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 Another Wedding

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Keays

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Posts : 1433
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Another Wedding   Sat Jan 02, 2016 9:06 pm

He really wasn't sure about all this.  Everything had happened so quickly.  Well, no, maybe not that quickly.  There had certainly been setbacks, plenty of time to re-think it all, plenty of time to change his mind.  But it seemed as though once that train got rolling, there was no stopping it.  His one minor attempt to derail the steam engine had resulted in a rather unfortunate situation.
 
Now, as he sat in his hotel room and gazed out at the early morning activity down in the town square, he felt a very familiar knot bunch up in his gut.  He had felt this knot many, many times before, and had always covered it up with layers of bravado and arrogant speech.  But he didn't think he was up to playing that game this time.  Too many people were counting on him.  Too many events were already in full swing.  And far be it for a Bannerman man to back out on his word.
 
Harry wasn't used to all this support, especially from people he hardly knew.  Many of them were treating him like a hero!  This was making him feel even more uncomfortable.  He was accustomed to being ridiculed, laughed at, and teased.  He was constantly being told he was a bumbling fool, to the point where it was now the most natural response to him.  He could deal with that.  Just puff up your chest and swagger around like you actually do know what you're doing.  It threw people off, made them give you another chance, made them doubt what their own common sense was telling them—if you were lucky.
 
It hadn't fooled Heyes and the Kid though.  Even before that Brimstone escapade was over and done with, those two boys had seen through his clever disguise.  They'd seen through it long before he himself had realized his vital mistake.  Yes, they'd had him alright.  Saw him for a fool and then played him for one.  He'd kicked himself over that blunder, more than once.  If only he'd seen it!  What a feather in his cap that would have been, to actually bring in Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry—and bring them in alive!  Yes, he could have lived on those laurels for the rest of his career.
 
Then he'd get over his self-condemnation and think about what had come of those events.  Who would have thought that a Bannerman man, and a pair of notorious outlaws could actually team up and be friends?  It simply did not add up, and yet, there it was.  Oh, it had started out rocky, that’s for sure.  Those boys had been slow to trust, and Harry probably hadn't helped it much by threatening to turn them in, by stealing from them, and leaving them to die of thirst in the desert.  But all that was water under the bridge now; they'd forgiven him for that, surely.  Of course they had!  He'd proven his worth when he had gotten them out from under that posse.  He'd played the game, and hadn't turned them in when he had the perfect chance to do so.  And there was the matter of his invaluable help in tracking down Harris.  There was a man who got what he deserved, and Harry had stared danger in the face and shown his worth. Yep.  They knew now what a good, solid friend he could be.
 
Harry sighed.  It was early morning still, yet many people, mainly women, were scurrying around the town square, putting up ribbons and organizing displays of flowers, even though many of the delicate plants were slightly singed and parched looking. Tables around the outside of the square were being set up and baskets of linen were arriving to be laid out to add some class and dignity to the impromptu chapel.  Dishes came out next, to be quickly dispersed and organized into the appropriate display.  Small woven baskets that would ultimately hold various types of home baked goods were strategically placed upon the tables, while vases of more flowers were set out to add color.
 
Everyone hoped the day would stay as warm and still as the morning was promising.  If rain or even a mild breeze came up, all of their attempts to beautify the area could be in vain.  But no one spoke of it, and the towns women folk were doing their utmost to make this wedding a special day for everyone.
 
The town needed this.  It had been a hell of a week, and everyone felt the need to find something to rejoice in.  Not only was it great news to most of the eligible men in the vicinity that Isabelle was finally getting married, but it was a chance for everyone to let off some steam.  To let their worries go, and embrace something fun and positive, even if just for a day.
 
So many had been injured.  Too many had died.  The damages to homes, property and businesses hadn't even been calculated yet.  But for now, for today, all but the worst of the worries were set aside and postponed.  The town was going to celebrate, and Harry's cold feet weren't going to stand in its way.
 
He turned from the window and stared at his surroundings.  These were his last fleeting moments as a bachelor, and he bit his lower lip, feeling that consternation again.  Was he doing the right thing?  He was so notorious for making the wrong choices, that now, he doubted himself.  What if she turned into a nagging anchor around his neck?  He’d seen that happen before—yessir!  All love and happiness at first, followed by misery, and taking on cases further and further afield just to be able to avoid the little woman at home.  Is that what he was setting himself up for?
 
Then his thoughts turned to his Peaches, and he smiled.  Even though no one was there to see him, his shoulders drew back, and his chest puffed up in pride.  She was pretty, in a late bloom sort of way.  And he loved the way her eyes lite up whenever she gazed upon him.  It made his heart skip with pleasure.  It’d been a long time since a pretty woman had looked at him that way.  Dang, even the not so pretty ones tended to turn their noses up at him.  He convinced himself that it didn’t bother him, he had his work, and that was all that mattered.  But when Isabelle looked at him with that look, wow, he realized how much he needed to have someone need him.
 
This was going to be a good day.  Everything was coming together.  The fire was out, so the risk of imminent danger was gone.  His friends, or at least the ones who mattered, had all stayed in town to attend the nuptials.  He did feel some regret that Heyes wouldn’t be here for the big day, and he hesitated on that note.  Now that the fire had already postponed the big day, Heyes would be back soon, and maybe they should wait…he cringed, and instantly vetoed that thought.  The memory of the episode that had followed his last suggestion that they wait, made him squirm with discomfort.  He couldn’t put his Peaches through that again.  He knew Heyes would be disappointed, but sometimes a man has to make a choice.
 
Xxx
 
Jed lie in bed, warm and comfortable, with no desire to get up and start the day.  His wife and son were nestled in close to him, and he held them gently in his arms, his and Beth’s legs lovingly intertwined beneath the covers.
 
Beth had arisen an hour previously to feed Thaddeus, but still feeling the desire for her husband’s warmth, she had returned to the cocoon of their bed.  T.J. had suckled on, as she had settled in once again, beside Jed, and he had sleepily rolled over, to cuddle them both in.  Now T.J. had finished his breakfast and was back to sleep again, so Jed and Beth remained gently embraced with the infant slumbering between them, secure in his parents’ love.
 
Sounds of breakfast preparations began to filter into their room, but none of the drowsy bed occupants opened their eyes or stirred to arise.  The most to be gotten from them, was a resigned sigh from Jed.
 
“I don’t want to get up,” he whispered, as he held his wife and son close.
 
Beth smiled, but still refused to open her eyes.
 
“I know,” she agreed.  “It is going to be a busy day though.  We should get on with it.”
 
Jed groaned. 
 
Nobody moved.
 
“What time is the wedding?”  Beth finally asked.
 
“11:00.”
 
“We should get up.”
 
Groan.
 
Awakened by his parents’ soft murmurings, Thaddeus yawned and stretched, his little hands making tiny fists as his face screwed into a grimace.  A loud, mushy fart invaded the sanctity of the bed, and both parents gagged and turned away from the squirming baby.
 
“Oh god!”  Jed complained as he waved a hand in front of his nose. “Please tell me he has his nappy on.”
 
“Yes, he does,” Beth assured him, but still pushed herself up and prepared to vacate the bed.  “Whoosh!  Oh my goodness.  Somebody’s going to need changing, as in right now!”
 
“Oh man!”  Jed continued to complain as he sat up and swung his legs off the bed.  “I thought Heyes was cruel with his wake up calls, but I don’t think even he could top that.”
 
Beth giggled as she scooped up her now complaining son.
 
“Are you saying that Miranda is getting more than she bargained for?”  she asked, innocently.
 
Jed snorted but made no comment.  He reached over to the side chair, and grabbing his items of clothing, quickly got himself dressed.  He turned around just in time to witness Beth unpinning the nappy and exposing the dirty deed, and the room expanded with the obnoxious odour.  She instantly dropped another small towel over her son’s privates, just as a stream of urine attempted to arch its way towards the ceiling.
 
“Ahh, you can handle this, right?”  he asked, with nose plugged, as he inched his way towards the bedroom door.
 
Beth smiled.  “Yes.  I’m fine.  I’ll see you out there in a few minutes.”
 
“Good,” Jed mumbled as he reached the door.  “You’re a marvel, Darlin’.  Runnin’ a gang ‘a outlaws was nothin’ compared to a mother’s job.”
 
And then he was gone.  Beth smiled and shook her head, as she tended to her son’s needs.
 
Xxx
 
Merle sighed quietly as she poured herself a cup of tea.  The first wave of breakfast consumers had gobbled down their oatmeal and then headed out on their various missions for the morning.  It was always a relief to get the children fed and out from under foot, and this morning was no exception.  The pot of oatmeal was quietly simmering, and the coffee pot was hot for when Jed finally decided to arise from repast.  Merle was surprised that the scraping of chairs, along with all the other chattering and scuffling that accompanied children having breakfast, hadn’t already aroused the slumbering couple.
           
Merle didn’t question it for long though.  She appreciated a quiet lull before the next wave and was going to take full advantage of it.  With tea cup in hand, she turned to have a seat at the table when a familiar softness of fur caressed itself against her calf.  She smiled, and reaching down, gave the small cat a scratch on the top of her head.
 
           
“There you are,” Merle greeted the resident feline.  “Wanting your breakfast as well, are you?”
 
           
“Merr.”
 
           
“At least you’re smart enough to wait until the children are all done.”
 
           
“Ack!”
 
Merle placed her tea cup onto the table, and turning back to the counter, she added a touch of cream to the small bowl of cooled oats, mixed it up good and set it down on the floor, out of harm’s way.
 
           
“There you go, missy, all ready for you.”
 
           
Merle gave the cat a solid stroke from the top of her head, all the way along her spine and ending with a slight tug at the end of her tail.  Mouse arched and dipped her spine along with the flow of the hand, and her purring increased and continued, as she tucked into her share of breakfast.  Merle sat down and sipped her tea as she absently watched the cat tend to its fare.
           
Odd that in just a few days, her attitude concerning a cat in the house and gone from definitely never, to ‘well, it’s their house’, then all the way to total acceptance and even appreciation of the company.  Mouse was her mother’s kitten, and she knew instinctively how to convince even the most hardened of criminals to like her, so one old woman, set in her ways, was hardly going to cause her any concern.
           
Merle thought about that for awhile.  If she was set in her ways, she’d certainly relaxed her attitudes since moving in with her son.  That had been a frightening step for a mother to make, and the first few months had had their share of challenges.  Was it a wise choice?  Would her son’s new wife accept her, or would she view her as a threat?  Many wives are fiercely protective of their husbands’ affections, and mothers-in-law are often on the top of that list of possible threats.
           
On top of that, Merle was stubbornly independent.  She hadn’t wanted to leave her little house in Wyoming.  It was her home, the place where she had begun her married life, where her son had been born, and where she had struggled to survive after her husband’s untimely death.  And she had succeeded too.  It was her triumph.  But she knew in her heart, that she was getting older, and even though she had caring and supportive neighbours, she knew that living alone was not wise at her stage of life.
           
Then her son had done well for himself.  The money he had received as part of the reward for helping to apprehend those two outlaws, had given him enough to buy his own home.  It wasn’t a huge place, and nor did it have lots of land, but it was a start for the newlyweds, and it had enough room for a growing family, and a mother-in-law.
           
Maribelle had had her own reservations about her new husband’s mother coming to live with them.  It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, but she had heard enough horror stories from friends and acquaintances, about the mother-in-law moving in and taking over control of the household.  Maribelle had finally gotten out of her parent’s house, and now had a home of her own to manage and take pride in.  The last thing she wanted was another ‘mother’ moving in and treating her like the daughter who didn’t know anything.
           
But then Maribelle had become in the family way, and she was having problems.  Sam was at his wits end; he had money in the bank, but he still needed to work in order to deep their income flowing.  He knew what it was like to go from affluent to poor, over night, and he was bound and determined to make sure that didn’t happen to his new family.  But he feared for Maribelle’s safety while he was away, and he struggled with the idea of taking time off work in order to stay with her.  The bottom line on this line of thought, though, was that he had no idea what to do to help her; she needed another woman in the house.  He sent a repeated appeal to his mother to please come and live with them.  It wasn’t just for her own well-being now, but for the welfare of Sam’s new family.  It would be an ideal situation for all concerned.
           
Merle still hesitated.  She didn’t want to sell the house that had been her home for so many years.  He husband was buried in the town’s cemetery, and all the memories of her adult life were tied up in this one place.  On top of that, one of the two outlaws whom Sam had had a hand in capturing, had actually been given an amnesty and was living right there in Sam’s back yard!  She’d never had much sympathy for outlaws, but after her husband had been killed, lack of sympathy had developed into all out vehemence.  How her son managed to live in that man’s shadow was difficult enough to comprehend, but for him to expect her to do the same was completely out of the question.
           
But Sam had been adamant.  They needed her there.  Maribelle was having a very difficult time and might even lose the baby.  Sam was scared—oh, he didn’t actually come out and say that, but a mother can tell.  Was one lowly outlaw going to keep her from coming to her son’s aide at a time like this?  By God, he was not!
           
Once her dander was up, it didn’t take her long to get organized.  Her house sold quickly, as the town was prospering and real estate was in demand.  She packed her bags and made arrangements for her furniture to be shipped along with her, because of course, her son wouldn’t have anything worthwhile, then bought a train ticket and headed for Colorado.
 
Tragically, she hadn’t been able to help Maribelle save her babies, but at least she was there to help the young couple through the tragedies.  Then they had done a surprising thing, and decided to adopt.  Now things couldn’t be going better.  Far from there being spiteful competition, Merle and Maribelle had developed a true mother/daughter relationship, and their friendship had grown from there.  Trust her son to marry a young lady who would fit so casually into their family values and lifestyle.  Her son’s new family was the best thing that could have happened for an aging lady, living alone.
 
Now, here she was, sitting in the home of one of those outlaws her son had helped to apprehend, and was awaiting the eminent awakening of the other, whom she had come to town already prepared to despise.  Funny, the path life takes you on, even when you think nothing new could happen to surprise you.  It had taken her a while to accept those two scoundrels as true citizens of the town.  Indeed, she wondered what had happened to her son, when he indicated a desire to not only befriend the pair, but to help the one get the other out of prison!  Her world had gone topsy-turvy.
 
