Out of the Blue
Peacemakers™ USA Networks
Name: Aimee L.
the Peacemakers Fan Fiction list or to my email at email@example.com
new scenes; new story; new characters
completed July 22, 2005.
Marshal Jared Stone’s actions in the Civil War come back to haunt him as he
trails a serial killer in Silver City.
This story contains some violence.
of Characters (original series) :
Marshal Jared Stone
Twyla “Scoop” Curry
Mayor Malcolm Smith
New Characters (in order of appearance) (created by Aimee L. DuPré)
Mrs. Robert Richmond
Bobby Richmond, Jr.
Mrs. Lougenia Sullivan
Dr. Patrick Michael Ramsey
Sarah the telephone operator
Hotel clerk (unnamed)
“Old Man” Edwards
Sheriff Cheyenne Gabriel Moore
The original characters in this story (Marshal Jared Stone, Larimer Finch, Katie
Owens, Twyla “Scoop” Curry, Mayor Malcolm Smith, Charles Curry, Luci
Prescott, Chipper Dunn) are the sole property of Peacemakers™ USA Networks in
association with Michael R. Joyce Production. This is a work of fan fiction that
intends no infringement on any copyright or trademark.
characters of Mrs. Robert Richmond, Bobby Richmond, Jr., Mrs. Lougenia Sullivan,
Cade Sullivan, Dr. Patrick Michael Ramsey, Sarah the telephone operator, the
unnamed hotel clerk, Silas Andrews, Margaret Hesler, “Old Man” Edwards, and
Sheriff Cheyenne Gabriel Moore are the sole property of Aimee L. DuPré, ©2004.
Out of the Blue
By Aimee DuPré
Synopsis: Out of the Blue (actions in the Civil War come back to haunt
eastern sky lightened on a crisp, spicy autumn morn in the Colorado of the late
Jared Stone drew in a deep breath of the cool air. It was still the wee hours of the morning, but he’d been
awake now for some time. He gazed
out at the still quietly sleeping city nestled amidst the pines. Silver City -- his city.
time later, in the mid-afternoon, Detective Larimer Finch took a buggy ride in
the countryside. Still new to the
area, he enjoyed exploring the landscape of his newfound home at every chance he
got. He’d finished his work in
the laboratory just after lunch and took advantage of his free time.
soon came upon a small farm on the far outskirts of Silver City, where he met a
woman trekking towards town on foot. He
pulled up his horse on the road leading to her farm.
and introductions exchanged, and she introduced herself to him as Mrs. Robert
Richmond, a widow woman living alone because she had no family left except her
I get a ride into town with you?” she asked.
“My boy’s comin’ home today. He’ll
be on the three o’clock train.”
nearly three now, Mrs. Richmond,” Finch politely commented.
“We cannot make it.”
make it all right, ‘cause the train’s always late.”
“Oh, very well,” Finch said as he helped her
into the buggy.
thankful I am to the Lord to see him once more safe at home!”
over, he says in his letters,” she answered.
“Places I’ll never see, never even dream of seein’.
Vicksburg, Manassas, some place that starts with a ‘g’ in
Pennsylvania. That’s the last
place he wrote me from. Why, I
hardly slept at all last night, I was so excited about seein’ him again.
Today is the fifteenth, isn’t it?”
the day. I’m so glad you showed
up when you did, Mr. Finch. I
didn’t know how I’d get into town otherwise.
These old legs won’t hold me up for that long a journey.”
prattled on and on until Finch wondered if he bothered Marshal Stone that much
when he prattled on and on. Surely
They got to town and watched the train pull in.
The old woman peered into every man’s face that disembarked, but her
son wasn’t there.
don’t know what could’ve happened to him,” she told Finch.
Jared Stone came up on them.
Richmond,” he gently called to her. “You’re
getting’ all upset over nothin’ again.”
to Finch, he said, “This happens every month, on the fifteenth.
She’s a little early today, I guess ‘cause you gave her a ride.”
he said, “Mrs. Richmond, you know your boy’s safe up on the hill.”
looked up at the marshal with a tear in her eye, but his expression was kindly
Marshal Stone. Silly me!
That’s right,” she said. “Maybe
this nice young man will take me there to see him.
I got things to tell him.”
ma’am. Mr. Finch, you don’t
mind givin’ Mrs. Richmond a ride up to the cemetery, now do you? Bobby Junior is buried just inside the gate, on the right.
Mrs. Richmond, you be sure and tell him I send my regards.”
will, Marshal Stone. Come along,
young man. Don’t dawdle.
Help me in this buggy.”
did so and turned to Stone.
harmless enough,” he told Finch in a low voice. “She forgets he died at Gettysburg some twenty-five years
ago. Comes every month on the
fifteenth. That was when his body
came back on the train. She’ll go
visit his grave now and talk to him some. Then
she’ll go on home and forget about it until next month.”
Stone paused and looked pensive. “You
know, Finch, the war cost more than anyone can put a dollar price on.”
there some family who can look after her?”
now, I reckon that’s why the good Lord sent you, Mr. Finch,” Stone said.
