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.


Chasing the Wind
(37th in the Romancing the Plains series)
by Craig Caff

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

(Ecclesiastes 2: 10-11, Holy Bible)

"A dance? How wonderful!" Gretchen commented. She glanced at her husband, whose face had already soured. "Although, I don't expect Call to embrace the festivity as much as we shall."

"Smile, Newt," Victoria replied. "You are quite fortunate that your wife happens to be only two months from delivering your first child -- you won't be required to dance all night."

"He looks as if he's going to turn green," Paige said, joining in on the hazing.

Call groaned inwardly -- it was the articulation of a caged animal in its death throes. "Seems to me there just was a dance here in town." A smothering sensation began to overcome him.

"That was almost six months ago, Call," Paige quickly corrected. "When Mr. Mosby gave a dance for Miss Jessup's birthday."

Victoria leaned over and lightly kissed him on the cheek. "This time, Newt, we will expect you to dance with all three of us."

Call closed his eyes. This torment was more than he could stand. "I need me some air," he mumbled, hurrying out of the suddenly hot dry goods store.

Victoria and Paige laughed.

"You two are so mean to poor Call," Gretchen said. "If we weren't already married proper, I do believe I would have just lost him."

"You little minx," Victoria replied, still laughing. "Newt would never consider leaving you. He loves you very much. And even if he didn't, you are quite adept at using your devious charms to entice him, Gretchen."

All three sisters laughed.

"Still," Gretchen said, "I better see to my husband." She opened the door and stepped outside. Call was sitting on the back of their wagon -- the wood tailgate having been unlatched. Runt laid close by. Gretchen, seven months pregnant, went to her husband. "Don't mind them, Call." She petted their dog's head, causing a lazy, half-hearted wag from Runt's tail.

"It ain't them that bothers me," he replied. "Just ain't much for dances and crowds, is all. I reckon you know that, Gretchen."

Gretchen leaned into Call, sighing. "I know, Call." She tugged at his tangles of hair. "We don't have to go."

Call gazed at his wife -- her stomach swollen with child -- though not nearly as large as older sister, Victoria, happened to be. He shook his head. "I ain't obliged to denying you, Gretchen. We'll go."

"Thank you, Call." She wrapped her arms around him.

****

Elizabeth Dewberry, arms folded, stood inside the open doors of the Lonesome Dove Hotel. She abruptly turned and strolled back to her sister, Suzanne Van Atta.

"Those two are absolutely disgusting," Elizabeth huffed. "Neither of them seems to know the meaning of shame."

"Why waste your time thinking of him, Beth?" Suzanne asked. "Look around. Every man in Curtis Wells stands ready to jump when you snap your finger."

"Yes," Beth sharply replied, "every man, except Newt Call. That's the whole purpose, Suzanne. You know quite well how much I delight in a good challenge." The raven tressed, younger sister scowled. "Kissing and hugging! Kissing and hugging! That's all they do."

"My, but we're jealous," Suzanne mentioned. "Why don't you show some pity for me? I am the one who's husband was killed by those savages."

Elizabeth chortled. "And, you truly loved poor, pathetic Theodore? It's me, Beth, Suzanne. I know how you felt about him. He was merely someone to tend to your every wish. Some men are such bores. At least he loved you."

"Good day, ladies," Robert Shelby suddenly interrupted. "I hope you are enjoying your unexpected stay in Curtis Wells as much as we enjoy having you."

"Mr. Shelby," Suzanne said, "I am supposed to be in mourning for my wonderful husband. And yet, I find your compliments and kindness quite charming. As does my sister, Elizabeth."

"Would you care to join us at our table, Mr. Shelby?" Beth asked. "We are both flattered that you and Mr. Mosby are preparing a dance in our honor."

Robert nodded and sat.

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

Soreablo, the small half-breed who had stabbed Clay Mosby with his knife, had not intended for the horse thieves to fight the posse two weeks earlier. Only when it became apparent that the posse from Curtis Wells exhibited no sign of turning back, did Soreablo resort to the ambush. Both sides suffered casualties -- the horse thieves with three injured. It wasn't until the thieves crossed the Missouri River, heading north, somewhere between Beaver Creek and the Milk River, that they made camp.

"These are good horses -- they will bring much money," Soreablo told his men.

"That traitor, Mary Piatt," one thief said. "She's gone into a hole in the earth. She was the one who told the old people to cheat us. Now she's disappeared." He drew his knife and stabbed it into the brown grass. Each of the thieves wanted to hunt down Mary Piatt. None knew she had been taken away to a territorial prison for women.

****

Beset with dizziness and piercing headaches, Clay Mosby had been unable to satisfy his burning desire for revenge. Frustration mounted -- nagging and bitter complaining spewed forth -- resulting in Clay tumbling down the stairs outside Dr. Cleese's office. The leg injury acquired during the stagecoach accident flared up as Clay forced his will upon the reluctant doctor -- rising from his bed and demanding to at least return home.

