A New Beginning in Rock Creek

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A Young Riders Fanfiction

A New Beginning in Rock Creek

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Worry

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A Young Riders Fanfiction

Lou’s eyes traveled across the table to the vacant seat that was usually occupied by Jimmy. Hours had passed since he had mounted Sundancer and ridden out of town. She and Kid had not been too far behind him when he had left town, so both were surprised to find that he was not at the PX station when they arrived. She had wanted to go out looking for him, but Kid had persuaded her to stay put by telling her that Jimmy probably needed some time alone.

That had been hours ago. Lou was beginning to fear that Jimmy might never return, and it was all her fault. If she had not poked her nose where it did not belong, Jimmy would not have gotten involved with Sarah Gentry. She felt physically sick at how close Jimmy had come to being hanged for a crime he did not commit.

“Lou, are you alright?”

She glanced up to see Emma standing beside the table gazing down at her with a concerned look on her face.

“I’m fine,” she lied, lifting her fork and taking another bite of the beef stew Emma had made.

Emma did not look convinced, but did not ask any further questions, for which Lou was grateful. She really would not be able to express what she was feeling inside anyways. All she knew was that she wanted Jimmy to walk through the door. Until he did, she would not be able to think straight.

She felt a nudge in her side and met Kid’s troubled eyes. She was not the only one concerned about Jimmy, but she doubted Kid felt the same guilt she did. She gave him a slight smile and then went back to playing with her food. She managed to swallow down a few bites, before pushing it aside. She would eat once she knew Jimmy was alright.

Two more hours passed and still no Jimmy. Everyone settled down for the night, but Lou could not sleep. She tossed and turned on her bunk for awhile before deciding she needed some air. She slid out of bed and padded barefoot over to the door. She opened it and slipped out onto the porch just in time to see Jimmy ride into the yard.

Relief flooded through her. She resisted the urge to run across the yard and greet him with a hug, instead settling on the porch steps to wait for him to finish tending to Sundancer.

“What are you doing up?” Jimmy asked softly as he reached the bunkhouse.

“I couldn’t sleep.” She replied, and then blurted out, “You must really hate me right now.”

Jimmy sighed and sat down beside her. “I could never hate you, Lou.”

“I wouldn’t blame you if you did. I should have never pushed you into pursuing Sarah.”

“Stop right there, Lou.” Jimmy placed a finger against her lips. “You didn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to do. What happened between Sarah and me has nothing to do with you.”

“I’m so sorry about what happened, Jimmy.” Lou told him. “I wouldn’t wish the kind of hurt you must be feeling on my worse enemy, let alone a close friend.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for. My pride’s a bit wounded right now, and I don’t think I’ll be doing any ‘pursuing’ for a spell, but I’m alive, and eventually I’ll be alright. Come on; let’s go get some shut eye. Morning’s going to be here before you know it.”

Lou followed him into the bunkhouse, and a few moments later, both riders were settled into their bunks. Sleep soon claimed Lou, but for Jimmy it was long in arriving.

What Did He Say?

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A Young Riders Fanfiction

“There never was a lane thet didn’t have a turnin’.” Teaspoon said,
slowly, contemplating the onion that he was eaten with an arched
eyebrow.

Jesse’s body shook in revulsion as he watched the stationmaster and
Rock Creek Marshall take a large bite of the onion he held in his
hand.

“What does that mean Teaspoon?” he asked.

“That’s something that you need to be figuring out for yourself. Why
don’t you head on back to the station and tell Rachel I’ll be there
in a little while.”

“Okay…”Jesse asked, getting up from the chair he had been sitting in
and heading out of the jailhouse.

When he reached the Pony Express station, he moved toward the
bunkhouse, instead of the small house in which Rachel Dunne lived in,
knowing that she would be starting the evening meal.

“Rachel, Teaspoon said he’ll be along directly.” Jesse said as he
walked into the bunkhouse and sat down at the table.

“Okay…”Rachel replied, glancing up from the dough she was rolling
out for biscuits.

She paused in her rolling to glance at Jesse. “You all right?”

“Yeah…” Jesse replied with a sigh.

“You don’t sound all right. Want to tell me about it and maybe I can
help you out?” Rachel prodded.

“What does ‘there never was a lane thet didn’t have a turnin’ mean?”
Jesse asked.

“Huh?” Rachel said a puzzled expression on her face.

“It was something that Teaspoon told me.”

