The Other Seven


Dust rose as the stage coach roared into town. It stopped in front of the Gem Hotel and the driver jumped down from his perch. He opened the door and assisted the lone passenger from the coach.

The driver´s partner, riding shotgun, handed down the woman´s bag and small trunk.

“Well gentlemen”, the woman said with a smile, “thank you for bringing me out this far. I know you did not have a stop scheduled today.”

“Miz Wilkes, for what you paid us we´d a´ taken you to China”, the driving laughed. “Let me get your trunk into the hotel lobby for you.”

The woman glanced around the main street and across the street noticed several men in front of the saloon. A tall, lean mustached man was watching her closely. He looked familiar; could it be?

“Rebecca?” He said with a wide smile, moving toward her out into the street.

“Buck!” She cried, dropping her bag and rushing toward him.

The three men who´d been standing with Buck looked up curiously.

When Buck reached her, he picked her up and swung her around.

“Oh, Buck, you fool – put me down!” She laughed.

“Becky Wilkes – are you ever a sight for my sore eyes!” He grinned.

Vin Tanner nodded toward the pair, “Who is she?”

“Beats me, “ JD said absently.

“Pretty little thing,” said Josiah Sanchez

“Yes, she is”, Vin nodded.

This made JD look over at Buck and Becky with more interest. She hardly came up to Buck´s shoulder with dark auburn hair and green eyes.

Buck had set Becky down and she said, more seriously, “I had to come – I need to see Chris. After I got your letter . . .”

“Oh, well, we´ll have to talk about that,” said Buck, rubbing his chin.

“Exactly,” she replied. “Buck, I want to thank you for what you tried to do for Hank.” She had tears in her eyes but pulled out a handkerchief and wiped them away. She paused and sighed. “It is mighty good to see you, Buckley”.

“Don´t let anyone hear you call me that!” he laughed.

She smiled, “Of course, Mr. Wilmington!” She laughed, “Let me go get settled and cleaned up. Can you wait for me? Then you can take me to Chris.”

= = = = = =

About a half hour later, Becky met Buck in front of the hotel. She was dressed in a brown riding skirt, boots, tan shirt with brown vest with her hat hanging down her back, riding gloves in hand, a six shooter on her left hip and saddlebags slung over her right shoulder.

Buck glanced at the gun and grinned, “Still a good shot, Becky?”

“Good?” She raised an eyebrow, “Now, Buck, you should know I´m a might better than just good.”

They headed toward the saloon.

“Does Chris know I´m in town?” she asked.

“He will soon enough,” Buck replied.

Five men were walking toward them.

“Are these…” she began.

“Yup”, was Buck´s reply. “Becky, allow me to introduce you to some friends of mine.”

Buck proceeded to introduce Vin, Josiah, Nathan, Ezra and JD; then concluded with, “Gentlemen, allow me to present Rebecca Connelly-Wilkes, Chris´ sister-in-law”.

= = = = = =

Outside the saloon, Josiah said, “Miss Wilkes, maybe we should let you have some time alone with Chris”.

“Thank you, Mr. Sanchez, I do appreciate that.” She smiled, “It´s Mrs. Wilkes actually, but I´ve been a widow for some time now. And, Gentlemen, I would be very pleased if you´d all call me Rebecca or Becky. I do hope to have the opportunity to speak with all of you at length some time in the future.”

Vin held one of the swinging doors open for her. “Why, thank you, Mr. Tanner.”, she said.

“My pleasure”, Vin replied.

Buck gave Vin a dirty look.

= = = = = =

Chris was leaning against the bar. No one would have failed to notice Rebecca, especially being escorted by six men. Rebecca did not bear a strong resemblance to her sister, they had the same eyes but Rebecca has dark auburn hair and a shorter stature than Sarah. Chris couldn´t help smiling when he saw Rebecca. His memories of Rebecca were fond ones. After all, she had introduced him to Sarah.

Chris moved forward and gave her a long hug. “Becky, it´s good to see you,” he said.

She looked at him for a moment. “You too, Chris – It´s been too long. You´re too thin.”

He chuckled, “Nothing changes.”

Ezra said, “Perhaps you´d like to take that table back in the corner.” Ezra, Buck and the others sat at a table not too close but where they could watch Chris and Becky.

Once they were settled and had a beer before them, Rebecca addressed Chris.

“Chris, my grandmother died,” she said.

“I´m so sorry,” Chris said. “She was a hell of a gal.”

“Well, it´s for the best, I guess. She was doing very poorly at the end. Shoot, she was 98 after all – she lived a full life and was at peace. She died in her sleep.” Rebecca took a deep breath and reached into a pocket inside her saddlebags and pulled out an envelope. “Before she died, she made me promise I would come and see you. She always set a great store by you. She left you this in her will.”

“No,” Chris said. “You took care of her all those years – any inheritance should be yours.”

“Don´t worry about me,” Rebecca replied. “Pa left me some property up in South Dakota and well, it turned out it´s worth a bit of money – Go on, open it”, she said, handing him the envelope.

Chris tore the envelope open, reluctantly. Inside were a note and a bank draft. Chris read the note quietly, smiled. “She was something,” he said. Then he looked at the bank draft. His eyes widened. He looked at Becky, speechless.

