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.


Petticoat Uproar
(34th in the Romancing the Plains series)
by Craig Caff

To know when to be quiet is more important
to good manners than is generally supposed.

(Arizona Daily Star, July 29, 1887)

Mrs. Ashley Mosby -- Lady Mosby -- as she insisted on being addressed by the servants, stood poised to release her fury upon the one object that would most agitate her husband. She glared at the painting hanging above the large, stone fireplace -- the flattering portrait of Colonel Clay Mosby -- the one painted by Monsieur Etienne Meloche.

If she were to take one of the kitchen knives -- slash it -- desecrate it -- then, and only then, would Clay possibly understand how she felt. To fornicate with other women -- the two young, female servants -- both attractive English girls -- even prostitutes from Twyla's -- Ashley could accept that. Hadn't she done the same thing? Copulating with Robert Shelby, as well as the two male servants Clay had hand-picked for her lustful needs. This was different. Clay now had another wife. A heathen, dirty Indian woman. It mattered little that the girl was Cheyenne. To Ashley, she was one of the disgusting savages that had no right to her husband.

"Excuse me? Lady Mosby?"

She turned -- flashing an angry glare upon Lorenzo. "Well?!" She demanded.

The handsome young Spaniard lowered his gaze. "Your breakfast is ready, Lady Mosby. Will you be dining at your usual location?"

She marched forcefully to the young servant, grabbing his arm. "Come with me! Now!"

Lorenzo had come to expect these bursts of passion from his master's wife. He even looked forward to them -- Ashley was still a most attractive older woman -- boasting a well proportioned figure that most women her age had long since lost.

Lady Mosby led Lorenzo into the water closet. On occasion, she would bring the young Spaniard here. She had always been the dominate one. Not today, however.

"Take me by force!" she ordered, causing a twinge of arousal inside Lorenzo's groin. When he hesitated, she hauled off, slapping him hard across the cheek. "Tear my clothes off and take me by force!"

The young man was momentarily confused. If he refused to obey Lady Mosby, she would order Mr. Mosby to take him out to the stable and give him a dozen lashes with the whip. She had never acted this way before. A servant forcing himself onto his mistress -- if not handled properly, could result in serious consequences.

"Are all you Europeans so incredibly stupid?" Ashley, stressed to the breaking point over the issue of Clay's Cheyenne wife, lunged for Lorenzo. She dug her nails into his face, pulling violently at his lip -- tearing out thick strands of his small, black mustache. Lorenzo hollered in pain, then nature interceded. Reacting to the brutal treatment, the young Spaniard grabbed Lady Mosby, ripping her dress open. Ashley, ever the consummate actress in these lustful encounters, fought him back, tooth and nail. She ripped at his hair -- kicking -- spitting -- anything to entice the Spaniard to humiliate her.

Abandoning all caution, Lorenzo threw her to the floor, ripping her clothes to shreds. She thrashed like a fish out of water as he fought mightily until he penetrated her -- with all the force and strength of his young body.

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

Clay Mosby poured coffee into two cups that sat on top of the chipped and stained bar. He preferred to be alone with Robert.

"How did you allow yourself to get into this?" Robert asked, lifting the small cup.

"I had nothing to do with this, Robert. It was that damn Frenchman. Telling those Cheyenne that I was the one who saved their chief. Why couldn't he had mentioned Call? Or, Dobbs, for that matter?"

"I'll wager I can answer that, amigo." Mason Dobbs stood inside the doorway of the Ambrosia. He was grinning.

Clay motioned the Texan inside. At this point, he was willing to listen to anything that might possibly make sense. Mason strolled over to the bar.

"Peaceful in here . . . before the drinking starts," Mason mumbled. Both Clay and Robert watched him -- waiting.

"You were going to answer me," Clay reminded him.

"I've been turning it over, amigo," Mason began. "The Cheyenne take these kind of things real serious like. They won't take kindly if you flat out refuse to bring your new wife home."

"I can hardly bring a young Indian woman into the same house as my wife, Mason!"

Mason winked at Mosby. "I got me a solution, amigo. Something I learned from the Mescalaro Apaches -- down New Mexico way."

Clay's attention was peaked. He bid Mason go on.

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

Mary Piatt had a plan -- a dark plan -- hatched behind her sultry dark eyes. She accentuated her looks by using candle soot for eyeliner -- flower petals to make her lips and cheeks pink -- giving her a pearl finish. She unbuttoned the top of her dress -- the one given her by the Brandt Sisters -- revealing a glimpse of cleavage.

Mary paused as she descended the stairs of the Lonesome Dove Hotel, gazing at Ike.

"Would you remove your hat, Mr. Ike?" she asked, coquettishly.

Ike, not used to female attention of any kind, fumbled nervously, finally managing to remove his bowler.

Mary Piatt tilted her head, as if deliberating a most important decision. "Hmm? Yes! I like you without the hat. You have such strong, masculine features." She put her hand to his cheek, rubbing lightly.

Ike's face lit up a bright shade of red. He grinned. If he could have tossed his bowler across the prairie, far away into the Dakotas, he would have in an instant.

