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 The Quickening Chapter nineteen

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Keays

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

PostSubject: The Quickening Chapter nineteen    Fri Jan 10, 2014 10:09 pm

The Quickening.



“Beth!” Amy looked up from her work and smiled, the livid scar on her lip reaching down to her chin “And you’re wearing your electric-blue hat. You look stunning in it. I bet you were such a beautiful bride. I am sorry I couldn’t make it to your wedding.”

“Thank you. You could have come, Amy. You‘d been made very welcome.”

Amy shook her head. “Randa said, but no, I couldn’t have made the journey out there. All that bumping around in a wagon, you know. I was thinking of you though.” She arched an eyebrow. “How’s married life? Did you have a good honeymoon?”

Heyes grinned mischievously. “They were both as pale as ghosts when they got back, so I guess they must have. I doubt they saw the light of day for the whole week.”

Beth blushed puce. “Oh, Hannibal!”

“Where did you go?” giggled Amy.

“A friend lent us a hunting lodge for the week.” Beth’s eyes turned wistful. “It was so beautiful, just Jed, me and the wilderness. The mountains were magnificent! I’ll remember that week until my dying day.”

“Yeah,” Heyes’ dimples deepened. “It was all about the mountains. Gotta have them on a honeymoon.”

“Stop teasing her, Hannibal.” Amy gave a tinkling laugh. “Where is your husband?”

“My husband? I suppose I’ll get used to that, but it does sound so odd!” Beth tried to suppress her smile but failed miserably. “He’s gone over to the lumberyard. We have to start building our house. Hannibal thought he’d come and see Randa while we were waiting.”

“Oh, yes. I don’t suppose you want to keep living with your parents.” Amy wheeled herself over to the sink, but Heyes took the tea kettle from her hand, refusing to let her struggle to a standing position to fill it. “Miranda’s gone to the store. She should be back any time now.”

“Papa’s given us a parcel of land. He and Jed think it’s a perfect place for a house, and we’re still close enough to help out on the ranch.” Beth took the kettle from Heyes’ hand and placed it on the range. “A place of our own! I can’t wait.”

“Your first house is very special,” Amy agreed. “Speaking of your own place, David has said I can go home.”

Beth frowned at Heyes. “But you’re still in the wheelchair. How will you manage?”

“I’m building up my strength. I’ve been walking with crutches a few hours a day. He’s happy that I can manage at night on my own and I must try to get the shop open. The bank has been very understanding – more than I could ever imagined really, but I’m sure I can make payments if I just open in the afternoon to start with. It has been ten weeks now so I can start to do normal things a little at a time.”

Heyes frowned. “Alone at night? I don’t like it.”

“Mr. Cramond has fastened the shelving unit so soundly the building will fall down before it moves again. Sheriff Jacobs has been so kind, he’s overseen the work himself and made sure he reassured me. I think he even swung on it. I did want Mr. Cramond to do the work because I felt sorry for him. This wasn’t his fault, but it was affecting his orders. I wanted to publicly show that I had confidence in him.”

“But still, alone at night...?” Heyes murmured, pensively.

Amy tilted her head. “I’m a widow, Hannibal. That’s the only respectable condition for me.”

Heyes scratched his chin. “I’m not happy about that.”

“How sad,” Amy giggled. “I’m delighted about it. I will miss Randa, but it’s such a positive step forward and she’s promised to come and see me regularly.”

“But working so soon, Amy? I’m not sure that’s wise.”

Amy hooked Heyes with a determined stare. “It’s a hat shop, not a lumber yard. As long as I use my wheelchair I’m sure I can lug those great, heavy hats around the store.”

“I’ll come whenever I’m in town,” Beth added. “So will Mama, I’m sure.”

“Thank you, but don’t forget if it’s open, ladies will come in, so I won’t be lonely and Mr. Cramond is sending his apprentice twice a day to make sure I have water, the range cleaned out, logs brought in – that kind of thing. I’ll be just fine.” A thought seemed to occur to Amy. “Oh, I’ve had some new tea delivered. Orange Pekoe. Would you like to try it?”

“I had some on our honeymoon,” Beth informed her. “You mentioned it being a lovely tea so I thought I would try it. I couldn't taste any orange in it though.”

“Oh, no it doesn’t taste of Oranges. It’s a black tea from the East Indies. They call it orange after the Dutch Royal House of Orange. It’s very refreshing for a mid-afternoon drink.”

“You do love your tea, don’t you, Amy,” chuckled Heyes.

“Yes, I love thinking about the countries it comes from too. I have some books on it, and they’re so exotic. You can borrow them if you’d like.”

“Books?” Heyes eyebrows arched. “Yeah, I’d like to read them.”

“They’re at the shop. I’ll do you a deal, help me move back and you can borrow them.”

Heyes nodded. “Sure, when are you moving?”

“Sunday, if that’s convenient?”

“Sunday? I’ll be there - sounds like Randa’s back,” Heyes looked up at the sound of the front door opening followed by chattering voices, “as well as your husband, Mrs. Curry.”

Beth’s warm brown eyes glistened at her friend. “Mrs. Curry. It just doesn’t seem real yet.”

“No?” Heyes chuckled. “You wait until the young‘uns come along. It’ll feel pretty real then.”

Beth dropped her head. “Yes, I guess it will.”



Jed smiled proudly down at his new wife, stretching out a hand to help her onto the wagon. “What did he say?” he whispered.

“It’s too early to tell,” Beth glanced at Heyes who was loading lumber into the flat-bed at the back. “I could have asked Mama, but she’d guess and I want this to be a surprise.”

“When?”

“David said to come back in a couple of weeks, but it might even be too early then.”

Beth took a seat while the Kid’s long fingers tapped impatiently against the wood. “Isn’t there anything they can do?”

She laid a gentle hand on his forearm. “Just be patient. It might be nothing, but I’m sure something will happen soon, one way or another,” a smile twitched at her lips, “if you have anything to do with it.”

“Will you two pack it in?” They turned to laugh at Heyes’ indignant face. “This stuff’s heavy! How about a bit of help?”

“Of course it is,” the Kid strode around to the back to join his partner. “Now you know how I felt all those years. You’d leave me to do all the heftin’ while you’d swan around makin’ big plans.”

Heyes narrowed his eyes, glinting at each of them in turn. “Yeah, but they were never quite as big as yours. Maybe if I’d thought straighter and planned better, huh?”

Beth picked up on the undertones. “Sorry, here we are being all indulgent and you’re missing Abi.”

Heyes froze. “I’m fine.”

Beth shook her head. “You’re not. It’s alright to miss her. Who knows, maybe she’ll decide she was being over cautious and come back.”

There was the crack of a plank dropping flat against another. “She won’t. We discussed it.”

“But still,” Beth persisted, “she looked out for you for all those years, even when you were on bad terms. I can’t believe she’d just drop you like that. Not now.”

“Just leave it, darlin’” Jed murmured, watching Heyes stride off to the lumber yard. “He ain’t good at talkin’ when he’s like this. He’ll come around in his own time.”

Beth sighed. “I’m worried, Jed. Seeing us so happy is like rubbing his nose in everything he’s lost.”

Jed’s blue eyes followed his cousin as he walked away. “He loves you, Beth, and he doesn’t want to squash our moment. Just be yourself and we’ll all be there to support him. It’s all we can do.”



“Where do you want this,” Heyes demanded, looking around the hat shop.

Miranda laughed and dropped a box on the counter whilst Amy wiggled in his arms. “Put me down!”

“Nuh uh,” Heyes grinned. “I need to find the right spot first. What about a high shelf?” The smile fell from his face. “Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean that.”

“I know,” Amy threw back her head and laughed but her eyes grew more serious and drifted up the guilty unit. She gulped heavily. “It’s big, isn’t it?”

“Yup. Are you alright, Amy? You can just visit until you get used to being here?” Heyes fixed her with a serious stare. “Anyone would find this daunting. I’m quite happy to take you back to Randa’s and let you get used to this a little at a time.”

Amy paused, her little, white teeth biting nervously into her lip. “No. I’ll stay and face this. I have to be brave.”

The dark eyes softened. “Well, you’ll have no problems if that’s all it takes. I haven’t met many as brave as you.”

Amy blushed. “I’m not. There’s just no point in wallowing – I found that out a long time ago. You have to take action if you want to move on with your life.”

Heyes arched a brow. “You have a way of cutting to the quick,” he darted a look at Miranda, “and of being dead right.”

They turned to watch David clatter into the shop with the wheelchair, followed by Tricia carrying bales of fresh bedding in her arms. “Your chariot awaits,” David announced, placing it conveniently in front of Heyes. “Let’s see how easy it is for you to manoeuvre in these small spaces.”

The group watched her steer her way around the counter, in and out of the little kitchen and around the bed. David nodded pensively. “Yes, I think you can manage. I’ll be around first thing in the morning though, just in case. Do you have a spare key?”

“Somewhere in the drawer here,” Amy started rooting around through the nick-nacks and paraphernalia which had been thrust away in case they might be useful some day. “I’m sure it was in here.”

“I can get you in if you’re stuck, David,” Heyes suggested, archly.

“You’ll be tucked up at the Double J., Hannibal. You’ll be miles away.”

“I could stay over?” Heyes glanced at Miranda, “at the hotel, of course.”

“Here it is,” Amy announced, brightly, holding up the spare key.

Miranda tilted her chin at Heyes in challenge. “See? There’s no need for you to stay now. At least that’s a weight off your mind.”

“Yeah,” Heyes muttered. “Great.”

Tricia smiled, glancing between Heyes and her cousin. “Come on, Randa. Help me get Amy’s bed made.”

“Why don’t I put the kettle on?” Amy suggested. “It’s about time I found my way around my own kitchen again.”

David and Heyes watched Amy wheel herself into the back room and looked over to the door in an unspoken agreement. It was time to get the last of Amy’s things back into the shop for her. They strolled over to the wagon and lifted the last two boxes.

“So, how are things going between you and Randa?” asked David.

Heyes headed back to the shop. “Yeah, they’re good.”

David sighed. “Hannibal, I have to ask you something but I don’t want it to sound as though I’m acting like some kind of stern father.”

Heyes turned. “What, David?”

“I can see the pair of you getting close again, but it wasn’t too long ago that you were engaged to another woman. I’m trying to find a way to ask you what your intentions are, but it sounds too formal.”

“We’re friends, David.”

“A little more than friends - I’ve seen you together. I was at the wedding.”

“I’m not going to hurt her, David. I’ve been completely honest with her.”

The doctor frowned. “What if she comes back, Hannibal? Mrs. Stewart has a way of popping up when she’s least expected.”

Heyes dropped his head but quickly regained control. “Yeah, but that’s not going to happen this time. We agreed. We had a long talk, David, and neither of us could take coming together and breaking up anymore. We gave it our best shot. We’ve been doing that for too many years and it meant both of us putting our lives on hold for far too long. It’s over, for everyone’s sake. It’s time to draw a line in the sand and walk away. People can love more than once – they just have to do some healing first. Abi really believes there’s still a threat, so she won’t bring Anya into this. It’s finished.”

“Is that an excuse? Maybe you’ve outgrown one another; after all, both your lives have changed beyond all recognition since you first met.”

Heyes sighed, “I guess that was my excuse for not looking for her. I should have made the effort to commit to her once she had Anya, but I just didn’t try. I could have found her if I’d wanted to - and got her to listen to me - but I didn’t - I was too wrapped up in myself and how I felt, while she was doing the best she could for our daughter. If we’d gone away and disappeared the authorities would probably never have caught up with us. I damn myself for that, especially now I know she never stopped caring. We could have had a fairly normal life.” He paused, staring off down the street. “She’s rarely wrong. If she believes there’s a threat, there probably is one –and if that’s the case, I can’t risk Anya either. I don’t see a way forward as long as I’m on parole. But how can I put another woman or child at risk by starting over?”

“So, back to you and Randa.”

“She’s a wonderful, clever, caring woman. Of course I’m attracted to her, but what if she’s in danger by being connected to me? Look what happened to Amy. Miranda and I are friends, David, but much as I love her, my head’s just not in the right place to get more serious right now. I’m getting over Abi and I fear for the people around me.”

David narrowed his eyes. “You’re not planning on doing anything stupid, are you, Hannibal?”

“Stupid?”

“Like breaking your parole and disappearing, for instance?”

Heyes cheeks pitted with joyless dimples. “As if I would do a thing like that?”

David arched a cynical eyebrow. “Yeah, as if.”

The men stood in the street, still bearing their boxes, looking deeply into one another’s eyes. David eventually broke the silence. “We don’t know what happened to Amy. All I ask is that you don’t do anything without speaking to me first. I give you my word I’ll keep it confidential and I won’t interfere, but maybe I can help you to rationalize things before you do anything irrevocable.”

Heyes remained silent.

“Promise me Hannibal. This threat could be a bluff to make you drive yourself back into prison. You won’t go far wrong keeping friends around you.”

“It wasn’t a bluff. Abi listened in using a spying device. They didn’t know anyone could hear them.”

“That’s as maybe, but don’t let this campaign strip everything away from your life. It’s taken enough.” David smiled softly. “I’m glad you’re taking things slowly with Miranda, for both your sakes. It does sound like you’ve called it quits with Mrs. Stewart. I’m sorry. I know she meant a lot to you.”

“We’re made of the same stuff, David, so neither of us could resist trying to best the other. She’s what I could have been, and I’m her dark side. It was a glimpse of what could have been for both of us,” Heyes shrugged, his eyes distant, “a glorious, wonderful mirage. Maybe I wasn’t all bad if somebody like her could care for me?”

“You’ve never been all bad, Hannibal.” David paused, “and a lot of people care for you – and you’re right. People can love again.”

