Amanda Carpenter smiled pleasantly at Josiah Peale. She'd watched him off and on all day as he slowly but resolutely had cleaned out the offices of the old Montana Statesman. It seemed that the mayor of Curtis Wells was determined to start up the newspaper once again. She'd seen Clay Mosby watching from across the street with a peculiar smile on his face. So Amanda decided to give him something to smile about.
"You need to eat something, Josiah," she handed him a covered platter. "You've worked hard this morning."
"Why, thank you, Amanda," Josiah smiled in return although the smile barely reached his eyes. "Will you join me? I have some coffee..."
"It would be my pleasure, Josiah," Amanda nodded graciously as she preceeded him inside the office.
Across the street, Mosby grimaced and threw down his cigar in disgust. He angrily strode back to the Ambrosia Club certain Amanda was only out to make trouble.
"Please, sit down, Amanda," Josiah cleared a place for her to sit. He glanced around as though seeing the office for the first time. "I apologize for the condition..." his voice trailed off.
"It's fine," Amanda assured him. Despite herself, she liked Josiah. Unlike Austin, at one time, Josiah had a backbone. Perhaps he was finding it again. She glanced around curiously as Josiah handed her a chipped porcelain cup full of thick hot coffee. "I've never seen a printing press before." She glanced at Josiah. "Does it still work?"
"Yes," Josiah sighed. "It does...and will." He frowned as though unsure of himself.
"Can I help?" Amanda asked despite herself.
Josiah looked surprised. "What do you mean?"
"Well..." Amanda shrugged a little surprised at herself. "Since I don't have the Dove anymore, I've been working..."
"I know," Josiah patted her hand paternally. "And you think you'll find the newspaper business interesting?"
"It has to be more interesting than serving liquor to half-drunk fools," Amanda said bitterly. She saw Josiah's look of pain. "Oh, Josiah, I'm sorry. I didn't mean.."
"Yes, you did," Josiah frowned. "Well, hopefully Austin has put that behind him now that he's a deputy." He stood and stared out the front window. "Austin's a man now. He's got to be that man." He again seemed lost in thought. Suddenly he turned to Amanda. "I could use some help. But it won't be easy."
"I'm not afraid of it being difficult," Amanda smiled. "I don't know how good I'll be at this, but I'd like to try, Josiah."
"Then you're hired," Josiah smiled. "I should have the place fixed up in a couple of days. Will that give you time to give notice?"
Amanda laughed. "Believe me, Josiah, I could quit today except that I need the wages," she grinned. "How about I start on Monday?"
"Monday it is!" Josiah shook her hand enthusiastically.
"I can't wait," Amanda smiled as she glanced out the window towards the Ambrosia Club. "Well, thank you for the coffee, Josiah. Don't forget to eat, now." Amanda chuckled under her breath as she left the office.
Josiah sighed and felt better. He'd wondered if he would be able to restart the newspaper, but Amanda's enthusiasm was contagious. He picked up more trash and stumbled through the open door...only to collide with someone and go tumbling off the walk into the dirt.
"Stupid old fool," Josiah heard just before he was kicked in the ribs. "Why don't you watch where you're goin'?"
Josiah glanced up to see what had to be the largest man he'd ever seen standing over him. From the smell and the way the man was weaving back and forth, he'd spent a lot of time drinking.
"I'm sorry," Josiah apologized. "I should be more careful."
"Damn right!" the man bellowed drawing back his foot to kick Josiah again.
"That's enough!" Both the man and Josiah turned their heads to see Austin standing a few feet away gun drawn.
"Are you alright, Father?" Austin asked quietly never taking his eyes off the big man.
"I'm fine, Austin," Josiah grimaced as he slowly got to his feet. "There's no need for violence, son."
"Yeah, son," the man sneered then spit into the dirt.
"Drop the gun," Austin ordered. "Father, move away."
"But, Austin," Josiah protested.
"He's a wanted man, Father!" Austin snapped. "Now do as I say!"