Across the room, Ezra visibly strained to see the bank draft, “Hmm – that´s a bank draft,” he whispered.

“Put that away for your old age, Chris,” She grinned. “She loved you, you know.”

“So, you´re doing alright?” Chris asked as he folded the draft and put it in his pocket.

“Well – let´s just say I don´t have to work as a seamstress or a midwife or in any other fashion to support myself anymore,” she said as she took a long sip of beer. “Silver strike on that land I inherited, Chris. I sold Pa´s and Grandmother´s properties – half of that is also in your draft. Don´t argue – you´re my brother – you´re the only family I´ve got and believe me, I have more than enough now,” she smiled.

“Congratulations,” Chris said. He seemed pleased for her.

Rebecca continued, “That´s only part of why I´m here. I wanted to speak to you about Ella Gaines.”

Chris looked upset, “What do you know about that?” He asked, as he glanced across the room at Buck.

“I know enough,” she said. “Don´t be upset with Buck. He wired me when Pa was killed and then wrote me a long letter. I think it´s my right to know – Sarah was my sister.”

“We´re dealing with the search,” Chris said.

“But without funds,” she replied. “I want to put out a reward – that might bring in more information.”

Chris looked at her, “It´s too dangerous for you to be involved,” he said.

“I´m already involved – I´m family, remember?” she replied. “If you want, think about it. You can issue the reward, I don´t care but I think we should try to do more. That woman is bad news, Chris. I´ve been doing some checking on her. Several husbands, all dying accidentally. . .”

“Husbands?” Chris asked, “I thought she was married once.”

“Once?” Becky said, “She was married at least three times, that I´ve discovered. And all of them died in so-called accidents. I wouldn´t be surprised if she was involved. I mean, it´s not that great a stretch. The first one fell from a loft in a barn because of loose floor boards. The second died in a fire and the last one was shot in a supposed robbery attempt but none of his money or jewelry was taken. She has an alibi, with witnesses, for every death.”

Chris looked thoughtful.

“Chris, I need to ask you a favor,” she continued.

“There´s more?” But he smiled.

“Buck says you have a photo of Ella Gaines,” she said. “I´d like to see it – I have a suspicion that I need to confirm.”

“I guess you have that right. Are you staying at the hotel?” He asked.

“Yes, room 204,” she said.

“I´ll come by later, if that´s alright,” he said.

“Thank you,” she replied. “Well, I´m going to take a ride to clear my head. I´ll see you tonight.” She got up and headed for the doorway. As she started through the doors, Chris caught up with her.

“Becky,” Chris said, taking her arm. She turned towards him. “One way or another, we will find her and she´ll pay for what she did – I promise you that.”

“I know, Chris and thank you.” Becky replied, with a small smile.

At that moment, Mary Travis was passing by. “Hello, Chris,” she said.

Chris tipped his hat, “Afternoon, Mary. Mary, let me introduce you to my sister-in-law, Rebecca Wilkes. Becky, this is Mary Travis.”

The two women shook hands.

“It´s nice to meet you, Becky,” Mary said.

“The pleasure is mine,” Becky replied. “Mary Travis – you run the newspaper, don´t you?”

“Yes, I do,” Mary replied, glancing at Chris.

Chris said, “It would seem that Buck has been keeping Becky up on all the news in town.”

“Well, if you´ll both excuse me, I have to head over to the livery and see about a horse. Mary, it was nice to meet you,” Becky said.

“Likewise,” Mary replied, “I hope I get a chance to see you again while you´re in town.”

“I´d like that,” Becky said.

“Dinner tonight, Becky?” Chris asked.

“That´d be fine, Chris,” Becky said, “See you later.” Becky headed toward the livery.

Mary looked at Chris, “I remember that you said Sarah had a sister. But her surname is Wilkes – is she married?”

Chris replied, “She was – been a widow now about 12 years. Her husband died during the war – at the Battle of Selma, I believe.”

“How long is she staying in town?” Mary asked.

“I´m not sure, but I intend to speak with her about that later,” Chris said.

= = = = = =

At the livery stable Becky inquired about renting a horse. She asked Tiny if she could pay to have the horse available indefinitely, if she liked it. Tiny was only too happy to comply.

She looked over the horses that were available and picked one out. Tiny complimented her on her choice saying she had a good eye for horse flesh. When the horse was ready, Becky hitched on the saddlebags and rode out of the stable, only to come upon Josiah on his horse.

“Well, hello again, Mrs. Wilkes,” Josiah said.

“Hello, Mr. Sanchez,” Becky replied. “Please do call me Rebecca or Becky. Mrs. Wilkes sounds so formal – and, although I had to admit it, makes me feel old!”

“Well, Rebecca it is. And please call me Josiah,” he grinned, “Where are you headed?”

“I´m going out to Chris´ ranch – to pay my respects at the cemetery,” she said.

“Would you care for some company?” he asked.

Becky smiled, “I would like that very much.”

= = = = = =

As they rode on out of town, Josiah asked about Becky´s visit; that started into a conversation about her grandmother and then of how she met Chris and Buck.

