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.
It Comes With the Territory, Part 1
...a man will leave his father and mother
Forty years old. Well past a young man's physical prime. Every graveyard littered across the vast continent was cluttered with an abundance of tombstones displaying the Reaper's hand. Whether by wound or sickness, a multitude of men lay buried, never to experience their forty-first birthday. Those that had survived woke each morning with their very flesh at war -- the mind believing them able to perform as they had done in their youth, the body aching from injuries that hadn't healed properly or just the normal aging from which no man was immune. Time, not a respecter of persons, had carved deep wagon wheel-ruts into men's faces. Few were spared. Clay Mosby and Robert Shelby, both forty, had been spared, to a degree. Though they had aged gracefully, they still had occasions to flaunt as if they were in their early twenties.
"I just don't know -- I simply cannot chose which of you is more handsome. The young men who call on me back home in Union Star -- that's in Missouri, are like mere boys compared to you." Eighteen year old Jenny Letts smiled seductively. It was as easy as leading an ox to the slaughter. She had grown quite adept at enticing men of all ages. They were enraptured by her. She knew it and used it to her advantage.
Placing two delicate fingers lightly on her cheek, she sighed. "The beard is quite becoming on you, Mr. Mosby. It gives off a certain , oh . . . manliness. Like some uncivilized Viking."
Robert laughed -- he couldn't help but laugh. "Miss Letts, Mr. Mosby is perhaps the most civilized man in all of Montana Territory."
"It must be rather ticklish on a girl's face," Jenny replied, offering a brash and burning look into Clay's eyes. To her disappointment, neither man's face reddened with embarrassment, which would have mildly amused her.
"To be perfectly honest, Miss Letts," Clay said, "it has, indeed had opportunities to both tickle as well as scratch, depending upon whom it made contact with." He drew a thin cigar from inside his coat and slid it under his nose, inhaling the strong odor. "I trust my smoking will not offend you?"
Jenny just smiled. "I'm in favor of a man who smokes, Mr. Mosby. Just as a man with a beard, a nice trim beard, is quite masculine." She set her eyes on Robert. "I also prefer a man who keeps himself clean, Mr. Shelby."
"Miss Letts, if it is your intention to pit Mr. Mosby and myself against each other, you will soon find yourself quite worn out. Our friendship goes back to our childhood -- our loyalty to each other is far stronger than our desire to compete against one another."
Jenny pouted. "Now you've bruised my feelings, Mr. Shelby. I would never attempt to turn either of you against the other. I merely find the both of you quite delightful." She turned her head, gazing across the Lonesome Dove Hotel's dining room to the table occupied by two of her three cousins. She smiled and bent her fingers, waving to them.
"Our young cousin seems to be quite popular with the men of Curtis Wells," Victoria Cleese noted. "The girl has no shame -- Mr. Mosby and Mr. Shelby are old enough to be her father. It's a dangerous game she plays. Wouldn't you agree, Paige?"
Paige didn't respond. She hadn't noticed her cousin, Jenny. She had worries enough which had recently consumed her.
"Paige?" Victoria scolded. "You didn't hear anything I said."
"I'm sorry, Victoria. What was it you were saying? Please tell me again?"
"I was saying our cousin, Jenny, over there, is flirting shamelessly with Mr. Mosby and Mr. Shelby."
Paige glanced momentarily toward the table occupied by her cousin. Her eyes stared blankly, then turned to Victoria. "She's of age, I suppose."
"She's playing with fire," Victoria remarked, her tone short. "I'm the one who always has to watch over all of you. Our Aunt will blame me if anything happens."
Paige frowned. This was trivial. She had neither time nor interest in what predicament her younger cousin might be heading toward. The baby she carried in her stomach was growing -- it would only be another month until she gave birth. It was heavy, though not nearly as heavy as the painful burden she quietly hid in her heart.
It was the place where Call and Gretchen had first shed their clothing and entered the stream that ran southwest a short distance from their modest home. The place where they had first found Runt, the mongrel dog who had helped save some of the women of Curtis Wells. The warm sun relaxed them both to sleep, with tiny Rebecca Maggie in Gretchen's arms. The sweet smell of summer grass, the sounds of birds chattering in the shady trees, had apparently been cause for the three Call's to drift off into peaceful slumber.
It was too good to last. Runt came charging out of the stream, barking repeatedly. He paused, shaking vigorously, then jumped, bracing his front paws against the tree a brown squirrel had just climbed. His barking awoke Becky, scaring the infant. She began crying, Gretchen cradling her daughter in her arms, rocking gently back and forth, whispering soft words of reassurance. Runt turned away, whined, then barked some more.
