Western Fiction posted November 27, 2017 Chapters:  ...10 11 -12- 13 

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Bradley's new friend * Stella's News * Blake and Brice meet

A chapter in the book Remnants of Yesterday


by Jacqueline M Franklin

Slade’s return to his hometown after a seventeen-year absence didn’t occur as he’d planned. Instead, he received a lashing  from a stranger's whip—the brother of a man Slade was accused of killing for cheating in a poker game.
Unbeknownst to Slade, he ends up on Darcy’s doorstep more dead than alive. Since nursing him back to health, their old closeness has returned. Not only is she forced to face the inner turmoil about what is right for a widow to do, she also has a son to raise—her first priority.

With her decision made, Slade and Darcy marry, however, on their wedding night, all hell breaks loose when a knock on the hotel door brought the bad news that Darcy's home has gone up in flames ... honeymoon over. 
# # #
Ending of last chapter ...  
With a huge smile, she walked over to the settee and smoothed her hand over the back of the upholstery. “You and Blake surprised me more than I can say when, not only did you carry in this settee, but our new sleigh bed, and the lovely oak claw foot table and chairs. Now, I know why Omar just happened to drop by a few minutes after you two left. It was all a set-up, so we wouldn’t be alone. And, I love you for your thoughtfulness. Goodness, it feels like Christmas.”
He sat down in a nearby overstuffed chair with a mischievous smile. “It’s about time I caught you unaware. If history serves me right, you always managed to stay one step ahead of me. This time, I finally got you, honey.”
She chuckled. “Indeed, you did.”
Slade turned serious. “You deserve so much more, Dar, and I wish I could afford to give it to you. But, I’ll admit, I may have gone a little overboard since Blake gave me the job.”
Darcy got up, walked over to her husband, and then knelt beside his legs. She clasped his hands to lift them to her lips for a tender kiss. “You are so good to me, darling.”
When she looked up at him, her eyes were misty. “Much as I love all these beautiful things—in the end—they’re just things. I’d trade them all, and still be the richest woman in the world, because it all pales in comparison to having you back, Slade. My life is beyond complete.”
He caressed the side of her face while gazing into her eyes. “I hope I never disappoint—”
A barking dog, along with a loud thud sounded at the back door.
“Huh!” Darcy jumped back in surprise.
Slade pointed while rising, “Get upstairs to Bradley and Lettie—out of harm’s way. Now, Dar.”
After grabbing his six-shooter from its holster, which hung on the hall tree, he vanished down the hall. 

# # #
 Chapter 12

# Rashcal #

It was determined the loud noise Slade and Darcy had heard occurred when a barking dog knocked over some boards. They had been placed against the house in readiness to make repairs to the floorboards of the porch.
With no harm afoot, and given the all clear from Slade, the awakened household descended the stairs, with Bradley and Lettie following behind Darcy.
At first sight, Bradley limped over to the medium sized, black and white mutt, then wrapped his arms around its neck.
The stray, four-legged visitor showed his appreciation with excited licks, while Bradley looked at his new father in anticipation. “Can I keep ‘im, Daddy Schlade? Huh … can I?”
Chuckling, Slade stooped beside the two and gave the mutt a pat on the head. “Well, we’ll have to get your mother’s okay, first.”
The little boy limped over to his mother sitting in a chair at their new oak table in the kitchen. He hugged her legs while looking up at her with puppy dog eyes. “Daddy Schlade said yesh, Mommy … only if you do, too. Can I keep ‘im?”
This time, Darcy laughed. “Well, I don’t know, darling. Having a dog is a huge obligation. You’ll have to make sure he’s fed, has water, taken outside for exercise, and allow him necessary time. I’d say by the looks of him, he’s not been eating very much of late, either. The poor fellow is all fur and bones. Do you think you can handle such a job?”
Bradley clapped his hands in excitement while nodding his head. “Whoopee!"
A now standing Slade ruffled his son’s hair. “Since we have such important business taken care of, I say we name your new friend. We can’t call him Dog or Mutt.”
Just then, Lettie turned around from the dry sink. “Before we name our addition to the family, I reckon these leftovers will be appreciated. I’ll venture a guess this mutt was looking for food when the ruckus happened. Most likely chasing rabbits under the porch. She leaned over and placed a pan with a mixture of potatoes, vegetables, and rabbit onto the floor.
The dog all but knocked her over after getting a whiff of the food.
She laughed. “Whoa! My goodness, he is a hungry rascal.”
Bradley jumped up and down with enthusiasm, but almost fell over when he put too much weight on his weak leg.
Darcy caught him. “Whow, young fellow—be careful.”
Bradley’s face lit up while his mother helped him to stand upright. “That’s it, Daddy Schlade, we gonna call ‘im Rashcal.”
Everyone chuckled.
Slade continued to grin. “Okay, Rashcal it is.”
As soon as the newcomer to the family finished eating, he wasted no time in snuggling up to Bradley.
Darcy stood. “Okay, Daddy Schlade, there’s no time like the present for our son to learn his first lesson about responsibility. It’s outside for Rashcal, so he can take care of necessary. Then, it’s off to bed, young man.”
Bradley tugged on his mother’s robe. “Mommy, can Rashcal schleep with me?”
Smiling, she leaned over and cupped her son’s face between her hands. “As if I could take either one of you away from each other.” She shook her finger at him. “But, absolutely no barking in the house. Understood?”
With a huge smile, the little boy hugged his mother’s legs. “I promish.”
# # #
Later in the day, Stella couldn’t wait to reach The Gazette and give her husband the best news he’d ever hear—it had her walking on air. She pushed open the door to find Herb Clinton setting type for the next issue of the paper.
With his ever-constant good-nature shining through, short and skinny Herb Clinton glanced up when the door opened. “Well, lookie who walked in the door and brightened up the place with just her smile.”
Stella grinned. “Flattery will gain you my sincerest thank you, Herb. I see my husband is not in his office. Just where has he wandered off to?”
Herb began wiping the ink off his hands. “He aimed to stop by your house, but you two must have just missed each other. Anyway, he received a telegram to meet one of our contacts at Summit Valley. Usually means a story will follow.” He reached into his pocket for his watch, and then looked at it. “I reckon he’s been gone the better part of two hours.”