“There was a shooting competition that our town hosted every year and Chris won. We were introduced by a mutual friend. My husband had died a few years before and I´d gone back to live with my family because my mother had taken ill and died suddenly. I was helping out. Sarah hated those shooting competitions and would never go. But she was home this day finishing up on a meal we´d prepared. We always had a small gathering of friends over after the competition and I invited Chris and Buck along. You know Buck – hinting at an invite for a free meal!” She laughed, “That was how Chris and Sarah met. Right off, my father did not like Chris. Sarah was younger than I and my father was exceedingly over-protective of her, especially after my mother had died. But my grandmother now – she adored Chris. But Sarah and Chris were something to see – you never saw two people more in love. They wanted to see each other but my father forbid it. Chris had quite a reputation as a gunslinger by this time and my father didn´t want Sarah around him. I just knew that all the stories about him couldn´t be true – he was – I don´t know – just not what those local gossips said he was. He treated Sarah with such respect – he adored her. My father never knew that many times we´d go out together – for a buggy ride or some such thing and meet up with Chris so the two of them could be together. Maybe it was wrong of me to defy my father but I don´t feel he ever gave Chris a fair chance. When Chris asked to marry her, well – Pa was fit to be tied. He wouldn´t let Sarah out of the house. It was a crazy time. So one night, I´d had enough. Sarah and I packed our bags and went to my grandmothers. Sarah refused to go home unless my father would at least talk about a wedding but he refused. So one night, Chris, Sarah, my grandmother, Buck & I crossed the state line and Chris and Sarah eloped. Surprisingly, my father never took issue with my grandmother or me. He always blamed Chris.”

Josiah nodded, “I didn´t know you father very well, but that sounds much like the way he was acting when he came to Four Corners.”

Becky continued, “He kept that stubborn attitude forever. I came to visit Sarah and Chris when I could and stayed with them when Adam was born. Sarah was so happy. Chris was a really good husband to her. But when she and Adam were killed,” Becky paused, her voice quieted and she blinked back tears, “Chris was changed.” She looked off into the distance, “It was as though he had lost all interest in life – save for getting revenge. He blamed himself for being away – I came out for the funeral. It was just awful. My father never spoke to Chris or Sarah after the wedding until – well you know about that part of the saga better than I. I didn´t even know where my father had gone til Buck sent me a wire and later a letter explaining what had happened. By then, my grandmother was so ill that I couldn´t even be here for the burial. Which is why I wanted to come today – well, one of the reasons.”

“You know, Rebecca, your father wasn´t in his right mind at the end – I´m sure he was living with his own demons,” Josiah said.

“No doubt you are right,” she said. “It´s just so hard sometimes – here I´ve lose my entire family and I keep feeling that I´ve let them down some how – I should have been able to do more.”

“It sounds like you´ve done more than you had to. You haven´t had a life of your own, you´ve been so busy taking care of them,” Josiah replied. “In a way, that´s almost guilt you´re feeling but it´s not warranted. Now you need to care for yourself.”

She looked at Josiah, there were tears in her eyes, “I don´t think I even know how to do that anymore,” she said quietly.

= = = = = =

The burned ranch house – charred wood and a chimney were all that remained. A stone stairway in front of the remains of the house leading to destruction.

They hitched their horses on a fence and approached the small cemetery in front of what was left of Chris and Sarah´s home.

Sarah, Adam and now her father were buried here. Becky held something in her hands as she knelt beside the graves. Josiah had removed his hat and stood by quietly while she prayed.

In her hands was a small, wooden train engine. She placed it next to the tombstone over Adam´s grave.

Becky started to cry quietly. She pulled a handkerchief out of her pocket to wipe her eyes.

As Becky started to stand, Josiah reached over and took her elbow to help her up. She glanced up at him and tried to smile, “I´m sorry,” she said, “I keep trying to hold the emotions in . . .”

“No need to apologize; it´s perfectly understandable,” Josiah said, softly.

She seemed to compose herself after a moment; took a deep breath and blew it out.

“I wanted to thank you for reading the service for my father,” she said.

Josiah shook his head, “I´m a poor substitute for a preacher.”

A small smile appeared on her lips, “No, you´re not.” She put her hand on his arm, “You have a way about you that´s very comforting – reassuring. There´s strength in you that´s not just physical. I think people sense that and respond to it.”

“You´re too kind,” Josiah replied.

"I do intend to be at Sunday services,” she said, “So I hope you´ll have an interesting sermon for me to hear.”

“I´ll try my best,” he grinned.

As they headed back to the horses, Becky said, “I´ve heard that you once lived with an Indian tribe for a while. I´d like to hear about that.”

= = = = = =

On the ride back to town, she drew Josiah into conversation about his experiences. They discussed religion and a number of topics. Before they knew it, they were back at the stable. Chris was there looking at them a little suspiciously but with good humor.

“I thought you were going to meet me at the hotel?” Chris chided Becky, “But I can see you´re off getting acquainted with Josiah instead.”

Becky smiled and glanced at Josiah, “Sorry I´m late, Chris”, she said, “I just lost all track of time.”

Chris laughed and shook his head.

As Josiah helped Becky dismount, she said to him, “Would you like to join Chris and me for dinner over at the restaurant, Josiah?”

“I wouldn´t want to intrude,” Josiah began.

“No,” Chris said, “you should come – the more the merrier, right, Becky?”

