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 Green Shoots Chapter fifteen

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Keays

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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 61
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Green Shoots Chapter fifteen   Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:12 pm

Green Shoots



 
Belle stared in horror at both Jed and her son, her emotions still spiralling after processing the news of her son’s narrow escape from a watery grave.  Her reaction had been primal; cuddling him tightly to her breast whilst berating her offspring in deeply impassioned whispers.  The child seemed to be relatively unaffected by the whole thing, not realising the gravity of his accident but the mystery woman was another matter.

He could not shut up about her.  “Mama, you should have seen her!  I couldn’t take my eyes off her - not until she made me so she could get dressed.”  
 
Belle released J.J.  “She was naked!”
      
The Kid shook his head.  “Nah, she was wearing her underwear.”  
 
“Her underwear!” gasped Beth

Despite his ordeal J.J. seemed to be unable to remove the silly grin from his face.  “Yeah, but it was all wet, and you could see...”

“That’s enough!”  Belle’s voice went up an octave, all of a pother at the events.  She glanced at her husband who was finding J.J.’s infatuation annoyingly amusing.  “Upstairs, young man and into your night clothes.”

J.J.’s eyes widened to globes of hurt.  “But, Mama, it’s only lunchtime.”

“Yes, and you are going straight to bed after you’ve eaten.  You could have caught your death of cold in that water, not to mention...”  Belle gulped down a sob and a trembling hand came up to cover her mouth.  “Look at what could have happened.  You stay around the house from now on unless you have an adult with you.”

J.J. gave a wail of despair.  “But...”

“No arguments.  You could have been killed.”

“It was an accident, Belle.  It wasn’t,” the Kid shrugged.  “It wasn’t a case of, well, you know...”

“No?”  The ever-stoic Belle was starting to show the strain of what seemed to be a runaway train of stresses.  “Who was that woman?  Why was she on our land, watching my son?”

“In her underwear,” J.J. added, unhelpfully, but chirpily.

The Kid shrugged.  “I dunno, but I’ll ride into town and find out.”
 
“I'm not so sure about that!” Beth snapped.  “What kind of a woman in she to be running around in her underwear!”

“She got dressed,” the Kid protested, “and she only took off her dress to jump in the creek.”

“Yeah,” J.J.’s smile widened so far his cheeks must have been aching.  “She’s so brave.  She’s wonderful.”

Beth was noticeably uncomfortable with this whole issue.  “But still....can't you just let Hannibal look for her?.” 

Jed shook his head.  “He doesn’t know what she looks like.”

“I do,” J.J. volunteered.  “She’s beautiful, with great, big...”

Belle cut him off.   “Upstairs, young man.  Now!”

“...eyes,” J.J. continued.  “She had big, green eyes.  I’ve never seen anyone like her, she’s like a dream.”  The boy’s musings were cut short by his mother grabbing his hand and dragging him up the staircase.

“A dream?” chortled Jesse.  “Was she as pretty as he seems to think?”

The Kid darted a glance at his simmering fiancé.  “Pretty enough, but no match for Beth.”

“Are you sure?” she asked him and smiled cheekily.  “Maybe I should parade around in my underwear too?  It seems to grab your attention.”

The Kid fixed her with a hard stare.  “Over my dead body.”

Jesses’ pensive eyes drifted up to the ceiling, ignoring the burgeoning jealously between the young couple.  “Who is she?  What did she want?”

Kid pulled his warning gaze away from his pouting fiancee and turned his attention back to Jesse. “She said she was exploring,” He shrugged.  “I guess it’s lucky for us that she was.  I doubt there’s anything sinister about her, or she wouldn’t have pulled him out.”

“All the way from Canada!  What kind of woman strips down to her underwear in broad daylight anyway?” Beth was trying to be reasonable but finding it very difficult.

“One who’s seen a little boy fall in a river and who doesn’t want to get dragged to the bottom by the weight of her clothing?” Jesse suggested.  “How about Jed and me go into town and try to find her?  I owe her the biggest 'thank you' I ever gave anyone.  There can’t be many wet Canadians walking the streets of Brookswood.  She shouldn’t be too hard to find.” 

 
 “A sorrel?  Yeah, sure, I let Falla out to a woman.”  Eric Schulmeyer toyed idly with the currycomb in his hand and glanced around the stable.  “That one over there.  She came back just before twelve,” a grin twitched at his lips.  “Her hair was soaking wet, but her clothes were dry and it ain’t rained for days.  I did wonder what she’d been up to.”

“Have you got a name?” Jesse asked.  “She pulled little J.J. out of the creek, and I want to thank her.”

“She said she was stayin’ at the hotel.”  Eric walked over to the clipboard on a hook by the door.  “She wrote it down, here it is... Dag... da... dagnabbit!  How do you say that?”

Eric held out the paperwork where the name ‘Miss E. Daignault’ was printed beside a florid signature.  Jesse and Jed exchanged a look of confusion.

“No idea,” Jesse declared, “but we know where she’s staying.  Thanks Eric, we’ll head over to the hotel.”

 
 The clerk shook his head.  “There ain’t nobody here of that name.”

The Kid frowned. “We’re probably saying it wrong.  Dagnoot?  Dagnalt, damn it!  Have you anyone with a French name?”

“Nope.”  The clerk ran a finger down the register.  “I got a Schultz.  Is that any good to you?”

“That’s German.  Is she a pretty, young woman?”

The clerk raised his eyes to Jesse in answer.  “He’s a lumber merchant, with crumbs in his moustache.”

“Then why’d you bring him up, for heaven’s sake!” the Kid exclaimed.

The man shrugged.  “It’s a foreign name.  It’s the only one I got.”

“What about that one?”  The Kid’s long finger rested on the name ‘Spadaccini.’  “That’s foreign.”

“No it ain’t,” the clerk drew himself up to his full five foot four.  “It’s Italian.”

“Well, that’s foreign, ain’t it?”

“No.  I’m Italian,” the clerk pointed to his chest.  “Alberto Pazzano, foreigners are what you ain’t.  Don’t you know anything?”

“Well, I ain’t Italian,” snorted the Kid.  “I’m Irish.”

“And my folks were English,” grinned Jesse.  “I guess we’re all foreigners.  What does Spadaccini look like?”

“It ain’t her.  Spadaccini’s nearly six foot and his eyes ain’t green.”

The Kid leaned heavily on the desk and gave the obtuse clerk a sigh of exasperation.  “Do you have any young women in the hotel – of any name?”

“Nope.  Just Mrs. Bamforth and she’s gotta be in her sixties.”

“Has anyone checked out?” Jesse queried.

“Just a couple of fellas,” Alberto replied.  “We ain’t had a young woman stayin’ here since last month, and she was with her husband.”

Jesse scratched his chin.  “Eric showed us his paperwork.  She signed to say she was staying at the hotel not more than an hour ago.  Why would she lie?”

Alberto leaned on one elbow, dropping his voice conspiratorially.  “Maybe she’s plannin’ on stealin a horse?”

Cynical blue eyes twinkled back at him.  “Then why’d she bring it back?”

“She could be lullin’ him into a false sense of security.  Keep hiring the thing then – wham!” Alberto slapped the wooden top.  “It’s gone when you least expect it!”

Jesse and Jed shared a look before the Kid arched one eyebrow.  “You don’t get out from behind that counter much, do you?”

“Not much, no,” Alberto admitted.

“Take it from me, as an ex-outlaw – it’s not the best criminal plan I ever heard.”

Alberto stood back up with a smile.  “I’m not surprised.  I don’t want to bang my own trumpet, but I’m an honest man – always have been.”  His brow creased slightly as worried eyes darted at Jed.  “No offence.”

“None taken,” Jed grinned.  “My grandpa would have said there’s a great deal of sense outside that head of yours.” 

“Why, thank you,” Alberto smiled.  “I do my best.”

“I know.  That’s the tragedy of it all.”  The Kid turned to Jesse.  “What now?  How about the saloon?”

“I doubt we’ll find her there,” murmured Jesse.

“I know, but I saw her, and I didn’t want to upset Beth so I downplayed things a bit – and any man who laid eyes on Elise wouldn’t forget her in a hurry.  Let’s see if anyone there can help?”
        
      
 David appeared at Amy’s bedside pushing a raffia chair on wheels.  It had been two weeks since the accident and her swollen lips and bruises had subsided considerably.  “Look at what Mrs. Cranford has given us.  Her late father used this in his final years.  You can get out of that bed, maybe even get a little sun on the porch; how does that sound?”

Amy’s eyes brightened.  “For me?”

“To borrow, certainly.”  David gave her a twinkle of professional positivity.  “You can’t keep it because you won’t need to.  I’m going to get you back on those feet of yours and you’ll be making hats again before you know it.”  He patted the back of the wheelchair proprietarily.  “I’ll need it for other patients.”

A smile beamed in the blue eyes.  “The sun?”  She sighed wistfully.  “I never thought I’d feel it again.”

David nodded.  “You like the idea of some sun and fresh air?  Great, let’s get you up.  I think Tricia would like to take tea with you on the porch; then you could have a read?”

“Ooh yes!  That sounds wonderful.”

“I bet it does, you haven’t been outside for two weeks.  I would have carried you out but it’d probably be too painful with those ribs.  This way it’ll be a bit of pain and then you can relax in the chair.”

“You have all been so kind.”  Amy dropped her head.  “I need to ask you though; it’s been worrying me...”

“What?”

“How can I pay you for all of this?”

David frowned.  “Have I asked you for any money?  Don’t worry about that.  I have many patients who pay me a little at a time.  We’ll sort something out.”

“But my shop.  It hasn’t made a penny yet.  I don’t have any money.”  Amy’s face swirled with guilt.  “This is your job, and you’ve done so much for me, you deserve to be paid.”

“And I’m sure you will,” David gave her a compassionate smile.  “I get the feeling you’ll be in Brookswood for a very long time to come.  Once you get on your feet again you can pay me what you can.  I can wait.  I don’t do this for the money.”

“You saved my life.  I need to repay you.”

“Then get better and live a happy, full life.  That’s a doctor’s best reward.”  David stood over the bed, ready to lift her into the chair.  “Brace yourself, this is going to hurt, but Tricia’s got the tea made and we don’t want it to get cold, do we?”

“No, we certainly don’t.”  Amy gasped as the now familiar pain ripped through her.  “Ahh!”

“There,” David deposited her on the wheelchair before bending to adjust the leg rests so her broken ankle was elevated.  “Which is your book?  This one?”  He dropped it onto her lap.  “We’ll grab a couple of cushions on the way out.  Don’t be surprised if this feels like you’ve had a huge adventure by the time you get back to bed tonight, but it’ll do you good to start moving around, even just a little.  It’ll get the blood flowing.”
 
 
 Tricia placed the little table beside Amy and moved her drink within easy reach.  Amy had progressed from using the spouted feeder cup, which would allow people to drink lying down, to a mug which had a handle large enough for her splinted fingers to lace through the handle.  At least her left arm wasn’t broken and she was able to hold a cup or a book, supporting the arm with a cushion to save too much pressure on her chest.  Somehow, they were the worst.  She couldn’t move without an explosion of agony.  Who knew broken ribs were so debilitating?

Tricia took her own cup and sat opposite.  “Well, this is nice,” she sipped at her tea.  “Outside on the porch.”

“Almost normal,” agreed Amy, “except for the splints and the wheels.”

“Temporary,” Tricia smiled.  “You wait; you’ve turned the corner now.  It’s just a matter of time.”

Both women turned to look at Miranda who walked out bearing a plate with delicate slices of ginger cake and Madeira fingers.  She held it up triumphantly.  “This felt like a celebration to me.  I thought we needed cake.”