Gradually though, she had come to accept Jed Curry as a young man who was truly repentant.  He was trying so hard to build a life for himself, that Merle found it impossible to continue to dislike him.  Then, when the other one, Hannibal Heyes, had finally been released and returned to the township, her heart, like so many others in the town, had gone out to him.  The young man himself hadn’t realized it, of course, but many in Brookswood felt sympathy towards him, once they saw the state of his degraded health and physical condition.
 
Then, there was all that hubbub concerning the vendetta, and poor young Beth Jordan had lost her first child.  So tragic.  But everyone had rallied around the young woman, and no one more than her husband, Jed Curry, and his partner, Hannibal Heyes.  They worked hard to find the culprit who was responsible for the mishaps that had befallen the town, and the town took notice.  They were both working hard to fit in and become a part of the community, and Merle couldn’t help but think that they had accomplished that.  She even tended to forget that they had once been outlaws.
 
Her reminiscing was suddenly interrupted when the bedroom door opened, and Jed Curry himself made a hasty entrance into the kitchen.  He was looking a little green around the gills.
 
“Jed,” she greeted him with a smile.  “You look like you’ve just walked into an outhouse that’s over-due for a digging out.”
 
Jed rolled his eyes.
 
“I think I’ll head out to the privy for a breath of fresh air,” he commented.  “How does a baby manage to send out such a…”  He was at a loss for words.
 
“They are marvelous little creatures, aren’t they?”  Merle responded with a smile.  “Oatmeal has been ready for ages.  The children are already done, and out getting their chores taken care of, so I thought the smell of coffee would get you two moving, if nothing else.”
 
“It was a smell alright,” Jed grumbled as he scratched his scalp.  “but it sure weren’t coffee.”
 
Merle smiled, knowingly.  “Well, at least it got you moving.  Were you planning on sleeping the whole day away?”
 
“Yeah, actually,” Jed confessed.  “Can’t think’a anything better to do.”
 
“Oh, come on now,” Merle chastised him.  “This is a big day for your friend.  Surely your own wedding day isn’t so far past, that you don’t remember how special it was.”
 
“Yeah, you’re right,” Jed agreed.  He yawned as he poured himself a cup of coffee and set about preparing another cup of the magical elixir for his wife.  “I’m sure that once I’m awake, I’ll get into the swing of things.”
 
“I’m sure you will,” Merle agreed.  “Now, would you like some breakfast?”
 
“I’ll wait for Beth,” Jed told her.  “Then we’ll get it ourselves.  You just sit and relax while you can.  Like you say; it’s gonna be a busy day.”
 
“Yes!”
 
“Awful quiet now though,” Jed observed after his initial sip of coffee.  “Where is everyone?”
 
“The whole household is way ahead of you folks this morning,” Merle chided gently.  “Maribelle has gone over to the Gibson’s place to give Trich a hand, and Carol went with her.  The boys are out tending to the horses and I’m sure, getting up to no end of mischief while they’re doing it.  And Sally is in the family room, reading a book.”
 
“Hmm,” Jed nodded over another sip.  “That girl do like ta’ read.”
 
“Yes.  I wonder where she gets that from.”
 
“Ha!”
 
The bedroom door opened, and the other half of the Curry family joined the couple in the kitchen.  Thaddeus was sitting on his mother’s hip, looking all cleaned up and pleased with himself.
 
“Hey, Darlin’,” Jed greeted her.  “Coffee?”
 
“I’m going to make a run to the privy first,” Beth announced.  “Then some coffee and oatmeal would be wonderful.”
 
“Good idea,” Jed agreed.  “I’ll be next.”
 
“Here, you entertain your son for a few minutes,” she suggested as she handed the infant over.  “I’ll be right back.”  She headed down the hall, towards the back door and took note to herself of how quiet the household was.  “Where is everybody?”  they heard her mumble, as she disappeared from the room.
 
Jed and Merle exchanged a smile while Thaddeus gurgled happily and began to play with his papa’s nose.
 
Xxx
 
“Oh, my!”  Bridget exclaimed as soon as she had crossed the threshold into Gladys’ bedroom.  “What have you done!”
 
“What do you mean?”  Isabelle demanded, feeling insulted.  “It’s beautiful.”
 
“You’ve ruined it!”  Bridget wailed.  “Oh no, Mama’s going to have a fit.”
 
“Ruined it?”  Gladys challenged her.  “We improved it.  It’s one of a kind.”
 
Bridget’s eyes nearly watered up in tears as she viewed the fruit tree that now graced the body of the bride-to-be.  What had once been an elegant, pearl and lace wedding gown, was now demoted to peach colored dollar size buttons, an abundance of lace and over-sized ribbons and bows that managed to turn a beloved family heirloom into an explosion of garish fruit fluff.
 
Isabelle frowned in confusion.  Her dress was the most beautiful thing she had even adorned.  Why was Bridget so upset?  Besides, everything they had stitched onto it, could be just as easily removed after the ceremony.  Really!  Bridget was just being a prima donna.  She was jealous, that was all.  Jealous that someone else had been able to turn the old out-of-date gown into something chic and modern, and set upon a bride who could wear it with panache. 
 
The Jordan girls always had been such children.  Hadn’t she told Jed just that?  But did he listen to her?  No!  He’d gone ahead and married that silly Beth anyways.  Well it serves him right, now.  Thank goodness!  In hindsight, she realized how close she had come to making a huge mistake in flirting with either one of those unscrupulous men.  It’s not surprising that all they could get was a girl who was too young to know any better, and an old widow who realized she’d better take whatever was offered, or risk remaining alone forever.
 
But Isabelle had done very well for herself, indeed.  A detective!  She still couldn’t quite believe her good fortune.  Harry was such a gentleman, and so gracious!  He treated her with respect.  Hadn’t he proved his love when he stood up to her father like that?  Most of the men who had come courting her had been afraid of her father.  He sent most of them packing, and then blamed her for it!  But not Harry.  No sir.  He’d stood up to her papa like a husband should, and showed the whole town what a brave man he was.  Not that he had to prove anything there, what with all he’d done to help with the fire, and then rescue Mr. Jordan, to boot. 
 
Oh yes, she was going to have herself a fine husband, and now here was this silly young woman having a temper tantrum over a dress!  And on her wedding day!  The Jordans were bound and determined to ruin this special day for her.  She thought it was a compliment, asking Mr. Jordan to give her away, but apparently he didn’t seem to think so.  Bridget said he was too injured to accept the honor, but Isabelle had her suspicions.  All he had to do was stand up beside her during the ceremony.  Just how hard could that be?
 
Her expression darkened, and she almost stamped her foot with irritation.
 
“Don’t frown!”  Eugene scolded her.  “You’ll ruin the make-up, and we had a hard enough time covering up that bruise.”
 
“Yes, yes, of course,” Isabelle agreed as she smoothed out her features.  “Sorry, I forgot.  I certainly want to look my best for today.”
 
“You do,” Eugene seconded.  “Don’t even smile.”
 
Isabelle sighed dramatically. 
 
“I’m expected to smile on my wedding day!”  she insisted.  “How can I get married, and not be smiling about it?”
 
“Well…just don’t smile until after the ceremony,” Gladys told her.  “It won’t matter after that.”
 
“How much time before it begins?”  Isabelle asked.
 
“We have an hour yet,” Eugene informed her.  “We’re fine.”
 
“Fine!?”  Isabelle wailed.  “I don’t have my bouquet, and I don’t have anyone to give me away!  How is that fine?”
 
“You know that Mrs. Gilmore has put together a bouquet for you,” Gladys reminded her.  “I’ll pick it up at the mercantile store on our way to the town square.”
 
“But I haven’t even seen it yet!”  Isabelle complained.  “What does she know about putting together a wedding bouquet?  All she and her husband do is run the store.  Hardly what I would call being organized, or understanding anything about presentation.”
 
“I’m sure it will be fine,” Gladys soothed her.  “She even made up some boutonnieres for the men.”
 
Isabelle snorted.  “As long as Jed remembers to pick them up.”
 
“He won’t forget,” Bridget assured her, though she was tempted to go and tell Jed not to bother.  “If you like, I can go collect the bouquets now.  Then you can put your fears to rest.”
 
“Oh, would you!?”  Isabelle brightened up.  “That would be so sweet of you.”
 
“Yes, I’ll go and get them,” Bridget confirmed, feeling relieved at having an excuse to leave.  “I won’t be but a moment.”
 
“And if you wouldn’t mind, finding someone suitable to give me away, as well!”  Isabelle called after her, just as the bedroom door closed.  “You’re such a dear!
 
Xxx
 
Bridget rolled her eyes as she headed out the front door of the house.  Interesting how the men of this household were staying scarce during the wedding preparations.  Find someone to give her away!  What was she, the wedding planner?  On the up side, pretty much the whole town would probably like to give Isabelle away, the trick was to find someone who would do it officially.  Then she spotted Sheriff Jacobs.
 
“Sheriff!”  she called out to him, stopping him on his way back to his office.  “Sheriff Jacobs, may I speak with you for a moment?”
 
Jacobs smiled and tipped his hat.
 
“What can I do for you, Miss Jordan?  Or should I say Mrs. Granger.  Sorry,” he smiled deprecatingly.  “I always have a hard time adjusting to the young people in this town, growing up and moving on.  Kind’a reminds me of how old I am.”
 
“You could go back to calling me Bridget,” she suggested, with a hint of a smile.  “I admit to feeling disappointed when you stopped doing that.”
 
“It’s not polite to refer to a young lady by her given name,” Jacobs pointed out to her. “When you’re a young’un, that’s one thing, but not once you come of age.”
 
“But you refer to Isabelle by her given name,” Bridget reminded him. “What’s the difference?”
 
“Hmm,” Jacobs scratched his chin in thought.  “I suppose you got me there.  It’s probably because I never got to thinking of Isabelle as grown up.  Yet, here she is about to become a Mrs.”
 
“Oddly enough, I wanted to talk with you about something right along those lines,” Bridget warmed up to her topic.
 
“Ah, yes,” Jacobs agreed.  “Another wedding.  Nice to see the town getting behind it, the way they are.  Should be one hell of a…I mean, one real nice party.”
 
 “Yes, I’m sure it will be,” Bridget agreed.  “However, we seem to be short one of the key players in the wedding ceremony, and I was wondering, since you know a little of Isabelle’s history, and since you have always tried to be supportive of her, in her dire circumstances, that perhaps… well, I mean, since my father is laid up and isn’t likely to make it to the wedding, let alone…well, I was hoping…”
 
Jacobs sighed and pushed his hat back on his head.  He gave the young lady before him a look that suggested that she get to the point.
 
Bridget braced herself to be laughed at, then spit it out.  “Would you be willing to give Isabelle away during the ceremony today?”
 
Much to her surprise, Jacobs’ expression turned to surprise and then a smile spread across his features.
 
“Well now, I’d be honored,” he said.  “Goodness knows that child has been through a hell of a life, living with ole’ man Baird.  I’m not sure what kind of a husband Briscoe is gonna make, but it’s gotta be a sight better than what she’s got now.  Briscoe don’t strike me as a violent man.”
 
“No!”  Bridget was quick to agree, feeling relieved that her suggestion was actually being accepted.  “I have known Mr. Briscoe for some time now, not to mention both Hannibal and Jed have known him for years.  They may not always see eye to eye, but neither have ever accused Mr. Briscoe of being violent.  At least, they haven’t mentioned any such thing to me.  I’m sure he will treat her far better than her father has done.”
 
“I hope you’re right.”  He smiled and puffed up his chest.  “It’s a good thing I’ve already got on my goin’ to church duds, for the wedding, I mean.  I don’t get much chance to go to church.  But I suppose they’ll do alright for giving away the bride.  Where is she, anyway?”
 
“She’s over at Gladys’ house,” Bridget informed him.  “I’m on my way to pick up the bouquets, so I can bring along your boutonniere as well.”
 
“Well, I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to go barging in on those ladies just yet,” Jacobs surmised.  “I have a few things to check on, and then I’ll meet all you ‘young ladies’ in the front hallway.  How’s that?”
 
“That should be just about right,” Bridget agreed.  “But, please—don’t be late!”
 
Jacobs laughed out loud.  “I promise.”
 
“And Sheriff,” Bridget continued.  “we’ve known each other for years, so please, call me Bridget.”
 
The sheriff politely tipped his hat.  “Yes, ma’am.”
 
Xxx
 
“C’mon, Harry,” Jed pushed, as his friend still lingered in front of the mirror.  “Ya don’t wanna be makin’ your bride wait for ya’ at the alter.”
 
Harry was frowning at his reflection, and wasn’t in any hurry to respond to Jed’s nagging.
 
“I donno, Kid,” he grumbled.  “I still think I should’a got the doctor’s wife to cover up these bruises.  I look like a ruffian.”
 
“Ya look fine, Harry,” Jed insisted.  “We all got our share of bruises.  You’ll fit right in.  Besides, I think Isabelle likes it.”
 
Harry smiled, instantly brightening.  “Really?”
 
“Yeah, really,” Jed concurred.  “C’mon, will ya?  We still gotta pick up the boutonnieres.”
 
A knocking on the door caught Jed’s attention, and he turned to open it.  It didn’t seem to matter how hard Wheat and Kyle tried to clean themselves up, they still came across as looking like transients, wearing suits freshly pulled out of saddlebags.  The addition of bruises, cuts, and bandaging, completed the established image of a pair of bedraggled miscreants.  Young Mr. Ames, who was doing his best to disappear into the background, was showing all indications of following in his heroes’ footsteps.
 
“Hey ya’, Kid,” Wheat greeted the doorman.  “Ah, we done run into Mrs. Granger, out there in the street, and she asked us ta’ bring these up to ya’.”  He presented two small boxes, which apparently, contained the aforementioned boutonnieres intended for the groom and his best man.  “Don’t see why a man’s gotta wear a flower, just ‘couse he’s getting married, though.”
 