“Alright, then, it´s settled,” said Becky. “How about we meet there in an hour?”

“That sounds fine,” Josiah said. He mounted his horse and tipped his hat to Becky. “I´ll see you both shortly.” He rode off.

After Becky´s horse was returned to the livery, Chris walked with her back to the hotel.

“Have you thought about what you´re going to do now that you´re on your own? Besides charming Josiah, that is,” Chris teased.

Becky shrugged, “To be honest with you, I haven´t given it much thought. I´ve been pretty busy with estate settlement and the like. Got any suggestions?”

“You should think about staying here,” Chris said.

“Would you want me to? I won´t want to be the cause of bringing up any bad memories for you,” she began.

“None of them are bad, Becky, where you´re concerned,” he replied.

“Well, that´s good to know,” she said.

“Besides, I think Josiah´s taken a fancy to you – maybe I should be asking him his intentions,” Chris said with a grin.

She smacked his arm playfully, “Don´t you dare! I´m not here an entire day and you´re going to embarrass me!” They laughed, “But I do like him so let´s leave it at that for now – he only kept me company on my ride – nothing more.”

They stopped in front of the hotel.

“Did you bring that photo?” she asked.

“Yes, I did,” Chris replied.

“Let´s go up to my room first,” Becky said. Stopping at the front desk, she found there was a note for her. As they climbed the stairs Becky tore it open and glanced back at Chris even as she read the note, “It´s from Mary Travis – inviting me to tea in a few days to meet the ladies in town.” She eyed him suspiciously, “Did you have anything to do with this?”

“Who me? No,” Chris lied.

= = = = = =

In her room, Chris wordlessly reached into a pocket and handed her the photo. Becky looked at it and sat on the bed. She looked up at Chris – “I´ve met her,” she said. “She came to see Pa a few months before Sarah and Adam were killed.”

“What happened?” Chris asked.

“I don´t know for sure,” she said, as she handed the photo back to Chris. “I was at grandmothers and had gone into town to get supplies. Someone told me my father was at the saloon and did I know the woman he was with. I had no idea and curiosity got the better of me, so I went over to take a look. They were seated at a table and she was speaking very animatedly – he was angry, that much I could tell.” She shook her head, “Their conversation ended rather abruptly when they saw me – Pa introduced her but only as ‘Ella´ and said she knew Sarah. She left but Pa wouldn´t tell me anything – what she wanted, what they spoke about, nothing. I didn´t think anything about it, even after the fire but when I heard about Ella Gaines from Buck I began to put some very unpleasant facts together.”

“It was my own fault – that part of my life was –" Chris began.

“Chris – it was over before you even met Sarah,” Becky interrupted. “You couldn´t have possibly known what Ella Gaines was planning. You can´t predict what a crazy person is going to do! Sarah loved you, Chris – she was never as happy in her entire life as she was when you were married. She would not want you to be torturing yourself like this.” She moved over to him and gave him a hug. “Let´s put this aside for awhile. You´re my brother – the only family I have, Chris.”

Chris hugged her back and smiled, “Okay, sis.”

“Now get out of here – I have to change and I´ll meet you and Josiah at the restaurant,” she said.

“Okay,” Chris said as he opened the door, “I have to have a talk with him anyway.”

“Don´t you dare!” she laughed.

= = = = = =

At dinner, Chris seemed more relaxed and Becky was relieved for the moment. They sat at a quiet table, Chris on her left and Josiah on her right. Becky could see the large picture window that faced the main street and she noticed Buck pass by a few times – it was all she could do to keep from laughing out loud. That Buck, she thought, he´s so noisy.

Chris and Josiah spoke about how they met and came to work for Judge Travis – the growth of the town, how more settlers were moving in. Chris mentioned casually that he was trying to talk Becky into staying permanently and it pleased her when Josiah was also encouraging and seemed delighted that she was thinking about it.

Later, when Chris walked Becky back to her hotel room, he told her he had decided to release a wanted poster with the picture and a reward. He would wire Judge Travis about it the next day.

= = = = = =

A few days later, Becky dressed carefully in a light green dress for the tea at Mary´s. She wore her hair down but pulled back at the sides. It fell below her shoulders.

At the Clarion office, Becky said hello to Mary and was introduced to Mrs. (Gloria) Potter, Mrs. (Nettie) Wells, Casey and Inez. Mary had set up a table and chairs in the rear of the office. Mary explained that she could keep an eye on the office from this vantage point and it was usually quiet at this time of the afternoon.

As they had tea, Mary asked Becky what plans she had made and Becky mentioned that Chris was encouraging her to stay on permanently. She asked about housing and Mary mentioned that she had some information on houses that were for sale and Casey cheerfully offered to take Becky around town to show her the sights and any houses she wanted to see.

Becky noticed that Mary asked careful questions about Chris, never directly but in a roundabout way. Becky got the distinct impression that Mary was interested in Chris but she would probably never admit to it if pressed. Becky answered the questions as best she could, careful not to betray any confidences that Chris had entrusted to her over the years.

Gloria mentioned that she´d heard Becky had gone riding with Josiah a few days before. Becky laughed and said, “News sure travels fast in this town.”

Inez commented, “I´m glad you´re the newest person in town – it will take some of the talk away from me!”

