This is a fan fiction story based on characters from the Lonesome Dove television show,
which belong to Rysher Entertainment and Hallmark. No infringement on copyrights is intended.


The Weight of Responsibility
by Meluivan Indil

Part 1: The Understanding

It was a bright and sunny day in Curtis Wells, but Clay Mosbyís mood was anything but bright. If you had asked him but a few months earlier he would have assured you that his plans for Curtis Wells were right on track, and it would take time, but the town would eventually be the thriving metropolis he had dreamed of ever since deciding to stay.

But now things seemed to be falling apart before his very eyes. He was completely unable to find a suitable sheriff to replace Austin Peale, who had betrayed him, and then crawled back into the bottle Mosby had pulled him out of. The towns mayor, Josiah Peale was a raving lunatic, who one moment thought he was a preacher and then the next a bounty hunter. He had also made a decent enemy out of Amanda Carpenter, who at one time he would have considered to be one of the few people in the town to understand his vision. Then there was Mattie Shaw. Mattie had left Curtis Wells, and with her leaving had taken away the only true friend he believed he had left. Not to mention the fact that Newt Call, his greatest adversary, had completely spiraled into an alcohol induced state of oblivion after Mattie left. Normally anything that disturbed Call would bring a smile to Clayís lips, but at least when Call was sober he was interesting. He hadnít heard one sarcastic quip from the bounty hunter in weeks. Then again he didnít speak much to anyone anymore.

The Ambrosia was not very crowded yet. Some of the regulars had made their way in already, and Call had strode in a few moments earlier taking a seat in the back with a bottle in front of him. He wasnít completely drunk yet, but Clay could see it would not take much. He himself was standing behind the bar with a shot of good whiskey in his hand, not the rotgut that he served to his patrons. He downed the shot, and made his way around the bar and towards the table Call had occupied. He sat down across from the younger man placing his bottle of whiskey down in front of him. "Mr. Call." He said in greeting.

"Mosby." Was the only answer from Call.

"Would you care for a shot of the good stuff?" He offered the bounty hunter some of his own private stock.

Call looked suspiciously at the other man then shook his head no.

"I forgot. You want nothing from me." Clay said sarcastically.

"Thatís right. But I have a feeling you want something from me or you wouldnít be sitting there right now." For being slightly drunk he was thinking rather clearly.

Clay had been considering his problems in Curtis Wells, and thought he knew how to correct at least two of them. "No I want nothing from you. I was just wondering if you had heard anything from Miss Shaw recently?"

The question took him off guard. No one mentioned Mattie to him, except for Unbob every so often. "No, have you?" He had been tempted to throw his drink in Mosbyís face for even daring to talk about her to him, but his desire for information about her overrode his need to hurt Mosby.

"No. Not more than what Luther said after his last run through Miles City." Clay said tapping the table before him in a quiet rhythm.

"Why are you asking me about Mattie, Mosby?" Call was getting tired of the games.

"Well I was thinking that maybe it would be nice if someone from Curtis Wells visited her in Miles City, just to make sure she was getting along all right. But unfortunately I am so busy with the railroad deal that I just canít break away. I thought maybe you would volunteer to go." Clay suggested.

"Well you thought wrong." Call said standing and headed to the door, taking his bottle of rotgut with him. Clay smiled knowing he had exceeded. Call might have said no, but the more he thought about it, the more the idea would appeal to him. Clay didnít necessarily think that Call was right for Mattie, but he had discovered that he was the reason she had left, and if anyone could convince her to come back it would be the bounty hunter.

At that moment one of Mosbyís hired guns rushed into the Ambrosia nearly knocking Call over as he tried to leave. "Mr. Mosby. Thereís trouble."

"What is it?" Mosby said expecting the worst. That was just the way his luck had been going.

"The stage. Thereís been an accident. A woman just came wondering into town by herself. Sheís hurt. We took her to Cleeseís." The man said breathless.

Call stopped hearing the words. Luther should have been on that stage. Though he had, had his disagreements with Luther, the man was still one of his few friends. "What about the driver and Luther?"

"Iím not sure. She was alone." He answered.

Call made it to Cleeseís office just moments before Mosby. As they entered the office they could see a woman sitting on the table in the middle of the room struggling to get up. The good doctor was trying to keep her on the table. "Miss, you are hurt. You must let me take care of your injuries first."

"No. I have to send back help. He might die." She said pushing up again, as the doctor forcefully pushed her down.

