Amanda Carpenter smiled as she read the letter.
"I hope this information will help you, dear Amanda. After all, we girls must support one another. I can tell you for a fact that Randall Terence will be in Miles City on the 21st on business. And, my dear, he is only interested in two kinds of business. The railroad is one and you can guess the other. Perhaps we'll be seeing each other soon.
Slowly Amanda folded the letter and sipped her coffee. Josiah had to believe her now.
"Aw, Mattie, you gotta stay," Luther argued even as he carried Mattie's suitcase to the stage.
"I have a business in Miles City, Luther," Mattie reminded him gently.
"You don't need to be in Miles City," Luther said as he tossed her suitcase up to the driver. He saw Mattie looking over her shoulder and frowned. "Mattie, you can't do anythin' in Miles City."
Mattie turned to see Luther staring at her and flushed. "I don't know what you're talking about, Luther," she said.
Luther sighed. "You know, Mattie..." he started to say.
"Miss Mattie!" Unbob ran up and thrust something into Mattie's hand. "Call, he asked me to give this to you!"
Mattie automatically looked for Call who was not to be seen. She masked her disappointment. "Thank you, Unbob," she smiled.
"You're comin' back, aren't ya?" Unbob demanded.
"You would certainly brighten up our fair town," Clay Mosby's voice intoned deeply.
Luther scowled as he saw Mosby standing by the stage door. He scowled even more as Mattie slightly blushed. Mosby opened the stage door and reached a hand to help Mattie inside.
"You're going to Miles City?" Mattie asked as she took his hand.
"Yes," Mosby smiled. "Perhaps we can have dinner while I'm there."
Mattie settled into the coach and leaned out to take Unbob's hand. "You be careful, Unbob," she cautioned. Then she smiled at Luther who finally stopped scowling. "You be careful, too, Luther."
"You be careful, Mattie," Luther warned with a glance at Mosby.
"I assure you, Deputy Root, Miss Shaw will be completely protected," Mosby touched his hat in irony only to be rewarded with another scowl from Luther.
Mattie glanced at the wrapped object that Unbob had given her. She unwrapped it to see the Marshall's badge she had given Call many months ago. She quickly wrapped it and slid it into her pocket.
"Is something wrong, Mattie?" Mosby asked quietly.
"No," Mattie shook her head. "Nothing, Clay."
"She's comin' back, ain't she, Luther?" Unbob asked quietly as Luther turned to leave.
Luther shrugged and walked towards Creel's store. He started to get angry as he saw Call lounging in a chair in front of the store. He knew from the turn of Call's head he'd been watching Mattie board the stage.
By the time he reached Call, he was about as angry as he'd ever been. He threw out one leg and knocked both Call and the chair to the sidewalk. Call rolled quickly but Luther managed to reach down and grab him by the shoulders. He brought Call to his feet and slammed him against the side of Creel's store. A couple of people stopped to watch as one of Curtis Wells' deputies manhandled the sheriff.
"What's got into you, Luther?" Call demanded as he struggled to get free.
Luther held onto Call tightly using his height as leverage to keep Call pinned against the storefront.
"You got a problem?" Call demanded deciding to use his voice since he couldn't physically free himself. He stuck his face as close to Luther's as possible.
"Yeah!" Luther shouted back. "It's as dumb as an ox and as stubborn as a jackass!" He shoved Call back against the storefront and stepped back. "Mosby's on that stage with Mattie." He watched Call's face carefully then snorted. "Guess that don't mean nothin' to you."
"Should it?" Call stepped away from the storefront.
Luther looked like he wanted to say more then turned and stomped away.
Call watched him for a moment then realized people were standing and looking at him. "You people got nothin' better to do than stand and gawk at somebody?" he demanded. As people started drifting away, Call picked up his chair and sat back down. He watched Luther's retreating form and scowled. Cursing under his breath, he got up and walked the other way.
"But, Josiah, this is fact," Amanda argued.
"It's not fact, Amanda," Josiah said patiently studying the paper in front of him. "All your...friend can tell you is that Randall Terence will be in Miles City on the 21st."
"Which is tomorrow," Amanda broke in. "And Mosby just boarded the stage for Miles City."
Josiah glanced up at Amanda.
"And we all know that Mosby wants nothing more than to bring the railroad to Curtis Wells," Amanda continued triumphantly. "I want to go to Miles City and see what happens."
Josiah took off his glasses and sighed. "You won't let this go, will you, Amanda?" he asked.
"Josiah, you know I'm right," Amanda wheedled. "I'm packed. All I have to do is get on the stage."
Josiah hesitated then nodded. "But if nothing develops, you drop this," he said.
Amanda kissed Josiah on the cheek. "But it will," she promised as she ran out the door.
Josiah watched her go shaking his head with a smile. He didn't see Austin watching with an angry frown.
Mosby glanced at his watch and frowned. He leaned out the door and called to the driver, "What are we waiting on?"
"One more passenger," the driver shrugged. "A woman. Figures she'd be late."
Mattie smiled in spite of herself as Clay shrugged apologetically. "Apparently not every member of the female persuasion is as considerate as you, Mattie," he smiled.
"I'll take that as a compliment, Clay," Mattie nodded.
