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 The Devil's Due - Chapter 19

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The Devil's Due - Chapter 19 Empty
PostSubject: The Devil's Due - Chapter 19   The Devil's Due - Chapter 19 EmptySun Apr 10, 2016 9:13 am

The Devil’s Due  Chapter 19

Jake Nethercutt nodded to his wife as she exited the cell carrying a basin swilling with grimy water.  “Make sure you get all them combs back, Alma.  I don’t want them to have anythin’ they can use as a weapon.”

She smiled at the prisoners as her husband locked the cell door.  “I got them all.  They sure do clean up nice, don’t they?”

Nethercutt shrugged.  “In a kinda brassy, obvious way.  I ain’t keen on women who bleach their hair.   That stuff was invented for straw hats.  It’s a pretty desperate kinda woman who stoops so low to get a man.”

Charlotte’s eyes widened in indignation.  “My hair is natural.  I use nothing more than a spot of chamomile in it.  What kind of woman do you think I am?”

“I ain’t gonna answer that when my wife’s here.  She’s a lady.”  He turned back to her.  “What’s chamomile, Alma?”

Alma smiled patiently at her husband.  “It’s an herb, dear.”

“Do you use that?”

“No, dear.  I use vinegar to remove the scum from the soap.  It’s made from animal fat, you know.”

He frowned, toying with his forelock.  “Why don’t I have to remove the scum?”

“It acts like pomade on a man’s hair, dear.  It suits you.”  She turned back to the Burdons.  “Now, I can get you some books from the church collection.  Do you need anything else?”

“No, thank you, Mrs. Nethercutt.  You’ve been very kind.  We won’t forget it when we’re vindicated,” Carlotta turned to glare at the lawman once more.

He simply shrugged and wandered back to his desk as his wife left the office.  “Have you two got a real name yet?”

“I told you.  Our real name is Burdon.  You can ask the family lawyer, Thomas Carmichael, in Denver.  Or there’s my brother-in-law, James Matheson.  You can find him through Burdon’s Bank.”

He nodded thoughtfully.  “Sure.  I’ll get right on that.”

The women watched as he stayed at his desk, ruffling idly through papers and toying with his tin mug.

“Aren’t you going to send a telegram?” asked Charlotte.

“Sure I am, once it’s repaired.”


“Yeah, someone cut the line,” he turned to glower at the prisoners once more.  “Right after we got a message to say the train had been stolen from Milton.  We managed to find the damage, but once that was repaired it still didn’t work.  It looks to me like someone wanted to cut this town off from the outside world real bad and tampered with the cable in quite a few places.  Now we caught you runnin’ away from the stolen train, I know why.  It’s just your bad luck the message telling us what kind of engine was stolen got through before the line went down.  Otherwise we might have believed your story.” 

“When will it be repaired?”  A silent, harsh stare was her only reply.  “Fine.  I’ll leave you alone.  I can take a hint.”

“Good.  You can tell your woes to the circuit judge when he gets here.  I’ll check you out as soon as I can, but that’ll take a couple of days at least,” he rocked back on his chair.  “You drove a decoy, stolen train, and everyone knows the Devil’s Hole Gang don’t do stuff like kidnap.  They don’t have female gang members neither.  They’re real good to the ladies, but they don’t stoop to employin’ ‘em.  Your story just don’t add up and the judge ain’t gonna think any different to me; you are part of a gang that’s tryin’ to push the blame on another band of criminals.  That’s obvious to anyone.  A woman gone bad is always worse than a man gone bad, so don’t expect any sympathy in Bear Springs.”

“I don’t want sympathy.  I want a fair hearing, and I want my family lawyer to put it to the court,” Carlotta replied.

“He won’t represent us, Lottie.”  Charlotte nested on the bunk.  “Angelique has washed her hands of us.  That much is clear, so she’s not going to let us use any family resources to help ourselves.”

“She’ll help us,” Carlotta’s lips firmed into a line.  “If the family wants us to keep their secrets, they’d better allow us access to their assets.”

“Secrets?”  Charlotte’s eyes widened.  “What secrets?  Why don’t I know any secrets?”

“Because you’re the youngest and you’ve been protected from them.  Angelique knows and if she thinks I’ll let her treatment of me lie now I’m out of that hole she has another thing coming.”

“You can’t say something like that and leave me hanging, Lottie.  What secrets?”

“If you need to know, I’ll tell you.  In the meantime, just let me remind her where she stands before I allow her to waltz off with all the money.”

