Miss Dee

ANGELS & SINNERS (Updated 8/12/17)

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Miss Dee    84

Emily Wyeth was born into privilege and affluent part of New York City. She was the youngest daughter born to a wealthy Englishman who was as heavy handed and as ruthless with his family as he was in business. After her eldest sister Elizabeth ran away with an Irishman, her father, Arthur, became increasingly watchful of his remaining children, To the point where the only place young Emily found refuge was at the nearby church. The church should have been the one place Emily was safe from the ever changing world around her.  Although the newly appointed preacher was married, that didn't stop him from having an eye for young girls. Emily caught his fancy in particular with her petite frame, sweet heartshape face, long chestnut hair paired with emerald green eyes. Over a short amount of time he gained her favor, then he claimed her heart. 

 The fifteen year old Emily didn't understand what was happening with the changes in her body but the Preacher being a father of five already recognized it right away. He knew about the ruthless manor in which Arthur, her father had conducted his affairs and heard stories about his rivals disappearing from their homes. The thought that he had seduced and impregnated the youngest daughter of such a man made his blood run ice cold. 

 He convinced Emily she would add further scandal and bring unbearable shame to her mother and fathers reputation if anyone at all knew she was unmarried and pregnant. That they would disown her and send her to a convent back in England if they found out what she a done. If that was to happen their baby would be taken away from her immediately after birth and they would never see each other again. 

 He told her that she should leave a note for her father that she was joining her sister & brother-in-law out in the west. In reality, she would travel by train to his brothers in Missouri where he would meet up with her shortly. They would wed before she got heavy with child and be together as a family away from her father's rule. 

   Emily was heartbroken, as she believed in her heart he was right, that her father would disown her. Her naïve love for the preacher was so pure that with a tear in her eye, Emily left the note for her parents on the bureau in her father's office, took a small wad of bills he kept hidden in the back of one of the  bureau drawers and slipped out of her home before anyone woke. She met the Preacher at the train station where he gave her a kiss on the forehead, her ticket for the train, a note with the address she is to go to in St Joseph and a thick wax sealed envelope to only be opened by his brother. Then Emily boarded the train heading west with a swollen belly, a single suitcase with her most prized possessions and a small purse full of coin the Preacher had given her, which he had stolen from the church offerings.  

The train ride was long but Emily was fascinated by the cities with peculiar names she had only heard her father and his business associates talk about. She watched out the window in wonder as the countryside changed from lush green forests, mountains and rolling hills to the open golden plains. It seemed as if she could see for miles and miles across the flat land. Though she rode in a beautifully appointed car with plush velvet seats that converted into a snug sleeping berth, the constant motion of the train kept her nauseous for the duration of her travels.

As Emily exited the station in Kansas City she was weary and exhausted but managed to find the stagecoach that would take her the rest of the way to St. Joseph. She prayed the coach would get to their destination before the setting sun slipped below the horizon.

he stagecoach meandered north along a well worn path eventually pulling up to the address she had given the coachmen. The trip had taken longer than she had hoped and it was now dusk. Emily was so nervous, her hands were trembling.

Before her was a small white church with an overly large cemetery touting several fresh graves. The coachmen pointed to a little structure in between the church and the cemetery and told her the man she was looking for would be in there. Emily made her way along the worn path to a building with a makeshift sign reading "Undertaker".

Her small, fragile hand knocked on the worn and scarred door, which was answered abruptly by an oddly familiar silhouette. Emily was speechless as her eyes fell on a man that looked identical to the Preacher she had left in New York with the exception of a red burn mark that spanned from ear to ear under his jaw line and his rough, unshaven appearance. She had wondered how she would recognize the preacher's family but he'd assured her she would. She knew immediately it was his brother whom she had been sent to stay with until the time of her beloved's arrival. Still unable to talk she handed him the envelope which he immediately shoved inside of his suit as he ushered her into the cramped quarters. Without any warmth he introduced himself as Alford Mathews, the St Joseph preacher and recently appointed Undertaker.

Her tired and heavy eyes scanned the over crowded room. She noticed to the right a small partially enclosed nook that housed an unmade bed with a holy cross over the headboard and bookshelves holding several books lining the walls. Closest to her was a small dining table with a steaming hot cup of coffee, a pen with inkwell and documents in a small pile. A single chair was pushed back and she figured that was where he was sitting before she arrived. Next to the table was a potbelly stove that was heating a pot of water.  There was what looked like a family picture in a dimly lit corner over a wash stand with a full pitcher of water. She wanted to go investigate the photo but decided to wait for a better opportunity. To the left of her was a blood stained table with an empty drain bucket under a hole at one end. The purpose of the table made her shudder and she was grateful it was empty. Towards the back of the room was a few different size coffins but the two that caught her eye were the ones that appeared to be getting prepared for their eternal occupants. One was about her size and the other could fit an infant. Her hand immediately went to her stomach as she thought of the baby inside. 

The coroner gazed upon this waif of a girl wondering why she was knocking on his door after dark fall. He motioned at the chair for her to have a seat and rest. As she moved towards the chair he noticed her hand on her abdomen and saw her condition. Unsure as to why he suddenly got an uneasy feeling about this, he pulled the envelope out and noticed the familiar wax seal which is when his stomach sank. What has his brother done this time? They had shared the womb, looks, upbringing and shared professions, but that was where the similarities ended. His brother had always had both of their shares of troubles and woes especially where gambling and women were concerned. His brothers wife was not unattractive woman but from what his mother had recently written had become increasingly dependent on her daily dose of opium and becoming emotionally unstable when she missed her dose. Still, he wondered if she knew about her husband's constant philandering. He was instantly sure this young girl was carrying another one of his brothers bastards. He let out a deep sigh as he opened the envelop to discover three hundred dollars and a letter addressed to him. 

 

"My Dear Brother

It has indeed been a while since I have written you directly and for that I offer my sincerest apologies. Mother says you are doing well in the west. She gushes at how your church has continued to grow in numbers. She has expressed concerns of your health with the recent cholera outbreaks in that region, but I have assured her you will be fine. She also informed me due to unfortunate events, you have recently become the undertaker. There is no easy or polite way to ask this.  I am asking for you to please dispose of my skeletons so they will never resurface. In exchange I will not tell our dear mother about the atrocities you yourself have committed. Speaking of, how are your injuries healing? You know it would break Mother's heart and quite possibly kill her considering the fragile state she has been in since father's passing last year. Here is some money for a single casket, a plot and your trouble. No need for a headstone, the names don't matter. 

 

Your brother, 

Edwin

 

He crumpled up the letter in a fit of rage then then threw it into the fire watching as the letter caught and burn to ashes. His glare then shifted to this woman child whose eyes had closed and fallen asleep in his chair. His rage continued to grow at the thought of how his brother could disregard her and his actions when he himself found it his place in the world to protect the meek and innocent. Thinking to the "Atrocities" his brother referred to further stoked his rage. His brother suggestion that killing a white man in the middle of rapping a young Indian girl made him question what was  left of his brothers integrity if any at all. The wounds he bore were from an attempted hanging by so called vigilantes in retaliation for the derelict he shot. In his eye that wasn't an atrocity, it was defending the weak from the wicked. Which thankfully were the sentiments of the Sheriff as well. Justice had been served when the vigilantes were apprehended and thrown in jail for the attempted murder of the preacher. They had also been convicted of a few other crimes and hung a few weeks later. 