"Ain't likely to get no rest now," Call mumbled. Gretchen agreed. They gathered the blanket and climbed into the wagon and headed home. "Dish should be here come morning with them mustangs Cap'n wants me to break."
"I liked being there with you and Becky, Call. It was nice -- it's always so nice." She scooted closer to her husband as he smiled, both enjoying the peaceful ride through the tall brown grass, the springy bench seat bouncing and squeaking along the bumpy dirt road, the vibrations lulling Becky to sleep in her mother's protective arms.
"I'll unhitch the wagon," Call said, once they reached home. Gretchen climbed down and carried the baby into the house.
Lately, Becky had begun taking steps -- assisted by her mother or father, her wobbly legs moving when her tiny hands were held, attempting two or three steps then dropping back on the floor. Gretchen, sitting on the wooden floor, her green and white gingham dress fanned over her legs, her nine-button shoes exposed, was encouraging Becky, when Call entered the house. The tiny infant turned her small head and smiled at her father and threw her arm out, her outstretched fingers opening and closing. "Pp, pp . . . ppp, pa . . . Pa pa!"
Gretchen and Call were motionless for a moment. "Call!" Gretchen exclaimed. "She said her first word! Becky talked!"
A nod was all Call could muster. In his mind he heard the word over and over. It was a moment unlike anything he had ever experienced in his entire young life. Their tiny daughter saying her first word -- acknowledging him. His voice suddenly departed -- a feeling inside his head and chest swelled up. Nothing could have prepared him for this moment. It went beyond any words he could express.
Gretchen, tears of pure joy filling her green eyes, scooped the baby into her arms and turned to Call. "Yes, Becky. Papa. That's your papa."
Later on, Call would remember feeling numb at this moment. He stared at Rebecca Maggie, holding his arms out to take her. He mumbled "Papa." Embracing his daughter, he brought his lips against her small head, kissing her.
"I can't wait to tell Victoria and Paige," Gretchen excitedly said.
Call stared at his wife, the numbing sensation not yet wearing away. It was the strangest feeling. He never expected a spoken word by a nine and a half month old baby to impact him with such force. It didn't make sense. And yet, it was clearly one of the most cherished moments of his life. "She said Papa," he finally managed to say.
"Yes, Call. And, she'll say Mama soon, now that it's started."
The love he felt for Gretchen and Becky frightened him. It was difficult to comprehend -- the way life had turned out. It was too good to last, wasn't it? He didn't have the right to be so happy. These things only happened to other folks, not him. But, he couldn't deny it. For the past year and a half, since making Gretchen his wife, Newt Call had been his happiest. Life, at its best, was most peculiar.
When Paige arrived home she hesitated on the porch. Her broom leaned near the door. She grabbed the handle and flung it to the recently swept floor, then opened the door and stomped inside. The house was empty -- Boone wasn't there. Her sisters, as of yet, were unaware of the disturbing quarrel that had transpired the night before. Although Victoria was most clever at sensing her younger sisters' moods, the responsibility of watching Cousin Jenny had left her feeling worn out. Why must she always be the mother to the younger girls? Caleb running around town with the rascally Dewey didn't lighten her burden.
Paige wasn't ready to confide in either sister. It was her hope that Boone would come to his senses and return home before Victoria or Gretchen had any hint of trouble. Now, as she gazed at the empty rooms, emotion overtook her. She slumped onto her bed and wept. Images, troubling images, filled her mind. Within the next six weeks she was sure to give birth to her first child and her husband had suddenly deserted her. The announcement had been so unexpected the night before. He told her he couldn't live in a confined manner -- he needed the freedom of the mountains. When Paige realized Boone was seriously, she said she would go with him. The baby could be born in the wilderness if that was his desire. She didn't want to separate from her sisters, but he was her husband and she would obey him.
"I do love you, Paige," he said. "I don't think I'm meant to have a family."
"You should have thought about that before asking me to be your wife, Boone Mackinaw! I'm pregnant -- we're having a baby soon."
Paige sat up -- she was sick to her stomach. Lifting the bed pan that had been cleaned earlier in the morning, she lost her stomach. Could she feel any worse? The promise of a fulfilling life twenty-four hours ago had changed into fear and doubt. If Boone Mackinaw was truly going back to the mountains, Paige would be left alone to raise their child. She cupped her hands across her stomach and rocked slowly at the foot of the bed. The shroud of darkness before her allowed for a dismal hopelessness to overcome her.