Amy smiled.  “It does, doesn’t it?  Thank you for caring.”

Miranda placed some titbits on a side plate and made sure it was within Amy’s reach before taking a seat to her left.  “The whole town feels for you.  Your business had so much promise, and all the ladies were delighted to have you here, then this happens.”  Miranda lifted the pot and poured herself a cup of tea.  “I’m sure we’ll all be very pleased when you can open again.  When you’re well enough we’ll have a little get together so you’ll realize how much goodwill there is.  David doesn’t think you’re ready for too many visitors just yet.”

“Why?”

“It’ll tire you,” smiled Tricia.

“No, why would people care?”

Tricia and Miranda shared a look of surprise.  Miranda put down her cup.  “Why not?  Any woman can relate to your story, but I doubt most of us would have your courage, to come all the way out here and make a fresh start.  You are quite inspirational, you know.” 
  
“I am?”

Both women laughed at Amy’s complete amazement.  “Yes,” Tricia laughed.  “You are.”

“Oh!”  Amy’s eyebrows gathered in confusion.  “I was never that type.  Nobody ever really noticed me.  Except for Harold, he noticed me but I was always sort of... invisible to everyone else.”

“Maybe your Harold was such a big character you never had the chance to shine,” Tricia ventured.

“Yes, he was... big,” Amy replied, heavily, a lost look washing over her.

The cousins exchanged a glance before Miranda cautiously spoke.  “Well, life has moved on and you have made quite an impression.”

“Yes,” Amy sighed, “and that’s why I don’t think I can stay here.”

Tricia gave a cry of dismay.  “No!  Why ever not.”

“Somebody did this to me.  Maybe it’s better to be invisible again than attract that kind of hatred.”  Amy shook her head.  “I can’t stay where I’m clearly despised.”

Miranda reached out and placed a gentle hand on Amy’s knee.  “No, please stay.  This may not have been anything to do with you.  You know the sheriff’s looking at the option of it being someone who may not have liked you getting close to Hannibal.”

“I know... but all I did was have a few cups of tea with somebody in need of a chat, and this happens?”  Amy’s eyes dropped.  “I can’t stay.  I’m not proud of it, but I’ve never been very brave.”

“Look,” Miranda smiled gently.  “You’re in no position to go anywhere right now, so let’s give it time.”  She sat back and lifted her cup again.  “But I can’t agree with you.  You are one of the bravest women I know.  You came all the way out here, you knew nobody, and you didn’t even look for the safety of being employed in an established business.  I could never have done that.”

Tricia and Miranda watched the doubt on Amy’s face before Miranda continued.  “Besides, the whole town is behind you now.  You couldn’t get better goodwill for a new business than you have here.”  Miranda paused.  “And I owe you an apology.  I did think you had set your cap at Hannibal, and I suppose I got a bit jealous.  I now realise how stupid I was being.  He told me that you encouraged him to talk to me.  I suppose I just felt a bit hurt that he wouldn’t speak to me and got things out of perspective.  Can you forgive me?”

Amy’s brows arched in surprise.  “Forgive you?  There’s nothing to forgive.”  She shrugged.  “You acted like any rejected friend would, that’s why I told him to talk to you.  He wasn’t cutting you out, he was just afraid.  I told him to face that fear.”  She smiled.  “You know what men are like with emotions.  Goodness, they’d rather wrestle a bear with their bare hands than deal with an upset woman!  That part of them is always like a little boy.”

Miranda heaved a sigh of relief.  “Thank you.  Now you do realise that whoever did this will also know you’re not seeing Hannibal after all, don’t you?  Please stay, Amy.  Give the town the chance to make up for this.”

Amy lifted her cup to her lips.  “We’ll see.  As I said, I’ve never been very brave.  I just can’t see a future here, and that’s such a shame.  It is a lovely, little town.”

 
 “Uncle Jed?”  J.J. peered against the strong sunlight from under a shielding hand, “There’s Elsie!”

The Kid rolled his eyes.  “Again?  Look, it’s been a week since she pulled you outta the creek and you can hardly talk about anything else.  I wish I’d never brought you to town.  You’ve seen her three times on the way here.  The last time it was washing on a line.”

 Heyes turned to smile at the boy who had thrust his head between the men from his vantage point at the back of the wagon.  “She’s real special, isn’t she, this Elsie?”

“She sure is.  Uncle Jed saw her too.  Ask him.”

Heyes’ lascivious eyes slid towards his grinning partner.  “He already told me.  He said she was real pretty.”

“See for yourself, that’s her.”

Heyes followed the boy’s pointing finger over to the sidewalk to where a stunning woman was remonstrating with a man.  Not just any man – she was arguing with Valentine Bamforth, a pointed finger waving in his face.  Heyes sat bolt upright.  “Are you sure?”

The Kid drew the wagon to a halt.  “Yeah, that is her!”

Heyes didn’t hesitate.  He leaped from the vehicle and strode towards the altercating couple, quickly overtaken by a keen J.J.  The green eyes flashed in Heyes’ direction and she turned abruptly, bustling towards a nearby alley.  The Kid tethered the wagon, and was soon loping alongside his partner who increased his pace to keep up with the woman.  She wasn’t quite running, but she was certainly shifting at quite a rate.

“Can I help you?”  Valentine Bamforth loomed up in front of them, blocking their way.

“No,” Heyes snapped.  “Get out of the way.”

Elise was taking advantage of the intervention, glancing over her shoulder at the partners before she disappeared around the corner.

“But you jumped off the wagon and headed straight for me,” Valentine frowned.  “I saw you.”

“We wanted to talk to that woman,” Heyes made to step passed the man, but he was irritatingly insistent, stepping to the side maintaining his obstruction.

“I saw you!  You practically ran at me.  I’m no coward, and considering you as near as dammit threatened me the last time we met, I’ll have you know I won’t tolerate any nonsense from you, Mr. Heyes.”

The Kid darted around Bamforth, going into a jog as he tried to keep up with the scampering boy who was fixed upon the object of his affection.  J.J scurried around the corner.  “Elsie!  It’s me, J.J.  Remember me? ”

“I’m not interested in you, Bamforth,” Heyes barked at the man still loitering about in front of him.  “If you don’t move, I’ll crack you on the jaw.”

Bamforth’s mouth set in a line.  “Violence?  Is that your answer to everything?”

“No, just some really annoying things!”  Heyes glanced over at his partner who stood at the corner, shaking his head to indicate that she’d disappeared.  “Who was that woman you were speaking to?”

Bamforth scowled.  “I just bumped into her by mistake.  She’s as rude as you are.”

“So you never saw her before?”

The grey eyes hardened to glistening pebbles.   “Listen, Heyes, you’re the one who jumped from a wagon and ran at me.  Where do you get off asking me questions?  Get out of my way.  I have to collect my mother from church.” 
Bamforth gave a huff of irritation and strode off.

“What was all that about?” the Kid demanded.

Heyes tilted his hat back on his head distractedly.  “That was Bamforth – you know, the stranger who arrived about the same time as Amy?  He thought I was hurrying towards him.”

“The prospector?  Why would he care about that?”

“I did warn him that Amy has friends in this town and that I thought he was involved in her accident, so I can understand him getting worried about me jumping from a wagon and running in his direction.”  Heyes narrowed his eyes and stared down the alley to where J.J. was calling for ‘Elsie.’  “What would she come down here for?  That lady is acting real suspicious.”

The Kid nodded.  “Just like someone who isn’t too keen on answering any questions, huh?”

“Well, we’d know all about that, wouldn’t we?” Heyes grinned.  “Let’s see where this goes.”

 
 They found J.J. at the other end of the alley.

“Which way’d she go?” the Kid asked.

“I don’t know,” the boy’s bottom lip protruded with hurt.  “Why doesn’t she want to speak to me?”

“I’m sure it’s not you, J.J.”  The partners exchanged a look as the Kid crouched down to smile at him.  “She’s probably just kinda shy.”

Heyes looked around at the wall of back doors facing them.  The front of these buildings made up Seward Street, which was nearly as long as Main Street.  It held many of the newer shops, the Church, the new school and headed straight down towards the railway station.  “She could have gone anywhere,” muttered Heyes.  “She looked straight at me and made a break for it.  How would she even know what I look like?  I’ve never seen her before in my life.”

“I don’t like this.  Not one little bit,” the Kid replied.  “This is gettin’ fishier by the moment.  D’ya think she knows Bamforth?  She was with him, and it looked to me like he was tryin’ to stop us gettin’ to her.”

“Could be.  Just who is she?”  Heyes walked along glancing at the spaces between the buildings where Elise could have made her way to Seward Street to mingle with the shoppers.  “Let’s get down there and see if we can spot her.”

 
The partners strolled casually down the sidewalk of a sunny Seward Street, watching J.J. trot ahead and dart into shops in search of the object his affections.

“What if Bamforth has friends and one of them was watching J.J.,” the Kid mused, quietly.

“She saved him though.”  Heyes watched the boy push open the door of a haberdashery shop.  “What if she’s against Bamforth and he knows it?  They were clearly arguing.”

“Then why go to these lengths to hide from us?”  The Kid folded his arms, waiting for J.J. to come out of the shop.  “Surely she’d be on the same side as us.”

A mischievous smile dimpled Heyes face.  “Maybe she’s upset.  She has a beautiful French name and we’ve ended up calling her Elsie Dagnabbit.”

The Kid chuckled lightly.  “We’ve got to call her somethin’, how would you say her name?”

“Search me, French was more Abi’s territory.”  Heyes' gaze landed on a pair on the opposite sidewalk.  “There’s Bamforth, and I guess that’s his mother.  He did say he was going to collect her from church.”

The cousins stared over at the pair; Bamforth’s tiny, grey-haired mother holding on to her son’s arm.  “For two cents I’d take him somewhere quiet to find out exactly what he’s up to,” Heyes hissed under his breath, “but I’m on a warning to be on my best behaviour.”  
      
“Uh huh, but I ain’t,” the Kid agreed.  “He’s with his ma right now, this ain’t the time.”  J.J. joined them before running off to check the shoe shop next door.  “Maybe it’d be a good idea to stake out the stables until her next ride.  Let’s see what Elsie Dagnabbit has to say for herself when she’s got nowhere to run?”
 
“One thing at a time, huh?  Beth’ll skin you alive if she finds out, Kid.”

“Yeah, all she’ll know is what we find out. D’you want to grab J.J. and we’ll head to the stables?  Let’s find out what time she usually goes out.”
   
 
Heyes watched the little mare trot passed his hiding place.  He gave a wry smile and urged Karma to fall in behind Elise after a suitable distance.  She seemed to especially like the sorrel, asking for it every day, but Elise was so petite Falla was probably the best sized mount for her in the stable.

They were on the road to the Double J. sure enough and Heyes felt the tingle of anticipation at being involved in an intrigue again.  It wasn’t just the sparkling morning sun, the bright, clear air or the chirping of the birds dashing around to collect buzzing insects; he was being challenged again and no matter how small that stimulation was, it got his blood flowing in a way he hadn’t felt for so long.
 
He continued along, suddenly realising that he felt happy.  Abi had told him there were times when the fog would lift and he’d suddenly feel alive again.  She’d also told him they’d get more frequent.  Was this one of those moments?  He sighed, a pang of pain reminding him of his loss.  Was she feeling the same?

Once the wedding was over he’d decide what he was going to do.  One step at a time seemed to be keeping him in a more positive frame of mind, and there was plenty to keep him busy in the meantime.  At least most of his dreams were pleasant - filled with love, laughter and memories of all the best times. He frowned briefly at the memory of some of the not so pleasant dreams he'd been having but quickly pushed them away. He didn't want to deal with the bad one's so he hung onto the good one's. Abi promised him he’d have those again, and he knew that she was right.  Today he could see the road ahead of him – but tomorrow?  Maybe it’d be a mountain again, but bit by bit he was getting back the strength to climb.