Mary laughed and skipped down the last few stairs. She made a point to approach Amanda. "Good morning, Miss Carpenter. This is the nicest hotel I've ever been in."

Amanda, not taken in by the young woman's charms, had to laugh. "Honey, if this is the nicest hotel you've ever been in, then you haven't been around much."

Mary Piatt paused, regrouping. "No ma'am. I haven't. But, I do think this is a very nice hotel." Mary, sensing a confrontation she wasn't prepared for, hastened outside the hotel. She was met by two willing admirers -- Sheriff Austin Peale and his father, Josiah Peale.

"I seem to be quite fortunate today," she said. "Would it be brash of me if I were to ask you two handsome gentlemen to escort me around your delightful town?" She batted her eyelashes at them.

Josiah begged forgiveness, opting for another opportunity after he was to conclude some business with Clay Mosby. Austin, completely intoxicated by the enchantingly seductive young woman, readily agreed to escort her around his town.

Mary Piatt wrapped her slender arm around Sheriff Peale's arm, listening attentively as he slowly walked her around the town's two main streets -- providing a note of history as to each buildings use. She made sure to poke her head inside the dry goods store so she could greet the Brandt Sisters. It was to her surprise only Victoria and Paige were working.

"Where does Mr. Call work? Or, live? Which building?" she asked Austin.

"Call doesn't work anywhere. He's a bounty hunter. At least he was until he got himself hitched to that Missouri girl." Austin didn't understand why the mood had to suddenly change. Why talk about Call? He felt a tinge of anger.

"A bounty hunter?" Mary Piatt replied. Her eyebrows raised. "I find Mr. Call to be quite disgusting -- too dirty and grubby for my taste." She smiled at Austin. "I think you're much handsomer, Sheriff Peale. Any girl would prefer you over him."

Austin grinned. "Well, obviously, there is one who prefers him. His wife." He shrugged. "And I'm unattached."

"Lucky for me, isn't it, Sheriff. I have you all to myself. Besides," she said, "he called me a liar! I am not a liar."

Austin hesitated. "Well, maybe I can do something about making Call apologize to you."

Mary Piatt smiled. Things were working out just fine.

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

Paige Brandt was pleasantly surprised when she saw Dish Boggett step into the dry goods. It proved to be an opportune moment -- allowing Victoria to enlist her husband, Ephraim Cleese, to take her in the wagon out to Gretchen and Call's house. Victoria, though assured by her doctor husband that Gretchen's pregnancy was quite normal -- even though the older Victoria was now considerably larger with child than her younger sister, still tended to be wary about it.

"In my professional opinion," Dr. Cleese had recently stated, "Victoria will give birth to a rather large baby girl -- while Gretchen, on the other hand, will give birth to a much smaller baby boy." He prided himself in having the ability to determine exactly what gender an expectant mother's outcome would be. He pointed out to Victoria that he had been correct the previous nine times, and saw no reason why that should now change.

Victoria decided that it would be wiser not to share his professional opinions with either Gretchen or Newt -- there was nothing of any value in knowing beforehand. After all, hadn't Paige said she thought both sisters would have baby girls? Victoria merely shrugged -- the youngest Brandt sister's prediction was bound to be more wishful dreaming, than actuality. It was obvious that young Paige desperately wanted to be an auntie -- to care for and hold her two older sisters' babies. And it was perfectly sensible that three sisters would continue the tradition by having more girls. At least, in Paige's mind, it made sense.

Gretchen was outside washing clothes when Ephraim and Victoria rode up to the small house. As both pregnant sisters hugged, Victoria couldn't help but shake her head.

"We conceived at nearly the same time, and now I look as if I conceived a month before you," Victoria mentioned.

Gretchen smiled, putting her hands on her stomach. "Maybe you're going to have twins, Victoria. Wouldn't that be something?"

Victoria looked at Ephraim. "Ephraim doesn't think so. Where's Newt?"

Gretchen pointed toward the barn. "He been cutting some of the older trees -- branches that could damage the barn from a strong wind. He hasn't stopped since early this morning."

"Perhaps I could go say hello?" Ephraim suggested.

"Call's back there, Ephraim," Gretchen replied, nodding toward the barn.

Ephraim tramped across the yard, walking down the side of the barn until he found Call. "Oh! Good day, Call. My! You seem to be sweating quite profusely."

Call wiped his forehead with the back of his arm. He was short of breath. His hair had tangled and now hung in his eyes. "Ephraim," he nodded.

Call's canteen was hanging on a nail, on the fence. He stepped over to the canteen, pouring some of the cool water on his head, then drank some.

Ephraim took note of several small cuts and scrapes on Call's arms -- his sleeved had been rolled up. Ephraim knew Call would never take note of something so minor -- in his eyes. "Perhaps if I were a bit more strenuous I could have helped you."

Call looked at Ephraim. He laughed once. "I reckon come four months from now, I'll be needing you a sizable amount, Ephraim. I don't know nothing about babies being born. I'll be needing you, Ephraim."

It was a kind comment -- an honest comment. It made Ephraim feel better. "I most certainly will offer all my knowledge and medical skills to insure safety when your wife is ready to have your baby. You do know, Call, that our children will both be cousins. First cousins, as a matter of fact."

