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.


For Deeds Past Done
(30th in the Romancing the Plains series)
by Craig Caff

"Always seems to take more than one, doesn't it."
"Because they're no good."

(Nelse McLeod and Cole Thornton - "El Dorado")

Two miles east of Box Elder Creek, a small way station between Winnett and Curtis Wells: Six men seated at a corner table -- turning hands of small-stakes poker. Whiskey was consumed with a 'keep 'em coming' attitude and the game developed into high stakes Montana Red Dog. Two of the men whose luck had run kind of muddy cashed out and crossed the smoke-filled room, relocating to the bar. Borderline drunk by now, it required only one more whiskey to loosen tongues. The words Curtis Wells seemed to hold a mutual interest for both men. With guarded glances around the darkened room, their voices suddenly lowered.

"I was run out of there back a spell," one of the men said. He raised his eyebrows. "I been waiting to go back . . ." His voice trailed off, but his meaning was clear.

The other man, a few years older, with darker, shorter hair, leaned near his new ally. "There's a man named Mosby, there. He runs things." He shook his head. "I owe him."

"He must have been out of town when I was there," the long haired man said. "I don't remember no one by that name. The man I'm after's named Call."

The short haired man's eyes widened. "Hell! Call took on Mosby. I got no quarrel with him."

The first man laughed. "Why don't we partner up? I got it all planned. I'll deal with Call. You do whatever you want with Mosby."

The short haired man gazed at his companion for a few seconds. "And, then what?"

"I don't much care. I came back for revenge."

He nodded. "Same here."

The long haired man extended his hand. "I'm Toby Finch."

"Bevan," the other replied, shaking hands. "I used to work for John Stocker."

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

The first time Ashley Jessup had been seduced, she was sixteen. Her older cousin's friend, across the lake in Slidell, led her astray. She quickly became adept at finding reasons to constantly visit her Aunt -- retreating with her cousin's friend to the servants quarters where they copulated for over a year. It wasn't until she met the curly-headed Bobby Joe Beauvais, that she broke ties with her lover. Her fiance, a private in the Confederacy, died just before the end of the war. She mourned for an extended period, before allowing herself to be seduced again.

Mrs. Ashley Mosby didn't care for the small house she was currently living in. For that matter, she really didn't love Clay Mosby. Not in the romantic sense or with the passion and magic that Newt and Gretchen Call had. Fond, would be a more appropriate word. It was understood -- neither of them would ever again experience the love they once knew two decades earlier.

Tiring of indecision regarding what to wear, Ashley finally selected a dark blue dress. As she was about to remove her robe, there was a knock on the door. Expecting Clay, she called out, "it's open!" With her back to the door, she loosened her robe, letting it drop to the floor. Standing in the bedroom wearing only her white corset and black, silk stockings, Ashley awaited Clay's hands on her body.

"You are quite breathtaking, Ashley!"

The voice didn't belong to Clay Mosby. Ashley spun around, cupping her hands over her nearly exposed breasts. "Robert! What are you doing in here?!" Her voice was not inviting.

Robert stared lustfully at her entire body. He shook his head. "You look good enough to eat, Ashley."

Her arms partially covering her chest, Ashley protested, "please wait outside until I am dressed. I don't think it's appropriate for you to be here now."

Robert Shelby laughed. "You can't be serious, Ashley? Not after that night at the Call's?" His tone was one of disbelief.

"You may find this offensive to your masculinity, Robert," Ashley replied, "but I do not fantasize about you, or any other man. I am quite satisfied with Clay. Most women would be. There will be occasions where I require the services of both of you. Not today, Robert."

"Damn you, Ashley!" Robert angrily cried. "I will not be teased!" He reached out suddenly, pulling her roughly against him.

"NO!" Ashley argued, grunting to free herself.

Robert forcefully pushed her onto the bed. Ashley kicked violently at Robert's groin, barely missing it. Before she could move, he was on top of her, holding her struggling body with one hand -- freeing his manhood with the other hand.

"You bastard, Robert! Don't you dare! I'll tell Clay you raped me!"