"It's easy to compliment you, Mattie," Clay said quietly. He glanced at her face. "Do you think you'll come back to Curtis Wells?"
"I don't know," Mattie said then looked surprised at her words. She turned to Clay and frowned. "I really don't know, Clay."
"Well, Deputy Root isn't the only one who would be glad to see you return," Clay smiled broadly. "If I didn't know better, I'd suspect he favors you, Mattie."
"Luther's a good person, Clay," Mattie said quietly. She glanced at him warningly. "He's my friend."
"Of course he is," Clay nodded not wanting to argue with Mattie but failing to understand how any lady could be attracted to anyone like Luther.
The door swung open and Amanda climbed into the coach settling next to Clay. She ignored the startled look from Mattie and the frown from Clay.
"Well, isn't this cozy," she purred. "Looks like we'll have a friendly journey to Miles City, won't we?"
Mosby glanced out the window in disgust. Mattie glanced from Mosby to Amanda then grinned. "Looks like," she agreed.
Call watched as the stage left Curtis Wells. Weren't none of his business, he told himself. Mattie knew all about Mosby. She might not believe all of it, but she knew it. He turned away and shook his head as he saw Austin storming into the office of the Montana Statesman.
"Austin!" Josiah smiled happily as Austin slammed the door behind him.
"Just what's going on, Father?" Austin demanded.
"Austin, are you supposed to be up and around?" Josiah ignored Austin's question as he anxiously looked at this son. "Dr. Creese said you should remain quiet."
"Answer me, Father!" Austin demanded.
Josiah looked confused. "Very well, Austin," he nodded. "But what are you talking about?"
Austin took a deep breath to control his anger. "That...kiss from Amanda," he almost hissed the words kiss and Amanda.
"What kiss?" Josiah looked completely confused for a moment then his eyes widened. "Austin, that wasn't a kiss!"
"Her lips...on you," Austin said sarcastically. "And it wasn't a kiss?"
"Not like you mean," Josiah said firmly. "Austin, just what are you implying?"
"That Amanda will do anything...anything, Father, to get whatever she wants," Austin pointed out.
"And what does Amanda want?" Josiah asked patiently. "The Statesman? You know better than that Austin."
"Do I?" Austin asked quietly. "You know what she is and yet you've allowed her in here...in Hannah's place!"
"That's enough!" Josiah's sudden anger startled Austin into silence. "That is enough, Austin! I will not have you constantly saying that!" He held up his hand as Austin opened his mouth. "No one can take your sister's place. Amanda is working for me. There is no comparison." He took a deep breath a little startled at his own anger. "This conversation is closed." He turned back to his desk and sat down.
Austin stared at him for a moment then angrily left slamming the door behind him.
Josiah wearily took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.
Call glanced in the windows of the Statesman's office and frowned. He quickly walked on before Josiah spotted him. He followed Austin to the jail smiling slightly as he heard the door slam. By the time he entered the jail, Austin was sitting behind the desk absently rubbing his chest.
"Wouldn't think all that huffin' and puffin' be any good on that chest, Austin," Call said pleasantly as he closed the door.
"Stay out of it, Call," Austin warned as he forced himself to take short even breaths.
"Nothin' for me to get in," Call poured himself a cup of coffee. "Ain't none of my concern."
"Is anything your concern?" Austin sneered.
Call shrugged although his eyes narrowed. "Makin' sure I got enough deputies for a start," he said pointedly. "Hate to see Creese's work in patchin' you up bein' buried in the cemetery."
"Thanks for caring," Austin snapped as he stood and left.
"My pleasure," Call smiled as Austin slammed the door.
Everyone was glad to finally arrive in Miles City. Mattie was tired of Amanda and Clay politely insulting each other. Amanda was tired of Clay trying to impress Mattie. Clay was tired of Amanda continually insinuating herself in his conversations with Mattie.
Amanda looked around at the bustle around her. Miles City was growing and there could be opportunities here, she decided.
Clay saw Amanda's expression and smiled to himself. Perhaps there was some way he could arrange for Amanda to stay in Miles City. A trade to Miles City of Amanda for Mattie seemed fair to him.
"I hope we will be able to have dinner together, Mattie," Clay said quietly as he handed Mattie's suitcase to her.
"I'd like that, Clay," Mattie smiled tiredly. "Come by the shop. I'd like you to see it." She turned to Amanda. "You stop by and see me before you go back to Curtis Wells, Amanda."
"I'll do that, Mattie," Amanda promised. She smiled at Clay. "Shall we see if the local hotel has rooms available?"
Clay courteously tipped his hat to Mattie then gallantly offered his arm to Amanda. "I don't know what you're plotting, Amanda," he said quietly. "But don't get in my way."
"Get in your way?" Amanda feigned astonishment. "Whatever do you mean?"
Clay stopped at the door of the hotel and raised Amanda's hand to his lips. She winced as he tightly squeezed her fingers. He smiled coldly at Amanda. "Just a friendly warning."
"Just between friends," Amanda smiled equally as cold.
