HOPE & BETRAYAL

Robert Shelby decided that he liked Denver. It was old enough to be sophisticated yet young enough to be energetic...much like Atlanta before the war. At some point, he would get Clay Mosby here even if he had to drag him by the hair of his head. Not for the first time, Robert shook his head at Clay’s determination to make something of Curtis Wells. Robert decided he’d go crazy if he had to live there. At least the time he would be spending there on railroad business would be livened up by Clay’s company.

He was pulled from his thoughts as the carriage stopped in front of a large stone mansion. The driver jumped down and opened the door for Robert who stepped out and nodded approvingly. The house suited Randall Terence, he decided. Although somewhat squat in appearance, the grey stone gave off the impression of solidity and power.

Robert tipped the driver and opened the iron gateway. He stopped for a moment to appreciatively smell the flowers carefully arranged along the walkways. For a moment, he remembered similar lawns in Virginia and allowed himself some moments of quiet contemplation of what might have been. Then he shook his head and walked to the door.

The liveried servant quietly took his coat and showed him to the drawing room. Randall Terence stood by the massive stone fireplace as two women sat in separate chairs listening to him with varying degrees of interest.

“Robert!” Terence boomed as he saw Robert in the doorway. “I’m glad you could join us!” He quickly crossed the room to shake Robert’s hand. “How about a drink?”

“Thank you for inviting me,” Robert smiled. “Brandy would be fine.”

“Robert, of course you remember, Caroline,” Terence indicated his niece.

Caroline Hall smiled as she raised her head from her embroidery. “How nice to see you again, Robert,” she said softly.

Robert hid his grimace as he saw the ring on her finger...the engagement ring she’d received from Austin Peale. “It’s a pleasure as always,” he forced a smile. The smile froze on his face as she saw the embroidered letters on her hoop...CHP.

“And this is my dear, good friend, Elizabeth Lang,” Terence’s eyes were twinkling as he noticed Robert’s discomfort.

Robert turned to look at the woman in the other chair. Compared to her, Caroline’s gentle blonde beauty faded almost into nothingness. “Mrs. Lang,” Robert managed to greet her.

“Miss Lang,” Elizabeth corrected him with a genuine grin. Her dark red hair was held back by a golden net studded with green stones that matched the sparkle in her green eyes. She had to be one of the most breathtakingly beautiful women Robert had ever seen.

“Brandy?” Terence barely managed to restrain his amusement as he handed a glass to Robert.

“Thank you,” Robert forced himself to turn to Terence. He gulped the brandy barely managing to keep from choking. “I trust everything is in order?” he managed to say to Terence.

Terence nodded as he poured more brandy is his glass. “All the necessary paperwork is completed. I’ll be taking them with us to Curtis Wells for Mayor Peale...or whoever...to sign.” He flashed a smile which made him look younger than his 50-odd years. “I imagine you’ll be there as well with papers from the Canadian Line.”

“Yes,” Robert studied his glass. “I’ll be able to get the necessary signatures before the wedding. That way, I’ll be gone before then.”

Elizabeth smiled into her glass as she saw Robert trying to look forlorn. The man was actually a very accomplished actor, she silently applauded...and devilishly handsome as well.

“That’s going to be a very hard trip,” Terence frowned. “All the way to Curtis Wells and then turning around to leave so quickly.” He shook his head. “That’s nonsense, Robert.” He turned to Caroline. “Surely, Caroline, there’s no harm in Robert being in Curtis Wells during the wedding, is there?”

Caroline looked up a little troubled then she smiled. “Of course not,” she finally said. “You’re welcome to join us if you wish, Robert.”

“You’re very kind, Caroline,” Robert smiled sorrowfully. “I’ll stay in the background.”

“I have a hard time imagining you in the background of anything gathering, Mr. Shelby,” Elizabeth said coolly. She glanced at Terence with a smile. “Besides, with all the associates Randall is bringing, one more person won’t matter. Will it, Randall?”

“I’m bringing some people along who will be doing some preliminary field work,” Randall shrugged. “I thought it only right to invite them. At least Caroline will have someone other than Elizabeth and myself there for the wedding.” He turned as a servant softly announced dinner. “Caroline,” he held out his arm for his niece. When she took it, he smiled. “I’m glad Austin agreed to stay in Denver for your honeymoon. I feel better knowing you’ll be here rather than God knows where he’d take you.”

Robert offered his arm to Elizabeth. “May I have the pleasure?” he formally asked.