The Black Hills stage was late. Scheduled to arrive next day by mid morning, it was now early afternoon. Josiah Peale, eager to write a story concerning the expected passengers, had begun to worry. "Austin? Oh, good day, Mattie," Josiah said, poking his head inside the sheriff's office.
"Is something wrong, Father?" Austin asked. He was sitting casually on top of his desk, one foot swinging aimlessly. Mattie reclined in his chair.
"Well, I'm not quite certain. It's the stage. It's late again."
Austin glanced at his pocket watch. "If Luther's snapping the reins they'll arrive eventually. He favors eating and drinking at the way stations." As town sheriff, Austin made it his business to be knowledgeable of things like stagecoach arrivals.
"Is there someone special on this stage, Josiah?" inquired Mattie.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. Two missionaries from New Mexico Territory are supposed to arrive. I sent a telegram a few days ago requesting an interview for the Statesman. I hope they're well?"
Mattie sat up. "An interview? Are they famous?"
Josiah shrugged. "In themselves, no. They're a married couple. Fairfield, I believe is their name. But, her mother was Susan Magoffin -- reputedly the first white woman down the Santa Fe Trail. Although, there are varying reports of others before her. Still, it would make for a most interesting article for the readers of our newspaper."
"Mattie!" Unbob hobbled into the sheriff's office. "I been looking for you all over the place." All of a sudden the sheriff's office had become the town's social meeting spot.
"I've been sitting with Austin, Unbob," Mattie said.
"I can't find Dewey. He's somewhere with that Horsefly boy. Oh! I nearly forgot. Mr. Peale, the stage is here. Luther just brought it in. I think he's been drinking."
Smiling, Josiah excused himself. Mattie stood up. "I suppose I should try to find Dewey."
"Sit down," Austin replied. "They're just boys. You can't lock them in a room."
Mattie laughed. "I hope you feel that way the next time they cause a disturbance, Austin."
"Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Barnaby Fairfield. I trust our room has been prepared?"
Amanda smiled, noting the couple probably to be in their thirties -- he dressed fairly modern, she appearing rather drab, and in dark clothing, though one might consider her mildly attractive. "Exactly as you requested, Mr. Fairfield. Ike! Carry the luggage upstairs to number 4."
"No! No! I'll take this one," Mr. Fairfield blurted, quickly grabbing a large suitcase. When Amanda and Ike momentarily stared, he said, "Bibles. These are Bibles. I prefer to handle them myself. They're quite delicate."
"Excuse me! I beg your pardon. Mr. Fairfield?"
The missionary turned. "Yes, I am he."
"I'm Josiah Peale. I sent you a telegram -- I run the local newspaper."
"How do you do, Mr. Peale. My wife, Sigrid Magoffin Fairfield. I am Samuel Barnaby Fairfield. Perhaps you would allow us time to rest and freshen up? Would you take supper with us later? We could answer all your questions then. Shall we say, 5 o'clock?"
"That will be quite satisfactory," Josiah agreed.
Dish Boggett, who had known Newt since their days in South Texas, near the Rio Grande, had determined marriage good for his younger friend. "I swear, Newt. You sure seem content. You favor being hitched, don't you?"
Call nodded, smiling. "I reckon it suits me just fine, Dish." His mouth stretched into a grin. "The baby started talking yesterday." He shook his head as if recalling something extraordinary. "She said Papa. I ain't never felt like I did when she said that." There were few folks Newt Call talked to. There were even fewer he shared his inner thoughts with. He had always looked up to Dish while growing up and was somewhat able to reveal his feelings to him. "That little baby's depending on me to take care of her. Gretchen, too. I put a value on that."
Dish leaned his sweat soaked back up against the fence. They had finally gotten the string of mustangs safely inside the corral. He looked down and squinted. "Well, I guess it would be a whole lot better if the Cap'n took a liking to your wife and baby."
Call frowned. "Come on. There's grub and coffee inside the house." The subject of Captain Call was never a choice topic for Newt. Better to just ignore it.
"No thanks, Newt. I think I'll ride into town -- say hello to Paige."
"She's got herself a husband," Call replied.
"Well, I guess I know that," Dish snapped. He rubbed the toe of his boot on the ground. "I reckon I just want to tell her hello."
"I never saw this one before," Dewey said, staring at the dime novel Caleb Letts held in his dirt-stained hands. The boys sat huddled underneath the back stairs of Twyla's. "Buffalo Bill's Secret Six. Go on, Horsefly. Read some, will you."
