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 Expectations. Chapter two

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Keays

Keays

Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 62
Location : Camano Island Washington

Expectations.  Chapter two Empty
PostSubject: Expectations. Chapter two   Expectations.  Chapter two EmptySun Feb 01, 2015 4:57 pm

Expectations
 
 
Gov came trotting down the dirt road towards the little cabin, easily pulling the two wheeled trap with its occupants along behind him. He knew the way here as he and his human had come for visits on numerous occasions and hardly needed the guidance from the lines to tell him where he needed to pull up at journey's end.
 
Jed applied the brake and wrapping the lines around the handle he stepped down and came around to help his wife disembark safely. He normally would not have coddled her so, knowing that she found his overly chivalrous behavior just a little condescending at times. But today was different. Beth was tired from their journey and young Thaddeus had been restless and cranky since they had left the Jordan household.
 
Jed took Thaddeus into his arms and extended a hand to his wife to assist her in stepping down. She gladly accepted it and with a sigh of relief she finally felt firm ground under her feet and her own home greeting their arrival.
 
Oh it's good to be home,” she admitted with a smile and took a fussing T.J. back into her own arms. “He's just tired and hungry. I'll feed him and put him down for a nap while you get the horses settled.”
 
Alright,” Jed agreed. “I sure am glad your Ma fixed us up with a cold supper; I wouldn't fancy putting the stove on now.”
 
Oh, you've got that right,” Beth adamantly agreed as she headed up the steps. “I bet she even left some lemonade or iced tea in the ice box.”
 
Jed was half way to Gov's head when he stopped in his tracks and turned back to his wife.
 
Wait!”
 
Beth stopped on the porch and quickly turned around thinking that some disaster had taken place. Her eyes widened in surprise as Jed hurried towards her and bounded up the steps.
 
You can't go in!” he declared. “Wait a minute,”
 
What...?”
 
Jed grinned and scooped his wife, with his son up into his arms.
 
This is the first time coming into our home now that it's completed,” Jed explained. “It's traditional that a man carry his wife over the threshold.”
 
Despite her weariness Beth giggled and let her man have his way. Jed approached the door and realized his first problem. He came to a halt to contemplate the dilemma.
 
What's the problem?” Beth asked even though she knew full well what was hindering their way.
 
Ahh, could you open the door?”
 
My hands are full.”
 
In case ya' hadn't noticed; so are mine.”
 
You started this.”
 
Jed gave a mock sigh of exasperation and trying to shift his right hand out from under his burden, he leaned down and searched for the door handle.
 
Ow!” Beth complained as the side of her head made contact with the door frame.
 
Sorry.”
 
Jed grabbed the knob and gave it a twist. The door swung inwards and with a triumphant smile the proud husband and father stepped across the threshold.
 
Ow!” Beth complained again as her ankle whacked into the opposite door frame. Then she started to laugh. “You're not being very graceful about this.”
 
Sorry,” Jed said again. “We should have made this door wider.”
 
Ow! My elbow!”
 
Jed would have apologized again but he broke out laughing instead.
 
Welcome to our new home, Darlin'.”
 
Are you sure its safe?” Beth teased him. “We could always go out and try again. You know what they say about practice.”
 
I think once was enough.”
 
Well, if you're satisfied....”
 
The two parents stopped talking and stood looking around their new home. Belle had been back while the young people had been in Denver. There were fresh flowers in a vase on the kitchen table along with one of the family's embroidered table cloths. There were more pictures on the walls along with more dishes and cookware laid out on the counter top for them to sort through.
 
Oh trust Mama to add some more finishing touches,” Beth exclaimed with obvious love. “She's really helped to make this into a lovely home for us.”
 
She sure has,” Jed agreed. “And ain't that fresh baking I'm smellin'?”
 
Nothing wrong with your nose.”
 
When did she have time to do that?”
 
When does she have time to do anything?” Beth asked. “I'm certain there must be two of her—both of them with eyes in the back of their heads.”
 
Jed nodded agreement. He smiled down at his wife and leaned in for a kiss. Suddenly T.J. let loose with such a wailing of complaint that both parents jumped and their attentions were diverted.
 
Oh dear,” Beth complained. “So much for him settling.”
 
Oh well,” Jed sighed as he set his wife down on her own feet. “I guess he's just as hot and tired as we are. Back to our first plan.”
 
Jed stepped outside again and walking to the back of the buggy he untied Daisy, Karma and Percy. Leading them up to the front of the buggy he released the brake and headed towards the barn. Gov didn't need an invitation and joining up with the small procession they all sauntered over to their new home, with all equine eyes already inspecting the large new paddock. As with everything else, the grass was quite dry and not very plentiful, but Jed would throw them all enough hay to keep them happy until dinner time.


Inside the house Beth settled a complaining Thaddeus into the bassinet by the table. She stripped all his clothing and then pumped water into a wash basin. Both of them needed a sponging off before anything else happened and despite T.J. insisting he wanted to eat first, his mother won out by giving him a quick bath. Once that was done she peeled off her own light frock and removed the top half of her bloomers She breathed a sigh of relief as she gave herself the same cooling treatment as she had just given her son and instantly felt rejuvenated . After a quick drying off, she picked her son up and taking him into the nursery she gratefully sank down into the cushioned rocking chair and offered the infant a nipple.
 
He latched on and instantly began to suckle. Beth closed her eyes and with a contented sigh, sank deeper into the cushions. With something better to do with his mouth now, T.J. quieted down and the chair gently began to rock. Forty minutes later when a bare chested and dripping wet Jed padded quietly into the nursery, that was how he found them; sound asleep in the rocking chair.
 
Jed gave both his loves a gentle kiss and quietly returning to the kitchen he rummaged through the basket of food and made himself a sandwich. He went outdoors, settled himself into one of the rocking chairs on the porch and proceeded to take care of his hunger. He smiled as he chewed, looking out over this homestead that was now his.
 
It wasn't much, but it was a kingdom to him and it was a whole lot more than he'd ever imagined himself having. A wife, a son and a place to call his own. He sat and rocked quietly back and forth as he surveyed her surroundings. The four horses were out on the brown grass contentedly munching the hay and checking out the sparse vegetation. Sometimes for horses, just the act of grazing will calm them and give them a sense of safety and camaraderie. The fact that they weren't getting much nutrition out of it was totally irrelevant. Jed would go out and throw them more hay once the heat of the day eased off.
 
Thoughts then turned to Harry and Isabelle's wedding. He groaned slightly but shook it off, knowing that bemoaning this new 'honor' was more of a habit than a true expression of his feelings on the matter. He was actually looking forward to helping Harry on his way to married bliss. He was, after all, a friend. A dubious one for sure, but still a friend who, now that a reckoning over the years could be taken, had proved himself to be more for them than he was against them and that had to count for something.
 
He was already missing Heyes though. He wished Harry had set the date for later in the Fall so that Hannibal and Miranda could have been home for the nuptials. For one thing, it would have taken some of the pressure off Jed to organize the bachelor party and stand up as best man. Still, he had put something together for Heyes with a bit of help from David, so surely he could do the same again. Thank goodness Steven had already offered to help out and between all their mutual friends a respectful gathering could be counted on.
 
The fact Jed hadn't been able to get much response from the Bannerman Detective Agency hadn't really surprised him. Harry wasn't exactly the most popular employee over at that establishment. But that just might work to Jed and Hannibal's advantage. The less Harry was needed at Bannerman's, the more available he would be to them for the more mundane tasks of running a detective agency.
 
Jed smiled again as he munched another mouthful of chicken sandwich. Life was pretty good alright. He was a happy man.
 
A soft fluttering from behind him caught his attention and he turned as Beth came into view. She was still only wearing the lower half of her bloomers and her full round breasts peaked at him from behind the dubious shelter of her long blond hair. Jed smiled and taking her by the hand brought her around to settle down on his lap. She nestled in against his bare chest and sighed contentedly as his arms wrapped lightly around her.
 
You should have awakened me,” she told him. “I could have made you more than just as sandwich.”
 
I know,” Jed agreed as he rocked both of them in a gentle rhythm. “I didn't wanna disturb ya'—you both looked so peaceful. Are ya' hungry?”
 
Hmm,” Beth nodded. “a little. But I can wait until things cool off.”
 
I'm thinkin' things are startin' ta' heat up rather than cool off,” Jed observed, the feel of her warm breast pressing into his chest causing him no end of distraction.
 
She smiled and reaching up, caressed his cheek.
 
Well what did you think I was referring to?” she whispered to him.
 
They both started to chuckle, and tightening his hold around her body, Jed leaned in for a kiss. She wrapped her arms around his neck and returned it whole-heartedly as arousal took hold.
 
An infant's loud, demanding wail broke in upon their love-making and both parents groaned and sighed in disappointment. Jed loosened his hold while Beth quickly brought her hands up to cover her nipples.
 
Oh dear,” she complained. “I've sprung a leak. Here I was worried I wouldn't have enough milk for him and now I've got so much it won't stay in.”
 
Well I'm sure he'll know what to do with that,” Jed commented with a grin as his wife struggled to stand up without putting pressure on her husband's one vulnerable area of the moment.
 
Yes!” she agreed with an emphatic sigh. “He has his father's appetite for sure.”
 
The crying inside the nursery intensified and a sense of urgency took over the previously peaceful front porch.
 
Welcome to parenthood,” Beth commented as she found her feet. “It's always time for another feeding.”
 
I suppose so,” Jed agreed. “I'll come in and make you a sandwich. Perhaps when he's settled for the night we can pick up where we left off.”
 
Beth yawned as she headed indoors. “Yes, perhaps.”
 
xxx
 
Hey Kid!”
 
Jed stopped in his tracks and turned at the familiar voice.
 
Harry!” Jed returned the greeting “When did you get to town?”
 
Oh this morning,” Harry told him. “I'm staying at the hotel for now. You know, must keep up appearances and all that. Especially here.”
 
Ah ha,” Jed grinned. “Isabelle's two brothers keepin' an eye on ya'?”
 
Yeah!” Harry puffed up with indignation. “It's like they think I have no morals—like I don't respect their sister. Can you imagine?”
 
Yeah well, that's brothers for ya'.”
 
Yeah!” Harry grabbed the lapels of his suit and gave them an indignant tug as he straightened up and huffed. “Why I would never try to force sweet Isabelle into doing anything she didn't want to do—oh damn, here she comes!”
 
Jed turned around again to see the intended trotting across the street and waving her petite lace hanky.
 
Harry!” came her sweet feminine voice. “Why didn't you tell me you were in town?”
 