Robert was like an animal -- shoving her legs into the air -- penetrating her against her will. Her arms were pinned at her sides. Ashley managed to drive her forehead into Robert's nose, causing drops of blood to splatter on her cheek and neck. Her struggle turned to tears, sliding into the drops of blood.

Once he finished and withdrew, Robert stood above her, panting hard. Ashley refused to look at him, burying her tear-stained face into the messed up bed sheets.

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

Gretchen Call took her husband's hand and placed it on her lower belly. "I never felt anything like it before, Call. The baby kicked! I felt it! Call! It kicked!" She stared at him, smiling. "Our baby, Call."

Call held his hand on Gretchen's stomach for a few seconds then wrinkled his face. "How long before the baby does it again?" He was both excited and confused.

"I don't know, Call," Gretchen laughed. "This is new for me, too. I wonder if Victoria's baby has kicked yet?" Gretchen grabbed her hairbrush and resumed brushing her hair. She looked at her husband. "Mrs. Scully said Victoria and I were glowing, Call."

"I reckon so," he replied, smiling contently at her. "Seems to me you been glowing ever since I first kissed you."

"I've been in love with you since before that first kiss behind the store, Call," Gretchen softly said to her husband. "Do you like the names we've chosen, Call? I mean, if the baby is a boy? Or, if it's a girl?" Gretchen asked.

"Yep. I reckon those names will do fine, Gretchen."

Gretchen's smile suddenly vanished. "Call? . . . we don't have to travel to Missouri. We really don't."

"Something happen I don't know about?"

"No, Call. I've just . . . just been talking with my sisters. St. Joseph is so much bigger than Curtis Wells, and . . ."

"This have anything to do with all them folks stuffed in here after the snow storm?"

Gretchen giggled. "Well . . . truth be told, you weren't very happy with all of them. There's a lot more folks in St. Joseph then Curtis Wells." Gretchen paused from brushing her long hair. "Mrs. Mosby is very attractive. Don't you think so, Call?"

"I guess," he shrugged, "if you tend to favor someone like her. Seems to me you're a fair piece prettier than her. The way I see it, Gretchen, you got yourself the prettiest green eyes I ever seen."

Gretchen bit her lower lip, smiling. She leaned near Call and kissed him, then playfully bit his lower lip.

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

Robert Shelby dipped his clean, white handkerchief into the water bowl and wiped the blood from his nose. He quietly watched Ashley Mosby stand up. Squinting as he leaned in close to look at his nose, Ashley rushed up behind him, grabbing his gun handle.

"You bastard!" she cried.

Robert pushed her back, causing Ashley to fall onto the bed. He stood motionless for an instant, staring at her. "Aren't you carrying the playacting a tad far? What if the gun went off?"

Ashley flashed a smug smile. "When you become part of my little games, Robert, you have to expect it will be rough."

He pointed to his nose. "Then, I would say you were successful, Ashley."

"That's the price you pay," she replied. "You've torn my silk stockings, Robert. Now I'll have to put on another pair. They are not inexpensive."

"Then I must insist on buying you another pair, Ashley. Perhaps you should keep the torn ones. I can tie you to the bedpost with them next time," Robert hinted.

Ashley adjusted her breasts, exposing her pink, hardened nipples for a moment. "You could have pulled them off and done that today, Robert." She smiled coyly. "I do not like planning in advance. I prefer that things . . . happen . . . in the moment."

Robert walked to the door, turned and stared at her. He groaned. "I could be persuaded to tarry a bit longer."

Ashley laughed. "Oh, I'm sure you could be persuaded quite easily. Good day, Robert."

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

Ike stepped inside the Brandt Sisters' dry goods and clothing store. He squinted like a rodent rearing its head into the sunlight. Victoria smiled as Ike approached her. He noticed Paige sweeping the floor near the back of the store.

"Mrs. Cleese? I was asked to deliver this telegram. It's for your sister." He handed Victoria the folded, white note.

"Thank you," Victoria replied.

Ike nodded and quietly walked out. Victoria brought her youngest sister the note.

"You received a telegram, Boo," Victoria said.

Paige turned quickly. "Is it from Mother?" She leaned the broom against the nearest counter and took the note. Without hesitation, she unfolded it, reading it with Victoria.