Deep in though and without realizing it, his left began tracing the angry burns the rope had left on his throat. His eyes shifted to the unfinished workload on the table. He had twelve new interments this week that needed headstones. With a heavy sigh he remembered he was expecting the mother and child belonging to the two closer caskets in the morning. That would bring it to fourteen townsfolk they lost this week alone. 

Though he wasn't prone to drink, it had been one hell of a week. He retrieved a dusty jug of whiskey from under the nearby counter and took a long swig to ease his troubled mind. One swig turned into two, then three. He stopped counting when he stumbled to his bed and slipped into a drunken oblivion. 

 

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Miss Dee    84

Days turned into weeks as Emily looked out the window waiting for her love to appear. Although she was young, she wasn't  ignorant. She became resigned to the fact that he probably would not be joining her. In the beginning she would often ask Alford if he had received any news from back east. She could see the sadness in Alford eyes before he would look away from her and simply mutter, "no" then move about his business. Eventually she stopped asking.

Though they did not have much in the way of conversation, they grew to except each other's presence. When Alford had the newly departed on the table for burial preparation, she would go sit at the edge of the church grounds underneath a old oak with a bubbling creek near it. Sometimes she would read a book from his collection, sometimes she would look at the few family photographs she had brought with her from home and recollect happier moments from her childhood. But most times she would shed tears of heartache and frustration for allowing herself to be so naïve to have been used by a man she doubted ever really loved her the way he said. Now she was about to bring forth a new life into this wretched world with no one around her to support but a man that she barely knew with a face that was a constant reminder of her of the poor decisions she had made.

In the beginning, the townsfolk paid little attention to her, but as she grew heavier with child they would look at her with increasingly disapproving stares.  Sometimes she would hear Alford deflect questions when the nosey people would try and pry about her and the child's father.  Thankfully Alford was kept busy with the numerous funerals and didn't have time to entertain the town gossip.

One afternoon, a particularly vicious thunderstorm had just subsided and she had begun preparing their supper. They were grateful for the water the rains brought and the smell of the damp earth was a treat, but the hail had left a lot of damage outside. Alford was assessing the small garden behind the building, praying the vegetables were still going to be harvest-able. He was startled when he heard a large clatter, followed by a scream from their home. Inside, Emily was greeted with a sharp pain causing her to drop the the pitcher she had been carrying to the floor. Over the past week, she had little energy and her movement was slow and restricted. She couldn't get her shoes on anymore without his help, so she remained barefoot and hadn't gone outside in a several days. Her back has been aching terribly, and she had began to have these little contractions that would take her breath away. She was grateful for the few nightgowns he had made for her by a lady in town to accommodate her changing figure.

With worry, Alford rushed in to the room discovering Emily on her knees with her arms and head on the chair sobbing in pain. He knelt down, put his arms around her tiny body and gathered her up. He was surprised at how light she was even fully with child. He wondered to himself if she would even be able to survive delivery. He gently laid her on the bed then rushed out the door in to town to fetch the doctor.

The town physician was a godly man who was a little too pompous and self righteous for Alford's liking. When Alford found him at home eating with his family, the doctor acted indignant about his meal being interrupted to help the "unwed pregnant girl who was laid up with him in the undertakers building"
 Appalled at the accusations and how the doctor was addressing him,  Alford informed him and the rest of the people in earshot that that woman was his wife and the child was his. Everyone's eyes went wide with shock. They had known him for several years now, but he had come and gone with the wagon trains as a circuit preacher only returning a spell to file the birth, death, and marriage certificates before heading back on the trail. It was only because the undertaker had died in the last wave of sickness that swept through that Alford had stayed in town and not gone back out. Emily had shown up a few months after his last journey, so the timing was right for his story to be believable. All he would need to do now is to make the documents match.

The Doctor reluctantly grabbed his bag and followed Alford back to the undertakers building they had been living in. The doctor wished he could send Alford to fetch the midwives, but the both of them had died a few months back as well. When they walked inside, Emily was laying on her side clinching the pillow, moaning in pain and breathing heavily. Alford saw a look of relief come over her as his eyes met hers. Her body was soaked in perspiration and she was writhing in agony, but she reached out for him. He went to her side grabbing her hand in his. With a small damp cloth to help wipe away the perspiration. He looked at the doctor, "Tell me what to do Doc" he said.

Several curious townsfolk had gathered outside the house over the course of the evening The gossip from the doctors wife about the birth that was about to happen spread like a wild fire. There had been so much death over the last several months so a baby was joyful news, no matter the circumstances. After several hours, a small but audible cry was heard coming from within the walls, but within minutes the house was silent. The people who were momentarily smiling for the first time in a while started to walk away, one by one, with their heads hung low. After several long minutes later, the doctor emerged and was greeted by a few stragglers. As he noticed their sad faces, he cleared his throat "Its a girl. She was incredibly hungry from the moment she took her first breath and is eating. Her name is Sadie, Sadie Mathews. She and Mrs. Mathews are doing fine." Cheers erupted from the remain onlookers. After a few minutes the people made their way back to their respective homes.



Shortly after the arrival of Sadie,  Emily and Alford moved into a larger, more suitable house not far from the church outside of town. They lived as a family but it was several years before they were truly man and wife. Some of the townsfolk didn't completely believe that Sadie was Alford's at first. As she grew older she was the spitting image of him but with hazel green eyes and her mothers petite build. The rumors eventually died down and were forgotten.

Sadie was mischievous and rambunctious from the moment she could walk. As a small child she was fascinated by horses and livestock. Sometimes, she would go missing, only to be found covered in dirt and manure in the neighboring stables. She was more at home playing cowboys and Indians with the boys then hosting tea parties with the girls in the. She was not sweet in nature, compliant and quiet like her mother at all. She was curious about the few pictures that hung on the wall by the front door in the house. She wanted to know about Papa's family and the uncle that looked exactly like him. About her mother's family and all the aunts and uncles she never met. She was not satisfied with the silence she got from her parents. No matter how many times she would ask, she was told nothing. after a while she forgot about the pictures hanging there.

As Sadie matured, she was growing more and more restless in the growing but still suffocating town. She found it thrilling to listen to the stories coming back from further west. Tales of outlaws, gold and adventure would trickle back into the saloons. But she would always be shooed out of those establishment as it was no place for a little lady. When she was about eight, she had started sneaking out after ma and pa went to bed and hiding in plain site by wearing some boys's clothing she had taken off a clothes line. She relished the fact she could pass unrecognized around town with her hair up in an old hat of her pa's. She would stick to the shadows in the unsavory parts of the town listening in to the deputies talk about bank robberies, and bounty hunters talking about their latest Bounty claim. Every now and then a she would listen to the prostitutes talking to their customers. But the noises that usually followed the good parts of the conversations were gross, so she didn't stay there to long. Never the less, she always was able to sneak back in, get cleaned up and dressed in her night clothing then be asleep before her parents awoke.