Clay had little trouble dealing with the burning and sharp pain elicited from the tightening and healing of flesh where the stabbing had occurred. Mind over pain allowed him to overcome the throbbing leg pain. It was the dizziness -- the double vision -- which constrained him to bed -- regretfully unable to run down the horse thieves. The fact that he would stand to lose nearly one thousand dollars wasn't his primary concern. Punishment! Revenge against the deplorable outlaws who had outwitted him.

Ungratified by her husband's temporary lack of amorous attentions and constant protestations, Ashley sought and found solace, as well as sexual fulfillment, with the servants -- Lorenzo, in particular. Their acts of fornication taking place at random times and locations -- Ashley's appetite somewhat insatiable.

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

With summer having just entered its seasonal return, Clay Mosby was at last able to shake the lingering effects of the severe head blow. At the incessant urging of his wife, he proclaimed a town dance -- a sort of recompense for Suzanne Van Atta's tragic lost of her husband. The news was met with an overwhelming approval -- except for the small minority that neither cared nor would attend the festivities inside the Lonesome Dove Hotel on Saturday night.

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

It was a routine examination -- one required to evaluate the conditions of those who had experienced, first hand, the witnessing of human mutilation of a loved one. Ephraim Cleese determined that both Suzanne Van Atta and her younger sister, Elizabeth Dewberry, were exceptionally fit of mind and body. Had they appeared otherwise, the doctor would have strongly suggested postponing the dance.

As Suzanne and Elizabeth walked out of Dr. Cleese's office -- pausing on the small landing, Dewey tugged at Unbob's arm -- both strategically well hidden underneath the stairs -- staring up through the cracks -- gazing hard at the unbeknownst sister's under things.

"What are you two doing?!" Mattie hollered, having just stepped out the backdoor of her gun shop.

With a quickness of foot and fear of a tanning, Dewey immediately deserted his partner-in-crime, running off toward the street, disappearing in between buildings -- emerging a safe distance away in tent town.

Unbob, not quite as fortunate, jumped up, banging his head into the wooden stairs.

Suzanne and Elizabeth hastened down the stairs -- their long-flowing dresses dragging on the sun-dried dirt, caked onto the steps. It was as if Unbob had unwittingly put his hand inside a hornet's nest -- only to stir up the angry insects to a stinging fury. The three women descended upon the hapless Unbob.

"How dare you, Sir?" Suzanne Van Atta bellowed, her face red with anger.

"What's gotten into you, Unbob?" Mattie asked, slightly less agitated -- though fairly angry.

"Uh . . . uh . . . well . . . Dewey said . . ." Unbob could only manage to stammer, while rubbing his head -- a lump quickly taking shape.

"Dewey put you up to this?" Mattie said. She knew Unbob would never conceive such an imaginative plan. She turned, looking toward the street. Sighing, Mattie looked at the sisters. "I'll tan his hide when I get my hands on that boy."

Elizabeth Dewberry actually found it flattering -- unlike her sister, who gave a stern look to Unbob.

Unbob promised never to do it again. Mattie walked him up the stairs -- Dr. Cleese would have a look at his head. There was no point in trying to catch the elusive orphan, Dewey. It would be like chasing the wind. He would eventually return home -- most likely when fear gave way to hunger -- then he would face the consequences of his actions.

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

"Maybe you'll listen to me next time," Austin scolded. "You almost died, Mosby."

The last thing Clay Mosby wanted to hear was what his sheriff now said. "Spare me the speeches, Austin. Did you find the trail?"

Austin drained his glass of beer, then wiped his mouth. "We found it. We followed the tracks. They continued north. You won't recover those horses, Mosby."

Robert Shelby nodded in agreement. "You may have lost the battle, Clay, but the war is not yet over."

"And your meaning, Robert?"

"Set another trap. They have to be full of confidence right now. No one has caught them. They'll make a mistake -- grow reckless."

Clay let the thought take root. He desperately craved revenge. He, personally, wanted another chance at the man who has caused him so much misery and pain these past weeks. It was a sound plan. He would prepare a trap to capture and annihilate these horse thieves. "Very well, Robert," Clay replied. "Let us assemble more horses and lie in wait."

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

There were some in town who found Brother Sebastian, the Jesuit, to their liking. Others, simply waved off the talkative, religious man as an annoyance -- similar to a fly buzzing around one's head. Among his most adherent companions were Josiah Peale and Ephraim Cleese. The three could be seen walking together -- discussing the mysteries of the universe.

"So, Brother Sebastian," Ephraim Cleese said, "you are not convinced that my wife will deliver a baby girl in approximately two months?"

"It's quite possible, Doctor. Quite possible. One never knows what the Lord, in all his infinite wisdom, will create inside the womb."

Ephraim's self-assured grin disappeared. "I have been quite accurate in determining the outcome for some time now."

"Mrs. Cleese is rather large, I must say," Josiah added. "Some of us believe she will have twins."