Dejected, Stella fidgeted with the strings on her reticule while looking at the floor. “Oh, well, I guess my news will hold until later.” She looked up Herb. “Do you suspect he’ll be home at the usual time?”
He nodded. “Oh, sure enough. Truth to tell, I look for him in the next half-hour or so. They just like to meet outside of town so nobody is aware any information has been passed.”
“I believe I know of whom you speak. Blake has mentioned him before.” She sighed. “Oh, well, I guess I’ll be on my way. I’ll just have to tell him my news later.” Stella smiled. “Thank you, Herb. It was nice seeing you. Please tell Martha hello.”
The man raised his hand in a half-wave. “Sure will. You take care, Stella. I’ll be sure to tell Blake you were here.”
With goodbyes said, she went on her way.
# # #
Blake wasn’t sure his contact, and childhood friend, Brice Dillon, was always a straight-shooter. He had a reputation in school for fancying up facts. So, it was always left up to him to decipher truth from fiction. Nonetheless, he had found the man more truthful than not over the years.
They now stood near the crest at Summit Valley, which was their usual meeting place away from prying eyes. “So, Brice, you’re positive these men were discussing a bank robbery in Wabash?”
“For a fact,” answered the six-foot man, with short curly hair, and a brawny but rough physique. “I found out after Lizzie rubbed my nub,” he grinned, “who I must say, pokes circles around Crystal. You should try her some time, Blake. I mean—”

Blake threw his palm up in the air. “Cool your poke-stick, Brice. I could care less what any whore has to offer. All I need is Stella. Now, get your mind back on our business at hand."
“Oh, sure … sure thing. Like I was saying, these guys were huddled in a nook at the end of the hallway, away from prying eyes. You see, the next man waiting for a poke was a bit impatient, so, I hightailed it outta her room with boots in hand. I reckon, it’s what kept them from hearing me. Otherwise it could have spelled trouble for my arse.”
“Well, you always have been a master at getting yourself out of mischief.”

Smiling, Brice separated his legs to adjust his stance. "I do pride myself for doing some things right in this life. Anyway, right before I turned the corner, where the nook is located, I overheard low voices, so I stopped and had a listen. I only understood one name from this man with a gruff tone who said, ‘Okay, it’s settled. We hit the Wabash Bank on Monday, because Russell told me it was the best day, and the quietest time—right at closing—five o’clock.’ I figured I’d heard enough, so I wasted no time in hightailing it down the opposite end of the hall so they didn't see me.”
“Holy hell.” Blake’s expression was one of surprise. “You mean Russell Noonan, the teller?”
Brice nodded. “I’m sure as rain. Don’t know another Russell who would know so much about the bank? Isn’t he the mealy-mouthed clerk—been in town maybe a year or so?”

“Yeah … there about, I’d say.” Blake grimaced. “This doesn’t add up. Why would a man like Russell go outside the law?” He propped his foot on a boulder. “I can’t imagine he'd willingly take part in a robbery, let alone associating with anyone who isn’t on the up-and-up. Just has to be family. Or, maybe someone has threatened him in some way. Damn, but those are the only things to make any sense.”
“Hell, do you think telling lazy ole Sheriff Belcher will help, Blake? I mean, the obvious thing to do is set a trap on Monday.”
“Huh. I'd say, more to the point, he'll put our news down to it doesn't hold truth, and then ignore it. It’s for sure, we only have four days to put a plan together.” Blake took his foot off the boulder, and offered a handshake. “Thanks, Brice. I’ll give the sheriff your tip. If he doesn’t do anything, I’ll see if we can’t get some help from somewhere.”