“Secrets?  Money?”  Nethercutt leaned forward in interest.  “I knew it.  Female criminals.  Who else has a lawyer on tap like that?  I knew the minute I laid eyes on you.  Who’s this Angelique?  Is she the one who laid out the woman on the train?”

“She’s our sister,” protested Charlotte.

“Yeah, I said I thought it was a family gang.  I’ll wager it’ll be your men too when we catch ‘em.”  Nethercutt shook his head ruefully.  “And I’ll be real surprised if any of you are lawfully married to them either.  Like I said; when women go bad, they go real bad.”

The deputy’s eyes drooped along with his head.  He hated nightshifts, but with prisoners in the cells someone had to be here twenty four hours a day.  Coffee.  That’d help.  He got up and placed a hand against the pot perched on the pot bellied stove and smiled appreciatively at the warmth before grabbing a tin mug and pouring out a cup of the hot dark liquid.  The pungent tang of the bitter liquid hit his taste buds forcing an almost instinctive grimace which was quickly dispelled by a satisfied smack of the lips.  A creak made him turn to stare around the room.  Nothing.  Just the two women sleeping softly on their bunks, like they had for the last three nights.  The sooner the judge got here, and they were transferred to prison, the better, as far as he was concerned.
He returned to his seat, picking up his dime novel and lost himself once more in the escapades of Tennessee Tom and Pandemonium Pete.  Pete had just climbed into the roof of the bank and was pulling the ladder up behind him when a metallic click beside the deputy’s right ear sent a visceral chill through every nerve.  He froze at the baritone voice purring softly in his ear.  “Put your hands up and keep them up.  My friend here is going to relieve you of your gun.  Just do exactly as you’re told and you’ll be fine.”  The deputy turned stared into a pair of intense dark eyes above a bandana mask which moved in and out with the interloper’s breath.  “My friends here are going to take you outside and put you somewhere safe so we can get on with our business.  They’ll take real good care of you.”

He looked behind the gunman and scanned the shadows, gulping at the sight of three masked men walking towards him.

“Are you gonna do as you’re told?” demanded the burliest of the four with a low growl.

The deputy nodded and opened his mouth to reply, but quickly found it stuffed with cloth as his hands were cuffed behind his back.  He was lifted to his feet and rough hands ushered him out the back door to the outhouse which was destined to be his prison for the night. 

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry pulled down their masks, glanced back down the corridor they had just crept up, and grinned.  Heyes’ gloved hand reached for the large ring of keys on the hook.  “Keys?  You getting’ lazy, Heyes?”

“I did the back door didn’t I?  Come on.”

The sound of the rattling lock shook the occupants of the cell out of their slumber.  Charlotte propped herself up, blinking into the half-light, and gave a little squeal of fear.  “Who are you, what do you want?”

“Sshh, it’s only us,” hissed Heyes.  “We’ve come to get you out of here.”

“No,” groaned Carlotta.  “Not you.  Will we ever be rid of you?”  She slumped back down on her bunk and threw her thin blanket over her head.  Shifting her gaze from the dark-haired man, she drilled her eyes into Kid Curry’s.  “You!  We saw you get shot.”

The Kid grinned mischievously.  “Well, yes ma’am, I reckon you did.”

“Before we go, have you two done any drawings for the law?” Heyes demanded.

“Drawings?”  Charlotte pouted.  “No.  We’ve been lucky to get the use of a comb.  He doesn’t believe a word we say.  He thinks we stole that train.” 

Heyes stared into her eyes, appraising them for lies and deception. Satisfied, he nodded.   “Well, come on.”  Heyes gestured with his head.  “What are you waiting for?”

“For you to leave.  Go away,” muttered Carlotta.

Charlotte stared at her sister’s slumped form in surprise.  “They’re saving us from jail, Lottie.”

“They’re saving themselves from us releasing the pictures, Charlotte.  I’d rather take my chance in jail.  I’m sure I can do a deal if the worst comes to the worst.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance before the leader’s tone firmed.  “Carlotta, I don’t have time for games.  Get up.  Charlotte, get your jacket and boots on.  We’re taking you out of here.”

The elder sister didn’t move.  “Go away.”

The Kid arched his brows and started to smirk as Heyes repeated himself.  “This isn’t a game.  Get up.” 


Heyes gave a huff of irritation.  “Then you leave us no alternative.  We’ll have to take you by force.  Charlotte.  Are you ready?  I take it you’re being more sensible?”