“Oh…maybe if you tell me what you were talking about before he said
it, then I could help you figure it out.”

“Well. I asked him how a fellow would know what decision is the right
one to make…Or if there was a decision at all to make in a
situation…and that’s when he said that.” Jesse told her.

“Hmm…I’m thinking that Teaspoon means that no matter what situation
we might find ourselves in, we always have a choice to make… ”
Rachel told him.

“Oh…”Jesse said thinking on what she had told him.”Rachel, why
didn’t Teaspoon just say that then, instead of the thing with the
roads and turning?”

“Because he’s Teaspoon…” Rachel said with a smile as she went back
to making biscuits.

Twisted Dreams

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A Young Riders Fanfiction

Darkness crept over the prairie, sending small animals scurrying for cover as nocturnal predators awakened from slumber and began to hunt for prey. The streets of Rock Creek were vacant of citizens, except for those folks who prowled the nights and frequented the saloons and bordellos in town.

On the edge of Main Street, the inhabitants of the PX station had settled in for the night as well. Inside the bunkhouse, six riders were sound asleep; another trapped in a nightmare she couldn’t escape from.

Lou huddled between the dresser and the wall, her legs pulled up to her chest, arms folded around her knees, and head pressed against them. Her heart pounded as she heard the heavy sound of boots nearing her room at the back of Wicks’ saloon. It skipped a beat as she heard the footsteps stop outside her closed door, and the knob began to turn.

“No!” Lou gasped, as she bolted upright in her bunk. She glanced wildly around, her heart pounding, and her breaths coming in a rapid staccato, as she fought against the flood of memories her mind had conjured up while she slept.

A moment passed, then five, before she became fully awake and realized where she was. Even knowing that she was safe inside the bunkhouse, didn’t make the terror she was feeling dissipate entirely. Knowing she would not be able to get back to sleep, and not wanting to awaken the others, Lou slipped out of bed and dressed quietly. Once dressed, she tiptoed over to the door, opened it, and stepped out onto the porch.

Not wanting to leave the relative safety of the bunkhouse without her gun, Lou settled on the floor of the porch, her back against the wall, and drew her knees up to her chest. She folded her arms around them and lowered her head so that her chin rested on top of them, and wept.

She thought the dreams of the night Wicks had raped her would no longer haunt her now that the man was dead, but maybe she would never be free of them. Lou was so lost in her thoughts that she did not hear the door open or see Kid step out onto the porch.

“Lou?”

Lou startled at the sound of her name, even though Kid had barely spoken louder than a whisper. Kid crouched down beside her.

“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“I know.” Lou said hoarsely.

“Bad dream?”

Lou nodded.

Kid settled on his rear beside her and raised his arm hesitantly to place it around her shoulders. To his relief, Lou did not pull away from him, but instead shifted her position so that she could press her face into his shoulder. Kid wrapped his other arm around her and held her tight as she wept.

He did not ask her what the dream was about, he knew. Ever since Ephraim Wicks had made an appearance in town, Lou’s life had been turned upside down. Not only had she been forced to face the man who raped her, but she had lost a dear friend, too.

The only good thing about Wicks coming to Rock Creek was Lou revealing to him and the rest of their PX family what he had done to her. No longer did she have to keep such a horrible secret to herself. Now she had the support of folks who cared about her, and would help her overcome the painful memories of the cruelty she had experienced.

Lou cried until her tears were spent. She did not know how much time had passed since Kid had sat down beside her. She lifted her head slowly off his shoulder and used the back of her hands to wipe the tears from her eyes. She eased back from him a little so she could gaze up into his face.

“I’m alright now. You can go back to bed.”

“What about you?”

“I think I’ll stay out here and watch the sun rise.”

“Would you mind having some company?”

“No.”

Lou was relieved that Kid wanted to stay with her. She really did not want to be alone. She shifted position so that she was leaning back against the wall again. Kid removed his arm from around her waist, and placed it over hers. He smiled as he felt her slip her fingers through his.

They did not talk much as they watched the sun ride. Lou was comforted by Kid’s presence; and was content to be with her. Slowly Lou felt the last vestiges of the nightmare fade away, and peace settle within her once again. There was no telling whether or not she would dream again of the awfully night Wicks had raped her. With Kid ready to chase them away, and the others there to support, she knew she would never have to face them alone.

To Them He Was Only Cody

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A Young Riders Fanfiction

He’d known fame and fortune. He’d seen wars and fought in them too. He’d seen small settlements on the prairies, large communities in the East, and even traveled overseas to see municipalities.