Had To Return Hat Creek

See You Tomorrow

Fondly, Dish Boggett

Paige sighed. "Do you see that, Victoria? He said, fondly!"

"Between you and Gretchen," Victoria said, "you wear me out."

"Oh! Hush, Victoria," Paige replied, hugging her oldest sister. "What if I've decided I no longer desire a man of means? What if I want the same happiness Gretchen has?"

Victoria thought about it. "Since we were little girls, Gretchen has been adamant about that one special man she would fine. You and I both wanted something our little minx of a sister never even cared about. The love your sister has for her husband is something you rarely find -- even in stories and novels. I know Ephraim and I have a different type of love. It will grow deeper and stronger with time. But it will never be quite the same as Gretchen and Newt's love."

The door opened and Mattie Shaw entered the store with young Dewey.

Paige leaned close to Victoria and quietly said, "we've already kissed." She giggled and hastened down the aisle toward Mattie. "Hello, Miss Shaw. Well, hello, Dewey."

"What?!" Victoria replied. "Paige?" Victoria moaned. She hoped her baby would be a boy. She just couldn't handle another girl like Gretchen or Paige. "The first one will likely be a girl," she mumbled, watching Paige. "I suppose I will have white hair before you, Mother," she mumbled.

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

The next morning Captain Call was in a poor mood.

"Well, I already sent Miss Brandt a telegram, Cap'n," Dish explained.

"Damn it, Dish!" Woodrow angrily said. "I need you here."

Dish Boggett lowered his head, his thumbs hooked into his pants. "Well, I guess I know that, Cap'n. But if Newt's running horses out here, it makes sense that I help him. Two of us can do better than one man, Cap'n."

"What about this girl?" Woodrow said.

Dish exhaled nervously and shuffled his feet. "Well, I just might marry her, Cap'n. I can still ride for you. And besides, she's Newt's wife's sister."

Isom Pickett finally couldn't contain himself. He had to bust out laughing. "They gonna civilize you, Cap'n. They gonna civilize you real good." He shook his head.

"As I recall," Woodrow replied, looking at Isom, "I gave you a job to do."

"Yessir, Cap'n," Isom said, still laughing.

"I won't tolerate you splitting time between here and Curtis Wells. Ride out first light tomorrow morning. You get yourself back here soon, you hear?" Woodrow ordered Dish.

Dish nodded. "Yes Sir, Cap'n Call."

Isom Pickett walked back to Woodrow. He put his hand on the Captain's back. "Love sure enough is a terrible thing. Come on, Cap'n. Let's have us a cup of coffee."

Woodrow Call grumbled and followed Isom to where Sarah Pickett was waiting with the coffee.

"You best face facts, Cap'n," Isom said, offering advice. "Ain't no stopping love. Newt's wife is gonna make you a grandpa. Newt's gonna be a daddy."

Woodrow Call didn't respond or acknowledge the comment. He didn't spend much of his time thinking on it. It was a straight forward answer. How could he set about being a grandfather when he had never really been a father? He didn't stress over it -- he just didn't bother thinking about it. There were more important things than babies and wives.

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

"What do you suggest I do, Twyla? Hmm?" Clay Mosby stood poised -- hands on his hips.

The sporting club's Madam huffed. "All my girls shouldn't be punished, Mr. Mosby."

Dr. Ephraim Cleese nervously wiped his specs with his handkerchief. "I tend to agree."

Mosby glared menacingly at the town's doctor. "Oh, well fine, Cleese! You leave the doors open and half the town will be infected with syphilis."

"Well," Cleese sheepishly replied, "it is only three girls. Perhaps if they were to abstain?"

"They happen to be whores, Doctor!" Clay was becoming angry. An epidemic of syphilis wasn't in his plans for Curtis Wells. Better to remove the infected prostitutes before anyone else caught the disease.

Dr. Cleese walked over to the front doors. Clay followed. "What about you, Clay?"

"What about me, Cleese?"

Ephraim was thankful Clay Mosby wasn't the short-fuse stick of dynamite that his brother-in-law, Call, was. Although, since they had both married two of the Brandt Sisters, Call had softened his attitude toward Ephraim. "Have you had any sexual encounters with any of Twyla's ladies recently?"