“Yeah,” Kyle grinned.  “Seems kinda womanly ta me.  Sur glad I didn’t have ta carry ‘em.”
 
“Only ‘cause your hands are still bandaged up,” Wheat snarked at him.  “You’d probably end up crushin’ ‘em.”  A look of sudden awareness took over his face, and he looked over his shoulder at Ames.  “Dammit! I shoulda given ‘em to you to carry.  What the hell was I thinkin’?”
 
Panic erupted in Ames’ eyes as the older man started to turn, with all appearances of handing the offensive duty over to the junior member.  Jed quickly caught his arm, and brought his attention back to the forefront.
 
“Wheat, just give them to me!”  he told him.  “Then you boys get on down to the square.  What’s it lookin like down there, anyway?”
 
“Crowded,” Wheat told him.
 
“Yeah,” Kyle agreed.  “Looks like everybody and their dog has come fer this shindig.  There oughta be one hell of a party later on!”
 
Harry’s face appeared over the Kid’s shoulder, his good eye narrowed to a suspicious slit.
 
“Everybody?”  he asked.  “We didn’t invite everybody!  How are we gonna…”
 
“Don’t worry about it, Harry,” Jed told him.  “Like we were sayin; the town’s ready for a party.  I really don’t think you have much say in it anymore.”
 
“Well that’s a fine howdy-do!”  Harry complained.  “My own weddin’, and I ain’t got no say?”
 
“Just be thankful, people are showin’ up,” Jed reminded him.  “C’mon, Harry.  Go with the flow, will ya’?  I have a feelin’ everything’s gonna work out fine.”
 
“Well yeah, but…”
 
“See you boys down there,” Jed told his men, and promptly closed the door on them.  “C’mon, Harry.  Let’s get these things pinned on, so we can get down there, or Isabelle is gonna be havin’ a hissy fit.”
 
“I still think I need the doctor’s wife to…ouch!”
 
“Sorry.  Just stand still, will ya’?”
 
Xxx
 
“Oh, thank goodness, you’re back!”  Isabelle snarked, as Bridget entered the bedroom, carrying the bouquets and one more boutonniere.  “I was beginning to think that I would have to get married without the final touches.”
 
“You’re fine, Isabelle,” Bridget assured her, putting the bride’s rudeness down to nerves.  “Harry and Jed aren’t down yet, so you can relax for a moment.”
 
“He’s not down there yet?”  she queried, alarm showing in her dark eyes.  “What if he’s run off?  What if he’s decided that he doesn’t want to get married after all?”
 
“I doubt that Jed would let him do that,” Bridget commented, but realized that this probably wasn’t the assurance that Isabelle had been fishing for.  “Besides, I’m sure he wants to marry you.  He would have backed out ages ago, if he was going to.”
 
“Yes.  Yes, I suppose you’re right,” Isabelle agreed.  “Gladys, be a dear, and go wait at the square.  Let me know as soon as Harry comes down.”
 
“But I’m your matron of honor!”  Gladys complained.  “Why can’t Bridget do that.”
 
“Because Bridget has to hold the bouquets until we’re ready to take them!”  Isabelle told her.  “I’m not having my flowers crushed! Now go, go…we won’t leave until you come back anyway!”
 
Gladys huffed in indignation, but yanked open the door anyway.  She was just about to make a dramatic exit, when she was brought up short by the arrival of her husband.
 
“Oh.”  She smiled sweetly.  “Is something wrong, dear?”
 
“I hope not,” the long-suffering man stated.  “Sheriff Jacobs is in the front hall.  He says, to see Isabelle.”
 
Isabelle’s hand went to her bosom in alarm.  “Sheriff Jacobs—to see me?”
 
“Oh!”  Bridget cut in.  “Yes.  He’s agreed to give you away.  He actually appeared honored to be asked.”
 
“Really?”  Isabelle’s eyes widen with happy surprise.  “Oh my, how lovely of him!”  She gave herself another quick check over in the mirror, and then hiking up the hem of her dress, she rustled and flounced her way out of the room and down to the front hall.  “Sheriff Jacobs!”  she greeted him, and then stretched up to give him a kiss on his cheek.  “How kind of you to take time out of your busy day, for little me.”
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Keays

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Posts : 1433
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Re: Another Wedding   Sat Jan 02, 2016 9:08 pm

Jacobs smiled and actually blushed a little bit, at the feminine attention.  “It’s an honor, Miss Isabelle,” he told her.  “Can’t have you walking to the alter all on your own.  That wouldn’t be proper, even if it is outdoors, even if it is going to be outdoors, and the alter is the horse trough…”
 
“You’re quite right,” Isabelle agreed, and she sent a scathing look back at Bridget.  “I didn’t know what I was going to do, when Mr. Jordan backed out.”
 
“Now, don’t you go blaming him, Miss Isabelle,” Jacobs told her.  “I’m sure he’s just as disappointed as you are.”
 
“Well, perhaps.”
 
“Here, Sheriff,” Bridget came forward, rearranging the bouquets in order to free up a hand.  “Here’s your boutonniere.”
 
“Oh, thank you, Bridget.”
 
“I’ll pin it on him,” Isabelle insisted, as she snatched the small box away from Bridget.  “You have your hands full anyway.”
 
Gladys and Eugene burst through the front door, all breathless and excited.
 
“He’s in the square!”  Eugene announced.  “Harry and Jed are there now, waiting for you.  And oh my, he looks so handsome.”
 
Isabelle smiled haughtily, as she pinned the boutonniere to the Sheriff’s lapel.  “Yes, I am getting a very handsome husband, aren’t I?”
 
“Oh!”  Eugene backed off a little.  “Actually, I meant Jed.  But Harry is a very fine looking man, as well.”
 
Isabelle sent her a scathing look, and Eugene quickly changed the subject.
 
“Oh!  Our bouquets!”  she exclaimed, and hurried forward to make claim on hers.  “They are so lovely.  Here Gladys, take yours.”
 
“Actually, since I’m the matron of honor, I get the larger of those two,” Gladys pointed out.  “You get the small one.”
 
“Oh, yes, of course.” Eugene smiled.  “How silly of me.”
 
“You better take yours, Isabelle,” Bridget suggested.  “I need to go meet up with my husband.”  She hesitated, but then did what she knew was expected of her.  She stepped forward and gave Isabelle a kiss on the unbruised side of her face.  “You’re a lovely bride, and Harry will make a fine husband.  You enjoy this day.”
 
“Why, thank you, Bridget,” Isabelle responded, smiling her pleasure.  “And thank you, for all your help.”
 
“That’s alright,” Bridget said.  “I’ll see you all later on.”  Then stepping around the wedding party, she hastily made her exit, and went in search of Steven. 
 
Bridget got onto the main street, and paused for a moment to decide which way to go.  To her left was the town square, where she could see the flood of people all gathered around on the grassy knoll.  The ladies in the town had been busy, putting up ribbons and flowers, and getting tables and chairs set up for the reception luncheon.  It almost looked as though the circus had come to town, with all the decorations, and children running around and playing. Sounds of conversation and festive laughter met her ears as everyone was anticipating the upcoming event. 
 
To her right, was the road that lead to David’s house, and where she and Steven had agreed to meet.  The family had intended to all go down to the square together, but now, time was running short.  Would her family still be at the house, or would they have already made their way to the site of the nuptials?  If she headed to the house first, she might miss the ceremony, but if her family were waiting there for her, then to ignore them would be very rude.
 
Much to her relief, she heard her name being called from the direction of the square, and turning, she spied her husband waving at her from the sidelines.  She smiled, and hiking up her skirts, she ran, most unladylike, to go meet up with him
 
“Thank goodness!”  she exclaimed as she clasped his hand.  “I wasn’t sure which way to go.”
 
“We figured you were detained,” Steven explained.  “Everyone else has gone to find a good place for us to view the event, but I offered to stand on watch for you.  Can’t have you missing the ceremony after all you have done to make it happen.”
 
“You’re a dear,” Bridget told him.  “Is Mama doing alright?”
 
“Yes, she’s fine,” Steven assured her.  “Your father was awake just before we left, and he told her to go, and have a good time.  He would just sleep.  David was going to stay behind, with him, but Merle would have none of that.  She offered to stay, and keep watch, so everyone else could come.”
 
“That was sweet of her,” Bridget responded.  “I hope she doesn’t mind, too much.”
 
“Basically, she said that she was relieved to not have to come, since she wasn’t that fond of Isabelle, anyway,” Steven confided in her.  “But perhaps your mother will head back in a little while, to take over, so Merle can still enjoy some of the festivities.”
 
“Yes.  We can all do that,” Bridget agreed.  “Then nobody will get left out.  Oh!  There they are!”
 
Bridget had just spotted Beth waving at them from up front, near where Reverend Sykes was calmly discussing the details with Harry and Jed. 
 
Bridget and Steven picked up the pace, and quickly joined the rest of their family.
 
“Thank goodness, you made it!”  Beth said.  “Is everything alright?”
 
“Yes,” Bridget assured her.  “Just the usual jitters, you know.”   She went over to give her mother a hug.  “Be prepared,” she warned her.  “I can’t believe what Isabelle as done to our dress, but I’m sure we can put it all back to rights, once the ceremony is over.”
 
“I’m sure we can,” Belle answered.  “How bad can it be?”
 
“Well…”
 
“Oh my goodness!”  Belle exclaimed, and all eyes turned in the direction of the approaching bridal party.  “She looks like a peach cream puff that grew feathers!”
 
“I’m sorry, Mama,” Bridget whispered. “I should never have offered it.”
 
“Oh well,” Belle smiled and patted her daughter’s arm.  “Don’t worry about it.  A wedding dress is meant to be handed down, and it’s only fitting that each bride adds her own special signature to it.  It’ll be fine.”
 
Bridget sighed, and she and Beth exchanged worried looks.
 
“I think it looks beautiful,” Sally added from her position, atop the park bench.  “I like weddings.”
 
“Hello everyone,” came Martha’s voice from behind the group.  “We were hoping to find you, before the ceremony got started.
 
Lom and Martha, along with Kenny and Sarah had been casually walking around, enjoying the sights, while they kept an eye out for the Jordan clan.  Having spotted them, they made a hurried approach, and now settled in to await the bride.
 
All eyes were now upon the bride, as she made her way down the boardwalk, towards where the groom and his best man awaited her.  Isabelle was smiling with ecstatic pleasure.  She was the center of all the attention, and she intended to make the most of it.  Sheriff Jacobs was looking plenty pleased himself, and walked along, with the bride on his arm, looking as proud as any honorable father would be, on such an occasion.
 
“Oh dear,” Sarah commented.  “She looks like a floating fruit bowl.  Is that your dress, Belle?”
 
“It was,” Belle confirmed.  “She has certainly turned it into an original design, hasn’t she?”
 
“I’ll say,” Martha agreed.  “Still, it’s her day.  And I think it’s fair to say that nobody is going to take it away from her.”
 
“But what’s wrong with it?”  Sally asked.  “I think it’s pretty.”
 
“That’s because you only read books about princesses and such,” Carol pointed out.  “Real people don’t wear dresses like that.”
 
“Why not?”  Sally asked again.  “And I don’t just read books about princesses.  I read lots of different books.”
 
“Hush, you two,” Maribelle told them.  “The ceremony is about to begin.”
 
Xxx
 
Wheat, Kyle and Ames tried to make a discreet exit from the hotel after dropping off the all important boxes to the groom and his best man.  Unfortunately, they only got as far as the lobby, when they came up nose to nose with Lom and Kenny, who, with their wives, were also heading out for the event.  The three ex-outlaws were brought up short, and the two smaller ones of the three, backed off and diverted their eyes to anywhere other than Warden Reece.
 
“Eh, howdy Lom,” Wheat greeted their old friend.  “Heading out for the weddin’, are ya’?”
 
“Yeah,” Lom admitted.  “Though we were going to make sure that the Kid was alright, before we got out there.”
 
“Oh ah, yeah, he’s fine,” Wheat assured them, then tipped his hat to the ladies present.  “Howdy.”
 
“Hello, Mr. Carlson,” Martha greeted him, and then smiled at Kyle.  “Hello Mr. Murtry.  Are you still reading your books?”
 
Kyle grinned like a schoolboy.  “Yes ma’am,” he assured her.  “I’ve been readin’ lots.  I’m even teachin’ Ames here how ta’ write his letters.”
 
Everyone’s attention was diverted to Mr. Ames, who instantly colored up and looked down at his toes.
 
“That’s wonderful!”  Martha exclaimed.  “There’s little point in having knowledge, if you can’t pass it on.”
 
“That’s good to hear, Mr. Murtry,” Kenny told him.  “Keep it up.”
 
“Yessir, Warden.”
 
“You gentlemen are looking dapper, this morning,” Sarah complimented them.  “Nothing like a wedding to bring the best out in everyone.”
 
All three of the indicated gentlemen, shuffled their feet, and seemed at a loss for words.
 
“Yeah, thank you,” Wheat finally spoke up for them all.  “Can’t be showin up at a friend’s weddin’, lookin’ like yesterday’s washin, now can we?”
 
“No, indeed, Mr. Carlson,” Sarah agreed.
 
“We best be getting out there,” Lom interrupted.  “Before the ceremony starts without us.  See you later, boys.  Stay out of trouble now.”
 
“Yeah, sure, Lom,” Wheat agreed.  “We won’t be causin’ no trouble at all.  Will we boys?”
 
“Shoot, no!”  Kyle seconded.  “We’s just here fer a good time.”
 
“How about you, Mr. Ames?”  Kenny questioned the youngster.  “I know how these big gatherings can get you started.  Are you handling things alright?”
 
“Oh.”  Ames looked up, alarm showing in his eyes at being singled out by the warden.  “No sir.  I mean, yessir.  I mean…”
 
“He’s doin’ real good, Mr. Reece, sir,” Kyle assured the warden.  “He ain’t gonna do nothin’.  Are ya’, Ames?”
 