Caleb flipped open the small, thin paperbound novel and searched for a likable spot. "The third of the outlaws, beholding the fate of his comrade, dropped his rifle to the floor: 'My hands is up, Buffalo Bill! I knocks under!' 'Lariat Joe, turn your back to me, but still keep your hands up!' ordered the scout. But at that moment a new comer appeared behind the scout, a revolver touched his head, and a stern voice cried. 'One move, Buffalo Bill, and you are a dead . . ."
"What are you two doing under here?"
Startled, the boys looked up at Sadie, her red silk robe loosely wrapped around her body. A hint of white breast peeking out. "Uh . . . um, we're just reading this book," Dewey said.
"Why don't you two come back later," Sadie replied, her voice lowering. Her painted red lips seemed to drip honey. "I have something to show both of you. Come up these back stairs and knock on my door -- it's the second one on the right. Now, don't disappoint me, hear?"
"Yes ma'am," Dewey answered.
Sadie laughed, then climbed the stairs. Dewey and Caleb's eyes were riveted on her body.
"I most dropped in my tracks, I was so scared," Caleb whispered, after Sadie returned inside. "They learnt me back home that if we was to go inside that place we'd go to everlasting fire."
"I want to go up there, Horsefly," Dewey admitted. "It'll be an adventure."
"Yeah, me too," Horsefly said. "Then, it's signed in blood. We come back later."
They were making a fuss in the dry goods. Gretchen excitedly retold the story of Rebecca Maggie Call's first words. "It was the most precious moment. Poor Call. He was speechless -- so was I for a moment. She has such an adorable little voice."
"I wish I had been there," Cousin Jenny remarked. It was her turn to hold Becky. "Can you say Jenny, Becky Bug?" The infant drooled down her chin but didn't reply.
Victoria smiled. "She's the apple of Newt's eye. I've seen how he loves her.
"Yes," Gretchen replied, "and this little miss has him eating out of her hands. He has a most difficult time letting go of her at night, when it's time to put her in her bed. He just loves her so much -- we both do."
Victoria was aware that Paige seemed listless and mopey. She assumed it was her pregnancy, but it lingered. "Paige? Are you feeling well? You seem so distant today?"
"Yes," Jenny commented. "You'll give birth soon enough, Paige, dear."
"Boone's left -- he's gone!" Paige suddenly blurted, unable to hold back any longer. "He's walked out on me. He packed some things and said he was going back to the mountains."
The other three Missouri girls grew silent, shocked by the devastating admission. They converged as one to offer hugs of compassion to the teary-eyed Paige. "You were both so happy," Gretchen said.
"I thought so, too," Paige replied. "It just came out of nowhere the other night. He said he didn't think he could live this way. What am I going to do? I'm going to have our baby next month."
They failed to hear the door open. Robert Shelby stepped inside. "Forgive the intrusion." He hesitated, realizing one of the Brandt sisters was very upset. "Miss Letts. We were to have tea across the street."
Jenny barely glanced at Robert. "Not now, Mr. Shelby. My cousin has a problem. I can't leave her right now. Perhaps later? Do forgive me."
"Of course," Robert said, nodding. "Perhaps later." He bowed slightly then quietly closed the door.
Victoria wrapped her arms around Paige. "Maybe Boone is afraid of being a father? Give him a chance to sort things out."
"No," Paige replied, wiping the tears from her cheeks. "He said he loves me but he doesn't want this kind of life. I offered to go wherever he wanted to go but he said no. I've been sick to my stomach over this."
The door to the dry goods opened again. Dish Boggett stepped inside. He removed his hat.
"Dish?"Gretchen said, surprised. "What are you doing here?"
"I was helping Newt with the horses I brung down from Hat Creek. Cap'n Call sent me. I just thought I'd stop by and say hello to you, Paige. Is something ailing you?" He gazed longingly at her, pausing to observe her large stomach which held the baby. "You sure do look nice."
"Oh, Dish," Paige cried, hugging him.
Although the meal was quite delicious, Josiah had barely taken a bite. Consumed with recording the interview accurately, food wasn't a priority. "Your mother was most audacious and bold, Mrs. Fairfield."
Mrs. Sigrid Magoffin Fairfield smiled. "My mother, Susan Shelby Magoffin, was eighteen years old when she accompanied my father to Santa Fe in '46. As I was told, it was a very perilous trading expedition. Mother and Father were on their honeymoon, Mr. Peale."
"Not the typical honeymoon one would imagine," Josiah remarked. "The stories vary, Mrs. Fairfield, as to your mother being the first white woman down the Santa Fe Trail."