Call nodded, drinking more water. There was a confused look on his face. "Cousins are cousins, I reckon."

Ephraim just smiled.

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

It was the sound of laughter -- carefree, spirited laughter -- that caught Mattie's attention. She laid the Colt Peacemaker she was cleaning down on the glass counter, and walked out back -- overcome with curiosity. She paused in the doorway, staring about fifteen yards beyond the rear of her shop. Young Dewey was having the time of his life, straddled on the back of Mason Dobbs. Mason was on all fours, bucking and clomping about like an unbroken mustang. Mattie began to laugh as Unbob ran in spurts -- beside Mason -- behind him -- trying to be part of the Wild West Show.

Despite how much Mason twisted, Dewey wasn't about to relinquish his death grip. Mason finally surrendered - falling sideways into the spring grass. Dewey rolled into Unbob, tangling them both up. All three were laughing so hard their faces had reddened.

"If you three aren't the craziest . . .!" Mattie paused.

Mason leaned near Dewey, whispering something that had to be to sinister, as far as Mattie could figure. Dewey began to laugh so hard that snot ran out of his small nose. Mason ran over to Mattie and before she knew what he was up to, she was straddled over his back as he began bucking like a wild horse.

"Mason!" Mattie screamed. "You fool! Put me down!"

Dewey rolled over the open field like a carefree dog as Unbob laughed harder than he could ever remember doing before. Mason somehow ended up laying on top of Mattie as all four of them laughed.

Then, Mattie suddenly stopped laughing. She stared at Mason -- he stared back. Their faces were close together. Mason lowered his face, to kiss Mattie. Suddenly frightened, Mattie turned her face -- giving Mason her cheek. He paused, then twisted his head -- kissing her just barely on her lips.

Dewey ran and jumped on Mason -- unaware of what had just happened.

"One more ride, Mason!" Dewey excitedly begged. "I'm the best mustang breaker in Montana!"

Mason stood up, still gazing at Mattie. She was shaking now. She turned and hurried back inside.

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

So violent and rough had the young servant, Lorenzo, forced himself upon his master's wife, that Clay Mosby stared in shock when he gazed at Ashley, that night.

"Good God! What happened?" Clay asked.

Ashley was seated in the large bedroom, brooding. There were bruises and scratches covering her bare arms -- bruises and a few scratches that marred her unblemished face. A cougar, locked in a death fight with an angry grizzly -- tumbling down a rocky hill -- tearing at each other's flesh, might have resembled Ashley's appearance.

"Were you . . . raped?"

"This is what you will see each night as long as you insist on keeping that filthy little savage for your wife." There was fire in her eyes.

"Who did this to you, Ashley? I demand to know!" Clay dropped to one knee.

She looked at him and smirked. "You demand to know. How very chivalrous of you, you hypocritical bigamist!"

"That is enough!" Clay drove his fist angrily into the small maple stand next to Ashley. The wood shattered with an explosive crunch. Ashley stared coldly at Clay -- retreating not even an inch - ready to storm the gates of Hades.

"Are you going to slap me around?" she mocked.

Clay gazed at Ashley with contempt. "No. I rather think you would enjoy that." He swallowed, allowing his heart rate to slow down. Clay Mosby prided himself in being sensible -- not prone to rash behavior, such as the volatile Newt Call, whose fuse was so short that he could erupt into violent outbursts at any moment.

"And you will not sleep with me, nor in this room, until you divorce your heathen wife."

That was the final push. "That is preposterous?!" Clay bellowed. His voice carried throughout the large house -- reaching the servants, downstairs.

"Well," Ashley retorted, "whatever it is, that is precisely the way things will remain, until you do as I say. I will not tolerate this!"

Clay reached out, grabbing his wife's slender wrist. "You little tramp. After all the leniency I have tolerated with you!"

"Stop it! You're hurting my wrist!" She struggled, then rose, trying to slap his face with her other hand.

Clay merely smirked, pinning her with his more powerful arms. "This is unacceptable! I came here to notify you that a solution has been proposed concerning that damn Cheyenne woman." He pushed her forcefully onto their bed.

Ashley bounced, then turned. Her breasts heaved in anger. "What solution? Tell me?"

"Perhaps you should be warned, my dear Ashley. While you delight in your little fantasies, lording it over the hired help, do not lose sight of exactly whom, is in charge, here! Are we understood?"

Ashley was silent. Whatever else she was, she was not a fool. She knew quite well that Clay Mosby could throw her out of their house -- take away the servants -- send her back to New Orleans. Even divorce her. Then, where would she be? She breathed deeply. It was time to use a clear head. "All right then. Will you tell me what the solution is?" Her voice was softer.

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

Mary Piatt could scarcely believe her luck. Except for her initial confrontation with Call, no one had bothered to pursue her story about the brutal slaying of her grandparents and just why they had been gunned down in cold blood.