He dragged himself back to the moment, his dark eyes fixed on the woman ahead.  They were nearly at the ambush point, time to get off the road and circle around to lie in wait at the bend.  He had to hurry.  She was far enough ahead as it was. 
 
“Good Mornin’, Elise,” the Kid smiled graciously at the woman who stopped short at the sight of the mounted ex-outlaw blocking her way.  “Explorin’ again?”

Elise’s mouth firmed into a line.  She paused, clearly assessing her chances of outrunning a much larger animal on her little mare, but any chance was abruptly cut off by the voice behind her.

“Lovely to meet you at last, ma’am,” Heyes flashed his most charming smile and tipped his hat at the woman who whirled around to glare at him.  “I’ve heard so much about you.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say I heard little else.  You made quite the impression.”  Heyes guided Karma alongside and took the reins from Elise’s hands.  “I have to say you live up to every word.”

Elise gave a sigh of resignation.  “Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry are accosting women on the road now?  Really?”

The Kid’s brows arched.  “You know who were are?”

“Everyone around here knows who you are.”  Elise smiled brightly.  “How’s Jay?”

“J.J. is fine.”  The Kid tugged at his reins and rode on, followed by Heyes leading Elise behind them.  He turned back, speaking over his shoulder.  “Let’s have a chat, but the road is too public.  We don’t want anyone else to come along, do we?”

“Don’t we?  It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?” quipped Elise.

“You’re a cool one, aren’t you, Miss...?”  Heyes paused groping around for the right pronunciation. 

“Daignault.  Elise Daignault.”

“Say that again, slowly.  How do you pronounce your name?”

“ELEESE,” she mouthed, slowly.

“No, the second one,” Heyes pushed.

“Oh, does it matter?  I’m sure that’s not the reason you’re kidnapping me.  What do you want?”

“Answers, ma’am.”  Heyes looked deeply into her verdant eyes, “like who you are, why you’re hanging around this area, and why you run like scared rabbit when anyone looks even close to asking those questions.”

“A scared rabbit?  I resent that.”  Elise pouted.  “Couldn’t you have gone for something more elegant like a gazelle?”

Heyes dimples deepened.  “Sure, use any visual you want.  How about a swan?”

“Thank you, Mr. Heyes, but wouldn’t they waddle if they tried to run?  That’ll be the legendary charm I’ve heard so much about?  Or are you implying I look capable of breaking your arm?  That would account for you taking me on, two against one.”

“It’s easy to be charming with such a lovely woman,” Heyes replied with a smile, unable to see his cousin rolling his eyes as he rode in front of him.

“And it’s easy for a woman to be considered lovely,” Elise responded.  “All she has to do is shut up and hang on a man’s every word.  I think you’ll find I do rather a lot of that.”

They reached a clearing and Heyes dismounted offering up a hand to help Elise down.  She took it with a smile.  “My, you do conduct your crimes with gallantry, don’t you?” 

“This isn’t a crime, ma’am,” the Kid dismounted and grasped her mare’s bridle.  “We’re asking a trespasser why she’s on the Jordan land.  That’s perfectly legal.”

Elise took a seat on a nearby boulder, arranging her riding habit prettily around her.  “So?  What do you want to know?”

“How do you know Bamforth?” Heyes demanded.

Her defiant, green eyes stared back into his.  “He’s a rival.  I have no time for the man, but you probably noticed that.”

“A rival?  At what?”

“I believe there may be a certain ore in the land around here.  I own a company which processes it.”

Heyes folded his arms.  “You’re a prospector?  You expect us to believe that?”

Elise shrugged.  “Why, because I’m a woman?  You don’t believe me because I don’t chew tobacco and spit.  I inherited the place, but I’m determined to keep it going.”  She paused.  “Why aren’t you taking me to the sheriff?”

“We have a few more questions, ma’am.”  The Kid faced her.  “Why did you say you’re staying at the hotel?  That’s a lie.”

Elise frowned.  “I never told you where I was staying.”

The blue eyes pressed home his determination.  “You told Eric at the stables, ma’am.  We saw the clipboard where you signed up for the sorrel.”

A smile played around her inviting lips.  “Why do you always call me ‘ma’am?’  You can’t pronounce my name, can you?”  She watched the men shuffle uncomfortably.  “Say it.”

“Don’t change the subject!” Heyes narrowed his eyes.  “We know you’re not staying at the hotel.”

“It’s quite innocent.”  Elise glanced from one partner to the other.  “I’m camping out and I didn’t think he’d hire a horse to somebody of no fixed abode.  It was a little, white lie.”

Heyes examined her closely.  “You don’t look like a woman who’s living rough.”

“Thank you.  I do my best.”  She swept back loose hairs theatrically.  “It’s not easy.”

The Kid gave a huff of irritation.  “So?  Where are you really stayin’?” 
 
Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance, the blue eyes clearly abdicating responsibility to the former leader.

“You expect us to accept all of this?” Heyes demanded.

“Do I care?”  Elise’s smile warmed.  “Look, I’m not afraid of you.  You can’t, and won’t, do anything to me.  Why don’t we just get on with our day?”

Heyes' gaze hardened.  “Nobody knows you’re here.  You can’t be sure we won’t do anything, ma’am.”

Elise’s smile widened.  “Yes, I can.  You’re decent men.”

Heyes stepped forward his eyes darkening.  “Can you really be sure of that?”

Elise held his gaze, laughter lightening her voice.  “Yes.”

The ex-outlaw leader stood over the seated woman staring her down before Heyes gave a huge sigh and his shoulders slumped.  “Well, I know when I’m beat.”  He shrugged at his cousin.  “You try.”

“How can I?” the Kid protested.  “You’ve just blown our credibility!”

“I’ve blown it?  You’re the one who sat with their back to her and let her ride away.”

Blue eyes glittered with challenge.  “And you’re the one who was so busy bein’ charmin’ that she didn’t buy your tough-man act.”

“We both know that if one of us is being nice, the other has to be the heavy.  You’ve been goin’ straight too long.  You sat back and left it all to me.”

“Gentlemen!”  Elise stood between them with outstretched arms.  “If it’s any help, neither of you have any credibility.”  She arched an eyebrow.  “Not if you’re trying to scare me, anyway.”

“Well, I guess that seals it,” the Kid muttered.  “We’re definitely goin’ straight!  There ain’t any doubt about that anymore.”

“Miss...?”  Heyes verbally groped around in frustration, still unable to pronounce her name.  “Can I call you Elise?”

Elise gave a twinkle of mischief.  “Certainly, I prefer it to Elsie.  I heard the boy calling for me yesterday”

“Elise,” Heyes continued.  “We’re going to have to take you to the sheriff.  We’re very suspicious of anyone who hangs around the Jordan’s land.  I’m sorry, but if you aren’t telling us the truth, he’ll find out.”

Elsie pouted thoughtfully.  “You’ll be playing right into Bamforth’s hands, you know.”

The Kid shrugged.  “Ma’am, I’m marryin’ into this family and I’ll do what I need to, to keep them safe.  The sheriff can check you out.”  The blue eyes drank in the beautifully turned-out lady in front of him.  “I ain’t buying you as a prospector livin’ rough, and I doubt he will either.  We’re takin’ you to town.”     



Carl Jacobs swallowed hard, trying not to let anyone see just how much the enormous eyes blinking through the bars were discomforting him.

“We never meant for you to lock her up, sheriff,” Heyes murmured.  “We just wanted to find out who she is.”

Jacobs nodded.  “Yeah, but she’s offering no information I can check.  She even says she’s living rough.”

“But we only wanted to know why she was hangin’ around the Double J.”  The Kid folded his arms.  “She hasn’t done anythin’ wrong.  She even saved J.J., we were just bein’ cautious.”

“And you’re right to be cagey,” Jacobs opened the drawer and dropped the cell keys inside before sliding it closed.  “We still don’t know who tampered with the shelving unit at the hat shop.  She’s been loitering around the area so she needs to explain who she is and why she’s here if she’s to come off my list of suspects.”

“But she hasn’t done anything illegal.  We’re not pressing any trespassing charges.” Heyes darted a look at the tiny woman, dropping his voice to a hoarse whisper.  “You can’t think she hurt Amy.  Just look at her!  She’s like some kind of...”  he groped around for the right word, “a sprite, maybe?  A china doll?”
   
Jacobs dropped into his seat.  “I did look at her,”  he shifted uncomfortably in his chair, “and it’s times like this I wish I had someone like Mrs. Stewart to help out.  How can a man question a woman like her properly?  She just smiles and stares at me with those big eyes of hers.”

“I know what you mean, sheriff,” the Kid shuffled so that his back was towards the woman in the cell.  “That’s why we brought her here.  She’s the sort of woman who makes a man feel kinda protective.”

“It wouldn’t have needed strength to weaken the screws anchoring the unit to the wall,” sighed Jacobs, “and she’s acting real suspicious.  She’s going nowhere until I get some answers.”

Blue eyes twinkled in question.  “But what can you hold her on?”

Jacobs sat back twiddling his thumbs.  “Vagrancy, until I get something more solid.” 

“Damn,” Heyes hissed.  “I thought you’d just question her.”

“What bothers me is why she’s so calm.”  Jacobs rocked back in his seat.  “She should either be singing her heart out or protesting her innocence.  She just sits there, smiling, but you know her mind’s running like an express train behind those eyes.”

The Kid darted a look at his cousin.  “Yeah, that can be real annoyin’.  I found that out years ago.”  He headed to the door.  “C’mon, Heyes.  We’d better be gettin’ back.  Jesse’ll be lookin’ for us.”

“Give me an hour, huh?  I’ve got a visit to pay.”  Heyes followed his cousin to the door.  “I’ll meet you in the saloon.”

 
 Heyes carried on his merry way towards David's house in the hopes of taking care of two birds with one stone. He wanted to see Amy again just to visit and let her know that everyone was still thinking about her and wishing her a speedy recovery. But he also was hoping that David would be at home. His shoulders were bothering him again and he was hoping that David could help him out there. He hadn't said anything to Jed about the pain because he knew he'd be setting himself up for a lecture if he did. It was going to be bad enough listening to David go on about it!

Again Heyes was walking along the street with his eyes down, his thumbs hooked in his gunbelt and his mind totally lost on his own inner musings. He would always berate himself afterwards; he should be paying more attention to his surroundings, he should always be on the look-out for trouble. But he never had been as sharp as the Kid in that respect. His mind always seemed to be wandering, looking ahead to the next job, wondering how the previous one could have been better and just what was the combination to that safe anyways? He'd always counted on Jed to watch his back but now it was really becoming obvious! He really had gotten soft over this past year.

He looked up as he approached the Gibson residence and smiled when he spotted Amy in her wheelchair, sitting on the front veranda. She had a throw blanket tucked around her even though the day was quite warm and there was a book laying open on her lap. She herself had her head back and resting against the chair and looking very much like she was asleep.

Heyes tread carefully up the steps, remembering this time to avoid the creaky one and quietly made his way over to the empty chair and sat himself down to watch her.

He was pleased to see that much of the bruising had calmed down even though there were still areas of her face that looked swollen and sore—especially that stitched cut on her lip. That was probably going to take the longest to return to normal and then she would probably always sport a quiet scar there. Hopefully it would add to her attractive face and not detract from it.

Heyes smiled. She was beautiful. Not the type he usually fell for; that peaches and cream complexion but he was willing to make allowances if there was enough incentive. Besides; he wasn't interested in courting Amy, she was just a friend, but that didn't mean he couldn't appreciate her beauty....