"Yes," she replied, slightly miffed. "Some credit Mary Donoho as the first. Supposedly, she traveled the road thirteen years prior to my mother. I suppose it really doesn't matter. Neither of them is counted among the living." She smiled. "Forgive me, Mr. Peale. I sometimes grow wary of dealing with the identical inquiries. We live in the present -- it is 1883. Mr. Fairfield and I are here as missionaries. We have made arrangements to visit at least two reservations -- one Sioux and one Cheyenne."
Josiah hesitated. "I seem to recall five or six years ago some uprisings among . . . hmm, I believe it was the Bannock and the Paiute."
"Among other somewhat hostile tribes," Mr. Fairfield quickly commented. "Your point, sir?"
"No point, I suppose," Josiah replied. "I had heard missionaries had instigated those tribes."
The Fairfield's glanced at each other. "Stories tend to sometimes be exaggerated and distorted, Mr. Peale. I assure you, we are Christians -- we seek to bring Christianity to the savage Indian, nothing more."
Josiah was satisfied. "If you'll pardon me, I would like to get started with printing this interview. Good day."
Waiting until he had left the hotel, the couple looked at each other. "Do you think he suspects anything, Samuel?" Mrs. Fairfield asked.
"If he does," he replied, "he can die just like the others."
"You go first -- you been hereabouts longer'n me."
Dewey squinted. It appeared as if the back stairs, which rose first in one direction, then another, were suddenly as high as one of the towering peaks off to the south. "M . . . maybe Miss Sadie was joshing?"
Horsefly shook his head. "It ain't like a woman to hocus someone -- they just ain't got no funning insides like men folk have."
"What if Sheriff Peale is in there and he sees us? He'll fetch us off to jail, he will."
"Naw. If he's in there he'll be like an ol' bullfrog showing off. Now, go on, Dewey. You go first. I'm right here behind you."
"Well, howdy, men!"
The boys spun -- Mason Dobbs winked at them. He sniffed twice. "I'd venture to say by the strong odor of whatever you two poured all over your heads and combed into your hair, you've got yourselves an occasion with a woman."
"Uh . . . um, you . . . you won't go telling on us, will you, Mason?" Dewey stuttered.
Mason shook his head. "Not me. I'll wager some senorita has a sparkling night with you men." He nodded to Caleb and Dewey and walked off toward the No.10 Saloon.
Dewey nodded. "All right, buddy. I'm going but I'm not liking it." The two boys snuck up the back stairs of Twyla's then turned the brass handle quietly. Both entertained visions of Sadie revealing her nakedness to them -- the possibility of viewing an actual, real woman in all her glory and beauty. If accomplished, it would make them the envy of every boy in and around Curtis Wells. Surely this was worth whatever threat of danger they might face before reaching the hallowed room. Sadie had been friendly with Dewey at times. He had even winked at her once, trying to act like Mason Dobbs.
The boys poked their heads inside the dim lit hallway. A strange odor caused both to wrinkle their noses. They stepped inside as if cautiously walking out onto a frozen lake, not sure if it would hold their weight. They crept in silence to the second door on the right, the one Sadie said was hers. Caleb stepped up and knocked, lightly at first.
"Knock louder, Horsefly," Dewey whispered, elbowing his friend.
"No!" Caleb whispered. "Someone might hear us."
Someone had heard them. The door opened, Sadie stood there smiling. "Well, you made it. Come inside." Grinning, she glanced down the hall then shut the door.
The boys stood close together, supporting each other since their legs felt wobbly, not sure what would happen next. Dewey gazed around the room. It was dark and dingy. Empty whiskey bottles sat on top of an old nightstand and the lone scratched-up dresser in the room. Next to one of the bottles sat a small pipe with something strange near it. Neither boy had ever seen opium, but the distinct odor from Sadie recently smoking was thick, almost choking them. Her bed was a shambles. The sheets -- once white, now grayish, were sprinkled with unsanitary yellowish stains. A small four inch knife lay on the nightstand. Sadie made sure each customer saw it, in case they planned to cheat or rob her, or even physically injure her. She had never had occasion to use it yet -- it was enough of a deterrent for most men. The atmosphere provoked a feeling of gloom and despair inside the boy's heads that went far beyond their limited maturity.
"Miss Sadie," Caleb said, "me and my buddy only have nine cents between us." He held out his hand, showing her the treasured coins.
"And what do you little scamps expect to get for nine cents?" Sadie laughed. "A poke?" She laughed again, sitting on the bed and reaching for a cigarette to light. "I doubt either of you would even know what to do. You come back in a couple years and I'll make the ceiling spin for you."
Both boys looked up at the ceiling, confused.