"Mr. Mosby? He's out of town," Sheriff Peale replied, when asked by Mary Piatt as to his whereabouts. She found that bit of information to her satisfaction. There was something about Mr. Mosby she wasn't comfortable with. Maybe it was the way he just looked at her as she retold her story up in Dr. Cleese's office. Clay Mosby frightened her more than Call. Newt Call was predictable -- put his head down and run straight ahead into the wall. Clay Mosby, on the other hand, was calculating and menacingly ruthless. She would have to work quick.

Mary patted her hand on the bench, smiling, for Austin to join her -- it was the bench Call had spent much of his time loafing on -- before Gretchen Brandt arrived in Curtis Wells. Austin sat down -- a wide grin painted on his face.

"I feel safer knowing you're protecting me, Sheriff."

"Well," Austin replied, "I do keep order around here."

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

Ashley Mosby couldn't understand why Clay insisted she ride along to the Cheyenne village. Robert Shelby, as well as Mason Dobbs, rode along with the Mosby's. When Clay had revealed what was in actuality, Mason Dobbs' plan, last night, she had approved. Riding into the heathen Cheyenne village, where half naked savages strutted, wasn't how she had anticipated spending her day. She had plans for the young Spanish servant, Lorenzo -- plans that would now have to wait until tomorrow. She despised these Cheyenne.

The unexpected arrival of two horsemen, along with Clay Mosby with the white woman seated next to him in the wagon, caused a minor stir within the Cheyenne camp. The dogs barked -- it seemed the Cheyenne dogs always barked. To Clay Mosby's relief, Monsieur Etienne Meloche emerged from one of the lodges.

"Monsieur Mosby! Ah! I see you have brought your lovely wife. Madam!"

The Cheyenne crowded around the small party -- the square-faced squaws staring at Ashley. It was intimidating.

When Clay climbed down from the wagon, the old woman who had performed the marriage ceremony approached with Young-Grass-That-Shoots-In-Spring. Ashley reddened with anger as she gazed at the young Indian girl. Ashley, though strikingly beautiful still, was no longer eighteen or nineteen, as this raven haired girl was -- she was, in fact, twice that.

Clay Mosby used his authoritative nature to command the French Canadian painter's attention, explaining what his intentions were. Monsieur Meloche stared at Clay when the proposal was spoken, then broadly smiled, shaking Clay's hand with vigor and excitement.

"Oui! Oui! Oui, Monsieur!" he repeated. He stared at Yong-Grass-That-Shoots-In-Spring.

Clay turned to Ashley -- she was pale -- fearful of the Cheyenne. He nodded. Success.

Etienne Meloche, normally a finicky, nervous little man, appeared to be delighted with Clay Mosby's proposal. He spoke with Black Elk, the chief, then went off, returning soon with one of the Cheyenne ponies. His easel, paints, and brushes were carefully laid in the back of the wagon that Clay and Ashley rode in. Young-Grass-That-Shoots-In-Spring sat in the rear, as well. Ashley refused to sit on the same bench seat with the Indian girl.

Robert Shelby and Mason Dobbs brought their horses to the wagon. Robert found himself staring at the bosom of the young Cheyenne girl. Clay had already allowed him access to his wife -- he now hoped for the same privilege with Clay's Cheyenne wife.

Monsieur Meloche spoke in Cheyenne -- he had managed to learn a fair amount by living with the Cheyenne for the past few months. Black Elk nodded once, then the party rode off.

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

Gretchen Call walked from the house, across the yard to the barn. She paused before going inside, taking a moment to stare off to the west, where the sky just above the distant mountains seemed to be on fire -- aglow with reds and oranges. She looked around -- this was her prairie now. She felt the baby kick inside the womb and smiled, cupping her hands gently over her stomach. She wanted to remember things just as they were at this moment -- the miracle of life -- a baby, growing inside her -- the wife of Newt Call -- the only man she had ever desired.

She leaned against the open door. There had already been talk of Victoria possibly leaving Montana -- returning to Missouri. Gretchen hoped her older sister would never leave. It would sadden her if their two babies -- both expected to be born around the same time, could not grow up together.

Gretchen was brought back to the moment as she heard her husband yell in pain, inside the barn. Hiking her dress, she ran inside.

"Call? What happened? Are you all right?"

Call paced back and forth, shaking his hand, grumbling.

"Call?"

He turned. "Damn hammer." He held up his thumb. It was throbbing from being hit twice now.

"Oh, Call," Gretchen whispered. She looked down at the wooden cradle he was building for their first baby. "It's beautiful. For our baby."

Call relaxed some. Gretchen had a way of soothing him unlike anyone else ever had. She took his hand in her hands and brought it to her lips, blowing warm air on his thumb, then kissing it. She smiled at him. "Thank you, Call. It can stay with us in our bedroom until the baby is old enough to stay alone in the other room."

Call nodded. "I just got two more nails then it'll be done."

"Supper's ready," Gretchen said, standing beside him. "It's still in the pot." The smell of cooked meat and potatoes lingered on her clothes.

"I'll be there directly," he replied, driving the first nail in.

"One more," Gretchen excitedly said. She smiled happily. A homemade cradle for their first child.

Call drove the hammer. "OW!" He jumped up, his face suddenly tense. "Sonofabitch!" he yelled. He had hit his thumb again. He tightened his grip around the hammer, looking around quickly for something to smash it against. The baby's cradle was the first thing he saw.