Amy moaned quietly and opened her eyes, her sub-conscience letting her know that someone else was in close proximity. She shifted and blinked over at him and then gave a gentle smile as she pulled herself up from her sleep.

“Oh, Hannibal,” she greeted him quietly. “How long have you been sitting there?”

“Not long,” he assured her. “Just thought I would enjoy the view.”

Much to Heyes' disappointment, Amy frowned at that comment rather than taking pleasure from it.

“You shouldn't say things like that,” she told him. “It's not proper.”

“I don't mean anything by it,” Heyes countered. “You're a beautiful woman Amy; what's wrong with that?”

“I don't want to be a beautiful woman,” Amy said with some heat. “It's brought me nothing but grief.”

Heyes sat quietly, his feelings hurt for some reason. He didn't quite know how to respond to that. Amy smiled, trying to take some of the sting out of her words and she reached over with a bandaged hand and gave him a gentle touch.

“It's not your fault,” she assured him. “but I have been informed that all of this; what happened to me might be because I got too close to you.”

Heyes bristled slightly. “You can't think that Miranda....”

“No, no!” Amy cut him off. “Miranda is a darling. I know she didn't do this. She has even offered her home to me for my convalescence.” She smiled a little abashedly. “Get me out from under the Gibson's feet; let their household at least get back to normal. But someone did this to me Hannibal and Sheriff Jacobs has strongly suggested that it was someone who was either jealous of 'us' or was wanting to cause you pain by hurting me.”

“Oh.” Heyes hung his head. How was he even suppose to be able to make friends, let alone start a family while this vendetta hung over their lives like a blanket smothering fire? “I'm sorry,” he told her. “I didn't think that us being friends would put you in such danger. We though we would be safe until after the trials! And even at that, I really don't think this was because of our friendship....”

“Well what else?” Amy asked him. “Either someone is jealous, or.....”

“Yeah.” Heyes finally had to agree that it all sounded very logical. “But everyone is on the look out now and you do have friends here Amy. No one's going to try anything again. There's no reason why we can't....”

“No,” Amy cut him off again and Heyes' eyes jerked up to meet her's. “I'm not as brave as Miranda or Beth. Someone came close to murdering me and it scared the dickens out of me. I'm sorry Hannibal—I don't want you to come visit anymore.”

Heyes' heart sank. It wasn't really a heart break because he didn't love Amy—not that way. But it still hurt; it was still a rejection. He had enjoyed his talks with Amy and he valued her opinion and her advice. He dropped his eyes from her's and gently nodded, accepting her decree.

“Alright. If that's what you want.”

“I think it best,” Amy reiterated.

The screen door opened and Tricia came out carrying a tray with tea and cups on it. She smiled when she saw Heyes sitting there.

“I thought I heard your voice,” she told him. “I brought an extra cup, would you like to join us for tea?”

Heyes stood up fingering his hat. “I don't think so Tricia, thank you. Is David at home by any chance?'

Tricia looked disappointed but nodded as she put the tray down. “Yes. He's just in his office. He has a patient coming to see him in about an hour but I'm sure he has time to see you. Just go on in; you know where it is.”

Heyes nodded emphatically. “Oh yes! Ladies; enjoy your tea.”

Heyes made his exit, or as the case may be; his entrance into the house, leaving the ladies to discuss this latest development as he was sure they would be. He carried on through the kitchen, passed the guest bedroom and down the hall to David's office door. He stopped, took a deep bracing breath and knocked.

“Yes?” came the response from inside.

“David, it's me; Hannibal.”

“Oh! Han—yes! Come on in.”

Heyes heard the scrapping of chair legs on the floor as he opened the door and stepped into the office. David was just closing his binder of notes and putting it back on the shelf and then turned with a smile to his friend. “What brings you calling?” he asked. “Having a visit with Amy?”

“Yeah,” Heyes conceded. “But I was hoping to see you too—as my doctor.”

“Oh.” David took on his professional persona. “Alright fine. Have a seat.”

Heyes came forward and sat down while David sat back down himself and smiled. “So, what's up.”

Heyes inwardly cringed. He knew he was going to regret this. “My shoulders are bothering me again. I was hoping....”

“Ahh!” David became all-knowing. “Have you been keeping up with the stretching?”

“No.”

“Uh huh.”

“Well you know how it is David!” Heyes tried to defend himself even though he knew it was pointless. “With all the running around down to Kansas and all over the place. And then spending time with Abi and Anya...then the governor letting me down....”

“I know you've had a lot on your plate Hannibal,” David admitted quite seriously. “All the more reason for you to have kept up the stretching. You get stressed out and your muscles tighten up and the next thing you know we're back at square one.”

Heyes just sat there feeling resentful but looking contrite.

David just smiled. “Alright, never mind,” he said. “Pull off your shirt, let me see what we can do.”

Heyes obliged him, winching a little as the muscles pulled against the movement. David watched quietly but didn't say anything. He moved his chair around to sit right in front of Heyes and picked up his right hand.

“Just relax,” David told him.

“I'm trying to David!” Heyes argued. “But I know what's coming...”

“I'll try and go easy on you,” David assured him as he began the usual kneading with his thumbs all the way up Heyes' arm and into the front of his shoulder.

Heyes snorted skeptically, not believing for one second that David was going to go easy, then sucked his teeth when his scepticism was proved right.

“Hurt?” David asked needlessly.

“YES!” Heyes answered pointedly.

“Mmm hmm.”

David released the one arm and picking up the other repeated the exam and getting pretty much the same result. The doctor sat back and gave his patient an innocent smile. Heyes felt dread go through him.

“Let's see how your back is, shall we?” David suggested as he stood up and moved around behind Heyes.

Heyes felt as though he'd been caught in an ambush. “Let's not. Can't you just take my word....” Gasp! “Ouch!”

“Yes,” David surmised. “Your back is really tight. Oh my! Here's a big knot right here. Let me just get my knuckle into that....” Heyes tensed and gasped again. “Just relax. Breathe.”

“Oh my God!” Heyes complained. “You really should be a prison guard David! You'd be great at interrogation!”

“So I've been told,” David admitted. “Still, I'm here to help people, not damage them.”

“HA!”

“I swear, I'm just not appreciated,” the doctor complained. “And yet; everyone keeps coming back. I must be doing something right, don't you think?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Heyes conceded. “Just—get it over with, will ya'?”

“Hmm.” David continued to poke and prod. Heyes continued to endure it. “What else is on your mind?”

Heyes groaned inwardly. “What?”

“I don't know,” David admitted. “That's why I'm asking you.”

“There's nothing on my mind. Just the usual. OUCH!”

“That little nerve ending tells me different,” David chided him. “Come on Hannibal! Spit if out. What else is bothering you now?”

Heyes sighed with resignation. Jed had always been able to read him like an open book but before they had ridden onto the Jordan ranch six years ago, he was the only one who could. Then Jesse seemed to have a certain knack for it. Next came Kenny! Oh brother, all Kenny had to do was look at him and he could get a confession. And now David. Oh and let's not forget Belle! That woman had all the rest beat hands down. It was getting to the point where no self-respecting outlaw could get away with anything anymore!

“Did you know that J.J. nearly drowned the other day?” Heyes began.

“Yes,” David admitted. “Belle brought him in for a check-up just to be sure everything was alright.” he shook his head appreciatively. “J.J. is very lucky that woman was there and able to jump in and pull him out.”

“Yeah,” Heyes agreed. “But that brings up the other question of what was she doing there in the first place?”

“You don't believe she was just out for a ride?”

“Not for a minute—ouch!”

“Breathe—just relax.”

“Hmm. In any case Jed and I kinda' ambushed her this morning and took her in to see Sheriff Jacobs,” Heyes explained. “You know, just because of all the strange things that have been going on. Can't be too careful—and she was out on private property where she had no business being!”

“True,” David agreed. “What did Sheriff Jacobs say?”

“He arrested her!” Heyes continued indignantly. “She wasn't giving him the answers that he wanted to hear so he threw her in a cell!”

“Oh!” David was surprised, then shrugged. “Well I can understand him being cautious I suppose. After all; what do you actually know about her?”

“Just that she's Canadian and that her name is Elise Dai...Dagnabbit!”

“Dagnabbit?” David asked with a grin.

“Something like that!” Heyes became defensive. “She's French. If I could see it in writing I could probably pronounce it, but trying to remember....!”

David smiled “So...the sheriff's going to keep her locked up until he can find out more about her? Is that it?”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“And you feel bad about that.”

“Well yeah!” Heyes was adamant. “Nobody likes to be thrown in a jail cell, especially after the way she helped J.J....it just doesn't seem right.”

“Yes, I can understand you resenting that,” David assured him. “But you need to see it from Carl Jacobs' point of view too. Here he is trying to protect the citizens of this town and then a whole parcel of strangers start showing up. Not only showing up, but behaving mysteriously—like hanging around the Double J. Then this incident with Amy. He has a point Hannibal. It may not seem very gracious after what the woman did, but it is smart.”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“What else is bothering you?”

“What makes you think...? Oh never mind!” Heyes gave up the fight. Still, he hung his head and felt the hurt all over again. He took a moment to collect his thoughts and David waited patiently while he worked the muscles. “Amy told me she doesn't want me to come visit her anymore,” he finally admitted.

“Oh.” David was again surprised. “I'm sorry Hannibal. I know she was becoming a good friend.”

“Yeah,” Heyes sighed. “but Jacobs told her that the assault might be because of that friendship. Either someone in town being jealous of us or because of that damned vendetta! She's afraid they'll try again if we continue our friendship. I suppose I can't blame her for that.”

“No,” David agreed as he reached for some lineament and began to massage it into Heyes' back. “But to be fair to Carl he also told her it could have been jealousy over her business. She shows up out of the blue and is all of a sudden very popular with all the ladies in town. Or it might even have been someone who followed her here, perhaps someone who knew her late husband or feels some kind of grudge...”

“But who could have a grudge against someone like Amy?” Heyes reasoned. “She's kind, she generous, she obviously cares about people...”

“I know. But we really don't know much about her past,” David reminded him. “That assault might not have anything at all to do with you.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Heyes sounded sceptical. “In any case; she has called it off. So...”

“I'm sorry,” David repeated. “No wonder your back is all tied up in a knot. But you shouldn't feel like everyone is abandoning you. You have plenty of friends who are sticking close.”

“I know,” Heyes acknowledged, but inside he sure wasn't feeling that way.

Thoughts of him and Abigail running off together began to drift forward again. He was feeling more and more like he had no future in Brookswood. Jed had found a nitch here and Heyes was happy for him. He would be getting married here very soon and probably starting a family of his own; Jed had found what he'd been wanting all these years and he was content. Heyes just felt isolated.

Why couldn't he and Abi disappear and start a new life for themselves? Someplace where nobody knew who he was. Someplace where he could be free! Free to re-invent himself; free to raise his family and be his own man. Was that really asking too much? Really?

He jumped slightly as David gave him a pat on the shoulder.

“Okay,” David broke into his thoughts. “we're done, you can get dressed. But start doing those stretches again! You can tell for yourself that it's important can't you?”

“Yeah, I know,” Heyes agreed. “I will David, thanks.”



Heyes walked back out towards the veranda, absently fingering his hat as he listened to the two women talking quietly together. He took a deep breath and stepped through the front door and onto the porch. Tricia smiled up at him.

“Everything alright?” she asked him.

“Yes, fine.” Heyes smiled. “Nothing serious, just the same old problem.”

“Good. There's still tea if you have time,” Tricia offered. “Would you like to join us?”

“Ahh, no. Thank you Tricia,” Heyes declined, making a point of avoiding Amy's gaze. “I told Jed I would meet up with him at the saloon and I expect he is waiting for me.”