Jed was about to greet the young lady when he felt Harry shift up behind him almost as though he were hiding. His brows creased but his lips smiled at the same time as he deftly stepped out from in front of the groom.
 
Oh!” Harry quickly straightened up and put on his best airs. “Why, hello Isabelle, my sweet. Ha ha, Why, I just arrived in town this moment and was on my way to....”
 
Isabelle rushed past Jed and flung her arms around her intended. Harry made a quick grab for his fedora.
 
Oh, I have missed you so much my darling!” Isabelle gushed and giving a flirty smile she leaned in to him. “I can hardly wait for our wedding night.”
 
Oh, ha ha. Now darlin' you shouldn't talk like that in front of company.”
 
Company?” Isabelle sent a dismissive glance over to Jed. “Oh, he doesn't mind! Do you, Jed?”
 
Jed smiled and shook his head as he watched the comedic opera play out before him. “No ma'am. Don't mind at all.”
 
Harry sent him a glare just as Isabelle encircled his throat and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. Ladies passing by on the sidewalk gasped their indignation and quickly stepped onto the street to go around them. Harry took hold of his fiancee's arms and gently pushed her away.
 
Oh now darlin', we must be strong you know,” Harry reminded her with a nervous chuckle. “It's really not that far off now.”
 
I know,” Isabelle pouted, then leaned in again and whispered in his ear so Jed really wouldn't hear this time. “but don't you have your hotel room yet?”
 
Well I, well yes but....”
 
Hey!”
 
Everyone jumped as their entertainment was interrupted. Jed grinned even more. Harry breathed a sigh of relief while Isabelle groaned and almost stamped her foot.
 
Oh for goodness sake!” she complained as two hefty young men put in an appearance. “Why can't you two just leave me alone?”
 
Cause Pa told us ta' watch out fer you!” said the older of the two. “We can't have ya' talked inta' doin' somethin' that ain't proper this close to yer weddin' day!”
 
Yeah,” seconded the other, “we know what men is like.” and he sent a warning scowl over to Harry.
 
Harry straightened up again and tugged at his lapels. “I assure you I would never dream of...”
 
Yeah yeah,” complained the older as he grabbed his sister’s arm. “Save it for the weddin' night.”
 
Hey!” Isabelle complained as her brother dragged her off. “You leave me alone Emmett Baird. You got no right to go and...hey!”
 
Seth grabbed hold of her other arm and assisted his brother at breaking the couple apart.
 
Come on, Isabelle,” Seth told her. “You know Pa wants you home until yer married. He don't want nothin' to get in the way of this weddin'!”
 
Nothing is going to get in the way of it!” Isabelle declared as she was being unceremoniously dragged off. “Harry! Do something!”
 
I'm sorry my little peach!” Harry called after her. “If it was up to me I wouldn't stand for this! But your Pa has the last say in matters such as this.”
 
But, but Harry....!”
 
I'll see you for dinner out at your folks place tomorrow my dear!”
 
As Isabelle was being herded back home, Harry slumped in relief and let loose a huge sigh. Jed laughed and placed a hand on his shoulder.
 
Harry,” he said. “what are ya' gonna do come the weddin' night? You sure you wanna go through with this?”
 
Instantly Harry became indignant once again. “Of course I want to go through with it!” he insisted. I love Isabelle. I just don't think that an un-married lady should be so.....so.....”
 
Pushy?”
 
Oh well, I wouldn't say...”
 
Forward?”
 
Well yeah! Now that you mention it.” Harry was adamant. “A lady should let the man come to her, not...”
 
C'mon Harry, let me buy ya' a drink,” Jed suggested as he steered his friend towards the saloon, “and I'll let you in on a little secret.”
 
Oh...?”
 
 
 
The two men entered the drinking establishment and headed straight for the bar. After the bright sunshine the interior of the saloon felt cool and inviting and the clink of glasses making the rounds brought a smile to Jed's face.
 
Hey Bill,” Jed greeted the bartender. “Two beers.”
 
Yeah I know,” Bill told him as he was already pouring the drinks and setting them on the bar. “Here ya' go. That'll be twenty cents.”
 
Keep a tab running,” Jed told him. “We might be here for a while.”
 
Hmm.”
 
Everything all set up for Friday night?” Jed asked.
 
Sure,” Bill assured him, almost sounding insulted. “Same room as before.”
 
Nothing too raucous now,” Harry practically wagged his finger as Jed picked up the two beers. “I don't want Isabelle thinkin' the wrong kind of thoughts.”
 
Oh sure Harry,” Jed assured him while Bill gave a sardonic snort. “Would I do that to you at your own bachelor party?”
 
Well....”
 
The two men sat down at a conveniently empty table and Jed did a quick survey of the room before indulging in his first gulp of beer. Everything looked quiet just as it should be on Thursday afternoon and both men settled into their chairs to relax and enjoy their drinks.
 
What were you going to tell me?” Harry finally inquired of his best man.
 
What?” Jed was pulled from his musings. “Oh.....ah, don't be too hard on Isabelle, Harry. She's waited a long time for this.”
 
Well yeah, so have I!”
 
That's true enough,” Jed agreed sardonically. “Ain't you lookin' forward to your....weddin' night?
 
I sure am!” Harry insisted. “Why she's going to be a happy little lady once I show her....”
 
Yeah, yeah. I get the picture.” Jed grimaced and took another swig of beer. “I guess my point is,” here Jed leaned in conspiratorially. “sometimes a woman with a bit of fire and who knows what she wants is a real nice....”
 
Now don't you be talkin' that way against my fiancee!” Harry looked like he was going to start a fist fight.
 
Harry, calm down,” Jed suggested. “I'm just sayin', sometimes they're....more fun. That's all. You should be happy to be gettin' a wife with some spunk. I'm congratulatin' ya' on your fine choice.”
 
Oh. Well. Okay. I suppose you have a point.” Harry smiled and downed the rest of his beer. “Bill! Another round!”
 
Bill was quick to bring over two more mugs but Jed barely noticed him. His eye had been drawn to a small, unassuming man who had just walked in through the bat wing doors. To the casual observer there was really nothing remarkable about him. Though smaller in stature, inn some ways he reminded Jed of Harry in his age and manner of dress. But the resemblance stopped there. When Harry walked into a room he came in all puffed up and full of his self-importance. He wanted and totally expected to be noticed and held in awe of his obvious position and expertise.
 
But this new man, dressed in a casual suit and not wearing a hat to cover his rapidly balding scalp seemed almost inconsequential. He did not warrant any particular notice and nor did he seek it, yet something about him caught Jed's eye. The ex-outlaw followed the gentleman with his gaze as the man casually made his way to the bar and ordered a shot before turning around and doing a quick but thorough scan of the establishment.
 
Their eyes met. The older man's expression softened as though in recognition and a slight smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. He picked up his drink and made his way over to the selected table. Jed watched him come, feeling a slight chill settle in his spine. His right hand under the table checked the readiness of his colt 45 while he waited for the meeting to take place.
 
Harry had continued to chatter on about his upcoming nuptials, totally unaware of the little drama taking place right in front of him. Until the newcomer stood casually right at their table. Harry stopped with his mouth half open in mid-sentence and stared at the interloper as though not quite believing the audacity of the man.
 
Hello,” came the soft English accent. “You are Mr. Curry I take it?”
 
Jed shifted slightly, making sure his feet were under him and his right arm unimpeded. “Well now, who wants to know?”
 
The gentleman smiled and nodded his understanding. “Of course,” he stated and held out his right hand for shaking. “My name is Finney. Kevin Finney, from Scotland Yard.”
 
Harry snorted derisively, but Jed seeing that there was no gun being pointed at him, pushed himself to his feet and shook the man's hand. “Mr. Finney.”
 
Finney nodded and turned his attention and his hand to Harry. “Kevin Finney,” he repeated.
 
Harry suddenly realized he better respond appropriately, pushed his chair back, and came to his feet to return the greeting.
 
Harry Briscoe!” he announced. “Bannerman Detective Agency. At your service. Anything the Bannermans can do to give a helping hand to Scotland Yard, well I'm just the man to do it!”
 
Indeed,” Finney responded politely.
 
Jed's concern about this man instantly switched to a liking when he saw how quickly the Yard detective had summed Harry up and categorized him appropriately.
 
Finney turned his attention back to Jed.
 
Your fine young deputy, Mr. Morin said that I was most likely to find you in here,” Finney explained. “May I join you?”
 
Jed nodded towards an empty chair. “Sure. Have a seat Mr. Finney.”
 
Finney pulled out a chair and settled himself. He took a sip from his shot glass and holding the dark amber liquid up to reflect the light, he smiled and made contact with Jed again.
 
Ah, American whiskey. It has a unique, barbaric punch to it, does it not?”
 
Harry gaped at the man as though he were an idiot while Jed sat back and contemplated him for a moment. He was back to being cautious again. The words sounded vaguely like an insult but the tone used to utter them could not be described as anything but courteous and mild.
 
I wouldn't know Mr. Finney,” Jed finally conceded. “I'm a beer drinkin' man myself.”
 
Of course.”
 
You say Joe sent you over here?” Jed continued in an effort to get more information before passing final judgement. “Any particular reason?”
 
Finney leaned forward on his elbows and shook his head with some regret.
 
It would seem that some of our more accomplished highwaymen and organized criminals have an unfortunate liking for the 'wild west',” Finney explained. “Those that don't head for Europe when things get too hot for them in England very often head for the Americas.”
 
Uh huh,” Jed agreed. “Big country out here. Easy to disappear.”
 
Yes.” Finney smiled. “Exactly. And since I have travelled to this continent before my superiors seemed to think that I shouldn't mind coming back.”
 
You've been here before?” Harry asked in an effort to be a part of the conversation.
 
Oh yes!” Finney confirmed. “Some years ago now. One of our citizens stole quite a fortune in precious stones and led us on a merry chase. But it all came to a satisfactory conclusion eventually. Now however, it seems we have a different type of animal to track down. This fellow likes the games of chance, except that he's found a way to take the chance out of it.”
 
Well that ain't hard to do if'n ya' know how,” Jed commented.
 
Hmm,” Finney agreed with a nod and a sip of whiskey. “But nobody seems to be able to see how. In fact, by the time the Yard gets word that someone is playing the odds and winning the scoundrel has pulled up stakes and moved on.
Normally some penny-ante card sharp wouldn't warrant the attention of the Yard, but as I mentioned, this particular gentleman has moved up the ladder. He befriended a minor aristocrat, received an official invitation to a very exclusive club and proceeded to fleece all the members of their finances.
Unfortunately this man is very smooth. He is a master at disguising not only his appearance, but his personality and even his mannerisms to the point where no one witness could give an accurate accounting of who it was that had swindled them.”
 