“No!”  Ames was adamant.  “I won’t do nothin’!”
 
“Oh, Kenny, stop it,” Sarah reprimanded her husband.  “You’re scaring the poor boy.  You don’t have to be the warden all the time, you know.”
 
“I was just making sure that he was feeling comfortable with this situation,” Kenny defended himself.  “I don’t want to see any of these fellas back in my care.”
 
“He was doing alright, until you started bullying him” Sarah pointed out.
 
“Bullying…?”
 
Sarah stepped forward and gave Ames’ arm a hug.  “Don’t you worry about him,” she told the boy.  “He’s still not recovered from his injuries.  You go on out there, and have a good time with your friends.”
 
Ames grinned from ear to ear, feeling honored that the warden’s wife was actually holding his hand.  “Yes ma’am,” he assured her.  “And you got nothin’ ta’ worry about.  I’m doin’ real well.”
 
“Yeah, ah, come on,” Wheat interrupted.  “Let’s get on out there, before all the good spots are taken.”
 
“Yeah!”  Kyle agreed.  “Ah, see ya’ later Lom, Mrs. Trevors.”
 
All three tipped their hats to the other group, and then made a hasty retreat, out the front door of the hotel.
 
Lom couldn’t help the grin that spread over his face, while Kenny was still struggling with the shock of his wife undermining him.
 
“What did you do that for?”  he asked her.  “I was just giving him a reminder.”
 
“You were bullying him,” Sarah insisted, then smiled as she nestled up to him, and hugged his uninjured arm.  “You need to know when to let go of these fellas.  He’s with his friends; they won’t let him get up to any mischief.”
 
Lom’s grin turned into a full laugh.
 
“Oh, stop it!”  Martha insisted.  “Ames seems a nice enough young man, underneath it all.  He really does seem to be trying.”
 
“I know he’s trying,” Lom agreed.  “but Wheat and Kyle can get up to enough mischief on their own, without having a firebug in their midst.”
 
The two ladies looked exasperated, while Kenny smiled, feeling that he’d been exonerated.  Sometimes, it took another lawman to understand the true nature of things.  But then, he sobered, and considered the three men exiting the hotel.
 
“I must admit, they are doing well,” he commented.  “Though Mr. Carlson is gruff with him, he does seem to have taken Mr. Ames under his wing.  Perhaps giving him the guidance that he never had before.  Someone to look up to.  It’s a good thing.”
 
“I never would have thought of Wheat Carlson as anyone’s mentor,” Lom admitted.  “But you do have a point.  As long as all three of ‘em don’t start getting’ ideas…”
 
“Oh, you two!”  Martha interrupted her husband.  “Leave your work at home, for once.  Look!  Here comes Harry and Jed.  We must hurry now, if we want to get out there, and settled before they arrive on the scene.”
 
The group sent waves and nods to the men coming down the stairs, and then made a discreet exit out of the hotel, to go and find a place for themselves.
 
Xxx
 
 
Wheat, Kyle and Ames got themselves situated close to where the food was being laid out.  Far be it for them to be late for the vittles just because of a silly wedding.  Ames was still looking pleased that Sarah had stood up for him against such an opposing figure as the warden, even if he was all covered in bruises and bandages.  The fact that Sarah was the warden’s wife, and quite accustomed to putting him in his place, never even occurred to him.  Kyle was still feeling a warm glow over Martha’s kind words.  He sur did like her.  She was always so nice to him.  Wheat was busy scanning the crowd, looking for any wallets or handbags that were being left unattended—just out of habit, of course.
 
Once they were settled, all three sets of eyes were drawn to the enticing picnic area, and all three men began to salivate.  The whole town had again, come together to make sure this wedding went off without a hitch.  Whether it was because they were happy to see Isabelle finally married off, or because they felt some gratitude towards the groom and his friends, for their part in fighting the fire, could never truly be ascertained.  But whatever the reason for it, there would be no shortage of food for the receptions.  Salads, and chicken, and not to mention various types of baked goods, and even a frosted wedding cake, with peach colored icing, had found their way to the center table. 
 
On top of all that, there was also the roasted pork brought in that morning by the Robertsons.  It seems that Floyd and his son had spent the whole previous day, tending to that pig.  And then Helena and their daughter had gotten busy preparing the meat to be brought in for the festivities.  There was going to be plenty to eat.
 
The three men eyed the slabs of pork as the aroma of the roasted meat and freshly baked breads wafted its way over the gathering.  Still, they managed to keep their appetites under control, until the time was appropriate.  Even a gaggle of ex-outlaws knows a thing or two about etiquette. 
 
“That sure is a sight ta see, ain’t it?”  Wheat asked, as they watched the bride being handed off to her groom.  “Ole’ Harry looks like he’s seein’ a prairie chicken with the pox.”
 
“I think she looks purdy,” Kyle commented around his chaw.  “I sure wouldn’t mind a gal like that.”
 
“Yeah,” Ames agreed.  “She looks like a little flame, just gettin’ ready ta’ burst inta’ light.”
 
Wheat and Kyle turned to look at their underling.
 
“Do you have ta’ relate everything to fire?”  Wheat asked him.  “We’re at a weddin’, fer Christ’s sake, not a damn barn burnin’!”
 
Ames looked hurt, and bit his lower lip.  Kyle stood up for him.
 
“He don’t mean nothin’, Wheat,” he said.  “And he’s kinda right.  She do look like she’s about ta’ explode inta one a them fruity drinks.”
 
Wheat snorted.  “Yeah, ya got a point there.”  Wheat grinned and elbowed Kyle in the ribs.  “Look it there, he’s so dang nervous, he dropped the ring.”
 
“Hee, hee!”  Kyle laughed.  “Now, ain’t that a sight?  Two ‘a ‘em down on their hands and knees, tryin’ ta’ find it!”
 
“Miss Isabelle don’t look pleased,” Ames noticed.  “She ain’t gonna stomp off, is she?”
 
“She do seem to be buildin’ up a head a steam,” Wheat observed.  “This could get interestin’.”
 
“There goes the sheriff,” Kyle added, as he chewed excitedly on his tobacco.  “Down on his knees too.  Woo hoo!  This could turn int’a an interestin’ day after all!”
 
“Aww, dang it!”  Wheat cursed.  “Kid’s found it.  Trust him to ruin all the fun.”
 
“She still don’t look too happy, though,” Ames added.  “Looks like the reverend’s tryin’ ta hurry things along.”
 
“Harry’s fumblin’ the ring again,” Wheat informed them, disgust beginning to show in his tone.  “Sure hope he handles himself better in the weddin’ bed.”
 
Kyle and Ames both chortled over that.
 
“Wow!  Lookie at that!”  Kyle exclaimed.  “The Kid sur is fast.  He done caught that ring in mid-air.”
 
“Miss Isabelle’s turnin’ red,” Ames stated.  “We just might have a bon fire after all.”
 
“Harry’s tryin’ agin,” Kyle said.  “Maybe, three times lucky.”
 
“Damn,” Wheat cursed.  “Ole’ Kid’s havin’ ta’ hold Harry’s hand steady.  There we go, that’s done it.  Maybe Harry should take Kid with them tonight, help him ta get the job done.”
 
Kyle’s lopsided grin spread across his face as the visual picture took hold.  “Maybe he could use more ‘n just the Kid’s help.”
 
“Yeah,” Ames agreed.  “Maybe they could use a couple ‘a more hands.”
 
“Nah, that’s just gettin’ greedy,” Wheat countered.  “I’m sure the Kid can handle it.  Probably wouldn’t get much complainin’ from the young lady, neither.”
 
All three men broke up into lusty guffawing, until nasty looks from some of the other guests warned them to have some respect.
 
“Yeah, well…”  Wheat puffed himself up and settled his buddies.  “Ah, I’m sure Harry won’t have no trouble.  ‘Sides, I expect we’ll be busy with our own entertainment, tonight.  Ain’t that right, Kyle?”
 
Kyle sent a longing glance towards the lower end of town, and his grin grew.  “Yeah, I expect you’re right, Wheat.  Them ladies is getting’ to where they’s expectin’ us.  Wouldn’t do ta’ go lettin’ em down.  Havin my hands all bandaged up, don’t seem ta’ get in the way ‘a that activity, at all.”
 
Ames snickered into his hand.
 
Xxx
 
“Oh, good heavens!”  Tricia covered her mouth to stifle a laugh.
 
“Did Harry just drop the ring?”  David asked, not quite believing his eyes.
 
Beth and Bridget turned and nearly fell into each other in their mirth.
 
“Shh, girls!”  Belle reprimanded them.  “Behave like the young ladies you are.  This isn’t funny.”
 
“Yes, Mama.”
 
“Sorry, Mama.”
 
But then they started laughing again, and even Belle couldn’t stop the smile that forced itself onto her face.
 
“What are they doing?”  asked Sally.  “Are Mr. Briscoe and Uncle Jed suppose to be down on their knees?  I thought only the groom did that, and only when he asks the lady to marry him.  Is Uncle Jed going to be marrying her too?”
 
“No!  Don’t be silly!”  Carol told her.  “Mr. Briscoe dropped the ring.  They’re both trying to find it.”
 
“And there goes Carl, down to help,” David observed.
 
“Jed’s found it!”  Maribelle announced.  “Thank goodness.  That could have proved embarrassing.”
 
“By the look on Isabelle’s face, I think it already has,” Tricia pointed out.  “Oh dear.  I hope the rest of the ceremony goes without a hitch.”
 
“Oh my goodness!”  Belle actually put a hand to her mouth, in her anxiety.  “Oh, thank goodness for Thaddeus’ fast reflexes.  This is getting too painful to watch.”
 
“There we go,” Beth smiled with spousal pride.  “Jed’s got the ring on her finger.  Let’s hope that’s the end of any surprises.  I wasn’t this nervous at my own wedding!”
 
Everyone breathed a sigh a relief. 
 
“I think that’s got it,” Belle assured everyone.  “Yes.  They’re saying final vows now.  That’s got it.  There they are; Mr. and Mrs. Harry Briscoe.  Clap, everyone!”
 
As though on Belle’s cue, the crowd opened up and began cheering the newlyweds.  Ribbons and flower buds flew up into the air, while hoots and jokes from the men carried above the ladies’ words of congratulations and well wishes.
 
Over on the side lines, Lom stood, clapping, and shaking his head at the same time.  “Trust it to Harry Briscoe to turn a simple ceremony into a shambles,” he grumbled.  “I sure hope Miss Baird isn’t having second thoughts.”
 
“A little late for her to back out now,” Martha commented.
 
“The papers ain’t signed yet,” Lom reminded her.  “She could if she wanted to.”
 
“I don’t think she will,” Sarah said.  “Look at her face; she’s glowing.  This is the happiest day of her life.  Poor dear.”
 
Martha and Sarah broke up into giggles, like they were a pair of school girls.
 
“That was a terrible thing to say,” Martha reprimanded her, once she could get her breath.  “they could end up being very happy together.”
 
“I certainly hope so,” Sarah agreed.  “A far cry better than what she’s had here, from what I understand.  I really do hope them the best.”
 
“Well, I’m getting tired,” said Kenny.  “I need to find a place to sit down.”
 
“Oh!  Of course,” Sarah was suddenly all business.  “How thoughtless of me, with you just out of your sick bed.  Come, let’s get a place at one of the tables, before everyone else beats us to it.”
 
Xxx
 
“C’mon Harry,” Jed whispered in the groom’s ear.  “You’re supposed to kiss the bride.”
 
“What?”  Harry was indignant.  “You mean, right here, in front of everyone?”
 
“Yes.”
 
“Yes,” Reverend Sykes confirmed.  “You may kiss your bride.”
 
“Now, he said ‘may’,” Harry pointed out.  “That don’t mean I gotta.”
 
“Harry!”  Isabelle looked like she was going to start crying—again.
 
“Oh, nothin against you, Peaches,” Harry soothed her ruffled feathers.  “It just seems an awful personal thing to be doin’, right here in broad daylight.”
 
“Harry,” Jed growled at him.  “Kiss your bride, or I’ll do it for ya’!”
 
Harry puffed up and sent the Kid a challenging glare.  Isabelle smiled, but instantly dropped it as her groom turned to face her again.  She smiled sweetly at him and closed her eyes in anticipation of the nuptial gesture.  Harry sighed and fidgeted nervously, but then he did step forward and shyly planted his lips upon hers, and the deed was done.  The crowd erupted with clapping and cheering, and the bride and groom beamed with pleasure at being the center of attention.
 
Reverend Sykes stepped forward to make his grand announcement.
 
“Ladies and gentlemen!  It is my pleasure to present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Briscoe!”
 
Again, the assembly cheered and clapped, while pieces of ribbon and colored paper were thrown into the air as the couple made their way to the head table.
 
“Everybody, get yourselves a glass of something!”  Sheriff Jacobs announced.  “It’s time for some toasting, and some announcements!  I think we have some fellas going around with champagne and wine, and some sodi pop for the youngsters.”
 
Somebody from the crowd confirmed this assumption, and soon, there were volunteers moving through the gathering of guests, handing out glasses filled with various different refreshments.  Most people in the crowd found places to sit, where they could not only enjoy the speeches in comfort, but also enjoy the luncheon while seated at a table, rather than standing and trying to balance everything.  Some of the older, and injured folks especially, need to find places to sit.
 
Once everyone had settled, Jacobs stood up again, and all eyes were upon him.
 
“I think it’s fitting now, that the best man say some words,” he announced.  “So, Jed.  The floor is yours.”
 
“Yeah,” Jed agreed.  “Thanks, Sheriff.”
 
Jacobs grinned, knowingly.  “Your welcome, son.”
 