Amanda carefully studied the dining room of the Miles City Hotel. One day when she regained ownership of the Dove, she planned to implement some of the decorations from this hotel. One thing Amanda liked were the cozy little corner tables in the dining room. Tables that allowed one to discreetly monitor the comings and goings of the patrons in the dining room. Amanda had arrived early enough to make sure she obtained one of those tables.
She charmed the waiter into bringing her dinner slowly so she could spend a long time dining. Her patience was rewarded when she saw Mosby and another gentleman entering the dining room. One they had placed their order, they began talking. Amanda beckoned to her waiter.
"I wonder if you could tell me who those distinguished gentlemen are and if they are staying at this hotel," Amanda smiled charmingly. "You see, I think one of those men is married to a friend of mine but I don't want to interrupt their dinner if I'm wrong. Do you think you could find out discreetly for me?"
"Yes, ma'am," the waiter, hardly more than a boy, swelled up in importance. "Anything for such a lovely lady," he stumbled over the words.
Amanda smiled graciously as he walked away. She leaned back in the shadows and sipped her tea.
The waiter returned in a few moments. "The dark haired man is Clay Mosby," he reported. "He's from some place called Curtis Wells. The blonde man is Randall Terence. He's from Denver."
"Oh," Amanda shook her head. "My mistake then. I'm very grateful for your help. I would have looked like such a fool if I'd interrupted them."
"Is there anything else I can do for you, ma'am?" the waiter asked eagerly.
"More tea?" Amanda asked innocently smiling again as the waiter hurried to the kitchen. She glanced over at Mosby's table. "Well, well, so you plan to get a railroad, do you, Clay?"
Randall Terence was a physically big man in his early 50's. His thinning blonde hair was neatly combed and he dressed every bit as elegantly as Mosby.
"To tell you the truth, Clay," Terence began after dinner. "I hadn't really given much thought to laying track close to Curtis Wells."
Mosby offered a cigar to Terence who took it. He examined it appreciatively and struck a match to light both his cigar and Mosby's.
"I realize that Curtis Wells is a small town," Clay replied genially. "Especially when compared to Denver. But it's location belies it's importance."
Terence nodded. "I've had some reports from my men in the field," he admitted. "Laying track isn't easy work. The fewer mountains or natural formations we can avoid the better...as long as we don't go too far out of our way."
"I understand you have plans to connect with a rail concern just across the border in Canada," Clay blew smoke at the ceiling watching Terence out of the corner of his eyes.
Terence studied the end of his cigar. "Your information is very good, Clay," he admitted. "Although it's not really a secret."
Clay nodded in agreement. "Of course, the mining companies would certainly like a railroad close to their mines," he mentioned.
Terence smiled widely. "And willing to pay for the convenience," he agreed. "The agreement is almost finalized for a main track to the Canadian border. The question is, how many branches from the main track do I lay?"
"Perhaps a visit to Curtis Wells will convince you of it's strategic importance," Mosby invited.
"Strategic importance," Terence mused. "Now there's a term I haven't heard in a long time. Since the war, in fact." He leaned back in his chair and smiled. "Of course, the war's been over a long time."
"Yes," Mosby casually flicked ashes from his cigar. "A long time." He raised his head to stare at Terence.
"You might be interested that my contact with the Canadian rail concerns is also a Southerner," Terence mentioned. "Seems he went to Canada after the war." He smiled at Mosby. "Perhaps he should also join us in Curtis Wells."
"It would be my pleasure to have you both as my guests," Mosby invited.
"I'd also like to bring my niece, my sister's daughter, if you don't mind," Terence hesitated. "She's just come to live with me."
Mosby nodded. "Curtis Wells doesn't have much to attract a young lady at this point, but of course, she's welcome."
"I appreciate that, Clay," Terence leaned back in his seat. "You and I...we've been through a war. We've seen death and learned...one way or another...to deal with it. Poor Caroline saw her parents killed by Apaches in the Arizona territory when she was younger. She managed to hide but saw everything. She came to live with me until my wife died a few years back. I thought it best she have a woman's influence so she went to live with my younger sister. Unfortunately, she died a few months ago."
Clay nodded sympathetically.
"So now Caroline is back with me," Terence glanced at Mosby. "My only living relative actually." He smiled suddenly and stood. "Well, shall we agree to meet in Curtis Wells in three weeks. I believe the Canadian representative will be able to join us at that time."
"I'm looking forward to it," Clay stood and shook hands.
Neither man saw Amanda duck her head and smile into her teacup.
"Miss Carpenter, you have a telegram," the desk clerk called to Amanda the next morning as she exited the dining room.
"Thank you," Amanda took the telegram a little perplexed. She opened it and smiled broadly.
AMANDA, RT RETURNING TO DENVER IMMEDIATELY. STOP. RT PLANNING ON VISITING CW SOON. STOP. HOPE YOU CAN RETURN FAVOR. STOP. ELIZABETH
Amanda carefully folded the telegram and turned to the desk clerk. "Can you tell me when the next stage to Curtis Wells is leaving?"
Clay Mosby did not like mysteries...especially when he wasn't controlling them. Amanda's sudden return to Curtis Wells simply did not make sense. And he was sure she went out of her way to let him know she was leaving by asking him to make her apologies to Mattie for not seeing her before leaving.