"Yeah, old man, do as sonny there says," the big man nodded. Moving surprisingly quick for a big man, he reached out and pulled Josiah in front of him. Using Josiah as a shield, the man reached for his gun. "Now you drop your gun," he ordered as his hand curled around the butt of his gun.
Austin's eyes narrowed then he coldly smiled. He kept the gun aimed at the man holding Josiah.
Josiah staggered as there was a sudden "thump" and the man fell forward knocking Josiah to the ground. He coughed as the air was forced from his lungs and he inhaled dirt from the street. He felt the man's body being pulled from him and then being pulled to his feet. He looked up to see Austin's arm around him supporting him.
"Are you hurt, Father?" he asked quietly.
"No," Josiah shook his head but placed a hand over his ribs. He looked to see Luther Root tossing a shovel to one side and removing the stunned man's gun from his holster. "Thanks to both of you."
Luther glanced over. "Maybe you need to get him to Doc ‘bout those ribs, Austin" he suggested.
"I'll take him to jail," Austin reached down and hauled the man to his feet. He quickly marched the man down the street towards the jail.
Luther glanced quizzically at Austin's retreating form then at Josiah. "C'mon, Josiah, Doc should take a look at them ribs," he held out a hand. Josiah shook his head sadly but allowed Luther to help him.
Call glanced out from under his hat as Austin quick-stepped his prisoner towards the jail. He glanced down the street to see Luther aiding Josiah up the steps to the doctor's office. Easily he stood and followed Austin.
"Shut up," Austin tersely ordered his prisoner as he slammed the jail door shut. "Just be glad Luther didn't stick a knife in you."
"Or you shooting through Josiah to get him?" Call asked quietly from the doorway.
Austin shot Call an angry look and tossed the keys on the desk. "Wanted poster's in the upper left-hand drawer," he said as he shrugged past Call to leave the jail.
Call turned his head to watch Austin walk away. He frowned slightly then closed the door behind him. He easily found the wanted poster and compared the illustration to the prisoner. "Well, Mr. Guy Evans," Call smiled genially. "Welcome to Curtis Wells."
Austin angrily entered the #10 and looked for Amanda. He saw her behind the bar supposedly cleaning the glasses. She had a far-away look on her face apparently not caring how carefully the glasses were dried.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Austin leaned across the bar grabbing Amanda's arm.
Amanda tried to jerk away from Austin startled at his tone of voice.
"Tending bar," she smiled sarcastically. "How many bottles you want, Austin?"
"You stay away from my father," Austin warned tersely.
"Your father's a grown man," Amanda grimaced glancing at where Austin held her arm tightly. "Besides, you're hardly in a position to play doting son, are you?"
"I'm warning you, Amanda," Austin began.
Amanda finally pulled her arm free of Austin's grasp.
"You're not the only one who's trying to shake the past," she hissed. "You think I'm gonna be stuck in this hellhole the rest of my life?"
"I don't know what game you're playing..." Austin pounded the bar with a half-empty bottle.
"The same as you, deputy," Amanda interrupted. "Just remember that!"
"You just remember," Austin's dark eyes glittered dangerously. "That's my sister's place you're tryin' to take over."
"I'm not aiming to take over anybody's place except Mosby's!" Amanda retorted hotly.
Austin angrily pounded the bar as he watched Amanda stalk away. He cursed as he felt shards of glass stab deep in his hand. He glanced down to see glass, blood, and beer in the palm of his hand. He angrily swept the broken bottle down the length of the bar. He ignored the looks of the others as he held his hand close to his body and left.
Neither Call nor Luther mentioned Austin's bandaged hand and Austin didn't offer any explanation about it. Neither did he mention Amanda's upcoming change in employment. In fact, he wanted to see both Call and Mosby's reaction when it occurred. So he simply smiled neutrally when Call mentioned that someone would have to take Evans to Miles City to be turned over to the territorial marshall.
"I'm sheriff so I say you go," Call decided.
"Hell, Call," Luther protested. "Austin's hand ain't hurt that bad."
"You don't like Miles City?" Austin asked. "You used to drive the coaches over."