"Call! No!" Gretchen loudly ordered.

Call turned, looking wildly at the wall. He charged toward the wooden walls to slam the hammer into the wall -- possibly punch a hole right through it.

"Call! No!" Gretchen yelled. Now she was angry.

Call didn't stop.

"Call! Stop! You stupid ass!" Gretchen cried loud, running after him.

Call suddenly stopped. He turned to his wife, squinting. "Did you call me a stupid ass?!"

Gretchen caught up to him. She had never spoken to him that way before -- even when she was angry. "Yes . . . I did."

They stared at each other for a few moments then they both began laughing. She was close enough that he pulled her to him. Gretchen buried her face into his chest, as the young newlyweds shared an amusing moment.

"You called me a stupid ass!" He said again, causing them to continue laughing.

"Well, that was unnecessary, Call. What kind of thing is that to teach our baby?"

"The baby ain't even born yet, Gretchen," Call replied.

"I thought you were going to break the cradle, Call. If you put a hole in our barn, we don't have any spare money to buy wood for repairs." She put her hand on his cheek. "You have to learn to control your temper."

Call tilted his head, squinting. "I suppose it don't matter none when you take to busting plates?"

Gretchen smiled. "That's different, Call."

He was confused. "How you figure that?"

"I'm a woman, Sweetheart. I'm supposed to break things."

Call breathed out. He nodded. "I reckon." They both laughed again.

"Let's go eat, Call." Gretchen wrapped both her arms around her husband.

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

Young-Grass-That-Shoots-In-Spring had never been inside a wooden dwelling before. She walked around the great mansion close to her husband, Clay Mosby. Wherever Clay decided to go, the young Cheyenne girl followed like a shadow. Ashley finally stepped in front of the girl and held the back of her hand in front of the young girl's face.

"You'll never have a gold wedding band like this, you filthy little, dirt-eating savage."

Young-Grass-That-Shoots-In-Spring stared at Ashley -- no emotion in her dark eyes. She said,"Mitawa nu<ge conze. Nitawa i tuweni na take. Miye hca tuwe tawaci ku mitawa hi wasake ciksi." ("My ears are angry. Your mouth never closes. I am the one who will give my husband a strong son.").

Ashley stared at the young Cheyenne girl. "What did this little tart say to me, Monsieur Meloche? I should slap her brown little face. The insolent savage!"

Etienne laughed and waved his hands, attempting to be diplomatic. "My lovely Madame Mosby. S'il vous plait! She is frightened, non? She has never been inside a mansion before. For that matter, she has never been inside any type of house except her Cheyenne lodge." He turned to Mosby. "Monsieur, s'il vous plait? It would be wise for you to bring the girl somewhere and perform your husbandly duty, oui?" He spoke quietly.

Clay had already been told by the painter that he must copulate with the girl at least once or they would never be able to follow through with the plan. Instead, she would take her own life. Clay wasn't prepared for a tribe of angry Cheyenne to attack -- even a small tribe.

"Then, perhaps we should all make haste to end this charade as soon as possible," Clay replied to Etienne Meloche and Ashley. With Young-Grass-That-Shoots-In-Spring clinging to Clay, he led her away from the others.

*****

It was a simple plan offered by Mason Dobbs. It was a good plan. One he had once witnessed from the Mescalaro Apaches with one of the Concho County boys -- Three-Card Tom Philipie. When Mason had gone into the Ambrosia yesterday, he revealed the plan to Clay and Robert.

"It's not proper to refuse their hospitality," he said, "tends to stir their blood -- these hostiles already have hot enough blood."

The plan was for Clay Mosby to bring his unwanted Cheyenne bride back home with him. Etienne Meloche was also to accompany them -- his presence was necessary in order to shift responsibility of the young girl from one husband to another. It was acceptable -- in the eyes of the Cheyenne, to trade a wife -- provided another man was willing to offer something of equal value. Bringing Ashley along would show the Cheyenne that the Great Chief of the Wooden Dwellings already had one wife.

"That's where the little Frenchman comes in," Mason said, winking.

Etienne Meloche would paint the lustful Mrs. Ashley Mosby, as well as a portrait with both Clay and Ashley, together. The Cheyenne had come to place great value upon Monsieur Meloche's ability to capture the likeness of their image -- once it was thoroughly explained that profiles had nothing to do with stealing half the face of the superstitious Cheyenne. Still, it was safer not to paint any more profiles. There was no reason to poke around a bee hive.

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

Ashley Mosby had removed all of her clothing. A white bed sheet -- seductively covering only her private areas -- was all that would be used for the painting. Etienne Meloche fussed over the exact pose Mrs. Mosby should be positioned in -- taking the sheet and slightly lowering it from her breasts -- allowing a portion of her ample cleavage to be exposed.

Ashley suddenly grabbed Etienne's hand, brushing it lightly across the erect nipple of one breast. She brought the surprised painter's hand across her chest, lightly stroking both breasts -- stimulating her.

"S'il vous plait! Madam Mosby! Your husband!" cried the nervous painter.