Jed stood up and faced the expectant faces.  “Folks,” he began.  “I suppose, we all know one another pretty well by now.  So you all know about my history, and how Harry here, came to be a part a’ that.  I’ve known Harry comin’ on fifteen years or so, now, and I can honestly say that he is a unique individual.”  Small pockets of chuckling accompanied this remark.  “I can’t say as I’ve ever met anybody quite like him.  He’s come a long way, too.  Why, when Heyes and I first started havin’ dealin’s with Harry Briscoe, well, I’ll be honest with you folks; we didn’t think we could trust ‘im.  He always seemed to be tryin’ ta’ pull somethin’ over on us.  And yet, when we really needed him, he always came through.  So, Isabelle, I think I can honestly say that you got yourself a man, fittin to be your husband.  Yes, ma’am.  You are two peas in a pod, and I can’t think of any other two people, more fittin’ ta’ come together than you two.”  Jed raised his glass in a toast, and everyone else followed the example.  “To Harry and Isabelle!  May they always show the same love and respect to each other that they have shown to everyone else who can call them friends.”
 
“Here, here!”
 
“To Harry and Isabelle!”
 
“Thank you, Jed,” Isabelle smiled sweetly at him.
 
Glasses clinked together as the toast was made, and then Harry stood up to respond.  “Yeah, thanks, Kid,” he commented as he prepared for his own speech.  “You and Heyes have been good friends to me over the years, but, like I’ve said before; When it comes to you two boys, I believe nothin’ of what I don’t see, and only half ‘a what I do.  But you’re still alright, yessir!”
 
More cheers, and drinking of the bubbly, and Harry, thinking his part was done, prepared to sit down again.  Jed gave him a quick elbow in the ribs and brought him up short.
 
“What?”  he growled at his best man.
 
“Ain’t ya’ gonna toast your bride, Harry?”
 
“Oh!”  Harry smiled and gazed down into the batting eyes of his beloved.  “Well, yes, of course,” he agreed, and cleared his throat with an air of importance.  “To Isabelle…ahh…I’m a lucky man—yessir!  Why, it still astounds me that this vision of feminine beauty was not only still available, but was willin’ to tie herself down to a will-o-the-wisp scoundrel such as myself.”
 
“Oh, Harry,” Isabelle blushed and smiled sweetly.  “I like scoundrels.”
 
Gladys and Eugene giggled into their flowers, while those few in the front who over-heard the comment, snickered and rolled their eyes.
 
“Oh well… yes…” Harry blustered.  “Yes, of course you do.  That’s why, I’m sure we’ll make a great team.  Yessir.  A great team.”
 
“C’mon Harry, get on with it!” came a demand from the crowd, and Jed thought it sounded suspiciously like Wheat.  “Don’t ya know we just come for the food?”
 
Laughter rose up from the crowd, and Harry smiled self-consciously.
 
“Oh, yes, of course,” he stammered, then raised his glass to his bride.  “To Isabelle!  Yessir.  I’m a lucky man.”
 
More clinking of glasses, and the crowd began to disperse, with thoughts of heading towards the laid out luncheon.  Before they could get too far though, Sheriff Jacobs raised his hand and his voice to get them all back to attention again.
 
“Hold up, folks!”  he yelled out.  “There’s a couple of more things to say here, before we all dig in.”
 
“Aw geesh,” Wheat grumbled.  “These dang fool speeches always go on too long.”
 
“Yeah,” Kyle agreed.  “It kind’a reminds me ‘a bein’ up in Devil’s Hole, when Heyes would start goin’ on about the next job we’s gonna pull, and how we gotta listen up and pay attention…or somethin’ like that.  I always fell asleep.”
 
Wheat snorted, as he recalled those good ole’ days.  “Yeah, it’s no wonder ya’ didn’t know what was goin’ on half the time.”
 
Kyle grinned and commenced to chew on his tobacco.
 
“First off,” Jacobs continued.  “if Mayor Kincade would mind coming up and joining us.”
 
Jed and Harry exchanged glances, and both shrugged.
 
Kincade made his way to the front of the crowd and joined the wedding party.  He shook hands with Jacobs and then puffing up, with an air of self-importance, he turned to face the citizens of his town.
 
“Ladies and Gentlemen!” came the usual address on such occasions as this.  “First off I want to say how pleased I am at such a show of support and comradery towards Mr. Briscoe and his new wife…”
 
“What’s he goin’ on about?”  Kyle asked.  “I’m here fer the food.”
 
“Yeah,” Ames agreed.  “I’m hungry.  Why can’t we eat first, and do all this stuff later.”
 
“Cause he don’t want nobody ta’ leave, that’s why,” Wheat informed them out of the side of his mouth.   “Damn.  The smell a them pies is really getting’ distractin’, ain’t it?”
 
The three men turned as one, to scrutinize the table behind them that was laden with pastries and fruit pies just waiting to be eaten, only to find that some of the pies were already on that mission.  A number of familiar little faces, undeniably smeared with pie innards, were staring out at them from underneath the nearest table.
 
“Wul, what in tarnation are you boys doin’ under there?”  Kyle demanded to know, though it really should have been obvious.
 
“Nothin’,” came back J.J.’s mumbled reply.
 
“It don’t look like nothin’ ta me,” Wheat commented, and grinned wickedly.  “Looks ta me like we got us some junior thievin’ goin’ on here.”
 
“The pies were put here for people to eat,” Todd reasoned.  “So, we’re eatin’ ‘em.”
 
“That’s sound logic,” Wheat agreed.  “Don’t it, boys?”
 
“I like that idea,” Ames spoke up, as he eyed the other pies that were still on the table top.  “There seems to be enough for everyone.”
 
“Yeah,” Wheat seconded.
 
“I donno,” Kyle grumbled as he sent a guilty glance in the general direction of Lom and Kenny.  “It don’t seem right ta’ me.”
 
“Ah, quit yur worryin’, Kyle,” Wheat told him.  “I’m thinkin’ your time in prison has made an honest man outa ya’!”
 
“Wul…”
 
Sudden panicked commotion from under the table disrupted the argument, as the young boys scrambled to make their get-away.
 
“Here comes your ma, J.J.,” Todd pointed out.  “I’m outa here!”
 
“Yeah, and not to mention, your pa, Nathan!”  J.J. observed.  “Run!”
 
“But…”  Nathan sat there, with blackberry filling all over his face, and his hands full of a half eaten pie.  His dark eyes grew large as saucers when he saw the authorities converging on the picnic tables.  He scrambled to his feet, shoved the pie into Kyle’s hands, and disappeared underneath the tables, heading for parts unknown.
 
“Hey!”  Kyle complained as he stood, helplessly holding the evidence.
 
Belle smiled as the group approached the ex-outlaws.
 
“Mr. Murtry,” she commented, in mock sternness.  “I would have thought, that you would at least wait, until the bride and groom had joined us.”
 
Kyle blushed.  “But…no ma’am!”
 
“No?”
 
“I mean…I ain’t eatin’ it!”  Kyle insisted.  “It was them boys.”
 
“Well, that’s a fine thing,” Wheat growled.  “You get caught in the act, and turn around an blame them innocent boys?”
 
“Wull…Wheat!”
 
“You can relax, Mr. Murtry,” Belle assured him as she came in and took his arm.  “I don’t see any pie on your face, and with your hands bandaged as they are, I highly suspect that you are not the culprit.”
 
“Yeah!”  Kyle sent a reprimanding look to his partner.
 
“And really, Mr. Carlson?”  Belle changed tactics.  “Innocent boys?  You blew you story, right there.”
 
“Why do I get the feeling that my son was involved in this somehow?”  Tricia asked, suspiciously.
 
David nodded agreement.
 
Wheat snorted, but didn’t add any more comments.
 
“I do wish they would get on with these speeches,” Bridget commented.  “The sooner I can get Isabelle out of that dress, the happier I’ll be.”
 
“Yeah, I’m sure Harry’s thinkin’ the same thing,” Ames smirked.
 
All eyes turned to the youngest member, and Ames blushed, realizing that he had probably gone too far.
 
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
 
“Yeah, but you’re probably right,” Wheat told him, as he scooped up some pie from the plate that Kyle was still balancing on his sore hands.  He took a bite of the fruit filled pastry, and then nearly choked on it, when he heard his name coming out of the mayor’s mouth.
 
“…we’d also like to thank Mr. Carlson, and of course his friends, Mr. Murtry, who sustained serious injuries while fighting the fire, and also… ah, who’s the other one…?”
 
“Ames,” Jacobs whispered to him.
 
“Oh yes!  And of course, Mr. Ames.  A round of applause for these three gentlemen,” the mayor continued.  “Though they are not residents of our town, they showed selfless bravery in helping to fight the fire!”
 
Everyone turned to the ex-outlaws, clapping and cheering, and some even slapping them on the backs.  Wheat did his best to not choke even further on his fruit pie.
 
“Also!  Also!”  the mayor continued, waving his hands in an effort to quiet the assembly.  “As you all know, the Boultons couldn’t be here today to celebrate this happy event.  Young Ben suffered some very bad burns while doing his best to protect this town.  His ma is sitting vigil at his bedside in Denver, and his pa is busy tending to their ranch, but I know, they are well aware of the prayers and well wishes that we send on to them.”  Some sombre head nodding and murmurs of agreement followed this statement.  “We also have another fine citizen of our town, recovering from serious injuries.  We all know Jesse Jordan, and what a fine pillar of strength and example he and his family are to all of us.  I know he would have liked to be here, today, and we all wish him a swift recovery.  Now, Belle Jordan, I know you’re out there.  Could you please come up to the front?”
 
“Oh.”  Belle was caught dabbing her eyes with her handkerchief, and she blinked with surprise at being singled out.  “Now, what’s this all about?”
 
“You won’t find out by standing here,” Bridget told her.  “Go on up.” 
 
“Only if you girls come with me.”
 
“Mama,” Beth complained.  “He only asked for you.”
 
“I don’t care,” Belle responded.  “If this has to do with your father, then you should be up there as well.  Come along.”
 
The two young ladies exchanged glances, but they recognized that tone in their mother’s voice, and knew that there was no denying it.
 
Steven gave his wife and hug and a kiss, and sent her on her way.  Beth caught her husband’s eye and silently asked him the question.  Jed shrugged and shook his head.  Isabelle was looking irritated, while Harry simply looked confused.
 
“What’s going on?” he whispered to his best man.
 
“Damned, if I know.”
 
Isabelle pouted.  “This is our wedding!”  she groused.  “Why is the mayor turning it into a Jordan appreciation celebration?”
 
“Oh now, Peaches,” Harry soothed her as he patted her hand.  “It won’t hurt to share the lime light for a quick acknowledgement.”
 
Isabelle huffed while Gladys and Eugene cooed with sympathetic support.
 
The Jordan ladies arrived at the front of the group, and while Beth instantly slipped into her husband’s embrace, and Bridget did a quick reckoning of the wedding dress, Belle approached the mayor.  He took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“Mrs. Jordan,” he smiled at her.  “We have a few awards we would like to hand out, and we thought it would be fitting for you to have the honor, since they are on behalf of your husband.”
 
“Oh,” Belle responded.  “My goodness, Mr. Mayor.  So many people went beyond expectation while fighting that fire.  We should not be singled out.”
 
Isabelle leaned over towards her two friends.  “My thoughts exactly,” she whispered.  “This was supposed to be my day.”
 
Eugene and Gladys both nodded agreement, and sent daggers towards the Jordans.  Just who did they think they were, anyways?
 
“I don’t agree, Mrs. Jordan,” Mayor Kincade insisted.  “Your whole family have always given more than what’s expected to this town.  It’s time you got some acknowledgement back.”  He then waved to his assistant, who quickly came forward, his arms full of various items due to be handed out.  “It’s my pleasure to give to you and your family, this plaque and inscription to express our gratitude.”
 
“Oh my, how lovely,” Belle accepted.  “Thank you, so much.”
 
“The town is also going to pay for your husband’s medical expenses,” the mayor added.
 
“Oh no,” Belle as adamant.  “No, no.  There’s no need for that.  Surely there are others in town who will need the assistance more.  Perhaps you could offer that to Ben’s folks instead.”
 
“Whatever you wish, Mrs. Jordan,” the mayor agreed.  “It’s yours to pass on, if that is what you would prefer to do.”
 
“Yes, please,” Belle reiterated.  “They’ll need it far more than us.”
 
“Just another example of what a fine and generous family the Jordans are!”  Mayor Kincade announced to the crowd, and everyone cheered.
 
Belle felt like disappearing into the ground.  “This is ridiculous,” she whispered to Beth.  “This is Harry and Isabelle’s day.”
 
“Oh, Mama,” Beth admonished her.  “Just relax and enjoy it.  Isabelle is still having her day.”
 
“Next!”  the mayor continued.  “Sam Jefferies!  Where are you, young man?”
 
Sam cringed; he’d been afraid of this. 
 
Maribelle gave him a push.  “Go on!”
 
Sam nodded.  “Yeah, yeah.  Okay.”
 
Sam made his way to the front and accepted the handshake given to him by the mayor.
 
“You proved yourself to be a brave and loyal young man,” Kincade told him.  “If it wasn’t for your determination in getting a team of horses, and a wagon, to return for your friends, well, this would be a much more sombre gathering here today.”
 
“Oh, yessir.”
 
“Now, we know that Mr. Jordan has offered to get you another horse, and a fine one, I’m sure he’ll be,” the mayor continued.  “but the town of Brookswood would like to show their appreciation of your bravery and selflessness, by offering to pay for the rigging that’s of quality enough to befit one of the Double J’s fine horses.”
 
“Oh!”  Sam perked up, and smiled.  “Thank you, Mr. Mayor.”
 
“You’re welcome, young man,” Kincade responded, puffing himself up with his generosity, and enjoying the attention from the crowd.  Elections were just around the corner.
 
Jed gave Sam a quick congratulatory pat on the back, and Sam, now all grins, returned to receive a kiss and a hug from his wife.
 
“And now!”  Kincade announced again.  “Harry Briscoe!”
 
“Huh?”  Harry was taken by surprise.
 
Isabelle squeaked with pleasure.
 