“Alright Hannibal,” Tricia nodded. “Say 'hello' to Jed for me.”

“I certainly well,” Heyes agreed and he gave a slight bow in farewell. “Ladies. Have a nice afternoon.”

And then he was gone, clomping down the stairs and heading towards the main street of town. He placed his hat back on his head and lost himself in thought once again. Why was he having such a hard time making up his mind these days? He wasn't usually this indecisive. He'd promised Jed he would stay for his wedding and he would do that, but after that; did he have any real plans? 'No'. Just a whimsical idea of riding away and sweeping Abi off her feet. No planning, no real thought given to how they would live or how they would get out of the country. No 'Hannibal Heyes' plan at all.

Why not? It was what he wanted, wasn't it? Sometimes the aching in his heart to be with his two girls was so bad he thought for sure it must break in two. The urge to saddle up Karma and head out to collect them up would be so strong that the only thing stopping him from doing it was that he didn't know where they were—and a promise he had made to his cousin.

It must be the promise more than anything else because he knew where Hester was and even Cage for that matter and Abi might very well be staying with him and Mayzee for now. Even if she wasn't, Hester would know where she was and if not actually willing to pass that information on to Heyes, she would at least send Abi a message. If he was serious about finding her, he could. So why wasn't he making plans? Jed's wedding was practically just around the corner and if Heyes was going to leave right after that then he should be making plans!

Yet whenever he tried to put his mind to it a block would come down and doubt would take over his scheming. It was stupid; thinking they could just run away and hide. It could be dangerous too and not really a stable environment to be placing a child into either. Abi would never go for it. But what if she did? What if Heyes was turning away from his one chance at happiness out of a misconception of Abi's intent?

But her letter had been very clear; there was no misinterpreting her meaning. It was over, that was the end of it. Don't get in touch, I'll let you know if anything important comes up. But maybe that was just because Abi hadn't considered disappearing with him. Maybe she didn't think he was willing to leave Jed and his parole behind and run away with her. Maybe....

He sighed. Yeah, but maybe not. Probably not. Abi wasn't willing to risk Anya; she'd always made that very clear. How could Heyes expect her to suddenly change that dictate—it'd be like asking an Appaloosa to change it's spots. Wait a minute! Appaloosa's do change their spots! So maybe Abi would—or, maybe not....

“Hannibal! Watch out!”

“OH! Damn!”

Heyes tried to change his direction but—too late! There was a rustling and an intake of breath followed by the split second of confusion as two bodies collided with each other! That was quickly followed by the sickening cracking sound of eggs falling and breaking against the boardwalk. Then the thump, thump thumping of apples hitting wood and bouncing down the steps and onto the soft dirt of the street.

“Oh no!” Miranda exclaimed. “My eggs!”

“I'm sorry!” Heyes blustered. “I wasn't watching! Here let me help...”

Heyes spied the yellow slimy mess on the boardwalk and realized there was no help that was going to fix that mistake so he stepped down onto the street and began gathering up the recalcitrant apples. He made a dash for the last one just as one of the town dogs snatched it up and took off down the street with it in it's mouth.

“Hey!” Heyes yelled after it but of course it had no effect other than to encourage the animal to run faster.

He stood up and turned around only to find a rather large black horse head banging into him and one more apple was absconded with from his retrieved armful. He took a swat at the tethered horse to get the pushy muzzle out of his way only to have three more apples go bouncing back down to the ground and roll off in three different directions. He cursed under his breath and quickly snatched them back up again before anybody else took advantage.

He headed back to the boardwalk and frowned at the sight of two more town mongrels quickly lapping up the scrambled eggs—shell and all before anyone could kick them or throw something at them to chase them away. The grocer was actually relieved that the dogs were taking care of the mess because then he wouldn't have to. Sometimes those mutts came in handy.

Heyes smiled like a misbehaving little boy when he looked over to see Miranda's dark blue eyes laughing at him. He playfully rolled his own eyes as he approached and dumped the apples back into her hand basket.

“Sorry,” he repeated. “C'mon, let's go back in and I'll buy you some more eggs—and a couple of more apples.”

“That's alright Hannibal.” Randa laughed and patted his arm. “You don't need to—I can get them.”

“No. I insist,” Heyes insisted. “I've been spending way too much time day-dreaming these days. It'll teach me to keep my mind on where I'm going.”

“Oh well, alright,” Randa conceded, realizing that a man's pride was at stake here. “But in return you'll have to come over for a slice of the apple pie, once it's done. Deal?”

Heyes grinned. “Deal.”

He took the basket of groceries and offered her his other arm and escorted her back into the market where the eggs and apples were quickly replaced.

“May I walk you home?” Heyes offered once they were back outside again.

“That would be lovely, thank you,” Miranda accepted.

Heyes smiled and still holding the replenished basket they stepped down onto the street, arm in arm and carried on towards her house, ignoring looks from the various creatures in their path who were hoping for another incident to highlight their day.

“What is that smell?” Miranda finally asked with a frown on her brow. “I noticed it before but then things got kind of crazy.”

“Smell?” Heyes asked, then enlightenment dawned. “Oh! That's just liniment. I was over at David's letting him torture me. Unfortunately it does seem to help.”

Tricia chuckled. “Yes. It is a shame when the cure is sometimes worse than the disease. Did you see Amy?”

Heyes' smile dropped. “Yes,” he admitted. “She's looking much better.”

“Yes,” Randa agreed. “But she still needs someone with her—she really cannot look after herself yet.”

Heyes nodded. “She tells me that you've offered her your place for her convalescence.”

“Yes,” Randa substantiated that. “I'm not working and don't have an active little boy running around, so it seemed the thing to do. Besides, I still feel badly about what I thought of her before and hopefully this will make it up. Now that I've gotten to know her better she really is quite sweet and very interesting to talk to. I can see why you and she are friends.”

Heyes sighed and made no comment.

“What?” Miranda asked him. “You are friends.”

“Not so much any more,” Heyes admitted.

“Why not? Did you have a falling out?”

“No, no nothing like that,” Heyes assured her. “It's just that Sheriff Jacobs suggested to her that the motive for the assault could be that she was getting close to me. She's afraid it will happen again if we continue on.”

“Oh dear!” Miranda almost seemed angry. “That's silly! Why would it have anything to do with you?”

Heyes shrugged. “The same reason Beth was assaulted—twice! Jacobs thinks that it might all be connected.”

“Oh my. Your friends seem to be disappearing into the woodwork.”

Heyes looked slightly stricken.

“Oh no!” Miranda squeezed his hand. “That wasn't very tactful was it? When am I going to learn to keep my mouth shut!”

“Oh, that's alright,” Heyes recovered quickly. “You're honest. That's one of the many things I've always liked about you.”

“Honest to a fault!” she laughed.

“That's alright,” he repeated. “I don't mind. It's just, if Amy is going to be staying with you then it might be difficult for me to come visit. She doesn't want to see me.”

“It's my home,” Randa pointed out. “I can entertain whom ever I wish. But even at that; she doesn't need twenty-four hour care anymore. We can sit out on the front porch, or meet in town for lunch.” She smiled playfully. “Or go for a ride! I'm seriously thinking about buying Percy and he'll need regular exercising!”

Heyes grinned. “Yes he will, won't he?”

He smiled over at her and their eyes locked and played together for an instant. Abi was still very much in his heart and on his mind, but he was beginning to appreciate Miranda's company once again and his spirit rose up just a little bit when she smiled at him.
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Keays

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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 61
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Green Shoots   Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:34 pm

“Where have ya' been!?” Jed demanded. “You're an hour late!”

“I was talking with Miranda,” Heyes explained as he sidled up to the bar beside his partner. He nodded at Bill to bring him a beer.

“Oh.” Jed backed off. “Oh alright. Everything go okay?”

“Yeah. It's good.”

“Good.” Kid's nose crinkled. “You smell like liniment! You didn't tell me your shoulders were botherin' ya'.”

Heyes shrugged as he took a gulp of beer. “Don't have to tell my partner everything, do I? Besides, getting lectured by one of ya' is enough.”

Jed grinned. “Well I suppose if ya' weren't doin' your stretches then ya' deserved a lecture.”

“Yeah, and I already got one—so leave it alone!”

“Fine! Fine. I'm just sayin'....”

“Geesh,” Heyes mumbled into his glass. “Mother hens—the pair of ya'!”

“Uh huh.”

The two friends drank their beers in silence and then ordered a second round for the road. Heyes continued to stare down into his glass, a contemplative expression on his face. Jed watched him for a while, not saying a word but finally he'd had enough of the loud silence and released a heavy sigh.

Heyes glanced up from his beer, eye brows raised.

“What's the matter with you?” he asked.

“With me?” Jed returned with a snort. “You haven't been this quiet since ya' fell asleep on the front porch—actually even then you were snorin'. Ya' still thinkin' about Abi?”

Heyes looked back into his beer and shrugged. “I guess.”

“Ya' still thinkin' about leaving after the wedding?” Jed asked with a slight dread in his heart. He really didn't want his partner to disappear but if that was what it was going to take for Heyes to be happy, well....

“I don't know!” Heyes snapped then his expression changed to regret when he saw the look of surprise on Jed's face. “I don't know Kid,” he repeated a little more sedately. “Sometimes I miss them so much it's like a knife hitting me in the back. Then other times I just know that it's over so why even think about going after her.”

“Yeah.” Jed nodded. “Well ya' know I said I would help ya' plan it out after the honeymoon if ya' still wanna do it. I meant that Heyes. I'm hoping that you won't go, but if that's what ya' need to do; I'll help ya'.”

“I know Kid,” Heyes told him. “Thanks. C'mon, let's head back home.”

The two men swallowed down the last of their beers and headed over to the livery to pick up their horses. Heyes stopped half way down the isle way and glanced into the indoor pen that held four of the livery's rental horses. He stood and scrutinized a fine looking dappled gray gelding and his mind wandered.

Kid had carried on down the isle towards where Gov and Karma were gazing expectantly over their stall doors, looking forward to heading for home and their evening feeding. Jed stroked Gov's nose and turned back to where his partner stood, quietly staring at the gray.

“Thinkin' about buyin' another horse?” Jed asked him.

“What?” Heyes came up out of his musings and looked at Jed. He also noticed Karma looking at him with her ears pricked and a worried expression in her eyes. He couldn't help but smile.

“No, no,” he assured both his partner and his horse. “Randa is considering buying this gelding here. She rode him last time we went for a ride together and I was just thinking what a nice horse he is. I think he would be a good choice for her.”

“Uh huh.”

“That way, well...you know; we could go riding together whenever we want,” Heyes continued. “Won't have to worry about renting her a horse that's maybe not suitable.”

“Uh huh.”

“And she could keep boarding him here,” Heyes continued to surmise. “Eric would give her a good deal, I'm sure.”

“Uh huh.” Jed leaned against the stall door, ankles and arms crossed. “Ya' planning on doin' a lot of riding with Miranda, are ya'?”

Heyes shrugged. “I suppose.”

“Uh huh.”

Heyes gave another deep sigh then turned down the isle and strode up to his own horses. Karma arched her neck over the stall door and nuzzled his chest, nibbling on a button. He smiled and gave her a pat on the neck.

“Oh now, what are you getting all worried about?” he asked her playfully. “Nobody's gonna replace you—you know that.”

Karma nodded her head, knocking him on the nose and tilting his hat. Heyes chuckled and pushed her away so he could get into the stall. Time to saddle up and go home.



Fifteen minutes into the ride back to the ranch, Heyes was still stoically silent and Jed was getting a little tired of feeling the stress coming off of him. Even Karma was antsy in her jog-trot, tossing her head and mouthing her bit as her own sensitivity picked up on her human's mood.