Heyes nodded. “Yeah, but how do you cope if that hurts them?”

“Not by running away. All you can do is give them the information and let them chose their own path through life. I guess Mrs. Stewart thought your daughter wasn’t able to decide that for herself, so did it for her. ”

“What are you two talking about out there?” They turned. Tricia was in the doorway of the shop, her hands on her hips. “We’ll never get those things unpacked if you don’t get them in here.”

“Coming!” David and Heyes yelled in unison.

“Tea’s ready,” trilled Amy as they placed the boxes beside the newly-made bed. “Serving tea from my own kitchen again.” She blinked back tears, her chest heaving with emotion. “Thank you, David. My sincere thanks to all of you. I don’t know how I’d have gotten through this without you.”

Miranda stepped forward and placed a hand on her shoulder. “You owe us nothing, Amy, except maybe a cup of tea?”

Amy gulped back a caustic ball of angst. “Yes, tea.” She turned her wheelchair, heading back to the kitchen. “Oh, and Hannibal? The books I promised you are in the box beside my bed. Can you help yourself to them? I’ll forget otherwise.”


Mrs. Bamforth stood in the doorway, blinking in surprise behind her thick, concave lenses. “You’re open?”

Amy glanced up from the rainbow of ribbons with a smile of welcome. “At last, this is my first day. Please come in.”

The matron hesitated on the doorstep. “I was only curious. I heard about your accident. Well done on getting back to work. I do hope you are much recovered?”

“Please come in,” Amy wheeled herself over to the door. “There’s no obligation to buy, this is a very social place. Maybe you can help Miss Timpson decide on the colours for her hat for the 4th July celebrations. At the moment she is stuck between the lemon and white, which looks so fresh on her, and the pale blue. What do you think?”

Mrs. Bamforth stared over at Eliza Timpson whose rag-curled ringlets tumbled over her shoulders. “The blue. They go with her lovely eyes, although the lemon and white compliments her complexion.” Mrs. Bamforth titled her head weighing up the question. “The blue. Mix that with white and you have it all. You would look so sweet in white with touches of pale blue.”

Angela Timpson lifted the straw hat and held it out to Amy. “She’s right. Can we try blue and white instead of the lemon and white?” She glanced down at her daughter. “What do you think?”

“It would be unique wouldn’t it?” demanded Eliza. “I don’t want to bump into anyone else wearing the same hat.”

“I can promise you that I would not make the same hat twice,” Amy replied. “That’s why people come to me. What about white daisies with blue ribbon?” She pulled open a drawer and brought out some fabric flowers. Like this,” she placed a bunch on the brim, “and because it’s the height of fashion this season, I would suggest placing some under the curled brim here.” Amy pinned the trimmings in place and set the prototype on Eliza’s head. “Oh, yes. You have a very good eye, Mrs...?”

“Bamforth. Mrs. Bamforth.”

“Oh, Mama!” Eliza squealed. “I look like a fashion plate. It’s wonderful.”

“Please come in, Mrs. Bamforth.” Angela Timpson pleaded. “I would love your opinion on mine.”

The older lady hesitated but ventured further in. “What colour were you thinking?”

“I was thinking peach?”

“Really?” Mrs. Bamforth pursed her lips. You have such lovely eyes, you should compliment them. Have you thought of the new electric-blue? That mixed with white would be very dramatic on you.”

Angela Timpson paused. “I don’t know. Don’t you think I’m a bit old to be wearing the newest fashions? I prefer something a bit more classical.”

“Old?” Mrs. Bamforth snorted. “You’re not old; you’re probably not even forty yet.”

“Well, it’s all relative isn’t it?” Angela giggled. “Compared to Eliza I’m positively ancient.”

Mrs. Bamforth shook her head. “Do you know that the French say women don’t age - they accrue sensuality? They know so much about womanhood that a mere girl cannot compete.”

Amy’s blue eyes widened. “Really? I love that! She’s so right, Mrs Timpson. You can wear the classic lines but update the trimmings. I’m going to put the kettle on and we’ll take you through some electric-blue touches to that wide-brimmed hat you liked. How does that sound? Tea, everyone?”

“Sounds lovely,” Angela nodded. “This shop is such a treat for us ladies.”

“Mrs. Bamforth? How about you? Would you like some tea?”

The older woman shook her head. “A drink? Thank you, but no. I really must be going. It’s been lovely meeting you all.”

“It certainly has.” Amy headed to the back of the shop. “You must come again, Mrs. Bamforth.”

“You can be sure of it, Mrs. Oliphant.” Mrs. Bamforth headed for the door. “I do hope you continue on your road to recovery. I will come back when I have more time. This really is such a charming, little shop. I’ll bring my ginger cookies when I come next.”


David turned the key in the lock, his brow furrowing. “Amy? Are you alright?” He pushed the door to the shop open, the bell tinkling cheerfully above his head at odds with the greyed-out, sombre light filtering through the drawn blinds. “Amy? You didn’t open the shop. I was worried because you’ve opened every day for the last two weeks. You’ve been doing so well.”

“David?” the weak moan came from the living quarters at the back.

“Amy,” the doctor quickened his step, pulling back the curtain dividing the bedroom from the kitchen. The slight form lying under the bed-covers shifted and shuffled to a half-sitting position. “What’s wrong?”

“I’ve been sick, David. I’ve been up all night.”

David strode over to the window and dragged back the thin curtains to throw some light around the room, casting a caustic sunbeam across her reddened, blinking eyes. “You look pale.” He dropped a well-practised hand on her forehead. “You’re a bit warm. You’ve been vomiting? Any other symptoms?”

“Stomach cramps. Really bad, and I ache all over. What is it?”

“Have you eaten or drunk anything unusual?”

She shook her head. “Nothing. My dinner was a stew I made, I shared it with George who has been coming around to cut logs and clean the range. Has he been ill?”

David shook his head. “It hasn’t been reported to me. I have had a couple of other women reporting similar symptoms. Mrs. Krugsfeld and Mrs. Mason.”

Amy dropped back on the pillow. “They were in the shop yesterday, along with Mrs. Cooper and Mrs. Bamforth.”

“Did you eat anything they did?”

“Some of Mrs. Bamforth’s ginger cookies. We had them with some tea.”

“Ginger cookies?” A worm turned at the back of David’s mind. Hadn’t somebody else been violently ill after eating some ginger cookies? “When were you last sick?”

“At about four o’clock this morning.”

“And nothing since?”

Amy shook her head. “I’ve been trying to sleep. The cramps have gone, but I just feel so weak.”

David glanced at the glass of water on her nightstand. “When did you last drink anything?

“Not for hours.”

“It sounds like the worst is passed. You’ve ejected whatever was upsetting your system. Do you think you could drink some tea?”

Amy’s bleary eyes brightened. “Tea?”

David nodded. “Let me examine you, then I’ll make some for you. I’ll give the key to Randa so she can come over to give you some company. Lie down and lift your nightdress for me.”


Valentine Bamforth lifted his brows in curiosity as his face appeared around the door of his hotel room. “Can I help you?”

“Yes, is your mother in?” asked David.

Valentine nodded. “She’s resting.”

David placed a hand on the flat of the door to prevent it from closing. “May I see her?”

Valentine shook his head. “No. She’s asleep.”

“I’m Doctor Gibson. A few of the ladies who ate some cookies at the hat shop yesterday have been ill. I believe your mother brought them. May I ask her a few questions?”

Valentine’s jaw firmed. “I’ve already told you. She’s asleep.”

David held the man’s stare, refusing to back down. “The maid has told me she removed a bowl. I believe your mother has been sick too. I’d like to see her.”

“I don’t want to wake her.”

“Mr. Bamforth, what age is your mother? In her sixties or seventies?”

“Something like that. I don’t like to ask. You know how women are about their age.”

“Mr. Bamforth, I believe your mother has been ill and elderly people can dehydrate very quickly. I must insist on seeing her.”

Determination flared in Valentine’s grey eyes. “And I must insist on you leaving us in peace. Nobody called you here - your services are not required.”

David’s eyes narrowed. “Has your mother been sick?”

“A little, yes. The maid told you that. She’s passed the worst and is now resting. Now go away and leave us in peace.”

“Are you refusing to allow me to examine your mother,” David demanded.

“Are you thick? Yes, I’m refusing, she was a little ill, now she’s better and she’s resting. She doesn’t need a doctor.”

“With respect, I doubt you are qualified to judge.”

“And, with all due respect, you are not in a position to force treatment on anyone. I am her son and nobody has called you. I’ll thank you to respect our privacy and leave.”

“She brought those cookies to the hat shop. They seem to have made everyone ill. I need to speak to her to establish where she got them from. They pose a threat to public health and I have a duty to investigate.”

“Yeah? What law allows you to enforce that investigation, Doc?”

David hesitated. “Do I need the law? You could be allowing you mother to deteriorate. I’m sure Sheriff Jacobs would have something to say about that.”

Valentine turned his head to listen to the voice coming behind him. He nodded in agreement, but David could only hear the music of a woman’s voice and no actual words. Valentine returned his harsh glare to the waiting doctor. “Now see what you’ve done. You’ve wakened her up, and after she’s had a disturbed night too!”

“Well, there’s no reason for me not to see her now, is there?” David replied, archly.

“She isn’t dressed,” snapped Valentine.

“Excellent, that’ll make it easier to examine her, won’t it?”

The voice drifted around behind Valentine once more.

“She says she’ll come down to your office later.”

David let out an exasperated sigh. “There’s no need. I’m right here.”

“Later,” barked Valentine, pushing against the door. “Now leave us alone.”

The door slammed firmly in David’s face before the simmering doctor turned and strode down the hotel corridor. There were no laws supporting the arrest of a man preventing his mother from being examined, but if there was a way to force the issue, Carl Jacobs would know it.



Half an hour later another hand rattled against the door of the Bamforth’s hotel room. It opened and Valentine’s scowling face appeared once again. “Doctor Gibson, we meet again. So soon – and you’ve brought the sheriff with you.” Valentine gave a sigh of resignation and stepped back to allow both men to enter the room. “There are no legal grounds for this, doctor. My mother said she’d come by to see you.”

“Yeah,” mused Carl Jacobs, “but what if you didn’t have your mother’s best interests at heart. You could have been using undue influence to prevent medical intervention. We gotta check that out, Mr. Bamforth. People looking to get rid of an inconvenient relative have been known to behave that way.”

“From the way you trotted that out I’m guessing that you’ve just checked it out in a law book, sheriff,” Bamforth sniped. “So I take it that if my mother’s fine you have no reason to harass me any further?”

“I can assure you I am much recovered and was going to see the doctor later, as arranged.” Mrs. Bamforth stood at the door of her adjoining room, leaning on a stick with a carved handle. “Inconvenient? Me? I am quite offended at the insinuation that my son plans to do away with me. Valentine dotes on his mama, don’t you, Valentine.” Her tiny eyes glittered from behind the thick lenses as she gave her son a yellow-toothed smile.

“Yes, Mama,” muttered Valentine. “Who wouldn’t?”

“Who indeed,” simpered Mrs. Bamforth, triumphantly at her off-spring’s declaration of undying love, “now, can I take it that you can now go and leave us in peace?”

“I’d like to examine you, ma’am,” David stepped towards the matron. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but you’re not a young woman anymore and I’d just like to make sure you are quite well.”

Mrs. Bamforth took a step back. “Examine me?”

“Just check your stomach, nothing too intimate, ma’am”

The old lady bashed her stick down on the floorboards. “Out of the question! I do not go flashing my navel at just anyone, you know. I am fine! I tend towards having a delicate constitution and I am frequently unwell. That’s why I carry the ginger cookies. Ginger is supposed to settle nausea. I suck peppermints too. Is that some kind of crime?” She fixed Jacobs with a pair of beady eyes. “I fail to see why the law should get involved in the borborygmic episodes of an old lady.”

“Borbo... what did you say?” Jacobs demanded.

“Stomach rumbles,” David murmured. “It’s the medical term for a grumbling stomach.”

Jacob’s smiled in surprise. “There’s a name for that?”

“There is.” David looked at Mrs. Bamforth more intently. “I must confess to being more than a little surprised at a prospector’s mother using medical terms.”

“Do not judge a book by its cover, doctor.” The old lady tilted her head haughtily and walked delicately over to a chair. “I am a voracious reader. I believe the word comes from the French ‘borborygme?’ I do love words and word games. They help to pass the time.” She sat; her hands resting on the handle of her walking stick, the head of a little, carved creature peeking out from between her gloved fingers. “Now; you are not examining me, I’m fine. My son is not trying to kill me with neglect and I am much recovered from a perfectly normal cascogastric bout. Is there anything else?”

Jacobs and David shared a conversation in a glance. “The cookies,” David asked. “Where did you get them? You clearly didn’t make them yourself. There’s no kitchen here you can use.”

“I asked at the front desk and Mrs. Pazzano makes them for me. She’s a wonderful cook.” Mrs. Bamforth blinked in bemusement at the man’s apparent lack of common sense. “Where else would I get them?”

“Mrs. Pazzano makes them?”

“Certainly. Ask her. Why are you so interested in a few medicinal cookies?” Mrs. Bamforth shrugged before glowering imperiously at the two local men. “I’ve been eating them since I came here. You surely aren’t suggesting that a woman as lovely as Mrs. Pazzano is poisoning me, are you mad? What motive could she have?”

David ran his hand through his hair in frustration. There was something very wrong here, but he would be damned if he could put his finger on what it was.

“If that’s everything, I would be obliged if you would leave,” Valentine opened the door and gestured towards the hallway. “This nonsense is upsetting for mother.”