Jed smiled. “Sounds like a master, alright.
 
Yes,” Finney agreed again. “And it's going to take a master to catch him.”
 
Uh huh,” Jed commented as realization of where this conversation was heading came to him. Jed sighed. Great. The timing couldn't have been worse. He and Beth were still adjusting to parenthood and their new home. Jed was busy with Harry's wedding plans and Heyes was long gone and probably having the time of his life. “So you're wanting to hire us to help flush this fella out, trick him at his own game.”
 
Indeed.” Finney sat back and contemplated the younger man sitting across from him. “You see when I was last in the United States I spent a fair amount of time in the Devil's Hole country. In England we have enough of our own criminals to deal with so what goes on over here is not really worthy of note. Still I couldn't help but learn a certain amount about the outlaw gang who inhabited that region, and especially about the two men who ran that gang. You and your partner I believe it was, Mr. Curry.”
 
Kid was starting to feel slightly pressured here. “Yes, Mr. Finney, Heyes and I ran Devil's Hole but that was a number of years ago now and we've both paid our....”
 
Oh yes, yes, I realize that,” Finney quickly put him at his ease. “I was after a larger fish then so other than a certain professional curiosity I had no interest in pursuing the matter further at that time. The case I was working on came to a close and I returned home to continue with my own affairs.
Now this new situation has arisen and I once again find myself in your interesting country. I picked up the trail of our miscreant in New York a few months ago and have been following him on a rather steady trail here to Colorado.”
 
Why would he be coming here?” Harry asked. “I would have thought New York would offer better pickings than this little flyspeck of a town.”
 
Jed sent Harry a mild frown at the insult to his home town but Harry just looked at him and shrugged.
 
What?” he asked. Jed simply shook his head.
 
In many ways I would agree with you, Mr. Briscoe,” Finney acknowledged. “but the closer we got to Colorado the more buzz I was hearing about a rather large and prestigious poker game which takes place in Denver in approximately a month's time. Invitation only. Have you gentlemen heard of this game?”
 
Jed sighed and almost groaned into his beer mug. “Yup,” he admitted. “I gotta admit that Heyes would love to get an invitation to that game but at the same time, dreading it. Makes it kinda' hard ta' live with him sometimes.”
 
Indeed.” Finney smiled knowingly. “It would appear that it has also caught the attention of our criminal and I believe that he is in Denver at this moment laying the ground work for this very coveted invitation for himself.”
 
Then why aren't you in Denver drawing him out?” Harry asked this obviously inferior detective. No wonder his superiors ship him over-seas every chance they get. “Seems like a waste of time to me for you to be loitering around out here.”
 
Finney sent Harry a tolerant smile. “It would indeed seem the more prudent choice of action,” he agreed. “until I was able to get a look at the invitation list. Much to my surprise I came across a name that was vaguely familiar; Mr. Hannibal Heyes.”
 
A second of silence followed this announcement as once again Jed and Harry exchanged a look that was both skeptical and confused at the same time.
 
Heyes has been invited to the Denver game?” Harry asked.
 
He never said anythin' about gettin’ an invite,” Jed commented.
 
Perhaps it slipped his mind,” Finney suggested.
 
Jed and Harry both laughed.
 
Not much slips Heyes' mind, and definitely not somethin' like that,” Jed countered. “Are you sure the invites have been mailed?”
 
Finney nodded. “Oh yes. Although I did note that Mr. Heyes' invitation had yet to be confirmed. Still it was enough to plant the seeds of an idea and I began to do some research on The Devil's Hole gang and their two infamous leaders.” Finney smiled at Jed in a way that caused some discomfort to the former outlaw, like he was nekked under a magnifying glass. “I had heard enough about Mr. Heyes' proficiency at the poker table from my previous time spent in Wyoming to feel that he had possibility. Further research now proved my suspicions more than correct. Indeed, both yourself and your partner have quite the reputation concerning the games of chance and the art of the con. Then imagine my surprise when I discover that not only are you both now free men, but have a investigation and security business of your own on the go.
I felt that the side trip to Brookswood in order to speak to you gentlemen was in order. As you have already surmised Mr. Curry, I would like to hire you both to assist me in identifying this scoundrel and catching him at his own game.”
 
That's all well and good Mr. Finney,” Jed told him. “but Heyes ain't here and again, he made no mention of an invite to that game.”
 
Aye, and that's a rub for sure,” the Yard man concurred. “Is there some way to get in contact with him? Find out when he intends to return. Perhaps even discuss this situation with him.”
 
I donno, Mr. Finney.” Jed sat back showing obvious reluctance. “Heyes is on his honeymoon and I wouldn't want him feelin' like he had to get back here. Besides, he said nothin' ta' me about an invite so if he did get one then he probably decided he wasn't gonna go.”
 
And why would that be since you said yourself that he coveted the invitation?”
 
It's an awful expensive buy-in,” Jed pointed out. “He may have felt that his income could not support putting up that much money on a poker game. He's a family man now and has other responsibilities.”
 
Ah yes, of course.” Finney thought about it for a moment. “I could wire the Yard and request at least a portion of the buy-in expense. If this leads to a capture it would be well worth it. I'm sure there would still be some expenses that your company would be responsible for but at least now it would be for company business and not just a prestigious poker game.”
 
Yeah,” Jed still sounded skeptical. “I suppose I can get a message to him about all this. I am expecting them back before the date of the game, but the officials would need confirmation before then.” Another heavy sigh, then a decision. “I'll see what I can do Mr. Finney. I know the Brown Palace has one of those telephone things and I'd bet that the hotel close to Silky's home in San Francisco would have one as well. Just gotta find out which one.”
 
I can do that Mr. Curry,” Finney offered. “The Brown Palace itself would know which other hotels in the country have telephones and would even know how to get through to it.”
 
Jed nodded. “Okay. No guarantees though. I ain't agreein' on nothin' until I discuss it with my partner first.”
 
Completely understood, Mr. Curry,” Finney agreed. He downed the last of his whiskey and stood up to go. “I will be in touch. Indeed, if you let me know when Mr. Heyes is going to be in San Francisco I could make the call myself.”
 
Ah, I don't think that's a good idea,” Jed surmised. “Ya' see Heyes is kind of the suspicious type. He don't know you and if he has already decided he don't want to join the game then it might be better if I bring it up. Denver is not that far away. Once I can set up a time, I'll come in and make the call myself.”
 
Fair enough,” Finney agreed and held out his hand for shaking. “I'll get back to Denver and settle in. I'll send you my contact information when I get there.”
 
Fine.”
 
Good day Mr. Curry, Mr. Briscoe.”
 
Farewells were exchanged and the Yard detective took his leave. Jed and Harry sat down again and ordered another couple of beers.
 
That was interesting,” Harry commented. “Do you think Heyes even received an invitation or is this guy just trying to set up his own con? We should have asked for his credentials.”
 
Yeah. I donno,” Jed admitted. “But one thing's for sure. I better get a telegram sent to Silky pretty quick. Whether this Mr. Finney is for real or not, Heyes is gonna need a head's up.


Xxx




They were standing in each others arms on the porch of their home.
 
Are you sure you're gonna be alright out here all on your own?” Jed asked his young wife.
 
Gov was all tacked up and waiting patiently at the hitching rail by the steps. He had begun to recognize the pattern with these two humans and he found it a bit of an adjustment to make after being used to the jump and run routine that had been typical during their recent adventures with this human and his male friend. The new routine with the female human was more a matter of hurry up and wait than hurry up and go. It did try a horse's patience.
 
Gov sighed and concluded it with a pointed snort, then sat down on a back hoof and resigned himself to wait.
 
Of course I'll be alright,” Beth chided her over-protective husband. “I'm a rancher's daughter remember. I'm quite accustomed to looking after livestock.”
 
I know that,” Jed continued, “but you'll be out here all alone. I don't think I should leave you here. Why don't you hitch up Daisy and go stay at your folks place until it's time ta' come into town for the weddin'?”
 
Then what about Karma and Percy?” Beth asked reasonably. “Someone needs to be here to feed them supper and breakfast.” She smiled and patted him on the chest. “Don't be silly. I'll be fine. In case you have forgotten, I do know how to use a rifle—remember?”
 
Ho ho!” Jed laughed. “How could I forget? Okay. I'll see you in town on the big day.”
 
Yes,” Beth agreed. “but don't you be running amok! Just because it's a bachelor party doesn't give you leave to be getting drunk and carousing with the ladies. Besides, somebody has to watch out for Harry.”
 
Yes ma'am,” Jed teased her. “No gettin' drunk or carousin' with ladies. Well, unless it's one lady in particular...”
 
Oh really?” Beth teased him. “You have a particular lady in town who....”
 
Jed shut his wife's mouth with a kiss. She began to giggle as his hands moved down her back and gave her buttocks a squeeze.
 
There is a particular lady,” he breathed into her ear. “but she ain't in town.”
 
Oh no?” Beth asked between kisses. “Where is she then?”
 
She's right here,” Jed informed her.
 
He picked her up by the waist and swung her around to set her up on the hand railing of the porch. He nuzzled into her neck and their kisses became more passionate. Jed supported her there with one hand, but the other made a run for the money, lifting her skirt and trying to maneuver its way around her bloomers.
 
Beth had stopped giggling now as passion took hold. She trusted him to not let her fall and leaning back she wrapped her legs around him to pull him in close.
 
A wailing from inside the open door was like a bucket of ice water dousing the heat of passion. Both parents groaned.
 
Just let him be,” Jed whispered. “He'll be alright for a few minutes.”
 
No no, I can't,” Beth insisted as she pushed her husband away from her. “He's probably hungry.”
 
Then he can wait....”
 
I can't do this while he's crying,” Beth insisted. “Let me tend to him.”
 
She slipped out of Jed's arms and walked into the house to quiet her son. Jed stood leaning against the support post, breathing heavily and feeling frustrated. He looked over at Gov who was staring at him and, Jed was sure, laughing at him as well.
 
What?” he asked his horse. “Just 'cause you're a gelding....”
 
Standing up straight, he adjusted himself and walked carefully into the house. Beth was settled into the rocker in the nursery with her son contentedly suckling.
 
Beth smiled up at her husband as his form filled the door frame.
 
Sorry,” she told him. “Let me finish feeding him. I'll give him a cool bath and get him changed and settled in, then we can....”
 
No, that's alright darlin',” Jed came in and gave her a kiss on her forehead. He cupped his son's head in his hand and then stood up. “I best be gettin' on. I'm already runnin' a little late. I'll see you both in town for the weddin'.”
 