"Was good money," Luther shrugged. "Don't mean I like that place. Too many people in too big a rush to do nothin'. Lot of scum and villians."
"No need to live there," Call said firmly. "Just give him to the territorial marshall and git."
"Maybe the both of you need to go," Austin suggested innocently. He shrugged as they looked at him. "After all, he's awfully big."
Luther snorted. "He ain't so big," he sneered.
"Some reason you want both of us gone, Austin?" Call asked studying Austin from the corner of his eyes.
"Nope," Austin said casually. "Just trying to make sure the prisoner don't escape along the way. Wouldn't make the new sheriff of Curtis Wells look good, would it, Call?"
Call shrugged. "‘Preciate you lookin' out for me, Austin," he glanced back Luther. "You're goin'."
"I can't ride all the way to Miles City like this!" Evans yelled loudly.
"Why not?" Luther asked calmly. "All you need to be doin' is makin' sure you don't fall off." He gave the rope an extra hard tug.
Call grinned as he watched Luther finish tying Evans to his horse. Evans' hands were bound behind him while his feet were tied together by a rope looped underneath the horse's belly. Evans would need to concentrate on staying on the horse and not likely to be causing much trouble.
"See ya, Call," Luther said as he mounted his horse & took the reins of Evans' horse.
Evans started to protest only to be jolted into concentrating on his balance as Luther started the horses moving. "You're gonna kill me!" he finally screamed.
It was close to dawn by the time Luther got his prisoner to Miles City. The local sheriff wasn't too happy about waking up at this time of the night to take the prisoner, but Luther convinced him to take possession by simply shoving Evans into the sheriff's arms, telling him to hold the man for the territorial marshall, and walking off. He really did hate coming to Miles City.
Luther headed the horses back towards the end of town deciding he'd much rather camp out. Then he saw a light over a darkened storefront. He rode closer and saw the sign over the entrance read "Shaw's Gun Shop". Luther grinned and dismounted. He found a handful of small rocks & threw them against the illuminated window.
The light immediately went out. He glimpsed blonde hair by the window and called out, "Hey, Mattie!"
The window flew open. "Luther, you idiot!" Mattie hissed. "You'll wake the whole town!" Then she grinned. "I'll come down and let you in."
Luther had hitched the horses and was waiting by the door when Mattie turned the lock. Luther pulled his hat off as he stepped inside. "Hi, Mattie," he said a little shyly.
Mattie quickly hugged him. "It's good to see you, Luther," she smiled. "I kept looking to see if you were driving any coaches in but I never saw you. What are you doing here?"
"I'm deputy now, Mattie," Luther said proudly indicating the badge on his chest. "Got anything to eat?"
"Sure," Mattie smiled a little confused. "We can talk in the kitchen."
"Nice place, Mattie," Luther said as he sat at the kitchen table.
Mattie smiled a little sadly. "It is," she acknowledged. She peeked from the corner of her eyes and saw Luther was indeed wearing a deputy's badge.
"You didn't say what you were doing here," she prompted as she lit the stove.
"Brought a prisoner in for the territorial marshall," Luther grinned. "Don't ‘xpect your sheriff's too happy with me wakin' him up but I'd had a bellyful of the sonofa..." He broke off suddenly. "Anyways I was headin' outta town when I saw your light."
"I couldn't sleep," Mattie explained. "So Ike let you bring a prisoner all the way to Miles City?" She sat a plate of warmed over biscuits in front of Luther along with some coffee.
"Ike ain't sheriff no more," Luther grinned as he reached for the food. "Josiah up and got him removed."
"Josiah?" Mattie quit all pretense of fixing breakfast and sat down at the table. She poured both of them coffee. "Josiah?" she repeated.
"Yep," Luther leaned forward. "You shoulda seen him, Mattie. You should see him now. He's fixin' up the newspaper office. Gonna start it up agin." He ravenously started eating the biscuits.
Mattie flushed guiltily. "Let me fix breakfast, Luther," she said. "Then we'll talk."