After they shook, Brice walked over and took the reins of his horse. “Okay, I’ll see you back in town tomorrow.” He adjusted himself with a grin. “I got some poking to do before heading home. It’s the only way I can take much of Agatha, the ole plow horse of a woman.”
Blake laughed. “Well, you knew she was no beauty from the get-go. So, why did you marry her if you were going to spend so much time at The Gilded Palace?”
Brice rubbed his fingers together. “She’s the easiest living a man can have. All I have to do is poke the ugly, cold fish with my eyes closed enough times to keep her with child. Then, I get her dead daddy’s money to see to my … huh … real needs. And, another bonus, I don't have to work a day in my life. Doesn’t get any better, my friend." 

Shaking his head with a grin, Blake mounted his horse. “Brice, some things haven’t changed since school. And, you my friend, top the list. Come on, I’ll ride out to the road with you.”
Fifteen minutes later, they reached the T-road, leading west and east, where they saw five men riding toward them.
“Son-of-a-bitch, we got company.”
“Indeed, we do.” Blake sat straighter in his saddle to have a better look-see. “Well, they aren’t coming hell-bent toward us, which  bode's well. If we retreat, we could invite trouble if they're in a bad mood since they’ve seen us. I’d say odds are in our favor. Besides, once they see we don’t look like snaggle-toothed hombres, and we aim them no trouble, they should keep on going after a good how-do-you-do.”
Brice took his hat off and wiped the nervous perspiration from his forehead with his upper arm. “Yep, you said it. Retreating, in all likelihood, would make them think we have something to hide, then come after us.”
In no time, the two men found themselves surrounded.
“Well, lookie here. We have us some pretty boys,” said a Mexican man dressed in all black, with snarly, yellow teeth, and a bandanna covering his head, which he had tied at the nape of his neck.
Blake stifled his fear. “We aim you gentlemen no harm. We’re just headed home. If you’re going to Wabash,” he pointed, “just keep going five miles west. We’re just a small, peaceful town. But, if it’s poker and whores you’re looking for, Snake Canyon is behind you ten miles east, and then five miles north.”
The man in black made a swipe of his hands toward Wabash. “Well, by all means, be my guest, gentlemen. You just take yourself home to your peaceful little town.” He let out a guttural laugh. “Me and my amigos here, we don’t do anything but poker and whores.” He looked at his gang. “Ain’t that right?”
The other Mexican men, and one half-breed renegade, who were all dressed scroungy, and rough looking as the day was long, agreed with vulgar gestures, and variations of yes.
“Come on, Blake, let’s be on our way,” Brice said in a nervous voice.
“Thank you, gentlemen,” Blake said, and then they turned their horses  to take their leave.
After Blake and Brice walked their horses a few steps, they picked up their gait. Blake said in a low voice, “Don’t look back—let’s just pick up speed and keep—”

Gunshots filled the air, with Brice falling dead to the ground.

Blake could see a shot in his back, and through his head at the same time as a blazing sting rocketed through his left shoulder, causing him to bend over while astride. Holy hell! Even though the wind had been knocked out him from landing on his chest against his horse, he forced himself to remain there in excruciating
 pain. I have to ... to stay down ... let them think ... got me.  

Thanks to the gunshots, his spooked horse galloped faster ... faster. Blake found it difficult to keep holding tight to the saddle horn. One more shot seared through his calf—causing him to let go. He hit the ground, but at least it was on his good shoulder. “Ahhh! Son-of-a-bitch!” He felt unconsciousness claiming him, yet, had sense enough to roll over so he'd be on his stomach, hoping if they checked to make sure he was dead, he'd be able to pull it off. However, he heard hooves retreating—or so he thought. Stay quiet … don’t move … Stella … ahhh, Stel … darkness overtook him. 

# # #
... For Blake ...
Thank you ... YouTube
"My Way"
Frank Sinatra 
# # #

Cast of Characters #

# Protagonist: Darcy Masters-Burdett
Widow of Bradrick Burdett
Stepmother to Bradrick’s son—Bradley
Slade's childhood love
 # Protagonist: Slade Freestone
Darcy’s childhood love
# Antagonist: Grey Thurdaze
He wants revenge on Slade because he killed his brother, Abe, who cheated at cards—but drew first.
 # Supporting Cast #
Lettie Garcia: Darcy's deceased mother's best friend 
Bradley Burdett: Son of Darcy’s deceased husband
Blake Sullivan: Slade's friend -- Owns The Gazette
Stella Sullivan: Blake's Wife -- Darcy's friend
Herb Clinton: Works for Blake at The Gazette
Eudora Wrinkleton: Town Gossipmonger
Winifred DeLittle: Town Gossipmonger
# # #
©Copyright 2017
Jacqueline M Franklin


=Frank Sinatra -^- My Way=
=NOVEL: Remnants of Yesterday ~ Chapter 12

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