“Ya' still thinking about Abi?” Jed finally asked, having reached the end of his patience.

“What...? OH. No.”

“Miranda then?”

“No, not really.”

“Well, Amy then.”

“No!”

“Well dagnabbit! What are ya' thinkin' about!?” Kid demanded. “You're driving me crazy—and you always do this!”

“What am I doing!?” Heyes demanded in his own defence. Karma spooked and started.

“You're thinkin', that's what!” Kid told him. “You're givin' me a damn headache—you're thinkin' so loud! Why don't ya' just talk about it so we can both relax!”

“Nothin' to talk about.”

Jed suddenly pulled Gov to a halt and Heyes had to bring Karma back around so that he faced his cousin.

“Heyes, I swear; I'm not goin' another step until you start talkin' to me,” Jed warned him. “What the hell is goin' on in that head of yours?”

Heyes was getting a little tense himself. “I don't want to talk about it,” he grumbled.

“Tough! I'm sick of listenin' to you thinkin'!” Jed insisted. “C'mon Heyes. I know you ain't been sleepin' again. Somethin's bothering ya'. If it ain't the various ladies in your life than what is it?”

Heyes' shoulders slumped and Jed knew he had him. Heyes turned Karma's head towards the ranch again and nudged her back into a walk. Jed pushed Gov into motion and came up alongside his partner.

“C'mon Heyes.” He gently nudged his partner this time. “What's bothin' ya'?”

“I thought it would just go away,” Heyes stated quietly. “With everything else going on with Abi and Anya I was feeling kinda good and it got pushed to the back and I thought I was fine. I even told myself; 'Yeah, Kid was wrong, I don't need to talk about it. Everything's fine.' Then we got back home and there was so much going on here, all the upheaval over me and Abi and then the governor pulling the rug out from under us. Then your wedding.....it just got pushed to the back and I had so many other things on my mind....I just figured I was over it.”

“You're not over it though, are ya' Heyes?” Jed asked him quietly. He knew what this was about. Finally!

Heyes just shook his head.

“Ya' havin' nightmares again?”

“Yeah,” Heyes admitted. “Not real bad ones like before, you know. I'm not waking up screaming or anything, but they're still bad enough. They started out slowly. Usually my dreams these days have been pretty good, you know; just normal dreams but then the nightmares started up again and now they're getting worse. I thought about asking David for some sleeping drafts again but then he'd wanna know what for and all that. I just didn't feel that I wanted to talk to him about this. He's never been through it, so....”

“Are ya' ready to talk to me about it?” Jed asked him.

Heyes just nodded again, not able to meet his cousin's eyes but he took a deep breath and settled in as the horses walked on. They knew the way home.

“He was such a bastard,” Heyes commented quietly.

“Yeah, he was,” Jed agreed.

“He made my life a living hell in that place. And he enjoyed it too!” Heyes continued with a little bit of heat. “That bastard! He enjoyed it. You should have seen him Kid, you should have seen the way he gloated about killing the Doc. I knew he was just trying to get me angry—get me to make a mistake, but even at that I could tell. He enjoyed it. If anybody deserved killing; he did.”

“Yeah,” Kid agreed. “He did deserve it.”

“Yeah.” Heyes nodded. “All those years in prison, even before what he did to Doc, I wanted to kill him. He was just a mean son-of-a-bitch.”

“Yup.”

“So why am I sick about it now?”

“Why do ya' think?”

“Oh you're pulling a 'David' on me now,” Heyes complained. “If I knew why, I wouldn't be asking!”

“C'mon Heyes,” Jed prodded him. “You know why. After everything he did to you and what he did to Doc, why would you feel bad about killin' 'em?”

Heyes rode on in silence for a few strides. Jed didn't know if he was thinking about it or just didn't want to say.

“Because I always prided myself on being able to think my way out of problems,” Heyes finally reasoned. “If somebody did me wrong I was above killing them. I could come up with a scheme to get back at them. I could ruin them, destroy their lives. I could do worse to them than kill them because I was so much smarter than they were. They were stupid beasts who only knew how to deal with adversaries through violence, but I was civilized....
“Prison changed all that. It dragged me down to their level because the only way to survive in that place; the only way to stay alive was to become just as brutal just as vicious as they were. I wanted to kill Carson, Kid. I didn't want him to be arrested, I didn't want the law to kill him. I didn't even want him to be sent to prison which would have been a fate worse than death for him. I wanted to kill him.
“So when the opportunity came to go after him I took it. I deliberately left you and Cage behind because I wanted to kill him myself. Even if I had known at that point that Abi wasn't dead, I still would have gone after him. Abi was just one more reason; one more justification.
“I can still feel him Kid. I can still smell his breath as we struggled for that gun and I was lost in it. I never knew what they meant by a 'killing lust' before I went to prison. I felt it for the first time when I got into that fight with Harris and Boeman. It was all encompassing. I didn't feel pain, I didn't hear Kenny yelling at me. All I knew was that I wanted to kill. I wanted to wring the life out whose ever throat I had between my hands. It didn't even matter at that point who it was. I wanted blood.
“It scared me afterwards; to have lost control like that. I swore I'd never let it happen again—and it didn't. I fell back on my old scheming ways. Anybody did me wrong and I was able to keep my cool, just like before. I'd get mad, but I could hide it—bide my time and exact my revenge when it suited me. I was back to being myself again, back to being above all the rest of those animals.
“So even when I knew I wanted to kill Carson I had myself convinced that it was just going to be like any other well planned out 'Hannibal Heyes' scheme. It would be like blowing a safe or stopping a train. I'd plan it, do it and then be done with it.
“But the animal re-surfaced and once I had Carson in my sites nothing else mattered. I didn't feel the cold, I didn't feel the pain of him pounding on me. The hammer of that gun was digging into the palm of my hand and I was aware of the pain, but it was as though I didn't feel it...as though I didn't care.
“I was willing to die Kid. I was willing to die myself as long as I took Carson with me. There was no other thought in my mind. That killing-lust, that total loss of control that I swore I would never allow to consume me again—did. I was an animal again. A wild, crazy beast with no intellect, no compassion, no remorse—no thought of consequence. I was no better than Carson.
“After it was all over with I kept telling myself that he deserved it. That the law would have probably put him to death anyways and if not, well he wasn't going to survive in prison. Word would have gotten around about who he was, just like it did with Harris and the other inmates would have taken him out. So why did I feel so sick about killing him?
“Then I realized that it wasn't because of some moral issue. It wasn't because of what our folks said, or the Sisters at Valparaiso about how it was wrong to take a life. It was because I had seen myself at the lowest, most brutal level of humanity. All my high intellect, all my fine talk, all my arrogance at never committing murder. 'Of all the trains and banks they robbed, they never killed anyone...' Isn't that what that dime novel says?”
“What a load of crap! I'd just never been put into the position before of needing to kill—of wanting to kill. And as soon as I found myself in that position, suddenly I was a killer—just like all those other lowly forms of humanity that I'd been forced to live with. I didn't like it.”

Heyes stopped talking then—finally. The horses plodded on, having settled themselves into a nice extended walk that would get them home quickly but not exert too much energy. Jed remained quiet for a bit, taking in all his partner had said and wondering how he could ease his friend's pain.

“We all have that in us Heyes; to kill,” Jed finally told him. “I found that out at an early age. It just took you a little longer. But you ain't nothin' like Carson. Carson killed for pleasure; you said yourself that he enjoyed it. You didn't enjoy killing—not even a bastard like Carson.
“Being in that prison the way you were; it was bound to have an effect on your thinkin'. They broke ya' Heyes, body and spirit. Mitchell was certain that he'd broke ya' permanent; that he'd destroyed ya' and that you were never going to come back. But ya' did. It's been a struggle for ya', I know that. So does Jesse and Kenny and David. Jeez; Belle, Miranda, the girls. Abi. We all know what you went through and what it did to ya'.
“But if you were like Carson, if you were like any of those other inmates at the prison who murdered for pleasure, do you think any of these people would have stuck by ya'? You can bet that Kenny never would have signed those parole papers if he thought you were a cold-blooded killer—none of us would have.
“I suppose livin' in that prison, surrounded by those kinds of people I can see how you might think that you became like them. Maybe ya' did for a while, like you say; in order to survive in there. But that isn't who or what you are. You're coming back Heyes, we can all see it. You're healing. You're strong and you're gonna make it.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah!”

“Do ya' mind if I just take your word on that for now?” Heyes asked him. “Sometimes I'm not so sure I can do this on my own.”

Jed grinned. “You can lean on me anytime you need to, Partner.”



 Elise stared down at her tin plate before glancing up at the darkness beyond the barred window.  She toyed with the mashed potatoes, swirling them into creamy mounds of mush.

“Is there something wrong with the food, ma’am?”  Jacobs looked up from his report.  “It came from the restaurant a couple of doors away, and they’ve got a real good reputation.  I got you chicken.  Everybody likes chicken, don’t they?”
  
“I’m not hungry,” Elise sighed.  “How long are you planning on keeping me here?” 

Jacobs dipped his pen in the inkwell.  “Until you give me some information which checks out.  You won’t even give me your home town.”

“I don’t have one.  I move around a lot.”

“Yeah, I deal with a whole lotta folks who live like that, but they usually end up behind bars.”  Jacobs scratched a few more words on the paper.  “I can get you something else if you really hate the food.”

“No, thank you, Sheriff, I don’t have much of an appetite.”

Carl Jacobs laid down his pen and strolled over to the cells.  “Why don’t you let me help you, ma’am?  Give me something to check out so I can let you go.”

“I’ve told you who I am.”

“An itinerant Canadian who owns a processing plant, but you can’t tell me where that is?”

Elise put her plate on the bunk beside her.  “I have business interests to protect.”

Jacobs shook his head.  “But you won’t be able to look after anything in the penitentiary.”

“Huh?” Elise’s eyes widened, causing the lawman to gulp heavily.

“Yes.  The sentence for vagrancy is thirty days hard labour.”  Jacobs tilted his head.  “I don’t want to do that to you.  Tell me who you really are.”

“Thirty days?” Elise frowned.  “That would be less than convenient.”

Jacobs nodded.  “That’s one way of putting it.”  He headed to the back door.  “I’ll be back in a minute.  Think on what I said, ma’am.  I think you’d find the life very hard in a place like that.”

The back door clattered shut and Elise was alone with her thoughts... but not for long.

“Elise!” hissed a male voice from outside the window.

She glanced from side to side before bustling over.  “Is that you?  You took your time!”

“I heard him go into the outhouse.  We don’t have much time.  Are you alone?”

“It would appear so!  You’ve been no help at all.”

A pair of grey eyes appeared at the window, as the man obviously stood on something.  “What did you expect me to do?  Take on Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry single handed?”

“You could have created a distraction to stop them locking me up.”

“Why would I do that?  It could have caused your horse to bolt.  You could have been hurt.”

“Valentine,” Elise’s voice fizzed with irritation, “he’s talking about giving me thirty days hard labour for vagrancy.  Do something, man!” 
 
“I am doing something.”  Bamforth got himself comfortable on the box and leaned on the sill.  “I’ve brought you a box of your ginger cookies.”

“Cookies?  No gun, nothing else?”

“I’ve heard about prison food.  Here,” he pushed a small package through the bars.  “In the meantime, I can see no reason to get you out of there any time soon.”

“How about the fact I’ll kill you when I do?” Elise demanded.

“Is that supposed to be an incentive?  Just relax!”  Bamforth smirked.  “In fact, there’s not much more you can do, is there?  That’s why I want you to stay there.  It might teach you a lesson.”