David reluctantly fell in behind Jacobs and walked from the room. “If you need anything, ma’am, be sure and let us know.” Jacobs tipped his hat on the way out.

“I will.” The clipped feminine response was cut off by the slamming of the door.

The pair walked a few steps before Jacobs muttered under his breath. “As sure as I’m standing here that man is a flour-flushing, mudsill. I won’t be happy until I’ve got the pair of them banged to rights. They’re up to some kind of chicanery – I’ll stake my life on it.”

“Yes,” David agreed. “But what? I have four women in town who’ve fallen ill since that woman had tea with them. He shows up just before Amy Oliphant is badly injured and – Amy! It’s Amy.” David paused staring at Jacobs. “She wasn’t killed after that accident, now she’s ill? Somebody is out to get her. I’m sure of it. They tried one way, now this?”

Jacobs considered this line of thought as they continued down the stairs. “But she’s getting better - all the women are, and we know somebody was sick up there too. The maid took the bowl away. If you’re going to poison somebody it seems a cack-handed way of doing it.” Jacobs shook his head. “No, that’s not it. I really think it was some kind of stomach ailment, and they’ve all shaken it off. That simply leaves the question of what that pair are up to. For two cents I’d search their room, but I simply don’t have the grounds,” Jacobs heaved a heavy sigh before muttering darkly, “or the opportunity.”

“The woman in your jail – Elsie Dagnabbit – she was sick, and she was eating ginger cookies too. They were in her pocket. She told me so.” David shook his head. “I’m going to speak to Mrs. Pazzano. Everyone who eats ginger cookies gets sick. There’s something going on here.”




The doors to the hotel burst open so quickly they battered against the wall with a clatter. Heyes stepped back to allow a flustered David to scuttle out onto the sidewalk, quickly ducking to avoid the book which fluttered passed the doctor’s head. A dark-haired, wild-eyed woman appeared at the door. “How dare you! I think of myself as one of the best cooks in this town. I raised the most money at the last church bake sale and my jellies are prize-winning!” She turned her head and pinned Heyes with a fierce glare, her ample bosom wobbling from side to side as she stood with her hands on her hips. “What are you looking at?”

“Erm, nothing?” Heyes stammered, hoping that was the correct answer. He clutched his bundle of books to his chest and stared at David, trying to suppress the burgeoning dimples. “David?”

The woman’s eyes started to well with tears and David was quick to take advantage of her moment of weakness to move out of easy range. “I didn’t mean to offend you, Mrs. Pazzano. It’s just that four women, maybe five, who ate your ginger cookies got...”

He was cut off by an unintelligible stream before the Italian matron returned to English again, waving her arms around with every syllable. “I heard you the first time! Nobody ever got sick eating anything I cooked. Why don’t you take a knife and stab me in the heart? Why not rip it out and throw it in the mud before you dance on it?”

“It’s dry,” Heyes ventured, helpfully. “I guess it’d be the dust.”

Mrs. Pazzano wailed again as Heyes grinned at a flustered David. “You’re not helping,” the doctor snapped, picking up his fallen hat.

“Aren’t I?” Heyes snickered.

Alberto Pazzano appeared behind his wife, his thick arm reaching around his wife’s waist as he nuzzled into her neck. “Hush now, cara mia. The doctor didn’t mean any harm. He said that four or five women loved your cookies so much they gorged themselves on them, didn’t you, Doc?”

“Well, not exactly...” David was cut off by another howl but he persevered, he clearly decided that Alberto was a better bet than his histrionic wife. “It might not have been the cookies. It might be an infection that’s going around, but a good doctor has to eliminate everything.” A whiff of desperation laced the doctor’s words. “I wanted to see the ingredients for that reason.”

“You see, my little sausage? The good doctor only wants to see what you put in your cookies so he will know it’s an infection. He’s trying to get you out of the way so he can get on with the job in hand.”

“Really?” Heyes looked between the hoteliers and the doctor with an air of irritating, wide-eyed innocence. “That’s what you heard outta what he said?”

David glared at Heyes. “I need to see what went into the cookies.”

Tiziana sniffed before she dabbed at her eyes with her apron. “The usual; flour, eggs, molasses, brown sugar, ground ginger,” she arched an eyebrow before dropping her voice, “and my secret ingredient.”

David’s gaze intensified. “What’s that, Mrs. Pazzano. I need to know.”

Her dark eyes scoured the street for any arch-rivals. “Come with me. This is not for the street.”

David paused at the doorway of the hotel to frown at Heyes who followed like a puppy. “Where are you going? I didn’t say you could come.”

Heyes paused. “I thought you might want some backup.” He smiled nodding towards the book lying in the road like an injured bat. “She’s got a good throwing arm. I wouldn’t want to see her with a tomahawk.”

“I guess they don’t need those for making cookies.” David dropped and looked at the books in Heyes’ arms. “What’s that? Extra ammo?”

“I borrowed some travel books from Amy, but I don’t think she meant me to take her cookbooks and Culpepper’s Herbal when I took the whole pile. I’m taking them back to her.”

David nodded. “Can you look in on her? Randa’s probably there. She was ill last night.”

“Ill?” The smile dropped from Heyes face.

“Yes,” David nodded. “Amy and four other women. They all ate the same cookies at the hat shop. I’m looking into it.”

Heyes stiffened. “David. You’re looking for poison aren’t you?”

“I don’t know yet. I’m keeping an open mind. Nobody kept any of the vomit for me to test.”

“Yeah. You’re looking for poison.” Heyes frowned. “I’ll be at Amy’s, David. We need to talk about this. It’s too much of a coincidence after the accident.”


Tricia opened the door and smiled at Heyes. “She’s at Randa’s?”

Heyes nodded and walked in, following Tricia’s inviting hand. “The sheriff’s here too,” Tricia led the way to the kitchen. “Coffee?”

Heyes took the proffered cup and sat at the table with them. “So - are either of you going to try to convince me this is nothing to do with me?”

“We don’t know that it is, Heyes.” Jacobs sat back and stretched his legs in front of himself. “I’m gonna need to know a whole lot more about her past. I sent another telegram to the Pinkertons to see what they know about her – and the Bamforths.”

Heyes frowned. “I thought Cage already said they checked out.”

“He said they are who they say they are. That doesn’t mean they don’t have some kind of connection to Amy.”

Heyes rubbed his chin. “Can Cage get out here?”

Jacobs shook his head. “He doesn’t work for the Pinkerton Agency anymore. He left.”

Heyes felt his stomach knot. Cage had all the time in the world to spend with Abigail and he had little doubt that he would be making the most of that opportunity. “So who are you dealing with?”

“The response came from the ‘Duty Desk.’ It seems like they’ve washed their hands of the whole thing now.”

“I don’t suppose we can blame them,” Heyes muttered. “They gave us way more support that we could’ve expected.”

“Yeah,” Jacobs gave a wry smile. “It’s almost like you had something on them and they consider the debt paid, huh?”

The ex-outlaw and the lawman exchanged a knowing glance. “Me?” Heyes shrugged. “I guess if you dance with the devil you’re gonna get some dirt on your clothes. Can I help it if they want to hide a few smuts?”

“Whatever, Heyes. It’s over now. You’re on your own.”

“Yeah, I sure am.” Heyes sipped at his coffee. Was it more bitter than usual or was that the taste of craw stuck in his throat? “David, somebody booby-trapped that shelving unit – and now this happens. Has she been poisoned?”

“Hannibal, if this had happened in isolation we’d just put it down to a normal stomach upset.”

Heyes put his cup on the table. “But it didn’t. She’d only been back home two weeks after she was nearly killed.”

“All the women ate the cookies and they all have got ill, but the ingredients all seemed fine.” David sighed. “They all drunk the tea too, poured from the same pot in front of one another. Amy said it was Orange Pekoe or something?”

Heyes cast his memory back. “Yeah, she had that delivered recently. Randa and I have drunk that and been fine, David.”

“I have too,” Tricia added. “It’s very refreshing.”

“Abi used to say she didn’t believe in coincidences, and I agree with her.” The darkness in Heyes eyes intensified. “Amy’s at Randa’s and I took her out the back door of her shop so people don’t know she’s gone. I’m spending the night at the shop. If they think she’s weak and alone they might make a move.”

Jacobs sat upright. “I don’t like it, Heyes. It sounds like taking the law into your own hands.”

Heyes faced the lawman with quiet determination. “Then stay there with me, sheriff. Let’s see what we find out. What’s the worst that can happen if you’re there?”



Heyes sat staring into the darkness, a hollow ache gnawing at his guts. So Cage was no longer a Pinkerton and as far as he knew Abi and Anya were back at Mayzee’s. The warm memories of his time at that place were now tainted with the malignant stain of jealousy. Anya was such an outgoing and lively child. Would she be climbing on that man just as he’d seen Jake climb over his pa? What about Abi – dammit, why did his mind have to take him there? Logically, he wished her well and hoped she’d find someone, but in reality, the thought sickened him.

He stirred, the creaking of the chair momentarily giving his streaming thoughts something else to focus upon, but before he knew it his mind was back there; replaying how her fingers stroking through his hair, the way her lopsided smile would light up her face, and the provocation in her ebony eyes. Ah, the challenge! He had surely met her at the right time; when he and trouble had been such bosom buddies. Nobody ever pushed him as far and expected more, but how ironic that the less she’d wanted the more he needed, but wasn’t that the genius of all women? Didn’t Randa do the same in her own quiet, unassuming way?

Randa - dear, kind, beautiful Randa. She had been thoughtful and patient - and Abi had pushed him towards her. A smile twitched at his lips. You could say what you liked about Abi, but she was rarely wrong.

A thought hit him straight between the eyes. He and Abi had been made for one another, riding the foaming crest of a wave of passion until it crashed down on the rocks, but she had been made for the man he was – and experience had changed both of them. Abi had met him at his worst and dared him to give her more, but that man would have frightened Randa and he knew it. Heyes had a future here, one which made peace with his past. Abigail had wished him well and walked away – it was now time for him to do the same for her.

“How long are we gonna wait here, Heyes?” Jacobs whispered. “It’s way passed midnight.”

“Yeah, well I would never have made a move this early. You do what you want, but I’m staying.”

Heyes could hear the voice next to him, laden with doubt and suspicion. “Maybe I’ll wait. We wouldn’t want you getting into trouble would we?”

“I certainly don’t, sheriff, so I appreciate the support.” Heyes worked hard to put his next point as delicately as possible. “I know you’re not used to this kind of work, but can you shut up? Someone might be listening.”

“I’ll be as quiet as a mouse,” Jacobs chuckled, lightly.

“Nobody who ever tread on one in the dark would ever think they’re quiet,” Heyes muttered. “Look, why don’t you lie down on the bed and I’ll take the first shift?”

“Good idea. Wake me at the first sign of anything. I mean it, Heyes.”

“Sheriff, I want to stay free. I’ve learned my lesson. Just rest, huh?”



Heyes' head dropped in that torpid, somnolent half-consciousness that became familiar to anyone who’d ever been involved in the long, boring ennui of a stakeout, but although his eyes were flickering shut, his ears were fully primed to the slightest noise – and that was all he heard - the tiniest, negligible metallic scratch through the darkness. The dark eyes snapped open, instantly alert and ready.

Heyes knew that sound. It was a lock pick. Somebody was working at the back door which led directly on to the kitchen. Heyes twitched at the curtain masking the bedroom from the kitchen and peered through. The tinkering sounds became more insistent. Heyes glanced over to the bed; it was time to wake Jacobs.

“Hmm,” the sheriff was roused by the ex-outlaw who had clamped a hand firmly over his mouth before hissing quietly in his ear.

“Get up. There’s someone trying to pick the lock.”

Jacobs shook the drowsiness from his system and snatched at his hat. An unspoken agreement instantly fell into place between the two men who drew their guns and flattened against the wall on either side of the curtain.

The puttering sounds stopped suddenly. Heyes and Jacobs stared into one another’s eyes through the poor light at the sound of a doorknob faintly rattling before a gust of night air hit their faces. The door was open. Heyes’ concentration focused on an almost instinctual level. Was that the sound of somebody creeping into the kitchen, or was his imagination running away with him? He held his breath and waited until the sound of drawers opening drifted through the curtain.

The intruder was now in the kitchen; passed the curtain. Heyes and the sheriff were between him and the door. He was trapped.

Heyes and Jacobs nodded, faintly lit by the thin, pale moonlight streaming through the thin curtains. It was time.

The two men swept out into the kitchen in unison, pointing their guns straight at the slight, shadowy figure who dropped a jar in shock at the orders barked by the two armed men.

“Hands up where we can see them!” and, “Don’t move!”

Jacobs stepped forward and pushed the figure against the wall before patting down his pockets and legs. “He’s unarmed.”

“Please, mister,” a thin, weedy, youthful voice cut through the shadows. “I ain’t done nuthin’. I’m jus hungry.”

Jacobs pulled a pair of handcuffs from his back pocket and drew the lad’s hands behind his back before clutching at the back of his neck and steering him into the bedroom where Heyes lit the oil lamp.

“Name?” barked Jacobs.

The boy looked about twelve in his oversized jacket, with big, scared eyes darting around and the whites of his eyes catching the light under his flat cap.

“I asked you a question, boy. What’s your name?”

“Bert,” the boy seemed to think the better of his answer. “Albert Constantine Alexander Igor de Pfeffle D’Anjou.”

“Huh?” Jacobs and Heyes shared a frown.

“My full name.” The boy’s lip started to tremble. “Ma always said I came from good stock, but that don’t fill a belly.”

“Where’s your ma now?” Jacobs demanded of the lad.

“Dead, like my pa.”

The lad looked terrified but both men knew that a boy who can pick locks was already deeply involved with the criminal underclass.