“It’s my honor,” Elizabeth said quietly. She gazed into his eyes for a few seconds then walked with him to the dinner table. “I’m glad you’re coming to the wedding, Mr. Shelby. Randall will be busy either letting go of Caroline or with the railroad. At least I will know someone.”

“Call me Robert...please,” Robert smiled. He glanced at Terence who was seating Caroline at the table. “You’re an old friend of Terence’s. I’d be happy to escort you around Curtis Wells.”

Elizabeth tried not to grin. “I thought you were more of a risk-taker, Robert,” she whispered as he seated her. She smiled broadly when Robert flushed.

------------------------

“Caroline couldn’t wait to get away from us tonight,” Terence grumbled in the carriage as he escorted Elizabeth home.

“She received a letter from Austin today,” Elizabeth explained. “Randall, she’s in love with him. She probably read that letter a dozen times before dinner but just couldn’t wait to read it again.”

Terence snorted. “Lunacy,” he decided. “First of all, to choose someone like Austin Peale, a reformed drunk who’s the son of a reformed drunk, over a man like Robert Shelby. Second of all, to choose to live in Curtis Wells rather than Denver. Do you know, that puppy actually had the nerve to refuse my offer of making him a part of my company!”

“Yes, I know, Randall,” Elizabeth patted his knee. “You’ve told me..several times.”

“Well, I’m glad he refused,” Terence’s eyes narrowed. “It would have been a mistake. Best he stays out of my affairs. That was a weakness on my part.”

Elizabeth glanced at him. “This is more than Caroline marrying a man you don’t like, isn’t it?” she guessed.

“You’re a very intelligent woman, Elizabeth,” Terence growled. “Don’t start being stupid now.” When she turned her head to look out the window, he relaxed. “Now, Elizabeth,” he took her hand and squeezed it. “You should know what I mean when I growl like that.”

“Yes, Randall,” Elizabeth turned to look at him. “I do.”

“Good,” Terence nodded. He took out a cigar and lit it. “What do you think of Robert Shelby?”

“Very handsome,” Elizabeth answered. “Very witty, intelligent, and charming. If he has few scruples, he’ll probably become a rich man.”

“He will be a rich man,” Terence nodded. “Because he has few, if any, scruples.” He carefully blew smoke out the carriage window. “He’s a hungry man, Elizabeth. Hungry for money...for power...for respectability.” He glanced at Elizabeth. “And possibly hungry for other things as well.”

Elizabeth flushed slightly. “What exactly are you inferring, Randall?” she asked.

Terence studied the lit end of his cigar and shrugged. “I’m not a jealous man, Elizabeth,” he said slowly. “You might have a future with our Mr. Shelby. A very nice future.” “Of course,” Terence smiled coldly. “Let’s just say that you could provide extra incentive for him to see things my way. Not that I expect him to do otherwise.” He shrugged. “And if Mr. Shelby, for some reason known only to either God or the Devil, doesn’t want you...well, our private agreement will continue.”

Elizabeth smiled after a moment. “It’s nice to know you’re looking out for my best interests, Randall,” she said fluttering her eyelashes.

Terence roared with laughter. Then he took her chin in her hands and studied her eyes. “I wonder how many poor idiots have been fooled by that look of helplessness in your eyes,” he chuckled.

-------------------------

Safely inside her own house, Elizabeth shuddered. There were times that she completely abhorred Randall Terence...she thought as she poured herself a whiskey. Downing it, she frowned at her servant’s interruption.

“Beg pardon, Miss Lang, but this telegram arrived for you,” the young boy apologized.

Elizabeth quickly read the telegram and smiled. “Take this down to the telegraph office,” she moved to her writing desk. She wrote something on the paper, folded it, and handed it to the boy along with some money. “Go straight there and back...and be careful. It’s getting late.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the boy nodded and quickly left.

Elizabeth raised her glass and studied the liquid. “You and I will have a lot to discuss, Amanda,” she murmured with a chuckle.

-----------------------

Caroline frowned as she studied Austin’s letter. For some reason, she felt something was wrong. It wasn’t so much what Austin said as it was how he said it and how many times he said it. Over and over he said he hoped she was sure about what she was doing. At one point, he even said he would understand if she changed her mind.

Caroline supposed it was possible that Elizabeth was right...that he was just experiencing cold feet and just needed reassurance. Caroline glanced at the dozen pages she’d already written him. She sealed the letter hoping he would find reassurance in her words. But she felt something else was wrong...something Austin wasn’t telling her.

------------------------

.