"I need a drink. I'm going downstairs for a minute. Make yourselves at home -- but don't go through my things. I cut a man once for sniffing my underthings."
Yes, ma'am," they replied. The desire to do that exact thing suddenly fled from their thoughts.
Sadie tightened her robe and went down the hall, leaving the door slightly ajar. Both boys tried to peek out. Across the hall, another door opened. Miss Florie exited, leaving the door open. They saw Mr. Mosby, naked from the chest up, laying in bed. Dewey closed the door, fearful that he would be seen. It was strikingly apparent that the dismal room of a prostitute was nothing like the room of a normal girl. No flowers sat in a vase. The curtains were dirty and ragged. Light was missing. Photographs of loved ones were noticeably lacking. It felt like hours before Sadie returned -- it had been less than two minutes.
"Well," Sadie smiled, holding her drink and cigarette, "are you ready for what I have to show you?"
They both nodded. Would this be the big moment? An event that would be branded into their young minds for the rest of their lives?
Sadie laughed. "All right, boys. Come here." She stepped near the dresser and bent over, lifting something. "This is for you," she said, holding a glass jar with a small lizard inside.
"Wow! A lizard!" Dewey exclaimed. "Where'd you get it, Miss Sadie? Look at him. He's a beauty."
"He was crawling on the floor," Sadie replied. "Take him out of here and go. I got a customer coming up here in another minute. I need to get ready."
"Aw, thanks, Miss Sadie," Caleb said, letting Dewey hold the cherished jar. This was far greater than seeing a naked woman. And, best of all, they still had their nine cents.
The unexpected appearance of Dish Boggett could not have occurred at a more inopportune moment. Although Victoria held no ill opinion toward the young cowboy, it would complicate matters with his being present. "Paige, you'll come home with Ephraim and I, tonight," she announced. Leaving Paige alone wasn't acceptable. Even Gretchen volunteered to bring their youngest sister home with her. Call wouldn't mind, she insisted. With Cousins Jenny and Caleb staying at the Cleese house, it made sense for Paige to spend the night with the Call's.
"Don't I have a say in my own affairs?" Paige asked. "I wish to be no burden to anyone tonight. In this I am determined."
"Uh," Dish interrupted, "well, I could take you home in your wagon, Miss Paige."
Neither Gretchen nor Call could sleep. Gretchen was vexed and restless. Her tossing made it difficult for her husband to drift off to peaceful sleep. "I can't relax, Call."
He grumbled and rolled over, pulling his wife close. "I reckon we could think of something to do right about now." His hands roamed over the curves of her body.
"Not now, Call. This is important. Don't you care that Boone left Paige?" She grabbed his hands -- she didn't let go, but she didn't let him continue caressing her.
He shrugged. "They made their bed, same as anyone else."
"Newt Call!How can you say such a thing? Paige loves you -- she's a little sister to you, Sweetheart. I know you care about her. She needs our help." Gretchen sat up in bed. "You have to find Boone and bring him back."
"What? Are you loco, Coyote Girl? I ain't set on sticking my nose in the middle of this."
"Call, you have to," Gretchen begged. "She's going to have her baby next month. Boone has no business walking out. I want you to go out and make him come back to her."
"Don't do this, Gretchen," Call barked. "I just told you I ain't of a mind to get in between them two. It's their problem -- likely as not we'll only make it worse."
Gretchen's anger flared. She pushed Call off the bed, onto the floor, then stood up and stomped into the dark kitchen area, looking for something to break.
"Dammit, Gretchen!" Call jumped up and followed her.
The sound of crying could now be heard from the other bedroom. Gretchen, realizing they had woken Becky suddenly dashed into the room and gently lifted the frightened infant into her arms. "Shhh, Becky. It's all right," she whispered in a soothing voice, gently swaying the baby back to sleep. She watched Call open the door and step out onto their porch. Becky's cries turned to soft whimpers then she was asleep again. Gretchen placed her in her cradle then rushed outside. Call was sitting on the steps. Gretchen sat next to him and laid her head on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Call . . . she's my sister."
"I know," he mumbled, putting his arm around her and squeezing.
"If it wasn't for the baby she's going to have I wouldn't insist on you going after him."
Call looked at Gretchen. Her green eyes mesmerized him -- they always did. He sighed deep. "I reckon I can track him simple enough. Ain't likely he's set on coming back. It ain't gonna do Paige no good if I hog-tie him and bring him back. He'll likely scoot off first chance he gets."
"I don't know what else to do, Call. I really don't. Dish Boggett stopped by the store today to see Paige. What if she . . .?"