“And me. To help look
after the ones who need lookin’ after.”
Finch got a far away
look in his eyes and quoted, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the
Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.”
startled, and Finch explained. “James
1, verse 27. My parents were
missionaries, you know.”
I forgot there for a while. You
ever think of bein’ a preacher, Finch?”
“It’s not a
calling a man gives himself, Marshal.”
Stone nodded in
agreement. “Wish some of those
tent preachers I’ve heard tell of believed that.”
Richmond’s voice cut through their conversation.
“Young man! My boy’s
waitin’ on the hill. You gonna
talk the daylight away?”
He gave Stone a wry
smile and got in the buggy.
called out, slapping the reins on the rump of the horse, and the buggy jerked
away from the train station.
Poor fellow couldn’t even properly drive a buggy.
marshal sat on the bench at the way station.
He pretended to read the newspaper he held in front of his face, but
anyone who really knew the man would know he couldn’t see to read without his
glasses. He was actually studying
the passengers as they got off the train. His
blue eyes, still sharp at a distance, darted from person to person as he
observed everything going on around him.
as he watched, he could not get Mrs. Richmond off his mind.
Robert Richmond, Jr. had died near the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg in
July of 1863. Marshal Jared Stone hated to recall just how many years ago
that had been.
the wake of the Civil War, land had been set aside in every city, county, and
state for soldiers’ burials. Widows
of these soldiers formed a ladies group and in 1862 began placing flowers on the
graves. In 1868, each May 30 was
designated as “Decoration Day” to decorate the soldiers’ graves.
The first public service was held in the Silver City cemetery on May 30,
1869. The ladies dressed all in
white to honor heroes from all wars and those who served in peacetime.
Then there was a Memorial Day Parade.
had not been in Silver city for the first parade, but he was present ten years
ago when the Ladies Aid Society placed the Civil War cannon in the cemetery.
He could not help but smile at the memory of the theft and ransom of that
cannon, and the fact that it no longer existed in its original condition, but
just then the train whistle blew, warning travelers that their transportation
was about to pull out of the station.
Finch had been there, he would probably have told him how the railroad companies
had gotten together back in 1883 and established standard railroad time to
increase safety and surmount complex scheduling on local times.
As if he didn’t already know that.
As if it really mattered.
Silver mining camps sprang up quickly and died out just as fast, but
Silver City was growing in leaps and bounds, well on her way to fulfilling her
title of “city”. There were
still miners working the silver mines, but now there were white women and
children, in addition to the Chinese and Indians.
The Chinese laundry prospered, as did the general stores and saloons.
Federal marshals were assigned to certain districts.
Jared Stone was such a U.S. Marshal, an officer of the law who duties
were similar to those of a sheriff in carrying out the judgments of a court of
law. He was the peace officer in
Silver City who had the power to arrest, to serve civil processes and subpoenas,
and to act as bailiff in the courtroom.
With the coming of the women and children, several denominations of
churches sprang up – Catholic, Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, Presbyterian.
There was a daily newspaper, too, although God only knew what would
become of it now that “Scoop” was gone.
She’d been quite a woman, that Twyla Curry.
Quite an editor, too.
snapped out of his reverie as the mayor pulled up to the train station in his
brand new automobile.
“Marshal!” Mayor Malcolm Smith called out.
Jared cautiously walked towards him, stopping before he got next to the
“Mayor,” he said and touched the brim of his hat.
“You buy this, this -- thing?”
“Well, now, not exactly. It’s
on . . ., well you might say, ‘on consignment.’
I’m testing the waters for marketing these fine automobeels. Why, this new invention will sell itself.”
I’ve heard that before.”
“Marshal, you ever think of getting one of those new automobeels?”
“I can set up an easy payment plan for you.
We might even work it into the Silver City budget.
Maybe even get it some flashing lights so people would know it’s an
official vehicle. You could really
run down the criminals.”
“Till it run out of fuel. My
horse is a lot faster and more dependable.”
The mayor climbed out of his vehicle, leaving it running. Realizing
he could not interest Stone, he dismissed him with a quick jerk of his head, as
he walked over to meet a finely dressed gentleman and the lady dressed in a
black mourning suit who accompanied him.
Marshal Jared Stone evoked a certain weary grace,
as if keeping the peace in a small mining town was an honorable way for an old
cavalry officer to end his life. His
fifty-odd years sat lightly on him and he could have passed for a man younger by
10 years. He had earned the respect
of many men who would willingly follow him wherever he would lead them.
apparently, he was leading them into a fast-paced, growing future.
Take, for example, those two that the mayor was
meeting, he thought to himself. Probably
a new businessman and his wife coming into town.
New businesses were springing up every day. Just in the past month, there was a new saloon near
Chinatown, a new restaurant down the street from the Velvet Cushion, and even a
new dress shop right on the main street, for all the latest Denver fashions.
The new dressmaker traveled extensively and employed a seamstress to make
her designs a reality. The shop had a new Singer sewing machine, not the
old-fashioned Howe machine the other seamstress had. He’d read that in her
advertisement in the Sentinel.