"That is none of your concern!" Mosby replied. He was married now and wasn't about to confide in Cleese that he still made time for Selena and Florie on occasion.

"I suggest you allow me to examine you in private, Clay. You wouldn't want to transmit a disease such as syphilis to your wife."

"I will not allow you to mention my wife inside a house of prostitution, Cleese." Clay turned to Twyla. "You remove those three whores, Twyla. If I receive word that one more whore has syphilis, I will shut you down immediately." He grabbed Ephraim by the arm and pulled him outside the sporting club. "I have not . . . under no circumstances, been intimate with the three infected whores." He stared at Cleese. "What of you, Ephraim? Hmm? How long has it been since you've paid a pleasure call to Twyla's?"

"I have a wife," Ephraim replied, bluntly.

"As do I," Clay remarked. "And I do not appreciate your references concerning me. Are we understood? Now, how long has it been?"

"I have not soiled myself with one of Twyla's ladies since asking Victoria Brandt to accompany me to her sister, Gretchen's wedding with Call. That was four months ago."

Clay smiled. "Bravo. Good for you, Ephraim. Now, I have a saloon to run. Deal with the whores and the syphilis."

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

Austin Peale jiggled a few doorknobs then headed back to the jail. It was nearing midnight and spring was less than a week away. The big snowstorm from a week ago seemed like the last hurrah of winter.

Austin poured himself a drink and sat on his cot. Since beating up Rosa a while back, Sadie was the only whore who would let him touch her. Austin shook his head. Sadie was one of the three girls who had syphilis. It made him hate Newt Call even more.

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

Gretchen and Call were still awake in their bed. Call sat on the side. Gretchen pulled him down, next to her. She was careful not to pull him on top of her -- her breasts were too tender now. "Call! Isn't it wonderful!" She cupped her hands over his. "Our baby is growing! I'm going to give you a son, Call! Or, a daughter!"

Call nodded, sort of dazed. There were still times it just didn't seem real. This girl had showed up one day from Missouri and the next thing he knew he was falling in love with her and wanting her for his wife. He had found himself desiring to be with her every moment he could. Now she was pregnant with their first child. Life sure was peculiar.

Gretchen adjusted herself so her head could rest on his shoulder. She was most happy and content whenever they were together.

"Supposin' we were to pull up stakes and head out to California?" Call's query was sudden and unexpected.

Gretchen moved her head to look at her husband. "Call, I will gladly follow you anywhere and not complain in the least."

"What about your sisters?"

Gretchen groaned quietly. "I would miss them terribly, Call. And so much now that Victoria and I are going to bear children. Call, you're my husband. You and I and the baby. The three of us. Wherever you want to go, we go as a family. We'll make what we can of it."

Call nodded. "I reckon so, Coyote Girl. You like it here?" he asked.

"Yes, Call. I do like it here. I met you here. I'll always be fond of Montana because it's where I met you." Gretchen carefully rolled on top of Call, adjusting her breasts so they would be in the least uncomfortable position.

Call held his wife close to him. "Was just thinking, is all."

Gretchen put her warm lips on his and kissed his mouth. "I love you so very much, Call. I really am happy."

Call kissed Gretchen back. He liked how her kisses and mouth tasted. Her distinct aroma. He felt her soft, long hair and inhaled her fragrant smell. "I suspect that I'm content. Never been real happy. Feel that way when I'm with you. I feel miserable when we ain't together. Tend to miss you. I expect I'll love you forever, Gretchen Call."

"Forever and ever, Newt Call," she whispered. "I'll love you forever." Gretchen drifted off to a peaceful and content sleep with Call's arm wrapped around her, resting on her stomach.

Call laid awake, pondering the direction his life had taken, when the baby suddenly kicked again. Call immediately smiled. It was something he had never felt before and he was finding himself liking it.

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

Toby Finch and his partner, Bevan, stood in the doorway of the No.10 Saloon. Part wood -- part canvas. The customers were mostly the lost souls of Curtis Wells. Their eye sockets were blank. They neither cared, nor participated in town activities. If they recognized either man, no one showed any interest.

Toby suggested Bevan buy a bottle of whiskey. Bevan was the type of man who needed to be told what to do. He expected it. Toby was more suited to give orders, not take them. The pair seemed like compatible partners.