Cleese turned as he heard the door open. "Iím glad youíre hear. My patient is not responding well. Miss this is Call. Heís the one youíre looking for."

Newt was surprised to hear the words.

"Mr. Call, he was asking for you. You have to go help him. I tried, but I couldnít do it." She said desperately as he approached her.

"Slow down Miss. Who are you talking about? What happened?" Newt asked trying to calm her down.

"Something startled the horses. They were going too fast when the wheel broke. The whole coach flipped over several times. The driver was dead, and LutherÖ." Here voice broke.

"What about Luther, Miss?"

"His legs are pinned under the coach. I tried to get him out, but didnít have the strength. He told me how to get here, and told me to get you. Iím afraid he wonít last." She answered.

"How far out is he?" Call asked already heading to the door.

"A couple of miles at the most." She answered. He looked at her realizing she must have walked those miles. She had a large cut running across her forehead above her brow, and he noticed she was holding her left side protectively. Probably broken ribs. It had taken a large amount of courage for her to make it to Curtis Wells in her condition.

Then he left. The man standing beside him left also, and she could hear shouted orders. A moment or so later she heard several horses pounding down the street and out of town. A sigh of relief left her lips knowing someone else was handling what she had been physically unable to accomplish.

"Now will you please allow me to treat you?" Cleese asked. She nodded silently.

 

When the men arrived at the coach wreckage the amount of damage was horrendous. Call immediately dismounted and found Luther. He was lying with both legs trapped under the coach. Call could see that a timber that had once been a part of the tongue was forced under the edge of the coach right beside his legs relieving some of the pressure. "Luther. Weíre here. Weíll get you out of there." Call assured his friend who was only half conscious. He looked up to see Mosby standing beside him. Five of Mosbyís men were standing behind him. "Get your men to lift the coach off and Iíll pull him out."

He watched as Mosby motioned them all to do as Call asked, then kneeled to grasp the coach right beside where Luther was laying. He had never seen Mosby stoop low enough to get his own hands dirty. On the count of three they all lifted as Call pulled his friend free. Luther yelled out as the pain hit him. "Itís okay Luther. Weíll get you back to the doc soon."

Mosby ordered a stretcher to be made out of pieces from the coach, and then kneeled beside the injured man reaching out to feel his legs. He had, had some experience with treating injuries during his time in the war, and Call knew it, so he did not complain as the man checked his friend over. "They are broke, but not crushed. He should be able to keep them." Mosby assured him. A sigh of relief left Callís lips. While the men made the stretcher Clay also checked for other injuries. A concussion was positive, and several broken ribs, plus many minor abrasions and bruises, but on the whole the most serious injury was his legs. "I donít know if it was just good fortune or what, but that timber ending up under the coach the way it was, probably saved his legs."

Luther had come around a little more by then and heard the words. "It werenít luck. It was an angel." His words sounded week.

The two men looked to each other in confusion.

"The girl who was the passenger. She knew to put the board under there to relieve the pressure. She tried to pull me out, but didnít have the strength to do it, so I sent her after you." They could see the words sent shockwaves of pain through the man.

Mosby reached into his coat pocket and drew out his flask, and handed it to Call. "Here Luther drink this. It will help the pain." Call said holding the flask to his friendís mouth until it was empty, and then handed it back to Mosby.

Mosby ordered his men to stay and clean up the wreckage and remove the body of the driver. He and Call rode back together silently, with Callís horse pulling the stretcher. When they reached Cleeseís office they each took an end of the stretcher and carried it up the steps to the office.

Dr. Cleese immediately started to work on the manís injuries. They could see that the woman was sitting in a chair off to the side staring at the doctor. "Will he be okay?" She asked quietly after he had finished his initial exam.

"Yes. It will take quite a while for his legs to heal, but heíll be fine." The doctor assured her.

Luther had heard her voice. "Miss. Thank you." He said.

She stood and walked over to him giving him a bright smile, hoping it would comfort him somewhat. "None of that now. I did what had to be done, and I fully expect you to overcome this." She said taking one of his hands in her own. He nodded.

The doctor pushed her back then so he could help Luther sit up and take a heavy dose of Laudanum. After his legs were set, and splinted, and his other wounds bandaged they moved him to one of Cleeseís back rooms so he could rest peacefully. Call stayed with him the idea of getting drunk pushed to the back of his mind for the present.

The young woman sat in the main office in one of the chairs, seemingly staring off into nothing. "Now Miss, will you please take some Laudanum. You have seen that he will be fine. You need rest as much as he does. Your broken ribs wonít heal properly without rest." Cleese insisted.