“Where do you live?”

Bert hesitated. “Nowhere,” he shook his head distractedly. “Anywhere I can.”

Heyes arched an eyebrow. “You’re with someone. Who sent you?”

“Nobody.”

Heyes softened his tone, crouching down to meet the dirty face. “You’ve got meat on your bones, so you’re clearly not starving. Somebody looks after you. Who is it, son?”

The big eyes stared mutely back at the ex-outlaw.

“Look, we’re not going to hurt you. In fact, you remind me a lot of myself at the same age and I want to spare you a lot of the heartbreak that life brought me. Someone taught you how to pick locks and told you to break in here. Who and why?”

“I never picked the lock. The door was left open.”
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Keays

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

PostSubject: The quickening   Fri Jan 10, 2014 10:11 pm

“Don’t lie to me, lad. I wrote the book on that. The door was locked, I did it myself.” Heyes narrowed his eyes. “Where do I know you from?”

“Church?” Bert countered, cheekily.

“Completely impossible. Man, folks must’ve wanted to strangle me at times.” Heyes stood upright with a sigh. “I suppose we’d better get him over to the jailhouse. I guess we’ll break him given a little time.”

“Jail?” tears welled in the boy’s eyes. “I can’t go to jail.”

The sheriff folded his arms. “You should have thought about that before you became a snakesman.”

The boy pouted. “Snakes? I don’t like snakes.”

“A snakesman is what criminals call a skinny, little boy they teach to break into buildings for them, and well you know it,” Jacobs barked. “Now! Who’re you working with?”

“Me.” The voice came from the darkness behind them, accompanying the sinking feeling in their stomachs and the snort of irritation from Heyes at being duped into dropping his guard, “and I have a gun pointed at your back. Now, very carefully - using only two fingers, remove your weapons from your holsters and kick them over here, behind you.”

“Bamforth,” Heyes muttered, his gun thumping on the floor beside him. “I’d know that voice anywhere.”

“Well, I guess my little stay here is up. Kick those guns over here,” Bamforth muttered. “Bert, get over here.”

“They’ve got me handcuffed.”

“The keys, sheriff, and be real careful when you two turn around. No false moves.”

“I’ll hunt you down, Bamforth. I’ll find you,” Jacobs turned slowly with his arms raised. “You’ll be easy to find, with you owning a factory and all.”

“A factory?” Bamforth smiled mysteriously as he crouched to pick up the keys. “Yeah, good luck with that.” He fumbled around until one of the manacles was released, leaving Bert to remove the other by himself.

“Why are you trying to kill Amy?” Heyes demanded.

“Kill? I’m no killer, Mr. Heyes.”

“Do you expect me to believe that? First she’s nearly crushed to death, and you break into her home after a suspected poisoning?”

Bamforth gestured toward the bed with his gun. “Frankly, I don’t care what you believe and I don’t have time to convert you. Now, you two are going to lie down on the bed, side by side.”

“Huh?”

The handcuffs were thrust into the boy’s hands as Bamforth’s smile spread. “You’re going to handcuff yourselves to the bedstead and young Bert here is going to make sure they’re not too slack. We wouldn’t want you getting out, would we?”

“On the bed? You’re kidding!” exclaimed Heyes.

“On the bed,” Bamforth commanded. “Who knows, maybe you can get some sleep until somebody finds you? I’m very kind, aren’t I?”

Heyes complied, giving a huff or irritation as Jacobs snapped the manacle around Heyes’ wrist before threading it behind a brass bar and attaching it to his own arm.

Bamforth approached the bed and smiled down at his captives. “Now Bert is going to make sure they’re good and tight.” Bamforth aimed the gun at the sheriff’s foot. “I’m acutely aware that you have a free hand each, so if either of you feels like doing anything to him I’ll have to shoot off Mr. Jacob’s big toe. Have you got that?”

“We’ll find you, Bamforth,” hissed Heyes as the lad leaned over him to press the cuff as tightly around the wrists as possible. “If it takes...” He stopped dead at the feel of the body pressing against his arm. That yielding cushion of flesh was not only deliciously familiar, it was most definitely not found on the body of a pubescent boy. He stared up at the face leaning over him. “Elsie! You’re Elsie Dagnabbit.”

The green eyes dropped down to his in surprise as Bamforth guffawed with laughter. “Elsie Dagnabbit? That’s priceless.”

She climbed off the bed glowering at him indignantly. “My name is Elise. Elise Daignault. Now see what you’ve done! He’ll never let me forget that.”

“Day-n-no...” Heyes repeated. “All I needed was to hear somebody say it properly.”

“We’re handcuffed to a bed and you’re practising the pronunciation of her name!” Jacobs spluttered.

“What do you suggest I do?” Heyes retorted. “Anyway, I like to learn from my mistakes.”

“Really? You’re about forty years too late.”

“I’d get some sleep if I were you,” Bamforth grinned. “You’re gonna be here until somebody breaks into the place.”

The men lay back on the bed and listened helplessly to the back door closing and locking behind them. “So?” Jacobs twisted his head around to glare at Heyes. “Get on with it.”

“What?” There was something about Heyes’ most innocent look which seemed to be a glimmer of the devil himself.

“Get us out of this,” Jacobs demanded. “You pick locks.”

“I’m going straight.”

“Don’t tell me you don’t have a lock pick on you, ‘cos I’m not buying it.”

“A lock pick? Sheriff, I’m an honest man now. Why would I need a lock pick?”

“Heyes, you don’t expect me to believe that you’d just lie here and wait if you were on your own.” Jacobs rattled the handcuffs against the bedstead. “Get picking!”

“Well, I may have something I can use,” Heyes shrugged. “It’s not a lock pick you understand, just a bit of metal.”

“Heyes, unless it’s a stick of dynamite, use it!” Jacobs paused. “And one more thing.”

“Yes, sheriff?”

“Not a word to anyone about this. I’ll be a laughing stock if this gets out.”

“Sheriff, I don’t come out of this any better than you do.” Heyes reached down and pulled a piece of metal from his boot. “Not a word will pass my lips, I promise you.”

Within seconds Heyes had the lock pick inserted into the lock and with just a little bit of manoeuvring both men heard a quiet 'click' and the bracelet around Heyes' wrist fell open. The ex-outlaw turned his attention to the second bracelet as Jacobs let out a silent whistle and shook his head in amazement. “I swear,” he commented. “I better I get to know you the more respect I have for Marshal Morrison.”

Heyes' jaw tightened in mild hatred. “Morrison's a bastard.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Jacobs agreed as the second bracelet came free, “but he's the only lawman who was able to get you to trial, and he got ya' there alive too. He didn't have to do that Heyes ya' know. He coulda' just killed ya'. It would have made his life a whole lot simpler. You gotta respect him for that.”

“What?” Heyes grumbled as the two men got off the bed and headed for the exit. “Getting me to trial or not killing me?”

Jacobs laughed quietly. “Both!”



Randa and Amy looked up from their breakfast teacups expectantly as Heyes and Sheriff Jacobs followed Tricia into the kitchen.

“Well? I bet it was a long boring night for you two?” grinned Amy.

Jacobs and Heyes shared a look. “Not much happened. That’s true”

“I told you. Why would anyone be after me? It was just a stomach upset.”

Jacobs turned his hat in his hands. “Well, why don’t we have a chat about that down at my office once you’re finished here? I understand that the doc wants to check you out, we’ll go afterwards.”

“Your office?” Amy frowned. “Why?”

The two men’s eyes met again. “I just want to be sure, ma’am. There’s nothing for you to worry about. I like to be thorough.”

“You certainly do, sheriff. I still think you’re wasting your time though, why would anyone want to harm a little hat maker from Chicago?” She shrugged. “Maybe I made hats for a wedding that didn’t work out, huh?”

“Well, that explains why the sheriff’s here,” Randa sat back, “but what about you, Hannibal?”

“I saw the Kid at the store. He was like a chicken with two heads -I couldn’t get any sense out of him. Thank goodness he had a list or he wouldn’t have made any sense at all. He said Beth was here to see David. Is she ill too?”

The women exchanged a knowing smile. “I don’t think so. She’s with David now. He insists on seeing patients alone, you know.”

“Yeah, I remember,” Heyes muttered.

“Jed wasn’t too happy about that,” murmured Tricia, “David had to show him the door.”

Heyes nodded. “He did mention that, quite a few times, in fact.”

“I’ll bet,” Tricia chuckled. “He wasn’t happy.”

“I know. What’s going on? Why is she seeing the doc if she’s not ill?”

Miranda stood and handed the two men a cup, rolling her eyes at her cousin. “Men! Are you sure nobody turned up last night? Half the time you can’t see what’s right under your nose.”

Both men’s cups rattled slightly before Heyes spoke. “What’s going on? If she’s ill I have the right to know.”

Tricia sighed. “And I thought you were supposed to be smart. You have the right to know what she wants you to know, and nothing more.”

Heyes was still scowling when the door to David’s study opened and Beth stepped out, her brown eyes glowing and her knuckles white as she clutched her parasol all of a dither. She turned, catching sight of Heyes in the kitchen before she bustled towards him. “Oh, where’s Jed?” She glanced around the room, the whites of her eyes flashing in excitement.

“He’s at the store, I just saw him there. Beth, what’s going on?” Heyes demanded.

She shook her head. “No. Not now. I have to find Jed. I have to tell him...”

The women started to laugh. “Tell him?” Miranda asked, archly.

“Oh, that’s not fair! No guessing. Jed has to be the first.”

Heyes gave a snort of irritation. “First? Guessing what?”

Miranda clasped her hands to her face. “Honestly! And he says he wants to be a detective. Drink your coffee, if you can find it!”

“He's over at the store?” Beth asked, all breathless in her excitement.

Heyes nodded as he took a swallow of coffee. “If you want to wait a minute, I'll walk you over there.”

“No, no!” Beth exclaimed as she headed for the door. “I need to talk to him, right now.”

“Oh, alright.” Heyes took another quick gulp and set his cup down. “I'll go with...”

Tricia and Miranda both made a concerted run at the obtuse male and each grabbing an arm turned him back around to face his coffee cup.

“Oh, no you don't.” Miranda told him.

“What...?”

“You just sit down and finish your coffee, Hannibal.” Tricia told him. “I think this is one conversation that needs to be done in private.”

“What do you mean...?”

The door to David's study opened and the man himself walked out. He took one look at the congregation that was gathered in his kitchen and stopped dead in his tracks.

“David!” Heyes was grasping at straws. “What's going on? Is Beth alright? She's not sick is she...?”

David rolled his eyes and instantly turned on his heels and disappeared inside his study again, being sure to close the door behind him. Heyes stopped before he could take one step, his mouth dropping in comical surprise.

“Coward,” Tricia mumbled under her breath.



Beth hurried away from the doctor's residence, her skirt hoisted up to prevent herself from tripping over them as she half walked, half ran towards the mercantile. Her excitement was growing with each step she took so that by the time she arrived at the store front she was almost sobbing with emotion. She pushed her way through the front door and looked around the store but not seeing her husband anywhere.

Her hand came up to her mouth in angsty anxiety, thinking that she had perhaps somehow missed him and he was already heading back towards the ranch. The fact that she had come in on the wagon with him and that he was indeed waiting upon her arrival had totally escaped her conscious thought.

“Beth.” The store clerk approached her with a friendly smile. “You looking for your husband?”

“Yes!” Beth exclaimed, still frantically looking about her. “Is he still here?”

“He's just out the back, getting the wagon loaded up,” the clerk informed her. “You can always wait for him in...here...” his voice trailed off as the young Mrs. Curry headed for the back loading dock, totally oblivious to the smiles that were aimed in her direction from the few other patrons in the store.

Beth came out onto the dock and had no trouble spotting the double J rig since it was the only one back there. Jed had it backed up against the bay and was in the bed getting the last of the supplies stacked and tied down for the trip back to the ranch. The team of horses were standing patiently, each sitting down on a back hoof, taking advantage of the time to doze in the hot sun before having to haul the wagon back home.

“Jed!” Beth called to him, her smile intensifying as she hurried over to the loading bay.

Jed glanced up with a questioning look, then grinned himself as he took in his wife's expression. He moved to come to meet her but she beat him to it, and stepping nimbly across from the bay into the bed of the wagon, she ran into his arms.

“Whoa, Beth darlin',” Jed held her close. “You should be more careful. Don't want ya' fallin'.” He gazed down into her sparkling brown eyes and his heart did a flip. “What did David say?”

“Yes!” The one word came out in an excited rush. She started to laugh and jump up and down. “Yes, yes, yes!”

The two horses raised their heads briefly at the commotion going on behind them but didn't take long to settle back into their naps. It was nothing important.

“Yes!?” Jed repeated as his brows raised and his whole face lit up. “Yes? Is he sure?”

“Yes!” Beth assured him. “It's still early yet, but yes!”

“Ho ho,” Jed laughed and hugged his wife to him. “Aw, Beth, darlin'. I can hardly believe it. I'm gonna be a papa!” He lifted Beth up off her feet and hugged her even tighter. “Ho ho, I gotta tell Heyes.”

“Oh, I don't know,” Beth said as Jed put her back down on her feet. “I don't know if we should say anything this soon.”

“Well why not?” Jed asked her. “If you are, you are.”

“But David said that the first three months are very crucial,” Beth explained. “We might want to wait...”

“Aw Beth, I don't think I can wait another month before being able to tell anybody,” Jed admitted. “Especially Heyes. And what about your folks? Do you really think you're gonna hide news like this from your ma?”

Beth smiled and her eyes sparkled even more. “No,” she giggled. “She'll know it the minute I walk in the door.”

“Yeah. So...”

“Just family then,” Beth conceded.