He’d attended tea with royalty, feasted on banquets with businessman, took supper with common folk.

He’d learned the languages of many races, shot buffalo until there were no more, lived among native people, and a million other things he’d never be able to write down in a thousand books.

Out of all of these memories he’d stored up in his life time, the most sacred ones were those shared with the other members of his PX family. Those men and women knew him not as an Army Scout, Buffalo Hunter, or Entertainer, but simply as William Cody.

They knew of his faults and shortcomings, his accomplishments and failures, and accepted him just as he was.

To them he was only Cody.

They called Him Wild Bill

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A Young Riders Fanfiction

“James Butler Hickok was called ‘Wild Bill’ by many, but to us, he was simply Jimmy. He was a tall, handsome, magnificently built and powerful man. He was a plainsman in every sense of the word, unlike any other of his class. In person, he stood about six feet and one inch height, and was straight as the straightest of warriors whose implacable foe, he was.
He had broad shoulders, well-formed chest and limbs, and a face strikingly handsome, sharp clear gray eyes, which stared you straight in the face when in conversation, a fine shaped nose, well turned mouth with lips only partially concealed by his mustache.
His dark hair was long and straight, and fell carelessly over his powerfully formed shoulders. Add to this figure a costume blending the immaculate neatness of the dandy with the extravagant taste and style of the frontiersman, and you have only the exterior of Jimmy Hickok.
Those of us who were fortunate to call him a friend, brother, son, father, lover, confidant, and uncle knew him to be so much more. He was the fiercest believer in treating folks without prejudice and respect. Our Jimmy was a loyal, honorable, headstrong, proud, sensitive, courageous, caring, and understanding man. He never let a friend or loved one down if they were in need of his assistance and throughout his life he did many things that went unnoticed by the many, but weren’t forgotten by the folks who knew him best.”
Cody finished reading the letter that he had written to the editor of the Abilene, Kansas newspaper to the gathered PX family members who were gathered in the Hickok’s living room. His eyes traveled onto Amanda, Jimmy’s widow, and saw that her red-rimmed eyes were cloudy with fresh tears.
“Thank you, Cody.” She choked out.
Cody nodded, his own throat closed against the lump in it. His eyes traveled over the other faces in the room and settled last on Louise Kidrickson’s face. Except for the instantaneous tears of grief, she would shed when he and Kid had given her the news that Jimmy had been killed, Lou had remained stoic. No, that was not quite right. There was intensity in her brown eyes that he had not seen before and that worried him.
By the troubled glances Kid kept giving his wife, Cody knew his PX brother was just as concerned as he was over Lou’s eerily calm demeanor. Next to Kid, Lou had loved Jimmy the best out of all of them, and it was clear to Cody that Hickok’s death could be Lou’s undoing.
As he continued to gaze at her, the intensity in Lou’s eyes softened for a moment, and he found himself hoping that she would just let out all the emotion she was keeping up bottled inside, and have a good cry.
“Jimmy would appreciate you setting things straight about him.”
Her words were softly spoken, and devoid of any emotion, and it was all he could do to keep from shaking her to get some sort of stronger reaction from her. He nodded at her words, before his gaze flickered onto Kid’s face. Their eyes locked and he knew that Kid was even more worried about Lou than he was. Eventually Lou was going to have a melt down and he hoped Kid was going to be able to do whatever needed doing to pick up the pieces of his wife’s shattered heart again.
It was on the tip of Cody’s tongue to tell Lou that Jimmy would be upset to know she was taking his death so hard, but he did not voice the words. He was not so sure they would help Lou or cause her more pain, and he could not live with being the cause of more pain to her.
After all, his own emotions were still open and raw, as well. His and Jimmy’s relationship had deepened over the years since the PX had ended. Losing another brother had made him all too aware of how time was marching on and if they were not all careful, life would be over before they knew it.
“Let us make a pact here and now to stay in better contact with each other, to live closer to one another, and visit each other’s families more often.” He said aloud to the others. “None of us know how much longer we have before its time to go to the Great Beyond. Jimmy, Ike, and Noah will wait for us to join them where they are. Let’s spend whatever time we all have here and now, and make it count.”
“Well done, Son.” Teaspoon’s gravelly voice was the first to fill the silence after Cody finished speaking, “To strengthening the ties that have bound us together from the beginning of the express.”
“To family,” chorused the rest of group, including Cody.