He mulled over various possibilities for Amanda's actions as he walked along the streets of Miles City. He finally decided to put Amanda out of his mind as he glanced into one storefront. He smiled suddenly.
Mattie looked up as the door to her shop opened. "Hello, Clay," she smiled putting down the gun she was oiling.
Mosby glanced around appreciatively at the guns he saw. "Very nice inventory, Mattie," he nodded. "Business must be good. You've more guns here than you had in Curtis Wells."
"Seems there's always somebody wantin' to buy a gun to shoot somebody," Mattie's eyes clouded.
"Why don't you sell something else?" Clay leaned against the counter.
"I know guns, Clay," Mattie said briskly. "I'd be foolish to try and sell somethin' I don't know about."
"I suppose so," Clay nodded. He reached into his pocket and put a wrapped package on the counter.
Mattie stared at it then glanced up at Mosby. "For me?" she asked.
Clay glanced around then leaned over the counter and lowered his voice. "Well, Mattie, I don't see anyone else here," he teased.
Mattie smiled in spite of herself. "That's very nice of you, Clay," she began unwrapping the package. "Shakespeare's Sonnets?" She glanced up to see Mosby's dark eyes dancing in merriment. "Poetry."
"Call it inspiration," Clay grinned. "The words of poets can inspire those of us with lesser literary talents in expressing ourselves."
Mattie studied Mosby then shook her head slightly. "Somehow I don't think you ever had a problem in expressing yourself, Clay."
Mosby laughed and inclined his head. "You're probably right," he acknowledged. "But somehow, I think the book suits you."
Mattie ducked her head blushing slightly. "Thank you, Clay," she said rewrapping the gift. "How long will you be in Miles City?"
"I'll be leavin' the day after tomorrow," Mosby glanced out the window. "I have a few more people to see and business to take care of." He looked at Mattie again. "Will you do me the honor, Miss Shaw, of havin' dinner with me tonight?"
"I'd love to, Clay," Mattie smiled then hesitated. "What about Amanda? I did promise to see her before she left."
"Unfortunately, Amanda's already gone," Clay grinned again. "Left quite suddenly on this mornin's stage back to Curtis Wells."
"Unfortunately?" Mattie teased.
"Dependin' on how you look at it," Clay acknowledged. "She asked that I pass along her apologies." He looked around as a customer entered the shop. "Shall I meet you here around 7 tonight?"
"That'll be fine, Clay," Mattie nodded as she put the book behind the counter. "I'd really enjoy it."
"Until then," Clay tipped his hat to Mattie and left the shop.
He glanced around suddenly pleased with himself. He was confident he could convince Randall Terence to bring the railroad to Curtis Wells as well as convince Mattie to return to Curtis Wells, Amanda was gone, and the sun was shining. He lit a cigar and grinned.
"Well, Josiah, well?" Amanda demanded.
"Amanda, I have to at least read it," Josiah tried not to smile. "Now, settle down and let me read."
"I'm sorry, Josiah," Amanda apologized as she walked to the window of the Montana Stateman's office and looked out into the street. "But it's the first story I've done."
Josiah grunted absently.
Amanda glanced over her shoulder at him then stared back out the window. She saw Austin across the street glaring at her. Ordinarily she would have waved at him just to see him get angry, but she had more important things to consider than Austin Peale.
"Amanda, this is very good," Josiah's voice interrupted her thoughts.
Amanda forgot about Austin and walked over to Josiah. "Really?" she said half-surprised.
"You have an excellent grasp of words and how to convey them to create a picture of what you're describing," Josiah smiled. He saw Amanda grin and held up his hand. "However, we must work on your sense of balance. A newspaper story must be written in balance. Remember, we cannot and will not state facts we do not know to be true."
"You're not running the story?" Amanda's face fell.
"Yes, the story will run," Josiah said quietly. "Now look at the notes I've made. I think you'll see what I'm talking about." He handed Amanda the papers and removed his glasses. He watched her face as she read.
"But there's no...fire," Amanda said searching for a description. "It's just dry words."
"That's what editorials are for," Josiah pointed out. "With a solid news story, an editorial will provide the...fire, as you call it." He stood and stretched. "I have to admit, I'm not at all in favor of the railroad coming here. But that's my opinion which is what an editorial is."
"I think the railroad would be a good idea," Amanda argued.
"Why?" Josiah challenged.
"Well..." Amanda hesitated.
"Write it down," Josiah encouraged. "Bring it to me. There's no rule that we can't have opposing editorials."
Amanda looked at Josiah for a few moments then gently hugged him.
"What's that for?" Josiah asked with a smile.
"For being Josiah," Amanda said somberly. Then she grinned. "You may regret asking for my opinion."
"Well, I'll give you some time to formulate one," Josiah smiled as he put on his coat. "I have a few errands to run." He shook his head as Amanda sat at her desk and began scribbling.
As Josiah stood outside the newspaper office, he saw Austin across the street. He started towards his son but then stopped. Austin glared at this father and walked away. Josiah sighed and wished he understood Austin better.
He glanced towards the stable and saw Call leading Hellbitch out.
"Newt!" he called and walked quickly towards the sheriff.
"What is it, Josiah?" Call asked paying more attention to his saddle than Josiah.