They laughed. Becky said, “Well, just to set the record straight, Josiah very kindly asked to keep me company when I went out to the ranch to pay my respects at the cemetery. Nothing more – at least not yet.” She added this last with a grin.

Gloria raised her eyebrows, “Hmmm,” she said, “That is interesting.”

“If anything further develops, I´ll let you know,” Becky said. “Please don´t marry me off on my first week in town.” They all laughed.

After a while it was noticeable to everyone that JD made several appearances in the office. He asked questions of Mary or Mrs. Potter. Becky noticed Casey eying him and felt there was something between them from the looks they exchanged. JD seemed a bit uncomfortable, however.

During one of his disappearances, Casey said, “Probably trying to see what we´re up to.”

Becky grinned, “I think there´s more to it.”

The next time JD appeared, Becky said, “JD?”

JD started a bit but replied, “Yes, Mrs. Wilkes?”

“JD would you please do me a favor and tell Mr. Wilmington that if he´d like to know what´s going on in here all he has to do is get up from his chair and come in to join us,” she said.

This brought about much giggling from the group of women.

JD turned bright red and said, “I´ll do that.”

Inez said, “How did you know it was Buck that was behind that?”

Becky took a sip of tea and smiled, “Because he´s been my acting like my guardian this week and you forget that I´ve known Buck a lot longer than any of you. He´ll be here, you´ll see.”

Everyone expectantly looked at the entrance. Sure enough, within two minutes, there was Buck.

“Why, ladies, good afternoon,” Buck said, sweeping off his hat and bowing.

The ladies howled with laughter.

Becky caught Inez´ eye and winked.

= = = = =

Buck and JD did join the ladies – Buck even accepted a cup of tea from Mary. Somehow the subject turned to how Buck and Becky met. This started Buck relaying a tale about a shooting competition that Becky wanted to be in – but no women were allowed. So she dressed up like a boy – Buck covered for her and she won. The fellow she beat was none too happy.

“Well,” Becky said, “he came over to me all full of bluster and when I said I beat him fair and square, he took a swing at me.” There were several intakes of breath around the room, “But I ducked and he missed me by a mile.”

“Oh my,” said Mrs. Potter, “What did you do?”

Buck started to laugh, “She punched him in the gut.”

“Which was ample, I assure you,” Becky added. Everyone started laughing, but more at poor JD who was trying hard not to spit up his drink after Buck´s comment. Becky continued, “And Buck here yells, ‘Becky, you´re going to get killed´ – so the deception was up. We were told most emphatically to leave.” She laughed, “Of course we were disqualified but it´s a great story to tell.” Becky shook her head, “Ah, the folly of youth – I never have any good fun like that anymore!” She shared a glance with Buck.

He laughed again, “Sorry, Becky, no shooting competitions coming up that I know of.”

As the party broke up, Becky gave Mary a hug and said, “Thank you for today. I had a wonderful time.”

“You´re welcome,” Mary replied, “Let me know if you see any houses you like – I´d be more than happy help out if I can.”

Everyone said their good-byes, Becky and Casey discussed meeting in the morning to take a tour around town.

As Becky made her way outside, Buck fell into step beside her.

“So – what are you and Casey up to tomorrow?” he asked.

“Oh nothing really – she´s going to show me around – perhaps look at some houses that are for sale,” she paused, waiting to see his reaction.

“You´re staying??” The surprise was immediate.

“I´ve been thinking about it. Chris seems to think it would be a good idea.”

“Yeah. I saw you and Chris having dinner with Josiah the other night.” Buck said.

“Buck, I swear, you will never change! Stop being so noisy.” She laughed, “So, who´s the gal of the moment now?”

Buck looked uncomfortable but quickly recovered. Then he smiled THAT SMILE and said, “You know I don´t kiss and tell, honey.”

Becky laughed – they were at the hotel at this point.

“Well, I´ll see you later,” she said.

“Would you like me to walk you to your room?” Buck asked.

“That´s okay – I know the way,” she grinned.

Sitting at a bench with his head bowed under his hat, like he was sleeping, was Vin. He was obviously within earshot because after Becky had gone into the hotel and Buck turned away, Vin raised his head and chuckled.

= = = = = =

Meanwhile at a dark saloon in the town of Eagle Bend, several men sit at a table talking in hushed tones.

“It would be really simple to pull the heist in Four Corners if it weren´t for those seven gunslingers protecting the town,” said the first man.

“If we could think of some pretense to get them out of town, there´d be nothin´ to stop us,” said the second, “They ain´t got no sheriff.”

The third shook his head, “You are never going to get them all out of town at the same time.”

The fourth and final man said, “That´s where I think you´re wrong.” Reaching into his pocket and pulling out a folded wanted posted. He unfolded it and slipped it to the center of the table. “Take a look at this.”

The wanted posted showed a picture of Ella Gaines – ‘Wanted for the Murders of Sarah and Adam Larabee . . .”

= = = = = =

Later that evening, as the sun was low in the sky, Becky stepped out in front of the hotel. There were a number of folks sitting on the benches there, talking quietly. Becky nodded to them in friendly fashion and walked down toward the church. She peeked in at the open church door but no one was around. She stepped in and took a seat on a bench towards the back of the room and bowed her head in silent prayer. It was a comfort to be in this little town of Four Corners and made to feel so welcome. She prayed that she could get through the grief over her father´s death. Then she prayed for guidance, a direction and, as she had been of late, she prayed to meet someone and fall in love again.