The Good, The Old, and The Dandy

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A Young Riders Fanfiction

The torpid prairie sun dipped low in the sky as Marshal Teaspoon Hunter’s horse trotted down the Pony Express trail leading back to Sweetwater. Tall yellow grass seemed to stretch endlessly out before rider and mount, sometimes flat, sometimes in low undulating hills, which rolled liked the golden sea. The grassland went on for miles in every direction. Occasionally a stand of trees, a misplaced boulder or the gorge of a dried streambed, broke the vast openness.

Travelers feared the prairie, and with good reason. There were plenty of stories of men and women becoming disoriented from walking in circles before succumbing to starvation and dehydration while waiting for help to arrive. If getting lost did not do them in, they also were victims of murderous outlaws, wild animals or rampaging Indians.

As a seasoned sheriff, Teaspoon did not fear getting lost or dying of thirst. He understood the land, had lived with a couple of the plains tribes for several years in his earlier days, and led a life accustomed to depending on his own survival skills. Not only did he know the direction in which the bustling frontier town of Sweetwater was located, he also knew where to find the closest water if needed, and the best places to camp.

Spending another night on the hard ground looked more and more like a reality as Charger continued to slow his pace. The chestnut gelding had stumbled on a particularly rocky spot in the trail a few miles back. Teaspoon had thoroughly examined his horse’s foreleg and hoof, but had not located any serious outward injuries on the horse. He has hoped that since he had discovered no visible injury that Charger would be okay once they got started moving again. However, it appeared the gelding was suffering from a pulled muscle, or possibly a sprained foreleg.

“C’mon boy, just a little farther,” Teaspoon coaxed the gelding as they continued on their way.

Charger lifted is head and snorted in response to his mater’s words of encouragement. Teaspoon chuckled and patted his mount on the heck as they headed closer to Sweetwater.

By the time horse and rider reached the designated location where Teaspoon planned to make camp, Charger was limping in earnest. Teaspoon quickly dismounted, and removed the heavy saddle and blanket from the gelding’s back to relieve the pressure on the horse’s sore limb. Next, he led Charger down to the gurgling stream running through the area, and into the swiftly moving water. He squatted down and used both hands to form a cup in which he gathered some of the icy coolness and splashed it on the gelding’s ailing foreleg.

When Teaspoon thought he had enough water on Charger’s leg, Teaspoon led him back up the embankment and hobbled him to graze. He then dug into his saddlebags, retrieved a dented can of ointment, and walked back over to his horse. The animal was content to stay in one place to eat and allowed the marshal to apply some of the ointment onto his foreleg. After he finished tending to his horse, Teaspoon set to work collecting wood for a fire, spreading out his blanket, and doing other things necessary to make camp for the night.

Darkness had fallen completely by the time he heated up a can of beans for his supper, and brewed a pot of coffee to drink. He made quick work of eating the beans, and then tossed the can into the fire. He poured himself another cup of coffee, before sitting back against his saddle. It was a clear summer evening with a slight breeze that blew his hair, and cooled down his flushed features. Teaspoon turned his gaze skyward to watch the display of thousands upon thousands of stars showcase their glittering brilliance for his personal viewing pleasure.

As he sat sipping his coffee, and enjoying the night sky, something off in the distance caught his attention. He turned his head to look in that direction and was rewarded by what appeared to be the glow of another campfire burning. Teaspoon could not help but wonder whom the campfire belonged to, and what personal story they had to tell. He hoped no one was in trouble and made a mental note to himself to check out the area in the morning before he continued on his way back to Sweetwater. He tossed the remains of his coffee into the fire, stretched out onto the ground, and closed his eyes. Morning would come early enough and he still had a ways to go before he got back to town.

The sun was beginning to appear on the horizon when Teaspoon awoke. He got the fire going again, and set the coffee pot to brewing, before he tended to his personal needs. Breakfast consisted of biscuits and some of Rachel’s apple butter. After he ate and drank his fill, Teaspoon doused the fire with the last of the coffee, packed up his gear, refilled his canteen, and saddled Charger. Before mounting the gelding, he examined the foreleg, which troubled the animal the day before. The combination of the icy creek water, salve, and rest appeared to have been all that was needed to fix the problem. Teaspoon mounted Charger and they were soon on their way.