"Oh, posh!" Ashley moaned. "You know very well that Clay is in bed with that filthy little savage, this very moment! And, I will demand that he wash her filth off before touching me. Now, Monsieur Meloche, since you are most kind to take that little heathen as your wife, why I simply must return the favor by thanking you. Since you will be bedding down with an Indian, I insist you sample the pleasures of a white woman. Some of us prim and proper Southern ladies can be quite nasty."

Etienne Meloche had become greatly aroused by Mrs. Mosby. His hand groped her breasts, as he yanked the bed sheet away from her. The enticement of forbidden fruit was too overwhelming for Monsieur Meloche.

"Before you paint my masterpiece, Etienne, I will deal with your masterpiece!"

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

Mary Piatt was sitting inside the hotel dining room, next morning, when she noticed Call and Gretchen ride into town. She watched intently -- Call helping his wife down -- Gretchen entering the dry goods -- Call walking up the street, possibly to the Ambrosia, or even the sheriff's office.

"I think my appetite is gone," Mary Piatt remarked.

Josiah Peale and his son, Austin, both waved off the fact that she had left more than half her breakfast sitting untouched on her plate.

"Are you still going to buy me a dress, Austin?" Mary Piatt looked at him, smiling.

Austin grinned, nodding. The young woman had completely charmed him. "Why don't we go across the street and you can pick one out," he said. "A girl who's been through as much as you should have a new dress."

Mary took hold of Austin's hand and quickly pulled him out of the hotel.

"He's smitten, Josiah," Amanda said.

"I suppose we all are . . . to some degree, Amanda," Josiah replied. "She's quite bewitching."

Amanda just smirked then walked a few tables over to where Mattie sat. "More coffee?"

Mattie just nodded. "Even though Mason had barely touched her lips, yesterday, it was a kiss that somehow affected her -- confused her. She had practically thrown herself at Clay Mosby and Robert Shelby -- only to be used and pushed aside. It made her hesitant. Yet, Mason Dobbs had never tried to force himself upon her. She stood up. She needed to clear her head. Maybe she had feelings for Mason? It was a plain fact that Dewey favored him.

****

Mary Piatt picked out the brightest dress in the Brandt Sisters' store. A bright yellow calico dress. She tried it on in back of the store -- there was a curtain where privacy was allowed if anyone desired to try on new clothes.

"I want this one!" she told Austin. She spun around for him, letting the bottom twirl out then fall back against her.

The sisters quietly watched as Austin pulled some of his savings out of the small vest pocket and paid for the dress.

"You're Mrs. Call, aren't you?" Mary said as Gretchen began to gather the discarded new dresses and carry them back to where they belonged.

"Yes. I'm Mrs. Call," Gretchen smiled.

Mary Piatt smirked. "I imagine you must toil daily -- being married to such a disagreeable and stubborn man?"

Paige marched up to Mary. "That was uncalled for, Mary Piatt!" What Paige lacked in maturity, she made up for in her sometimes aggressive nature.

"Oh, let her babble, Paige," Gretchen calmly remarked. She had long since gotten used to the simple fact that her husband was either spoken of quite favorably or else snide and undo comments were cast his way. He was different than most of the men she had seen in Curtis Wells -- most of the men she had seen back in Missouri, for that matter. It was to be expected that rude and petty remarks would trail a man like Newt Call.

"Well, I meant no offense," Mary Piatt replied.

"Yes, you did!" Paige insisted.

Gretchen, still holding two of the dresses Mary had tried on, walked up to her sister. "Do you think Call would fret over her comment, Paige?"

Paige giggled. "No, Gretchen. Call wouldn't bother with her comments."

"Then, neither will we," Gretchen replied.

Mary Piatt quickly headed for the door, handing Austin Peale the box with her other dress. "Come, Austin. I want to leave."

"He's part of our family now," Paige said, after they had left.

Victoria smiled. "He is our Newt, isn't he?"

Gretchen smiled, putting her hands on her stomach, feeling the baby. He's my Newt, she thought.

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

Ike's initial thought was to just cross the street and talk to Mary Piatt. He wore no hat and his hair was combed. The bright yellow dress was appealing and he meant to tell her so. That was until Austin sneered at him as he walked Miss Piatt up the street. Ike's shoulders drooped -- his head hung -- defeated, he returned to the safety of the hotel.

As Austin walked Mary Piatt up the steps to the sheriff's office, Clay Mosby and his wife, Ashley rode into town in the new buggy Clay had purchased for Ashley. The newlyweds sat close together.

"Am I pretty in my new . . .!" Mary Piatt suddenly paused -- her smile quickly souring as her and Austin stepped inside the jail.

"What the hell are you doing in here, Call?" Austin angrily said. "Get the hell out of my desk!"

Call looked up -- he didn't move away.

Austin marched up to Call. "I said, what are you . . .!"

"I heard you the first time," Call replied. He stared at Austin. He didn't flinch.

Austin noticed a pile of wanted posters in Call's hand. "What the hell are you doing with those? This is my office! I'm the sheriff."

"Just looking over some posters." Call now trained his gaze on Mary Piatt.

The mention of wanted posters gave her a start. "Stop staring at me! You have a wife."