"Twins?" Brother Sebastian replied. "Quite unexpected. I imagine you are prepared to deal with whichever situation is brought about? I understand your wife's younger sister is also expected to give birth approximately the same time as she, Ephraim?"

Ephraim nodded. "Yes. I will quite literally have my hands full in August."

Josiah laughed. Babies being born in Curtis Wells was like a tonic for him. It represented new life. "Our little town will soon be overrun with newborn babies."

"Yes," Ephraim agreed. "It would seem that where the Brandt women are concerned, they are quite adept at becoming pregnant -- both sisters having conceived within the very first week of conjugal matters."

"It is a rather perplexing enigma, if one were to consider the condition of fallen mankind," Brother Sebastian remarked.

"Quite inscrutable and obscure," Ephraim added.

Josiah raised his hand into the air, waving his empty coffee cup to attract Amanda's attention.

When she finally managed to bring the coffee pot over to the table, she looked at the trio and shook her head. "I hope the three of you continue to meet here and talk. I'll be able to raise my fees and call this a high-class hotel."

"What is your relationship with the Lord, Miss Carpenter?" Brother Sebastian asked. It was his directness -- his ability to zero-in on a person, which alienated, as well as embraced him to those around him.

"It's none of your business, Mr. Loudermilk." Amanda poured the hot coffee into each man's cup and turned abruptly, walking off without another word.

"Obviously, Miss Carpenter lacks a relationship with our Lord," Brother Sebastian commented.

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

"They are quite brazen -- those two! And, Mrs. Van Atta, a widow."

Victoria turned from observing her figure in the full-length mirror and looked at Paige. "They seem to bother you, Boo."

Paige walked over to the oldest Brandt sister. "You weren't out there, Victoria. Neither was Gretchen. I saw how shameless they acted after Call and Dish and Red Crow rescued them from the Blackfeet." She looked at Victoria's stomach. "Is it becoming difficult?"

Victoria sighed. "I haven't slept well the past week. The baby has been moving more. I'm having trouble getting comfortable." She looked at Gretchen, who was lost in her own little world -- a world filled with her husband, Call. "Are you having any difficulties at night, Gretchen?"

"Some," she replied. "I find it's best if Call and I sleep in the pocket. It has become somewhat uncomfortable trying to lie on top of Call, being seven months pregnant now, At least when we lie on our sides, and Call gets close behind me, I'm more content. I love how he wraps his arm around me, resting it on my stomach. I feel as if he's not only protecting me, but our baby, as well."

Paige smiled. "Two more months and I become an auntie."

****

Suzanne Van Atta and Elizabeth Dewberry found it amusing. Standing in front of the general store, watching Robert Shelby and Austin Peale vying for their favors. Both men requesting dances with the younger Elizabeth.

"Although she is in mourning," Elizabeth said, "my sister, Suzanne, would welcome any opportunity to dance and for even a moment have her sorrowful burden lifted."

Robert and Austin both volunteered to dance with the lovely, light-haired Mrs. Van Atta.

While engaged in conversation, Clay Mosby and a few of his men happened by. They also requested a dance with each sister. Soon, Luther Root and Mason Dobbs joined the ever-increasing group of admirers.

During the lighthearted meeting, Elizabeth caught sight of Newt Call leave the Ambrosia and head toward the livery. She waited until he had gone inside, then excused herself and strolled around to the back of the stable where to her satisfaction, he sat on a lone bale of hay, hat tilted down over his eyes.

"Hello, Mr. Call. Isn't this a most pleasant surprise? I had no idea you were here."

Call raised the brim of his hat a few inches, looking at her, then lowered it over his eyes. He didn't much like the two sisters -- but then, he didn't like folks in general.

"How very gentlemanly of you, Mr. Call. Tipping your hat to a lady." She studied him for an instant. "Do you know what color my eyes are? Oh, I forgot! How dreadfully rude of me. I'm Beth. Remember? You rescued me -- my chevalier."

He glanced at her -- confused.

"It means you are a very chivalrous man. You are chivalrous? Are you not, Mr. Call?"

Call ignored her.

Undaunted, she continued. "I don't believe I have a free dance left. If you were to ask me, I might be able to find a spot for you. Every man wants to dance with me. Surely, I don't know why."

"Neither do I," Call mumbled quietly.

"You will be there? Won't you, Mr. Call?" Beth Dewberry stepped closer to where Call sat.

"Yep," he replied. "I'll be taking my wife."

"That's no fun," Beth commented. "I simply must insist we have one dance together. Maybe two. Yes. I believe two will do. Do you like music, Mr. Call? Have you heard of Franz Liszt? He's quite old now. However, I have seen a photograph of him. You remind me of him the way you wear your hair. He is a very famous Hungarian pianist and composer."

Call didn't respond -- he had nothing to say to Beth Dewberry.