Alright, if you're sure.”
 
I'm sure.”
 
Love you!” Beth called after the retreating back.
 
Love you too,” came back the fading response.
 
Jed awkwardly walked down the steps and untying the ever patient Gov, he began to lead the gelding along the dirt road that would take them into town. He didn't quite know what he was feeling at this point, other than uncomfortable.
 
Staying celibate had been difficult enough before he and Beth got married but he had agreed to it and he understood the reasons for it. He'd managed and he had a lifetime ahead of him for making love to his wife. He knew that knowledge was what had kept him honest. He hadn't been disappointed either. Beth was inexperienced, but she was also very willing to learn and try different things. She not only didn't mind the more exotic things he had introduced her to, she actually seemed to enjoy them and had even come up with some smooth moves of her own. Jed foresaw a future of sexual pleasures he had only dreamed of when carousing with the more jagged prostitutes.


But now....damn. He tried not to be frustrated, not to feel slighted. T.J. was still a new infant—of course he was going to demand the majority of Beth's attentions. But it seemed to happen every time! He and Beth would just be getting into it when the baby would cry and instantly Jed would be forgotten about. Or Beth was simply too tired to be interested in sexual playtime. She'd promise to come back to him after T.J. had been fed, or changed or simply cuddled back to sleep, but inevitably she would end up falling asleep herself and Jed would be left tending to his own need.
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Keays

Keays

Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 62
Location : Camano Island Washington

Expectations.  Chapter two Empty
PostSubject: Re: Expectations. Chapter two   Expectations.  Chapter two EmptySun Feb 01, 2015 4:58 pm

He felt left out. He felt ignored, and then he felt guilty about feeling that way. Truth be known, he was disappointed. He and Beth had wanted a large family and despite their first failure, it did look as though more children would not be a problem for them. If they could ever get back to the pleasure of making them, that is. But the raising of them? Jed began to doubt his ability and his patience to handle a house full of children, especially if it meant a serious curtailment of sexual pleasures.
 
He sighed as he continued to walk towards town. By the way things were calming down he figured he would be able to mount up and start riding soon but he was in no hurry to put that to the test. His mind wandered to Flo's establishment and he absently smiled with fond remembrance of his regular visits there. Maybe he could....no, no! He stopped himself thinking along those lines and then instantly felt guilty again for even considering it. He knew himself that his comment at Bridget and Steven's home about using a prostitute wasn't really cheating was far from the truth. He had simply been trying to make light of Harry's upcoming nuptials and of course it had fallen flat. He knew it was wrong. Another reason he had blocked that thought was a strictly physical one. If he allowed that kind of meandering to take over, he'd never be able to mount up and actually ride into town.
 
This was awful, and totally unexpected. Nobody told him about this aspect of family life. Oh he knew that raising children was a lot of work and parents had to make sacrifices, he knew that—of course. But sacrifices in the marriage bed? That had never occurred to him. He began to have a little more understanding and even sympathy for those married men who found their way over to Flo's place of business on a regular basis. He didn't see himself as one of those men; he hoped he had more respect for his wife than that. But he could now understand it.
 
Another heavy sigh. He wondered if this was something he could talk to David about. Or even if he should. David was more than just his doctor, he was a good friend who often had insights to issues that were not necessarily medical. But did he really want to admit to this? He felt like such a lout feeling jealous of his own son, how could he even admit to that out loud? No, he'd keep this to himself. He was just being selfish and inconsiderate. Beth still loved him, she was just tired, that's all. Once T.J. got a little older, they'd be right back at it again. And then she'd be pregnant again and it would start all over—oh crap!
 
Of course they had discussed taking measures to plan their children and though he had agreed to it, he did feel uncomfortable about going that route. It wasn't the fact that it was illegal. Truth be told he really didn't care about that. What difference did it make to the law what he and his consenting wife did in the privacy of their own home? No, it was simply the idea of using a preventative with his own wife. It still made him feel like it was dirty, disrespectful. Like he was simply using her body for his own pleasure and not actually making love to her.
 
Beth couldn't see his problem with it and he was trying very hard to see it from her side of things. For one thing, it certainly would make their lives a whole lot easier. To be able to space them out so that they wouldn't be dealing with one pregnancy after another? Yes. As Jed walked beside his horse and tried to ignore the aching in his groin his feelings on this matter began to shift. Maybe it wasn't so disrespectful after all.
 
And they had talked about adopting. They could adopt an older child, like Sally. One who wouldn't be quite so demanding as a newborn. Both he and Beth had agreed on doing that at least once and possibly more. They could have a large family and still get their digs in too. Have a baby, then adopt an older one. Have a baby then adopt an older one. Yes! This could work.
 
Jed grinned. He was feeling a whole lot better about this situation already. Turning to his horse, he let Gov come to a halt beside him and giving the horse a pat on the neck, he collected the reins and easily swung aboard.
 
Okay, young man,” Jed said to the gelding. “At least I can still get a good gallop with you.”
 
Giving Gov a nudge with his heels, the horse swung into an easy lope and they completed the trip to town in style.
 
xxx
 
C'mon Harry!” Kid complained. “You're gonna be late for your own party if you don't get a move on!”
 
Yeah, yeah I'm coming,” Harry assured him. “Gotta make sure I look presentable. It's not an everyday event; a man getting married.”
 
This is a party Harry, not the actual wedding,” Jed pointed out. “Nobody expects ya' to be all spiffed up.”
 
Just let me check my....”
 
Jed reached his limit and grabbing Harry by the arm he dragged him away from the mirror and herded him out the door of the hotel room.
 
Ya look fine!”
 
Alright alright,” Harry straightened his tie as best he could while Jed hustled him down the hallway. “What ya' in such a dang blasted hurry for?”
 
I'm hungry!”
 
The two men clomped down the stairs and into the lobby of the hotel. Jed made a bee line for the door and missed Harry taking a detour towards the front desk.
 
You sure everything is in order for the weddin' night?” the groom-to-be asked Albertto.
 
Albertto gave a look of resigned indignation. “How many times you ask me? Of course everything...”
 
Will you come on!” Jed had done a quick about face and grabbed hold of Harry's arm again.
 
It's an important night Kid!” Harry insisted. “Have to make sure...”
 
Everything's fine,” Jed assured him as they headed out the door and onto the street. “Albertto may not be the sharpest nail in the woodpile but he's done enough weddin' suites by now to keep even you happy. C'mon!”
 
Entering the noisy smoke filled saloon, Jed simply sent Bill a quick greeting, not wanting to give Harry any excuses to get sidetracked yet again. How this man ever stayed focused enough to follow a lead from crime to perpetrator was beyond Jed. The detective had the attention span of a scared rabbit. He hurried Harry along to the back room where everyone congregated for the private parties. With a slight apprehension that the room might actually be empty, Jed opened the door and pushed his friend inside.
 
A huge cheer went up, startling Harry and alleviating Jed's fears.
 
Here he is!”
 
About time!”
 
Beginnin' ta think you was gonna miss yer own bachelor party!”
 
Harry grinned with delight at the fine turn out. Truth be known he'd been a bit concerned as well that nobody would show up.


Clara, Matilda and Susie were quick to home in on the groom. Surrounding him with their sensuous embraces they floated him away from Jed and somehow managed to get all four of them settled into the loveseat.
 
Hi Harry,” Susie purred as she ran her hand over his hair. “ready to have a good time tonight?”
 
Oh well, ah, sure!” Harry smiled. “That's what we're here for isn't it?”
 
Just so long as it ain't too good a time,” Emmett cautioned him while at the same time handing him a beer. “Pa told us ta' keep an eye on you.”
 
Of course!” Harry assured his future brother-in-law, “Not too good a time. Ha ha, I wouldn't do that to my little peach!”
 
Jed breathed a sigh of relief that this little shindig had actually come together. Thank goodness for friends who didn't mind showing up for a party, especially when there was free food and beer in the offering. Leaving Harry to fend for himself, Jed headed over to the center table for a beer and a meat sandwich and began to make the rounds.
 
Howdy Wheat,” Kid greeted his old compatriot. “Glad you could make it.”
 
Yeah well, what are friends for huh?” Wheat mumbled. “A'sides, good way ta round out the season before headin' south.”
 
Too bad you can't meet up with Heyes,” Jed commented. “but I'm figurin' they'll be long gone by the time you and Kyle get down there.”
 
I'm figurin' the same thing, Kid,” Wheat informed him. “Why'd ya' think we're hangin' around? Kill some time with some free beer and head south next week.”
 
Aw come on,” Jed took mock offense. “I thought you an' Heyes was gettin' along fine these days.”
 
Yeah yeah we are,” Wheat assured him. “but I get enough a' him when we're workin' for 'em. Don't need to be bumpin' inta 'em durin' our time off.”
 
You're gonna hurt his feelings.”
 
Wheat snorted. “Like hell.”
 
Yep.” Jed looked around. “Where's Kyle?”
 
Wheat snorted again. “That little fool is all love sick over a little lady he met a while back.”
 
Oh yeah? Again?” Jed asked. “Not another saloon gal I hope.”
 
Nope,” Wheat smirked. “Isabelle's little sister.”
 
What!” Jed nearly choked on his sandwich. “He ain't serious!”
 
Hell, you know Kyle,” Wheat said, “a gal winks at 'em and he's stakin' out the mercantile fer a weddin' ring.”
 
He better not go stealin' any rings now,” Jed warned. “That'd be a real mess after everything we've been through.”
 
Naw,” Wheat shrugged it off. “He's still got the last one he stole fer that farmer's daughter right a'fore he got locked up. Surprise, surprise that she didn't wait fer 'em.”
 
Yeah well...”
 
Besides,” Wheat continued. “We're headin' south. By the time we get back up this way she'll a got herself hog tied and branded by one a them farm hands who keep sniffin' around her.”
 
Did I hear somebody say something about staking out the mercantile?” came a deep voice from behind the two ex-outlaws.
 
Oh ah, howdy there Lom,” Wheat shuffled. “Naw, we was just ah, chewin' the fat here. Nothin' serious.”
 
Uh huh.”
 
Jed smiled at the two men who had come to join them and nodded a greeting.
 
Hey Lom, Kenny. Glad you could make it.”
 
Wouldn't have missed this for the world boys,” Lom commented with just a touch of irony.
 
Never thought we'd see the day,” Kenny added. “It's almost like witnessing an historical event.”
 
All four men turned their gazes towards Harry who was being hand fed a sandwich by one lovely lady and offered beer by another.
 