“Yessir, Mr. Briscoe!”  and Kincade began to vigorously shake his hand.  “You might not be a resident of this town.  Although,” he sent a quick glance over to Isabelle. “You may well be soon.  But, in any case, you’re not one now, and you sure weren’t when you put your life on the line to help your friends.”
 
Harry grinned with pleasure.  This was making his day.  “Well, Mr. Mayor, when you’ve been in the service of the community for as long as I have, why, it’s simply second nature to give a hand where one is needed.  It’s the Bannerman way.”
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Keays

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Posts : 1433
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Re: Another Wedding   Sat Jan 02, 2016 9:09 pm

“Yes, quite.”  The mayor picked up another plaque and handed it to the groom.  “In appreciation for all you did in helping to bring Mr. Jordan back to safety.  And…” he took an envelope from his assistant, and also handed that over to the detective.  “here is a further gift from the town; the key to the finest room in our hotel, plus breakfast delivered to your room in the morning, and a little extra cash to help finance your honeymoon.”
 
Hoots and hollers followed the mention of a hotel room, and rather than being embarrassed by the insinuendo, Isabelle beamed with pleasure.  She wrapped her arms around her husband’s neck and gave him a full, deep kiss on the mouth.  Jed thought for sure that she was going to suffocate her groom and end the honeymoon before it had even begun.  Fortunately, she came up for air just in time, and Harry gasped in an effort to avoid passing out. This, of course, caused even more hoots and laughter while the newly married couple grinned and waved back.
 
Again, the mayor was forced to wave his hands about, in order to bring the assembly under control.
 
“Just a couple of more mentions,” Kincade assured everyone.  “Then we can eat.”
 
Appreciative cheers went up, and a few eyes drifted towards the food laden tables.
 
The mayor glanced at the next plague and made his announcement.  “Ken Reece!”
 
“Oh, dammit!”  Kenny cursed, then smiled at his wife.  “Why don’t you go up and get it?  I’m quite comfortable, right here.”
 
“Come on,” Sarah teased him.  “You can manage a walk up there to get your plague.  You can hang it in your office.”
 
Kenny sighed, but with his wife’s persistent tugging, he did haul himself to his feet, and make his way to the front.  Sarah came along, just to make sure he made it all the way.
 
“Mr. Reece,” Kincade greeted him.  “Here is a plague for you as well.  Again, even though you are not a resident of this town, your efforts to save the life of one of our most prominent citizens has not gone unnoticed.  All your medical expenses will be covered, as well as your hotel stay and meals while you’ve been here.  On top of that, anytime you and your family want to come back to visit us, all your accommodations will be covered by the mayor’s office.  Thank you.”
 
“Thank you, Mr. Mayor,” Kenny managed to get out, and handing over the plague to Sarah, to free up his good arm, the two men shook hands.
 
Kenny turned, and was met by Jed’s grinning expression.
 
“Now weren’t that worth everything ya’ went through?”  Jed asked him, as they also shook hands.  “Now you can come visit our little town any time you like.  Heyes will be thrilled.”
 
Kenny rolled his eyes, but he smiled as well, feeling honoured to be acknowledged for his efforts.  “I’ll be sure to give him a head’s up.”
 
“Uh huh.”
 
Then Kenny offered his hand to Briscoe.  “Harry.  Congratulations, on more than one count.”
 
“Why, thank you, Warden,” Harry responded.  “I always try to do my bit, you know.”
 
“Yes, I know.”
 
“Now, finally…” the mayor announced again, but was drowned out by intense cheering.  He waited a moment until the fracas quieted and then tried again.  “You know, you’re only making this take longer with your jubilance,” he teased, and was met by polite laughter.  “So, finally…”  more cheers, but things quieted down quickly, and the mayor continued.  “Mr. Jedediah Curry…” more cheers and clapping, and Jed smiled sardonically at Kenny.  He knew he wasn’t going to get out of this untouched.  The mayor offered his hand, and he and Jed exchanged the formal greeting.  “I dare say, I never thought I would be offering the keys to the city to a notorious outlaw.”  More laughter and clapping.  “But now I feel honored to do it.  Mr. Curry, I must admit that when you took up residence in our town, I had some serious concerns, but, the Jordans had accepted you and supported you, in your efforts to turn your life around, and their recommendation went a long way to convince me to give you a chance.  I sure am glad that I did.  Even before this fire pushed us all to our limits, and beyond, you had proved yourself to be a valuable citizen here in Brookswood.  Now, in appreciation for all that you have done, I present to you, the key to the city.  Congratulations.”
 
More cheers and clapping rose up from the assembly, and Beth smiled with pleasure at her husband being so honored.  Jed accepted the token key and tried to hide his confusion over what was so special about this symbol. But, he couldn’t deny feeling pleased about being accepted by the officials of his adopted home town, and it was this honor that he appreciated and would hold dear.
 
“Ah, thank you, Mr. Mayor,” Jed responded and shook hands with the man again.  “It’s a real pleasure.”
 
“Congratulations, Jed,” Kenny told him.  “You deserve it.”
 
“Yeah, I suppose.”
 
Jed felt another touch on his shoulder and turned to see Jacobs offering his hand.  Jed accepted it, and was beginning to feel a little overwhelmed by all this attention.
 
“You’ve done well, Jed,” Jacobs told him.  “Congratulations.”
 
“Yessir,” Kincade continued.  “I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself presenting a similar honor upon your partner one of these days.  Although, I must admit that it might be a waste of time giving Hannibal Heyes a key to the city, since he is quite capable of opening any lock that he chooses anyway!”  Some more laughter came up from the crowd, at the mayor’s attempt at a small joke.  “But now,” he continued.  “back to the festivities!  This has been a fine treat for many of us here today.  This town needed something fun and positive to bring us up out of the tragedies that many of us have recently endured.  I personally want to thank Harry and Isabelle for allowing us to take part in their special day, and to make it a festive event for the whole town.  Raise your glasses, everyone!  To the newlyweds!  Harry and Isabelle Briscoe!”
 
A roar came up from the crowd, as the toast was repeated with emphasis from everyone.  Glasses clinked and more beverages were downed in honor of the couple.
 
Isabelle was in her heyday, now that the attention had been transferred back to her.  She hung on possessively to her husband’s arm, and smiled smugly out at the crowd.  Harry seemed quite pleased to have people cheering for him, for a change, and he nodded and grinned, and raised his glass to the crowd.  This was turning into a fine day.
 
 
“So,” Kyle grumbled, as the wedding group and honored guests began to disperse.  “can we eat now?”
 
Xxx
 
An hour later, Belle, Beth, Tricia and Mirabelle had gathered up their rambunctious children and were heading back to the Gibson household to release the youngsters from their restricting Sunday bests.  Not that the boys allowed themselves to be restricted while wearing their finery, but everyone would feel much more comfortable, once the good clothes were put away, before more than pie remnants and dirt could be added to the casualty list.
 
Belle was also anxious to return to her husband.  She knew that Merle would have come for her, if there had been any problems, but she still felt the need to tend to Jesse herself.  Besides that, Merle should be able to attend the festivities as well.  Even though she, herself, had no interest in the wedding, her son had been honored, and it was only fitting that she be able to share part of this special day with him.
 
“How is everything going?”  Belle asked, as the families invaded the small home.
 
“Fine,” Merle assured everyone.  “I do believe that Jesse is asleep.”
 
“Not any more,” came the quiet response from the bedroom.  “There’s nothing like a herd of stampeding children to rattle the floor boards.”
 
Merle and Belle exchanged smiles.
 
“I brought some lunch for you,” Belle called to him.  “I’ll be in there in a moment.”
 
Whatever response was sent back to her, was lost in the boisterous conversation of the numerous children.
 
“Once I get changed, can I go riding?”  Sally asked her grandma.
 
“Oh, not today, Sweetheart,” came the disappointing response.  “I don’t want you going out by yourself, and all the adults are busy today.”
 
“Aww!”  Sally complained.  “Papa lets me ride alone.”
 
“Well, I’m not your papa, young lady,” Belle countered.  “and I would prefer that you not go out riding on your own.  Not today.  There is too much going on in town, and too many people here, whom we don’t know.”
 
Sally slumped in disappointment, but she accepted the decree.
 
“Perhaps tomorrow,” Beth suggested.  “Maybe there will be a few of us who would appreciate a ride, after all this hubbub.”
 
“There’s an idea,” Tricia agreed.  “I haven’t been out for a ride in ages.”
 
Sally instantly brightened up.  “Yes!” she agreed.  “Tomorrow, we can all go!”  And she ran off, down to the back room to get changed, so she could go outside and play.
 
“Alright, you two,” Maribelle singled out her brood.  “off you go, and get changed.  Carol, you help your brother.”
 
“I don’t need any help!”  Todd protested.  “I’m not a baby!”
 
“Well, you’re certainly not a grown man, either,” his mother scolded him.  “not after your behavior this morning.  Stealing pies—really!”
 
“That goes for you, as well, J.J.,” Belle seconded.  “I thought you had better manners than that.”
 
“It was Nathan’s idea!”  J.J. protested.
 
“You’re the oldest,” Belle pointed out.  “You should lead by example.”
 
“It was not my idea!”  Nathan countered in his own defense.  “Besides, Mr. Carlson was there, and he thought it was great.”
 
Tricia laughed.  “You’re presenting a man who has spent most of his life living as an outlaw, as your example of morality?”  she asked her son.  “I would think you could do better than that.”
 
Nathan pouted.  “But everybody says he’s doin’ good now.”
 
“Doing well,” Tricia corrected him.
 
“Yeah.”
 
Tricia sighed.
 
Belle smiled and patted her hand.  “Don’t worry,” she assured the younger woman.  “It will all come together in time.”
 
Todd came running back down the hallway and re-joined the group.  “C’mon, let’s go!”
 
“Wait!”  J.J. complained.  “We ain’t changed yet.”
 
“We’re not changed yet,” Belle corrected him, but her advice fell upon deaf ears.
 
“C’mon, I’ll race ya’!”  Nathan challenged his older friend, and the two boys took off at a run.
 
Scurrying down the hall, they scooted around Carol and Sally, who were done changing, and they ducked into Nathan’s room and quickly got rid of their Sunday best.
 
It was at this point that the two infants gave up the pretense of still being asleep, and began to compete with each other over who had the biggest lung capacity.
 
“Oh dear, not a moments rest,” Tricia observed.  “As soon as I get one dealt with and out of my hair, and the other one wants attention.”
 
“It does sound like time for another feeding,” Beth agreed.  “Come on Trich, we can keep each other company while we appease the little monsters.”
 
“And I better go in and feed my husband,” Belle announced.  “before he falls off to sleep again.”
 
“Fat chance of that!”  came Jesse’s voice.  “I thought we were done with babies crying.”
 
Belle and Merle exchanged a look, and both started to laugh.
 
“Come along, Mother,” Maribelle said, as she linked her arm in with her mother-in-law’s.  “It’s time you got out, and had some fun now.  Sam is very pleased with himself; he was given a plaque with a lovely inscription on it, and a new set of riding gear, out of appreciation for his help during the fire.”
 
“Really?”  Merle beamed.  “Oh, I must see that!  I’ll see you later, Belle.”
 
“Yes, do go ahead,” Belle agreed.  “And thank you for sitting with Jesse.  It was nice to get out for a while.”
 
“I heard that!” Jesse announced, his voice sounding stronger than it had for days.  “That’s a fine thing, when my own wife would rather be out partying, than spending time with her injured and bed-ridden husband.”
 
Belle smiled at her husband’s teasing.  It suggested that he was feeling better, and after all that they had been through, this was a very good sign.  Then, quick as a snake, she reached out and snatched her son’s arm, just as the two boys were making a dash for the door.
 
“Hold on, J.J.!”
 
“But Ma!  They’re waitin’ for me!”
 
“They can wait a moment longer,” she told him.  “Look at me.”  J.J. clucked in frustration, but did as he was told.  “You behave yourself out there now, you hear me?  I know what you three boys are like, when you run amok together, and there’s been enough shenanigans.”
 
“Yes, Mama.”
 
“Where are you going?”
 
J.J. shrugged.  “I donno.”
 
“The fort?”  Nathan suggested, from the doorway.
 
“Yeah!”  J.J. agreed.  “The fort!”
 
“Alright,” Belle agreed.  “But mind that you stay out of trouble.”
 
“Yes, Mama!”  J.J. quickly agreed, as he made a rush for the open door, and freedom.
 
Belle sighed and shook her head, as she turned to prepare her husband’s lunch.  “It’s like telling a fish not to swim,” she muttered to herself.
 
Xxx
 
The night sky was blushing into evening by the time the reception broke up, and the townsfolk began making their way back to their homes.  At the Gibson household, the visiting children were sitting around the kitchen table, eating roast pork and potato salad, while they waited for their parents to come and collect them.  Belle was sitting in the front bedroom, in quiet conversation with her husband, when the young adults, and Merle returned for the night.
 
Tricia’s sigh of relief was audible, as she poked her head into the bedroom.  “Shall I make some tea?  Or are either of you hungry?”
 
“I couldn’t eat another bite,” Belle assured her, “but some tea would be lovely.”
 
Beth, Jed, Bridget and Steven all piled into the front bedroom to give an account of the afternoon, and then say goodnight to their elders.  Everyone was tired, but pleased with the completion of the day.
 
“So, Harry and Isabelle are now safely married, are they?”  Jesse asked.  “No foul-ups?”
 
“There were a few near misses,” Steven admitted.  “But thanks to Jed’s quick actions, nothing disastrous took place.”
 
“Isabelle was practically insufferable in her smugness,” Beth complained.  “But at least she is going to be out of our hair for a while now.  They’ll be taking the train to Denver in the morning.  Then that will be it, thank goodness.  Off on their honeymoon, and then back to Harry’s apartment.  I hope they live happily ever after.”
 
“I’m sure they will,” Belle agreed, optimistically. “Did she throw the bouquet?”
 
“Oh, yes!”  Bridget informed them.  “Yes, Pansy caught it.”
 
“Yeah!”  Jed laughed out loud.  “I don’t know if Joe was pleased, or scared to death.  I suppose time will tell on that one.”
 