"You have quite a spirit, Mr. Call." Beth was not about to be put off by the mere annoyances of his disregard for her. Although she found him to be far from the type of man she preferred -- Robert Shelby, Austin Peale, Clay Mosby -- his ignoring her drove her to conquer his spirit. Once he agreed to dance with her, she would publicly humiliate him in the presence of the entire town, refusing his advances.

"I'm sure you are familiar with the English poet, Tennyson?" She stared at his unmoving body. "Are you listening to me, Mr. Call?"

"Can't hardly not hear you -- flapping your mouth, now can I?"

Her face reddened -- her jaw slightly dropping. Recovering quickly, since she was on a mission, she merely laughed. "We mustn't say such things now, Mr. Call. I was merely about to inform you that you remind me of Mr. Tennyson's poem, 'Ulysses.' May I quote a small part?" She paused, waiting for his response. When he once more ignored her, she continued. "Very well, then. To quote Mr. Tennyson, Though much is taken, much abides; and though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are -- One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to . . .?" Beth suddenly hesitated.

Call stood up. If this bothersome woman had no intension of leaving, then he would find another place of solitude.

"Wait, Mr. Call!" Beth pleaded, "I haven't completed my recital of Tennyson." She noticed the Lakota necklace with the eagle claws that Call wore. "My God. What a horrid, despicable thing. Wherever did you get such a monstrosity?"

At this, Call turned to Beth. "My wife gave this to me on our wedding night."

Beth smirked. "Your wife is from Missouri. We consider ourselves to be somewhat more civilized in Michigan. I suppose you just never can tell what a Missouri woman is capable of. Myself . . . I would have given you something else."

Suddenly, without warning, Beth Dewberry was pulled to the ground -- Paige Brandt standing over her -- her hand grasping Beth's hair. "This is what a Missouri girl is capable of!"

"Ow! My hair!" she cried. "You brat!"

Paige's face was the same color as the red calico dress she wore. "I told you once before to leave my sister's husband alone! I just might punch you in that big nose of yours."

Frightened, Beth looked to Call from her embarrassing seat on the ground. "You won't allow her to do that, will you, Mr. Call?"

Call shrugged. "If I were you, I'd hightail it out of here. Paige has herself quite a temper."

"But, she's hurting me -- ow! Stop it!" Beth cried.

Paige yanked Beth's hair again. She rolled her small hand into a tight fist. Beth's eyes widened and she scrambled to her feet, pulling away and quickly running off.

Call laughed. Paige turned to her brother-in-law. "She's a sneaky one, Call."

"I reckon you showed her," Call replied.

Paige put her arm around Call. "Come on, Call. Let's go back to the store. Gretchen asked me to find you."

Call nodded. He missed his wife. He let Paige keep her arm around him as they headed down the street toward the dry goods.

They happened to see young Dewey run past the pump in the center of the street -- disappearing in between the bank and Ambrosia, as if the devil, himself, were chasing him. A few seconds later, Mattie Shaw appeared, as if looking for someone. "Dewey?!"

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

Chasing Dewey proved to be a somewhat arduous task -- the longer he avoided Mattie's grasp, the angrier she became. The mischievous orphan boy's escape finally concluded as he tripped over a carelessly tossed chunk of wood, lying behind Twyla's. Dewey hit the ground hard and was in the process of bouncing to his feet when a hand grabbed him by the scruff.

Dewey wailed -- bringing a handful of Twyla's girls to the upstairs back door -- as Mattie tanned his behind with a long twig -- a perfect-sized switch for an unruly boy's backside.

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

The summer night brought relative quiet to the town -- aside from the usual clamor one would expect from tent town.

"Wasn't it noble of Mr. Mosby to allow us the privacy of the bath house, Beth?"

Elizabeth Dewberry smirked. "You practically hit the poor man over the head with your suggestions, Suzanne." Both young women reclined lazily in separate tubs filled with hot, steaming water.

"I did no such thing!" the older sister was quick to reply. "I saw how he undressed me with his eyes."

"You only hinted half a dozen times how much you enjoy a hot bath in the evening," Beth said. "You repeatedly told Mr. Mosby how we were accustomed to bathing in the evening. I believe you intend to seduce the man. I can't say I blame you."

The light haired Suzanne turned her head to the dark haired Elizabeth. "Well then, perhaps you will be kind enough to end your soak and hurry away? Mr. Mosby has considerately assured us he would remain outside until we were finished.

Beth stood up -- water dripping from her smooth, white skin. She reached for a towel and began drying herself.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

The sisters screamed at the sudden loud noise inside the bath house. A high pitched laugh was heard from the side of the building, where small windows were partially open. Dewey had thrown three firecrackers through the opening in the window, putting an enthusiastic scare into the sisters.

"You little bastard!" The sisters heard Clay Mosby holler at the unseen prankster -- as the boy ran off into the night.

When Clay knocked and opened the door slightly, Beth Dewberry had dressed rather hastily, providing an opportunity for her sister and Mr. Mosby.

"Your pardon, ladies," Clay said, as he poked his head inside the candle-lit bath house. "Are you departing, Miss Dewberry?"