"I need a favor," Josiah began. He hesitated looking slightly embarrassed. Call, watching him from the corner of his eyes, was interested enough to turn and look at Josiah. "I was wanting to ride out to a few places, but...well, to be honest, I'd probably get lost." When Call continued to stare at him, he continued. "I was wondering if you'd like to go with me. That is, if you're not busy."
"Why not ask Austin?" Call asked. "He can ride some now."
Josiah glanced away. "I'm afraid Austin and I aren't really on speaking terms right now, Newt," he said quietly. "Austin feels I should be protected against Amanda."
"Could be he's right," Call conceded. "She's not exactly shy about gettin' what she wants."
Josiah's eyes flared in anger. "Sometimes, Newt, I don't know who's the most opinionated or foolish...you or my son!" With that, he brushed past Newt into the stable.
Call stood there surprised for a few seconds then mounted his horse. "No need to go ‘round insultin' folks," he muttered to himself. He glanced at the stable then shrugged and rode out of town.
"Damn, damn, damn!" Amanda crushed the paper between in her hand and tossed it on the floor to join several other crumpled pieces of paper. "How does Josiah make it look so easy?" she grumbled.
She stared at the blank sheet of paper in frustration. Putting words onto paper looked so easy but it was difficult, she realized. She was confident she could persuade anyone simply by talking with them. But the same words she would use in talking with someone sounded foolish and childish when reading them on paper. Compared to Josiah's style of writing, her editorial would simply provide people with another excuse to laugh at her.
Taking a deep breath, Amanda bent back over the desk and began to write. Occasionally, she reached down and picked up a crumpled piece of paper to rewrite an idea. Absorbed in her task, she didn't realize how many hours had passed until Luther walked in.
Luther's eyebrows raised as Amanda jumped in fright.
"Don't do that!" she ordered angrily.
"Just walked in," Luther defended himself.
"Well, don't do it so abruptly next time!" Amanda sat back down.
Luther stared at her for a minute then shrugged. Mattie was the only woman who made sense...most of the time. "Where's Josiah?" he asked.
"He said he had some errands to run," Amanda said absently.
"Saw him ride out hours ago," Luther continued. "He ain't back?"
"Ride out?" Amanda looked up then past Luther to see the sun low in the afternoon sky. "He didn't mention riding out of town." She stood suddenly. "Did he go alone?"
"Yep," Luther nodded. "Best go see who's gonna go lookin' for him."
"I'll come with you," Amanda quickly slid her cloak around her shoulders and followed him out. To her surprise, Luther headed for the jail.
Both Call and Austin looked up as they entered. Wanted posters were spread out across the desk.
"Josiah's not back and it's gonna get dark," Luther said bluntly.
Call and Austin exchanged glances.
"Well?" Amanda demanded. "Somebody's got to go looking for him."
"Didn't say where he was goin'," Call said evenly. "Coulda gone anywhere." He glanced at Amanda. "Don't suppose he mentioned it to you?"
"I didn't even know he was leaving town," Amanda glanced at Austin. "You see, Josiah doesn't tell me as much as some people think he does."
Austin's eyes glittered angrily. He stood up and reached for his hat. "I'll go find him," he said.
"I'll go with you," Luther offered.
"He's my father," Austin shrugged into his coat. "I said I'll go." Silently he walked past them and out the door.
Amanda glanced at Luther and Call who were exchanging looks. "Well, I just hope he's well enough to find him," she sniffed before leaving.
"Now where does Austin think he's gonna look?" Luther asked.
Call shrugged. "Guess we better go too," he decided.
Austin stopped just outside the stables. Josiah was walking slowly leading a limping horse. Austin took a deep breath relieved it was the horse who was hurt rather than his father. He scowled as Josiah looked up to see him standing there.
"Where have you been?" Austin demanded.
"Out," Josiah replied innocently. "My horse threw a shoe so we walked back."
"Next time let somebody know where you're going," Austin said coldly. "Amanda was wanting everybody to go out looking for you."
"Was she?" Josiah smiled. "Well, next time, Austin, I'll do just that." He glanced at his son. "Is it there anything else?"
Austin flushed angrily before walking away. He brushed past Luther and Call who had been watching. Josiah watched him for a moment then smiled at them. "Don't tell me you were coming to look for me, too?" he asked.
Call walked over and took the reins of Josiah's horse and led him inside the stable.
"You gotta be more careful, Josiah," Luther admonished. "Tell somebody where you're goin'."
"Thank you, Luther," Josiah placed a hand his arm. "I know I haven't been very responsible the last couple of years, but.." He glanced at Austin's retreating back. "Things are going to change."
"Still don't need goin' off like that," Luther muttered.
Amanda looked up as Josiah entered the newspaper office. "Thank God!" she said. "You had us all worried, Josiah!"
"I know," Josiah smiled. "And I'm sorry, Amanda. I won't go off again without telling someone where I'm going." He smiled wider. "Luther was very explicit about that."
"Luther?" Amanda looked confused. "I thought Austin..." She stopped at Josiah's expression.
"Austin said the same thing," he said quietly taking off his coat.
Amanda looked unconvinced but didn't say anything. "Here's my editorial," she held out the papers. "I know it's probably not what you're used to seeing..."