Toby Finch poured two inches of watered-down whiskey into the dirty glass belonging to a young woman who worked the No.10.

"You know Call?"

She drank the whiskey and smirked. "Everyone knows Call around here."

Toby glanced at Bevan. He was nervous. "Relax," Toby said. "Have a drink."

Bevan didn't say anything. He threw the drink down his throat, grabbed the bottle and poured another.

"Your friend seems a mite skittish," the woman remarked.

Toby smiled and waved his hand kind of casual. "Ahh, he's all right. Tell me about Call."

The woman closed her eyes and yawned. "There's nothing to tell. He married a girl from Missouri. Some sisters that run the dry goods across from the hotel."

Toby Finch dropped his fingers under the table and tickled his gun handle. "Newt Call got hitched? I'll have to give him a wedding present."

****

"Damn!" Toby Finch said. "You're sweating like it's the middle of summer. You sure you can handle this?"

Bevan paused. He looked around -- every shadow made him suspicious. "I'm fine. I just don't want nobody seeing me."

Toby shook his head. "I plan to enjoy my revenge on Call."

"Not me," Bevan replied. "I just want to kill Mosby and ride." He walked past Twyla's heading for the Ambrosia. "Good luck to you."

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

It was cold outside. Bevan stood on the side of the Ambrosia Club, breathing out small clouds of steam into the darkness of night. He was uncommonly nervous -- drops of sweat clinging to his back -- his palms clammy. Bevan swallowed hard. His heartbeat was accelerated so much that he had to lean against the building. "Damn you, Mosby," he quietly said.

It had been ten minutes since Clay Mosby had shuffled the last of his customers out the doors. Bevan's hand shook almost uncontrollably as he held his gun. He wiped the sweat off his brow to keep it from his eyes. Suddenly, he heard the door open and close, then a key turning in the lock. Bevan peered from the side of the building. "Mosby," he whispered. There were no lamps lit near him, but he knew from the curly hair and the duster that it was Clay Mosby.

Bevan cocked the hammer and stepped onto the wooden sidewalk. His heart pounded loud and his hand continued to shake as he quietly moved closer.

"Mr. Mosby!" As he turned, Bevan shoved the gun near his belly and squeezed the trigger. He squeezed it again, firing dead center into the stomach. Bevan heard him groan and sink to his knees, his head lowered. Bevan angled the gun and shot him in the head. He watched him fall face down. Blood was quickly covering the wood, running down the steps, into the now-red snow.

"I killed him! I killed Mosby!" Bevan said, running into the street, disappearing as folks began to emerge from darkened buildings.

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

It was as if they knew something terrible had happened. As if a tragedy had just transpired and nothing could be done to correct it. Gunshots in the dark of night frightened some and confused others. Men were yelling and searching until Josiah Peale noticed the lifeless body in the duster lying face down in his blood.

"Over here!" Josiah yelled. "Mosby?"

Amanda and Robert Shelby reached the body and bent down. "No! It can't be," Amanda said in disbelief. "Someone gunned down Clay? Killed him?"

Robert turned the corpse over. Part of his face was blown off. He had to look closely at the gruesome remains. "It isn't Clay. It's Bailey."

Clay Mosby -- the real Mosby -- suddenly appeared. His wife, Ashley, at his side. Sheriff Austin Peale approached Clay.

"Someone mistook Bailey for you, Mosby," Austin reported.

"I can see that, Austin!" Mosby looked at his assassinated man.

"The hair and the duster must have fooled whoever did this, Clay," Robert Shelby replied.

Ashley winced at the sight of the dead man.

"I'll gather some of your men, Clay," Robert said. "If your cowardly attacker is in town, we'll find him."

Clay looked at his wife. "Perhaps you had better return to the house, my dear."

"Leave this to me, Clay," Robert urged. "It isn't wise to let your wife roam about in the dark. She should be guarded for her safety."

Clay hesitated, looking toward Ashley. "Yes. Perhaps you are right, Robert. However, I intend to not sit idly by and wait. Zeke! Take someone and escort Mrs. Mosby home. I want each of you posted at the front and rear of the house."