She nodded.  “Well, if I don’t have any choice…”

“You don’t.  This is your last chance, Carlotta.”  She rolled over with her back to them, grabbing onto the blanket more tightly.  “Fine.”  Heyes folded his arms.  “Take her, Kid.”

The blue eyes widened in surprise.  “Me?  I ain’t doin’ it.  This is your problem.  I don’t look at a beautiful woman and think I want to fight her.  That’s more you.”

“It is your problem.  I’m the leader and I’m telling you to do it.”

The tousled head shook.  “Nu uh.  You brought me in to back you up, not to get my eyes scratched out.  I need them.”

“You’re my back up and I’m the leader.”

“So lead.  On you go,” the Kid pushed him towards the huddled body on the bunk.  “Me and Charlotte will follow you.”  He linked arms with her.  “We said we’d take one woman each and I’ve got mine.  Ain’t that right, Charlotte?”

“I suppose so,” she replied.  “Please get up, Lottie.  Don’t be difficult.”

“I’m not being difficult.  I’ve had all I can take of being kept in the dark like a mushroom.  I’m not going anywhere with that man.”

“I thought you were meant to be my support,” grumbled Heyes to the Kid.

“Yeah, with a gun,” smirked the Kid.  “I ain’t gonna shoot her.  This was your idea.  You do the donkey work for a change.  I’ll bring Charlotte.”  He beamed at the younger sister who stood ready to go.  “Can you grab your sister’s boots and jacket?  I’m sure she’ll want them later.”  Sounds  at the backdoor signaled the return of the henchmen.  “You’d best get on with it.  Wheat might laugh.”

Heyes strode over to the bunk, muttering under his breath all the way.  He seized the bundled woman and threw her over his shoulder, ignoring the indignant cries and kicks, and made for the cell door.  He fixed Wheat and Kyle with a hard look.  “He’s secure?”

“As a bug in a rug,” nodded Wheat.

“Nah, considerin’ where he is, he’s more like a pig in…,” Kyle was cut short by an elbow to the ribs from Wheat.

“Ladies present!”

“Oh, yeah,” Kyle dragged off his hat and gave a juicy smile.  “Evenin’, Miz Charlotte.”  He turned to the struggling sibling, her head still wrapped firmly in her blanket.  “Miz Carlotta.  Looking real cozy there.  That blanket’s a good idea for the night air.  Real sensible.”

“Come on,” growled Heyes.  He stopped dead after about three steps, unable to move.

“I think she’s holdin’ onto the bars, Heyes,” snickered Wheat.

“Get her hands, will you?  I don’t have time for this.”

“Who does?  Don’t she want to be rescued?” Wheat wrestled with Carlotta’s fingers one by one and enclosed her hands in his huge fists.

“What tipped you off, Wheat?” chortled the Kid.  “Was it the strugglin’ and yellin’, or was it the kickin’?  With observation skills like that I’m glad we didn’t make you look out.”

“What?  And miss Heyes and his skill with the women folk?” Wheat retorted.  “It’s like watchin’ a drunk chase a balloon near the edge of a cliff.”

Heyes’ patience was wearing thin by the time he reached his horse.  He shouldered Carlotta onto the animal face down and mounted behind her.  “You can stay like that until the edge of town.  I swear, I never met a more ornery mare in my life,” he paused, “outside of my own family, that is.”


Three miles outside of town Heyes pulled his horse to a stop and hauled down the woman who had been thoroughly bounced into submission.  He dragged the blanket from her head, holding her right wrist in his gloved hand.  “Let’s get one thing straight, Carlotta.  You don’t get to call the shots around me.  Got that?”   

“Let me go.  You’re nothing but a bully.  Have you any idea how it felt to be on that train leaving you behind?”

A joyless smile flickered over his face.  “Your company’s no party for me either.  I hope you enjoyed your trip, but it was all part of the plan.  You’ve been some use to me at last.”


“Yes.  It was all set up.  There was no shooting, the Kid and I were in cahoots all along, and there were blanks in the gun you had.  Ike made sure you had just enough water to get to Bear Springs, so you wouldn’t really be on a runaway train.”

Confusion crowded her face.  “But you could never have predicted how the sheriff was going to react.”

“I could make a darn good guess based on the fact that I sent him a telegram asking him to look out for the train and two blonde women who had been behaving suspiciously around it,” he replied archly.  “Right before I cut the lines so he couldn’t check on anything.”