“Yes,” said Belle.  “As always.”
 
“And don’t worry about your dress, Mama,” Bridget assured her.  “Isabelle promised to hand it over to Gladys tomorrow morning, before she and Harry leave town.  I’ll be over there, bright and early, to help them dismember that atrocity, and to make sure they do it properly!  That’ll be a project for us tomorrow, Beth.  To get all those pearls and buttons sown back on.  I do hope we can get it back to its original state.”
 
“It will be, what it will be,” Belle prophesized.  “Every time a wedding dress is worn, it is changed to some degree.  A proper wedding dress will eventually have its own story to tell.”
 
“Just as long as it’s not a nightmare,” Bridget commented.
 
Merle popped her head through the doorway and got everyone’s attention.  “I believe we are going to head back to Heyes’ place now,” she informed them.  “Will you be along soon?”
 
“Oh yes,” Beth agreed emphatically.  “I’m sure everyone is tired, and would appreciate an early night.”
 
“Mm hmm,” Merle nodded.  “I’ll go on ahead and put the kettle on.”
 
And with that, she disappeared, taking the rest of her family with her.
 
“Well,” Beth sighed.  “I better get T.J., and let everyone here get settled for the night.”
 
“Good idea,” Jed agreed.  “Goodnight folks.  We’ll see you in the morning.”
 
Beth leaned over and gave her papa a kiss on the cheek.  “Goodnight,” she told him.  “You’re looking much better today, but you still need your rest.”
 
Jesse smiled at his youngest daughter, giving him a lecture.  “Goodnight, Sweetheart.  Goodnight, Jed.”
 
“Yeah, goodnight,” Jed returned.
 
“Goodnight, Mama.”
 
More kisses and hugs where exchanged, and the Curry’s left to gather up their son and get settled in at Heyes’ place for the night.
 
Then it was the Grangers turn to say their goodnights.  They planned to stay in town one more day, and spend more time with family, before heading back to Denver themselves.  They knew that their children were fine in the care of their nanny, so one more day wasn’t going to matter too much.
 
“Goodnight, Papa,” Bridget said, as she also leaned down to give her father a kiss.  “Have a good night, and we’ll see you tomorrow.”
 
“Goodnight,” Jesse returned, as he kissed his oldest daughter, but a hint of a frown crossed his face as Bridget drew back.  He sent a quick glance to Steven, but his son-in-law was saying his goodbyes to Belle, and didn’t pick up on it.
 
“Goodnight,” Belle said to them.  “Sleep well.”
 
“I’m sure we will,” Steven agreed.  “It’s been a very eventful day.”
 
“Yes!”  Bridget concurred.  “And tomorrow could be even busier.  Goodnight everyone.”
 
The young couple left, and Belle and Jesse just had enough time to smile at each other, when Tricia popped in for an instant.
 
“Tea is just about ready, if you would like some,” she announced.  “I’m going to get the children settled into bed, and then we’ll join you.”
 
“That would be lovely, Tricia,” Belle said.  “I’ll be right out.”  She turned back to her husband, and patted his good hand.  “Would you like some tea?”
 
Jesse was lost in his own thoughts, but he came back to the present with his wife’s question.  “Oh yes,” he responded automatically.  “That would be nice.”
 
“I’ll be right back,” Belle assured him, and she rose up and left the room to prepare their tea for the evening.
 
Jesse settled back into his pillow and allowed his thoughts to wander again.  Anxiety came across his features and his brain went into overtime.  Was that a bruise he had seen on his daughter’s cheek bone?  It was hard to tell.  She had obviously patted her face down with powder and added a bit of color to her cheeks, as is normal for a young woman attending a special occasion, but was there more to it than that?  Was she trying to hide something?  His brows knitted together as an angry vision came to invade his thoughts.  Was Steven hitting her?  No, that couldn’t possibly be the case.  Surely, he could not have misjudged Steven that much.  But if Steven was hitting her, wouldn’t Bridget have come to them about it?  Or would her pride prevent her from doing that?  Surely, she must know, that she could always come home, if she ever found herself in that kind of danger.  She could always come home.
 
“Here you are, dear,” Belle handed him a cup of steaming tea.  “This should help you settle for the night.”
 
“Yes, thank you,” Jesse said as he took the cup from her.  “I hope so.”
 
Xxx
 
Belle could feel her husband’s restlessness.  She had drawn the cot over, to rest against his bed, so they could at least come close to simulating their shared bed at home.  But now it was after midnight, and he was still awake, despite the sedative that David had given him earlier that evening.  She knew that something was bothering him, but she still hesitated to ask.  Some questions were best left unanswered.  Finally, though, she couldn’t take the stress any longer, and she broke down.
 
“Is something troubling you?”  she asked innocently.
 
A heavy sigh came from the other bed.
 
“Is Bridget happy?”  the husband finally asked.
 
“Yes, of course!”  Belle answered, surprised that her husband might think otherwise.
 
“She hasn’t said anything to you about—being mistreated, or anything?”
 
Belle frowned in the darkness. “No.”
 
“So, things are good between her and Steven?”
 
Belle hoisted herself up on an elbow and gazed at her husband through the darkness, even though she could not see him.  “Yes.  What has brought you to think otherwise?”
 
“I don’t know,” Jesse whispered.  “It’s just…”
 
“What?”
 
“When she kissed me goodnight earlier, I thought I saw some bruising hidden beneath the powder,” Jesse admitted.  “Is Steven hitting her?”
 
“No!”  Belle denied, adamantly.  “He would never lay a hand on her.  And you know, as well as I do, that if he ever did, she would not hesitate to let us know.  Bridget would not put up with that!”
 
“That’s what I thought,” Jesse agreed.  “And yet, she had a black eye.  If not from Steven, then…?”
 
Now Belle found herself in a dilemma.  Never, in the span of their long marriage, had she ever lied to her husband, when he asked a direct question.  Even when it came to Beth and Jed’s indiscretion before they were married, if Jesse had ever asked outright, if anything had happened between the young couple, Belle would have told him the truth.  But her husband had never asked, thank goodness, so Belle had felt no obligation to enlighten him upon the subject.
 
But this?  The timing was all wrong.  Belle knew, that if she told her husband the truth, he would be furious, and he would be awake all night.  And, he would insist on doing something about it, right then and there.  This was the last thing he needed.  He had to rest, and he would not rest, if Belle told him the truth.
 
She made her decision in a heartbeat.  “She had an accident.”
 
“An accident?”
 
“Yes,” Belle confirmed.  “It’s nothing serious.  We’ll discuss it later, when you’re feeling better.”
 
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Belle knew she had said the wrong thing.  Instantly she felt her husband tense.
 
“We’ll discuss it later?”  Jesse asked.  “In other words; it’s not something you wish to discuss now.”
 
Belle sighed.  Oh dear.  “Jesse, you must trust me on this,” Belle reiterated.  “Steven is aware of what happened, and they are dealing with it.  Steven is her husband now, it is up to him to look after her, and he is doing that.  Trust him, please.  Trust him to handle this.”
 
Jesse was silent for a moment.  He was used to being the patriarch, the one who was in control of everything regarding his family.  Relinquishing that responsibility was proving to be difficult.  Finally, he relented.
 
“Steven is looking out for her?”
 
“Yes,” Belle confirmed.  “He’s a good husband, Jesse.  Bridget could not have chosen better.  Let it be.”
 
Heavy sigh from the father of two daughters.  “Alright.”
 
Jesse slowly began to fade.  It’s not that he felt any sense of resolution from this talk, but more that the sedative from David was finally conquering his restless thoughts and settling his mind into sleep. 
 
Belle felt relief wash over her.  They couldn’t keep the truth from Jesse for ever, nor did they want to.  But not now; he needed time to recuperate.  That is what was important.  Still, just how long could they hope to keep it from him?  She knew this wasn’t over; Jesse would be asking questions again, and Belle couldn’t avoid the tough answers forever.
 
Xxx
 
The following morning, Jed and Beth, and Steven and Bridget, were at the train station to see Harry and Isabelle off on their honeymoon.  Both newlyweds were looking extremely pleased with themselves, not to mention a little bleary eyed with exhaustion.  It would appear that their wedding night had been a complete success.
 
“Just where are you going on your honeymoon?” Jed asked.  “That never was discussed.”
 
“We’re going to New York!”  Isabelle stated, proudly.
 
“New York!?”  Jed repeated, impressed with the chosen location.  “That’ll be some honeymoon.”
 
Isabelle beamed, and snuggled up to her husband.  “It will be wonderful, won’t it?  All the theatres, and the restaurants, not to mention the shops!  I can’t wait!”
 
“Well Peaches, there aren’t too many shops or theatre in Buffalo,” Harry informed her.  “And that’s where we’re goin’, yessir!”
 
Isabelle looked stricken.  “Buffalo!?”
 
“Well yeah!”  Harry confirmed.  “That’s where I’m from.  I got family in Buffalo, New York.  I want them all to meet my little Peaches.”
 
“Buffalo!?”  Isabelle repeated.  “You said you were taking me to New York!”
 
“Yeah,” Harry agreed.  “Buffalo is in New York.”
 
Isabelle was starting to go red in the face, and she actually stamped her foot.  “I want to go to New York City!”
 
“Oh.”  Harry paled noticeably.  “Well, of course, Peaches,” he was quick to cover his bases.  “Didn’t I say that we would be going to New York City after we spent a few days in Buffalo?”
 
“Oh,” Isabelle began to calm down. “Yes, I thought that is what you said.”
 
Harry smiled, and patted her hand.  “Of course.  Can’t go to New York State without going to New York City, now can we?”
 
Isabelle grinned, and snuggled in beside her new husband, once again.  Harry looked concerned, wondering how he was going to pull this off.
 
“Now that sounds real fine,” Jed commented.  “That’ll be a real nice honeymoon.”
 
“And don’t you worry about all the ribbons and lace from the wedding dress,” Bridget assured the bride.  “I’ll make sure that everything gets put aside for you.  Will you be coming back here, after your trip?”
 
“Oh, good heavens, no!”  Isabelle declared.  “We’ll be heading straight to Harry’s apartment in Denver.  Well, our apartment now!  There’s no need to come back here for anything!”
 
“Oh.”  Beth and Bridget looked at each other.
 
“Well, don’t worry about it,” Bridget assured her.  “We’ll make sure that all your things get sent to your Denver address.”
 
“Thank you,” Isabelle responded.  “But I’m sure that Gladys and Eugene have it all under control.  All of my additions have been removed from it, haven’t they?”
 
“Oh yes,” Bridget assured her.  “Your friends said that they would package them all up in a box to send to you, when you get back to Denver.”
 
“Well then, there you go,” Isabelle stated.  “Everything is under control.  You girls don’t need to worry about it.”
 
“Fine,” Beth said, with a hint of exasperation.  “We’ll let you know if anything is amiss.”
 
Isabelle smiled and nodded.  She might have said more, but the train whistle, indication an all aboard, sounded loudly, and their conversation was interrupted.
 
“Well,” Jed held out his hand to Harry for shaking.  “Have a good time, Harry.  We’ll let you know when we need ya’ to help us out.”
 
“Sure Kid, sure,” Harry agreed. “You know I’m always available to help out, with you and Heyes.  And I know you fellas are new to the detecting business, so anytime you need my expertise advise, I’ll be glad to give it.”
 
“Yeah, Harry,” Jed commented.  “We’ll let ya’ know.”
 
Steven held out his hand for shaking.  “Take care, Harry, Mrs. Briscoe…” Isabelle beamed with pleasure at the use of her new formal name.  “This has been an experience worth remembering.”
 
“It certainly has!”  Harry agreed.  “Well boys, we must be off.  Stay out of trouble now!”
 
They waved their goodbyes, and then Harry and Isabelle were aboard the train and getting settled into their seats for the short trip to Denver.
 
“Well!”  Isabelle stated emphatically. “What a relief!  I hope to never have to lay eyes on those people again.”
 
Harry was left speechless.  Heyes and the Kid were the two best friends he had.  Just what did his new wife expect was going to happen?
 
Xxx
 
Half an hour later, the large round table in the Brookswood café was occupied to capacity.  Beth and Jed, Bridget and Steven, Lom and Martha, Kenny and Sarah, David and Tricia and then the three bachelors, Wheat, Kyle and Ames, were all seated and getting ready to order a late breakfast.  They were a lively group, now that the wedding stresses were gone, and the newlyweds were happily on their way.  Everyone was relaxed and jovial, and the coffee tasted especially good.
 
“This has been an interesting visit,” Steven commented.  “I don’t think any of us are going to be forgetting about it, anytime soon.”
 
This understatement was met with various different verbal acquiescence from around the table.
 
“Thank goodness things have calmed down now,” David commented.  “I don’t need any more patients, thank you very much.  It would be nice to know how Ben is doing, though.”
 
“Relax, David,” Tricia advised him.  “He’s in one of the best hospitals in the West.  You can’t take them all on.”
 
“I know,” David agreed.  “I’d just like to know how he’s doing.”
 
“It would be interesting to know what happened to him out there,” Jed added.  “Maybe when he’s up to it, he’ll give us an accounting.”
 
“If he remembers,” Steven commented.  “Hard telling, with something like this.  It may all be lost to him.”
 
Jed thought back to what his partner had gone through, completely forgetting about his younger sister, and all the trauma that had accompanied that event.  He would have thought it impossible, if he hadn’t experienced a similar incident himself.  Hopefully, Ben’s memories would stay with him, once he woke up from this ordeal.  Burying it, only to have it arise later, unannounced, was an extremely traumatic experience to go through.
 
“He does look to be a good lad,” Jed added.   “I hope he comes through alright.”
 
“Where are you boys headed?” Lom asked the three ex-outlaws, who were sitting across from him.
 
“Oh.” Wheat shifted a bit, and sat up straighter.  “Well, we had plans to head over to California,” he informed the group.  “I still don’t do so well in the winters up here.”
 