“Alright,” Jed agreed. “Just family.”

He smiled down at her and then cupping her face in his one hand he leaned over and kissed her.



Later that evening, Jed and Heyes were relaxing out on the front porch with their after dinner coffee's. Beth and Belle were in the kitchen tidying up while Jesse was getting caught up with the end of the month paperwork. J.J. was laying on his stomach in the sitting room entertaining himself with a picture story book. He would be starting school in the fall and he wanted to get a jump on his letters so he could impress everyone with how bright he was. This enthusiasm was greatly encouraged though likely to be short lived once the reality of classes and homework started to get in the way of his play time.

To all outward appearances the partner's were relaxed and comfortable watching the evening begin to close down around them, but on closer inspection it could be said that the silence between them was slightly strained. When Jed and Beth had made their excited announcement at the dinner table Heyes' reaction was anything but spontaneous joy. Oh, he'd put on a good act, smiling and congratulating the couple on their happy news, but Jed caught him looking away when the older cousin thought everyone was too distracted to pay any attention to him.

So now, coffee out on the porch started off quiet and contemplative. Jed's excitement at the news was diminished some degree by this cousin's less than thrilled response and he was trying to wait patiently for his cousin to explain himself. Finally Jed gave up waiting since the stoic one beside him continued to be just that; stoic.

“Heyes...”

“I know!” Heyes cut him off abruptly as though he'd been waiting for Jed to start the conversation.

Jed shrugged. “Well?”

“I don't know.”

“You know how important this is to us, that Beth and I really want this,” Jed reminded him. “Why aren't you happy for me?”

Heyes sighed, his shoulders slumping. “I don't know,” he repeated.

Silence again prevailed. Jed waited for Heyes to elaborate and Heyes waited for inspiration to hit. “I guess I'm just...” Heyes began, then stopped in his tracks and sighed again.

“What?” Jed pushed.

“It just sounds so petty... I don't even want to say it.”

“You're jealous!” Jed stated bluntly and Heyes grimaced. “You're jealous because I've found everything that you thought you had and then lost.”

Heyes' grimace practically turned into a snarl as he shifted uncomfortably in the hot seat.

“That's it, isn't it?” Jed pushed. “You're jealous.”

“NO!” Heyes protested.

“No?”

“NO! Well...maybe...I don't know. Well, yeah...alright. FINE! Alright. You're right; I'm jealous, okay? You happy now?”

“Heyes...” Jed's tone softened. “You got nothin' to be jealous about. You've got this too. It's right under your nose, you just have to be willin' to accept it.” More tight lipped, stoic silence. “C'mon Heyes, don't be like this. I want ya' to be happy for us. I know you; once you get used to the idea you're gonna love havin' a little second cousin, or niece or nephew or whatever ya' call it, to be runnin' around with. You can teach him how to pick locks and play poker!”

“Hmm.” Heyes was still grumbling.

Jed became serious again. “Or is it because you're afraid that I'm not gonna have time for you anymore. That I'm moving ahead with my own family and that my cousin isn't going to have a place in it.”

Heyes sunk even deeper into his chair, his fists absently clutching and releasing the arms of it, sending out the signal loud and clear that Jed had hit the nail on the head.

“It's stupid!” Heyes finally snapped, feeling angry with himself. “I know it's stupid! You and Beth aren't going anywhere, I know that.”

“That's right,” Jed agreed. “We're not going anywhere. You're the one who was plannin' on leavin' and you already know how I feel about that.”

“Yeah.” Heyes nodded and stared out at the barn as the evening light began to fade. “Well, you can relax with that. I guess I'd pretty much decided not to go, so...”

“Yeah, I gathered,” Jed admitted. “It's been a while and you haven't said anything about leavin', so...”

“Yeah.”

“I'm glad, Heyes,” Jed assured him. “Like I said, I don't want ya' to go. I want ya' to be part of our family. I mean, we are family. Nothin' is gonna change that,” Jed laughed. “The family's growin' that's all.”

Heyes grinned. “Yeah, it sure is. It's just...I don't know. I used to be able to handle change pretty well but then for five years there my life was just the same old same old and the world it seemed was passing me by. Now this past year has just been crazy—so many changes. It's like a whirlwind and I'm having a hard time keeping up.”

“Yeah,” Jed nodded. “I can sure understand that. Beth and I waited so long to get married and then all of a sudden, there it was and now we're expecting.” Jed couldn't help the glittering smile that took over his face. “Talk about changes! It's kinda scary if I let myself really stop and think about it; I have no idea what kind of father I'm gonna to be.”

“Yeah,” Heyes reflected. “I suppose the one advantage of me and Abi being apart was that fatherhood was just suddenly thrust upon me. I didn't have time to think about it, all of a sudden, there it was.” He smiled, sadly. “There's nothing like holding your own child in your arms. Once that happens you'll feel a love that you've never felt before. It just takes over; it becomes your priority and nothing else matters. When Rebecca died...” Heyes stopped talking and quietly shook his head.

“Yeah, I know, Heyes,” Jed commented softly. “I remember how hard that was on you, but you just shut yourself off and I didn't know how to help ya'.  But Belle has talked to me about that too, around the time when Sam and Maribelle were going through those hard times. Belle told me that she and Jesse lost one of their children too and she gave me some insight as to what that had been like to go through.”

Heyes looked over at his cousin. “Belle and Jesse lost a child?”

“Yeah,” Jed nodded. “A boy. He arrived shortly after Beth but he only lived for about five days.”

“Oh,” Heyes looked back across the yard, his thoughts far away. “I didn't know that.”

Jed sighed, taking a sip of coffee. “I just hope I can be a good father,” he said and smiled reflectively. “I was here throughout J.J.'s early years and I saw how challenging it can be. I just don't know if I'll have the patience. Beth, yeah. She was so good with J.J. and helped her mother out a lot. But me? Man...I donno. And Jesse! When it comes to being a father he raises the standard pretty high. He just always seems to know what to do.”

Heyes chuckled. “You're forgetting that he's already had two daughters to raise. I bet he felt just as lost and uncertain about fatherhood when Bridget came along. I suppose parenthood is an on-going process; you never stop learning.”

“Yeah,” Jed agreed. “He did kinda allude to that as well. He said that he and Belle used to fight a lot when the girls were young but that they learned to grow beyond that and work together.”

“Really?” Heyes was almost incredulous. “I find that hard to imagine. He always seems so...in control.”

“Hmm,” the Kid's thoughts went back a few years and he rubbed his jaw in sympathetic memory. “He sure let me have it once though, socked me right on the jaw—sent me sprawling.”

Heyes brows went up. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

Heyes chuckled. “You must have been asking for it.”

Kid snorted. “Thanks for your support there, Heyes!” he shot back at him, teasingly. “But yeah; I was behaving like a real bastard during that time. I cringe about it now when I think back. It was probably a good thing that Jesse took me to task at that point; it really made me stop and think about what I was doing and what was important to me. He just always seems to know when to get tough.”

“Yeah, he took me to task too,” Heyes admitted.

“He did? When?”

“He came out to the prison,” Heyes explained. “It was after I'd tried to...well, you know. After I...”

“Yeah, I know, Heyes.”

Heyes nodded, grateful to his partner for not making him actuality say it. “He sure wasn't putting up with any of my excuses. Everything I was telling myself, every justification I had made to condone my behaviour he shot them all down. Wasn't having none of it. He didn't sock me on the jaw, but he got his point home none the less.”

Jed smiled. “Yeah. We sure have tried his patience haven't we, partner?”

“Yup.” Heyes grinned. “But like Belle says; that's what families are for. And after all that, he even allowed you to marry his daughter. Ya' must have done something right!”

“Yeah, I suppose so.”

The two men sat quietly for a few moments, listening to the night sounds. Darkness had fallen though the evening was still warm and comfortable. Neither of them seemed in any hurry to get up and return indoors.

“You're gonna make a great father,” Heyes finally commented. “I am happy for you; for you and Beth. And you're right. The same opportunity is waiting for me as well. All I have to do is decided that I want it.”

“I know you're still unhappy, Heyes,” Jed assured him. “Miranda knows it too. You just need some time that's all.”

Heyes chuckled. “Kenny said pretty much the same thing,” he admitted. “Geez—talk about another one who doesn't mind taking me to task!” Suddenly Heyes' expression turn reflective again as a thought struck him. “Oh....”



“What?”



“Promises made,” Heyes repeated. “Jeez, I've just had an epiphany.”



Jed smiled. “Oh yeah? What about?”



“Both Jesse and Kenny reprimanded me for the same thing,” Heyes admitted, almost in disbelief. “Making promises and then turning my back on them when the going got tough.”



Jed's smile dropped. He could tell by Heyes' expression and tone that is was no light realization. This mattered to him.



“I always saw myself as honourable,” Heyes admitted. “I mean, a crook sure, but I always thought my word was good. Now it seems that the two men whom I have come to respect more than I would ever have thought possible tell me quite blatantly that I'm just.....”



“No, Heyes,” Jed tried to give him quiet assurance. “I'm sure they were talking about extreme situations. You can't....”



“But isn't that when it's most important to keep your word?” Heyes asked. “Suddenly I can see very clearly why Governor Barber didn't lift the parole. Yup! I can see it plain as day, and dammit—he was right!' Heyes sighed dramatically. “Geesh! Forty years old and I'm just starting to figure things out! I just can't get away with anything any more!”



“Well at least you're startin' ta' figure things out now!” Jed told him with a chuckle “And you say that I've got a hard head!” Then Jed laughed outright. “Different kinda life, ain't it Heyes!” he said. “Not quite the same thing as runnin' an outlaw gang!”



“No! It sure isn't!” Heyes adamantly agreed and he smiled over at his cousin. “It's better! Harder, and certainly humiliating at times—but definitely better!”



“Ha ha!” The two men tapped their coffee cups together. “Yeah!”



“Congratulations Kid! You're gonna be a papa!”




The fourth of July celebrations were in full swung, with the parade being led by a brass band down the main street to a field where numerous vender stalls offered games, refreshments and competitions of all kinds until it was dark enough to enjoy the firework display. The women from the church took the opportunity to raise some much needed funds from stalls selling preserves, baked goods, and embroidered fripperies of all sizes. A scowling Mrs. Bateman had also produced a pamphlet of ‘Economic Household Tips for Frontier Ladies’ full of her favourite recipes and hints, but it was a hit for all the wrong reasons. Much to her displeasure the font of all knowledge was causing much hilarity amongst the younger population of Brookswood. Her gimlet eye never wavered from the young man holding court with the giggling girls surrounding him.

Snacks for entertaining. Take bread and toast on both sides before spreading with the finest lard...” The girls’ twittering encouraged the young man who was delighted to find that the female of the species is attracted by a sense of humour. Who knew? The youth continued. “We now have a delicious array of economic delicacies to adorn your toast from pickled sheep’s brains to mock-turtle made from lights and calf’s foot. The best way to remove the bristles is over a flame...” The lad grinned, pushing his luck. “Great book, Mrs. Bateman. Ya got any brains?”

“Get out of here, Wilfred Symes. That book is for ladies!”

He grinned at his harem of fifteen year olds. “So I see. They can’t get enough of it!” he strolled off, his voice carrying in the wind. “The mangle is a wonderful device to make old bread go further...”

“Honestly! Young people today. I just do not know what the world is coming to,” muttered Mrs. Bateman.

Amy smiled at her from her seat behind the drinks stall. “Take no notice of him, Mrs. Bateman. He’s only doing it to get a reaction from you, and to impress some silly girls.”

“I despair, I really do. Men like that are supposedly the future of this country. How can we ever hold our heads up in the salons of the East when idiots like Wilfred Symes insists on playing the giddy goat?”

“I think you need a nice, calming camomile tea,” Amy stood and limped over to the large water boiler. “I’ll get you a cup.”

“Should you be walking without crutches?” asked the concerned matron.

“A little, yes. I need to build up my strength.”

“Well, you make sure you don’t do too much.”

“I’ll be careful.” Amy handed Mrs. Bateman a cup. “Now, do you know what goes so well with that? A spot of honey. Would you like some?”



“Ooh, I don’t know what looks best,” Beth and Jed strolled along the trestle tables eyeing the delicious selection of treats. “These brownies look superb.  Would you like one, Jed?”

A pair of hungry blue eyes lighted on the apple pie. “How about that?”

“How about you two join me in a cup of tea and I’ll treat you to the snack of your choice,” Amy asked. “I was just about to join Mrs. Bateman in a cup of camomile tea, but if you’re having one too I’ll make a pot.”

The Kid shook his head doubtfully. “Tea? Is there any coffee?”

“Coffee? Of course there is. I’ll need someone to carry the tray for me, though.” Amy selected the treats from the table, lifting the little gauze insect protectors and carefully replacing them. “I’ll pay, remember. Would you like some cream with that, Jed?”

They all settled at one of the little tables and Amy proceeded to place their selected dainties in front of each recipient. “Your coffee,” the cup was placed beside the pie, “and our camomile tea.” Amy placed a controlling finger on the lid to hold it in place while she poured out the two cups of golden liquid in turn.

“Honey? I always have honey.”

“Why not,” Beth nodded.

Amy sipped at her tea before giving Beth a wide-eyed, innocent smile. “So, how have you been?”

“I’m well, thanks.”

Amy arched her brows and her smile widened. “Good. You make sure you look after her, Jed”

Beth put her cup down with a clatter. “Does everyone know?”

Amy shook her head, chuckling lightly. “No, I was at David’s remember? I promise you I haven’t said a word to anyone. I haven’t even discussed it with Randa in case anyone overheard. This is your news and you must tell everyone when you feel ready.”