Clay was still standing in the room, staring at the remarkable young woman. She seemed familiar to him for some reason, but he couldnít lay a finger on it. He saw that she did not respond to the doctorís words, and noticed the look on her face. He had seen that look many times on the battlefield. She was in shock. He crossed over to where she sat and kneeled in front of her. "Miss you need to listen to the doctor. Heís just trying to help you." She seemed to shake out of the trance she had fallen under then when she heard his voice. His southern accent tickled her memory. She still said nothing but looked into his hazel eyes.

"Mr. Mosby, maybe I better take a look at her again. She seems completely lost." The doctor suggested.

"Mosby." She said the word with a look of recognition in her eyes.

Clay looked at her and for the first time realized she had a southern accent also. "Yes Miss. Clay Mosby, at your assistance." He introduced himself.

"Francis Clay Mosby." She said remembering the name.

Clay was shocked to hear his full name come from her mouth. He stood and backed away slightly, not knowing what to expect. Not many knew his first name, and he didnít understand how a stranger could know it. "Miss Iím afraid you have me at a loss. You seem to know who I am, but I have no clue who you might be."

She looked him over slowly taking in his appearance and was positive her eyes were not fooling her. She hadnít seen him in fourteen years, but she was positive it was he. "I can understand that, especially since I was 12 years old the last time you saw me." She said remembering the last Christmas she had spent at Hatton Willow, with her brother and the Mosby family.

Clay remained where he stood trying to picture the woman before him at 12 years of age. He still had no idea who she was. "Iím sorry, but I just canít put my finger on it."

"Thatís okay Clay. You and Robert spent most of your time trying to avoid me if I remember correctly." She said bringing up a name from the past. Robert Shelby had been his dearest friend as children, a friendship that remained intact even as they grew into adulthood. Robert had followed him into war, and was the only thing that kept him alive after he had learned of his familyís deaths after the war.

He stared at the woman for another moment taking in the long blond curls, and remembered something from his young adult years. He remembered tying two braids together that resembled that very color. She had been sitting in the room where they took classes at Hatton Willow; doing the work her tutor had assigned her. She had been trying to ignore the older boys who loved to tease her. "Bethany Shelby." He said remembering the name of his best friendís younger sister.

"I just go by Beth now." She answered quietly.

He couldnít believe his eyes. When he and Robert had returned to Richmond they had discovered that not only had his family been killed along with his young bride, but also Robertís family had left a year before the end of the war and no one knew where they had gone to. "My god. Where have you been all these years? No one knew where your family had gone. We had no way to find you."

"I became separated from my parents. Iím not sure where they are, but I stayed at a place near the coast for several years. About a year ago I headed back home in hopes of finding Robert again. It has taken me most of that year to track him this far. I heard he was in Curtis Wells a few years back. I did not expect him to still be here, and never dreamed that you would be here also." She explained some of what had gone on in the 14 years since she had seen him. "Is Robert here? I have waited so long to see him again."

"No Iím afraid he did not stay here long. He moved on. I think he headed west, but to where he did not say." Clay said seeing the expression change on her face to one of sorrow.

"This was the last clue I had. Heading west could be anywhere." She said dejectedly.

"Donít worry Bethany. Iím sure he will come back here someday to see me. You can wait right here for him, if you like." He suggested.

"Right now I donít see much other choice in the matter." She said standing. "Doctor I donít want the Laudanum, but if you have a bed I could use for the night I would appreciate it." She said speaking to the doctor who had been all but forgotten during her conversation with Clay.

"Of course I have a bed you can use, but donít you think you should use the Laudanum?" He suggested seeing how much pain she was in just standing.

"Doctor some amounts of pain can be controlled by the mind if you try hard enough. I donít need the Laudanum." She answered him. She had seen too many people become dependent on the drug, and was not ready to walk down that path.

Clay was surprised to hear such words from her. A lot of the women he knew west of the Mississippi had a type of strength that was uncommon for most men to have. They had, had to learn to be strong to survive, but most of the women he had known back in the civilized world had lacked that strength, being pampered, and polished. He could see that Bethany Shelby had fit into the first category easily. But he wondered what had caused such a change in the woman. The twelve-year-old girl he had known had been spoiled and pampered. He wondered even more what had occurred in the girlís life in the last 14 years. But his curiosity would have to wait until later. "I will get her settled into one of your rooms Dr. Cleese." He offered.