Yeah,” Jed commented. “So! Martha and Sarah come with you?”
 
Martha's here,” Lom told him. “She's looking forward to spending some time with Belle and is all eager to meet the new babe.”
 
Jed beamed, a new father's pride still close to the surface.
 
Sarah stayed home this trip,” Kenny said with some regret. “She was hoping to meet the new arrival as well, but the three boys are back East and Evelyn has school. We thought it best not to pull her out of class for this.”
 
Yeah, a' course,” Jed agreed. “Maybe next summer you can all come by again. Heyes and Miranda will have had their new one by then so you can meet everyone at once.”
 
Heyes and Randa?” asked Kenny.
 
Yeah,” Jed confirmed. “He found out when we got back from Devil's Hole. Didn't he tell ya'?”
 
Not a word.” Kenny looked slightly disappointed.
 
Well I only knew about it because Martha and Belle stay in touch,” Lom grumbled. “That old reprobate wouldn't tell his own mother he was gonna be a pa if somebody didn't twist his arm first.”
 
Don't take it personal Kenny,” Jed told him. “You know what Heyes is like.”
 
Kenny nodded. “Odd that he would take her on such an extended trip at such a time,” he said. “Is it safe?”
 
Jed shrugged. “David didn't think there would be a problem.”
 
Sarah had quite a hard time during the first few months with Evelyn,” Kenny volunteered. “She sure wouldn't have been up to a trip like that while pregnant.”
 
I donno, Beth seemed ta' handle it alright,” Jed countered. “She was throwin' up a bit but Belle helped her get through that.”
 
Sarah threw up a lot!” Kenny emphasized. “It got to where she couldn't even look at jellied ham hocks without....”
 
 
Ah, look there's Kyle and Ames,” Wheat announced. “I think I'll go over and talk ta them fer a while.”
 
Yeah,” Lom agreed. “I need another beer.”
 
The two men quickly made an exit.
 
What scared them off?” Kenny asked.
 
Jed shrugged.
 
Oh Kenny,” Jed suddenly thought about something. “You know anything about Scotland Yard?”
 
Kenny gave a little laugh. “I know I wouldn't want them looking for me,” he commented. “They're a top notch police force.”
 
Yeah?” Jed asked. “Are they likely ta' send an agent all the way over here ta' track down a con artist?”
 
They might,” Kenny surmised. “I've known them to not let go of a lead no matter where it takes them. Leaving the country won't save you if you've got Scotland Yard on your trail. I warned Heyes about that when he was contemplating running out on his parole and heading over that way with Mrs. Stewart. Not sure if that is what dissuaded him or not, but he would have been in real trouble if those fellas had been sent after him.” Kenny stopped talking then and sent his friend a suspicious look. “Why are you asking me about Scotland Yard? Don't tell me you and your partner are somehow in trouble with them too!”
 
No, of course not!” Jed insisted. “How would we have managed that?”
 
Kenny shrugged. “How should I know? You two did a lot of things you shouldn't have been able to do. One more wouldn't have been a huge surprise.”
 
Jed smiled. “Thank you.”
 
Kenny sent him a look.
 
No, but seriously,” Jed got back down to business. “There was this Scotland Yard fella come around askin' questions yesterday. At least he said he was with Scotland Yard. I was just wonderin', cause it didn't seem too plausible ta' me that they would send an agent all the way over here just to catch some card sharpin' conman, so I got ta' thinkin' that it might be someone tryin' ta' set us up. Said he'd heard about me and Heyes startin' up a detective agency and wanted Heyes ta' accept an invite into that big poker game in Denver in order to catch this guy.”
 
What would he be setting you up for?” Kenny asked. “You're not wanted.”
 
Yeah I know,” Jed conceded. “but, you know, after that scare with them fellas kidnappin' Heyes and all that, I figure we can't be too careful. There could still be someone out there with a lot of money and a big grudge who will go to a lot of trouble and expense to get his hands on us. Just thought I best do some checkin'.”
 
Kenny nodded. “You're right,” he agreed. “it is best to check. I wouldn't be surprised if this man is legit but I can check him out if you want. Send some telegrams, ask some questions.”


Would ya' Kenny? That would be great. I don't like ta' bother Heyes while he's on his honeymoon, but either way he should know that someone is askin' after him.”
 
Don't worry him with this just yet,” Kenny suggested. “Give me a chance to do some digging. What's the man's name?”
 
Finney,” Jed informed him. “Kevin Finney.”
 
Kenny nodded and gave Jed a pat on the arm.
 
As soon as I get home I'll check it out,” Kenny assured him. “Now, how about another beer. And those sandwiches look awfully tasty.”
 
The evening progressed with more people arriving and by 8:00 the party was in full swing. David and Steven arrived together with Joe Morin dropping in shortly after that. He was followed by two strangers dressed in suits and fedoras who made a direct line to first the beer and sandwiches and then to Harry.
 
Harry was overjoyed.
 
Boys, boys!” Harry greeted them as he staggered to his feet. “Glad you could make it!”
 
Sure thing Briscoe!”
 
Wouldn't miss this for the world.”
 
The three men shook hands all around as Jed came over to meet the newcomers. He had to admit to some curiosity about anyone he didn't know showing up at the party.
 
Kid!” Harry greeted him enthusiastically. “These are my two good friends, Larry and Barry.”


Larry and Barry?” Jed questioned.
 
Three wide grins faced him. “We're Bannerman men!”
 
Ohh,” Jed nodded as they shook hands. “I gotta admit the suits kinda' gave it away.”
 
They did?” Harry looked confused.
 
Larry and Barry looked blank.
 
So,” Jed tried to make conversation. “You fellas actually catch criminals do you?”
 
All three puffed up.
 
Sure do,” Larry answered with pride. “Just last week we closed a very important case.”
 
Yes siree,” Barry confirmed. “Took over a year to get the evidence on those rascals but we did. Nobody's safe with Bannerman men around!”
 
Yeah well, knowin' Harry as well as I do, I can believe that,” Jed responded.
 
See boys?” Harry preened. “Even Kid Curry knows he's gotta watch his step when I'm around.”
 
Yeah!” Larry slapped Harry on the back. “I'll drink to that!”
 
So will I!” Barry piped in.
 
Three glasses clanked and were promptly drained of their contents.
 
It was Barry's turn to give Harry a congratulatory slap. “You sure showed those two,” he commented with a laugh. “You impressed the hell outa us when we found out how you had those 'high and mighty' outlaws tucked neatly in your back pocket.”
 
Who'd have thought that ole' Harry Briscoe would have Heyes and Curry at his beck and call!” Larry agreed. “I knew there had to be a legitimate reason why a fine agent like you wasn't getting your quota of cases closed. It was because you were working undercover with Heyes and Curry all along and everything had to be kept hush hush.” A conspiratory jab on the arm followed this statement. “You sure showed them! Yeah, nobody can keep a secret like Harry Briscoe!”
 
Really?” Jed commented with a pointed look to the guest of honour. “Curry and Heyes in your back pocket all this time.”
 
Not surprised you didn't know,” Larry assured the younger man. “None of us knew until ole' Harry here had to own up to it at that hearing a few years back. Why, we can only imagine how many cases he's solved but couldn't take credit for because he had to protect his snitches.”
 
Snitches?”
 
Yessir!” Barry confirmed. “Harry here is an unsung hero. I sure hope Heyes and Curry realize they owe their lives to this man!”
 
Not that their lives are worth much anymore!” Larry piped in and the two men fell into each other laughing.
 
Another pointed look from Jed had Harry squirming.
 
Ahh, fellas,” Harry broke in on their revelry. “I'd like ya' to meet one of my ah...my....hmmm...”
 
Friends, Harry,” Jed suggested.
 
Yeah yeah. Boys, this here is Kid Curry.”
 
The two men sobered and stared at the Kid in mild disbelief.
 
Jed smiled and extended a hand for shaking. “Howdy.”
 
You're Kid Curry?” Barry asked him.
 
People generally call me Jed now, but....”
 
Barry and Larry looked at each other and took to laughing again.
 
Good one Harry!” Larry snorkeled.
 
Yeah!” Barry seconded. “Like you'd actually invite a low life like Curry to your bachelor party!”
 
Always the kidder ain't ya' Harry!”
 
The two men went to back slapping Harry once again and even included Jed in the merry making this time around.
 
You're a good sport for going along with it!” Larry praised the Kid. “But we aren't quite that gullible.”
 
Yes!” Barry agreed. “We may have been born at night....”
 
....but not last night!” they both finished off.
 
I donno 'bout you Larry, but I need some more beer.”
 
I'm right with ya' there Barry, time for more beer.”
 
The two men staggered off leaving Harry to face the music.
 
Harry....”
 
Oh now Kid, you can't take....”
 
Harry!” Matilda snuck in under Harry's arm. “Enough chatting with these silly men, come back and join us, it's time to put on a show!”
 
Matilda directed Harry towards the makeshift stage for some song and dance while Harry grinned his relief at yet another narrow escape. Jed watched him go then turned to look back at the refreshment table where more beer pitchers and sandwich platters had conveniently materialized. He watched in amazement as the two Bannerman men refreshed their refreshing, then they moved on and became involved in a conversation with Wheat.
 
Harry was being amply entertained by Matilda and didn't look like he needed rescuing so Jed headed over to his group of preferred friends. There appeared to be an engrossing conversation going on between Kenny, Steven and David so Jed was naturally drawn to it.
 
I don't know,” Kenny was saying. “There is a larger prison under construction in Rawlins but it all seems to have come to a standstill. In the meantime the prison in Laramie is becoming more and more overcrowded. We have two, sometimes three inmates per cell and it's a bad situation all around.”
 
I can certainly see where it would be a problem,” David agreed. “Overcrowding under the best conditions leads to confrontations but in a prison it must be like sitting on a powder keg.”
 
Good thing Heyes is no longer there,” Jed commented. “He had a difficult time as it was with his own cell. Can't imagine him actually sharing with anyone.”
 
Kenny rolled his eyes. “He doesn't know how lucky he is to be out of it now. All the more reason he keeps his nose clean. I'm getting less and less support from the governor's office. Their attitude seems to be that the new prison will solve all our problems and yet the construction of that prison has ground to a halt.”
 
They're still fortunate to have you as the warden there,” Steven pointed out. “At least you're trying to help some of these inmates get through their time.”
 
I'm trying,” Kenny agreed. “but as I said, I'm getting less and less support. They put me in there because they felt I had some sound ideas for keeping the prison running smoothly, but now they seem to think my methods are too soft. Yet we have had fewer confrontations and fewer escape attempts since I took over.” He shook his head with some disappointment. “Bureaucrats! The penal board seems to be ignoring my results in favour of stronger discipline and tighter controls. Sometimes I feel like I'm hitting my head against the wall.”
 
