower the asking price one thousand dollars if need be.

"I do hope I haven't kept you waiting long, Mr. Whetherford? Carson! Bring a bottle to my table, along with two glasses."

"I just arrived only moments ago, Mr. Mosby."

The two men sat at Clay's private table near the back door. Carson brought the whiskey and glasses then poured each man a drink.

"Have you thought about my offer, Mr. Mosby?"

Mosby smiled. "I must say, fate has allowed me a very agreeable opportunity. I don't see how I could permit a $5,000 profit to walk away."

Eustus Whetherford studied Mosby as he spoke. "Then, we have a deal?"

"We do indeed, Mr. Whetherford. When would you prefer to make the exchange?" Clay asked.

"Well I, I would prefer tomorrow morning. There's an eastbound stage coming through and I would feel more secure if we were to make the transaction before it arrives. Those diamonds are worth a great deal of money and I always fear being robbed."

"Well I see no reason why we can't wait until tomorrow, Mr. Whetherford. I will have your $5,000 in exchange for the uncut diamonds."

Eustus Whetherford held back a laugh. "I will provide you with the legal papers to show the authenticity of the jewels as well as all the information concerning the buyer." He stood up. "Mr. Mosby, it's a joy to do business with you. I'll meet you in the morning at the bank. Say . . . 10 o'clock?"

"10 o'clock," Clay said.

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

Out past the windmill, beyond the endless plains, a bright reddish-orange glow was coloring the western horizon. Call had avoided Gretchen all day. She had done likewise. Now, as dusk embraced the town, Call could be seen sitting alone on the bench on the side of the mining supplies building, below Dr. Cleese's office.

Paige Brandt finished sweeping the front of the dry goods then leaned the broom against the wooden wall and walked over to Call. "Hey, Call," she said as she sat down on the bench. He turned his head only halfway toward her and nodded slightly. She giggled some and shook her head. "Well if you two aren't the most miserable couple I know."

Call frowned.

"You miss her, don't you, Call?"

He nodded again, but just barely.

"She misses you too, Call. You should be with her right now." Paige hesitated as she continued smiling. "Gretchen said you know where she'll be."

Call looked at the ground for a moment. He stood up and before heading to the special place he turned to Paige and nodded. She nodded back approvingly. As he crossed the street to go find Gretchen, Paige sat back beaming with pride.

"And Cupid shoots another arrow." She giggled happily.

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

Call walked along the side of the Bank and past the Sign Works building in the back. He climbed the small hill, weaving between the scattering of trees until he saw Gretchen sitting on the log that had now become their secret spot. He pulled his hat off and smiled at her. Gretchen smiled back, but to Call she seemed strangely as nervous as he felt. He sat down next to her on the log. For an agonizingly long minute neither one spoke. Then, Gretchen put her hand lightly on his arm.

"Are you mad at me, Call?"

He snapped his head, causing his long, tangled hair to swing in front of his face, partly blocking his eyes. "No! Why would you think that?"

"Because I had to leave this morning." She rocked slightly and breathed hard.

"Because . . . I . . . I . . . Call. I'm afraid."

He opened his mouth but nothing came out. He closed his eyes for a moment then opened them and looked at Gretchen. "Think I am too."

Gretchen now leaned into him. "What are we going to do, Call?" She sighed deeply. "I don't want to be away from you, Call." She looked at him with those green eyes. "I . . . I can't think of anything but you. I didn't want to leave you. I wanted to stay and let the whole world see us together. I did, Call. I really did."

"Reckon I did too," Call agreed. He pulled Gretchen closer so she could sit in his lap. They sat together quietly for a few minutes.

"I want to be your woman, Call," Gretchen whispered in his ear.

Call nodded and smiled. "Think I'd like that . . . Coyote."