Beth heaved a sigh of relief, dropping her voice conspiratorially. “Thank goodness, it’s so early yet. I don’t think I could take the whole town knowing.”

“It’s wonderful news, Beth. I’m so happy for both of you.”

Beth cast a glance at her husband. “It is. He hasn’t stopped smiling for days. His face must be aching by now.”

The Kid dropped a hand over his wife’s before lifting it to his lips and kissing her fingers gently. “I still can’t quite believe it. It’s the best news I ever had in my life.” He tilted his head. “Well, since she said she’d marry me.”

“Better than amnesty?” Beth queried.

“Way better.”

The women glanced down at Jed’s empty plate and started to laugh. “I didn’t even see you eat that! Did you inhale it?” Amy chuckled.

“It was real good,” grinned the Kid.

Amy stood. “Why don’t I get you another? You are eating for two.”

“I thought it was the woman who was supposed to do that,” Beth exclaimed.

Amy gave a tinkling laugh. “Generally, yes, but from what I’ve heard he’s always been like that. I’ll go get that pie. Can you pour me another cup of tea from that pot, Beth? It’s going down rather well.”

“I think I’ll have another one too,” Beth smiled. “I guess I’m drinking for two.” She glanced over at her husband with a smile. “I’ll leave the eating for two to Jed. He doesn’t have to wear stays.”



The matron in the green gingham dress casually perused the baked goods stall through a pair of thick glasses, her mousey hair in a neat bun under her straw bonnet.

“Can I get you anything?” Amy smiled, helpfully.

“It all looks so good.” The woman’s green eyes drifted over to a man sporting a fine pair of mutton-chops. “Let me see what my husband would like.”

“We’re serving tea and sandwiches too in that little tent if you’d like to have a seat.”

“That does sound attractive,” the woman smiled. “A cool seat in the shade.”

“How’s business?” Carl Jacobs wandered over, casting a proprietorial eye around the festivities while Joe Morin stared at a tray of muffins with hungry anticipation.

Amy stared at the back of the green gingham dress as its owner bustled rapidly away from the stall. “It was good until you turned up.” She arched her eyebrows. “Why don’t you head over to the boy’s group? They’re stealing a lot of our clientele.”

Jacobs' gaze drifted over to the boys’ stall with a wry smile. “Nah, they’re throwing those balls at the pastor for five cents a go, but I’ve got an idea that a silver star might end up being more of a target.”

Amy chuckled. “You may just be right, sheriff,” she glanced at Joe. “Let me treat you. Please, as a thank you for everything you’ve done for me. Anything from the stall, what do you say?”

“I’m fine, but maybe Joe would like something?”

All eyes turned to the young lawman. “Are those blueberries in those muffins?” he queried.

“Big juicy ones,” Amy chirruped. She lifted the mesh cloche to allow him to select one. “Mrs. Pazzano made these. They’re going like hotcakes – literally. She is such a wonderful cook.”

“Well, if you don’t mind,” Joe’s hand reached out towards the proffered plate.

“Bleuuch!”

All eyes turned to an embarrassed-looking, but pale, Mrs. Bateman. “Are you alright?” a shocked Amy bustled over trying to side-step the steaming pile on the grass.

“I’ve been feeling unwell for a while,” croaked Mrs. Bateman. “Oh, I’m so embarrassed!”

Amy gave a smile of sympathy. “Nobody saw,” she lied, watching Joe Morin gingerly replace the muffin, his appetite departing with the speed of a robber’s dog.

“Let’s get you into the tent,” Amy suggested, gently. “Could you watch the takings for me for a moment, sheriff?”

“Sure will, Mrs. Oliphant.”

“Oh, and Deputy Morin?” Amy called over her shoulder, “please take a muffin. Just tell me what you want and I’ll pay for it. It’d be my pleasure.”

“Maybe another time, ma’am,” Joe replied with a grimace, looking at the speckled, steaming pile on the grass. “I’ve kinda taken against blueberries all of a sudden.”



Tricia grabbed an apron from the tea tent. “David, I’ve got Mrs. Patterson, Mrs. Pazzano and the Misses Thompson all ready to help. The casualties are all in the tea tent and the boys group have fashioned some palliasses for them. They’re emptying the bowls and bringing water too.”

David frowned. “This place is turning into a field hospital. I’ve never seen so many people fall ill at once. They’re dropping like flies.” He frowned. “Where’s Amy? I thought she was helping?”

“She’s gone down with it too,” Tricia frowned. “Have you ever seen anything like this? What can cause this?”

David shook his head. “I’ve read about diseases raging through hospitals and unsanitary neighbourhoods, but nothing like this. Not so suddenly. All I can think of is contaminated water. There are as many men affected as there are women, but the children worry me the most.”

Tricia fixed her husband with worried eyes. “What can we do, David?”

“A man called O’Shaughnessy did some pioneering work in rehydration salts in Britain during a cholera epidemic. Try to get fluid down them until I get back from the pharmacy. I think I can replicate them.”

“Will that help? Mrs. Jackson is very weak. She’s too old to sustain this for long.”

“It’s all I’ve got, Tricia.” David gave his ever-capable wife a reassuring smile. “I’ll be as quick as I can.”



It was a deflated, subdued party who rode back to the Double J. Everyone had been agreed that neither Beth nor J.J. could risk infection and they had to return home.

“You promised me fireworks,” J.J. protested through a petted lip.

Belle turned to confirm the change of plans to her son yet again. “They’ve been cancelled. They’ll have them another night.”

“But it’s the 4th of July,” pouted J.J. “We always have fireworks on the 4th of July.”

Beth snuggled up to her husband on the mattress which had been placed on the flatbed of the wagon to make the journey more comfortable for the passengers travelling as freight. “Too many people were ill. The mayor said we’d have fireworks at thanksgiving instead.”

“S’not fair,” J.J muttered.

“You’re right, it’s not fair.” Jed’s blue eyes glittered through the moonlight at the boy. “But I guess we’ve got a lot to look forward to. Thanksgivin’ should be real good.”

“I guess...” the child sounded unconvinced, but the prospect of delayed gratification was clearly better than no gratification at all.

“Yeah,” Jesse smiled at his son. “This way we’ve had a lovely day and you still get to see the fireworks another time.”

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” Belle added.

“It’s a cake.” J.J. frowned, the black and white logic of childhood taking hold. “What else are you gonna do with it? It’ll only go mouldy.”

“Don’t be cheeky,” his mother retorted, turning back to her husband who was trying hard to suppress a smile.

J.J. folded his arms and settled down next to Heyes.

“Amy got ill again,” he murmured.

“Yeah, and Randa too this time. David thinks there’s something in the water,” Jed frowned and glanced at his wife. “and you drank the tea.”

Beth nodded. “Yes, but I’m fine, and I shared a pot with Amy, so we know it’s not that because I’m fine. Besides, you had coffee. That’s made with water.”

“David says it was boiled, so it should be fine,” Heyes replied absently. “It can’t be that. David’s questioning everyone about what they ate or drunk, but there’s no pattern so far. He told me he’s using the same methodology as a doctor in London who traced a case like this back to one public pump.”

“We don’t have a public pump in Brookswood,” Belle mused, “but if anyone can find out what’s going on it’s David; he’s a very clever man, and people rallied quite quickly after they’d ejected whatever made them sick. Whatever he gave them helped tremendously.”

“Yeah,” Heyes rested his head back against the wagon, “but something’s going on. That’s for sure.”



Jed felt her before he heard her - the hard, taught knot of pain in the bed beside him. His eyes flickered open as he wrapped a strong protective arm around his Beth, but as he pulled her to him she groaned lightly. “Honey? What’s wrong?” He sat bolt upright, suddenly shocked by the dampness of her nightdress. She was drenched in sweat. “Beth! Are you ill?”

“My stomach,” she moaned. “The pain’s quite bad.”

The Kid felt the chill of fear strangle his heart. “The baby?”

Beth gripped at her stomach and let out a cry as another cramp shot through her.

“Let me light a candle,” the Kid murmured in his calmest, forced voice, belying the anxiety and helplessness spiralling in his belly. The golden aura cast it’s warmth over the emotional scene as the worried man carried the flickering flame over to his wife. “Do I need to get your mother, darlin’?”

Jed pulled the bed-covers back to get a better look at her, sucking in a breath of horror at the sight before him. The snowy-white bed linen was splattered in the blood oozing through her milky nightdress.
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Keays

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

PostSubject: The Quickening   Fri Jan 10, 2014 10:12 pm

“Oh, my God,” Beth exclaimed raising her blood-soaked hands to examine them. “No!” her breath started to come in great pants of despair. “Not my baby. Jed, our baby.”

Tears pricked at his blue eyes as he backed off towards the door. “I’ll be right back, I promise. I’m gonna get Belle and the doctor.” He watched the woman he loved clinch herself into a ball, gasping as another shard of pain shot through her slim body. His nails dug into his palms and he turned on his heel and ran out onto the landing. “Belle! Belle! For the love of God, please come quick.”

Beth dropped her head and cried, but her tears were not cleansing. It was the burning, caustic, agonizing lament of the death of hope and of the loss of promise. Emptiness crowded in to fill the vacuum with a soul-corroding blackness. There was no future at that moment; all her emotions were fixed on the life-force ebbing from her loins until punctuated by stabbing, wounding paroxysms. The child was lost, and she knew it.

“Beth?” Belle bustled in and laid a calming hand on her daughter’s shoulder, silently biting her lip. “Lie down, my love. Let me see.” She turned to her husband and son-in-law who fluttered uselessly in the doorway. “Boil water. Lots of it, and bring me towels. Jed, you need to go get David.”

The Kid nodded, staring down at Beth. “Is she going to be alright?”

Belle’s eyes widened, staring at Jed with the determination of a mother protecting her child. “Yes. Get the doctor. Do it, now.”

Jed turned, running straight into a sleepy-looking Heyes who suddenly appeared, fastening his trousers.
“Kid?” Heyes fixed his cousin with worried dark eyes. “What’s going on?”

“Beth,” the reply was a husky whisper. “She’s bleedin’ real bad.”

Heyes’ brow creased. “Bleeding?”

“The baby, Heyes. I think it’s the baby.”

Heyes’ jaw dropped open. “No, aw, Kid.” He shook his head helplessly. “It can’t be. Not already.”

“Our baby...” The blue eyes glittered with tears. “I need to go get David.”

Heyes pulled his shoulders back with determination. “I’ll go. You stay with her.”

Jed shook his head. “Belle said I had to. I’ve gotta do somethin’.” He heaved a huge sigh and dropped his head. “I don’t know what to do.”

The shreds of leadership entwined and strengthened in Heyes’ psyche. “I’ll go. I was always a faster rider than you. Beth needs you.” He groped around for something useful for his cousin to do. “If Beth’s been bleeding she’ll need clean bedding and nightclothes. Belle will need lots of water drawn from the well, and J.J. is already stirring, he’ll need to be kept busy or he’ll be frightened. There’s plenty for you to do.” Heyes headed for the stairs, calling over his shoulder. “I’ve seen how a good doctor works nowadays. When you think you’ve boiled enough water, boil more; it’ll never be enough. I’ll be as fast as I can.”



Heyes battered his way through the blackness, trusting Karma to take him where they needed to be. She had seemed to pick up on the urgency from the moment her human had strode into the stables with a lantern swinging with haste. She had stood patiently while she was quickly tacked up and led outside.

The way he had pulled himself on her back confirmed her misgivings and she gave it her all as she took off at high speed. Her hooves pounded through the night, accompanying the music of the snorting nostrils and rattling bridle. Her human needed her and his gripping legs told her he would keep his seat no matter where she took him. Karma was not about to let him down.





Heyes bounded up the steps of the Gibson house and rattled on the door. He knew Nathaniel would be asleep but this was not a time to be delicate, besides the adrenaline forging through his system meant he couldn’t have been circumspect if he tried.

A pale, wan-looking Tricia pulled open the door and leaned wearily against it. She brushed a few stray hairs away from her eyes as she blinked against the oil lamp in her hand. “Hannibal? Do you know what time it is?”

“David. We need him, Tricia, real urgently.”

Tricia frowned. “He’s very tired, Hannibal. A lot of people were sick today. He’s only just got to bed.”

“Beth’s bleeding.” Heyes started to call down the hallway. “David, Beth needs you, right now!”

“I hear you,” a dishevelled David appeared in the hallway, pushing his arm into a sleeve. “Beth? What on earth is going on in this town? What’s wrong, did she start vomiting too?”

“No. She’s been fine, but she woke and...” Heyes pulled off his hat and ran a hand distractedly through his hair. “You’ve gotta come.”

“Go, David.” Tricia reached up and dropped a kiss on her husband’s cheek. “I’ll look after them.”

“Them?” asked Heyes.

Tricia blinked the tiredness from her eyes. “Randa and Amy got sick too. Amy’s a bit better but Randa’s was worse. She’s sleeping now.”

“No!” Heyes rubbed his face, casting his eyes skywards like a prayer. “No more,” he groaned. “How much can anyone take?” He pulled himself together.

“C’mon, Doc. First things first, a woman is bleeding. She needs you. Give Randa my love, Tricia. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Heyes turned and followed David down the steps. “David, wait!”

“I don't have time Hannibal!” David threw over his shoulder.

“I know,” Heyes yelled after him. “Take Karma. She's faster than Rudy and she's right here and ready to go.”

David stopped in his tracks and turned. “Are you sure she's not too tired? She just ran all the way in here.”

“That's nothing to her David.” Heyes assured him. “Take her. I'll bring Rudy.”

“Yeah, alright.”