Havin' you in there has gotta be better than someone like Mitchell,” Jed commented. “At least you're tryin'. And once Heyes gets back we can get serious about helpin' ya' out with some of them fellas.”
 
Kenny nodded as he took a drink. “Yes. I already have a couple of young fellas in mind who could benefit from the program. One is due out next month, the other in four months. Is Jesse going to be here tonight? I wouldn't mind discussing with him the possibility of them coming to work out at the ranch.”
 
He might,” Jed told him. “Though it is gettin' kinda late for him. I know he'll be at the weddin' though.”
 
Okay.”
 
Nobody in this group was really paying much attention to the raucous song and dance that was going on at the other end of the room. The tinny piano music accentuated by the laughter of the gals and the various gentlemen whooping and hollering along with the entertainment had simply become the accepted background. People were having a difficult enough time hearing their own conversations let alone what other's were saying. That is until a previously innocuous conversation took a turn for the worse, and voices began to rise in anger.
 
You mean you're the low down dirty thieving outlaw who put a bullet in his lung?” Larry was yelling in Wheat's face.
 
Wheat's complexion was turning red as both his voice and his anger rose. “You're conveniently forgettin' that he done the same to me and then some!”
 
But you're just a low down dirty thieving outlaw!” Barry parroted Larry. “You destroyed the career of an outstanding lawman...”
 
Outstanding lawman my ass!” Wheat threw back. “Morrison's a murderin' bastard! He deserved...”


And that's when the fists started flying.
 
At first Wheat found himself outnumbered as both Larry and Barry landed punches at the same time. Wheat was on the ground, taking a chair down with him just as Kyle and Ames dashed to the aideof their friend and the two Bannerman men got tackled from behind. More chairs clattered to the floor and the heavily laden table was jarred to the side as all five adversaries found themselves prone on the floor but still fighting.
 
Feminine screams and masculine yells took over from the song and dance while the ladies of the evening scrambled to get out of the way. This eventuality wasn't new to them and all three were quick to dash out the door to safer ground until things cooled down.
 
Lom and Jed jumped into the melee with the intentions of breaking it up and Harry, seeing his opportunity to do the right thing, joined them. Unfortunately Harry grabbing on to Larry and pulling him up off Ames only resulted in Larry swinging around and landing his best punch of the evening. Harry staggered back, tripped over someone's leg and fell into Jed, knocking both of them into the table.
 
The table tipped, sending the men, the platter of sandwiches and the beer pitchers all crashing to the ground, but not before they had hit some marks on the way down. Jed found himself deluged with beer as that same pitcher bounced off Harry's head, then hit the floor and spewed the remaining contents over the other combatants. Jed's first thought was to get to Harry and pull the groom-to-be out of the battle, but he slipped on the wet floor and ended up landing on top of him instead.
 
In the meantime Lom got hold of Ames and had flung him over to the outskirts where he bounced against the wall and slid to the ground. He sat there in a stupor, too drunk to bother trying to return to the fray. Barry was on his back with Wheat straddling him and trying to punch him in the face but considering the ex-outlaw was seeing two faces, neither of which would hold still, he succeeded in punching the floorboards more often than his intended target.
 
Larry jumped onto Wheat's back with the idea of pulling him off Barry but then Kyle grabbed hold of Larry, lost his balance and the whole pile collapsed. Everybody scrambled to get a foothold on the wet and slippery wood then instantly changed their tactics and dove to the floor instead, covering their heads as three loud reports from a handgun ended the brawl.
 
At first, the only sounds were heavy breathing and groans coming from under the overturned table. Those that could, raised their eyes to see Joe Morin with the smoking handgun still pointed at the ceiling and they all groaned for a different reason. Were they going to be spending the rest of the night over in the jailhouse?
 
Come on everyone!” Lom took control of the situation. “On your feet. Party's over.”
 
Aw shoot Lom,” Wheat complained. “we was just havin' some fun.”
 
Yeah, I know what kind of fun you boys get up to when you've been drinkin',” Lom countered. “Time to call it a night. It's gettin' late anyway.”
 
Hell, it can't be no later 'en 10:00,” Kyle complained as he staggered to his knees. “We ain't barely begun yet.”
 
It's after midnight,” Joe informed them. “Get on over to your hotel rooms and sleep it off. Big day tomorrow.”
 
Aw hell!” Wheat grumbled. “C'mon Kyle. Get on yer feet.”
 
I am on my feet.”
 
No you ain't, yer on yer knees.”
 
Oh yeah. Hey, where's Ames? Oh—there he is.”
 
Barry and Larry were busy brushing off each other's suits before staggering around the room looking for their fedoras. Then most of the combatants gathered together their gear and as a group ambled their way out the door and over to the hotel.
 
David, Steven and Kenny had wisely stayed out of the battle, leaving it up to the lawmen present to do what they did best. David's main concern at this point was for people who hadn't even been at the party.
 
It's good that you stopped the fight Joe,” he commented. “but what about the people upstairs? Those shots could have gone right through the ceiling.”
 
Aw no,” Joe assured him. “they never rent out that room when there's a party booked in here. Too many of them end up just like this. I'd a never fired a shot if I hadn't known that.”
 
David smiled. “Good man. Oh no....”
 
Jed was in the process of pulling the table off Harry who did not appear to be moving.
 
Hey Harry,” Jed slapped the guest of honour a couple of times on the cheek. “C'mon Harry, wake up.”
 
David came over and knelt down opposite Jed. He lifted the detective's eyelids and ran his hands over the beer sodden head to look for any serious injuries.
 
He's just knocked out,” the doctor finally stated. “Still, he better spend the night over at my place. A concussion can be nasty.”
 
Yeah, I know,” Jed grumbled. “This is just great. Looks like he's gonna have quite a shiner there too. Just in time for his weddin'!”
 
Uh huh,” David agreed. “Come on everyone—give me a hand. Best to keep him prone if he's got a concussion.  Bad enough having a hang over without a knock on the head to add to his grief."


Jed snorted as they lifted Harry up and began the procession towards David's house.
 
What's Trish gonna think 'a this?”
 
David gave a wry smile. “She's used to this. You spent plenty a hung over night at our house as I recall.”
 
Yeah well, I suppose ya' got me there.”


Last edited by Keays on Mon Feb 02, 2015 5:39 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Keays

Keays

Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 62
Location : Camano Island Washington

Expectations.  Chapter two Empty
PostSubject: Re: Expectations. Chapter two   Expectations.  Chapter two EmptySun Feb 01, 2015 4:59 pm

Did you bring a change of clothes with you Jed?”
 
Oh yeah. Beth always insists,” he answered.. “Why?”
 
Because you smell like a brew house on a Friday night,” David informed him. “Which I suppose is fitting, considering.”
 
Oh yeah,” Jed conceded. “Maybe my wife does have a point. Heyes and I are so used to travellin' light that I just don't think about bringin' extras.”
 
Yes, married life changes us all,” David prophesied as he readjusted his hold on an arm. “I do wonder about this upcoming union. I hope Harry knows what he's getting into.”
 
Jed snorted. “I don't think Harry ever knows what he's gettin' into. He do have a knack for landin' on his feet though. Maybe it's Isabelle we need to be worryin' about. Harry's not the easiest person in the world to live with.”
 
I don't think any of us are,” Lom commented from his leg position. “These two just might be what the other one needed.”
 
You got a very good point Lom,” Jed agreed. “All we gotta do is get him to the church and make sure he stays standin'. Oh jeez, he will be awake by then won't he?”
 
I'm awake now,” came an irritated grumble from the guest of honour. “and I can hear everything you're sayin'.”
 
Everybody laughed and the unusual procession came to a halt.
 
Hey ya' Harry!” Jed greeted him as they hauled the groom to his feet. “How ya' feelin'?”
 
Could be better, Kid,” Harry grumbled as a hand came up to his bruised eye. “What happened?'
 
You got into a brawl,” David informed him candidly.
 
What?” Harry was indignant. “A Bannerman man never brawls.”
 
Well you sure did tonight!” Jed told him with a chuckle. “Or at least, ya' tried.”
 
What do ya' mean?”
 
It's just that ya' didn't get very far,” Jed explained. “Your two friends there got into a fight with Wheat and you tried to jump in and help.”
 
Oh,” Harry commented as he rubbed his jaw. “Did I?”
 
Yessir, you jumped in real quick.”
 
No, I mean, Did I help?”
 
Oh.”
 
Everyone looked the other way.
 
Well boys,” Kenny perked up. “Since our cargo is now awake, I think I'll be heading back to the hotel. See you fellas in the morning.”
 
Yeah, alright Kenny,” Jed nodded. “We can all meet up for breakfast.”
 
Sounds good to me,” Lom agreed. “I'm sure Martha is back at the hotel by now. So, I'll be seein' ya' later boys.”
 
Oh, yeah okay Lom,” Jed was looking disappointed, but then smiled over at David.
 
David sighed. “Come on Harry, let's get you back to my place for the night.”
 
Well what do ya' mean?” Harry asked as he tripped over his own feet. “I got me a room at the hotel, I'll just be...”
 
No ya' don't Harry!” Jed grabbed an arm just as Harry was about to fall on his face.
 
You're spending the night at my place,” David informed him. “You took a nasty knock there.”
 
That's awfully nice of ya',” Harry slurred and he allowed himself to be assisted over to the doctor's abode.
 
 xxx




Shhh, quiet,” David complained as they tried to get Harry settled. “I don't want to wake up Trish.
 
They had managed to get Harry settled in the guest room and with him sitting on the edge of the bed, Jed was attempting to pull off the detective's boots.
 
Who's Trish?” Harry asked.
 
My wife,” David whispered. “and I'd appreciate you keeping it down.”
 
Harry dropped his gaze to his groin. “It is down. Hey, just what are you insinuatin'? This is the eve of my weddin' and you think I'm gonna....”
 
Shhh, Harry!” Jed told him as he held the taller man back from attacking the doctor. “He meant 'be quiet'! We don't want to wake Trish up,”
 
Too late,” came the voice and the light from the doorway. “What in the world are you boys doing?” then she stepped back and waved her free hand in front of her face. “Oh my goodness! You reek of beer! Just how much did you drink?”
 
Ah, that's me.” Jed admitted. “Ah, a pitcher of beer fell on me.”
 
How did you manage that?” Trish asked quite reasonably.
 
Somebody knocked over the table that the pitcher of beer was on and it kinda' landed on me.”
 