“Val!  I’m warning you!”

“Maybe you’ll listen to me next time and do what you’re told.  I told you to stay out of this.”

“It’ll be a cold day in hell before I do what you tell me,” snapped Elise.  “Tu es l'homme le plus ennuyeux dans le monde.  Tu t’agaces mes nerfs en ce moment!”


“You always do this!  You start arguing in French.  You know I don’t speak it.”
 
“Read between the lines,” Elise simmered with anger.  “I’m in prison and all you do is bring me ginger cookies?  You’re an apology for a man.”

“At least I know where you are.” He cocked his head to the side, just for an instant. “I can hear him coming back.  I’d better go.”

“Valentine, I’m warning you...”

“Sleep well.  Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

“I’ll bite you when I get out of here!”

Valentine’s mouth twitched into a grin.  “I’ll look forward to it.  Bon nuit, chouchou.

Ferme ta gueule, cochon!”


The door latch rattled and valentine dropped from view.  Sheriff Jacobs strolled back into the jailhouse.  “Have you been thinking about what I said?”

Elise edged back to her bunk, holding the package behind her back.  “It’s certainly given me food for thought, sheriff.”  She sat sliding her cookies under the pillow.  “Do you have a hairbrush and toothbrush I can borrow?  I’d like to get ready for bed.”

Jacobs frowned.  “There’s not much call for hairbrushes around here, and even less for toothbrushes.”  He opened a drawer.  “I got a comb, but I’d better wash it first.  I’ll send my deputy for them for you when he arrives for his night shift.  They’re bound to keep some at the hotel. ”

Elise gave a heavy sigh and curled up on her bunk with her back to him.  “Thank you, sheriff.  I don’t want to be a bother.  But I’d like to keep my teeth. ”

“Yeah, ma’am.  We’ll sort something for you.  Most of our patrons keep them in their pockets, especially if they’ve been fighting.  You are certainly a cut above the norm.”

 
 Joe Morin cast doubtful eyes at his boss.  “You want me to guard her?” he asked, incredulously.

Both lawmen stared over at the woman brushing out endless caramel hair which gently touched the floorboards from her position on the bunk.

“Yeah, Joe.  I’ve been here all day.  Now don’t let her out of that cell.  Not for anything, you hear?”

“Nothin’?”  Worry was written over the deputy’s face.  “But what if she wants to... well, you know.”

“I’ve thought of that.  She has a chamber pot, and you can tie that sheet over the bars to give her privacy.”

The anxiety was crowded out by incredulity.  “In there!  Behind a sheet?”

“Yup.”  Jacobs nodded.  “We know nothing about her, so we can’t have you wandering around in the dark on the way to the outhouse.  She may have confederates.”

“But it’s just not proper.  She’s a real lady.”

Jacob’s nodded and sighed heavily.  “She sure is, but she’s also a prisoner and it’s our job to make sure she stays one.”  Jacobs picked up his hat and headed for the door.  “Remember, she doesn’t get out no matter what.  I’ll be back in the morning with some breakfast for her.”

“But what do I do with the chamber pot?” Joe demanded.

Jacobs’s eyebrows rose.  “What do we usually do?”

“We let ‘em take it to the outhouse when we escort them there in the mornin’.”

The sheriff nodded crisply.  “Exactly - and we don’t treat women any different.  See you in the morning, Joe.”

Joe Morin reached out and grabbed his boss’s arm.  “Carl, she’s beautiful.  It’s like she’s stepped out of a fairytale.  She can’t carry a pot full of, well – that!”

“Joe, if it’s any help, you can carry it for her before you go home,” Jacobs gave his deputy a wink.  “But don’t let Clint Walker find out or he’ll be expecting you to carry his every Sunday morning after he’s slept it off.”

 
“Thank God you’re here!”

Jacobs looked into the worried face of his deputy.  “What’s going on?”

“I’ve done what you told me, and I haven’t let her out of the cell, but she’s ill.  She’s sick as a dog.”

“Why?” Jacobs demanded.  “She hardly touched her food last night.”  He paused, “but she didn’t say she was ill.”
He looked over at the pale woman lying on the bunk, her eyes swimming with dizziness and nausea.  “Ma’am, what’s wrong?”

“Leave me alone.”  Elise suddenly sat bolt upright and began violently vomiting into a ceramic bowl.

Jacobs strode over to the drawer and pulled out the keys.  “Ma’am, were you ill in the night?”  He unlocked the cell and walked over to her.  She was pale and trembling, and beads of sweat made her alabaster forehead clammy.  “Joe, go get the doc.”  Jacobs reached out and stretched a supporting arm around the woman’s heaving shoulders as she retched bile from her empty belly.  “What’s caused this?  Have you had this before?”

Elise simply sighed and pulled away from him.  “Just let me lie down. “  Jacobs felt her slight frame shake in his arms as her head dropped, her hair flopping over her face.  “What in the name of all that’s holy is that smell?”

Jacobs looked over to the desk where he had dumped her breakfast in his hurry, sniffing the air.  “Smell?  Bacon, I guess.  Don’t you like bacon?”
 
Elise had no time to reply.  She was too busy spewing and regurgitating over the ceramic bowl.  
  
 
David stood in the doorway of the cell, appraising the wan, motionless figure on the bunk.  “Elsie Dagnabbit, I presume?”

Elise stirred, sighing heavily.  “Huh?”

David smiled.  “Nothing, what’s your name?”

“Elise, Elise Daignaawwachh...”  She pulled the bowl over to her once more, but there was nothing left to come out.

“So, have you had this before?”  David reached out a hand and laid it on her clammy forehead.  “The sheriff says you just played with your food last night.”

“I’m fine.  I don’t need a doctor.”

David arched an eyebrow.  “A fellow medical professional?  Where did you study?”

“Tea, I just need a cup of tea,” groaned Elise.

David held her wrist, measuring her pulse.  “You do need fluids.  What did you eat last?”

“I had a few cookies in my pocket.  I ate those late last night.”

“Cookies?”

“I guess I was too upset to eat at dinner time, but I got hungry in the night.”

David frowned.  “And where did these cookies come from?”

“A friend made them for me.”

“And you’ve had them before?”

Elise nodded weakly, barely able to support the weight of her head.  “Yes.”  She turned pleading green eyes on the doctor.  “Can I have some tea?  All they’ve offered is the most repulsive coffee I’ve ever smelled.  Please!  I’ll pay for it, but I’d kill for a cup of tea.”

David turned questioning eyes on Carl Jacobs.  “Well, can she?  That doesn’t sound like an unreasonable request.”

“Sure, Joe, go and get some from the restaurant for the lady.”

“Tea?”

“Yeah, Joe - tea.  Ladies like it.  Go get it for her.  I’m sure they’ll have the recipe in the restaurant.”

Joe Morin nodded and bustled out the door.  “Sure.”

David turned to Jacobs and nodded.  “Please leave me with her.”

Jacobs shook his head.  “Sorry, Doc.  I can’t leave you alone with any prisoner.  I can put up a sheet to give you privacy, but that’s about it.”

Elise lay on her back and rubbed away the hair sticking to her face with both hands.  “Don’t worry about it.  You’re not examining me.  I’m fine.  It’s just a cacogastric bout.  Some tea and plain food will set me to rights.  Maybe I’ve got a nervous stomach, after all, I’m not used to being arrested and threatened with jail.”

David nodded.  “Maybe, I’ll make sure you get some scrambled eggs and dry toast.  If you aren’t better by tonight I’ll come and see you again.”  He paused.  “What did you say your name was?”

“Elise Daignault.”

“Miss Daignault?”

Elsie nodded.

“You’re not married?” asked David.

Elise dropped her swirling head into her hands.  “No, why?”

David shrugged.  “Just wondering.”  He glanced up at Joe Morin who bore a tray into the cell block.  “Your tea.  I’ll get some plain food arranged, then get some sleep.  Is there anything you need?”  He dropped his voice discretely.  “Time of the month, maybe?”

Elise shook her head.  “Tea.  I need tea, is all.”

 
Elise propped herself up against the wall, her bent legs supporting the magazines Jacobs had provided courtesy of Tricia Gibson.   It had been four hours since her episode and she felt much restored to her old self.  She looked up at the smiling lawman who was knocking politely on the bars.  “Some more tea, ma’am, and a sandwich for lunch.  The doc said something plain, so it’s cheese and tomato.”

Elise gave a little moué of apology.  “I’m so sorry.  You must think I’m some sort of drama queen.”

Jacobs laid the tray on the floor and opened the cell.  The teapot was too large to fit through the slot designed for passing plates to prisoners.  “Not at all, ma’am.  You were definitely ill and we were worried about you.  I’m glad to see you’re better.”

“I am.  But more tea?  That’s so kind of you.”

“Everyone’s innocent until proven guilty, and you needed care.  The coffee seems to disagree with you.  It doesn’t take much to get some tea for you.”

Elise dropped her magazine on the bunk and gave Jacobs a broad smile.  “This town is very lucky to have you.  You are both kind and thorough.  You are very good at your job.”

Jacobs stared into the magical eyes and wondered if he really did blush.  “Thank you,” he muttered.

She patted the bunk, indicating that he should sit beside her, but he shook his head in refusal.  “Sheriff Jacobs,” her voice was mellow, and over the emerald eyes she almost appeared to purr.  “no matter what happens, there’ll be no hard feeling, huh?  When professional people have a job to do, there’ll be things that just have to happen.  You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.  We all understand that, don’t we?”

“That’s very generous of you.”

“Call me Elise.”

Jacobs shook his head.  “No. ma’am.  That wouldn’t be professional.”  Jacobs walk out of the cell with some heavy breaths and locked it behind him.  “Enjoy your tea.”
 
Elise lifted the tray onto the bunk, pulling up the draped tea towel to peruse the sandwich.  The bread was freshly baked and crusty, and certainly appetizing.  It had been a very long time since she’d eaten anything but a few cookies.

She placed a delicate finger on the lid of the teapot, holding it in place while she poured and nestled back to enjoy her lunch over the article on etiquette which she found so amusing.  Did any woman really live like this?  How did they get through the day, let alone their lives?

'Gentlemen will commence conversations.'  - Elise smiled at the very thought; if women waited for men to take the lead everyone would be talking about sports or business; if they plucked up the courage at all.

'To pick the nose, finger about the ears, or scratch the head or any other part of the person, in company, is decidedly vulgar.'  The person who wrote this had clearly never been west of the Mississippi, and Elise was thinking of both male and female.

'A woman alone should never speak to a man until he speaks first.'  Did prison count?  She was certainly alone, but the men seemed to be on tenterhooks all the time, but it was the advice to young brides which almost made her tea run down her nose as she snorted in laughter.

'The bride's terror need not be extreme. While sex is at best revolting and at worse rather painful, it has to be endured, and has been by women since the beginning of time, and is compensated for by the monogamous home and by the children produced through it. It is useless, in most cases, for the bride to prevail upon the groom to forgo the sexual initiation. While the ideal husband would be one who would approach his bride only at her request and only for the purpose of begetting offspring, such nobility and unselfishness cannot be expected from the average man.'


 Who wrote this stuff?  Why would a woman marry a man she found so repulsive?

'By their tenth anniversary many wives have managed to complete their child bearing and have achieved the ultimate goal of terminating all sexual contacts with the husband. By this time she can depend upon his love for the children and social pressures to hold the husband in the home. Just as she should be ever alert to keep the quantity of sex as low as possible, the wise bride will pay equal attention to limiting the kind and degree of sexual contacts. Most men are by nature rather perverted, and if given half a chance, would engage in quite a variety of the most revolting practices.'