David jogged back to meet Heyes beside the big mare. Karma was tense, sensing the anxiety in the air. She blew and stamped nervously as David hitched his medical bag over the saddle horn and pulled himself up onto the mare's back. Heyes untied the reins and handed them up to the doctor. He gave Karma a reassuring pat and whispered an entreaty in her ear. Karma snorted again and roughly nudged her human. She wanted to be off—she knew it was an emergency and she wanted to run.

“Go, David!”

David gave a curt nod, turned the mare's head and didn't even have to touch her flanks. She dug in her heels and power-housed into her top speed, spraying Heyes with a shower of dirt and pebbles. They disappeared into the night like a ghost in the wind and even the ever diminishing sound of her hoof beats was gone before Heyes had a chance to draw breath.

He turned and glanced back up at the house. Tricia still stood on the porch, the lantern in her hand and even Heyes could see the worried lines on her face.

He felt like he should apologize, but he wasn't sure for what.

“It's alright Hannibal,” Tricia assured him. “You get on back to the ranch. Eric is quite used to being roused in the middle of the night to get Rudy ready for emergencies...” Her voice caught in her throat as a sob tried to escape and a hand came up to her mouth. “You get back and help out. I pray to God Beth will be alright.”

Heyes simply nodded and made his way over to the livery stable.



Forty minutes later Heyes loped Rudy into the yard of the Double J. The eastern sky was just beginning to lighten with the coming dawn and there was an early morning chill to the air that promised to dissipate and turn hot before too many more hours had passed.

Heyes trotted Rudy over to the first barn and was in the process of dismounting when he heard a familiar nicker and saw the dark shape of his mare coming to greet him. Obviously David had been in such a hurry he had simply dismounted and run into the house, leaving the mare to fend for herself.

Heyes took up her reins and frowned slightly when he noticed that Karma was shivering. The sweat she had built up from the round trip gallop was still wet on her coat, but the early morning temperatures had turned the hot dampness to chill and she was feeling the cold. Heyes tried not to be mad; there were other priorities here today and he could hardly have expected anyone in the house to think about the welfare of the horse. If Sam had been here she would have been seen to, but as it was...

Heyes opened the door to the barn and was instantly met by numerous nickers from the occupants, hopeful of an early breakfast. He stepped up to where he knew the lantern was hung, and feeling around for the matches, he found them and struck one up to bring light into the still dark interior. He led the two horses inside and putting Karma back into her own stall, he put Rudy into the spare one and proceeded to strip the tack off both of them.

He instantly threw a blanket over Rudy but took a few minutes to give Karma a rub down in order to help bring her body temperature up again. He managed to settle her a little bit but then quickly threw another blanket over her as well, to help quell the shivering. He went and grabbed two flakes of hay and threw them into the newly occupied stalls and stood for a moment with his arms resting on the top of Karma's stall door just to make sure that she would eat and then start to warm up. There was no problem with the big mare tucking in to her early snack and within a few minutes she had stopped shivering, gave herself a shake and with a relaxed snort went back to munching her hay. Heyes smiled and turned to find himself being intensely scrutinized by the other horses in the barn who were now all expecting an early morning snack as well. You can't just feed a couple of horses in the barn without feeding the whole lot.

Heyes gave a resigned sigh and returning to the hay loft, grabbed enough hay to share amongst the residents, gave one more quick check on the two new comers and picking up the lantern made is way out to the front alcove. He could tell from the light coming in through the open barn door that dawn was upon them so he blew out the light and set the lantern back on it's hook before exiting the barn and closing the door behind him.

He stopped then, hands on hips and stared at the ranch house. He just stood there for a moment, biting his lower lip and feeling the anxiety creeping into his chest. He didn't want to go in there and face this type of ordeal again but he knew he had to. David was a good doctor, the best Heyes had ever known, but even he couldn't save everyone. If the worse case scenario has come to pass then Jed was going to need support, even if it was just the silent kind of support, the kind of just being there.

Heyes sighed deeply, the anxiety increasing along with the remembered pain of a child lost. Heyes didn't know if it would feel the same for Kid. Becky had already been a living, breathing little human being with a personality and a presence all her own. For Beth and Jed it would be a loss of the promise; the sudden denial of what could have been—what should have been. And if that is what has happened then, yeah; it'll be hard and Heyes was ashamed to admit that he was scared. He just didn't want to go through this again.

Finally, as though the light shining out from the main floor had grabbed hold of him and was forcing him to walk the distance, Heyes put one foot in front of the other and made his way over to face the demons. He came up the steps and with his heart in his throat he pushed open the front door and stepped into the brightly lit interior. He closed the door behind him and leaned back against it, looking at the two men setting at the dinning table, coffee in their cups going cold in front of them. The expressions on their faces told it all and Heyes' heart broke for real. But he still needed to know for sure though the question had to fight it's way through the fear to finally get strangled out in a barely audible whisper.

“Beth?” he asked. “Is she...?”

“I gave her a sedative. She lost a lot of blood but she'll be alright,” David assured him. “Jed and Belle are in there with her for now.”

Heyes nodded, still leaning against the door. “The baby...?”

David and Jesse exchanged a quick look, then David shook his head.

“No.”

Heyes nodded again and pushing himself off the door he approached the table and sat down.

“You want a coffee Han?” Jesse asked him.

“No.”

 Silence settled over the table for a spell before David cleared his throat and sighed a deep, tired sigh. “Well, all we can do for now is let Beth rest. If she starts to bleed again Jesse, let me know right away. In the mean time she's to stay in bed for at least three days. Tell Belle to get as much food into her as she'll take even if it's just meaty broth. She needs to build her strength back up.”
“I'll let Belle know,” Jesse assured him. “Though I expect she already knows what to do.”

“Yeah,” David agreed. “I suspect she does. Well...” the doctor pushed himself away from the table and stood up, “I should be getting back. Tricia will be worried and I really need to get some sleep before I tackle the day I know I'm going to have.”

“Yeah alright, David,” Jesse told him as everyone stood up. “Thanks for getting out here so quickly.”

“You have Han's mare to thank for that,” David exclaimed. “It's a good thing she knew where to put her feet because what with the darkness of the night and the wind in my eyes I couldn't see a thing!”

Heyes smiled softly. “Yeah, she's pretty special alright. I'll come out to the barn with you, David. I took Rudy's tack off and gave him some hay, but he should be about finished that now.”

David nodded agreement, sensing that Hannibal still needed to talk and the two men made their way back out to the barn.

“How's Jed taking this?” Heyes finally asked as David busied himself with saddling Rudy.

“He's pretty upset about it,” David informed him. “Once he knew that Beth was going to be alright, he relaxed a little, but this is still a disappointment for both of them.”

“Yeah.”

“Just be there for him, Hannibal,” David suggested. “He may not want to talk, but if he does you're the one he's most likely to turn to. He and Belle are close, I know, but...”

“Yeah.” Heyes hesitated, feeling ill at ease.

David had finished tacking up Rudy and he turned to the other man, sensing his discomfort. “Are you alright with this?” David asked him. “I know these times can be difficult. Perhaps you'd rather that he just talk with Belle about it.”

“No,” Heyes was quick to deny that. “No, it's fine, David.”

“Alright.” David nodded though he still felt a tension there. “Just take things slowly. Now I better get back home before I fall asleep right here in the barn.”

“Are you okay to ride home?” Heyes asked him, suddenly concerned for his friend’s safety.

“Oh yes,” David assured him as he led his horse out of the barn and into the early morning light. “You know Rudy, he'll look after me. I'll just hang onto the horn and he'll take me straight home.” The doctor mounted up and sent a bleary eyed look down to the other man. “I'll try and get out again later today but don't hesitate to come get me if things worsen.”

“Yeah, alright,” Heyes assured him, then hesitated, afraid to ask the next question, but David was about to leave so it was now or never.  “Do you think that maybe this was more than just happenstance?” he asked. “Do you think maybe it was deliberate?”

David stopped what he was doing and thought about it for a moment before turning and looking down at Heyes. “Hannibal, we almost never know what causes miscarriages. Her mother lost a baby too, so it may be something in the blood; you know, something wrong with the baby? It can be nature’s way of solving the problem and getting rid of the baby before it gets too big and becomes a danger to the mother. Belle also went on to have a fine healthy family. There’s no reason to think that Beth will be any different.”

Heyes nodded. “I just wondered with all those folks getting sick so fast. It seemed like poison.”

“Yes, it can seem like that, but infection is a kind of poison to the body.”

“David, Tricia told me that Randa was ill. How is she?”

“She’s resting. I think she’s past the worst.”

Heyes paused, unsure how to couch his next question. “Amy is ill again too.”

“Yes, Hannibal.”

“I know this might sound stupid but doesn’t that seem like a bit of a coincidence. First the accident, then the illness – and let’s be honest – even you suspected poisoning then, but nobody saved any vomit. Now this. It might be a long shot, but everyone was eating and drinking much the same stuff at the celebration. It could be another way to get her.”

David gave a heavy sigh. “You mean the best way to hide a poisoning is in amongst a whole lot of other poisonings? The same thought crossed my mind. That’s why I kept samples this time, but I didn’t have time to test them yet, what with all this. I’ll do it after I’ve had some sleep.”

“It’s probably nothing, but it’s just one thing after another with her.”

“Yeah, it kinda is. Whatever it is, I’ll get to the bottom of it.”  David gave Heyes a tired smile and turning Rudy's head towards the road they made their way homeward just as the new day was really taking hold.

Heyes stood and watched him go, then with a sigh turned towards the ranch house again.



Inside the house, Jesse was in the kitchen doing his bit to help out on this disappointing day. He had another pot of coffee on the go and was getting the oatmeal cooking just in case anyone was in the mood to eat anything. He kind of doubted it but it gave him something to do as well. Heyes felt like the fifth wheel and just kinda hung around in the living area wondering if there was anything he could do to help, anywhere.

The upstairs bedroom door opened and was soon followed by Belle coming down the stairs with an armful of soiled linen. Heyes was going to ask her how Beth was doing when he spotted the blood that was soaked into the white sheets and his own complexion suddenly became just as paled as the bed clothes.

Belle was too distracted to notice the change in her friend and she hurried passed him in order to deposit the soiled linen out the back where Jesse could later burn it.

Heyes felt himself go clammy and a buzzing began to grow inside his head. A shaky hand was raised to his forehead and he quickly looked around for a place to sit before he actually feinted and ended up on the floor. He got himself over to the family room and with a woozy head and gasping breath he sat down in the old comfortable rocker and tried to stop the room from spinning.

A trembling hand came to his forehead again and he couldn't believe how cold and clammy his skin was to his touch. This was silly; he'd seen blood before, and plenty of it! He took deep breaths and willed himself to calm down, willed his heart to stop pounding and his brow to stop sweating. He jumped slightly, startled as Mouse put in an appearance and came to her human's lap in the hopes of bringing comfort with her.

Heyes sighed and petted her, stroking her sleek summer coat and allowing her to rub her whiskers against his nose. He even managed a sad smile. He sighed and leaned back in the chair, allowing it to rock gently back and forth as he closed his eyes and tried to relax.

Blood. Blood soaking into soft, white linen and lace. People screaming, a child crying for it's mother. Abi's white, shocked face, her eyes hard and dead as she aimed the gun at her baby's murderer and pulled the trigger.

Her baby. His baby. Their daughter. Blood was everywhere; who would have thought that such a tiny body could hold so much? But the body wasn't holding it any longer; it seeped out, spreading inside the pram and turning everything into a sickening dark red mess. Heyes' mind began to skip. He was just beginning to allow himself to believe that he was actually a father and now his brain just wouldn't accept the fact that suddenly he wasn't anymore.

He went into shock. The law arriving to assess the scene. The tiny, little body being examined causing Heyes to feel a certain amount of paternal protectiveness. He remembered protesting, trying to pick up the child's body in his arms, wanting to cuddle her, comfort her, bring her back to life. But the constable wouldn't let him. Heyes had become angry, again another example of the law not allowing Hannibal Heyes to do what he wanted to do.

He had shouted obscenities at them. Why couldn't they all just go away and leave him and his family alone? They had been kind but firm; the distressed father trying to protect his own. Then Abi being arrested for murder and the whole world was going crazy and his mind was spinning and all he could see was blood.
Then his mind started to register something else; a pain in his left thumb and slowly he came back to himself. He was sitting in the rocking chair in the family room and Mouse was biting into his digit.

He sucked his teeth and instantly released her. His gentle stroking had turned into a tight clutching, his fingers digging into the cat's soft fur and his one hand doing a good job of throttling the animal's throat. Mouse jumped down to the floor, coughing and flicking her tail indignantly. Her first thought was to run away and lick her wounded pride in hiding somewhere, but something caused her to look back at her human and ask the question.

Heyes sighed deeply, sucking on his punctured thumb. He looked down at the cat and sending her an apology he patted his lap and invited her to rejoin him. She thought about the wisdom of this for a moment, then with a quiet 'murr' she jumped back up and settled in against him. She would forgive him this one time since obviously there was trouble in the house.

“Joshua, are you alright?”

Heyes jumped and Mouse dug in her claws just in case things got rough again.

“Oh, Belle,” Heyes sighed. “Sorry, I didn't hear you.”

Belle stepped forward with worry written all over her face. She put a warm hand on Heyes' forehead and stepping in closer, both hands came around to cup his cheeks. She looked directly into his eyes.

“You're all clammy,” she observed. “Don't tell me you're getting sick now too.”

“No. No, I'm fine,” Heyes assured her and he smiled a little sheepishly. “It's just...memories.”

Belle pulled over one of the chairs and sat down facing her friend. She took one of his hands in hers and smiled sadly at him. Mouse decided it was getting a little too crowded for her and hopping down to the floor, she trotted off to see what was for breakfast.

“Yes,” she agreed quietly. “They do come up unbidden, don't they?”