Josiah silently came through the side door, carrying some wood framing for a newly repaired window and his tool box. He caught sight of Becky and quietly waited until she finished and raised her head.

“Hello, Rebecca,” he said, with a little smile. “It´s a pleasure to see you again.”

“Hello, Josiah. Likewise. I just had to see the church. I hope I´m not disturbing you,” she replied.

“Not at all. I enjoy the company.” He continued over toward the window, placing the wood down on the floor where it was within reach. He took out nails and a hammer and set to work nailing the trim.

Becky got up and walked over towards where Josiah was working.

“So, how did your afternoon at Mary´s go?” He asked.

“It was really very nice. Been a long time since I was able to do that. I liked everyone – it´s a good feeling to be so welcome,” she smiled at him.

“It´s quite a town,” he said. “A little rough around the edges still but coming along nicely.”

“Well, it´s still pioneer country, after all,” she replied. “But there is sure a lot of potential to be something to see one day.”

“Have you made a decision about staying on?” he asked.

“Funny you should mention that – I was just praying for a sign in that direction,” she grinned. “I think I´m going to – in fact, Casey is taking me around tomorrow to show me the sights, perhaps see some houses that are for sale. Maybe I´ll find something small that I can fix up and call home.”

“Tell Casey to take you over to the old Miller place – you might like it,” he said.

“Thanks, I´ll do that.”

“And I´ll come over and make any repairs you need – you can see I´m quite handy with this,” he said, swinging the hammer.

“I´ll accept your offer – maybe you´ll let me cook dinner for you after I´m settled because I´m just not handy with a hammer, but I´ve been told I´m a pretty good cook.” She laughed.

“Fair enough,” Josiah replied.

Josiah finished up and he and Becky went to the front of the church and sat on the steps to continue their conversation. Becky turned back to Ella Gaines and the anger she felt.

“I´ve never been a violent person – always believed that vengeance should be left to God, but I find myself thinking I could take her life. Then I turn around and have all this guilt . . . probably explains why I´ve been praying so often lately,” she said.

“We´re only human and we try to do the best we can,” Josiah said. “I think your feelings are justified – she certainly caused no end of grief for you. And she is evil. Her day to answer for her crimes is coming – you have to believe that and not let the anger consume you.”

She nodded, “You´re right – but it´s not easy.” She sighed, “Life sure hasn´t turned out like I thought it would.”

“It seldom does – maybe that´s part of its charm,” Josiah countered. “What did you plan on, when you were younger?”

“Oh, nothing grand,” she shrugged. “Just thought I´d be married with a houseful of children – that sort of life, just simple and basic.”

“You know that I was once a priest, don´t you?” he asked. Becky nodded. Josiah continued, “Well, I thought that would be my life, but things change. I had to take a life in self defense. When I was defrocked, so much disillusionment set in – I questioned every choice I ever made but I came to realize that the priesthood would not have been the best choice for me, after all. I was stunned when I discovered this but every day I think, I´m following the right path now. It´s been a slow process but I see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.”

“I think I understand,” she said. “We´re tested by the trials we go through and we can either rise to them or be crushed.”

He smiled, “That´s good – maybe I´ll use that for next Sunday´s sermon.”

She smiled, “By all means.”

They looked up at that sound of horses. It was Chris and Vin riding towards them.

Vin nodded, “Howdy”, tipping his hat to Becky.

“Hi Vin, Hi Chris,” Becky said.

“Evening, gentlemen,” Josiah said.

“Good evening,” Chris replied. “All´s well at church tonight I see. And what´s this I hear, sis, about you giving Buck ‘what for´ at Mary´s? Seems you have every lady in town telling me about it and how proud they are of you.”

Becky laughed, “Oh, you know Buck. He sent JD in several times to be his eyes and ears. I just told JD to tell Buck that if he wanted to know what was going on to get up out of his chair and come join us.” She shook her head, “Buck is the noisiest man I have ever seen – he actually came in and joined the tea party!” They laughed.

“Well, Casey seems to hold you in wide-eyed awe,” Chris added.

“I like her – she´s a lot like I was at her age,” Becky said.

“That´s frightening,” Chris chided. “Well, Vin and I are going to finish our nightly rounds, we´ll see you both later.”

Good nights were said and Chris and Vin moved off.

When she was sure they were out of earshot, Becky turned to Josiah and said, “I´m sorry about that – Chris just loves to tease me. Told you he´s like a brother.”

Josiah said, “I take no offense – in fact, I take it as a compliment that you must like my company – at least a little bit.”

“Yes, I do,” she smiled.

“Chris seems much more relaxed with you here,” Josiah observed.

Becky´s smile widened, “I was afraid it would bring up too many memories he has of Sarah, but he told me he only has good memories connected with me. He does seem to be healing some of those wounds finally. I was afraid for a time that he was going to end up like my father, but Chris has seemed to find his place here. Having the town to protect, the seven of you working together – I think it´s given him purpose, hope – a direction that he needed.”