Knocked over the table?”
 
A bit of a fight broke out,” David explained. “Nothing major, but Harry here did get knocked out so I thought it best he spend the night here with us.”
 
Oh yes?” Tricia asked. “How quaint.”
 
I think I'll be gettin' along home. Or at least over to Heyes' place,” Jed commented as he inched towards the door. “I'll see ya' all in the mornin'. Bright and early?”
 
Yeah Jed sure,” David agreed. “You come for breakfast.”
 
Yeah, okay.” Jed smiled as he slipped past Tricia and the look in her eye suggested that he better get out while he could. “'Night.”
 
xxx
 
Beth was up early on the morning of the wedding. Despite her insistence that she was fine on her own, she couldn't help but feel a little uneasy spending the night by herself. She woke up a number of times and on one occasion could even hear a distant thunder storm rumbling its way along the mountain range. Normally she enjoyed hearing the thunder, but not this time. This time it only made her feel even more lonely. She admonished herself for being such a sissy and how ashamed she should be, calling herself a rancher's daughter. Thaddeus beginning to cry and wanting attention almost came as a relief.
 
Once he was fed she settled him into the smaller bassinet and took the whole bundle with her when she went to the barn to feed the horses their breakfast. They had been left out on the pasture all night as usual during the summer months, but all three were still waiting eagerly by the fence for hay to be thrown in for them. The grass this time of year was dry and didn't hold much nutrition so anything extra they could get, they were happy for.
 
Beth coughed a little bit as she filled the bucket from the well and hoped that she wasn't coming down with anything. Even T.J. seemed restless and kept rubbing his eyes as though he were still sleepy. The air did feel awfully dry this morning and even the horses were snorting and coughing with the dust that was getting stirred up around their hay.
 
Picking up the bassinet with one arm and the bucket of water with the other, she waddled her way back into the house and settled in to make herself some coffee and a quick breakfast. That done, she began to hum a little tune to herself for company as she gathered together the dress and other items she and Jed would be needing for the wedding later that day. The plan was to take the carriage to the Double J and meet up with her folks there and then they would all head into town in her father's larger six seater carriage. Then they would all come home that evening and make sure all the animals got tended to. It was going to be a busy day.
 
Thaddeus started crying again and rubbing his eyes. Beth hoped he wasn't going to be a problem during the ceremony. It'd be just like Jed's son to be good right up until the wedding day and then turn on the tears at the most inappropriate times. She sighed and rubbed her own throat. It was dry and scratchy and again the thought that both she and T.J. might be coming down with a summer cold added to her concern.
 
She was feeling uneasy and decided it had nothing to do with being out here on her own. Something wasn't right and hearing the horses becoming restless outside in their pasture quickly added to her angst.
 
She stepped out onto the porch and seeing all three horses pricking their ears in the same direction, she followed their gazes and her heart was instantly in her throat. What had been a bright sunny morning, promising clear blue skies and late summer warmth was now turning dark and ominous. A horizontal streak of orange haze silhouetted the mountain range and thick smoke hung heavy in the sky. A slight change in the wind's direction brought the strong scent of burning wood.
 
One of the horses neighed shrilly and all three galloped madly around inside their enclosure. They came up to the gate near the barn and nervously circled there, coming into a natural passage with heads and tails up and nostrils blowing.
 
Beth didn't waste any time. She ran to the barn and grabbing a halter and lead shank she went to the gate of the pasture and slipped in between the planks of the fence. Daisy, recognizing her as her human moved towards her, looking for comfort and reassurance. Beth had to push her away to save herself from being trampled and Daisy did back off but still hovered close. Beth slipped the shank over the filly's neck, then placed the halter on her head and quickly led her out of the pasture.
 
The other two horses tried to follow, but Beth was quick to shut the gate on them. The last thing she needed was two horses running wildly around the yard while she was trying to hitch the filly up to the surrey. Beth ran to the barn with Daisy trotting along beside her. She slid the large main doors open and thanked Jed for getting the surrey all lined up and easy for her to back the horse between the shafts and get the harness in place.
 
The two horses out in the pasture galloped frantically back and forth in front of the gate. Why was only one of them being taken from this enclosure? Were they to be left behind to face the fire on their own? Karma called out to her daughter and Daisy answered back. She fought against Beth, wanting to return to her mother, but Beth called her to task and though still sweating and trembling with fear, the golden filly listened to her.
 
It took all of five minutes for Beth to harness the horse to the surrey, double checked that Daisy was securely tied and then ran into the house to grab T.J. The baby was crying and rubbing his now red eyes but Beth didn't stop to worry about that. She grabbed the bassinet along with the ever ready 'diaper bag' and quickly left the house.
 
She ran back to the barn, placed the bassinet on the floor in front of the driver's seat and returned to the pasture gate. She slid the bolt open and pulled the gate wide, allowing the two frantic horses to run loose. They headed straight to the barn, thinking that there would be shelter for them there but Beth was right behind them and grabbing the buggy whip, she chased them out and sent them galloping down the dirt track that led off the property.
 
Daisy was frantic in her desire to join up with them. She reared against her tethering and tried to jump forward but the shank and the brakes on the surrey anchored her in place. She let loose a deep and angry bellow as her feet scrambled on the dirt floor of the barn, digging ruts and sending debris flying into the air. She wanted out! She wanted to join up with the other horses and she couldn't understand what was holding her in place.
 
Beth became afraid for her son's safety not having considered the possibility that Daisy would fight so violently to get free. The filly reared again, fighting against the tethering and tried to pull back but the surrey again prevented her from moving. She lunged forward in her frustration and came down on her knees. Beth was afraid she was going to fall over and become entangled in the lines but the filly was back on her feet in an instant and stood, trembling and with legs splayed as she tried to figure out her next move.
 
Beth took advantage of the momentary lull in the storm. She unsnapped the shank and quickly climbed onto the driver's seat of the surrey. Picking up the lines, she made sure she had a solid hold and then released the brake.
 
Daisy stood still for a moment, not realizing she was now loose. Beth clucked to her and gave her rump a slap with the line and the filly crouched down on her hind quarters and then lunged forward. She reared up and burst from the barn, her feet scrambling to find their stride. Finally they did and she was into a gallop, neighing loudly for her mother to wait for her in their head long dash towards the Double J.
 
xxx
 
J.J.! Sally!”
 
Belle came down the steps of the front porch and scanned the yard stretching out between the house and the two barns. Ellie came running over with a happy smile and wagging tail, hoping to get some attention. Belle smiled down at her and scratched the dog's ears, not being able to resist the canine manipulation.
 
Where have those two gotten to now?” she asked the young hound dog. “You were suppose to be looking out for them.”
 
Ellie barked and began dancing around in her excitement. She jumped up onto the porch then turned and scrambled down the steps again only to turn tail on the matriarch of the household and push herself under the porch steps.
 
Belle sighed, shaking her head. That dog still hadn't developed any sense. She turned her eyes back towards the first barn and spied her husband stepping out into the morning light.
 
Jesse! Have you seen your son?”
 
Jesse smiled at the suggestion of ownership.
 
I thought he and Sally were with you,” Jesse answered. “Isn't it time we got ready for town?”
 
Yes, it is!” Belle sounded exasperated. “That's why I'm looking for them!” She coughed quite unexpectedly and rubbed her throat. “My the air is dry today. Hopefully we'll get some rain soon.”
 
Hmm,” Jesse nodded as he approached. “I thought I heard thunder during the night, but if there was it sure didn't bring any rain with it.”
 
A muffled yelling along with some small dog yapping coming from under the porch interrupted the weather report and both parents looked back towards the steps, quite sure that they recognized the source of the protesting. The yells and the yapping got louder as the butt end of the hound dog came into view and then began to wiggle its way backwards out from under the porch.
 
Jesse started to laugh as Belle rolled her eyes. Ellie continued to pull backwards until a tawny head of white blond hair came into view quickly followed by flailing hands and protesting curses. Sally crawled out of her own volition but was still looking slightly incensed at their play time being interrupted. Belle's eye brows rose in disapproval of the language that was coming from her son's mouth while Jesse simply laughed louder. The two small dogs started running in circles, yapping their protests at having their game interrupted.
 
Once the boy was fully removed from under the porch, Ellie let him go and began barking and dancing around, expecting appreciation for a job well done. Belle quickly stepped forward, grabbed her son by the collar and hauled him to his feet before he could scramble back under the steps again. Sally kept her distance, not wanting to bring the wrath of her grandma down upon her head.


Belle was too focused on her son,
 
Look at you!” Belle complained as she began brushing dirt and spider webs off his face and hair. Only then did she take note of Sally trying to be inconspicuous. “Both of you! Really Sally! I expected better behaviour from you.”
 
Sally ran a toe through the dirt and looked down at the ground. “Sorry Grandma. We didn't mean any harm.”
 
What is it about the dirt under porches that so attracts my children?” Belle complained hypothetically.
 
Aww Ma!” came the vociferous protest. “We was just playin'! Bad dog Ellie! I thought you were my friend!”
 
Ellie's expression dropped in disappointment. She thought she had done good.


Now don't you go blaming Ellie!” Belle reprimanded him and the tail started to wag again. “She was doing her job. Unlike you, young man. You know we have a wedding to go to today.
 
I don't wanna go to another stupid wedding!” Jay complained. “I don't even like Harry.”
 
Manners!” Jesse reminded his son as he gave the dog a good scratching for doing her job. “He's Mr. Briscoe to you.”
 
Jay began to pout. “I don't wanna go to another weddin'!”
 
Belle gave a frustrated sigh. “What are they teaching you at school?” she asked. “My goodness, you'd think we were still living out in the middle of nowhere.”
 
It was at this point that Ellie started to bark again, only this time it was not joyous and playful. It was serious and she meant business. Her hackles went up and her barking took on an urgency as she glared into the distance.
 
All four humans followed her gaze and then they all froze as fear trickled down their backs. The horizon to the east was glowing with more than just the morning sun. The sky took on a hazy look from the unnatural heat and distant smoke blurred the details.
 
Jesse broke out of the trance first.
 
Belle, grab some necessities from the house,” he told her. “I'll get Monty hitched up and you and the children get into town as quickly as you can.”
 
Yes, of course Jesse,” Belle agreed and turning the suddenly cooperative Jay around she powered him up the steps to get things organized.
 
Jesse began running to the barn. “Ben! Ben, get out here!”
 
The hired hand heard the urgency in his boss' tone and was out of the first barn before Jesse even got there.
 
What's up Mr. Jordan?” Ben asked.
 
Jesse gestured to the east. “Fire!”
 