"Thank you Mr. Mosby. I need to clean up in here." The doctor said appreciatively.

There were three rooms in the back of Cleeseís office. One was his own private room and the other two were for patients. Mosby led her passed the first room, which Luther was occupying, while Call watched over him. He took her into the second room where she gingerly sat on the bed. He could see the pure exhaustion on her face. He helped her to remove her black leather shoes, and then helped her settle back into the bed as comfortably as her broken ribs, and bruises would allow.

He was about to leave when she called to him. "Clay, I was sorry to hear about your family." He stopped just inside the door, remembering that she had said she had gone back to Richmond. He just nodded and left the room. He enjoyed seeing the young woman again, but she was bringing back too many old memories, which he had hoped would stay buried in the back of his mind forever.

"You donít know how sorry I truly am Clay." She whispered after he left the room.

 

Not again. She cowered in the corner as the man approached her. He was holding a leather strap smiling at her wickedly. "Come on girl. You know this wouldnít be so hard on you if didnít fight it."

She shook her head violently. She had to fight it. If she didnít she would never keep her sanity.

"Suit yourself then." He said coming to within a few inches of where she was, and grabbing her by the hair yanking her up and throwing her onto the small bed face down. She tried to scramble off the other side but was stopped when he grabbed her ankle. She felt the first lash of the strap on her back. She did not scream, but she still fought trying to get away.

Clay had came back to her room after several hours, when he was more composed, and had, had a few more drinks of his private stock. He sat in a chair besides the bed watching as the dream started. He could tell she was dreaming from the movement of her eyes under their lids. He wondered what her dream was about, but realized quickly that it was a nightmare when she started thrashing about the bed. He had, had his share of nightmares before, and worried that she would hurt her already broken ribs thrashing such. He placed his hands on her shoulders and shook gently. "Bethany, youíre dreaming. Wake up."

Her eyes flew open and she screamed. "Robert!" She had never screamed when it was real life, but in her dreams she had always called to her brother for help, knowing he would never be there to stop it. She had a wild look in her eyes, and Clay could see she did not know where she was, as she quickly backed away from him sliding off the other side of the bed, and cowering in the corner. "Donít touch me." She said holding her hands up covering her face as if he would strike her.

He rushed around the bed and kneeled in front of her. "Bethany. Itís me Clay. You were having a nightmare." He said placing one hand lightly on her upraised arm. "Please you know I wouldnít hurt you."

As the words entered her conscious thought her breathing began to slow, and she slowly lowered her arms, looking up at the face before her. He was right. It was a nightmare, and the face before her did not belong to her tormentor. "Iím sorry Clay." She whispered.

It had been over a month since she had, had the nightmare, but every time she had it the memories overwhelmed her. He slowly helped her to get back up into the bed.

He had seen the look of pure fear in her eyes. "Bethany, is there something you want to talk about?" He wasnít sure if their tenuous connection from the past would be enough for her to trust him with the information he asked for, but he felt obligated to try to help his best friends sister.

"No Clay. I really donít." She said placing her hands over her eyes then running her fingers up through her already tousled hair. It was something she always did to try to clear her mind, as if she could push the terrible memories back as easy as she did her hair. A habit she had picked up long ago. "Can we speak of something else? How was Robert the last you saw him?"

"He was well. He and my cousin Olivia were talking about maybe marrying when they left here." He answered her.

"Olivia." She said a true smile covering her face. "Thatís good. He deserves to be happy. But then again you look like you are doing well. Have you managed to find happiness again here in Curtis Wells?" She asked looking him up and down. She hadnít seen a finer dressed gentleman since she had left Richmond several months before.

"Somewhat yes. I am trying to bring civilization to this less than civilized region, and Curtis Wells I hope will be the first of many modern towns to spring up in Montana." He said sharing some of his vision with the girl.

"That sounds ambitious. Just like you Clay." She chuckled slightly.

"Yes it is." He answered smiling ruefully. "But listen to me. I have forgotten my manners. You need something to eat. If you will allow me but a few moments I will have something from the Dove brought over so we can dine."

"The Dove?" She questioned.

"The local hotel. They have the best food in town." He explained.

"You need not go to any trouble over me Clay." She answered.

"Itís not a trouble at all. I know the owner. You stay here, Iíll be right back." He said standing.

"Like I was going to leave." She said under her breath, clutching at her side after he left. Her sudden fall from the bed had sent a painful spasm through her ribs, but as usual she would not let anyone see her pain. So she had masked it convincingly.