“You care about him a lot, don´t you?” Josiah asked.

“Well – I never had a brother and that´s what Chris has become to me, over the years. My memories of Chris always center around Sarah and how happy he made her. It´s a tragedy that her life ended when she was so young, but it´s a comfort to know that she was so joyful and content. Too few people find that kind of happiness. I hope Chris is able to find it again some day,” she replied.

“What about you? Do you mind my asking? Where you married long?”

“No – only a few years and most of that he was away at war,” she said. “I was entirely too young when I married – too many romantic notions and he was probably not the right man for me.”

“What do you mean?” asked Josiah.

“Well – let´s just say that he was a lot like Buck,” she replied. “But he did not change after the wedding. It was really difficult to be married to a man who I didn´t feel I could trust out of my sight. It broke my heart – there was always gossip around town about him – I knew people were saying ‘Oh poor Becky´ behind my back. I was so mad at him once that I shot him.” She shook her head, “I didn´t mean too – I just caught him with some girl and wanted to scare him, but the gun misfired and I shot him in the thigh – a little higher and his career as the town Romeo would have been over.”

Josiah threw his head back and laughed.

“Well – it did straighten him out for a few weeks until his ‘extended´ leave was over,” she giggled too, unable to contain herself seeing Josiah laugh. “I was sure God was going to punish me for that!”

“I think God understands those things,” Josiah said.

“I hope so,” she said. “But I guess that´s why I´ve not been in a hurry to be married again. What about you, Josiah?”

“No, I´ve never been married,” he replied. “When I was younger, of course, it was because of the priesthood. Now, well, I think if the right woman came along, I would. But I like more old fashioned ways – not this head long rush into – well, not like Mr. Wilmington, let´s say.”

“By old fashioned, you mean courting and all?” she said. Josiah nodded. “That´s nice,” she continued. “Too few men want to do that sort of thing and women do love it.” She took a deep breath, “Well, I should probably think about turning in – if I´m going riding with Casey tomorrow.” They both stood.

“Can I walk you back to the hotel?” Josiah asked.

“Yes, thank you, I´d like that,” she replied.

Josiah extended his arm and she slipped hers through it and they started back towards the hotel.

Across the street, Mrs. Potter, Mary, Vin and Buck were talking outside of Mary´s office, when Mrs. Potter said, “I told you, there´s something between those two,” she nodded in Becky and Josiah´s direction. “They seem so well suited for each other – mark my words, she´s going to stay.”

Vin and Mary smiled at that.

At the entrance to the hotel, Becky said, “Thank you, Josiah. I enjoyed our conversation. I hope I haven´t taken up too much of you time.”

Josiah smiled, “Never. There should be more hours in a day so we can have those conversations. I hope I can look forward to more.”

Becky smiled, “So do I. Good night, Josiah.”

“Good night, Rebecca,” he replied. “I hope to see you in church on Sunday.”

“Oh, I´ll be there.”

As Josiah turned to head back to the church, he caught sight out of the corner of his eye of Mary, Mrs. Potter, Vin and Buck standing in front of Mary´s office. They were watching him closely. He stuck his hands inside his pockets and whistled all the way back to the church.

= = = = = =

At ten the next morning, Becky was waiting with her horse in front of the livery stable. Casey rode up, hair in pigtails and grinning said, “All ready?”

“Let´s go,” Becky said, climbing into the saddle.

As they rode, they caught sight of Vin, sitting in front of the saloon. At their approach he stood, tipped his had and said, “Why ladies, good morning!”

Casey and Becky laughed, said “Good morning” to Vin and grinned at each other. As they rode on, Becky said, “I think Vin heard about tea yesterday.”

Casey giggled, “It wouldn´t surprise me at all – he sure can copy Buck´s mannerisms.”

“Buck is extremely predictable where ladies are concerned – he loves to be the center of attention – he´ll never change,” Becky said.

“JD spends a lot of time with Buck and sometimes it concerns me – I don´t want to see JD act that way,” Casey said.

“Are you and JD courting? It´s none of by business, of course . . .” Becky began.

“Oh, I don´t mind. I really like JD – we´re not courting officially but I hope one day,” she said

“You´re both young – give him time,” Becky said. “JD seems like a fine young man.”

By this time they were passing the church. Josiah was sweeping the steps, he smiled and nodded, “Good morning, Casey – Good morning, Rebecca.”

Casey said, “Hi Josiah.”

Becky said, “Good morning, Josiah.”

“It´s a lovely day today,” Josiah added.

“Yes, it certainly is,” Becky replied.

As they rode on, Casey said, “I like Josiah.”

Becky smiled, “Me, too.”

Shyly, Casey asked, “You´re a little bit sweet on him, aren´t you?”

Becky glanced back over her shoulder and then back at Casey, “You could say that – just between you and me, that is.”

Casey grinned, “I thought so.”

“That reminds me – Josiah said I should ask you to show me the old Miller place? Do you know where that is?”

“Sure,” Casey said. “It´s not too far from here – let´s head there first.”

It wasn´t that far away – in fact you could see the church bell from the front porch. It was a small, one bedroom house. As Becky and Casey looked in the windows Becky could see the main room and kitchen were fairly large. It was surrounded by a white picket fence. There were roses and pepper trees planted around. There was a large yard, room to expand the house if one wished. There was a small barn in the rear of the house. Casey told Becky that Mary was holding the deed for the Millers so she´d be the one to see. Becky decided to speak to Mary later that afternoon.