Ben paled at the word even before he turned to see the distant haze for himself.
 
We'll get Berry and Monty out of the pasture,” Jesse ordered. “You saddle up Berry and ride into town as fast as you can. Spread the warning as you go but don't leave the road. The word will spread fast enough. I'm sending Belle in with the carriage.”
 
What about you?” Ben asked as they grabbed halters and made a run for the grass pasture. “You can't stay here!”
 
I can and I will,” Jesse stated. “I'm going to protect this property for as long as I can. We may have to turn the stock loose to fend for themselves if the fire gets too close. Beth and Jed's place is right in the path of it. Dammit!”
 
The horses were anxious, not only from the smell of smoke on the breeze, but also because of the humans' behaviour. They were snorting and wild eyed, but they trusted their people and as Jesse and Ben approached the chosen horses, both Monty and Berry allowed themselves to be haltered and led dancing out of the gate.
 
Indeed everyone else in the pasture wanted to come and join them, feeling the need of the company of their human caregivers. But Jesse closed the gate on them and left them where they were for the time being. The last thing he wanted was his prime horses trapped inside a barn if the blaze got this far.
 
Ben and Jesse both ran to the barn with their horses trotting along behind them. It barely took Ben five minutes to throw a saddle on Berry and as the gelding danced and pivoted, the young man swung aboard and booted the horse into a gallop towards town.
 
It took Jesse a little longer to get Monty hitched up to the surrey but by the time he was done, Belle and the two children were ready to go and waiting for him.


Jesse grabbed the baggage that Belle had quickly thrown together, then lifted his son and hoisted him up onto the seat. Sally clambered aboard in the back as Jesse turned to his wife.
 
Get into town as quickly as you can,” he told her needlessly. “I'll do what I can to secure our home until we get more men out here to stop this thing.”
 
Yes Jesse, alright,” Belle agreed, but her eyes were fearful and she couldn't bring herself to let go of her husband's sleeve. “What about Beth? She and T.J. are still out at their place!”
 
I know,” Jesse assured her and took her into an embrace. “I'll get warning to her if she doesn't already know.”
 
Ellie began to bark again and both people followed her direction. Three horses were galloping towards them as fast as they could go. Even in the dust, it was clear, one liver chestnut, one golden palomino and one flashy grey came into the yard full speed ahead.
 
Beth was pulling with all her might to get Daisy to stop, but the filly had her blood up and the bit was in her teeth. All she wanted to do was get back into her familiar pasture with all her buddies and leave that nasty burning smell behind her. She followed Karma and Percy right through the yard and up to the pasture gate where Buck, Fanny and Spike were anxiously welcoming them.
 
Monty started to dance and wanted to join in with the small herd as it galloped past him, but just like with Daisy before him, the brake on the carriage was holding him in place. Being older and wiser and more settled in his mind than the young filly, Monty knew when he was secured . Even so, he trembled with fear and every nerve was fired up and ready to run.
 
Jesse ran forward and catching up with the run-away filly, he grabbed her bridle and pulled her away from the gate.
 
Are you alright Beth?” he called to his daughter.
 
Yes Papa!” Beth assured him. “but there's fire out on the range!”
 
Yes, yes I know,” Jesse assured her. “You'll have to get into town with your mother. Pick up whoever you can along the way, but don't leave the road. You hear me?”
 
Yes Papa.”
 
Good!”
 
Opening the pasture gate, Jesse allowed Karma and Percy to gallop into the safety of a familiar enclosure and familiar friends. The five horses then galloped off to the far end of the field before turning and making sure nothing was chasing them.
 
What about the horses?” Beth asked as she turned Daisy away from the gate. “We can't just leave them here!”
 
Don't worry about them!” Jesse told her. “You just get yourselves and the children safely into town. If the fire gets too close I'll turn the horses loose. Buck's an old range horse, he'll know what to do.”
 
T.J. was still crying just to make sure that everyone was aware of how unhappy he was at the treatment he had been receiving this morning. Not only were his eyes and throat burning, but he was being jostled and jerked around in his bassinet without any concern for his comfort and peace of mind. He wailed his protests and yet his mother continued to ignore him.
 
Beth, with her father's help, got Daisy straightened out and facing the direction of town just as Monty came up level to them. Sally was crying because Fannie was not coming with them and she was certain the fire was going to get her beloved horse. J.J. was busy keeping the two little dogs in the back seat of the carriage with him, thinking that by some miracle his parents wouldn't know they were there.
 
Jesse hurried over to his wife and coming up onto the step, he leaned in and gave her a quick hug and kiss.
 
Be careful Jesse!” Belle told him.
 
I will,” Jesse assured her as he stepped back to the ground. “You take care as well. Go quickly and stick to the road!”
 
Yes!” Belle nodded and with tears in her eyes, she released Monty's mouth and the little pacer took off like a shot from a Sharpe's rifle. Daisy was not far behind him.
 
xxx
 
Harry, sit still.”
 
This is insulting!” Harry complained. “A man doesn't wear make-up!”
 
He does if he don't want his bride ta' know he got into a fight the night before his own weddin',” Jed pointed out after a sip of morning coffee.
 
Harry turned his head to respond to that but Tricia, with a sigh of exasperation, grabbed his chin and turned him to face her again.
 
Please Harry, sit still!” Tricia insisted. “I'm almost done, then no one will be able to tell you have a black eye.”
 
But what about tonight?” Harry asked, most indignantly. “Isabelle will know when we, when we...well you know.”
 
Let's just get through the ceremony first Harry, alright?” Tricia suggested as she patted on a bit more foundation. “I have a feeling Isabelle will be so relieved that she finally snagged....I mean found the right fella that she won't care about a black eye.”
 
Yeah Harry,” Jed contributed. “Women are funny that way. It's not that ya' got a black eye, it's you ruinin' her big day by showin' up with it that'll get her upset.”
 
Running feet interrupted this discussion as Nathanial galloped down the hallway and into the kitchen. He pulled up a chair and expected to be instantly fed. Then his little brow frowned in confusion.
 
Whatcha puttin' make-up on a man for?” he asked quite logically and then began to giggle. “I ain't never seen a man wearin' make-up before!”
 
Good heavens Nathan,” Tricia commented as she patted powder into the foundation. “what in the world is Miss Carlyle teaching you in school? You know better than to speak like that.”
 
Why?” asked Jed. “What was wrong with what he said?”
 
See?” Harry expostulated before Tricia could answer. “Even the boy knows that men don't wear make-up! This is downright embarrassin'!”
 
Tricia ignored him as she leaned back to admire her application.
 
There! What do you think Jed?”
 
Jed leaned over and scrutinized his friend's face.
 
Well?” Harry asked when Jed wasn't forthcoming.
 
Jed smiled. “Yeah, it looks good. I mean aside from the eye itself lookin' a little red, the rest of it looks great.”
 
Let me see!” Harry demanded, suddenly all curious about the outcome.
 
Tricia handed him her little mirror and Harry gave himself a thorough scrutiny.
 
Oh yeah, that does look good,” he agreed, then brought his finger up to poke at the skin and flinched at the pain that caused him.
 
Don't touch it!” Tricia told him with a laugh. “You'll wipe off all the make-up!”
 
Where did ya' learn how ta' do that?” Jed asked. “And if you tell me that David makes a habit 'a punchin' ya' then I think I'll just go outside and shoot myself.”
 
Tricia sent him a look but her retort was cut off by a voice from the hallway.
 
I resent that,” David commented. “Being a doctor, if I was going to hit my wife I would know how to do it so it wouldn't show!”
 
Oh yeah, 'a course,” Jed responded. “What was I thinkin'?”
 
Harry looked back and forth between the two men, not quite sure if they were serious or not. Tricia's next comment put his mind at ease.
 
Oh stop it you two,” she scolded as she began to clear away her make-up detritus. “David knows full well that I honed my skills with a make-up brush by helping some of the unfortunate ladies over at Flo's place. I feel so sorry for those girls, some of them get beat up so badly. I know Carl tries to stay on top of it and so does Flo! Nothing against her, she treats her girls very well, but some of the clientele—well, you just never know.”
 
An awkward silence followed that statement as bad memories flooded back into Jed's mind of a time when he was one of those unsavory clients at a whore house. Harry and Nathan who were both equally ignorant of that long past incident looked back and forth between the others wondering what the discomfort was all about.
 
Oh Jed, I'm sorry,” Tricia was truly apologetic. “I shouldn't have brought that up. I'm getting to be as bad as Miranda when it comes to putting my foot in my mouth.”
 
Jed smiled. “Yeah well, that's alright Tricia. What's done is done. Can't go back and change it. I'm glad you're able to help those ladies out.”
 
A loud wailing coming from the back bedroom caught everyone's attention and the mood was broken.
 
Oh dear,” David commented. “Sounds like Eleanor wants her breakfast.”
 
I want my breakfast!” Nathan seconded.
 
Me too!” Jed agreed with a laugh.
 
Well, if everybody else is eating!” Harry piped in.
 
Oh good heavens!” Tricia complained with a laugh. “I'll take care of Eleanor, David if you could get some bacon on. I don't suppose your family will be here for breakfast will they Jed?”
 
I kinda' doubt that,” Jed agreed. “It's not that they have far to come, but you know what it's like gettin' them young'uns corralled and dallied up for these things. I'm sure J.J. and Sally will be givin' Belle a run for her money.”
 
I'm sure,” Tricia commented as she disappeared down the hallway to tend to her demanding daughter.
 
The loud clanging of the school bell stopped everyone in their tracks.
 
What's that racket all about?” Harry asked. “It ain't a school day.”
 
Outside they heard a horse galloping along their street and Joe's voice yelling out as he rode by. “Everyone to the schoolhouse! The south range is on fire! Everyone to the schoolhouse!”
 
David was the first to react, running to his office to grab his emergency medical bag while Jed was on his feet and had Nathan up in his arms in an instant. Tricia quickly scooped up her complaining daughter and hurried back down the hallway towards the kitchen, but she stopped at the open door of her husband's office.
 
C'mon,” said Jed, encouraging her to keep moving. “Let's all of us get to the schoolhouse. We'll find out more over there.”
 
David!” Tricia called out protectively, “I doubt you're going to need medical supplies yet!”
 
I'm grabbing some essentials just in case!” came his voice from the office. “I'll be right there. You get going.”
 
Jed draped an arm over Tricia's shoulder, nodding to her to come with them as the group exited the house. Harry sat where he was and stared with some disbelief at the retreating back of his best man.
 
But,” he loudly protested to the empty room. “today's my weddin' day!”




To Be Continued.
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