Teaspoon remembered the location of where he had seen the glow of the other campfire the night before and was thankful it was in the general direction of Sweetwater. He traveled about a mile when gunshots reached them. Charger’s ears flicked back and he snorted in anticipation of his master’s next command. Teaspoon did not disappoint him. He kneed the gelding to go faster and Charger obeyed without hesitation. They came around a hilly bend in the trail in time to see a man dressed in dark clothing on a black and white paint, riding away from a camp. Another prone figure lay sprawled and unmoving beside a roaring campfire. Teaspoon drew his weapon and began firing at the man on the horse. He set his focus on trying to help the victim, but feared it was already too late.

He reined his mount beside the campfire, quickly dismounted, and crouched beside the unmoving figure. The balding head with wisps of white hair, tattered and patched clothing, and scuffed boots identified the victim as male, even before he turned the figure over. Teaspoon was surprised to hear a moan escape from dry lips as he assessed the extent of the man’s injuries. A gut shot exposed the man’s innards, along with another wound to the chest, but given that the man was still breathing, albeit laborious, Teaspoon reckoned the heart had not been damaged.

Even as Teaspoon set to work trying to staunch the flow of life’s blood seeping out from the fragile body he held in his arms, he knew it was no use. Already he could hear the death rattle elicited from the man’s mouth. The wounded old man did not have much time left on the earth.

“Water,”

It took him a moment to realize the man had spoken. Blue eyes flew up to rest on the other man’s grizzled features and locked with pain filled brown ones.

“What did you say?” he asked the man.

The man licked his lips and uttered the solitary word again, “Water.”

Teaspoon eased the man’s head out of his lap, stood up, and went over to where Charger grazed. He removed his canteen from his saddle and moved back to the injured man. He uncorked the canteen and then lifted the man’s head and helped him drink. He thought the man ended up wearing more of the water than he actually drank, but did not mention this observation aloud.

“Who…are…you?”

“Name’s Teaspoon Hunter. I was on my way back to Sweetwater when I heard the gunfire.”

“I’m Jonas,” the wounded man said as a coughing fit consumed him. It shook his whole form, caused pink tinted spittle to run out of his mouth, and wet the sleeve of Teaspoon’s shirt.

“Easy, Jonas, Easy,”

Teaspoon had only known the man for a few moments, but he felt a kinship with Jonas nevertheless. He hoped when he took his own last breath he would have someone there to look after him and make his journey out of this life and into the next as easy as possible.

“Map,” Jonas rasped out. “He took my map.”

“No sense worrying about any old map, you aren’t going to need it where you are going.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Jonas smiled wryly up at him, before another coughing spell hit him.

Teaspoon helped him to drink some more water and waited to see if Jonas would try to talk again. When a few minutes passed without another word coming from the man, and saw that he had closed his eyes again, Teaspoon believed him to be dead. Just as he was lowering Jonas’s head onto the ground, the injured man took a gasping breath and his eyes flew open.

“You have to get my map back.” Jonas choked out.

“What’s so all fired important about a map?” Teaspoon queried.

“The map leads you to where I hid away some money along time ago.” Pain filled brown eyes met blue eyes and held. “I was an outlaw once…a long, long time ago. The money is from those days. I met my wife soon after and gave up my outlaw ways. I got word recently that my youngest daughter, Darla Parkins and her family, are in desperate need of the money or their going to lose their spread. I was heading to Sweetwater to give it to Darla, and got shot for my efforts.”

Teaspoon was quiet for a few moments as he took in the information Jonas shared with him. “Do you know the man who shot you?”

“No, but he seemed to know me.”