While he was gone she had begun to think out what she would do next. Her search for Robert had dead-ended where she was. She had very little money left, and nowhere to stay. Things seemed rather desperate to her eyes, but when he returned she had a composed look on her face.

A man followed him bringing two trays laden with more food than six people could eat. She stared in amazement at the delicious looking food. She hadnít realized how hungry she was until she saw it, but did not want to seem tasteless, by just diving in. "I was not sure what you would like, so I had a modest selection brought." It looked to her to be much more than just modest. She had not eaten so well in many years.

She waited until the servant left, and Clay sat down in the chair in front of her. "Donít be shy. Go ahead." He motioned to her picking up his own utensils and taking a small bite. She didnít need any other prompt, as she started to eat. She tried not to rush her eating worried that he would think she was a heathen, but she did eat her fill, and was still eating long after he laid his own fork down.

She spooned the last bite of a delicious pudding into her mouth, her eyes closing in bliss, when she heard a small laugh. Her eyes flew open, and she saw that he had been staring at her. She laid the spoon down looking down at the two plates of food and dessert she had finished. She tried to think of something to say, but her embarrassment had her at a loss for words.

"I guess your accident has not affected your appetite much." He suggested. "I know sometimes on the road it is hard to find good food."

"Yes very true." She said smiling at him silently thanking him for not making any rude comments, concerning her enormous appetite. "Thank you for the wonderful meal."

"I took the liberty of having your things brought to my saloon the Ambrosia. If your feeling up to it Iíll take you over there later so you can get settled in." He suggested.

"Saloon?" She questioned.

"Donít worry itís a rather respectful establishment, and unfortunately the hotel is full up, so it will have to do. The doctor is always a busy man in Curtis Wells, and he may soon enough need this room." Clay explained.

"I see." She said pausing not knowing how to broach the question in her mind. Back in Richmond the idea of a Shelby woman needing to find a job, was unheard of, but she wasnít in Richmond, and being a Shelby meant little more than nothing anymore.

"Clay could you suggest a place where I might find gainful employment here?" She asked.

"Why would you need employment Bethany? I would be more than happy to provide anything you needed as long as you stayed here." He said appalled at the thought of the young woman working.

"I know you would Clay. But things have changed. I know you still see me as young Bethany Shelby, a genteel young lady, who should only be thinking of a proper match in marriage, and having many children. But thatís not the way things have turned out. Since I left Richmond I have worked everyday of my life, and I pay my own way. I like it that way. I donít like feeling beholden to anyone. So please donít push this point." She said with quiet resolve.

He could see her mind was set. But what jobs were there in Curtis Wells for a lady? "Well there arenít very many business establishments in Curtis Wells. Thereís the mercantile, but the owner has several children who work for him, so he doesnít need help. Thereís the bank, but the owner refuses to hire women. Then thereís the Chinese laundry. They sometimes hire part-time help, but itís never enough to live on. Thereís Twylaís the local Sporting house. Iím assuming you wouldnít accept that." He said smiling.

"You assume right." She answered.

"We are in need of a new gunsmith. Would you happen to know anything about guns?" He asked with a grin on his face.

"I know how to cock, point, and shoot. What else is there to know?" She said sarcastically.

"I guess thatís a no then. Then thereís the No 10. Itís a saloon down in tent town, and everything that the Ambrosia is not. Decent women donít even enter there. That only leaves the Dove, and the Ambrosia." He said.

"What is the owner of the Dove like? Maybe they need a chambermaid." She suggested.

"Iím afraid youíre looking at him, and Iím also afraid that the Dove doesnít need any more employees." The small smirk that played over his lips was infuriating.

"Well Iíve never been a saloon girl before, but Iím willing to try it." She suggested. "If you need anymore, that is."

He imagined her dressed as his saloon girls did, and the image did not fit with his idea of what his best friendís sister should look like. Try as he might he couldnít get the image of her in pig tales out of his mind. Then an idea crossed his mind. "I seem to remember you were always good with numbers in the classes back at Hatton willow. It seems that as my holdings grow, the paperwork in my office does also. It is becoming too much for me to handle myself, so I have been considering hiring someone trustworthy to handle my books for me. But finding someone trustworthy in this territory has become challenging."

"Clay you arenít just making up a job to keep me out of the saloon are you?" She asked suspiciously.

"No. I am serious." He said remembering the never-ending stack of papers on his desk that needed to be attended to. "Besides, my office is in the saloon." He said jokingly.