Enona was surprised that Call was delaying his return to Curtis Wells. His leg had healed to where he could walk without the aid of a crutch although he still limped. But Call made no effort to leave. Instead he hunted and fished. When Enona asked him about it, Call just shrugged and told her she could leave if she wanted. The medicine man, Grey Eagle, had told Enona that Call’s spirit had chosen life over death. Now he had to accept that decision.

After a few weeks, Enona rode out to where Call had taken a few of the boys fishing. She passed the boys running back holding their catch high in the air. She nodded approvingly at them and watched as they disappeared over the hill.

Call’s head turned as he heard her approach. He scowled then turned his attention back to his line.

“You plan on doing this the rest of your life?” Enona dismounted and stood watching him hands on hips.

“Don’t see it’s any of your concern,” Call shrugged. He leaned back and pulled his hat over his eyes.

“Last time I checked you still was wearin’ that badge,” Enona walked over towards him. “Didn’t reckon this was part of the job.”

Call shrugged deciding not to answer.

Enona quickly reached out and flipped Call’s fishing pole far out into the water. Call jumped up and stared at the floating piece of wood. “What’d ya do that for?” he roared angrily.

“You seem more interested in that piece of wood than in people who care for you!” Enona shouted back equally angry.

“Ain’t true!” Call shouted.

“Then why are you here?” Enona argued. “You should be back in Curtis Wells. Mattie, Austin, Luther...they don’t mean anything to you?”

“Stop it!” Call said roughly turning away from Enona. “You don’t understand!”

“I know Grey Eagle said your spirit chose life,” Enona said quietly after a moment. “There’s nothing wrong with that, Call.”

“I know!” Call snapped still looking away. He took a deep breath. “I know,” he repeated softly.

Slowly Enona touched Call’s shoulder and turned him around. Reluctantly, Call’s eyes rose to meet hers. They stared at each other in silence for a moment, then Enona gently kissed Call’s lips. For a couple of seconds, Call didn’t move. Then he held Enona close to him kissing her with a desperation that surprised them both.

----------------------

Call smiled at he watched Enona from the corner of his eyes. She was slowly braiding her blonde hair carefully tucking each strand into place. As she finished, Call shifted his eyes towards the sky. Hands clasped behind his head, he pretended to be studying the clouds. “Awfully pretty today,” he said teasingly.

Enona glanced at the sky then back at Call. “Didn’t realize you ever noticed,” she tossed his hat towards him.

Call rolled over and grabbed it before it rolled into the water. With some difficulty, he managed to stand. Suddenly he grinned at Enona. “Yeah,” he nodded. “I noticed.” When Enona glanced away, his grin widened.

“Maybe you should notice other things, too,” Enona replied tartly. “Like Mattie.”

“Mattie?” Call looked confused. “What about Mattie?”

Enona’s blue eyes sparked angrily. “That’s so typical,” she finally spluttered. “What about Mattie?” she mimicked. She turned and angrily stalked away.

“Enona,” Call tried to follow then cursed as his leg buckled under him. “Dammit, Enona! You wait for me!”

Enona ignored him as she mounted her horse.

Call quickly hobbled over and grabbed the reins. “Enona!” he shouted.

“What?!” Enona shouted back at him.

“I was teasing,” Call said quietly. “Mattie’s my friend. You know that.”

Enona took a deep breath. “If she’s your friend, then you should be her friend as well...let her know if there’s any chance for her with you,” she finally said. “Don’t keep her guessing, Call. That’s not right.”

“It’d be like I was betrayin’ Hannah,” Call said quietly not meeting Enona’s eyes. He released the reins. “I can’t think of Mattie like that ‘cause it would mean somethin’...not like...”

If Call thought Enona’s eyes had sparked angrily before, this time he would swear actual flames shot from them. “It would mean something?” she repeated in a soft dangerous voice. She pulled her horse backwards and quickly rode away.

“Enona!” Call yelled. He stood there confused for several moments then grimaced. Sometimes it didn’t pay to even try to talk to women, he thought in disgust.

------------------------

Why wouldn’t the screaming just stop? Austin whimpered as he held his hands over his ears trying to block out the sounds. Over and over, the screams would get louder then slowly subside only to start up again just at the point when Austin thought it was over. He didn’t want to hear any more...he couldn’t take any more... He ran his hand through his hair rubbing sweat from his face. Slowly he lay back down disgusted to find himself shaking with an unknown fear...except he knew deep down what he was dreaming. His fists clenched as he knew this was another night he wouldn’t be able to sleep. He dimly heard the music from Twyla’s and desperately wanted a drink.