Carlotta’s jaw dropped open.  “You’re the devil himself!”

“We’re all in hell, sweetheart, and we’re all playing with different demons.  I got you.” 

Her eyes widened and she swung her left hand, striking him on the cheek with a loud smack.  She paused, waiting for a reaction but he stood stock still, staring down at her with glittering dark eyes.  “You can have that one, but don’t ever do it again.”

“Or?  You’ll hit me back?  Is that the kind of man you are?”

He dropped her right wrist and seized her by the top of her arms, his hot breath on her skin as he barked into her face.  “You really don’t want to find out who I am when I’m pushed, Carlotta.  That’s the best advice you’ve ever been given, and it comes from a man who’d find life a lot easier if he just put a bullet in your brain.  Just get on that damned horse and keep away from me.  Got that?”

He searched her face for evidence his words had landed, and he got it in the blotches of emotion in her cheeks and the slight flaring of her nostrils, but there was something else deep in her eyes; emptiness, a deep lack of worth.  It was too familiar to him; he’d seen that emotional flatness before and he suddenly realized for the first time what made her tick.  Her behavior fell into place and he gulped back his shame.   He frowned and released his grasp.  “I’m sorry,” he murmured softly.  “Yeah, that whole thing must have been real scary for you both.  I’m doing my best not to hurt either of you.  That train ride had to be done.  I’ll explain it to you later when we’ve got more time.  Right now we need to get out of here.”


Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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The Devil's Due - Chapter 19 Empty
PostSubject: Re: The Devil's Due - Chapter 19   The Devil's Due - Chapter 19 EmptySun Apr 10, 2016 9:14 am

They had ridden for hours, stopping briefly only to rest the horses, pressing on further and further from Bear Springs and away from any possible posse until they finally stopped for the night.  The little group had eaten and started to relax after a long hard day in the saddle.  Heyes looked over at the two women leaning against the huge grey boulders at the edge of the clearing and took his chance.  “Did you have enough to eat?”

“Yes, thanks,” Charlotte smiled sweetly.  Heyes noted the difference in demeanor between her and the sullen sister who stared resolutely ahead, seemingly determined to ignore him.

“Good.”  He crouched, his face dimpling in a warm smile.  “You do know that was all set up, don’t you?  The train was going to run out of steam pretty soon after Ike jumped off.  He made sure it was going fairly slow too.  After all, not even outlaws like to jump off a speeding train.  You weren’t really in any danger.”

“All so you could use us as decoys to lure the law away from the real robbery?”  Carlotta huffed.  “I resent being used as a tethered goat for your criminal activities.”

“It was way more than that.”  Heyes sat between them.  “Your credibility is completely shot.  The ‘Durbins’ have been touring the area, so the law thinks you’re not them.  You were arrested with a stolen train, helping a payroll robbery take place, and now you’ve busted out of jail.  You can’t take any pictures of us to the law without turning yourselves in.  You’re as wanted as I am and the law isn’t going to believe a word you say.”

The women exchanged a nervous glance.  “Wanted?” asked Charlotte.

“Yup.  I guess you could brazen it out and try to see if a court will believe you weren’t in on it, but believe me, if I’m going down, I’m taking you with me.  It’s not too gentlemanly, but the Kid and I’ll swear blind you were our lovers and did the job willingly.  I could even tell them it was your idea to steal the train.”

“You wouldn’t!” gasped Charlotte.  “That’d ruin us socially, even if we escaped jail.”

Heyes nodded.  “Yes, but on the bright side it does mean that we could take you back to Scarlet’s hotel where you could get back to your old lives and just chalk all this up to experience.  We could be free of you and you could be free of us.  I’ve done some research and your father would have had to lodge the twenty thousand reward money with the state authorities.”  He looked at each girl in turn.  “If nobody claims it, it goes into a fund to help the state post rewards for other people.  It’s already gone.  It wouldn’t have broken your trust fund.”

“You mean all this was for nothing?”  Charlotte glared at her sister.  “We would have kept our inheritance?”

“Pretty much,” Heyes agreed.  “You don’t have to take my word for it.  You can check when you get home,” his smile widened, “and I’m going to let you go.  This was just a dumb idea from the start, but the law will never look for you in a respectable home in Denver.  Go home.  Be free.”  He stared at Carlotta who had started to cry.  “Be happy.”

“The house,” Carlotta insisted.  “He included the house, too.”