"We best get ourselves some shut eye." Call said, standing up and pulling Gretchen up with him. "The Cap'n expects me to break them horses. I can't be gone long."
"All right, Call," Gretchen replied.
"Slow down, Josiah. Now, what are you trying to say?" No peace would be afforded Clay Mosby until he allowed his mayor to talk.
"I have a bad feeling about those missionaries, Clay. You've got to talk to them."
"I already have," Clay remarked. "Aside from being religious zealots, I find them undeniably boring. What is it, exactly, that troubles you, Josiah?"
"I think they intend to stir up dissension among the reservation Indians."
"I see. Then, perhaps you would be wise to contact the United States Cavalry."
"It's just a hunch, Clay. The Army won't listen -- they'll think I'm some ranting lunatic."
"As do I, Josiah. Now, I had hoped to enjoy my morning meal. I suggest you talk to Austin."
Josiah turned to leave then paused. "Where are the Fairfield's now, Clay?"
Clay was becoming exasperated. "If you must know, they rented a wagon and rode out over an hour ago."
"I have to do something," Josiah muttered, heading for the door. He planned to send another telegram.
Paige Mackinaw opened the front door clad in her nightgown and robe. Her light brown hair hung almost halfway down her back. "Dish Boggett, you are the most remarkable man. Sleeping outside on the porch all night just to protect me. Now, I insist you wash up and come inside right now. I'm cooking breakfast for you -- you deserve a good meal."
"Well, I guess I'm hungry," he replied, staring into her blue eyes. "Did you sleep well?"
"No, Dish. I hardly slept at all. Please do not confuse my intentions as a show of affection. I love Boone."
Dish felt awkward. He burned with rage. He desperately longed to wrap his scarred and calloused hands around Boone Mackinaw's throat and snap his selfish neck -- make him suffer as he had made Paige suffer. He still loved Paige. For all he knew, her mountain man husband could return home any time. Even though her stomach was swollen with the baby, he wanted to take hold of her and kiss her, like they had done behind Call and Gretchen's house that one morning.
Before either could enter the house they were interrupted by the arrival of a wagon -- Victoria and Ephraim had come to check on Paige. Jenny and Caleb sat in back. Pleasantries were exchanged -- Paige insisted on feeding Dish before she would make her way to the store. Victoria agreed with a fair amount of reluctance.
It was as they expected when first observing the Sioux reservation. The missionaries, Mr. and Mrs. Fairfield, had witnessed the depredation on previous occasions. Josiah Peale had been too close to the truth. They were indeed the same missionaries that had stirred up the Paiutes and Bannock tribes years earlier. Both had grown increasingly negative toward the United States policy of destroying the Indian way of life. It was their mission in life to champion the cause of the Red Man -- those herded onto the desolate lands no other living being desired.
After meeting with the agent who oversaw the vast, empty plains which housed numerous blank-staring Sioux, the Fairfield's rode out far enough away from the scanning eyes of Indian police and the few white men that held trumped up positions in order to steal from the Sioux. They knew from past experience it was more profitable to speak with the young rather than the old. The young were angry -- fires still burned inside their brown chests.
"We bring you good tidings," Mr. Fairfield boasted, when the couple had gathered a handful of poorly dressed young warriors. "We pretend to hand out Bibles but in reality we carry weapons for you to fight with."
The Sioux were slow to respond. One of the young men said to the others, "Wu sha cha key less. Eciyapi pejuta sica" ("I know this man. We should call him bad medicine").
The others agreed, laughing. "White man," another, who spoke some English, said. "We cannot fight the mila haske (long knives). Akicita (Soldiers) too many -- too strong."
"No, my friends," Samuel Fairfield replied. "We have many white people who feel as we do. They hate the laws of the white man. We can bring many guns and rifles. There are white men willing to fight with you."
"Your head is broken," the young Sioux said, tapping his finger on his own head. "We are few -- they are ota . . . many."
"What if others agree to fight?" Mr. Fairfield asked. "The Cheyenne?"
"Sahiyela wasake hiya" ("The Cheyenne are not strong"), another young Sioux remarked.
"Will you allow us the opportunity to speak to them?" Mrs. Fairfield said.
The young men looked at her. "Unkis kte iye hi na icu iye" ("We should kill her husband and take pleasure with her") the first Sioux replied. The others nodded.
Sensing an impasse, Mr. Fairfield considered it time to leave and regroup. He wouldn't let on his knowledge of the Sioux language but upon hearing the last comment, decided it best to retreat until he could formulate another plan. He was certain they could stir the young men into leaving the reservation and possibly attacking a small town such as Curtis Wells. The hatred he and his wife harbored for the Union ran deep. One minor setback would not discourage them.