True to her word, Mattie held back from asking more questions until she had breakfast for both on the table. The sun was just starting to peak over the horizon as they sat at the table.
"That was good eatin', Mattie," Luther said happily. "Didn't know you was such a good cook."
Mattie blushed. "Not as good as Amanda," she admitted. "But I won't starve."
"Aw, hell, Mattie," Luther shrugged as he poured more coffee. "Amanda ain't near as good a woman as you."
Mattie blushed again. "So, tell me more about Ike's dismissal," she urged to change the subject.
Luther quickly told her about the four orphans and how they'd urged their uncle to find a "real sheriff" for Curtis Wells. "Well, Josiah, he jumped on Mosby's sayin' that Ike was temporary and got folks to agree that Ike should be replaced," he finished. "Mosby didn't want to look bad in front of this Caulder fella so he went along. But he weren't happy ‘bout it."
"I don't imagine so," Mattie agreed. "So who is sheriff now?"
"Call," Luther said quietly watching Mattie's expression. He nodded slowly to himself. "Yep, Call took the job. Let me be deputy. Austin too."
"Austin?" Mattie looked shocked. "Call actually asked Austin to be his deputy?"
"Yep," Luther grinned. "Put a real buzz in ole Mosby's nest." He coughed and glanced at Mattie. "Uh...what I mean is..."
"I get the idea, Luther," Mattie smiled gently. She hesitated. "How's Unbob?"
"He misses you," Luther shrugged. "Lots of folks miss you, Mattie. Why don't you come back?"
Mattie looked down at her cup.
"Hell, I know Curtis Wells ain't no jewel or nothin'," Luther continued. "But it's better than Miles City."
"There's a lot to like in Miles City," Mattie said defensively.
"Yeah, maybe," Luther said doubtfully. He stood up. "I gotta head back, Mattie. Wish you'd think ‘bout comin' back. Make a lot of folks happy."
"Sure you can't stay, Luther?" Mattie asked looking up at him. "You can sleep upstairs in my place."
"Couldn't do that, Mattie," Luther looked a little shocked. "I can camp out on the way back." He grinned. "‘Sides, I got responsibilities now. Can't be just layin' ‘round all the time."
Mattie smiled and stood. She hesitated then gave Luther a hug. "It's good to see you, Luther."
"You too, Mattie," Luther glanced out the window. "Better git ‘fore folks get the wrong idea. Me bein' here at sunup."
Mattie quickly wrapped some food and handed it to Luther. "You'll get hungry on the way back to Curtis Wells," she reminded him as he hesitated. "You know you will."
"Thanks, Mattie," Luther grinned. "Like I said, you're a good cook."
Mattie walked outside and watched as Luther mounted his horse and took the second horse's reins.
"Be careful, Luther," she urged him. "Bein' a deputy isn't easy."
"Bein' a deputy with Call as sheriff and Austin as the other deputy ain't easy," Luther laughed. He leaned down. "You think ‘bout what I said ‘bout comin' back, Mattie. Things have changed."
"I wish they had," Mattie murmurred as she watched Luther ride away.
"Any trouble?" Call asked as Luther sat next to him at the #10.
"Nope," Luther shook his head and reached for the bottle. "How's Austin's hand?"
Call shrugged. "Still connected to the rest of him, I guess," he said. "He don't say nothin' to me ‘bout it."
Luther leaned back in the chair.
"Saw Mattie in Miles City," he mentioned casually. "She's got a gun shop close to the outskirts of town." He waited for Call to respond.
"So?" Call finally scowled.
"Nothin'," Luther shrugged. "Just saw her and thought I'd mention it."
"How is she?" Call asked after a moment not looking at Luther.
Luther shrugged again. "Okay, I guess," he grinned suddenly. "You know she's a real good cook, Call."
Call's eyes narrowed.
"Didn't know," he said neutrally.
"Yep," Luther nodded. "Insisted on fixin' me a good breakfast and travel grub."
Call's jaw tightened as he swallowed the whiskey. "Mattie's a good woman," he said pointedly.