Beth smiled. "My sister's body seems to require . . . more attention in the tub, Mr. Mosby."

Clay waited for Elizabeth to walk across the street and enter the hotel. He turned to Suzanne. "I apologize for that little brat's practical joke. I assure you, Mrs. Van Atta, I will see to the boy being disciplined tomorrow morning."

"Come in, Mr. Mosby," Suzanne brashly replied. "My sister usually washes my back. I happen to have an itch which I cannot reach. Would you be so kind?"

Clay closed and locked the door. He felt the blood rush into his loins as he involuntarily grew. He walked over to where the lovely young widow reclined in the soapy waters -- her nakedness completely exposed.

Suzanne's eyes widened at his engorged private area. "My goodness," she breathed in shock. "You're the size of a stallion." Her eyes glued to Clay's groin, she reached out with her wet hands and quickly unbuttoned his pants. "I hope you won't think ill of me, Mr. Mosby? With my husband so recently being dead and . . . "

Clay pulled her up, pressing his finger to her lips. He turned her around, bending her over the tub, then proceeded to fill her -- her insides now even hotter than the water she had just bathed in. As Clay neared the zenith, three more firecrackers exploded inside the bath house, ruining his climatic finish. The sound of small feet scurrying away only heightened the disappointing conclusion of their hasty copulation.

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

"I would prefer you not be angry with me, Victoria. After all, I am only human. All men and women behave out of character on occasion -- otherwise, we would not be human." Ephraim waited for Victoria to speak. He could sense the coldness in her. She laid in bed with her back to him.

"Then, you will understand that I intend to remain angry throughout the night. Goodnight, Ephraim," Victoria cooly replied.

Ephraim was vexed. Both he and Victoria were usually mild mannered. It was one of their strong points. "Can you forgive me, Victoria?"

"I forgive you, Ephraim. Now, please? I haven't been sleeping much. You know that. It's made me testy. Hopefully, we both will learn something from tonight. I will try to be more considerate of your lustful needs and you won't insist on copulating when I don't feel well."

Her words pierced him. He knew what he did was wrong. Their lovemaking had suffered recently. He was correct in saying that he was only human. Although well educated, polite, meek, and sensitive, Ephraim Cleese was first and foremost, a man. A man who had needs just like any other man in Curtis Wells. "Are you going to divulge our little miscue to your sisters?" he sheepishly asked.

"Some things are meant to remain private," Victoria replied. "You needn't worry, Ephraim. Now, please? I'm begging you! Let me sleep. I'll feel more like a loving wife in the morning."

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

Call opened the door, allowing Runt entry into the house before him. He looked at Gretchen sitting near the fireplace -- brushing her long brown hair -- stroke after stroke.

"Nice night to sit out some," Call commented. He liked to watch Gretchen brush her hair.

"It's sort of late, isn't it, Call?" Gretchen smiled coyly, aware of his eyes on her hair.

"So?"

Gretchen laughed. "All right, Call. Would you come over here first? I want you to do something for me."

Call shrugged and stepped across the room. Gretchen looked up at her husband. "Here. Brush my hair for me."

He took the hairbrush but hesitated, looking first at the brush, then at his wife's hair.

"Don't be afraid, Call," Gretchen assured him, squeezing his other hand. "You won't hurt me. Just do as I was doing."

Call wrinkled his face. "This something a man does?"

"For his wife, he does. I happen to think it's very intimate."

He put the brush to her head and slowly drew it through her long hair. After a few careful strokes, he realized he wasn't going to hurt her. He laughed once.

Gretchen stood up slow -- the size of the baby contributing to her awkward movement. "I like you brushing my hair, Call. Will you take me outside now?"

Call grabbed his wife's shawl, draping it over her shoulders. He took her hand and walked her outside. A multitude of hidden crickets were in full song as Call sat in the rocking chair and gently pulled Gretchen down onto his lap.

Without warning, Gretchen began laughing. She laughed so much that Call began to laugh with her. "I was just thinking about what Paige did to that woman today. Did she really pull her hair?"

"Yep," Call replied. "Then said she'd punch her in the nose."

"My little sister has become quite a force -- wouldn't you say, Call?"

"I reckon I would."

Gretchen squirmed some -- trying to turn so she could lay her head into Call's chest. "Do you think this Beth Dewberry will be a problem tomorrow night at the dance, Call?"

"Nope. Besides, Paige'll be there," Call replied, wrapping his arms loosely around Gretchen. "I figure she scared her off."

"Are you getting nervous, Call? I mean, our baby will be born soon. I'm getting so excited now -- it feels like I've been pregnant forever."

Call was quiet for a minute as he stared out into the dark, rolling prairie. He looked up at the tiny, white stars in the clear summer sky -- hundreds of thousands of white specks stretched across the vast shroud of night. "I'm mostly worried about you, Coyote Girl. Never done nothing like this before. I don't hardly know what to expect."