Call smirked. "I ain't interested in you . . . not likely that way."

"Well, I don't like you staring at her, either, Call." Austin snatched the pile of posters from Call's hand. "Get out of here, Call."

Call turned his head, squinting as he looked out the window. "That's a strange dress to be wearing for someone who just lost their folks. Seems to me she ought to be grieving." Call stared at Austin.

Austin shook his head. "You son of a bitch, Call. You can't talk about Miss Piatt that way."

Call shrugged. He moved slow -- confidently -- to the door. "I sent off a wire to the Territorial Marshall. I reckon we'll know about her soon enough." He stared, then walked out.

Mary Piatt suddenly became flustered. "Austin! Don't let him do this to me! I am grieving. I would fall apart if not for you. I don't want to think about what happened out there. I could have been killed. My grandmother . . . my grandfather." She wrapped her arms around Austin, making sure to press her chest firmly against him. "I just want to get away from all of this. Will you take me away, Austin?"

Austin looked at Mary Piatt. Her request had been unexpected. She held him tight, trembling.

"Take me away from these people. Why are they being so cruel to me?"

"Only one man is bothering you," Austin said. "Call! I'll take care of him right now!" He pulled the door open and rushed outside -- Mary Piatt following close behind.

"CALL! Turn around!" Austin quickly marched down the street.

Heading back to the dry goods, Call was in front of the Ambrosia when he heard Austin holler. He turned around.

Paige Brandt was sweeping the front of the store. She dropped the broom and opened the door. "Gretchen! Victoria! Hurry!" The sisters hastened outside. "Look!" Paige said.

Clay Mosby and Robert Shelby stepped out of the saloon, watching. Mattie and Amanda stood in front of the Dove. Josiah came out of the Statesman.

"Austin?" Josiah cried. "Stop this -- now!"

"Stay out of this, Father," Austin replied. He tucked his duster behind his back, pulling it tight with his left hand -- his right hand poised near the gun hanging on his right thigh.

Call stared at Austin. "You can't outdraw me, Austin." He looked at Mary Piatt, standing to the side of Austin. He nodded toward her. "You set on dying because of her? She's got you so you ain't hardly thinking straight."

"SHUT UP!" Austin screamed. "Just shut up, Call! I've had it with you."

Gretchen's face paled. "No! No!" she cried. Victoria and Paige both had to restrain her from running into the street. "He's my husband! Let me go!" They held firm.

Clay Mosby suddenly walked into the street.

"Get out of the street, Mosby!" Austin ordered. "You can't save him this time."

Clay Mosby turned to Call, then back to Austin. "It is you, Austin, that requires saving. I have no doubt whatsoever that if you continue with this act of foolishness, I will pin that badge on a new sheriff . . . right after Call kills you."

"You got a lot of faith in me, Mosby!" Austin replied.

"Well, as they say, Austin . . . faith may move a mountain, but it will hardly prevail against a faster gun," Clay remarked. "Why this sudden interest in a gunfight on my street, Austin?"

"He's calling Mary Piatt a liar -- he sent a telegram to the Territorial Marshall -- checking her story!"

Clay turned to Call. "Have you done all Sheriff Peale has accused you of doing, Mr. Call?"

Call stared at Austin -- it could be fatal to turn his eyes away. "Yep."

Mosby nodded. "Bravo, Call." He looked at Austin again. "I suggest you stop behaving like a complete ass and go back inside, Austin. I, too, have my concerns about Miss Piatt. I will not say it again, Austin."

There was a tense moment -- no one budged. Austin blinked first. He let go of the duster and walked back toward the jail.

"Tell me something, Call?" Clay Mosby asked. "Would you have killed him?"

Call was still tense. He just looked at Mosby, not saying anything.

"It just came in!" Mason Dobbs said out loud as he stepped out of the telegraph office. Mary Piatt heard him as she was walking back inside the sheriff's office.

Mason shared the telegram with Mosby and Call.

***

Mary Piatt -- young, dark haired, dark eyes, took hold of Austin's hand. "Take me away from here, Austin! They're going to lie about me. I know they are."

Austin was still slightly dazed. It was as if everything was happening at one time. He seemed to think a little clearer. "What was I doing?" He mumbled, as if coming out of a fog.

Mary Piatt shook him vigorously. "Austin! Did you hear me?"

He looked at Mary. "What did you say?"

"Take me somewhere, Austin. Away from this town. Hurry! Before they come!"

***

Gretchen ran to her husband -- Paige ran with her. "Call!" Gretchen said. "Is it over?"

Call shook his head. "Not hardly."

"Will there be gunfire?" Paige asked.

He nodded. "There's a fair chance. You best get off the street, Coyote Girl. You too, Paige. Go on, now. I'll be down to the store directly."

"Be careful, Call," Gretchen whispered. Paige grabbed her sister and pulled her away.

Ashley Mosby was standing near Clay. "Don't get shot, Clay. I have plans for us tonight."

Clay Mosby nodded to his wife. They had finally settled the matter concerning the young Cheyenne wife. Young-Grass-That-Shoots-In-Spring now belonged to Monsieur Etienne Meloche. Clay was anxious to deal with the situation at hand. It was time for things to return as they were.