"Amanda, everyone's writing style is different," Josiah pointed out. He sat down in the chair. "Aren't you interested in why I left town and what I learned?"
"What?" Amanda sat down next to Josiah who looked like the cat who swallowed the canary.
"I tried to imagine where tracks would be laid from Miles City to Curtis Wells," Josiah explained. "Taking the existing terrain into consideration, I rode out to see if there was anyone living in those areas." He leaned back in his chair with a triumphant expression on his face.
"Someone does live where the tracks are going," Amanda guessed.
"May be going...may be," Josiah corrected her. "Remember, Amanda, state facts." When she nodded, he continued. "There are some families but they don't own the land. They rent it...from Clay Mosby." He saw the expression on Amanda's face. "I'd be willing to bet that Clay owns a lot of that land."
"Of course," Amanda nodded seriously. "The railroad would have to purchase the right of way."
"Making a nice profit for Clay," Josiah said heavily.
"He'd be a fool to take cash," Amanda said idly. "He'd be better off to take part of it in cash and part in railroad stocks. That's what I'd do."
Josiah stared at her in silence for a few moments before Amanda realized she was being watched. "A girl has to look after her own interests, Josiah," she defended herself.
"I see," Josiah nodded masking his amusement. "Well, we have a long night's work ahead of us to get this issue out by tomorrow. I'm going to the land office to see how much land Mosby does own out that way. Why don't you go to the Dove and bring back some supper?"
"Will the land office tell you that?" Amanda asked as she put on her cloak.
"It's public information. He'll have to tell me," Josiah smiled. "But if I have any trouble, Amanda, I'll let you talk to him."
Austin choked back a laugh as he read the front page of the Montana Statesman. Mosby was going to be furious and Austin planned to enjoy it. He laid the paper on the table next to his breakfast and read.
‘It has been confirmed that a prominent leading citizen of Curtis Wells met earlier this week with Mr. Randall Terence of the Colorado-Canadian Railroad. This meeting has led to the arrival of Mr. Terence in Curtis Wells within the next month for further discussions on the possibility of a branch line being constructed between Curtis Wells and Miles City. Research performed by the Statesman has concluded there are two possible routes for this branch line. Most of this land, however, is currently owned by Mr.Clay Mosby of Curtis Wells who leases it to various small ranchers and settlers. Opposing editorials concerning the presence of a railroad in Curtis Wells will be found on page 2.'
Luther glanced up at Austin then around the dining room of the Dove. Almost everyone was reading the paper and muttering to their dining companions.
"Hey, Austin," Luther leaned over to Austin's chair. "I don't think Mosby's gonna be real happy ‘bout this."
Austin grinned widely looking happier than he'd been in a long time. He leaned back in his chair and lit a cigar. "No," he finally said as he blew smoke across the table. "I don't figure our 'prominent leading citizen' will be pleased."
Call shook his head slightly as he finished reading the Statesman. Josiah and Amanda were stirring up a hornet's nest, he decided. He wondered if Josiah would be able to ride it out unscathed. He figured Amanda would throw Josiah over if it suited her purpose. He glanced up as the stage from Miles City came to a halt in front of the Dove.
The door opened and Mosby climbed down. As he accepted his suitcase from the driver, he glanced around looking satisfied with himself and the world at large. He nodded pleasantly to some people who had stopped to stare at him. As he walked towards the Ambrosia Club, several other people stared at him. By the time Mosby reached the Ambrosia Club, he had the idea that something was going on. He curiously glanced around several times before finally entering the Ambosia Club.
Call glanced back at the newspaper folded on his lap and smiled. He figured Hell was about to break loose.
Clay Mosby's face hardened into something resembling a granite statue. His dark eyes flickered quickly across the front page of the Montana Statesman. The further he read, the more angry fires burned in his eyes. His fingers curled the paper in his hand as people in the Ambrosia Club slowly and quietly backed away from him.
Clay ripped the paper apart as he turned to read the editorials on the second page. He muttered under his breath as he read Josiah's editorial against the railroad coming to Curtis Wells. However, he cursed loudly as he read Amanda's editorial in favor of the railroad coming to Curtis Wells. By the time he finished reading, most of the patrons in the Ambrosia Club had prudently vacated the premises.
Clay wadded the paper up and threw it to the floor. He barely resisted the impulse to stomp it into the floorboards. He reached behind the bar and poured himself a drink. The bartender quickly found something to do in the storeroom. Clay swallowed the liquid not even feeling the burn as it traveled down his throat. He poured another one then angrily threw the glass across the room.
"The fools!" he muttered angrily. He saw his hands clenching into fists and took a deep breath. Now he understood why people had been staring at him when he returned to town. So much careful work...so much planning...ruined by a half-mad publisher and an interfering little...Clay heard the bottle smash against the opposite wall hardly before he realized he'd thrown it.
Clay pondered his options realizing that copies of the Statesman had already left on the stage. First things first, he decided taking a deep breath. It never paid to be rash, he told himself. Everything in its own time and place.
Call found himself a little surprised when Mosby didn't rush out of the Ambrosia Club hell-bent on attacking Josiah and Amanda. He'd been ready when he saw people quickly leaving the Club apparently intent on getting out of Mosby's way. But Mosby hadn't appeared. And none of his men made any effort to confront either Josiah or Amanda.