"Sure is," Luther agreed quietly but just as pointedly.
They said quietly for a few moments before Luther got up and left. Call leaned back in his chair and thought.
The next evening Call was enjoying the somewhat quiet Sunday evening. He settled into his chair in front of Creel's store and leaned back. He frowned as he saw Austin heading towards the Montana Stateman's office. He had avoided looking at the freshly painted front not ready to accept the pain he felt when he saw it.
He sniffed the whiff of an expensive cigar and eased his hand towards his gun.
"Evenin', Sheriff Call," Mosby's amused voice came from slightly to his left.
"Mosby," Call brusquely acknowledged.
Mosby glanced down the street where Austin had slammed the door of the Stateman's office. "Seems Deputy Peale is upset this evenin'," he mentioned.
"That supposed to mean somethin'?" Call asked quietly.
"Only that he's your deputy," Mosby replied innocently as he studied the tip of his cigar. "‘Course, I can sympathize with him in this case. What with Amanda startin' tomorrow as Josiah's assistant." Mosby smothered a grin as he saw Call's shoulders tense. "I truly do admire your forbearance, Sheriff Call. Goodnight."
Call fought the urge to put a bullet right between Mosby's eyes. He forced himself to relax as he considered Mosby's words. Amanda working with Josiah...He saw that Mosby had disappeared into the Ambrosia Club and slowly walked towards the Stateman's office.
Mosby smiled contentedly as he saw Call make his way down the street. One of those two fools should put a stop to Amanda's new career, he decided.
"Have you gone completely insane, Father?" Austin demanded angrily. "Amanda Carpenter has no place here!"
"And you do, Austin?" Josiah glanced ruefully at his son. "I intend to start the Statesman back up. I should have done it sooner. Maybe things might have been different."
Austin glanced away from his father's searching look. "You don't need Amanda," he repeated.
"She seems eager to learn," Josiah pointed out. "If she loses interest or can't do the job, then I'll make other arrangements."
"You don't understand, Father," Austin said almost desperately. "Amanda...she's no better than Mosby! She'll use you for what she wants."
"I think you underestimate me, Austin," Josiah said quietly as he sat down. "You perhaps have a right to do so considering my recent actions." He seemed to struggle to find the words. "I have to start the Statesman again. I have to. I believe I can manage to control Amanda."
"You're a fool!" Austin yelled angrily. "I won't let you do this!"
Neither man heard or saw the door quietly open behind them.
"I won't let you put Amanda in Hannah's place the way you put..." Austin suddenly stopped aware of the open door.
Both men turned to see Newt Call standing there.
"This doesn't concern you, Call," Austin warned.
"Didn't say it did," Call said quietly trying not to look around. "Just wanted to see what Josiah's been doin'." He finally took a deep breath and looked around. "Sure you know what you're doin', Josiah?" he asked quietly. "Ain't gonna be easy."
"I don't suppose it will, Newt," Josiah replied heavily as he glanced at Austin. "But I intend to try."
Call nodded neutrally as he looked around.
"Done a good job," he commented.
"You talk to him, Call," Austin said bitterly. "He'll listen to you. He values your opinion. You tell him about Amanda."
"Austin..." Josiah held out a hand to his son who ignored it as he angrily slammed the door behind him.
Call shook his head holding out his arms to either side. "Don't got no reason to tell you what to do, Josiah," he said.
"I know, Newt," Josiah said quietly as he watched Austin disappear into the night. He forced himself to look at Call. "But you have something to say."
Call hesitated. "Just wonderin' why Amanda wanted to work here," he evaded.
"Perhaps she prefers it to being a barmaid," Josiah said quietly. "Newt, I know there's bad blood between Amanda and Mosby...and that Amanda and Austin were..." He glanced at the floor. "But I think we're all trying to change...to make Curtis Wells what we once thought it could be. Who am I to say that Amanda shouldn't be a part of that?"
Call shrugged and turned to the door. "Just sayin' it ain't gonna be easy," he repeated. He glanced back at Josiah. "You sure ‘bout this?"