Early one dark and stormy morning, shortly after her twelfth birthday, she was heading back from being out on one of her adventures. As she approached, she noticed a strange horse with a fancy saddle standing outside the stoop. The lights were on and though she couldn't hear what was being said, she can hear loud voices coming from within. She quietly snuck up to the front window, peering in at the scene that was unfolding in front of her. She saw Ma and Pa standing close to each other hand in hand while facing a man with his back to the window Sadie was looking through. He sounded exactly like pa but was cursing up a storm. He called Ma a dirty whore, then reaching back he suddenly slapped Ma, slamming her head forcefully into the large mirror behind her. The impact caused the mirror to fall from where it hung landing on top of Emily and shattering into hundreds of pieces. Pa charged the stranger in a rage, knocking him into a nearby table holding an oil lantern. She watched as the lantern fell to the ground breaking open and splashing the flammable liquid everywhere.  With in seconds the room was in flames while the two men grappled in the middle of the growing inferno.

She flung the front door open, running in to the room to her mother who was now on the floor un-moving. She cast aside parts of the mirror and glass that was on top of Emily, cutting her own hands while trying to get to her. Sadie immediately saw a large gash across the upper part of her mothers neck and blood was gushing out uncontrollably. She was trying to stop the blood but it was spurting out between her fingers rapidly. Her entire arms, neck and chest was becoming soaked in its sticky warmth. She looked at her mama in panic. With desperation in her voice she pleaded "Mama, what do I do! How do I make it stop!" Emily was loosing color as she lifted her hand to her daughters face. She was breathless but struggling to speak. Looking into her child's eyes  "S'Dee, m'love... run" was all she managed to whisper before the life went out of her. As her last words escaped from between her lips, her hand that was on her daughters face went limp, sliding down onto her own own chest.

A single tear slid down Sadie's cheek as she looked upon her mothers face, then at her bloody hand resting on her chest with the simple wedding band on it. Sadie let out a guttural scream from deep within. She felt the rage inside her growing as hot as the fire that was to her back. Sadie pulled herself up to her feet, her mothers blood dripping off her and mixing with the rainwater blowing in from outside. The two men hadn't noticed her there behind them in all the commotion until they heard her screams. She was reeling from just watching her mother die in front of her, murdered by the stranger who was now trying to kill her Pa. The flames were growing all around them, smoke filling the room making it hard to see. The man who was on top of Pa punching him over and over, looked at her in astonishment. Sadie's eyes were burning from the smoke but she could still see Pa's pistol hanging in its holster on a nearby chair.  She lunged for the pistol, pulling it out of the sling. With both hands holding the large gun, she aimed it at the man who had turned his attention towards her.  She cocked the lever and had begun pulling back the heavy trigger, but when she focused on his face, she suddenly released it. My God, she almost shot Pa! With confusion she looked down at the bloody but still conscious man on the ground who she had thought was her father.. then back at the man with the same face coming towards her with hate in his eyes. She was still confused until she again looked at the man on the ground whose clothing had now caught fire. She saw the sparkle of the familiar wedding band on the hand that was reaching out to her "Sadie, shoot!" He yelled out.


Without any further hesitation she held the gun firmly like he had always taught her, braced for the recoil and pulled the trigger. Her aim was true as Sadie hit the man in the center of his chest, slamming him against the open door frame that was now behind, and stopping his advancement. He looked down in shock at his chest and at the red stain that was spreading. He then looked up at her wide eyed. She pulled the trigger again. He slid down the wall leaving a blood streak as he went. Still looking at her with a face like her father's, she steadied herself and aimed once more. This bullet landed in his forehead just above his left eye. The force of the shot knocked his now lifeless body off to the side of the door leaving his head tilted at a unnatural angle, still looking in her direction. . She wanted to completely erase his face so with steady hands she walked closer and fired three more shots. One at his nose, then two at his cheeks. The fire had engulfed the entire front room and she couldn't see her father any longer among the flames.  Her mother body was beginning to burn as well.

She placed her fathers gun into her waist band then without knowing why,  she grabbed the two small family pictures she had always inquired about from the wall and ran out the door into the rain.The strangers horse was beginning to move about, agitated by the fire. She tucked the photos into a saddle bag and mounted the strangers horse then rode to the small church she grew up playing around. She locked the horse in the shed out back that had apparently once been the undertakers quarters. Sadie headed down to the now rushing creek and with tears mixing with the rain, she scrubbed her mothers blood off of her. Once she felt clean, she leaned against the old oak tree under which her mother used to read books to her and began sobbing uncontrollably. The storm had passed and daylight was creeping across the horizon.  She headed back to the shed changing into a spare set of girls clothes she had hidden in an old dresser back in a corner. She discarded the damp, blood stained clothing in with 
the boys clothes she had in another drawer..

From where she stood in the door of the shed, she can see the smoke from her home in the distance. She knew the smoke would draw attention and soon people will come around. Sadie went to the horse and drew out the pictures from the saddle bag. It had been so long since she looked at them. She looked at her father's family and with horror realized the man in the house was Pa's brother, her uncle. Returning the pictures to the saddlebag she examined the animal in front of her. It was a beautiful horse of exceptional quality.. She had so many questions.

Sadie left the horse in the shed, walked up to the church and in through her father's entrance in the back. With her father being a preacher, she was taught about the Bible and the Lord's love. But right now she was having a hard time understanding why if the Lord loved her, he would take her parents away from her in such a manner. She looked at the altar with the cross on it and instead of being filled with hope, she was filled with loneliness. Sadie laid down on the front pew where she sat with her mother and watched her father deliver his sermons for as far back as she can remember. She laid her head down where her mother would sit and cried herself to sleep.

A familiar voice belonging to the sheriff awoken her from the nightmare. In her dream she was reliving looking at her mothers cut and bleeding face while hearing her voice saying "Dee, Run". She opened her eyes at the sound of him calling her name again. The church was growing dark already and she was stiff from sleeping on the wooden pew. The Sheriff and his wife had become good friends with her Ma & Pa over the years and their son was one of her closest friends. As she looked upon his weathered and weary face, she noticed his wife Clara step out from behind him. Clara say down next to Sadie on the pew, placing her hand on Sadie's leg in an attempt to comfort the child. The sheriff started asking questions. "They are both gone Sadie. What happened? did you see anything?" He put his hand out in front of her and un-clenching his fist around two warped but recognizable rings. She took them from his hand staring numbly at them. He continue talking. "we thought you were in there as well. A few of the men started searching through the debris after the fire settled and this new storm had put out the hot spots. They found  three adult bodies in the front room but didn't locate you. This is the first place we thought to look"

Sadie just stared at the rings in her hand for what seems like an eternity. The sheriff was about to say something when Clara interrupted him. "It's getting late and this child needs some peace. Sadie, come home with us till we figure out what to do"

Sadie stood up not looking at either of them. She followed them out of the front of the church where she noticed the sun was going down. She had slept the entire day away. As they were walking to their buggy, there was a loud whinny from the shed behind the church. Sadie looked at the sheriff and walked towards the shed. She opened the door letting the still saddled horse out from inside. He walked over to a green patch of grass and started to eat.   Sadie went inside the shed, grabbed the broom by the door, swept out the horse manure, then closed and locked the door. Walking over, she grabbed the reigns and led the horse to the Sheriffs buggy where she tied it to the back and hopped in. Clara and the sheriff just stared at each other bewildered. They both climbed into the carriage next to Sadie and rode back to their house in silence.