Heyes gave a small, slightly bitter laugh. “Yes.”

They sat quietly, holding each other's hands and Heyes gave a sigh and nodded up towards second floor. “How are they?”

“Beth has finally fallen asleep, thank goodness,” Belle informed him. “Jed?” she shrugged. “He's in a daze. He won't leave her side.”

“Wait until he smells breakfast... he'll be down fast enough,” then he cringed, closing his eyes with instant regret. “Ohhh, I didn't mean that. That was a terrible thing to say.”

Belle chuckled a little and patted his hand. “Don't worry about it,” she assured him. “You're just trying to find a way to deal with all this yourself. The way you two banter back and forth and tease one another I'm not surprised that you fell back onto that strategy. It's where you're comfortable. This is a difficult time for all of us. I know the memories that this must be stirring up for you; it is for us as well and that's always hard to deal with.”

Heyes nodded. “Yes. Kid told me that you and Jesse ...oh, there I go again. I'm sorry I shouldn't have brought that up.”

“You didn't bring it up,” Belle assured him. “I did.”

Heyes smiled. “Yes, I guess you did at that.”

“It was very difficult,” Belle told him. “having my first pregnancy fail and then losing our first son like that. But we got through it and just look at the beautiful family we do have. It'll take some time for Beth to get over this, but she will. She'll never forget it, but she'll move on and I'm sure that she and Jed will have other children and the heartache of losing this one will lessen.”

“What if they can't?” Heyes asked her. “What if what happened to Sam and Maribelle happens again?”

“Then we'll deal with it if and when it does happen,” Belle stated matter-of-factly, “just as Sam and Maribelle learned to deal with it. And I'd say they took full advantage of a very worthwhile solution to their problem, didn't they?”

Heyes laughed and nodded. “Yes!” he agreed. “I suppose they did. Still...”

“I know.” Belle patted his hand again as she stood up. “There's nothing like having your own.”

“Yeah.”

Belle leaned in and squeezed his shoulder. “I'll let you in on a little secret,” she whispered, “when you adopt a child, that child becomes your own.”

She gave him a little pat on the back and headed off to the kitchen to see what Jesse was managing to put together for breakfast. Heyes smiled after her and nodded to himself. Yeah; she was probably right about that.



Mid morning found Heyes and Sam in the first barn just finishing up the stalls when Jed quietly walked in amongst them. Sam was instantly uncomfortable, not knowing what he should say or do. Having been through it himself he knew what the older man was experiencing, but he also knew how useless words of platitude would be, coming from him.

“Oh,” Sam looked from one man to the other. “Ah, I'll just go get started on the stalls in the other barn.”

“Yeah, okay,” Heyes nodded but his eyes never left his partner's face.

“I'll see ya' later...” but it didn't seem right to just walk away without some form of acknowledgement, so he added... “I'm sorry, Mr....ah....Jed. Sorry.”

“Yeah,” Jed nodded but kept his eyes on the ground.

Sam made his hasty retreat and Jed continued on into the barn. He sat down on a hay bale and with a heavy sigh ran his hands through his curls and then rubbed his eyes.

“Aww Heyes...” but he couldn't carry on and just shook his head and continued to stare at the ground.

“Yeah, I know Kid,” Heyes responded, and putting down his pitch fork he joined his partner by sitting on another bale of hay. “How's Beth?”

“Still sleepin'.”

Heyes nodded. “How is she otherwise?”

“Ahh, David said she should be alright,” Jed mumbled. “Just needs to get her strength back.”

“Oh. Okay. That's good.”

“Yeah.”

A beat of silence as Heyes watched his cousin and his cousin watched the ground.

“How are you doing?”

Jed took a deep shuddering breath and finally looked up to meet his partner's eyes.

“Aww Heyes—I've never been so scared in my life!” Then his shoulders slumped and he shook his head. “No, maybe that's not true. You scared the bejesus outa me too when you told me you were gonna...”

Then it was Heyes' turn to slump and study the ground, guilt over his previous behaviour hitting him full on—again. “Yeah...I...”

“It's that same damn feeling of being totally helpless,” Jed continued on, “knowing that I was this close to losing someone I loved and there wasn't a damned thing I could do to stop it.”

Heyes swallowed down guilty stress wishing he could take back so much from that period in his life. And knowing that he had caused his closest friend that much pain was the bitterest pill of all.

Fortunately for Heyes, now that Jed had started talking, he wasn't about to stop.

“It's not right, Heyes,” he continued with the beginnings of anger starting up. “I'm the husband. I'm suppose to be able to take care of my wife. And there I was, totally helpless. I had no idea what to do. I should have been able to save our child, I should have been able!”

“Aw, Kid, no. C'mon,” Heyes tried to placate the man. “You can't control everything. And certainly not that. Even David couldn't save it. You know yourself that even David doesn't have total control over who lives and who...nobody does.”

“But she's my wife,” Jed snapped back. “When I married her I promised I would look after her—I would keep her safe. Then the first time she's in trouble and I didn't know what to do!”

“Sure ya' did,” Heyes pointed out. “You got Belle. Then you did what you needed to do in order to help those that did know what to do. You got nothing to beat yourself up about. You did everything you were suppose to do.”

“Except save our child,” Jed mumbled to the ground.

Heyes sighed. “No, you couldn't save your child,” he agreed, “but you can be there for your wife. She's gonna need ya' now Kid. She's gonna need her husband to help her through this. You gotta step up and be strong for her.”

Jed sat quietly, rocking slightly back and forth, his arms wrapped around himself as though he were in pain. 'Well, I suppose he is,' Heyes thought and he waited, watching.

“How did ya' do it, Heyes?” Jed finally beseeched him. “How did you handle the pain? Rebecca was a living, breathing child—a real little person.” He shook his head as he continued to rock himself. “What we had wasn't real yet; it was just a promise, an expectation of life to come and now it's been taken from us and it's tearing me apart. I wanted this so badly. We both did.”

“I know,” Heyes answered quietly. “I know you wanted it Jed. And what you had, no matter how briefly, was real. And you have every right to grieve that loss.”

“Jeez, I remember when this happened to Sam and Maribelle,” Jed continued. “I felt bad for them, I really did, especially when it happened the second time and then David told them they couldn't have children at all...oh man! I felt bad for them but I never realized how much it hurts—I just never realized! Aww Heyes, what if we can't? We both want children so badly, what if...?”

Heyes bit his lower lip, thinking about having this exact same conversation with Belle earlier that morning.

“There's no reason to think that at this point.” Heyes tried to be reassuring. “You know yourself that Jesse and Belle lost their first pregnancy, you know it's quite common just from the conversations we've had with David. Goodness knows I had enough talks about that with Doc Morin. Not that I expected to be dealing with that in the prison, mind you—but just out of wanting to know, I read up on that a bit. It just happens, Kid. Often there is no reason to explain it, it just happens sometimes. It doesn't mean you can't move on from this and have more children. It doesn't mean that at all.”

“I donno, Heyes,” Jed shook his head and his jaw tightened with his distress. Heyes knew something was coming. “It just seems to me that nothin' has gone right for us since we decided to go straight.”

“Oh, now that's not...”

“No, I mean it!” Jed abruptly cut him off. “I mean, just look at these last ten years. We never had any money, finding work was a joke and even when we did find work, half the time we didn't get paid! If it wasn't for your skill at the poker table we probably would have starved to death—or gone back to thievin'. And you still ended up goin' to prison!”

“Yeah,” Heyes nodded. “I know it was a rough road, Kid, for both of us. But we made it. I mean, look at us now...”

“Yeah, still broke!” Jed was determined to see the down side. “What the hell was I thinkin'; gettin' married and startin' a family? I can't even afford to support my own wife. Ya' know I'm thinkin' maybe this is God's way of tellin' me I was an idiot to think that I deserved this. That I'm just a...”

“No!” It was Heyes' turn to do the cutting off. “Don't you dare even think that! You're on the right track, Kid and there's nothin' wrong with you. Jeez, Kenny keeps telling me that you're doing so well, that you've got the right of it. He keeps holding you up as an example of what I should be aiming for.”

Jed snorted derogatorily.

“No!” Heyes waved the Kid's opinion away. “He's right. The more I realize the direction I should be going in, the main thing I see down that path is you already ahead of me. You're doing alright, Kid. We're doing alright. I know this has been a blow but you got friends and family around ya'. You'll get through this, both of ya' will.”

Jed sat and stared at the floor again, his hands clasped in front of him. Well, at least he wasn't hugging himself anymore.

“Sounds like what I kept on sayin' to you.”

Heyes grinned. “And you were right. You just needed reminding, that's all.”

Big sigh. “I donno, Heyes. I can't even afford to buy my wife a house. We'd be continuing to live under Jesse's roof if he hadn't given us that parcel a' land and helping to pay for the building supplies.”

Now it was Heyes' turn to look dejected. “How do you think I feel?” he asked. “I’m still living under Jesse's roof. At least you're moving ahead, Kid; you're getting a home put together for your family. I'm still wallowing. If it wasn't for Jesse and Belle...they sure have been good to us.”

“Yeah,” Jed agreed. “What did we do to deserve that, eh, Heyes?”

Heyes grinned. “I donno, but I sure don't want to go letting him down again,” he straightened up, taking in a deep sigh. “There's one thing I've finally come to realize—well, with the help of Kenny beating it into me—is that we can't keep on running away from our problems. Like I said; it's been pointed out to me that you've been standing your ground real solid and I'm the one who still takes flight at the first hint of trouble. I can't be doing that anymore so don't you go thinkin' that we should just pull up stakes and leave.
"You're doing good, Kid—you're showing me the way, so don't you go gettin' all regretful on me! You love Beth and she sure does love you and that's not something to take lightly. It's like you said at your wedding; we always wanted a home. A real home with a real family and now we're got it and it's up to us to hold on to it and make it work. So don't you go talking about how we don't deserve it and God doesn't want us to have this. He's already given it to us. Life isn't always easy or fair—I suppose we both know that from first-hand experience, but we're got a real chance now, the best we've ever had.
“I know right now you feel like you've been sucker punched and you're hurtin' and you're angry and I sure can understand that. But we're all here for ya', Kid, for you and Beth. You're never gonna forget this; there'll always be that little regret of a promise taken away but I have a feeling that you and Beth are gonna rally. You'll get passed this and carry on. You don't have a choice,” he grinned impishly. “Well—cause we aren't going to give you a choice. You'll see; everything's gonna be alright.”

“I suppose.”

Silence settled between them again. Jed looked so sad.

“Have ya' had anything to eat today?”

“Aw, I can't eat, Heyes. I feel all wrung out.”

“Hmm,” Heyes nodded his understanding. “Well, I'm planning on riding in to town this afternoon to go see Randa. She's still down with that virus that's going around. You want to come, just go get away for a while?”

“No, Heyes,” Jed shook his head. “Thanks, but I think I'll go back and sit with Beth. I just wanted to talk with ya' a bit.”

“Yeah, okay,” Heyes sighed. “Maybe you can have some of Amy's chamomile tea. Help relax ya' a little bit.”

Jed smiled and Heyes felt his heart flip with relief. “Yeah, okay,” he agreed. “Surprisingly enough a cup of tea actually sounds like a good idea.”

“Good.”


To Be Continued
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: The Quickening Chapter nineteen    Mon Aug 04, 2014 11:45 pm

So close to the end, and then you had to do this... Couldn't you have stopped with the last chapter. Everything was so rosy and nice.
Unfortunately you write too well and I appreciated and liked the entire chapter. Jed and Beth only recently back from their honeymoon are already expecting. Loved the scene at David's with the women knowing immediately and Heyes being totally clueless.
Another scene which caused me lots of giggles was the one with Alberto's wife, a floundering David and a cheeky Heyes.
The mystery part of the story returns with a vengeance. Loved the stakeout scene: Heyes for once not going off half-cocked works with the sheriff and gets a chance to show off his skills. He might make a detective yet. We get the confirmation that Elise is great at masquerading (Valentine's mother, the boy). Now there only remains the question what Valentine's and Elise's goals are.
Mystery illnesses hit the town, first isolated to Amy's shop after Mrs. Bamforth brought her famous ginger cookies (Amy seems to be worst affected) and then at the 4th of July celebration half the town seems to get hit (including Randa and again Amy).
Then tragedy hits and Beth loses the baby. Poor Jed - after confessing to Heyes that he can't imagine what it must be like to lose a child, he has to find out first hand. You writers can be really cruel, but at least you gave him a partner who can help him through this.
You put poor Heyes through the wringer yet again: he has to face his darker side. Jealousy in various forms, insecurity and fear of abandonment, the fact that he has broken his word several times when it counted, guilt and shame at the realisation of what he did to his friends when he tried to commit suicide in prison. As if all of this is not hard enough he is hit hard with flashback memories of losing his first daughter and having to deal with Beth's and Jed's tragedy. The upside is that we get glimpses that he is becoming a better man because of all of this.
Now we only need to find out what and who caused the illnesses - and if Beth's miscarriage was natural or not.
For me some of the most powerful and emotive sentences were:

"A thought hit him straight between the eyes. He and Abi had been made for one another, riding the foaming crest of a wave of passion until it crashed down on the rocks, but she had been made for the man he was – and experience had changed both of them."
Before I could not really understand why they could not have a future, now I can. Thank you, because I really like Miranda.

Can't wait to get started on the next chapter.

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"I can resist everything - except temptation"  Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: The Quickening Chapter nineteen    Tue Aug 05, 2014 2:46 am

Lot's of stuff happening in this chapter. Again, a real roller coaster of a ride! But you're almost done now. Hope it all lives up to expectations.
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The Quickening Chapter nineteen
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