“Only if the person was related to us,” Charlotte’s stubborn jaw firmed, “and James was never going to have the courage to do that.  We did all this for nothing.”

Heyes shrugged watching Carlotta’s tears.  “I have to give it to you two on courage, but you were stupidly foolhardy.   Most criminals would have used you until they were bored, then killed you.  I’m sorry to be crude but you need to understand how dangerous all this was.  I want you to promise me that you’ll never do anything this stupid again.”

“I promise,” Charlotte turned glittering eyes on Carlotta.  “Tell him, Lottie.  We can go home!”

“I’m so tired of it all,” Carlotta dropped her head.  “Yes.  I promise.”

Heyes smile masked the slight narrowing of his eyes.  “Good.  Now, Carlotta and I need to have a little talk to iron out a few things.  Can we have some privacy?”

“I don’t want to talk to you,” Carlotta snapped.

“Please?”  Heyes turned his most glittering smile on Charlotte.  “We have some details to sort out.”
She nodded and climbed to her feet.  “I think you two do need to part on a better footing.  I’ll just be over there, Lottie.  Be nice.”

They watched her walk away before Heyes turned gentle eyes on the stiff, brittle woman.  “I was caught up in the border wars when I was young.  Me and the Kid lost everything and everyone.  It was violent and messy.  There were quite a lot of children in the same boat; too many mouths to feed and not enough room.  We moved around a few places before we ended up in a home for waywards.  Mostly they were there because they acted out.  Society had rejected them, so they rejected it right back.  I guess that’s pretty much what I did.”

Carlotta frowned.  “So?  I’m supposed to feel sorry for you?”

“Nope, absolutely not.”  Heyes continued.  “Anyway, there was a girl in there, in the girl’s wing.  She was cold, retreated into herself, distant, closed down.  Where her heart should have been there was an empty hole and she was just plain rude.  I hated her until someone told me what had happened to her.  Eight men hit their place and they left her for dead.”  He paused, the campfire glittering in his dark eyes.  “She had been broken as a female even before she became a woman.  She lived through horrors she wasn’t meant to survive.  I came to understand that all she could feel was hurt, so she blocked her feelings out along with everything else.”  He paused, noting Carlotta had fallen silent.  “I looked into your eyes today and there was the same emptiness I saw in hers.  Someone hurt you, didn’t they?  They damaged you so badly they took a piece of your soul.”  He turned.  She was staring at him with silent outrage.  “You don’t need to answer.  You don’t even need to acknowledge me, but I think I understand now why you’re so angry at men, so cold, so very protective of your sister, and so determined not to marry.” 

He sat, drinking in her vitreous silence before he continued.  “I hated your brother.  You’re much better than him.  I know the type of man he was.  It’s not your fault.  He was older than you, bigger, and forceful.  You accepted the truth about him too easily for a woman who was campaigning on family honor, and that’s because you already knew exactly what he was.”  He turned to look at her but she stared off aimlessly at the horizon, blinking back an occasional tear.

“It makes sense that you want to be independent from a family who let you down so badly, but who still demanded your unquestioning loyalty.  It doesn’t seem to me that you saw much return on that.  If it’s any consolation I really admire what you did for Charlotte.  I think you kept him away from her.  That’s a special type of courage.  Someone should have helped you, Carlotta.  I might be a thief, a liar, and a cheat; but I’d have beat him to a pulp before I’d have let him hurt you.”

“Go away.”

“I plan to, but do me a favor.  Think long and hard about what you’re going back to and how you’re going to live.  Blood doesn’t always make family, sometimes they’re the people we gather along the way.  Life’s too short to be unhappy all the time.”  He stood.  “If you can survive this, you can survive almost anything.  Put that schemer’s brain to work on something a bit more realistic.  You did all of this because you knew what you wanted to avoid.  How about you start thinking about what you want to do instead?”

He stood and gave her a nod before he walked back to the campfire, her blue eyes blazing into his back every step of the way.

“What did you just say to her?” asked a curious Kid Curry.

Heyes turned and smiled at the woman dabbing gently at her eyes.  “I told her she’s free.”

“So why’s she cryin’?”

He shrugged.  “I made a lucky guess.”