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Miss Dee    84

For several days she wouldn't speak. They had kept the horse out back of their house with the tack and saddlebags tucked away in their barn. With time, Sadie opened up enough to tell the sheriff what she saw. She asked for the saddlebags, then showed him the picture of her father's family had a placed in the saddlebag on that fateful night. She pointed to the picture of her uncle and said "He did it. He killed them. And he's dead too" that is all she said. The sheriff just nodded and asked her what she wanted to do with his items and the remainder of the belongings in the shed behind the church. He informed her that a new pastor was going to be coming in soon and her family's remaining items needed to be moved out to make room for him. "I'll take them. And I'll go through the shed. It's mostly junk anyhow"  with that, the sheriff left her to her thoughts.

The next day Sadie headed to the church by herself on the horse that had now became hers. She went first to her father's back room clearing it of his bible and a small picture he had of Emily & Sadie when she was little. Then she went to the little shed in the back. She cleaned out all that she could, including the dresser where she had hidden the bloodstained clothes. She tore a small strip of the shirt she was wearing that night, fashioning it into a bracelet around her wrist. She stashed the some of the boys clothes in to small satchel she had brought. Then noticed her father's gun she had tucked back under the dresser. She had completely forgotten about the gun. As she picked it up and held it in her hands, the heavy weight and balance of it felt familiar, as if it belonged there. She had a distant memory surface of the times papa would sneak her away from her mama and take her shooting. Even though neither one of them cared for weapons, he understood the necessity of teaching her how to safely handle it. He taught her how to aim and fire the colt  in case she ever needed to protect herself from a wild animal. She remembered being thrown backwards into her papa's loving arms the first time she fired it. A small smile touched the corners of her lips and she remembered how they both laughed together until their sides hurt. She put the pistol and holster in her satchel with the clothing. Looking around, there wasn't much else she desired to keep.

On her way back through town she stopped at the general store where she saw a poster on the wall. The poster was an ad for an up and coming Pony Express and it read.

WANTED:
YOUNG, SKINNY, WIRY FELLOWS
not over 18, must be expert riders,
willing to risk death daily.
Orphans preferred.
Wages
$25 per week
APPLY PONY EXPRESS STABLES
ST. JOSEPH, MISSOURI

When Sadie read that, it was as if she woke up from a long slumber. She hurried back to the house where she was still staying with the Sheriff and his family. They had been good to her and she managed to settle in there. But she was growing tired of the dresses and conformity. She took her papa's gun and the boys clothes out of the satchel hiding them in the back of the stable. As she walked in, Clara was asking about what she found. She showed her the Bible and picture of her and her mom. " and without a word, walked back to the room she was sharing with their daughter.

Early that next morning before sunrise, Sadie quietly grabbed a pair of scissors then snuck out of the house and into the stable. She changed into the boys clothes she had hidden then proceeded to cut her hair off into a shabby boys style. She strapped her daddy's pistol under the clothing tight against her body then  threw a jacket on over that to hide the bulge against her small frame. It was the 1st of April and it was still chilly out, thank heavens. She put the nightgown and her locks of hair in to a bag that she she disposed of under the neighbors burn heap. Sadie made her way across town to the Pony Express office where she was interviewed by a stranger by the name of Alexander Majors. After his many questions about her parents, she assured him she was 14 and an orphan. He presented her with a special edition Bible and had her sign and repeat an oath

"I, Alford D. Matthews, do hereby swear, before the great and living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and do so direct all my acts to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God."

At first she was nervous he would recognize the name, but it did not phase him or any of the other people in the office. They were all new to the area and had not known her father. He told her to head out with some of the other young men, that they were leaving shortly to take their places along the routes and she would be assigned to the Fort Kearny area. The fellas she started with looked as young as she did and were without facial hair, which further calmed her anxiety about being discovered as a girl. Within hours, she was heading along the trail west.

The days flew by in a rush. Her runs in between the posts were as exhilarating as they were exhausting. She loved the feel of the horse flying across the open plains and look forward to hearing of news from back East. She often worried that the sheriff would look for her, but as time passed she lost her concern. A little over a year had passed when she started hearing news of a telegraph that was going across the continent and unrest back east. It seemed as if war was coming. Even though payment was uncertain and the weather was often bitter cold, she thrived in the environment and got a thrill when the mochila was passed successfully between riders.

It was late fall 1862 and Sadie had just come into Ft. Laramie from Cottonwood when she heard the news. After a year and a half, the Pony Express was shutting down. The Transcontinental Telegraph had completed a few days prior and all mail runs ceased immediately.

She looked up at the man who had just given her the news. He was the closest thing to someone in charge. "What's the word then Carl? What now?"
"I don't know Alford, gather your self up and head home I reckon." He poured her a shot of whiskey from the bottle kept hidden behind his desk.
 She gladly took it and tossed it back. Enjoying the warm burn of the liquor as it coated her dry throat. "What about this months pay? It's the 28th and I haven't received it."
"I would give ya what I got, but I got nothin to give" he said indifferently as he took a shot himself. he held up the bottle to her as if to offer her another shot.
She looked at him in disbelief at everything that happening, then accepted. She had worked with him often and liked the man. They sat there for several hours swapping stories from the trail and toasting another shot in between until the bottle was dry. Though it wasn't his normal duty, he on more than one occasion went on a run when a fellow was unable to ride.

Without pay for that month, the next morning she saddled up a familiar quarter horse she had ridden several times and headed east. This stallion was fast, sturdy and just as durable as a few of the other pintos she had ridden along some of runs further west. She considered the horse her payment for the month and compensation for the abrupt ending to her employment. She began a slow ride with vittles in an empty mochila and no idea what she was going to do. 

She had amassed a nice bit of coin which she kept in a bank in St Joseph, opposite of the city from the sheriffs house. In her disguise, which really became more who she was then a disguise, she was never recognized.  She would go in and out freely and only on one occasion she stopped by the church she had such fond memories of. With tears in her eyes she rode past the burnt remains of her home. That night she was awoken from a nightmare where she once again witnessed  her mother death and heard her mother words "Dee, Run" echo in her ears. Not long after her return, Sadie decided to withdraw all of her money and move someplace new where she could go about completely unknown as Alford.

She made it to St Louis where she deposited her money and found cheap room and board. Sometimes she would stop into a beer hall or saloon for a drink. Most of the times just to get food. Her body had started to make changes and it was becoming challenging to keep her secrets concealed. She managed to wrap her chest tightly bringing the cloth down around her waist to even out her curves. In the beginning it made it hard to breathe but she grew used to it. Within months of her arrival, The battle between North and South was in full swing.

Shortly after her arrival, she was heading into saloon when she spotted a familiar face. Henry was one of the young men she started out riding the pony express with. They talked for a bit and caught up with each other. Henry's older brother had joined the union army and Henry was going to go and join him in Illinois. Sadie was already restless from being idle so she then and there decided to join Henry.