As Newt Call, Mason Dobbs, Clay Mosby, and Robert Shelby walked toward the jail, the door suddenly opened. Sheriff Austin Peale and Mary Piatt came down the stairs. They crossed into the street -- bound for the livery.

"Going somewhere, are we?" Clay loudly said.

"I'm taking Mary away from here. Don't try to stop me."

Call and Mason separated from Mosby and Shelby -- moving toward the tonsorial parlor, next to the livery. "You're protecting an outlaw, Austin," Call said.

"What the hell are talking about, Call? You're a liar," Austin replied.

"Don't believe him," Mary Piatt said. "Hurry, Austin. Let's leave. Shoot them all if you have to."

Unbeknown to Call and Mosby, their women hadn't retreated to safety. The three Brandt women and Ashley Mosby, along with Mattie Shaw and Amanda Carpenter, all drew closer. Even Josiah, Ephraim, Ike, and Unbob had gathered.

"That is quite correct, Austin," Clay Mosby acknowledged as he stepped closer. He held up a white piece of paper. "A telegram just arrived from the office of the Territorial Marshall. Your Mary Piatt is indeed an outlaw. She was double-crossing these horse thieves we keep hearing about."

"NO! Lies! All lies!" Austin yelled.

"Those folks they found dead," Call said, "they ain't her kin. Just two of the gang that tried to cheat their own. She's using you, Austin. She cheated them -- she'll do it to you."

"Austin, no!" Mary Piatt cried. "It's Call's fault! He ruined everything!" With both hands, she reached out, grabbing Austin's gun -- pulling it from the scabbard. "I'll shoot him!" In the brief moment required for the young female outlaw to take hold of Austin's gun, images overwhelmed her mind -- perhaps the thoughts of a mind aware that the end had come. Mary Piatt quickly considered turning the gun on Austin -- killing him -- then putting it to her own head -- sending them both to some far away place -- where they would somehow be united in harmony.

"Mary! No! Don't!" Austin pleaded.

Clay cocked his pistol -- Robert aimed and cocked the hammer -- Call stood ready to fire -- Mason cocked and aimed.

"I'll help you, Mary! Please?!" Austin implored. "They'll kill you!"

Mary Piatt's hand shook -- she knew there was no way out -- she was cornered. She could fire one shot into the crowd behind Mosby. Someone would be shot -- maybe even die. One of the Brandt Sisters -- Ashley Mosby -- Josiah or Mattie -- anyone of them. She suddenly raised the gun, ready to end her own life -- anything to avoid being captured.

"NO!" Austin Peale screamed as the sound of the deadly lead projectile exploded from the barrel of his gun. Austin lunged for Mary's arm. The bullet shot past her head -- missing her skull by less than three inches. Austin's force drove both of them into the ground -- Mary grunting loud as Austin's much larger frame roughly impacted her smaller body. The gun fell from her hand. Austin lay on top of Mary Piatt -- she was alive. She stared at him.

Clay Mosby -- never having lost his military prowess -- advanced on the pair -- calling out orders to his own men. It was over.

Austin gently pulled Mary Piatt up, holding her close to him -- protecting her. "What's going to happen to her, Mosby?" His voice trembled.

"They hang horse thieves, Austin," Clay replied. "You are well aware of that fact. Of course, being a woman, it is entirely possible they may be inclined to display leniency and merely send Miss Piatt to the territorial correctional facility for women."

"I'll put her in a cell," Austin said, reluctantly. He had no choice -- he did have a plan.

"No," Clay interceded. "I believe my deputy, Mr. Shelby, will oversee this prisoner to her cell. You can hardly be trusted with her, Austin. I have no intentions of walking into your office tomorrow morning and discovering Miss Piatt has long since vanished while I find you on the floor with a pre-arranged knot on your head."

Austin scowled. "Damn you, Mosby."

"Get her out of here," Clay ordered. Zeke and a couple Mosby men removed Mary Piatt.

Amanda breathed a sigh of relief. "This must be the first time there's ever been a showdown on the street where no one was shot or killed."

"I believe it is," Mattie replied.

Gretchen and Paige stood before Call. He wasn't smiling. In fact, his stare was like iron. Gretchen lowered her eyes, knowing he was angry.

"Don't be upset, Call," Paige said, "we're women -- we're curious."

"You could of been dead women!" he replied.

Gretchen just held him. "I can't lose you, Call. We should have listened to you." She gave him a coyote smile, causing him to smile.

Austin went to discuss the matter with his father -- there had to be a way he could save Mary Piatt.

Ashley Mosby stood in front of her husband. "I intend to go home now, Clay, darling. I shall await my master and king in our bed tonight."

Clay Mosby nodded. Once his now-content wife had left, he turned to Robert Shelby. "I am quite worn out by these petticoat uprisings, Robert."

"Women seem to have the ability to wear us down, Clay," Robert replied. He thought about Miss Abigail Farrington, the Prairie City Canary, who had nearly killed him some months back.

Clay agreed. "Let's just be thankful they haven't been given the vote here in Montana, yet. I fear we will never have a moment's peace when that day arrives."

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

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