As they rode on, Casey told Becky about her aunt and Becky related stories about her grandmother. They stopped by a stream and Casey mentioned there was good fishing here. Becky laughed and told Casey she hadn´t been fishing since she was a kid but perhaps some day Casey would like to come with her and they could pack a picnic lunch and try out the fishing. Casey thought that sounded fine and Becky said they should plan on it as soon as she was moved out of the hotel and settled.

Casey took her all around to see the outlying areas of town. Becky found that she really enjoyed Casey´s company even though she was sure Casey was nearly 20 years younger than she. Casey knew a little about everyone who settled in the town, who had what sort of skills, what the different farms could supply - all sorts of good information for a potential newcomer.

= = = = = =

Later in the newspaper office, Mary and Becky returned from taking a walk through the Miller house. Mary got some paperwork together for Becky and Becky said she´d go make arrangements for the wire transfer of the money for the house from the bank to the Millers.

Mary said, “I know they´ll be happy the house has been sold. They went back East to be with their family and hated to see the place left empty.”

Becky nodded, “I really like the house. It doesn´t need much work but I´ve got plenty of time to get it in order. I don´t have many things, so Mrs. Potter will be happy to get the business I´ll be bringing, I know!” They laughed.

“Chris said you were a seamstress – are you thinking about opening a shop in town?”

“Well,” Becky said, “to be honest, no, but I might do some work out of the house – maybe special occasion and the like. I´ll let you know. Perhaps I could put an ad in your paper?”

“That´s what I was going to suggest,” Mary said.

“I´ll speak to you about that once I´m settled then. Well, I think we have everything in order. Thank you so much for your help, Mary.”

“You´re welcome – don´t hesitate to call on me if you should need anything else and congratulations.”

= = = = = =

Becky glanced in as she was passing the saloon and saw Chris sitting alone at a table; she slipped in and joined him.

“Hi Becky, how are things going?” he asked

“Hi Chris – couldn´t be better. Congratulate me – I just bought a house,” she replied.

“That´s great, which one?”

“The Miller place, just on the edge of town,” she replied.

Chris sipped his beer and nodded, “I know it – yes, I could see you living there.”

“I´ve got so much to do – I just got done at Mrs. Potter´s ordering furniture and supplies. It´s all falling into place a bit too easily!” She laughed, “I hope you won´t regret this.”

Chris grinned, “I´m sure you´ll hit me up for some free labor so I expect you to cook me a really nice dinner after we´ve gotten you all moved in – after all, what´s a brother for if not to take advantage of?”

“You are just a big tease.” She grinned back at him, “What do you want for dinner?”

“That fried chicken you make, of course.”

“Okay, first Sunday after I move in, I´ll have you over for supper.” She looked at him with a small smile, “I don´t suppose I´ll be able to talk you into coming to Sunday services with me at the church?”

“What is it with the Connelly women – always trying to save a man´s soul?” He shook his head but smiled.

“Just part of our charm, I guess,” she said. “Except for Grandma Connelly – she would have joined you in the Saloon on Sunday.” They laughed.

Josiah walked in at that moment and came over to join them.

“So, how was the search for a house?” Josiah asked after he was settled.

“I took your suggestion – you were right – the Miller place is perfect. I was just telling Chris that I bought it. Will be moving in at the end of next week – I hope,” she replied.

= = = = = =

The saloon started to get busier as the afternoon wore on. Chris had taken his leave to make late afternoon rounds but Josiah and Becky got caught up in conversation and stayed on. At one point, Josiah said, “I need to stretch – feel like a walk?”

“Sure do,” Becky replied.

Becky waved good bye to Inez, who was busy behind the bar but Inez waved enthusiastically back at the pair, and Becky and Josiah headed off away from the main street.

“So,” Josiah began, “Do you have any ideas for the house yet?”

She smiled, “Well, it actually appears to be in pretty good shape. There are a few things I´d like to do outside of the house. There´s a small barn that needs some repairs – I´d like to put in a small garden – plant a couple more trees around the back. But I think I´ll just do everything slowly. Obviously the garden would be first – get it ready in time for planting season.”

“Sounds like you´ve been giving this some thought,” he smiled.

“It´s kind of exciting,” she continued, “I´ve never had a place that was my own. Where I could make all the decisions. I think it´s actually going to be fun.”

Josiah nodded, “Well, you sound pretty happy.”

“I am,” she said. “Amazing what a difference a week will make. It´s like starting all over – fresh – just older and hopefully wiser this time around.”

“You´re not that old, Rebecca.”

“Now, Josiah, that´s sweet but you don´t know that for a fact. I´ll tell you a secret – I´m going to be 36 in May. That´s certainly not a kid anymore.”

“In April, I´ll be 45,” he replied. “And some days I really feel it.”

“Oh, that´s not old – you´re hardly any older than I am. It´s just when we are around all these 20 year olds that we feel old!”

“You look much younger,” he said.

“Well, thank you, Josiah. I hope you´ll remember that when I turn 45”, she teased. They laughed.