It took a few weeks to locate Henry's brother but they were both accepted into the cavalry regiment having been a part of the pony express. The carbine they were issued stood almost as tall as Sadie did and she never got the hang of shooting them. But she did make up for it with her pistol marksmanship. She was selected for courier duty on account of 'Alfords" Pony express experience. She never did see much action in the way of combat and she was grateful for that. She had heard of other women being discovered after sustaining injuries in battle. Some were sent home, some were sent to prison. She wasn't afraid of injury or death like she was being discovered.

For almost two years she rode in the Cavalry without much of an incident to herself. Over that time she perfected the habits of her fellow soldiers. Smoking, drinking, chewing tobacco, swearing and gambling became as much a part of her as the name Alford. Henry and his brother had been transferred to another unit and from word of mouth, both had been killed shortly there after. The winter had been brutal but she managed to continue delivering messages to the front lines without fail. She was grateful for the early signs of spring that were showing and was looking forward to the snow melting from the ground

On her return one clear night, as she was moving through the woods on a route she had often used, she was blinded by a flash of light and a loud blast. Something had struck her in the crook between her left arm and chest throwing her off to the ground where she landed in an embankment of snow. Her impact on the ground had taken her breath.

 She lay there on her back, staring up at the stars unable to breathe. She was disoriented and trying to get her bearings as a blurry, male face appeared over her. He was scavenging through her pockets in silence. He unbuttoned her coat, and was reaching his hands in to search her left inside pocket when his hand contacted her now bloody breast. He threw back the coat exposing her ripped shirt and unraveled bandages. As in disbelief of what he was feeling, he squeezed it again to make sure. His hand recoiled immediately as his eyes got as big as two saucers. "Fuck" he yelled scampering back on his haunches. The pressure on her wound from the squeeze he gave her caused such excruciating pain that she finally gasped deeply filling her lungs with air. She was about to scream when he jumped up on top of her to cover her mouth. The jarring motion of him on top of her was more pain than she could bear. With that, she lost consciousness. Feeling her go limp, he backed up and stared at her and her exposed skin. He flushed a little bit as he had never seen a woman's breast before. He never meant to hurt a woman, all he wanted was the horse to escape this hell. As he looked at her, something stirred in his groin and his pants grew tight. Pushing those thoughts and impulses aside he reminded himself "that's not how mama raised you"

The horse had not gone far so he fetched it over. Tying her up with some twine he was using as a snare,  he lifted her over the front of the saddle and mounted the horse. He figured he had a few hours before daylight and he wanted to put as much distance between him and this place as possible.

The motion of the horse under her was the first thing she felt. Sadie slowly opened her eyes and was greeted by either dusk or dawn. The light was low with the sun was below the horizon and she couldn't tell. She then saw her hands dangling in front of her, bound with some kind of string. She tried moving her wrists to see how tight the binding was but couldn't. As her eyes began to focus, she saw her horse's legs trotting over green grass. No snow in sight. Turning her head ever so slightly to the right there was an unfamiliar brogan in the stirrup with light blue pants flooding over the tops of them. The weight of the arms of this person was resting on her lower back. They weren't heavy but it was enough combined with her prone position to push on her bladder causing her to have to urinate.
She twisted her body around so she can look at this man who had taken her hostage. She immediately noticed the grey wool coat and the haversack. The motion of her beneath his arms had startled him awake and his eyes flung open glaring at her. She looked upon a young greyback in a uniform obviously too big for him. He had to be the same age if not younger than her. "I have to use the WC" was all she said.

He pulled back on the reigns of the horse commanding it to stop.Sliding off the horse, he grabbed her legs and pulled her down so that she could stand on her feet. She turned to face him and noticed he was not much taller than her. He had a look of uncertainty on his face and he was scratching his head in confusion not knowing what exactly to do. She held her bound hands in front her motioning towards him, looking in expectation of them to be under tied.


"No ma'am!" He said shaking his head "I can't do that, you may run"
"Ma'am?" Sadie inquired
He looked at her now covered torso pointing at her chest "I saw your, um" he wouldn't look her in the eye as he waved his pointed finger at her breast. If it didn't hurt so bad, she would have almost laughed.
"Unbelievable" she muttered. Looking him square in the face as she struggled to undo her trouser buttons with her tied up hands, wincing in pain as she did so. Dropping her drawers right there, she squatted down. While looking at him with defiance in her eyes, she proceeded to relieve herself.  He stumbled back slightly so the runoff wouldn't get his shoes wet. Then stared at her in disbelief. No female he had ever encountered had acted in such a fashion. Before he was conscripted, he was the youngest of eight children and the only son. His mother and sisters were all raised to be ladies and act proper in every situation. This girl here in front of him was unlike any he had ever encountered. He honestly had no idea why he brought her along instead of leaving her to freeze in the snow. Dumbfounded, he watched her pull her pants up, gasping in pain with each attempt to move her arm. Her clothing was large on her frame, just like his. He nudged her away from the puddle
"Let me help" pulling her blue pants back up, he fastened the buttons and notched the belt. Then they stared at each other for what seemed ages.
Sadie finally broke the silence


"What are your intentions now then?"
Looking around and looking at the darkening horizon. "We rest here for a bit. Then keep heading south west."
Wanting more information, she asked "and then?"
"My uncle has cattle land north west of San Antonio, in a town called Fredericksburg. I'm going there."
"What about me?" Sadie asked?
"I'm staying off the regular traveled paths. But the next settlement we find, I'll drop you off outside of there and you can make your way back."
"San Antonio is a long ways off. How far have we traveled?" She asked
"You were out for a full day plus most of today. I cleaned up your arm a bit. Looks like the shot went through your armpit damaging the skin only." He was once again pointing and making circular motions with his finger towards her breast while averting his eyes. "Sorry, but I saw your umm..."
"Bosom?" She answered. "Have you never sheen them before?" She asked with an amused look.
He just shook his head. "No Ma'am"
"Quit calling me ma'am. The name is Alford."
He looked at her with doubt. "Is that what you were raised being called by your folks?"
"Naw, Alford was my Pa's name before he was killed. My mother called me Sadie but I don't care to be called that anymore. Alford or Dee works"
"Then I'll call you Dee. My name is James"

They rested for a bit and continued along their route, avoiding common roads preventing crossing paths with anyone else. She found herself not missing the regiment or life she had left behind and quite enjoyed their conversation. He was the same age as her but their upbringings were quite different. After a few days he untied her wrists and they continued south west without quarrel.

After a few weeks of travel and without a proper map, they didn't quite know their exact whereabouts. Late one evening, they came upon a well traveled road heading east to west. They paralleled The road coming upon a town. They dismounting and hid the horse they named George among some trees and low-lying brush. He was content tied there eating the waist high grass as the duo sneaked down to see what they could find.