"And the wages?" She asked shrewdly.

"I will pay you the same wage that the beginning book keepers at the bank receive, plus room and board at the Ambrosia." He made a very generous offer.

"Done." She said reaching out and shaking his hand. He was surprised that she had quite a firm handshake.

 

It was time for her to leave Cleeseís and head over to the Ambrosia, but she didnít want to leave without saying goodbye to Luther. She had spoken to him on the long stage ride before the accident, and had taken an immediate liking to the burly man. She normally did not trust easily. Her past had taught her that lesson early, but she just couldnít help herself. Lutherís demeanor just reminded her too much of Robert. The protective attitude he had taken towards her upon learning that she was traveling alone had been quite endearing.

"Iíll be waiting outside on the stairs for you Bethany." Clay said as she stopped in the doorway leading to Lutherís room.

"Iíll be there in a few moments Clay." She smiled then turned into the room.

She was surprised to see the angry look on Mr. Callís face when she turned to the rooms occupants, but did not let it disturb her as she made her way to the side of Lutherís bed, taking a seat. "How are you feeling Luther?" She said taking his hand.

"Like I was run over by a stage." He joked. "How Ďbout you?"

Her smile grew brighter, at the jest. "Like I got tossed around the inside of a rolling stage. But Iíd say that was considerably better than you."

"True." He agreed.

"Iím going over to stay at the Ambrosia. I donít want to take up the good doctorís only free room. But I promise I will come to check on you everyday." She explained.

"Your gonna stay at the Ambrosia? It seems youíre awful chummy with Mosby, Miss." Call interrupted their conversation.

"Well maybe thatís because I have known him ever since I was a small child, Mr. Call. Iím from Richmond. We were neighbors." She explained coolly. "My names Bethany Shelby."

That little piece of information surprised both men. "You related to Robert Shelby?" Call remembered Mosbyís friend.

"Heís my brother. Heís the reason I came west. I wanted to find him. But it seems the trail has gone cold here in Curtis Wells. So Clay suggested that I stay here and Robert might show up to visit him someday. But why I need to explain myself to you I donít know." Her voice held an iciness, that matched his own.

"Heís just concerned Miss Shelby." Luther interrupted them before the argument escalated. "I donít want to upset you, but Mr. Mosby isnít exactly the type of person that sweet young girls hang around, unless they work at Twylaís."

"Well I wouldnít work at Twylaís Luther, but Iím also not a sweet young girl either. I can handle myself, and I think I might understand Clay Mosby more than you might imagine, so please donít worry yourself about it too much." She reached out and brushed a lock of hair out of his eyes.

"Thatís hard to do, seeing as your gonna be living in a lionís den." Call commented darkly.

She stood wanting to put distance between herself and Mr. Call. He may have truly been concerned about her well being, but he was a dangerous man. She could read it in his eyes, and she could sense it in her soul. She had, had her fill of dangerous men.

"Iíll see you tomorrow Luther. Mr. Call." She said her goodbyes and then left the office.

When she left the office Clay was waiting for her. He could see the dark look on her face. "Is something amiss Bethany?"

"No Clay. Itís just that Mr. Call can be quite annoying canít he?" She said trying to brighten her smile.

"That my dear is an understatement. Heís been a thorn in my side for a long while now. I guess he warned you to stay away from me didnít he?" Clay had learned to expect certain reactions from Newt Call, and it would not surprise him if he tried to scare Bethany off.

"Something like that, but Iím made of a little sterner stuff than he might imagine. Iím not afraid of you Clay. No matter how much Mr. Call might want me to be." She said making her way down the steps from the doctorís office, not noticing his reaction.

"I should warn you Bethany. Most people are." He didnít know why he had told her that.

She had reached the bottom of the steps and turned to see that he hadnít started down them yet. The serious look on his face let her know he wasnít jesting her. "Clay Iíve seen true evil in my lifetime, and you just arenít it. I donít fear you. If you want me to, Iím sorry but I canít."

"I donít want you to fear me Bethany. I just donít want you to get the wrong impression of me. I may not be true evil as you say, but Iím no angel either." He had been surprised by her words. What had she lived with in the past that would make her speak like that?

"Clay, donít worry. I know your no angel. None of us are anymore. Now come on. Show me your fine establishment. Iím tired of dark discussions." She gave him her most winning smile.

"You are an amazing woman, Bethany Shelby." He said after joining her on the ground level.

"I just survive Clay." She said linking her arm in the one he held out to her.