------------------------

Josiah Peale looked in astonishment at his son when he walked into the dining room of the Lonesome Dove. Austin looked around blankly then flinched as Luther Root came up behind him and clapped him on the shoulder.

“Looks like one of us better go get Call. He shoulda been back by now,” Luther said almost pulling Austin along with him. He stopped at Josiah’s table. “Mind if we join you, Josiah?”

“Of course not,” Josiah indicated the empty chairs. He glanced at his son then at Luther who just now seemed to notice Austin’s appearance.

“You look like hell, Austin,” Luther said.

“Didn’t sleep much,” Austin grumbled. He gratefully drank the hot coffee he father placed in front of him.

“I thought Newt would be back now,” Josiah said after a moment. “I hope he’s alright.”

“Enona’s takin’ care of him,” Luther shrugged. “I was just kiddin’, Austin. He’ll be back for the weddin’.” When he saw Austin grimace, he grinned. “Hey, it’s normal to be concerned. That’s why you can’t sleep. After all, you got a lot to decide.” When Austin stared at him silently, Luther grinned. “Like where you gonna live?”

When Austin didn’t answer, Josiah put his knife and fork down. “Austin, you have made arrangements for a larger room here, haven’t you?” he asked quietly.

“There’s time,” Austin mumbled. When he saw his father’s frown, he snapped. “I’ll do it today, Father.” He turned angrily towards Luther. “Anything else I should be concerned about?”

“Children?” Luther said after a moment with a grin.

Both he and Josiah were surprised to see Austin actually blanch. Josiah was positive he saw actual fear in Austin’s eyes. Without saying a word, Austin rose and left slamming the door to the Dove behind him.

“Didn’t mean to get him mad,” Luther apologized to Josiah.

“Something’s on his mind,” Josiah sighed. “I wish we were closer, Luther.” He looked across the table. “Maybe he’ll talk to you.”

Luther glanced over his shoulder. “I don’t think he wants to talk to anybody right now,” he decided.

Austin leaned against the rail in front of the Dove breathing deeply. Slowly the shaking in his hands subsided. Standing erect, he turned and nearly ran into Mattie Shaw.

“Austin!” Mattie stepped back as Austin reached out to steady her. “Sure, Austin,” Mattie nodded. Before she could say anything else, Austin quickly walked away.

Across the street, Clay Mosby watched from his balcony. He sipped his coffee slowly and smiled. Austin certainly didn’t look like a man eagerly anticipating his rapidly approaching wedding day. Perhaps he should start looking for a suitable wedding gift for Robert.

---------------------

“Morning, Luther,” Mattie smiled as she approached Josiah and Luther’s table.

Luther, his mouth full of pancakes, half-choked as he tried to swallow, talk, and stand at the same time. Mattie pounded him on the back as Josiah smothered a grin.

“Thanks, Mattie,” Luther finally croaked.

“Sit down, Mattie,” Josiah offered. “Have you eaten?”

“Thank you, Josiah,” Mattie shook her head. “This telegram came in for Amanda. It’s marked urgent, and I thought she might be here.” Mattie handed an envelope to Josiah. “Can you see she gets it?”

“Of course,” Josiah put the folded telegram in his pocket.

“By the way, Luther,” Mattie put a hand on Luther’s arm. “Austin asked me to tell you he was riding out. He said he hoped to be back today but it might be tomorrow.”

“I swear that boy...” Josiah looked aggravated. “After he just sat here and promised to see about larger accommodations for after the wedding.”

“I’m sure Austin had a good reason,” Mattie frowned slightly.

“Yeah, Josiah,” Luther agreed. “After all, ya said yerself he seemed to have somethin’ on his mind.”

Josiah shook his head. “He’ll never get it done,” he muttered disappointedly.

--------------------

Austin watched as several riders left the Indian camp. He breathed easier when he saw Call astride Hellbitch riding with what looked like a hunting party. He waited until they disappeared over a hill before slowly riding down to the camp.

He saw Enona sitting with several women. They glanced up as he dismounted and walked towards them.

“Austin,” Enona looked surprised. “Call just left.”

“I know,” Austin glanced down where Enona was braiding a leather and beaded bracelet. “That’s nice, Enona.”

Enona flushed slightly and put it aside. “Anything wrong in Curtis Wells?” she asked standing and rubbing her hands on her pants.