"Yes sir, Mr. Mosby," Zeke replied.

"Be careful Clay. Robert," Ashley said.

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

Amanda Carpenter returned to the hotel, comforted in knowing Clay Mosby hadn't been cut down in cold blood. She was considered hard for a woman, but the sight of Bailey's half-blown apart face had sickened her to the point where she expected to vomit.

Feeling suddenly lightheaded, Amanda stumbled into the kitchen. She closed her eyes, feeling nausea almost overcome her when her body reacted in a strange way -- tingling as if a ghost were near her. She spun around. "You?!"

Bevan grabbed her, tightening his grip firmly around her wrist.

"You're hurting me!" she complained.

"I . . . I don't mean to hurt you," Bevan stammered. "Damn! I killed Mosby. I need you to hide me. In your room."

Amanda stopped herself from revealing the truth -- the man he murdered was Bailey, who bore a mild resemblance to Clay Mosby. She noticed his eyes had a wild look -- like a cornered mountain cat. "Bevan, you can't hide. Mosby's men are tearing this town apart right now. They'll search every room here in the hotel. You should just take your chances and run."

"They'll string me up," he replied. It was the truth. The man who would assassinate Clay Mosby would receive no mercy when captured. He pushed her toward the dining room. "Let's just get upstairs into your room. Then I can think."

Amanda played along, allowing Bevan to force her upstairs. They quietly entered her room and she lit a small lamp. He stood near the window, peering through the sheer curtains, into the dark street below. Amanda opened the top drawer of her dresser.

"I don't plan on sleeping in these clothes," she casually said. She lifted a folded blouse and grabbed her derringer, then aimed it at Bevan.

"Damn!" he exclaimed. He moved quick, reaching out to shove her hand into the air. "You want me to shoot you, too?" He snatched the small revolver from her fingers. "You better just sit on the bed until I figure out what to do."

Amanda complied. "They'll be knocking on this door soon. If I don't open it they . . ."

"You'll have to be my hostage."

***

Less than ten minutes later, the heavy sounds of boots trudging up the stairs echoed throughout the hotel. Within moments a loud knock was heard on Amanda's door.

"Open up, Amanda!" It was Sheriff Austin Peale.

Amanda hesitated. She didn't think Bevan would shoot her, but he was desperate and a man under pressure was likely to act foolishly and dangerously. "Austin? I'm in bed. No one's in my room with me. I'm not dressed proper." There was silence, then she heard footsteps as Austin moved to the next room.

"So, what happens now?" she asked her abductor.

"I don't know. I . . . I need time to think. Damn! Mosby!"

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

At light's first break on the horizon, Unbob Finch shuffled across the empty field and began feeding his chickens and pigs, behind the back corral, near the rear of the livery.

"Hey, Pa."

Unbob turned. "Toby! My son!" Unbob awkwardly hugged Toby Finch. Toby allowed his father to hug him, standing rigid. "What're you doing here, Toby?"

"Aahh, just passing through. Where's Call?"

"Call? Well . . . I guess he'll be around sometime," Unbob replied.

"I want to surprise him. Don't tell him I'm asking about him, hear?"

Unbob nodded. "Are you staying a spell?"

Toby shook his head. "I got business to settle. I'll see you, Pop."

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

Call and Gretchen rode in from the east, pulling to a stop in front of the livery. They rode double on the Hellbitch. Call climbed down then helped his wife off the buckboard.

"I'm going to visit my sisters, Call. I can't wait to tell them that the baby kicked." Gretchen kissed her husband, smiled at him, then hastened down the street.

"Call!"

Call turned. "What do you want, Austin?"

Austin Peale walked over holding a cup of coffee. "I guess you never heard that someone tried to kill Mosby last night? They killed Bailey."

"That so? You catch whoever done it?"

"Not yet," Austin replied. "I'll find him."

Call nodded and headed down the street toward the dry goods. As he reached out to open the door, Paige stepped out. "Morning, Call." Before he could respond she grabbed his arm and pulled him into the street.

"You seem a mite excited, Paige," Call said, tolerating his sister-in-law's actions.

"I am, Call. Dish Boggett is coming to visit me today. He sent a telegram." Paige had fixed herself extra pretty. Her long blondish- light brown hair had been washed and a white bow was in the back of her hair. She wore her red and white calico dress. "Tell me more about him."