They first came upon a dark, seemingly abandoned farmstead. After carefully surveying the buildings, the freshly dug graves confirmed that it was indeed uninhabited. They were fortunate enough to find clothing that has been left behind to which they changed into. They both discarded their respective soiled & torn, blue and gray uniforms into the remnants of a fireplace with the intention of burning them the next time they had a fire. Dee, still dressed like a man even though there was some women's clothing available. James shook his head at her but had come to except her peculiarity. As Sadie was foraging nearby for some food, she discovered a natural hot spring so she indulged her self to a warm bath in the moonlight. The hot water was welcoming as she stripped down and slipped in a small pool. She didn't dare take to long for fear of discovery so she washed the best she could then headed back to the farmstead. James retraced his steps to retrieve George. When he returned, he put the horse in side the small barn and settled down in the house for what vittles she was able to find.


Later on, Dee told James of the hot spring and teasingly encouraged him to bathe while holding her nose with two fingers and waving the imaginary smell away from her. He had begun looking at her differently over the last several days. When she fell asleep, he quietly went for a quick dip to wash clean as she suggested. While they had rested there for a day, they discovered an old newspaper mentioning nearby city of 'Hot Springs, Arkansas'. They were both familiar with that location but for different reasons. For James it was a place his uncle had talked about having wonderful bathhouses.  For Dee it was a place she had heard about the union soldiers going to occupy as well as the nearby city of Little Rock. They had made it to the southwest part of Arkansas.

The next evening while under the cover of darkness they approach the town of Hot Springs.  Almost immediately they notice a lack of lights and civilians. The buildings looked as if they were recently burned down. Few intact structures were standing and the few people that they could see about looked to be guerrilla bands loosely associated with union forces. They both decided it would be best to go back to the farmstead.

George greeted the pairs return with a chuff and a nuzzle. They sat in silence in the dark barn, neither wanting to start the conversation.
James finally broke the silence


"You could put your uniform back on and join up with them if you want. I told you I'd let you go when we got to a place like this"
Dee could tell by his voice he really didn't want her to leave and a sadness crept over her as she thought about it further. She scooted next to him, laid her head on his shoulder and simply muttered "no"

James and Dee avoided the town all tougher when they set out the next day. Having better bearings on their location they continued their route southwest. They faced some thunderstorms but the further south west they got the warmer it got and they were grateful it was not summer yet. They both became's masters of stealth as they would slip in and out of town's retrieving directions and stealing what ever they needed. Not once did either of them have to draw their pistols.

They were coming upon Fredericksburg when they decided to take a short dip in a stream to wash the dirt off from a recent dust storm. James was looking forward to seeing his uncle and having a proper bed. He was telling Dee about his uncles travels, relaying the stories he heard while growing up. Always trying to be the gentleman, he was facing the trees with his back to her, talking rapidly, while he and Dee undressed in preparation for the swim. 

 

He heard her get into the water and counted to five before turning around, all while still taking. When he did finally turn around, she was standing waist deep in the water facing him. All thought of what he was saying instantly left him as he stared at her curves. Before he realized his feet had even moved he waded into the water stopping a foot shy of her.
Dee thought her heart was going to beat out of her chest. She wasn't sure why she was doing this. When he stopped in front of her she cupped water in her hand, lifted it up to his chest, letting it drip over him. She continued to wash his almost paralyzed body with her hands until he reached for her pulling her to him. Their hands were trembling in uncertainty and anticipation as it was the first time either of them had ever been kissed Their movements were clumsy as they made their way to the shore where they laid together in a lovers embrace.

George looked upon them curiously while chewing on a bit of green grass he managed to find.

The next morning, without a word, they dressed then saddled up once last time and made their way in to the town. It took some time to get direction from the mostly German speaking people, but they managed to find his uncle who was pleasantly surprised to see him.

James introduced Dee to his uncle as his wife. And much to the surprise of Dee herself, she went along with him. His uncle was confused about the boy his nephew had just called his wife until she took off her hat and let her hair that had grown out fall down. They told him of how it was easier to travel with her dressed as a man, but he wasn't fooled. He noticed the differences in the gear they carried and their two pistols each of them had. 

 

They stayed there for several months running a livery & stable while learning how to tend and raise cattle. His uncle had talked about the cattle drives and how the war had virtually stopped them. He lamented about the fact there was still a need for steer with the ongoing Western expansion. His uncle was looking to drive a cattle train up to the booming city of Denver to try to get rid of some of the surplus cattle he had. It was risky and hadn't been done, but he was damn near desperate. James's uncle had made a proposition for him and 'Alford" to run a herd up to the city. There wasn't any designated trail created yet but he would split half of any profit with them to help them get settled in their own place upon their return.

James and Dee reluctantly accepted. A short while later after they were headed north. The terrain was rugged and virtual uninhabited along the the corridor north. Though the grazing was good, the further north they got the dryer it got. They lost a few hundred of the 2000 head to drought and a few predators. Regardless, Dee still managed to fall in love with the view of the mountains off in the distance to their west. It also seems as if the arid landscape helped the coughs James and a few others acquired shortly after their arrival to Fredericksburg. As they slowly progressed, the coughing among them grew worse and they could almost be heard over the cattle as they drew closer to Denver. By the time they've reached their destination, two of the drag riders and one of the flanks had died. John, who was long time friend of James's uncle and riding as the trail boss, was barely able to stay in his saddle. James himself wasn't much better. Dee, along with the help of the others managed to finish up business and collect payment for the remaining 1563 head of cattle. She paid and released the few who were left according to what John had told her to do. There wasn't much left of Denver but Dee was able to finds recommendation for help for John and James in a small community North East. Loading them in a carriage, she headed in the direction she was given. Like many towns they passed through this one seemed to be deserted as well. With a sense of hopelessness she realized there wasn't any help available.

Dee found an what looked to be an  abandoned resting cabin and made the two men comfortable. John died shortly after their arrival. James lived a few more weeks before he to succumbed to his illness.

Dee was once again on her own.

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Miss Dee    84

It was mid afternoon by the time Dee had finished burying James next to John in an unmarked grave behind the house. She was pondering her next move. Not sure if she would head back to Texas or maybe claim the small savings she had in St Louis, if it was even still there.

She had a large sum of money on her and didn't feel comfortable carrying it around. She took a few dollars out of the money satchel placing it in her pocket. She then pried the end of a floorboard loose in the back corner of the cabin, stashing both of the men's guns and personal effects in between the floor beams with the satchel. Using a rock as a hammer, she nailed the floorboards back in their place. The wood floor didn't looked as if it had beef disturbed as she was satisfied with her stash. 

Dee walked outside and was making her way to the horses when she saw eight riders approaching swiftly on horseback

 

----------     (to be continued in joint RP with @Wulf please click link below to continue)     ----------

 

 

 

 

Time past quickly and the emptiness inside from his absence grew. She now longed to feel safety and to be a part of a community. Something that until recently she balked at the very idea of.

Dee wondered if the family photos she had left at James's uncles back in Texas were still there and safe. Those pictures were the only link to her past she had. Her maintaining possession of them through everything before this was astonishing.

She retraced her path to the small town just north of Denver where she buried James while avoiding the cabin from her nightmares. After a few days ride she found the still empty cabin and retrieved the stash from under the floorboards she had hidden there years prior. The pistols had become ever so slightly rusty from the dampness of the harsh Colorado winters. But it was nothing that rendered the weapons useless. The money satchel was undisturbed and contained all but the coin she had taken out that day. Loading up on George, Dee turned south and began the long journey to Texas.