Josiah smiled sadly. "Yes, Newt," he nodded. "I truly wish it were Austin in here tomorrow. But I know this isn't what will make him happy."
Call nodded consideringly then left. He glanced around but didn't see anyone. Still he knew at least one pair of eyes were watching him as he left.
The first edition of the Montana Statesman was small, almost apologetic. But Josiah beamed happily as he stacked the final copy. Amanda wearily shook her head. You'd think he was holding his first-born son, she thought. But considering how Josiah's first-born son had turned out, perhaps he was more proud of those stacks of paper, she decided.
"I know it doesn't look like much," Josiah said quietly. "But it's a start, Amanda. And I think the Statesman can really become a positive force for Curtis Wells."
"I'm sure it can, Josiah," Amanda smiled. "I just never realized how much work went into this."
Josiah nodded. "I know it looks easy," he admitted. "But it's also very gratifying." He glanced at Amanda. "If you can provide me with some hard information about the Colorado-Canadian Railway, I'll print it. But I can't print unsubstantiated gossip."
"Everyone gossips, Josiah," Amanda grinned. Then she shrugged. "I understand your position. But if I do get you what you need, will you let me write the story?"
"Of course," Josiah nodded. "Subject to editing, you understand." He smiled. "I forget you may not understand the terminology. I only edit to clean up spelling, grammar, and so forth. If the facts are true, I will not edit content. But the facts have to be there. And no personal comments, either, young lady."
Amanda smiled charmingly. "Of course not, Josiah," she assured him. "I would never do that."
"I know you won't," Josiah smiled a glint of humor in his eyes.
They turned at the sound of a soft knock on the door. Josiah smiled at Luther Root and opened the door.
"Hello, Luther," he greeted. He sobered at Luther's somber expression. "Is anything wrong? Austin...?"
"No," Luther shook his head. "He went to Ft. Bennett. Thought you knew." He slowly removed his hat and nodded at Amanda. "Can I talk to you, Josiah? Alone?"
Josiah glanced at Amanda who quickly stood.
"It's alright," she assured Josiah. "I need to get some sleep. After all, tomorrow's a big day." She nodded at Luther without comment as she brushed past him.
Luther watched as Amanda crossed the street and disappeared into the Dove. He turned to Josiah. "Hope I wasn't..." he began.
"Not at all," Josiah wearily removed his glasses. "In fact, we were done. What can I do for you, Luther?"
Luther looked at the floor a little embarrassed. "I was wonderin'," he hesitated. "Well, I don't know much ‘bout this stuff." He gestured towards the printing press. "I was wonderin' if you could send one of ‘em to somebody. Somebody that ain't here in Curtis Wells."
"Certainly," Josiah nodded. "In fact, I have several copies I'm sending to other editors. I can send one for you."
Luther put some money on the table. "Just take whatever it costs," he said. "Can you send it yourself?"
Josiah nodded slowly starting to understand. "Where do I send it, Luther?" he asked. "I can put it on the stage with the other copies tomorrow."
Luther grinned. "That'd be good, Josiah," he agreed.
NEWT CALL APPOINTED SHERIFF OF CURTIS WELLS!
The headline fairly screamed at Mattie Shaw. Not that she thought Luther had lied. But it seemed to mean more when she saw it in actual print. She carefully read each article feeling a bit of homesickness knot in her stomach. She glanced around the gunshop and then out the window at Miles City. She remembered Luther's voice. "Come on back, Mattie...things have changed". She studied the snow-laden clouds and frowned.
Clay Mosby hated the snow but recognized its advantages. As did anyone graced by God to have been born in the South, he despised the blustery cold wind that cut right through one's clothing straight to the bone. He despised the dull grey skies dotted with equally grey clouds promising yet more snow and cold wind. He despised the cold wet snow that crept into one's boots and numbed the toes until you swore you couldn't walk.