Call laughed. He scratched his cheek and shrugged. "Dish is a good worker. He don't quit."

Paige slapped her hand on Call's arm. "No, Call. Does he have a woman? Did he ever tell you anything about me?"

"Far as I know, he ain't got himself no woman. I reckon he spoke favorable about you. Seems to your sister and me you're both smitten."

Paige hugged Call and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you, Call." She turned and hurried back toward the store.

"Tell Gretchen I'll be there directly," Call said. Paige waved and rushed inside the store.

*****

"We searched everywhere, Clay," Robert Shelby confessed.

"No! Not everywhere," Austin Peale admitted. "Amanda's room. She wouldn't open the door. Said she wasn't dressed proper."

Clay Mosby frowned. "Since when has Amanda Carpenter ever been concerned about proper attire? The man we are searching for is in her room."

*****

"Yes, my baby's kicked already, Gretchen," Victoria said. The three Brandt Sisters were standing in the middle of the main aisle. Without warning, the back door was thrown open and a longhaired young man stepped inside, pointing a gun at the sisters.

"You! Pretty girl," he said, nodding to Paige. "Get over here."

"No!" Victoria cried. She stepped in front of her younger sisters.

"I don't want to shoot but I will," Toby Finch argued. He moved closer to the frightened women. "Let's go, Mrs. Call."

Gretchen started to say she was Call's wife but Paige quickly shook her head. "No! You're both carrying babies," she whispered to her sisters. "Let him take me."

The sisters began arguing among themselves. Toby tilted his head, confused. "Hush up!" he finally said, grabbing Paige by the arm and pulling her toward the door in front of the store.

"No! No!" both Victoria and Gretchen adamantly persisted, following Toby Finch.

Gretchen cried out, "I'm Mrs. . . ."

"I'm Call's wife!" Paige loudly interrupted. She wasn't going to let anything happen to the babies.

Toby Finch stepped out of the store and into the street as Call was crossing toward the dry goods from the side of the hotel, near the pump in the center of the street.

It was at this exact same moment that Clay Mosby, Robert Shelby, and Austin Peale were crossing the street near the Wells Fargo Banking House when Bevan stepped out of the Lonesome Dove Hotel with Amanda Carpenter as his hostage.

It was like two lines had been drawn in the muddy street -- the participants in four positions like an 'X'.

Then, chaos broke loose.

"Call!" Paige yelled.

"Don't come no closer, Call!" Toby Finch ordered. "I want you, not your wife, here."

Gretchen and Victoria ran into the street screaming, "Call!"

"MOSBY?!" Bevan cried out in astonishment. "I . . . I killed you!"

"You merely killed one of my hired hands," Clay Mosby said. Robert Shelby and Austin Peale began to separate -- spreading out to encircle Bevan.

"Get the hell out of my way, Mosby!" Call yelled, as he neared a walking-collision with Mosby's men.

"You get out of our way, Call!" Austin yelled back.

"All of you get away!" Bevan nervously said. His hand began shaking again as he held his gun on Amanda.

"I just want you, Call," Toby Finch said.

"Let her go!" Call yelled. "Ain't her you want. I'm here now!"

"I killed the wrong man," Bevan said. "I'll never get away now." He began breathing quicker.

As Gretchen and Victoria stepped closer to Toby and Paige, Call yelled, "Gretchen! No! Get inside! Take Victoria inside! Do it now!"

Gretchen nodded and trusting her husband, grabbed her older sister and ran back into the dry goods store.

"Dammit, Paige!" Call yelled.

"It's all right, Call. I couldn't let him take Gretchen. She's going to have your baby," Paige replied.

"Huh?" Toby Finch said.

"Back up, Mosby!" Bevan yelled. He was soaked in sweat now. "I won't miss you this time."

Mosby looked quickly at Call. ""Our Mr. Bevan never learns, does he, Call?"

"What?" Call replied.

Every man was tense. Bullets could fly at any moment. Two women were being held hostage at gunpoint. Town folks were gathering, though not standing too close. It was a bad situation all around.