“No,” Austin took her arm and walked away from the other women. He looked at the ground slightly embarrassed. “Were you serious about breaking curses?”

Enona studied him for a moment. “I can’t do it,” she admitted. “But Grey Eagle, the medicine man can.” She stopped and forced Austin to look at her. “Why?” she demanded.

Austin flushed and looked away. “Dreams,” he finally admitted. “They’re too real to just be dreams.”

“Are you sure about paying the price, Austin?” Enona pressed softly. “This isn’t something you can negotiate...or refuse to pay later on.”

“Yes!” Austin said roughly. He took a deep breath and looked at her. “This isn’t something I just decided to do, Enona. I’ve thought about what you said.”

Enona hesitated then slowly nodded. “I’ll ask Grey Eagle,” she took Austin’s arm and led him towards a tent at the end of camp. “Whatever you do, don’t look away from him. He’ll see it as a sign of weakness and decide you deserve whatever happens.”

Austin grimaced. “He might be right,” he muttered when Enona disappeared into the tent.

After a few seconds, she leaned out and motioned Austin to enter. Grey Eagle watched silently as Austin entered and sat where Enona indicated. Following Enona’s instructions, Austin stared directly at the medicine man while he removed his hat.

Enona spoke quietly to Grey Eagle who simply looked at her then back at Austin. After a moment, he spoke to Enona. Enona turned to Austin. “He wants to know about the curse,” she said. “I need to tell him everything.” When Austin nodded, Enona carefully explained.

Austin watched Grey Eagle’s face closely but the old man’s face never changed expression. He leaned forward to stare closely into Austin’s eyes. After a moment, he sat back and muttered to Enona. When she turned to Austin, Grey Eagle turned to reach for a leather pouch.

“He wants you to understand you will pay a price,” Enona explained. “But no one knows what the price is until it is revealed to you. He says you will know the price to be paid when you see blood on the lion’s tooth.”

“Lion’s tooth?” Austin glanced at Enona. “You sure?”

Enona nodded. She saw Grey Eagle had turned back to face Austin. “Are you certain, Austin?” she pressed her face serious.

Austin held his breath for a moment the nodded. The chances of seeing blood on a lion’s tooth seemed very remote...and worth the chance. “Yes,” he said.

The words were barely out of his mouth when Grey Eagle threw something into the fire and smoke billowed up into Austin’s face.

---------------------

“That’s about all for today,” Josiah told Amanda Carpenter. “We can let the rest go until tomorrow.”

Amanda glanced at Josiah curiously. “Are you sick, Josiah?” she put her hands on her hips.

“Not at all,” Josiah denied with a smile. “I have a couple of things to do, that’s all.” He frowned as he put on his coat. Putting his hand into his pocket, he pulled out a telegram. “Oh, Lord,” he closed his eyes. “Amanda, I am so sorry. This came this morning for you. Mattie gave it to me and I promised to get it to you.”

“That’s alright, Josiah,” Amanda glanced at the telegram then smiled. “I know it’s marked urgent but I wouldn’t let it worry you.”

“I just had a few other things on my mind,” Josiah looked sheepish. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Amanda.”

Amanda watched with a fond smile as Josiah left. She quickly read the telegram and grinned. “Thank you, Elizabeth,” she whispered.

----------------------

Call glanced at Enona as the hunting party returned. She seemed intent on watching one of the women berate her husband. She turned to the other women as if to say, “Gone all day and this is all he brings back.”

Call kept glancing back at Enona as he unsaddled Hellbitch and made sure she was taken care of for the night. Finally, he walked over to her. “You still mad?” he demanded.

Enona looked at him coolly. “I’m headin’ back to Curtis Wells tomorrow,” she told him.

“Didn’t answer me,” Call’s eyes narrowed.

Enona studied him for several moments. “Do you care?” she finally asked.

“Wouldn’t be askin’ if I didn’t,” Call snapped. “Look, you didn’t give me a chance to finish the other day.”

“Then finish what you were saying,” Enona challenged meeting his eyes.

Call hesitated for a moment. “You and Mattie ain’t the same,” he said slowly. He saw Enona cross her arms over her chest as she waited for him to continue. “You’re not!” he repeated defensively. “Just what do you expect me to say?”

“Just remember what I told you about being Mattie’s friend,” Enona said turning away. “And I suggest you get back to Curtis Wells in time for Austin’s wedding. It may not mean much to you but it means a lot to him.”

Call scowled. “Won’t matter if I’m there or not,” he muttered. He was surprised when Enona swung back around, grabbed him by his jacket, and pulled him up to her.