She had been in a few saloons during her lifetime, but Clay had been right. Compared to the otherís she had seen the Ambrosia was classy. He gave her a short tour knowing that she might still be tired from her ordeal with the stage. He showed her to her room. It was spacious, and had a very comfortable looking bed, which she longed to fall into immediately. He motioned to the room across the hall. "That room is mine. If you need anything Iíll be there or the room next to it, which is my office. I know you must still be very tired and doctor Cleese would have my hide if he thought I wasnít taking care of you, so Iíll leave you now to rest."

"Thank you Clay, for every thing." She said as he left the room.

He turned back to her smiling. "Itís the least I can do for Robertís little sister. I owe him a lot Bethany."

For some reason his words stung slightly. Was he helping her just because of Robert, not because he wanted to? She tried to dismiss the thought. She did not want to seem ungrateful. She didnít know how to react to his words so she didnít. She just watched him walk across the hall and into his own room.

She closed her own door and sat on the bed. She was becoming stiffer. Her ribs really did hurt like hell, but it was a small thing compared to the rest of her life. She ran her fingers through her hair in the old nervous habit she could never quite break. She had too many emotions running through her head. Between the stage coach ride, which could have taken her life, and the nightmare which had come back to her, and her strange reaction to Clayís words, she felt completely drained. She didnít want to think. She would sleep, she thought curling up on the bed.

She was alone in the facilities laundry room. It was her job to clean the sheets, and she always did a good job. She heard the soft click as the roomís only door opened. She didnít want to turn. She knew who it would be, but she
dreaded it.

"You know you donít have to work like a dog down here." She heard the deep male voice say.

She did not answer him.

"One word from you, and things could improve for you immensely." He said again.

She continued folding the sheets, not saying a word.

"Damn it. Why donít you answer me?" It only took a second for him to grab her from behind slamming her into the folding table before her.

As her stomach impacted the edge of the table she felt like her insides were going to explode. She didnít have the strength to fight him this time, as unconsciousness overcame her.

" Robert!" She screamed as she woke from the dream in a cold sweat. Her entire body trembled, as she looked around the dark room, frantically. She was alone. Her breaths were coming in gasps. The dream was never the same twice, but to her it was still the same dream, always the same tormentor. Usually she would find a way to block the memory out, but it was too vivid this time. She remembered spending several weeks in the facilities infirmary after that incident. None of the doctors or nurses that worked there questioned how she had sustained the internal injuries, but they knew. And the looks of pity they had bestowed on her had made her feel even more ill. She had learned to hate that look.

She needed a drink after that one. She stood looking at her appearance in the mirror. She had replaced the dress that had been torn during the stage accident. The replacement looked decent enough, but her hair was decidedly untidy. But at the moment it would have to do. She grabbed her handbag and headed downstairs to the bar. It was late. So late that she wasnít sure how much longer the Ambrosia would be open. Most of the saloonís patrons had already left and a few that hadnít were passed out at the tables. That was fine, she didnít feel like being hassled by anyone that night. She purchased a bottle of the rotgut whiskey thinking she would take what ever she didnít drink back to her room for later. She found an out of the way table in the back corner and proceeded to drink the foul liquor. It didnít matter how bad it tasted as long as it made her forget.

She had finished two shots when someone sat across from her at the table. She looked up to see Newt Call sitting across from her. "You donít look so good Miss Shelby." He commented.

She gave him a sarcastic smile. "I didnít sleep well."

He motioned to the bottle in front of her. "That make you sleep better?"

"I can only hope." She said pouring herself another drink.

"Most ladies I know donít drink that stuff." He said wondering what had gotten her so riled.

"You know some ladies. That surprises me." Normally she would not have thrown an insult like that, but her mood was darker than it had been in a long time. But still she regretted it.

"Yes I do. Do you?" He said insulting right back.

She just sat there staring at him darkly for a moment. He imagined she might slap him, or throw the drink in his face, but was surprised when she started laughing. She laughed so hard that tears started running down the sides of her face. "Okay Call. I deserved that one." She said after she was able to stifle the laughs.

He started to laugh too. It was the first time he had seen what he considered to be a genuine smile on her face. It was nice. "Yes you did."

"Call you donít have to worry about me. Iím a big girl, and I know how much I can drink." She tried to assure him when he picked the stopper up and placed it back in the bottle.