No answer came from Paige when Gretchen informed her Call was going to find Boone. Paige had witnessed Call's wild, uncivilized behavior several times and wondered whether he might kill her husband, though they both were friends. She considered that Boone could very well kill Call. These possibilities troubled her greatly and she began to cry.
"Newt isn't exactly the best choice for being a diplomat," Victoria mentioned to her younger sister.
"Yes, I believe that to be true," Gretchen admitted. "That's why I begged him to bring his Uncle Mason along with him. Mason has his own unique charm."
Victoria nodded in agreement. "Yes. Mr. Dobbs does have a silver tongue."
"I wish you both would just mind your own business," Paige angrily retorted. She shook her head, apologetically. "I'm sorry, Gretchen. Victoria. Forgive me. I'm just so upset. I hope none of them come to any harm. I couldn't bear it if Boone or Call or even Mason were hurt or killed because of this."
Cousin Jenny looked outside the dry goods where Dish Boggett sat on the steps. "Mr. Boggett wanted to go with Gretchen's husband. He has deep feelings for you, Cousin Paige. I can see it in his eyes."
Paige groaned. "Dish is wonderful -- he's a sweetheart. He slept outside on the porch all night just to be there for me. I just want Boone to come home. What about our baby?"
"Mother and Father may be back in St. Joseph, nine hundred miles away," Victoria said, "but you do have your family here, Paige. Gretchen and I will never desert you. Ephraim and Newt will not turn you away."
"I want my husband and I want my own house -- our house. Boone and I."
Since leaving Missouri and journeying west to Montana, the three Brandt sisters had dealt with adversities and troubles. Nothing compared, though, to the ordeal they now faced. There could be no simple solution, unless Call and Mason were able to bring Boone back without any bloodshed -- a task that now appeared to border on impossible.
It had been a simple matter to find Mason -- lately he had been spending nights at Twyla's with Rosa. He was mildly surprised to see his nephew waiting outside, on the bench. "Well, howdy do, Newt boy. Are you waiting on someone?"
"Was -- I just found him," Call replied.
"Well then, spill it, amigo. I'll wager it's prominent by that frown you're wearing." Mason recognized the tattooed scowl on Call's face.
Call stood up. "I could use you -- to keep me from killing a man. I'm riding out now."
Mason gazed at his nephew. "Who's the man?" he questioned, immediately following Newt.
Mason's eyes stretched wide. "Mack?! What's going on, Newt? This sounds complicated."
Call didn't respond directly. They mounted the Hellbitch and the gray and rode off. Eventually, Call said, "he up and left. He don't aim to be with Paige or the baby."
"This is prominent," Mason replied. "Hell, Newt. We're all three of us on the same side of the fence. How are you figuring to haul him back? You're not exactly known for sugar dipping."
"That's why you're here," Call remarked.
Mason grew quiet. Running down men was simple when you didn't know them. This was different. Boone Mackinaw was now kin to Newt and Mason's friend. No wonder Newt had an angry scowl. This was bad business, all around.
Boone Mackinaw made no effort to conceal his tracks. He made no effort to hide himself. If trouble came he would stand and fight -- kill or be killed. He had been out on the plains for three days now and had to admit he missed the freedom of being on his own.
He was camped near a small stream that branched from the green waters of the Yellowstone. He had traveled south, where game and fish would be in abundance now that spring was turning into summer. His bedroll lay casually folded -- a small fire burned with two decent sized catfish and one perch cooking on a hastily made spit.
Call and Mason rode slowly into camp, searching along the water's edge for Boone. They turned around and rode up to where Boone's kit lay near his bedroll and dismounted. Bam! A shot suddenly exploded. A dozen wild geese quickly rose from the calm waters and flew off, making a great clamor. Call and Mason spun around toward the thicket of chokecherry bushes some twenty yards away from camp.
"What're you doing here, Concho? Wild Dog? You rode a long way to die."
"Come on out, Mack," Mason replied. "Put up your weapon, amigo. There's no cause for gunplay. We're just here to talk some."
"I'd sure detest shooting you boys," Boone said, stepping out into the open. He wore his old buckskin pants and shirt. He aimed his rifle at them. "If you came looking for a meal, sit down and I'll feed you. If you tracked me thinking you're bringing me back . . . well, I can always dig two graves before moving on."
"You're talking crazy," Call said, staring at Boone with unflinching eyes.
"I don't trust you, Call," Boone said. He aimed at him. Bam!
++++++++++ Continued in Next Installment ++++++++++
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