Elise darted a look at the upright lawman, wondering if he had any clue what she was reading.  Revolting practices huh?  Well, who knew?  The magazine then went on to identify these ‘practises’ in a way which the Comstock laws seemed to have overlooked, but women’s etiquette was probably considered too boring for the authorities to read.  Elise read on doing her best not to laugh out loud. 
 
'If he attempts to kiss her on the lips she should turn her head slightly so that the kiss falls harmlessly on her cheek instead. If he attempts to kiss her hand, she should make a fist. If he lifts her gown and attempts to kiss her any place else she should quickly pull the gown back in place, spring from the bed, and announce that nature calls her to the toilet. This will generally dampen his desire to kiss in the forbidden territory.'


Elise finished off her sandwich, deciding that she was clearly unnatural.  Maybe it was the French side of her, but enjoyment of marital union was definitely encouraged by the older women in her circle, and a woman had every right to demand pleasure.  This Anglo culture was confusing and contradictory.  How did they breed at all?

She placed the tray at the end of the bunk, deciding there was another cup of tea to be had by swirling the pot.  Cookies; she still had some cookies left.  She reached under her pillow and pulled out the package, opening it cautiously.  There were three left, so she could have one and save the last two, surely he’d do something soon?  He wouldn’t leave her here, would he?

She slid her fingers into the brown paper and pulled at a ginger treat, but her heart skipped a beat at the touch of metal under the selected morsel.  Guilty green eyes darted up to the sheriff before she suppressed a secret smile.  A lock pick?  She should never really have doubted him.  Valentine had never let her down. 
    
 
Jacobs strolled back to his desk from the latrines, the memory of the sleeping woman on a cell bunk playing in his mind’s eye.  He prayed to God that she wasn’t a criminal; that she was simply an innocent dupe caught up in some kind of flimflam, but he feared the worse – the actions of Miss Elise Daignault did not add up.  Shame – she was really something special – beautiful, intelligent and very feminine.  He’d never met anyone quite like her.  These types of criminals tended to stick to the big cities.

He sighed deeply and wished things were different.  Whenever a clever woman came to this town she already seemed to be attached, and now a single one had turned up she appeared to be some kind of criminal.  Ah, well, some things were sent to try us.  Like being bound to the office - that wasn’t really his thing but someone had to be here at all times when they had a prisoner.

He blinked, his heart skipping a beat at the sight of the cell door sitting open and the cell completely empty.  “Damn!”
Jacobs ran for the door.  She had been sound asleep and he hadn’t been gone above five minutes.  Where the hell could she have gone?  He clattered onto the sidewalk, blinking in the caustic sunlight.  Herb Maitland smiled casually at the lawman as he mopped the area outside his pharmacy.

“Everything alright, sheriff?”

“A woman,” Jacobs raised his hand.  “Yay big, light brown hair...”

Herb grinned.  “And eyes like a forest pool on a summer’s day?  Yeah, I saw her.  There aren’t many women going around town without a hat either, so she sure stood out a bit.”

Jacob’s snorted.  He had no time for the wordsmith pharmacist today.  “Which way did she go?”

Herb frowned and pointed towards the alley across the road.  “She went that way, shifting at quite a pace too.  Why, did she...?”  Herb drifted off, his still pointing finger now redundant as the lawman took off at full speed.  Herb shrugged and returned to his mopping.  “I guess she did – whatever it was.” 

Jacobs ran into the alley, pausing between every building to peer into the shadows.  His eyes landed on a slumped figure slugging something from a grubby bottle.  Clint Walker’s face froze in the rictus shame of a secret drinker caught in the act.  “I ain’t drunk, sheriff, honest I ain’t.  Ya can’t lock me up for this.” 

“I’m not interested in you!  A woman ran down here.  Did you see her?”

“Yeah,” Walker, pointed towards Seward Street, his exaggerated movements betraying his level of intoxication.  “She went thatta way.”

“Thanks.”  Jacobs took off after his quarry, “and you’d better not be here when I come back, Walker.  Go home and sleep it off!”

The lawman cursed under his breath as he ran.  Damn that woman, she had made a total fool of him.  He’d never lost a prisoner in his life, so to lose a tiny woman, from a locked cell!  He’d never live it down.

The adrenaline pumping through his system drove him on to the end of the alley.  Crap!  She must have gone onto Seward Street after all.  He hot-footed it back into the bright sunlight, looking desperately up and down.  The church stood at the top of the road and the railway at the bottom.  Which way would she have headed?  Surely the railway station was too obvious.  Never mind - he had to choose something, and he had to make sure she didn’t leave town.  Jacobs flicked out his pocket watch, six minutes to three, and the next train left on the hour.  There was only one way to go – he had to make sure she wasn’t on the first train out of town.  Did she have money on her?  He hadn’t even searched her because it seemed indecent.  No way could he treat that little lady the same way as he did the cats from the whorehouse – well, he wasn’t going to make that mistake again!

In a few minutes he was trotting along the platform, desperately staring into every carriage, but surely she wouldn’t be stupid enough to sit where she could be seen, would she?  Jacob’s dark eyes fixed on the man in the liveried uniform.  “Al!  I’m looking for a woman, real pretty, about five foot one?”

“Ain’t we all, Carl,” the station master guffawed.

“No!  One in particular.  She wasn’t wearing a hat, and I think she ran in here.  Have you seen her?”

Al paused, his mobile face gradually arranging into a frown.  “No hat?  Yeah, there was one.  Went in the carriage at the end over there.”

“Thanks!” Jacob followed the station master’s pointing finger and jumped up the steps.  “Don’t let this train go until I’ve checked it!”

“Can’t do that, Carl.  We gotta make schedule.”

Dozens of curious eyes fixed upon the sheriff who clung to the bulkhead panting furiously.  Man, he was getting out of condition – usually it was the horses that did all the running.

“I’m looking for a woman,” he gasped.  “Just got on.”  Puff, wheeze!  He pointed to his head.  “No hat.”

A horror-stricken voice squeaked from the back of the carriage.  “I didn’t know!  I would have worn one if somebody had told me.”

Jacobs’ incredulous frown matched that of the mousey woman at the back.  “Worn what?”

“A hat!”  Tears pricked at the woman’s eyes.  “I didn’t know it was illegal!  My last one got damaged and I came to see the new hat shop.”  A sob tore at hi-lo’s in her voice.  “It was closed.  I would have borrowed one if I’d known it was against the law, honest.”

Jacobs tore his own headgear from his head in frustration, risking prosecution under the imaginary by-law.  “Are you the last woman who boarded here?”

“Yes,” peeped the poor woman at an octave better audible to dogs.  “I’m sorry.”

Jacobs turned to find the station master standing behind him.  “That’s her, Carl.  The woman who boarded without a hat.”

Jacobs dragged his hand distractedly through his hair.  “She’s not the one I’m looking for.”

“She’s not?”  Al mused deeply.  “She’s the only one I saw not wearin’ a hat.”

“I won’t do it again,” the mouse trilled.

“We need to depart, Carl.  We gotta be on time.”

Jacobs heaved a sigh of resignation.  He couldn’t hold up the train to keep hold of a vagrant.  He was supposed to make sure they left town, not keep them here.  “Sure, Al.  The train can leave.”

He wandered dejectedly out onto Seward Street, the thumping in his heart subsiding as quickly as his anger mounted.  Her words played through his mind.  'When professional people have a job to do, there’ll be things that just have to happen.  You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.  We all understand that, don’t we?'.
The light went on in his brain as realisation hit.  She’d been talking about herself - not him – and she’d apologised in advance.  What an idiot he’d been!

He slumped against the wall, wondering how he was going to explain this to the mayor.  There were definitely some highly-skilled criminals at work in the area.

“Good afternoon, Sheriff Jacobs.”

He turned nodding towards the elderly woman making her way back to the hotel.  “Been shopping, Mrs. Bamforth?” he asked, tersely.

“Church,” she responded.  “I go there every day.  I would have thought the pastor would have told you that.”
Jacobs gave a harrumph.  “Where’s your son, ma’am?”

The matron tilted her head, her showing the neck creped with age.  “Not that I approve, but I believe he’s in the saloon.  Boys!  They do have some disgusting habits, don’t they?  You’d think he'd want to come to church with his mother.”

“Tell him I’ll be over to see him later.”

She glanced over her shoulder before raising her parasol.  “I will, unless you see him first.” 



To Be Continued.
 
 
Historical notes
Cascogastric bout – is what the Victorians called a general upset stomach which was none too serious. 
The etiquette lessons come from the The Madison Institute Newsletter, Fall Issue, 1894 - Instruction and advice for the Young Bride On the Conduct and Procedure Of the Intimate and Personal Relationships Of the Marriage State For the Greater Spiritual Sanctity Of this Blessed Sacrament And the Glory of God by Ruth Smythers, Beloved wife of The Reverend L.D. Smythers,
Pastor of the Arcadian Methodist Church of the Eastern Regional Conference Published in the year of our Lord 1894 Spiritual Guidance Press, New York City
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: Green Shoots Chapter fifteen   Sat Aug 02, 2014 9:50 pm

What  a wonderful chapter! I loved it.
The hunt for the mysterious Elise is on. After some delightfully comic scenes (the hotel clerk who didn't want to bang his own trumpet, Valentine's quarreling with Heyes) the boys have to revert to their outlaw tactics to finally nab her. And then they lose all outlaw credibility with her (well, I guess they never had it with her in the first place). The "interrogation" was very enjoyable to read. And since they don't know what to do with Elise, they hand her over to the sheriff who promptly arrests her. I thought it was really funny when compared to the boys' situation in ASJ, what a contrast. At least one outlaw feels very bad about the arrest. And here we get back to a more serious note. Beautifully done.
The scene with Valentine outside the window confirms that he and Elise at least work together. What about her illness? David seems to suspect morning sickness. Do I believe all the hints dropped in the scene?
And is it not interesting that the sheriff bumps into Valentine's mother after his unsuccessful chase for the escaped Elise (whom he seems really smitten with)? I would ask the pastor if the old lady really showed up every day at church.
Amy is getting better and she will move in with Miranda. I feel a little uneasy about that. But I am glad that she no longer wants to be Heyes' friend, even though it hurts him. But at least things are much better with Randa. I loved the scene with Heyes desperatly trying to rescue the apples from various 4-legged thieves. Lighthearted and funny.
But what I liked best of all in the chapter was Heyes finally opening up to the Kid and the reader. For me this makes up for all my confusion about him in the last chapter(s). No wonder he is so insecure and confused about himself. Always proud of his cleverness, it must be terrifying to see himself reduced to mindless blood lust. It is so good that he has the Kid who can relate and help him with it. A very touching scene. It confirms for me that these two should not be split up. As much as I wish for Heyes to find a way to be with Abi - I can't believe he would continue to be happy without the Kid around. It's also nice to hear Kid voice in this chapter that he would rather that Heyes stays, even though he would support him if not. 
The etiquette lesson was hilarious - but I have read other etiquette guidelines, so I was pretty sure you did not make it up. The poor women who believed and followed this.

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For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Green Shoots Chapter fifteen   Sat Aug 02, 2014 10:35 pm

Glad you got a kick out of this one. Yes, Heyes has been carrying around a lot of doubt, guilt and insecurities. He is beginning to heal for real but it's going to take some time yet.

A lot of my intentions with these chapters is to show that though their lives are growing in other directions now, their partnership remains intact. The bond between them is unbreakable and any woman who tries to break them apart (ie; Isabelle) is going to find herself out on the doorstep.
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PostSubject: Re: Green Shoots Chapter fifteen   Sun Aug 03, 2014 1:36 am

LOL, Isabelle never stood a chance! Subtle as an elephant in a china shop...

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Green Shoots Chapter fifteen
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