"Do you recall a similar experience with Bevan?" Clay Mosby remarked to Call. He nodded slightly to Call, as if signaling him.

Call's eyes were narrow and unflinching. He realized what Mosby was trying to tell him and return a barely recognizable nod.

Without warning, Dish Boggett came riding in from the west, past the windmill and bath house, which were at Toby Finch's backside. "Paige!" Dish yelled, drawing his gun as his horse galloped closer.

Then, Hell opened its mouth and thunder exploded as guns were fired and black powder smoke rose into the street, affecting visibility slightly. The sudden appearance of Dish Boggett hadn't altered Clay Mosby's plan.

"Run, Paige!" Call yelled, as Gretchen's younger sister turned, hiked her dress and ran for the store.

As Toby Finch was forced to turn his attention to Dish, Dish now fired his gun.

Clay Mosby suddenly turned, exposing his side to Bevan and sure death if Call failed. Mosby fired his Remington. The hot lead burned deep into Toby Finch's side. Call turned and fired once at Bevan, hitting him in the left shoulder and driving him to the ground with the force. Amanda turned, hiked her skirt and ran for the Dove.

Dish Boggett stopped his horse so it was between Paige Brandt and Toby Finch, protecting the youngest Brandt sister, who hadn't reached the store's safety yet. Dish fired again, missing Toby from the motion of his horse. Clay Mosby raised his pistol to finish Toby Finch.

"No! Don't shoot him!" Unbob Finch came awkwardly hubbling toward his son.

Bevan aimed his gun but both Robert Shelby and Austin Peale emptied their guns into his body. Bevan shook then laid face up in the street dead. His eyes were open, staring blankly.

Dish jumped off his horse and ran to Paige. She ran into his arms.

Unbob dropped to the street, shielding his son. "No more! Leave him be! He's just a boy!"

As Robert and Austin stood over the dead body of Bevan, Mosby and Call approached Toby Finch. Unbob was weeping. Dish held his gun on Toby. There was nothing he could.

"Out of the way, Unbob!" Call ordered.

"Lordy, no, Call!" Unbob begged. "Please, Call?"

"He was going to shoot either my wife or his sister!" Call yelled.

Gretchen and Victoria ran outside and hugged Paige. Ashley Mosby had come out to look and stood near the sisters.

"He ain't ever gonna learn!" Call said, angrily.

"I agree," Clay Mosby replied.

Mattie Shaw finally broke through the gawking crowd and rushed to Unbob's side. "Leave Unbob alone! He didn't hurt your precious wife, Call! Just leave him be!" Mattie hugged Unbob.

"That ain't the point!" Call angrily replied. "Bastard's gonna pay!"

"Just think about poor Unbob!" Mattie barked.

"I'm thinking about my wife!" Call yelled. "And her sisters!"

"I've been shot!" Toby Finch cried. "I need a doctor."

Call cocked the hammer of his Colt. "Shut the hell up!" He shoved the gun near Toby's face.

"That's enough, Call," Sheriff Peale interrupted. "I'll lock him up. He'll be sent to the territorial prison. Someone get, Doc Cleese."

Paige was standing near enough to Call. "Call, please! Look at his father. Poor Unbob."

Clay Mosby put his hand out to stop Call. "I will see that justice is done, Call." He gave Call a small smile and nod. "I heard about how you gunned down four outlaws hiding behind badges, Call. Sheriff Virgil Bodine. I was out of town then. I heard as well that Toby Finch was nothing but a crass, loudmouthed braggart who you humiliated."

"So?" Call snapped.

"I intend to post a five hundred dollar reward -- dead or alive -- for Mr. Toby Finch. Provided he should decide to ever show up in Curtis Wells." Clay looked at Call. "Will that be adequate, Call?"

Call didn't answer. He didn't like it. He knew how Mosby, by his acts of forgiveness had nearly died when Frank Carpenter returned and almost killed him. It didn't sit well with Call to let an enemy walk.

Gretchen ran to Call and held him close. "There's been enough killing, Call."

Call blinked and began breathing slightly slower. Gretchen was the only person who had ever been able to calm the beast within. He looked at her and nodded. Then turned to Clay Mosby. "All right, Mosby. I guess it'll do."

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

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