Mosby's inaction bothered Amanda, too. She kept glancing out the window of the Stateman's office expecting to see Mosby and his men heading for them. Even if Mosby's men kept him from seeing a copy of the Statesman, sooner or later, someone would mention it to him.
Finally, Josiah turned around and stared at Amanda. "He's not coming, Amanda," he said quietly.
"Why not?" Amanda turned almost exasperated. "He's no fool. He's got to realize that his plans have been published on the front page of the paper!"
"Which is why he's no fool," Josiah said patiently. "If Clay were to confront either of us now, it would simply prove that he's up to no good. By waiting, he runs no risk." He turned back to his desk. "Now come away from the window and get back to work."
Reluctantly, Amanda returned to her desk. Josiah had a point, but Amanda would have been happier if Mosby had come now.
Austin wasn't about to let Mosby choose either the time or the place for a confrontation...not if he could help it. Later that afternoon, he swaggered into the Ambrosia Club and leaned against the bar ordering a drink. He grinned as he saw Mosby at the back poker table idly dealing cards.
"Well, Colonel," Austin walked over and leaned against the doorjam. "How did your business in Miles City turn out?"
"I wasn't aware you found anythin' out of a whiskey bottle to be of interest to you, Austin," Mosby didn't look up. "How unlike you to surprise me."
"Oh, we Peales are full of surprises, Mosby," Austin grinned. "You should know that by now."
"I see your taste in cheap liquor hasn't improved," Mosby said in a bored tone of voice. "I do hope you don't intend to revert to your drinkin' habits. I'm quite sure it would be very embarassin' for your father if it became necessary to throw your drunken body out into the street." He raised his eyes to stare coldly at Austin.
"I doubt that would greatly embarrass my father," Austin said quietly meeting Mosby's eyes. He set the empty glass on the poker table. "Afternoon, Colonel."
Mosby watched angrily as Austin walked out of the Ambrosia Club. Patience, he told himself, patience.
Almost everyone in town was surprised at Mosby's actions during the next month. He made no move against either Josiah or Amanda. In fact, he congratulated Josiah on "a fine piece of reportin' even if one of the editorials was somewhat flamboyant". Josiah merely smiled and thanked Mosby for his kind words.
Luther spent a few nights sleeping in the offices of the Statesman until Josiah firmly ordered him out. Austin and Call seemed to keep their distance from the matter although Luther spotted Call a few times sitting in a chair on the sidewalk close to the Statesman's offices when Mosby's men were around.
Amanda's excitement grew the closer as the date of Randall Terence's visit to Curtis Wells approached. Josiah had been impressed with the information she'd obtained about Terence. Amanda had been even more impressed with the information he'd obtained about Terence.
Josiah smiled like a little boy who'd just been praised for doing a good job. The truth was, Josiah was happy to have Amanda working with him and defended her to anyone who questioned him about it. His only regret was his defense of Amanda seemed to drive a wedge further between himself and Austin.
"Josiah!" Amanda burst into the offices of the Statesman one day. "The stage is coming! Terence must be on it!"
"Must he?" Josiah teased although he stood and ran a hand through his hair. "Well, from all the work that Clay's done in the last few days, I'd say someone of importance to him should be on that stage." He shrugged into his coat and placed his hat on his head. "Well, do I look like a suitable mayor?" he smiled.
Amanda studied him critically for a moment. "Very much," she said sincerely. "Don't let anyone tell you differently."
Josiah offered Amanda his arm. "Shall we meet the honorable Mr. Terence?"
Call had also noted Mosby's actions in the last few days. Obviously, somebody Mosby wanted to impress was coming on the stage. He watched as the stage rolled to a stop. He casually stood and leaned against the railing.
Randall Terence stepped down from the stage and dusted his fine clothing. He glanced around then smiled as he saw Mosby approaching.
"Clay!" he greeted offering his hand. "So this is Curtis Wells?"
"It is indeed," Clay shook Terence's hand. "I hope your trip was enjoyable."
"Well, I much prefer the train, of course," Terence chuckled. "But we encountered no difficulties."
"Mr. Terence, I presume?" Josiah spoke up. "I'm Josiah Peale, Mayor of Curtis Wells."
"And also editor of the Montana Statesman," Terence shook Josiah's hand and smiled. "I've seen your publication." He glanced at Amanda. "And this must be Miss Carpenter."
"Mr. Terence," Amanda smiled sweetly as she offered her hand.
Terence bowed gallantly over her hand then turned to Josiah. "My congratulations on your choice of assistant," he smiled. He saw Josiah begin to frown and turned to the stage. "Clay, I'd like to present my niece, Caroline Hall." He held up a hand as a young blonde woman in her early twenties slowly descended.
"My dear, Miss Hall," Clay removed his hat and bowed. "Welcome to Curtis Wells."
"Thank you, Mr. Mosby," Caroline smiled shyly. "My uncle has spoken highly of you."
"He does me a great honor in doing so," Mosby bowed again. "May I present Mayor Peale and Miss Carpenter."
Josiah smiled at Caroline. "Welcome to Curtis Wells, Miss Hall," he greeted.