Her mind drifted to James. She wondered what life would had been like if he had not gotten struck down with consumption. What would their home be like? Would they have had a family? Those questions she would never know the answers to.

When she became tired, images of Ba'cho would try and surface as well, but she learned how to bury those deep with the others from that period in time.

Dee stayed clear of the increasingly busy path that just recently became known as the Goodnight-Loving trail. It was almost exactly the same corridor she had driven that heard north those years ago. She was curious to know if James's uncle had anything to do with its establishment. She also wondered if she would be welcomed back at all giving the time lapse since her departure. Hopefully, the money she was returning from that long ago cattle sale would soften any hard feelings.

She approached the farmstead and was greeted by an unfamiliar ranch-hand. As they walked to the main building, he told her about the boom in the cattle industry here in the area and how the trails had been settled both north and west. He spoke with excitement of the income and prosperity the ranch had gained.

He took her to where James's uncle, Warren, rested on a patio and took his leave. She hadn't remembered Warren so frail before she left. At first he looked at her with confusion as if he recognized the young man in front of him, but couldn't quite place the face. It finally occurred to him who she was when she removed her hat allowing her medium length hair to cascade down to her shoulders. He stood wobbly and embraced her in a great big hug. She remembered him as a kind man unlike those she recently had been exposed to but she still tensed at someone touching her. Realizing her hesitation, he patted her on the arms and sat back down.

He relayed the stories of the returning cowboys she had paid and released. He wanted to know about John and James. Dee informed him of how they succumbed to the same sickness as the others and were buried north east of Denver. When he questioned her about her absence, she just gave him a long and uncomfortable stare.

Dee stared down at her fidgeting but folded hands. "Don't really wanna talk about that" she mumbled.


Sensing it wasn't a subject to push further, he simply waved over a nearby attendant to fetch them some beverages and food.

Dee's head was still hanging low to hide some of the emotion that had crept up on her face. She presented the old man with the money satchel 

"Sir, it's all here save for a few coin to help get me by"

"Please don't call me sir child. Call me Warren or even Uncle Warren if ya choose. And that there is yours" he said gesturing to the satchel. "You've earned it from whatever hell you've gone through to get that back." 

He then motioned to the food that had just arrived. "I'm sure you're hungry, so there you go, but try'n not ruin yer dinner. Sara will want to celebrate your return when I tell her you're here. When you had your fill, go'n get cleaned up and catch a nap before supper."

The woman who had brought the refreshments from earlier appeared out of nowhere and showed her to a small bedroom. A few moments later there was a knock on the door. Sara, Warrens wife, was there to welcome her home.  She held in her hands a stack of women's clothing for Dee to change into after she got cleaned up. On top of the clothing was small box containing her three family pictures and her father's Bible. Dee and Sarah talked for quite a while after Sarah left, Dee made herself presentable for supper in a matter of ladies fashion she had not been accustomed to wearing. The ridiculous corset she had on was suffocating and the layers to the dress were constantly in the way. Plus there was nowhere for her bootknife in the dainty shoes or a place to wear her Pa's pistol. She ran a brush through her hair and left her room tired without a nap.

Heading down for dinner she met up with their son Joseph in the hall. He had stopped in his tracks to give her a once over, his eyes taking in the sight of her from her toes to her face. He was a few years older than James was and was being groomed to take over the business from his father. They all exchanged pleasantries over dinner and Dee was busy avoiding questions of her wears about, not wanting to relive any of the happenings of the last two years. After a while, Warren offered Dee a place to call home if she would take over the livery and stable again, which she gratefully accepted.

Later that night, she thumbed through her father's Bible reminiscing about her childhood when a sealed letter addressed to her mother fell to her feet. She picked it up curiously eyeing the return address from a town that is now a part of  New Mexico and been dated from when she was it just a few years old. As she opened and read it she discovered it was from one of her aunts.

"My sweet sister Emily,

I was so delighted to receive your letter. I am guessing you got this address from mother? Father would've never allowed it! He has got to be the most stubborn old man. He is still furious that I married the Irishman, who by the way is an amazing doctor and wonderful husband. Thank you for asking.
 As for your circumstances. That is absolutely horrific what happened with the preacher we all trusted! I can't imagine anybody not wanting to know their child and deserting you like that. Judging by your letter it seems as if you are doing well with your daughter and she is being raised right by your new husband there in St Joseph.
 Oh, we must continue our correspondence and you most certainly should come and visit. I do wish you well,

Your sister,
Elizabeth


Dee was confused. What was her mother talking about to her aunt in regards to being abandoned with a baby. And by a preacher? Why was she referring to Pa as her new husband. The words from the letter were rattling around in her head with the memories of her childhood. Lining up the family pictures she was trying to figure out which one would have been Elizabeth. Exhausted from the day, Dee put the pictures aside and fell asleep.

She was in a halfway state of slumber when the events of the fire from her childhood began unfolding in her dreams. The vision of the man charging her that night so long ago surfaced. He was wearing all black in the cloth of a preacher! With shock her hands covered her mouth as she jolted awake. Picking up the pictures again, she was looking at who she thought was her uncle and her father.  With horror, the puzzles of her childhood began to fall in place. The preacher was her father, and her Pa was her uncle! How could she have been so ignorant over the years? Why wouldn't her parents have told her? Where they waiting for a moment that never occurred? With mounting frustration she swept the pictures off  her bed on to the floor.

The wooden frame holding the picture of her mother's family broke sending shattered glass across the floor and the photo itself went flying under a dresser.

The picture of her father's family only sustained a crack in the glass, appropriately splitting her fathers and uncles side of the photo in half.

The picture of her with Emily and Alford, remained unscathed. That was the one she picked up first placing it back on top of the dresser while cleaning up the glass on the floor. Suppressing the emotions welling up inside of her she looked at it, she decided  it doesn't matter who Alford was. He will always be her Pa. Not wanting to look closer at the pictures on the floor. She simply pushed them under the dresser until she was ready to retrieve them. She fell into a deep restful sleep that lasted two entire days. 

After waking, she freshened up, she again put on the silly women's garments she was expected to wear in the house and joined the everyone for breakfast. Sarah had moved Joseph's seat next to Dee explaining it would be easier to continue a conversation with everybody closer. Even though Sarah played it off as innocent, Dee wasn't fold by her intentions. It's also seem as if both Warren and Joseph were in on Sara's scheme.Though Warren and Sara meant well, A match between Dee and Joseph just would not come to fruition. At times Warren seemed to take opportunities to manipulate the pair into work and family events where they would be alone together. Joseph was a nice enough gentlemen, but the thought of any man touching her still made her skin crawl, even after all this time.

Her night terrors had plagued her less and less frequently as time past. But they never completely left her. She was living there in the same room for little over a year and a half when she awoke in a cold sweat. From a distant place in her mind her mothers words echoed "Dee, Run!". Only this time they came unaccompanied. 

As she reached out towards the matches to light the oil lamp, she accidentally knocked them to the ground, spilling them everywhere. Feeling around she located one which she struck to light  the wick. With the low flame now illuminating the room, she got down on her knees to pick up the scattered matches and that's when the pictures she had kicked under the dresser a year ago caught her eye.