“Yeah,” Kyle agreed.  “We only stayed this long fer Harry’s weddin’.  An’ that fire only made things worse.  It’s a good think you stayed outa that, Wheat.  Dang, my lungs is still burnin’ from that smoke.”
 
“Me too,” Ames agreed.  “But it sure was purdy.”
 
Wheat sent Ames a smirk, and then voiced everyone’s opinion.  “You know boy, you really do worry me sometimes,” he growled.  “Ain’t you ever gonna get over yer love affair with those flames?”
 
“I donno,” Ames answered.  “Do I need to?”
 
“Hell yeah!”  Wheat snarked.  “It ain’t natural!”
 
“What do ya’ mean, ‘It ain’t natural’?”  Ames retorted, defending his love.  “You like it fer the heat it gives, fer the food it cooks, and fer the company it gives ya’ on a cold, lonely night.  Don’t tell me ya don’t.”
 
“Wull, yeah, sure I do,” Wheat agreed.  “But that don’t mean I worship it.  You worship it, boy.  You’re downright in a love affair with it, and that ain’t healthy.”
 
“I don’t see what you got against…”
 
Wheat started to puff up at this little upstart arguing with him, but Jed jumped in to defuse the situation.
 
“Alright!” he said.  “Let it go.  I think we’ve all had enough of fire for a lifetime.  Well, exceptin’ Ames, I suppose.  But that don’t matter none.  As long as he’s behavin’ himself, it don’t matter none.”
 
“I can agree with that,” Kenny put in.  “Many people have passions.  Some of those passions are unsavoury to many of us, but there’s no crime in that.  As long as they keep those passions under control, and don’t act on them, there’s nothing illegal about it.  Otherwise Jed, your partner would still be in prison, and you would have joined him, just for thinking about pulling a job.  And don’t tell me that you haven’t ever thought about it.”
 
“Hey,” Jed commented, coming defensive.  “Since when was this about me?”
 
“Since you’re such a good example of wanting to do something, but having the self control to not do it,” Kenny informed him.  “In many ways, it’s an honorable thing.  Isn’t that right, Mr. Ames?”
 
Ames smiled, self-consciously.  “Yeah,” he agreed.  “Nothin’ wrong with it.”
 
“Yeah, well,” Wheat grumbled as he thought about the cashier’s till in the feed store.  “Just don’t’ go startin’ no fires that we don’t know about, first.”
 
“Sure, Wheat.”
 
“When are you headin’ home, Lom?”  Jed asked, hoping to change the subject.
 
“Martha and I will be catching the train tonight,” Lom told him.  “It’s time I got back to my job.  Harker is fine, but he’s got a life too.”
 
“I’m looking forward to getting back to my own home, and bed,” Martha added.  “This visit was extended longer than we had anticipated.”
 
“Yes!”  Kenny agreed.  “I think we’ll be on the same train as Lom and Martha.  It’s time we got back.  Once I get rested up, we’ll be heading back East to meet our son’s new lady.  We might have a wedding of our own coming up soon.”
 
“That would be real fine,” Jed commented.  “Is it your eldest?”
 
“Oh, yeah,” Kenny nodded.  “I guess it comes to us all.  They do grow up fast, though.”
 
“Yes,” Sarah agreed.  “It’ll be strange.  I suppose he’ll want to stay back East, if he marries into that family.”
 
“There’s not much to offer him, in Laramie,” Kenny pointed out.  “I doubt that any of our children want to work at the prison.  It may be that most of them will leave to fine their own way.”
 
“Oh, don’t say that!” Sarah admonished him.  “Just the thought of one of them leaving home, is enough to break my heart.”
 
“I remember, it was real hard on your ma, Bridget, when you moved to Denver,” Jed pointed out.  “I guess a mother takes it hard.”
 
“She did?”  Bridget asked.  “She never let on.”
 
“Another job of a mother,” Jed observed.  “don’t let ‘em know that your heart is breaking.”
 
“Ouch!”  Bridget complained.  “Now I feel guilty!  But we had to move to Denver; that’s where Steven’s practice is.”
 
“Yeah,” Jed agreed.  “And she knows that.  She’s okay with it now, Bridget.  Just at the time, it was hard on her.  Speakin’ of which, are you folks staying in town a bit longer?”
 
“At least until tomorrow morning,” Steven confirmed.  “I’ve already spoken to Carl Jacobs about ole’ man Baird, and I’m hoping to be able to discuss it with Jesse, before we leave.  How about it, David?  Is Jesse up to talking about this yet?”
 
David hesitated a moment, instantly feeling protective of his patient.  “Another couple of days, would be better,” he admitted.  “Can’t it wait?”
 
“I don’t have another couple of days,” Steven replied.  “And personally, the sooner we get this settled, the better, as far as I can tell.”
 
“And knowin’ Jesse,” Jed added.  “I think he would be more upset about being left out of the loop, than he would about the incident itself.  He don’t like not knowin’ what’s goin’ on.”
 
“That’s the truth,” Beth agreed, and Bridget nodded with support of that.  “He’ll be mad, if he isn’t told about it soon.”
 
“And I wouldn’t be surprised if he already suspects something,” Steven added.  “He gave you a bit of a strange look, last night, Bridget.  I think he might have seen the bruising.”
 
“Oh no,” Bridget groaned.  “I thought I had it covered up completely.”
 
“I noticed it,” Steven reminded her.  “I think it’s a safe bet, that your father noticed it, too.”
 
David sighed.  “If that’s the truth, then the better we tell him the truth of it, the better.  The last thing I need is a patient, fretting over unanswered questions.”
 
“Fortunately, we can leave that to you folks,” Lom said.  “Martha and I are going to spend the day together, before catching the train this evening.”
 
Kenny agreed.  “I’ll be relaxing in our hotel room.  I’m still not feeling up to snuff, so a quiet day will be appreciated.  But don’t worry, Jed.  As soon as I get back to Laramie, I’ll send out some feelers on that Mr. Finney, and see what I can find out about him.”
 
“Dammit!!”  The expletive came out of Jed like a gun shot.  Everyone at the table jumped and attention was instantly focused on him.  “I forgot all about Mr. Finney!”  Jed explained.  “Dammit!  I wanted to ask Heyes about him, and when you two went down to Yuma, that would have been the perfect time to get a message to him.  How could I have forgotten about that?”
 
“It’s been a busy couple of weeks, Jed,” Steven pointed out.  “We all had other things on our minds.”
 
“Yeah, I know.  But still…”
 
“You didn’t want to bother Heyes about this until after I’d checked him out, anyway,” Kenny reminded him.  “Can’t you get in touch with him later on?”
 
“Yeah,” Jed admitted.  “But that poker game is gonna start soon.  Heyes needs to accept his invitation, if we’re gonna go through with this.  Now, I don’t even know where he is.”
 
“You know he’s going to be in Red Rock, Texas, eventually,” Lom pointed out.  “Send a telegram there, have him get in touch with you when they arrive.  I doubt Warden Reece will have the information for you before then, anyway.”
 
“No, not likely,” Kenny agreed.  “You still have time, Jed.  You haven’t missed it.”
 
“And once we get back to Denver,” Steven offered.  “I can track this Finney character down, let him know that you’re on to it, and that you’ll be in touch.”
 
“Yeah,” Jed agreed.  “That would work.  I do have the hotel where he’s stayin’.  Yeah, that would work.”
 
“Good,” Steven replied.
 
“Yes,” Kenny seconded.  “That’ll work.”
 
“And in the mean time,” Steven added.  “we’ll have a talk with Jesse, and decided what we’re going to do about that situation.”
 
“Great,” David mumbled.
 
Beth and Bridget exchanged glances.  Neither of them were looking forward to that discussion.
 
Xxx
 
“Bridget, why didn’t you tell me?”  Jesse asked accusingly, from the confines of his pillows and blankets.  “For that matter, why didn’t any of you tell me?”
 
“That was my doing,” David admitted, before anyone else could take responsibility.  “You weren’t strong enough for news like this, and I wanted you to rest.  As far as I’m concerned, you still shouldn’t be hearing about it.  But I’m afraid, that now the wedding is done, and Isabelle is out of town, this does need to be dealt with.”
 
“I’ll say it needs to be dealt with!”  Jesse snapped, his anger rising quickly, along with his frustration.  “Why isn’t Baird in jail?”
 
“Papa, please understand,” Bridget said, and put her hand on his arm in an attempt to sooth him.  “We didn’t want to ruin Isabelle’s wedding day.  She’s had enough misery from that man, without adding that to it.”
 
“I’m not even sure if there’s grounds for an arrest,” Sheriff Jacobs stated.  “You might just be wasting your money, pressing charges against him.”
 
“No grounds!?”  Jesse growled.  “He struck my daughter!  Not to mention, his own!”
 
“I know,” Jacobs agreed.  “But it’s not against the law for a man to discipline his own family.  As for him striking Bridget, she deliberately got in harm’s way.  A lawyer could argue, that Baird hit her by accident, and that it was her own fault for getting involved in a family dispute.”
 
“I’m sure Steven will be able to shoot that argument into the ground,” Jesse countered.
 
“I’m personally involved in this dispute, Jesse,” Steven informed him.  “We would have to hire another lawyer to prosecute.  And that could get expensive.”
 
“I don’t care,” Jesse said.  “I’ll find the money.”
 
All eyes turned to the sheriff.
 
Jacobs sighed.  “Alright,” he conceded.  “I take it both of you want to press charges?”
 
“Yes,” Jesse stated.
 
“Yes,” Steven repeated.  “Even if Baird only gets a slap on the wrist, it will cost him dearly to defend himself, so either way, he’ll be hit hard for his actions.”
 
Jacobs nodded.  “Okay,” he agreed.  “I’ll head out to his ranch and bring him in.  I suggest you two find yourselves a lawyer, and we’ll get this on the roll.”
 
“That won’t be a problem,” Steven commented, with a smile.  “I just happen to know a number of people in that profession.”
 
“Ha!”  Jacobs laughed.  “I’m sure you do.”
 
Steven and Jacobs left the room in order to get the wheels turning, while Bridget and David stayed behind for a moment longer with the patient.
 
“I’m sorry, Papa,” Bridget told him.  “With everything else we have to deal with right now, you didn’t need this, as well.”
 
“It’s not your fault, Sweetheart,” Jesse assured her.  “That man has had this coming for a long time.  When he was keeping it in his family, there wasn’t much the law could do about it, but he’s stepped over the line now.”  Bridget bite her lower lip, obviously feeling some concern.  “What is it, Sweetheart?  What are you worried about?”
 
Bridget looked to David and then back to her father.  “I just don’t want it turning into another vigilante thing, like we had before.”  Her throat tightened up, and she nearly choked on her next words.  “Beth almost died, and Miranda too.  All because somebody wanted revenge.  The last thing I want is for anybody to get hurt over this.  I wouldn’t put it past Mr. Baird, or his two sons, to cause trouble.  Thank goodness they didn’t show up in town for the wedding!”
 
“Yeah,” Jesse nodded.  “That could have been a real mess.  But you can’t let fear control your convictions.  You can’t allow people to get away with behaving like that, or there is no law.  Then, men like the Bairds, will take over, and fear and violence will rule.  You have to stand up for what’s right, no matter what the outcome.  Do you understand that?”
 
Bridget nodded.  “Yes, I do,” she agreed.  “But I still can’t help but be worried.  I don’t think I could stand it, if someone came after you or Steven.  It wouldn’t be worth losing either one of you.”
 
“I don’t think you need to worry about that,” Jesse assured her.  “All three of those men are cowards.  They’ll hit women, and sneak around in the shadows.  But when confronted outright, they’ll crumble.  There’s not a single backbone between them.”
 
“I hope you’re right,” Bridget said.  “I just wish they would go away.”
 
“After all this, they might.”
 
“Alright,” David finally cut in on the conversation.  “That’s enough talking.  Your throat is beginning to protest.  I’m a doctor; I can tell.”
 
Jesse smiled at the medical man and nodded.  David was right, of course; his throat was still feeling raw, and his voice was becoming raspy.
 
“I am getting tired,” Jesse admitted.  “Don’t think I’ll sleep any more, though.”
 
“You don’t have to sleep,” David told him.  “Just rest, and stay quiet.  Give your throat and lungs a chance to heal.”
 
“I’ll see you later, Papa,” Bridget assured him, and she leaned over and gave him a kiss on his cheek.  “I love you.”
 
Jesse smiled.  “I love you too, Sweetheart.  Go and get your mother out of this house for awhile.  She needs a day with her children, before everyone splits up and goes their separate ways again.”
 
“Okay.”
 
“Alright, Jesse,” David said, as he and Bridget moved towards the door.  “Do you need anything?”
 
“Nope,” Jesse assured him, as he settled deeper into his pillows.  “But I would appreciate being informed once Carl gets back here with that man in custody.”
 
David nodded.  “I’ll let you know.  Now rest!”
 
“Yes, Doctor.”
 
Xxx
 
Mid-afternoon was coming upon the town when Joe stepped out of the sheriff’s office to send a speculative glance towards the outskirts of town.  Sheriff Jacobs should have been back by now, and Joe was starting to feel a slight pricking of concern.
 
His brow tightened with curiosity when he noticed the Robertsons, in their buckboard, coming back down the main street, towards him.  There was something odd about it.  The team was moving at a slow jog, and yet there was a sense of urgency surrounding the whole scene.  Joe stepped down onto the street and approached Floyd Robertson, who was just bring the team to a halt.  Joe glanced back to the bed of the wagon, where, for some reason, Mrs. Robertson was riding, rather than up on the seat, beside her husband.
 
“What’s the matter, Floyd?”  Joe asked.  “I thought you were on your last trip back to your ranch.  Did you forget something?”
 
Floyd turned a pale face, and eyes filled with fear, towards the deputy.  A chill ran through Joe.  What was going on?
 
Floyd set the brake and stood up, to step back into the wagon bed.  “Get the doc!”  he demanded.  “Sheriff Jacobs been shot.  It’s bad—I donno if he’ll pull through.  Hurry up!  Get the doc!!”


To be Continued
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