Jonas began coughing again in earnest and the death rattle Teaspoon recognized earlier, became even more pronounced. The injured man’s body shook with the violence of the coughing fit and then went eerily still. Teaspoon needed no other indication to realize that Jonas was no longer among the living. He grabbed a blanket, rolled Jonas’ body into it and strapped across the back of the dun colored mare grazing beside Charger. He spent a few moments putting out the fire, gathering Jonas’ few belongings, before mounting Charger again. He took the other horse’s reins and started toward Sweetwater.

~~~~~~~~~~~

“Teaspoon should have arrived back from Ft. Laramie last night. You don’t reckon anything is wrong do you?” Lou McCloud asked Jimmy Hickok as the two Pony Express riders sat outside the jail.

Jimmy shook his head. “He’s probably just enjoying his time away from his marshaling responsibilities and decided to spend another night out on the prairie. I reckon he’ll be along soon enough.”

“I hope you are right.” Lou knew Teaspoon was fully capable of taking care of himself, but the plains was a treacherous area and held all sorts of dangers for anyone traveling across them, regardless of their survival abilities.

“Lou, look.”

Jimmy’s voice broke through her reverie. Lou glanced over at him and saw him pointing at something down the street. Lou’s eyes followed along the length of his arm and felt relief fill her when she spotted the marshal coming down the street toward their location. Her relief changed to consternation when she realized he was leading a horse behind Charger, and there appeared to be a body lying across the top of the saddle.

“What happened, Teaspoon?” Jimmy asked the question they were both thinking as the older man pulled his horse to a stop in front of the jail.

“Jonas here got waylaid by an outlaw. Take him to the undertaker’s and see to it that they get him ready for burial. Then I want one of you to head out to the Parkins place and tell them I want to talk to them. Have either of you two seen a man dressed in black, riding a black and white paint come into town within the last couple of hours?” Teaspoon dismounted and tied his horse’s reins to the hitching post while he waited for Lou and Jimmy to respond to the question he had asked.

“A fellow fitting that description rode into town about an hour ago. Left his horse at the livery and went over to the Wild Aces Saloon.” Jimmy told him. “Is he the man responsible for sending Jonas to an early grave?”

“Yes.”

Teaspoon started toward the saloon with Jimmy behind him. Lou watched them go for a moment before taking the reins of the dun colored mare to lead her down the street toward the livery stable. As much as she wanted to follow men, Teaspoon had given them orders and someone needed to carry them out.

The marshal cleared the bat wing doors of the Wild Aces saloon a few moments later and peered intently around the smoke clouded interior. He gazed from one table to the other, intently studying the faces of each man, and mentally identified them as citizens of Sweetwater. He replayed the scene in his mind of the shooting earlier that morning, trying to recall each detail of the man he had seen fleeing away from Jonas’ campfire. The man had been wearing black clothing, but not the every day kind that most men wore around town. It had been a dandy’s suit. There was only one man in the entire saloon wearing all black clothing and it was a suit to boot.

Teaspoon stalked up to the bar, Jimmy behind him and ready to back his mentor up if the need arose. The older man leaned onto the bar on one side of the fine dressed man, Jimmy on the other. “You wouldn’t happen to ride a black and white paint, would you?”

The dandy took a slow sip of his whistle and turned to look at Teaspoon. “What concern of it is yours, about what kind of horse I ride?”

“I’d answer the man’s question if I was you.” Jimmy said coolly.

“I’m not in the habit of disclosing personal details about myself to total strangers. Now, if you’ll excuse me I’d like to enjoy my drink in quiet.”

“We aren’t finished talking yet.” Teaspoon said in a low voice. “You can answer the question here or you can answer it at the jail, your choice.”

The dandy let out a sigh and said, “Yes, I ride a black and white paint.”

“You are under arrest for the cold-blooded murder of Jonas Parkins. Jimmy, take his gun.”

The congenial smile on the dandy’s face faded, replaced with one of anger. “That is absolutely ridiculous! I am innocent of such a dastardly deed and I will not stand for such a fallacious insult!”

“You can protest your innocence until you hang from the gallows for all I care,” Teaspoon snarled as he searched the dandy’s coat pockets and retrieved a folded, yellow piece of paper, which he opened. He discovered it to be a crude map that Jonas had described to him. “Let’s go.”

Together Teaspoon and Jimmy led the protesting man out of the saloon and over to the jail where they locked him up. A short while later Lou arrived back in town with the Darla Parkins, her husband Trey, and their two small children. As gently as he could, Teaspoon told Darla and her husband of how he came to know her father, and what Jonas had told him about the map. Darla wept in her husband’s arms at the news, but thanked the marshal for being so quick to catch his killer. The Parkins left the jail and headed down to the undertaker’s, leaving Teaspoon, Lou, and Jimmy alone with their prisoner.

“You think you two can handle Mr. Innocent there long enough for me to head out to the way station to get something to eat and change clothes?” Teaspoon inquired.

“Sure we can.” Jimmy and Lou assured him together.

“I’ll be back in a while.” Teaspoon left the jail and untied Charger’s reins from the hitching post. He mounted his horse and headed for the way station on the outskirts of town. He knew that as a law enforcement official he should have kept the map, found the money, and tried to return it back to its rightful owner, but that was about as plausible as finding a needle in a haystack. If there really was money as Jonas had stated, he saw no reason why it could not benefit the Parkins’ family as the old outlaw had intended.

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