"My Canadian associates have sent their representative, Clay," Terence began. "I'd like you to meet..."
"There's no need for introductions," a voice edged in a familiar Southern accent drawled. "Especially between us, is there, Clay?"
Mosby spun around and stared into the twinkling eyes of Robert Shelby.
"Then you two know one another, Robert?" Terence glanced from one to the other.
"For many years," Shelby grinned then reached out to hug Mosby. "Glad to see you're still alive," he whispered.
"Robert?" Clay was stunned then hugged his friend closely. He pulled back to stare at him. "My God, Robert...it is you."
"Yep, sure looks like him," Call's voice, punctuated by the sound of his gun being cocked, intruded.
"What is this?" Terence demanded as he pulled Caroline to his side.
"Man's wanted," Call said bluntly as Shelby slowly moved away from Mosby.
"Was wanted," Shelby politely corrected Call. "I have a pardon from the territorial governor."
"That right?" Call nodded non-committally. "Can't imagine why you'd have that."
"Call, I swear..." Mosby angrily moved forward.
"Wouldn't do that, Mosby," Luther spoke from just behind Mosby. He let Mosby feel the gun in his back.
Caroline gave a soft gasp as her eyes rolled back in her head. Before her uncle could do anything, her knees buckled and she fell backwards in a dead faint...into Austin's arms.
Austin automatically lifted Caroline's unconscious body in his arms. He looked at her in surprise.
"Take her to the Dove," Josiah ordered. "Amanda, get Dr. Cleese."
Amanda looked disappointed at missing whatever what going to happen, but she obeyed Josiah quickly.
Austin started across the street carefully carrying the unconscious woman in his arms. He glanced down at her and realized how small and dainty she was. He burst into the Dove and over to a small couch against one wall. "Get some water," he ordered brusquely. Austin carefully lowered Caroline to the couch and frowned.
"There's a copy of the pardon in my pocket," Shelby grinned. "I thought it prudent to bring it with me."
Call nodded at Luther who pulled Shelby's coat open and pulled out a piece of paper. He moved beside Call and aimed his gun at Shelby before handing the paper to Call.
Mosby glanced at Shelby in half-surprise. A pardon from the territorial governor, indeed. "Still full of surprises, aren't you, Robert?" he murmurred.
"Care to explain how you come by this?" Call asked as he read the paper.
"I performed some...shall we say, personal services, for the governor," Shelby explained. "In return, I received his official pardon."
Call nodded as he folded the paper. "‘Course, this coulda been printed anywhere," he pointed out. "I'll just keep this until I make sure it's all legal and proper. Until then, I'm sure your good friend, Mosby, will enjoy your company." He politely tipped his hat to the others and backed off slowly followed by Luther.
Terence glanced at Shelby. "You mentioned your visit might be eventful," he pointed out. "I'm glad to see you're a man of your word." He turned and walked towards the Dove.
Shelby grinned at Mosby. "Hello, Clay," he said quietly.
Clay stared at his friend for a moment then laughed heartily. He hugged Shelby again. "My God, Robert! A pardon!" He grinned. "Did you have to confess?"
"Confess?" Shelby grinned. "Confess to what? Clay, you know I'm always innocent."
Terence entered the Dove to find his niece lying on a couch.
"She'll be fine," Dr. Cleese was saying. "This should wake her up."
"You're a doctor?" Terence's big hand clamped down on Cleese's arm.
"Yes," Cleese voice shook as he stared at the hand on his arm and then at Terence's face. "Yes, I am a doctor," he repeated in a stronger voice.
Terence removed his hand. "Go ahead," he ordered.
Cleese crushed some smelling salts in his hand. Amanda immediately covered her nose as Cleese held them under Caroline's nose.
Caroline twitched then gasped as her eyes flew open.
"It's alright, Caroline," Terence put a hand on her shoulder. "You're fine. You just fainted."
Caroline's eyes cleared. She looked for her uncle but saw Austin standing at the foot of the couch. She stared at him for a few seconds. "You caught me," she said softly. "I remember you."
"Yes, ma'am," Austin tried to look away but his eyes were drawn back to hers.
"Thank you," Caroline smiled shyly. "Mr. ?"
"Peale," Austin took a deep breath missing Terence's expression. "Deputy Austin Peale."
"Thank you, Deputy Peale," Caroline started to sit up.
Austin turned as Mosby and Shelby entered the room closely followed by Josiah. He started towards them but saw his father furtively shake his head. As Shelby reached out to help Caroline stand, Austin saw Terence's approving smile.
Austin pulled his hat back on, glared at Shelby, and left. Josiah quickly went after him.
"Austin, wait," Josiah grabbed his son's arm. Austin spun around so quickly that Josiah stepped back.
"What, Father?" Austin asked tightly.
"Austin," Josiah studied his son closely. "What's wrong?"
"Why isn't Shelby in jail?" Austin ignored the question.
Apparently he has a pardon from the territorial governor," Josiah explained. "Newt took it from him to verify it's authenticity."
"I hope it's a fake," Austin muttered.
"Austin..." Josiah's voice faded as Austin walked away. "Now what's gotten into him?" Josiah murmurred to himself.