"It's going to be a brand new experience for both of us, Call. And we'll be doing it together." Gretchen closed her eyes and smiled.

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

"Take it easy, amigo. He's just a boy. I'll wager you had your share of occasions."

Clay Mosby stared at Mason Dobbs -- Dewey standing behind him as straight as a liberty pole. "Do you expect me to overlook his actions from last night? Do you have idea how frustrating it was . . . to be so close."

"So close to what?" Dewey asked -- his voice muffled by his small, dirt-covered hand.

The remark angered Clay. He placed his hands on his hips. "Mason! I insist you hand him over to me. What he needs is some well-placed discipline."

"I already was tanned once by my mama," Dewey blurted out.

"It's a groundhog fact, amigo," Mason replied. "Mattie put the switch to him yesterday."

"She wouldn't of ever caught me if that dumb ol' log wasn't on the ground," the boy said. "I can hardly sit now."

Clay sighed. "Very well, Mason. I'll leave the boy in your hands. I do intend to suggest to Mattie a more suitable punishment. However, I have more pressing concerns to attend to. Such as a dance tonight."

"Thanks, Mason," Dewey said as they both watched Clay Mosby stroll toward the Dove. "I'd be a dead man if you didn't let me sleep in your room last night. Mama's real mad at me -- I just know it. She don't understand me, Mason. You understand me."

Mason grabbed Dewey's arm and pulled him out of the street. He led him to the side of the bath house, where the boy had set off firecrackers two separate times last night. "Pay attention real good now, hear?"

Dewey squinted and nodded.

Mason reached into his shirt pocket -- pulling out six more firecrackers. He handed them to Dewey. "I'll hang you upside down to dry if you light one of these at the dance tonight. Two of the women -- Mrs. Call and Mrs. Cleese -- will be there. They're both carrying babies in their bellies. You can scare them bad, hear? Don't scare those women."

"Where can I light them, Mason?"

Mason stared into Dewey's eyes. "You understand there's a price to pay for this, don't you?"

"They have to catch me first," Dewey bragged.

"Your mama chased you down yesterday. Might of taken her most of the day but she ran you down."

"Can I throw one inside Mr. Mosby's saloon?"

"Long as you got yourself a way out," Mason said, winking at the boy.

Dewey smiled and winked back. "I got a way."

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

"I consider myself to be perhaps the most educated man in Curtis Wells -- and yet, I have never heard that word before, Brother Sebastian," Dr. Cleese said.

"I've heard of it," Josiah replied, drinking his morning coffee. "I just can't remember what it means."

"Transubstantiation." Brother Sebastian grinned. "I imagine few have heard it spoken before. It is rather a long and formal word. But, quite common among the Jesuits."

"I am perpetually seeking to increase my knowledge of vocabulary," Ephraim remarked.

Brother Sebastian smiled. Being the only man in town to walk the streets dressed in a black robe had its benefits -- as well as drawbacks. He cleared his throat as if preparing to stand before an esteemed audience awaiting an historical speech. "Transubstantiation is the change in the eucharistic elements at their consecration. This is of course in the mass from the substance of bread and wine to the substance of the body and blood of Christ with only the contingency such as smell and taste remaining. Quite a mouthful to meditate on."

Josiah looked across the table to Ephraim. "Uh . . . if you two will excuse me, I really should get busy on the Statesman." He picked up his hat and walked away, leaving Dr. Cleese with the Jesuit.

"I find that to be most interesting, Sebastian. I hope you plan to attend Mr. Mosby's festivities tonight?"

Brother Loudermilk nodded. "Yes, of course. Although I have taken a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience, I can still involve myself in the life of a town."

Ephraim smiled. Sitting with the religious man helped him feel somewhat better about the disagreement he and his wife, Victoria, had last night. He had already apologized this morning but decided it wouldn't hurt if he were to be extra sympathetic at the dance.

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

Sheriff Peale placed his hat on the bar -- signaled for a drink and waved for Mosby to join him. "Well, we did it. My father send word throughout the territory that we had some good horse stock for the cavalry. I'll place a couple of men on guard tonight -- although I doubt those same thieves will attempt to come back here again."

"Trust me, Austin," Clay began, "no one is ever truly satisfied. There is a great hunger inside a man that is never quenched -- inside a woman, as well. I happen to believe the men who stole my horses -- the man who attacked me -- are quite greedy. They likely do not expect us to be prepared for a second attack."

Austin quickly emptied his shot of whiskey and grabbed his hat. "Well, I intend to have a dance with Miss Dewberry, tonight." He walked out of the saloon.

Clay picked up the coins, handing them to Carson to place in the register. "One can never acquire too much money," he commented.

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

The Lonesome Dove Hotel was crowded -- folks looking forward to the evening. Mattie had gotten her hands on Dewey -- using the switch on his already tender backside for the second time. She allowed Mason Dobbs to escort her to the dance.