Reaching under the dresser she pulled out both of the picture of her mothers and father's families. Looking at her father's family and knowing what had transpired she put them in one of the drawers and continue to stare at her mothers face longingly. There was so much she wanted to say to her. The frame is cracked enough to where it began to come apart in Dee's hands so she pulled the picture out of the frame and turned it over to see if there is any more information on the back. There in faded ink was the names of her grandparents, aunts and uncles along with the date and location it was taken. Mother never said anything about New York City. She studied the faces of her aunts and looked at the one she presumed to be Elizabeth. Elizabeth and Emily had a very strong resemblance to their mother over their father. Looking in the mirror at her own reflection, She took  notice that she was a very good combination of both her mother and father's features. With a sign she sat back down on the bed and thought about where she wanted to go with her life. She was getting a little restless with being in the same location for so long and growing weary with the constant insinuating of marriage with Joseph. She also missed wearing her favored clothing and weapons. Every now and then Warren would have her do a short cattle drive if he needed the help, but for the most part Dee stayed close. Though she hated the cold, she missed her boots, vest and jacket she had put away in a box under the bed.


That early spring day as she went to help tend the heard of longhorn cattle that was getting ready for a cattle drive west, Joseph caught her by surprise while she was alone in the kitchen preparing coffee for the rest of the ranch hands. He had a dangerous look in his eye she had never seen before. Joseph cornered her in the room, and while she tried to be polite while fending off his advancements, she can tell by the liquor on his breath it would be a lost cause. He had been drinking a lot more recently and was prone to anger and outbursts. When he made a move to grab her rear end, she slapped his hand away which in turned enraged him. He reached his hand back and slapped her across the face as hard as he could sending her spiraling into a shelf loaded with pots and pans. The clamoring of the pots and pans hitting the floor brought several people to the kitchen where they witnessed the sight of him towering over, fists clenched and yelling down her about him taking her as a wife weather she liked it or not. All while a stunned Dee was on the floor with a bloody nose. Sara was appalled at his actions and started swatting him with a towel while Warren quietly helped Dee to her feet.

For the most part, the people here had been good to her. But in an instant this went from a place of comfort to a place she needed to get away from. Both Sarah and Warren apologize profusely for their sons actions and tried to give calm, and comforting words, but she wasn't having any of it. She was restless, tired of wearing those damn dresses and corsets, and wanted to get back out on the open Trail. She asked Warren if  'Alford' could could ride as a flank or a swing on the upcoming drive north since his one of his regulars had fallen ill and he didn't have an experienced one. Warren knew she could handle the job, he trained her. He was reluctant, but finally agreed much to Sarah's dismay.

That night in her room as she was preparing for the next days ride. She studied the address from her aunts envelope. It was a little ways off from the trail they she was considering stopping on the way back to see if perhaps, her aunt would still be there. She copied the address down and left the letter in the envelop with two of the family pictures, her father's Bible, and a small envelope with a hair clipping then placed it in to the box containing her leather boots, vest and jacket. She tucked the copied address and her mothers family photo into her pack for tomorrow then crawled in bed early.

The next day started in the wee hours of the morning as 'Alford' gathered all her equipment and reported to the trailboss. It felt good to be back in the saddle and George was happy to be out on the trail as well. She sure did love this horse but she saw the signs of aging catching up to him. She wasn't exactly sure how old he was when she first started riding him in the cavalry but she would guess about nine which made him about fifteen now.  

The cattle drive to Cheyenne went a little longer than planned when they had to change the route east slightly to avoid a 10¢/head toll on the 6000 cattle. The men would sometimes get lonely on the trail but Dee didn't mind. Only the trailboss knew she was a woman and he wasn't telling any one. Dee sat around the fire, sing, smoked cigars, and played cards with them and they didn't know any better. After completing the drive, and the crew was released, they all went into a Saloon where the men were making plans for their return to Texas. Dee told the trailboss she would be splitting from them on the way back to try and find her Aunt.

As she saddled up to began her journey south, she stopped for a moment and took a long look around taking in the breathtaking scenery. The moment was made even more perfect by the beautiful song of wolves. 

 

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Miss Dee    84

Dee loved The view of the mountains as she rode to the east of them heading south. She cut off the trail heading west at Fort Sumner looking for the little town from the address on the letter from her aunt and after two days riding, she finally found it. She walked around the sleepy town asking if anybody had heard of an Elizabeth Who was married to an Irish doctor. She didn't know her aunts husband's last name, but was pretty certain that an Irish doctor in these parts would not have been easily forgotten. Several people gave her blank stares or shook their head, but after a few hours she stumbled upon an old timer sitting out on the porch of a general store with a blanket over his lap just watching the world go bye. He seemed a likely candidate to remember. She showed him the picture with her aunt in it and inquired if he had known her or her husband. When she pointed to her, the old man just stared at her and told her the story of what happened in broken English.

"That lady, she amable. Her marido was good doctor. A shame." Dee's heart sank. She watched the old mans face become sullen as he continued on.

"Bandidos come. A bad man hurt, had doctor fix. Not happy with doctor. Asesinato doctor." With the last two words he slid his finger across his throat making the motion of his throat being slit. The point was well-made.

"What about her? What about Elizabeth?" Dee asked pointing to her aunt on the picture.

"Bandidos take her for... " his eyes looked away, averting her stare not wanting to say the words about what could have possibly been going on to her aunt.

Dee just sat there for a little bit. Hoping he would continue but not wanting to hear any details.

"She escape con bandido that help her. Pero, los Otros found them and.." be again made the motion across his throat.

Dee's heart sank knowing she made the trip for nothing and the only lead she had on some form of family disappeared. She turned to the old man.

"Gracias señor. Do you know where she is buried?" She at least wanted to pay her respects to her aunt, even though she never had a chance to meet her.

"En la casa yo.... at the home I think" he then drew out a simple map on the backside of the paper that had the address on it.  She again thanked him for his help. She then went in the saloon nearby to have something to eat and quench her incredible thirst. Though it was spring, it got hot around here quick. She hoped to be able to go to the location the old man told her about, find her aunts grave to pay respects, come back into town spend the night, and then head back to Texas.

She felt a twinge of disgust when she thought about seeing Joseph again. She needed to start thinking about different living arrangements, but that was a thought for her return ride. Though she would miss Warren and Sara, she refused to be around anybody that could turn violent on her. She had her fill of that in her short lifetime already and was not willing to compromise that for any one or anything.

 

The trail that lead up to the home site was set between two mountains and heavily wooded. When she got to the log cabin, the area around the house was overgrown, seeming to not have been used for sometime. The inside of the house looked to have been abandoned for several years as well. Dee walked around the perimeter discovering a few graves that had settled back to nature with the only indication of what lay below the surface was a few small mounds of rocks signifying each grave. She sat there for a while mourning this couple who she longed to have met. She got to her feet, looked around and headed towards George, but before getting back on her horse to return to town, she caught movement out of the corner of her eye.. 

 

----------     (to be continued in joint RP with @Rio Wyeth& @Jesse McCree  Link to follow upon completion)     ----------

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