Webmaster Note: This fic was formerly archived on another website and was moved to blackraptor in October 2008
I hope that this letter finds you as well as it leaves me. When the homesteaders who have promised to deliver it mentioned their planned route to me, I seized the opportunity to write you as we see you so rarely in town and the success of the newspaper means that my time for visiting has become so scarce.
On the whole, life here has been quiet and there is little news for me to pass on from the townspeople. I am enclosing the latest issue of the newspaper so that you can catch up on events in general. However, there is one tale of which I think you might like to know more than is published under the headline ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, given that one of its key players is a man for whom I know you bear great affection. There was a moment when we feared the worse but, thankfully, it is a story with a happy ending and so I shall include in my telling of it some of the more frivolous details, which would otherwise be unseemly.
For ten days before the incident, our town had played host to two sisters, Sophia and Leticia Brown, who were awaiting the arrival of their brother, Frederick, before resuming their journey to the West Coast. Both were new to womanhood but otherwise no sisters could be less alike: one dark, the other fair; one homely, the other beautiful; one withdrawn, the other vivacious. Leticia attracted the attention of the whole town, and not least that of Buck and Ezra, while Sophia was usually to be found engrossed in a romantic novel.
One morning, while watching the antics across the street with Chris and Vin, I wondered aloud if Sophia might envy or resent the attraction that Leticia held for men. Vin gave that quiet laugh of his and said he thought she probably had more sense than to want either of her sister's suitors. It did not occur to me then that his remark implied he had paid her more than passing notice nor that her interest might lie elsewhere.
We soon had cause to give the sisters more thought. I was alerted to the risk of trouble when Leticia asked me if I had seen her sister. By the time she came to me, she had already put the question to everyone in town: no one had seen Sophia since they dined together shortly after noon. If ever I had questioned their relationship, her distress declared the devotion on her side. She was near to tears and insisted that her sister was nowhere to be found, so I accompanied her to the saloon to seek the assistance of our protectors. I do not recall my thoughts at that point, except that it was surely better to initiate a wider search sooner rather than later.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Leticia's theatrical character, the men were reluctant to accept that there was cause for concern. Several remarks supported my own impression that Sophia was capable of looking after herself but Chris shared my view that nothing was to be gained from delay. He, Vin, Buck and Ezra repeated Leticia's search and were joined by Josiah, Nathan and JD in the process. By the time they were done, it seemed unlikely that Sophia was in town - unless she was unable to answer their calls for some reason.
Only then did the owner of the livery stable return with his hay cart piled high. He is well acquainted with our protectors, given the nature of his business and their need for stabling, so he did not hesitate to ask why they were gathered on the street. When told the object of the search, he proved to have the first useful information we had uncovered. Sophia had hired a horse from him, with the intention of going for a pleasure ride, and promised to stable it on her return if he had not yet returned to town himself. He soon confirmed that it was still absent, and fortunately, was able to provide another clue. He led us in the direction that Sophia had taken until he found a clear set of hoof prints. The horse had a deformed hoof around which its shoe was fitted, making its tracks distinctive. Within minutes, our protectors rode decisively out of town.
The remainder of this tale I pieced together from later interviews with all involved, including a charmingly frank one with Sophia herself. The published account carries only the bare facts, partly to respect Sophia's privacy and partly to protect Vin's identity. You can see from it how he followed her tracks, discovered that a group of five men had abducted her from almost within sight of town, and led the others to where the outlaws had been met by others carrying news of a posse from another town in close pursuit. They fled at that point, leaving Sophia unharmed. Our protectors joined the posse in pursuit, leaving Vin alone to find her.
Leticia had insisted that Sophia would not go far from town and we had doubted her. It transpired that she knew her sister better than we gave her credit for. Sophia lacks any sense of direction and is terrified of getting lost in this vast country - she trembled when she explained this fear to me even after she was safely back in town - and, in light of it, you can imagine the fascination of a man with Vin's skill. She learned of that some time before, when Buck recounted the roles of his companions while waiting for Leticia one day.
Typically, when Vin gave his account of their search, he made light of the task of unraveling Sophia's movements that afternoon and her subsequent rescue. While he is never falsely modest, his self-deprecating manner and economy of speech does no justice to his friends' many courageous exploits nor to his part in them. He emphasized that Sophia herself had managed to cut her bonds on a jagged stone, remove her gag and blindfold, and find her way back to the ridge along which the outlaws had brought her.
It took Sophia's testimony, even delivered as it was with reserve and composure, to reveal both his skill and his kindness in finding a woman who'd come so close to disaster through no fault of her own. She confirmed that his account was true in as far as it went but that he had failed to mention that she was traveling in the wrong direction on the ridge, headed into barren country, and that she had cried herself to sleep in despair. She gave a most affecting account of waking to his gentle touch upon her sleeve and his concerned gaze on her tear-stained face. She was embarrassed to be found in such a state but he, it seems, was all reassurance.
I could tell from her manner that she was taken with him and it soon became clear that her affection was not unwelcome. He later escorted her on several rides, which she claimed was only in an attempt to teach her to navigate the landscape better but which she also admitted was unsuccessful. As failure did not put an end to their excursions, I must assume that they derived pleasure from one another's company. I have every faith in Vin's self-restraint but that need not have prevented him from providing some of the romance of which she had dreamed.
When the brother arrived in town, he seems to have reached a similar conclusion for he thanked Vin in particular for his role in the rescue. When the Browns joined the stagecoach the next morning, I witnessed the farewell between Sophia and Vin - it was as fond as any I have seen. I know you will share my delight in seeing Vin accorded some warmth and tenderness in a life that has been far harsher than he deserves.
The kidnappers were apprehended by the posse and brought to justice in the other town, where their crimes were even graver than in ours. I fear that people here too often take for granted the security that those seven men afford us. I know, however, that you hold Vin in particularly high regard after his defense of your property and that his vital contribution to Sophia's safety will come as no surprise to you.
I look forward to your next visit to town.
This letter resulted from a writing exercise to test the effect of changing viewpoint. I took an incomplete story and tried to find a way to relate the events through the eyes of someone not directly involved to see what needed to be changed or omitted.
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