“It matters,” Enona said harshly. “And if you opened your eyes, you’d see that.” She shoved him back then turned and walked off.

Call glared at her for a moment then angrily walked off in the opposite direction.

-----------------------

Josiah watched as Austin bounded down the steps of the Lonesome Dove into the dining room a couple of days later. He blinked hard. Austin didn’t even look like the same man he’d been. His eyes were clear and he seemed as though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. In fact, it had been years since he’d seen Austin look as carefree as he did now.

Amanda, seeing Josiah’s expression, turned and looked over her shoulder. Her eyes widened as she saw the change in Austin. She turned back to Josiah who shrugged in confusion.

“Good morning, Father,” Austin greeted his father pleasantly.

Amanda’s eyes narrowed and wondered what he was up to.

“Good morning, Austin,” Josiah said automatically still looking confused.

“I wanted to thank you, Father,” Austin sat next to his father. He glanced at Amanda and smiled politely at her.

Josiah’s cup clattered in his saucer as Amanda choked on her coffee. She waved her hand at Josiah when he glanced at her with concern. “I’m fine,” she managed to say.

“Thank me...for what, Austin?” Josiah looked more confused than ever.

“I asked about that large suite this morning,” Austin grinned. “And got told you had made the arrangements for me.”

“Well...” Josiah stammered then sipped his coffee. “I hope you aren’t offended, son. I know you would have gotten it done. I just wanted to help.”

“You did, Father,” Austin said quietly. “Thank you.” He gently touched Josiah’s shoulder then left.

“What’s gotten into him?” Amanda whispered to Josiah after Austin left.

“I don’t know,” Josiah shook his head slowly. “Honest to God, Amanda, I just don’t know.”

---------------------

Austin heard Luther laughing as he opened the door to the jail. Expecting to see Mattie, he was surprised to see Enona sitting on the desk drinking coffee.

“Didn’t know you were back, Enona,” Austin greeted her. He glanced around. “Where’s Call?”

Luther chuckled. When Austin looked at him curiously, he grinned. “Enona was just tellin’ me ‘bout tossin’ his fishin’ pole into the water,” he explained.

“Fishing,” Austin smiled as a memory played in his mind. Then he shook his head. “Is he back?”

“No,” Enona looked away briefly. “When I left, he was in a filthy mood.”

Luther shrugged. “His leg better?”

“He can ride,” Enona said flatly. She glanced at Austin. “I don’t know if he’ll be here for your wedding, Austin. I’m sorry.”

Austin shrugged although Enona saw something flicker in his eyes. “He’ll be here if he wants to,” he said neutrally. He looked at Luther. “Go ahead and get out, Luther. I’ll watch things. You been doin’ more than your share.”

Luther stared at Austin in surprise then grinned. “If you’re sure,” he said as he quickly headed towards the door. “Think I’ll ask Mattie if she’d like to go on a picnic.”

Enona shook her head. “There’s going to be a fight over her yet,” she said half-seriously.

“Luther can take Mosby,” Austin sat at the desk and began sorting the wanted posters.

Enona glanced over her shoulder. “Wasn’t thinkin’ about Luther and Mosby,” she stood and stretched. “See you later, Austin.”

Austin leaned back in his chair and frowned. Slowly he pulled out the latest letter from Caroline and started to read it again. His fingers carefully played with the hair ribbon she’d wrapped around the papers and smiled.

----------------------

“Where’s my money?” Ike demanded.

Chris Coffin grinned sarcastically and tossed Ike a pouch. Ike glanced inside and frowned. “Ain’t much,” he complained.

“The payoff will come soon,” Coffin promised. “What about Curtis Wells?”

“Ain’t nothin’ goin’ on,” Ike assured him. “Mosby ain’t hired nobody and no army patrol’s due through here.”

“Good,” Coffin nodded with a cold smile. “Keep up the good work and you might own the Ambrosia Club yet.”

-------------------------

Call gently traced the letters on the tombstone with his fingers. “Were you really there, Hannah?” he whispered. He closed his eyes as a gentle breeze ruffled his hair. He leaned back against the tombstone as he sat and stared down at Curtis Wells. His fingers played with his hat as he thought.

The sun was low in the west when he finally stood. He stared down at Hannah’s grave for a few moments. He touched his forefinger to his lips then gently pressed it to the engraving on the tombstone.

Slowly he mounted Hellbitch and rode towards Curtis Wells.

THE END

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