Charlotte had covertly watched the entire exchange from where she sat next to the dying embers of the campfire warming her hands.  She had hoped that Carlotta would accept the outlaw’s reasoning and stop resisting the man.  He’d already proven he had the upper hand with them both and she couldn’t understand why Lottie continued to battle him.  Whatever did he say to her?  Rather than the conversation lightening her sister’s mood, Carlotta had gone to pieces.   Quietly, she crept over to Lottie and sat down next to her, gathering the sobbing girl into her arms and pressing her cheek against the top of her head.  “There, there, darling, please stop crying.  We’re going to be free.  Mr. Heyes has promised.  We are safe and we can go home.”

“I won’t go home!  I’ll never go home!” was the muffled reply.

“Don’t be silly.  I know James and Angelique are quite irritated with us right now, but they would never turn us out onto the street. They’ve got the family reputation to think of.  Once we explain, I’m sure we can smooth things over.”  Her words had barely left her lips when her sister wrestled out of her arms and sat up, rubbing a grimy hand across her tear-stricken face. 

An ugly anger was etched in Carlotta’s features and her eyes blazed with fury.   She thrust Charlotte away.  “I will…never…go back to that hellhole.”

“Carlotta, you’re just upset.  Once you’ve calmed down, you’ll feel differently.  We’re Burdons, too, we belong there as much as they do.”

“I’ll never speak that name again.  I’m Carlotta Durbin now,” she spat, “I hate them.  I wish they were dead.”

Charlotte recoiled from her venomous statement.  “You don’t mean that! I know they’re not very kind, but they are our family.  What on earth has come over you?”

“What?”  Carlotta gave an eerie, sneering laugh.  “You want to know what’s come over me?  Why don’t you ask Heyes?  He’ll enjoy telling you.”

“Please let me help you.  You’ve always taken care of me.  I beg of you, let me help.”

Tears streaked Lottie’s face as she crumpled against her younger sibling.  “Oh, Charlotte.  I’ve been such a fool.  All those years Papa and Mama told me I had to be quiet.  For the family’s sake.  For honor.  All lies.  We have no family.  There is no honor.  They never cared about us.”

Starting to feel a cold chill creeping up her spine, Charlotte grabbed her sister’s forearms and gave her a shake.  “Tell me what happened to you!  Tell me.  I have a right to know.”

“It…it was William.”  The sobs abated and Lottie lay limply in her sister’s arm.  Her flat voice continued.  “It started when I was eight.  He would come to me after everyone had gone to bed.  He…he…did unspeakable things.”  She felt Charlotte stiffen and her heart broke open.  “I tried to tell Mama, but she wouldn’t hear it.  She called me a liar, said I was jealous of William.  She told me never to speak of it to Papa or she would cast me out.   She said I was spoiled goods and no one would want me.  I was so ashamed.  Everyone knew, I’m sure of it.  The servants.  Angelique used to taunt me with it.  Everyone  knew but you.”

A wave of nausea shuddered through Charlotte’s stomach.  She knew Lottie was telling the truth.  Somehow she knew her whole life had been a lie.  This was the secret she’d been shielded from.  Clutching her tightly, Charlotte rubbed her hand up and down her sister’s back.  “Why did you never tell me?  We’ve shared everything.  I could’ve helped you.”

“We were children,” screamed Lottie in misery, “what could we do?” 

Charlotte, crying too, saw several of the outlaws look towards them and quickly look away.  She felt the rush of shame spreading to her cheeks, but almost immediately rejected it.  No one deserved the treatment her sister had received.   Lottie had nothing to be ashamed of, she’d carried a terrible burden alone for far, too long.  “You kept him from me, didn’t you?  All those times you refused to be left behind.  I used to be so angry with you, the fits you used to throw.  I thought you were so jealous of my time with him, but that wasn’t it at all.  You were saving me from him, weren’t you?”  A pathetic nod confirmed her suspicions.   “Oh, darling, how could I be so stupid?”

The sisters wept in each other’s arms until their tears ran dry and, spent, they dried their eyes.  Charlotte stood up first and helped Lottie to her feet.  “Well, it’s settled.  We are never going back to Denver.  We’re the Durbin sisters now and we’ll go where we damn well please!”

Carlotta smiled hearing the mild swear word coming from her proper little sister.  “Yes, but we have no place to go and no money to go anywhere.”

“We’ll go to Sweatless.  Scarlet will take us in until we get on our feet.  She’s been nothing but kind to us and we can make ourselves useful to her.”

“And Gabe will be there.”  Carlotta’s face fell once more.  “He won’t want me hanging around.”

Charlotte looped an arm through her sister’s.  “Where ever we go, we go together.”

Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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The Devil's Due - Chapter 19
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