Men flocked around Suzanne Van Atta and Elizabeth Dewberry -- Austin, Luther, Robert Shelby -- each awaiting their promised dance. Even Josiah was told he'd have a dance.

Call found himself unfairly outnumbered -- all three of the Brandt Sisters surrounding him as they approached the doors. "I can't hardly be expected to go in there without a drink, Gretchen," he implored upon his wife.

"All right, Call. Do whatever you need to do in order to come inside and dance with me. I know you'll come back soon." She kissed her husband and went inside with her sisters and Ephraim.

Call hastened through tent town -- finding safe refuse inside the No.10 Saloon. The first drink went down fast. The second, faster. He felt a buzz inside his head. One more, a third shot for safety -- his safety. Feeling less tense, he headed back to the Dove.

"I'm proud of you, Newt," Victoria smiled. She was aware of the alcohol on his breath.

"I want one dance with you, Call," Paige insisted -- grabbing him before he could reach Gretchen. Paige wanted to make sure Beth Dewberry saw her. Beth took notice while dancing with Robert Shelby. "I won't keep you here long, Call," Paige said. She stopped halfway through the dance, bringing him to his wife. "He's all yours, Gretchen."

Gretchen stood up -- her stomach large with child -- as was Victoria's stomach. Gretchen pulled her husband toward the doors, knowing how uncomfortable he had to be -- whiskey or no whiskey. Gretchen was content to dance twice with her husband. "Take me outside, Call. It's too warm in here." It wasn't too warm. Gretchen was merely being considerate of her husband.

Ashley Mosby, concerned earlier that she would be ignored in place of the younger Suzanne Van Atta and Elizabeth Dewberry, seemed to out dance and out shine the two Michigan sisters. She enchanted her husband, Clay, keeping him near her side for most of the evening.

When Beth Dewberry noticed Call walk outside with Gretchen, she became annoyed -- asking Austin to bring her outside, as well. Thinking he was about to kiss her, he readily agreed.

Gretchen's left leg -- the one run over by a wagon when she was little -- suddenly became painful -- causing her to limp noticeably.

"Gretchen! Your leg!" Call nervously said.

She leaned against him. "I'll be all right, Call. It's just the weight of the baby. It comes and goes, Sweetheart. Don't stop. Let's walk to the livery."

"You sure? I ain't of a mind to let you suffer," he replied.

"All right, Call," Gretchen agreed. "Remember the night you brought me up there?" She pointed to the livery roof. She was intent on enjoying the evening.

Call nodded.

Gretchen stared into his eyes. "I'm your wife now, Call. I'm carrying your baby -- our baby."

Austin Peale and Elizabeth Dewberry overheard them as they walked by.

****

With extreme caution, Dewey sat on the ground behind the well that stood near the livery, the blacksmith, and the main corral. He was plotting to throw his firecrackers at some of the drunk men staggering around in tent town. If Mattie took the switch to his tender behind once more, he feared he might not sit for days -- a thought that was at the forefront of his mind.

The sound of horses thundering toward him caused him to peek over the well. There were about six men slowing down -- a small, dark skinned man leading the others. Two men jumped off their horses, quietly rendering the pair of guards unconscious with blows to the head -- a simple task -- considering the two guards had fallen asleep -- waking momentarily then battered into unwanted sleep.

As the dark skinned man rode up to the gate, there was a sudden explosion. Bang! Bang! Bang! His horse reared -- the small man was thrown from his horse -- striking the ground with a thud. Two other men also were thrown from their horses -- now frightened by the firecrackers.

Call and Austin both caught sight of the horse thieves. Austin drew his gun and ran down the dark street firing at the outlaws. Call's only concern was the safety of his wife. He ushered her as quick as her left leg would allow back to the Dove.

Ike had stepped outside. "Mr. Mosby! The horse thieves!"

Clay Mosby and the other men -- Mason, Luther, and Robert -- ran into the night.

Soreablo, the dark skinned man, looked up and saw Dewey. "You did this!" he yelled. He drew his knife as Dewey ran for the livery -- Soreablo chasing after him.

Gunfire exploded on the street -- outlaws scrambling to get their horses and ride out -- Austin having already shot one of the mounted outlaws. Mosby and the others rushing down the street.

Dewey -- his heart almost bursting out of his little chest -- scampered up the ladder, into the loft. The small man reached the ladder just as Dewey made it to the top.

"Now I will cut your hands off!" he loudly bragged. "Then I will cut out your eyes!"

In the dark outside, there was confusion. Two of the horse thieves managed to escape -- riding away before a bullet found their flesh. Two men were on the ground, shot.

As Soreablo began to climb the ladder, Dewey leaned over and dropped his last three firecrackers. They exploded in Soreablo's face -- causing him to fall to the ground.

"Aaaaaahhhhhhhh! My face!" he screamed, thrashing on the livery floor.

Austin Peale and Clay Mosby both entered the livery. Mason rushed in through the back doors.

"That's him, Mosby!" Austin excitedly said. "He's the one who stabbed you."