The advantages were that very few people wanted to be out in such weather. And those fools that did go out didn't stay long. They much preferred to be somewhere warm where they could relax, drink, and play cards. So while Mosby inwardly shuddered as he glanced outside the Ambrosia Club, he smiled genially as more and more men came inside to spend time and money.
In fact, he was so busy, he didn't realize Josiah had entered the Ambrosia until he heard a couple of men congratulate him upon the rebirth of the Statesman.
"Allow me to add my congratulations," Mosby told Josiah as he slid behind the bar. He pulled out a bottle not normally seen by the regular clientele. He poured Josiah almost a full glass and handed it to him.
"Thank you, Clay," Josiah sipped the liquid cautiously. Then his eyes twinkled as he recognized the taste of good brandy. "Thank you, Clay," he repeated raising the glass. He drank half the glass then shoved a copy of the Statesman across the bar towards Clay.
"Complimentary copy," he explained.
"Why, thank you, Josiah," Clay smiled. He examined the front page. "It seems Miss Carpenter didn't manage to sidetrack you at all."
Josiah held up his hand. "I don't want to hear it, Clay," he shook his head. "Amanda assisted me a great deal with this issue. I think she'll prove a valuable assistant."
"Miss Carpenter is very good at assistin'," Clay smiled although his dark eyes hardened. "I'm sure Austin has mentioned that."
"Austin doesn't..." Josiah caught himself. "I really don't want to discuss this, Clay."
"Of course not!" Clay smiled widely. "This is a day to celebrate, Josiah. Have another drink."
Josiah hesitated then slowly shook his head. "Thank you, Clay," he said quietly. "But I have other errands to run. I just wanted to bring you a copy of the Statesman."
"Some other time, then, Josiah," Clay urged. "After all, it's good to see the Statesman back in business. I just hope it doesn't interfere with your mayoral duties...or become a conflict of interest."
Josiah smiled sadly. "Oh, I don't think that will happen, Clay," he said slowly.
Call glanced up as the door to the jail almost blew open...and blew Josiah inside. He returned his attention to his cup of coffee and studying the toe of his boot perched on the desktop. "Josiah," he said absently.
"Hello, Newt," Josiah greeted. "I think we're going to have more snow."
Call nodded silently. "Expect so," he agreed. He glanced down at the desk to see a copy of the Statesman.
"A complimentary copy," Josiah said quickly.
"Won't stay in business that way," Call opinioned.
"Well, it's the first edition," Josiah said proudly. He saw Call studiously ignoring the newspaper. "Sort of a celebration." He hesitated. "Luther said Austin went to Ft. Bennett. Do you know when he'll be back?"
Call shrugged. "Weather might've kept him there," he said neutrally. He finally looked up at Josiah and saw the disappointed look in his eyes. "You need somethin' done, Josiah?" he relented.
"Thank you, Newt," Josiah said quietly as he sat down. "But no...except would you give this to Austin when he returns?" He laid a second copy of the Statesman on the desk.
"Why don't you give it to him yourself?" Call asked although he knew the answer.
"He probably wouldn't take it," Josiah said softly and sadly. "You know things aren't good between us, Newt."
Call shrugged and resumed studying the toe of his boot.
The door flew open then slammed shut as Luther entered the jail.
"Colder than a..." he broke off as he saw Josiah who rose to his feet. "Somethin' wrong, Josiah?" he asked.
"No," Josiah forced a smile to his face. "Just brought a couple of copies of the Statesman for Austin, Newt, and yourself." He handed a copy of the Statesman to Luther. "Some free copies of the first edition for my friends."
"That's real gen'rous," Luther nodded.
"Good-bye," Josiah huddled underneath his coat and left to brave the cold Montana wind.
Call rose to stand by the window to watch Josiah struggle against the wind while crossing the street.
"He askin' ‘bout Austin?" Luther asked.
Call nodded silently.
"Shoulda been back by now," Luther pointed out.
Call shrugged glancing at the sky. "May not've been able to travel fast," he said. He turned his attention back to where Josiah was finally entered the offices of the Statesman. Call glanced back at the grey sky and his hand tightened around the cup.