"Iím sure you normally do. But sometimes we all forget what our limits are when bad things happen." He said retrieving a glass from another table and joining her in the drink. "Iíll buy the next bottle okay." Her eyebrows rose at the statement. "I hate to see a pretty lady drinking alone." He explained. Truthfully he was worried what would happen to that pretty lady when she was too drunk to pull her self up to her room.

They sat at the table talking and drinking for what seemed to be hours. Clay wondered downstairs to see why the bar was still open. Normally his bartender would have closed at least three quarters of an hour before.

He couldnít believe what he saw. Bethany and Call were sitting at a table drinking and laughing. He could see that they both had, had too much to drink. "What do we have here?" He asked stopping in front of their table.

Bethany looked to him, and then looked back at Call. She had an innocent wide-eyed expression on her face. Then she broke into laughter clutching her broken ribs. Callís laughter joined her own.

Call could see the dangerous look that crossed Clayís face. Bethany turned back to Clay. "Iím sorry Clay. Newt was just telling me stories, about what he calls Mosbyville." Her laughter rang out again, and the look on his face darkened even more.

"Shhh. He donít like it when I call it that." The drunken bounty hunter said placing one finger to his lips shushing her.

"This is all very amusing you two, but Miss Shelby starts work tomorrow and needs some sleep." He suggested in a strained voice.

"I donít want to sleep no more. I just want to drink." She said picking up her glass and staring at the brown liquid as she sloshed it around.

"Miss Shelby please donít make me regret hiring you." His voice held a pleading quality that even in her drunken state she realized was not like him.

She placed the glass back on the table, and stood a little shakily. "Iím sorry Clay. Of course you are right." She turned back to Call. "Thanks Mr. Call. Our discussion was quite interesting."

"Yes it was." He said smiling. "You want to continue it tomorrow night?" She could see his words angered Clay.

"That depends on how well I sleep." She answered knowing Clay would not understand the statement.

Clay waited until she made her way up the stairs before he spoke his mind. "Mr. Call, due to my connections with Miss Shelbyís family I tend to see her well-being as sort of a responsibility. I take my responsibilities very seriously Mr. Call. So whatever game your thinking of playing with her, donít." The words were icy cold, but Call could see the fire behind his eyes.

"Iím not playing any games with her Mosby. Just trying to get to know the woman who saved my friends life. Now you on the other hand surprise me. I sort of figured youíd just see her as someone else to own in Mosbyville." Callís voice was just as icy as Clayís had been.

"Honestly Mr. Call do you see Miss Shelby as being the type of woman that any man could own? If you do, then you donít understand her at all." Clay chuckled at the notion.

"No I see that. But I wasnít sure you did." He answered, and then turned to leave the bar.

"Do we understand each other Mr. Call?" Clay called out as he reached the door.

"Yes I think we do." Call said pushing the swinging doors open.

Clay was surprised to see Bethany slumped on the floor at the end of the hall next to her room. "Bethany." He said kneeling beside her.

"Hmm." She made a small noise then lifted her head. She was confused to see her surroundings. She looked up at his concerned face. "What am I doing on the floor Clay?"

"It seems you passed out." He said bending and picking her up.

"Clay put me down. I can walk." She said pushing against his chest.

"I thought you could to, until I found you on the floor." He said carrying her into her own room and depositing her on the bed. She sat there a moment with her head in her hands covering her eyes. She was trying to make the room quit spinning. As she consciously slowed her breathing she ran her finger through her hair, something he had seen her do before.

"Bethany what possessed you to get drunk, and with Newt Call of all people?" Clay asked in an exasperated tone.

"If youíre thinking I got something for him, your wrong Clay. He just made me laugh, is all. I needed that the same as I needed the drink." She said lying back on the bed knowing she wouldnít be awake much longer.

"Why Bethany. What demons are you carrying around with you?" He asked desperate to understand.

"Clay I didnít ask about your demons, even though I know you got them. Please donít ask about mine." She said reaching one arm up and covering her eyes.

"Why are you so stubborn?" He asked standing and pacing the room.

"Thatís like asking why the wind is so strong. It was made that way, and so was I. Clay I appreciate your concern over me, but I need sleep. As you said I got work tomorrow." She tried to change the subject.

"Donít worry about that. You can start when youíre ready." He said turning and leaving the room.

Even in her alcohol induced fog she could see that she had upset him. She knew if she wanted he would listen to her stories of horror, and he would do his best to comfort her, and she would enjoy that comfort, but she also knew the look that would be in his eyes. The look of pity she had grown to hate at the facility. She couldnít stand to see that look anymore.

Continued in Part 2

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