Soreablo's face was covered in blood -- pieces of flesh hanging off his cheeks and mouth in a sickening display. Mason looked up at the loft.

"Dewey? You all right, boy?" Mason loudly asked.

"Am I in trouble?" came the reply from the scared boy.

"No, son," Clay Mosby replied. "I believe you are a hero."

"Really?" Dewey said.

"Come on down, Dewey," Mason said. "You're safe. We got them. Thanks to you."

"Dewey! Dewey!" Mattie ran into the livery. "Where is he?"

"I'm here, Mama. I'm a hero!" Dewey beamed, grinning -- still somewhat nervous and scared from the man with the knife chasing him. "Please don't tan my hide -- I can't take no more."

Mattie was just grateful he hadn't been harmed.

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

Six men rode into Curtis Wells to steal horses. Men filled with greed. Two rode off into the night. Two laid dead on the street. Two others were held in jail until Clay Mosby would hang each man. Soreablo, the small, dark skinned man who had stabbed Clay two weeks earlier, suffered severely from his face being blown partially to shreds. He would stay that way until the rope would be tightened around his neck.

****

Sheriff Austin Peale -- also considered a hero, saw to the clean-up then returned to the dance.

Amanda Carpenter, an attractive and somewhat unrestrictive woman in her own right, felt the bitter taste of being relegated to second-hand citizenship, where the Michigan sisters were concerned. Men huddled around Suzanne and Elizabeth -- whose dresses were purposely too tight in the bosom while revealing an ample amount of cleavage.

Ashley Mosby coquetted with these same men, delighting each time they happened to fix their gaze on her bare shoulders.

Elizabeth Dewberry waited for an opportunity to engage in conversation with Gretchen Call. The occasion presented itself -- Beth moved with haste.

"Hello, Mrs. Call. I do hope you and your sisters don't feel too awkward tonight?"

Gretchen stared at the dark haired woman -- approximately the same age as her. She sighed. "I wish people would just say what it is they're thinking instead of expecting me to read their minds."

"Very well, then," Elizabeth replied. "I suppose in Missouri it is customary not to wear your nicest dress to a dance. I was merely hoping you and your sisters were not too embarrassed to attend this charming little soiree which Mr. Mosby so graciously provided for Suzanne and I."

Gretchen shook her head slightly and laughed. "Some of us work hard to get by, Miss Dewberry. You might say we live hand to mouth. The Good Lord has blessed us -- we never hunger -- we have wonderful homes. And, I have a wonderful husband."

"And quite a unique husband, Mrs. Call. I noticed your husband chose to return to the safety of this hotel rather than fight the horse thieves. I find that, and him, to be quite bemusing," Beth remarked.

Since falling in love with Call, Gretchen had learned to ignore the petty and jealous comments of others. Although she found Beth Dewberry to be offensive -- she thought of pulling her hair like Paige had done -- but managed to maintain control of her emotions. "Well, Miss Dewberry, my husband felt it was more important to bring me back here -- out of harm's way. I am with child. He happens to be a very loving and considerate man. And as for your foolish remark, I believe it was my husband who helped rescue you and your sister from the Blackfeet. Now, as you say, my Call is quite unique -- I will agree to that."

Elizabeth noticed Call returning. "You can have your dance with me now, Mr. Call."

Call looked at Beth, then took Gretchen by the hand. "Let's us go somewhere we can be alone, Coyote Girl."

"Anything you say, Call," Gretchen softly replied, grasping her husband's hand and walking away from the indignant Beth.

Robert Shelby and Austin Peale quickly swept Beth away -- both vying for her attentions. Call's callousness toward her only angered her more. No man had ever so rudely ignored her. She began to devise a more diabolical plan for Newt Call.

Call led his wife out into the warm summer night -- out into the street. "May I have one last dance with you, Gretchen Call?"

Gretchen's face lit up. She curtseyed. "Yes, you may, Newt Call." She allowed her husband to hold her close -- the baby touching Call's stomach as he danced with his wife away from the crowd. "I love you, Call," she whispered.

"I love you, Gretchen," Call replied.

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

As soon as Creel opened the general store on Monday morning, Clay Mosby and Austin Peale escorted Dewey inside. Within three minutes they all emerged -- Dewey holding a bag of jawbreakers the size of his head.

"You see that, Austin," Clay commented. "Young Dewey, here, is no different than anyone else. Dewey? You happen to have quite an abundance of jaw breakers."

Dewey nodded. He had already stuffed two of the colorful, hard candies into his mouth -- drooling yellow and blue juice onto his chin. "Thank you for the candy."

"Do you suppose that perhaps I bought too many jaw breakers for you, Dewey?" Clay inquired.

Immediately and enthusiastically, Dewey shook his head. "No! I only got fifty of 'em."

"Not too many?" Clay said, happy to show his thanks to the boy for helping to stop the horse thieves.

"You can never have too many jaw breakers, Mr. Mosby," Dewey replied, winking.

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

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