Gretchen's mouth opened wide and she sat up. "Oh, I'm a coyote, am I?" She giggled and her eyes sparkled. "Well how's this for being a coyote?" She stood up and shoved him back. As Call fell back off the log he reached out taking hold of Gretchen's hand and pulling her with him. She screamed a happy and carefree scream as Call fell into the grass and Grechen fell on top of him, her chest against his. They looked into each other's eyes and laughed. The air smelled so good as the sour apples in each of their bellies was now like honey. They wrapped their arms around each other, ignoring the rest of the world.

"Think we should stay here awhile," Call suggested.

"Anything you say, Call."

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

The next morning at 10 o'clock Clay Mosby and Eustus P. Whetherford were waiting in front of the bank as the town's banker turned the key to unlock the door. Mr. Whetherford's baggage sat outside as he anticipated a most hasty departure once the eastbound stage arrived. The thin, balding jeweler walked inside with Clay as the banker rolled up the blinds and made small conversation that neither man was interested in.

Across the street and out of view, Mason Dobbs watched the building. Both Clay and he had decided it best for him not to be anywhere close to the transaction, for fear of scaring away the con man.

"Here you are, gentlemen," the banker replied as he placed the dark blue bag on the table. He turned and closed the safe. Eustus Whetherford grabbed the small bag and loosened the ties, then emptied the uncut diamonds onto the table.

"There you are, Mr. Mosby. Those are genuine, out of the ground, pure, uncut diamonds," Mr. Whetherford said, as he looked up at the large wall clock. 10:05AM.

Clay Mosby picked up one and turned it. He put it back with the others then placed his finger on his mouth. "If I'm not mistaken, didn't you tell me there were twelve uncut diamonds, Mr. Whetherford? There seems to be only eleven here before us."

Eustus Whetherford's mouth opened slightly. "One, two, three . . . ten, eleven!" He stared at the diamonds. "I thought . . .? Perhaps I miscounted. Mr. Mosby, I assure you . . ."

Clay must have felt the man was telling the truth. "I want to be sure once Mr. Porter, the buyer arrives, that he is not expecting twelve diamonds."

"Oh, no. He isn't," Mr. Whetherford quickly said. "We never disclose the quantity we carry."

Clay watched as it was quite apparent Mr. Wetherford was truly perplexed about the quantity not being an even dozen. "Well, shall we conclude this transaction, Sir?"

"By all means, let's," Mr. Whetherford replied.

Clay Mosby withdrew a pile of cash and handed it to the diamond seller. Mr. Whetherford quickly counted the money, finding the $5,000 to be all there.

"Well, I would enjoy staying and having a drink with you, Mr. Mosby, but I really must be leaving. The sooner I am sitting inside that stage the easier I will breath. You understand?"

Clay nodded and smiled. "I do indeed understand. I will await the arrival of Mr. Porter and inform him I am the seller."

Eustus P. Whetherford shook hands with Clay and hurried outside the bank to nervously await the stage. Clay thanked the banker and left.

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

The stage was early. Almost a full hour early. Mr. Whetherford was seem handing the driver money to leave town immediately. He had no desire to have Clay Mosby realize he had just cheated him out of $5,000. As the stage pulled out and passed the bath house on its way east, Clay Mosby climbed the stairs to his saloon and went inside. He went to the far end of the bar and poured the genuine uncut diamonds on the stained countertop. He counted them again. Eleven. He shook his head and laughed slightly.

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

Clay Mosby and Mason Dobbs shared a victory drink together. They had turned the con man's scam on him and his partner. And both men were feeling quite proud of their particular skills.

"I'll wager, amigo," Mason said, "that if I hadn't spoken poorly of you to that jasper, he might have pulled out of the deal."

Clay chuckled. "I will say one thing, Sheriff Dobbs. We couldn't have done this alone. Our combined efforts were quite . . . extraordinary. There's just one small matter. One of the diamonds seems to have been misplaced. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"

Mason looked at Clay. "I am a reformed man, like yourself."

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

Inside the sheriff's office fifteen minutes later Mason Dobbs sat on top of the desk. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an uncut diamond and held it up. He smiled and put it back in his pocket, then walked outside.

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

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