The mayor escorted the two people to his vehicle,
and when the man turned towards him, Stone recognized him as Charles Curry,
owner of the Silver City Sentinel. He
assumed the lady was his wife, though she looked too young to have been
Twyla’s mother. Since the Marshal
was still standing beside the automobile, the mayor was forced to make loud
introductions in order to be heard over the running motor.
you know Charles.”
indeed.” He took off his hat and
held out his hand as the older man shook it in warm friendship.
He hadn’t seen Charles Curry since his daughter Twyla had been killed.
He’d come to Silver City to bury her and settle the business of the
this,” the mayor said haughtily, as if proud to know someone Stone didn’t,
“is Mrs. Sullivan, Mrs. Lougenia Sullivan, from Wyoming.” He leaned closer to Stone and told him, “Mrs. Sullivan is
our new editor.”
to meet you, sir,” she said as she held out her hand. Her voice was so soft that he could hardly hear her, but he
took her proffered hand, touching only the tips of her gloved fingers with his
fingers as he nodded his head politely. He
smiled at her and at the thought that Finch would probably kiss her hand upon
noted that she had the same color hair as Twyla – that rich mahogany red --
and she had vivid green eyes behind her wire-framed glasses.
As Stone stared at her, she met his gaze unabashed.
Finally she dropped her eyes shyly.
He noticed her blush, not understanding its significance.
Then he realized that he was still holding her hand.
He dropped it as if it were a hot branding iron, embarrassed and suddenly
feeling as bashful as a youngster at his first barn dance.
He had to force himself not to squirm.
He was extraordinarily good-looking, this U.S. Marshal.
Lou had not been prepared for just how handsome he was.
Those too, too blue eyes that held the glint of his smile; the
sun-tanned, weathered face, lined with wisdom; the full, ruby red lips – what
would they feel like? She froze in
shock for the first few minutes she was near him, just staring at him like a
village idiot. Then, when he kept
holding onto her hand, when it appeared he was not going to let her out of his
grasp, when she could swear that she could feel her blood pulsing in her
fingertips -- she felt shy all of a sudden, so she dropped her gaze first.
She got the distinct impression that the marshal seemed genuinely baffled
that he might be considered handsome.
“Charles, you didn’t tell me you had another beautiful daughter to
take over your business,” Stone said, already knowing that Twyla had been his
only girl. Stone wasn’t quite
sure why he’d even said such a thing, particularly since it made the new
editor blush again.
Stone had really respected “Scoop,” as he called her, and she
had not minded his nickname for her. She
was a smart woman with guts enough to try to use the system already in place to
make it in a world where women were considered second-class citizens, men’s
property. A woman had little or no
say without a man, and he had respected Scoop for the way she had gotten around
that, without offending most people.
“Jared,” Charles said. “You
know all I have left are boys. Mrs.
Sullivan is the widow of a reporter who worked for me in Wyoming,” Curry
“A recent widow,” she softly added, as if that information was
very important for Stone to know. Perhaps
it was. A bereaved widow should
mourn at least two years before taking up with another beau.
And he wasn’t quite sure why he suddenly thought of that, either.
“Jared,” the mayor began.
“Charles was just telling me how newspaper publishing has become a
major business in the United States.
Most people do not realize that it will not be very long before the
population of the United States, just since 1870, will double.
The population in cities will triple, and the number of daily newspapers
As he spoke, he helped the quiet Mrs.
Sullivan into his ‘automobeel.’
“Why, I’ll bet,” the mayor said excitedly, “that these new
telephones and typewriters have sure changed the way work is done in the
“Without a doubt,” Curry agreed.
“And photographers are becoming quite popular since photographs are
beginning to appear in our daily newspapers.”
Stone had a look of disgust on his face.
“Something wrong, Jared?” the mayor asked as he jumped into the
“Nah,” he answered. No
need to go into how the west was changing, was being forced to change.
He backed off quickly as the mayor put the vehicle in gear and left the
marshal in a cloud of ill-smelling exhaust fumes.
Mr. Curry assisted Mrs. Sullivan as she
took her bags out of the mayor’s automobile and placed them on the wooden
sidewalk just in front of
the words “Silver City Sentinel” written ornately on a large glass
window. Mr. Curry waved at the
mayor as he pulled off, then handed the lady the skeleton key that fit the lock
to the door of the newspaper office.
“It’s all yours, Madam Editor.”
“I don’t think I can do this, Charles,” she said.
“Oh, I know God is with me, but I don’t think I’m up to my part of
“Lou, any challenge that we ever take on could bring us to our knees,
and Lord knows it should. You know
prayer works wonders. Besides, I
have faith in you. I know you can
do it. Just keep focused on your
goal – being the best newspaper editor you can possibly be – and you’ll be
fine. Take one day at a time, Lou.
Tackle the problems as they come up, and always remember, you are a
survivor. You’re still breathing;
your heart is still beating; the blood still stirs in your veins.
As long as it does, you are victorious.
See your problems as challenges to keep you out of the rut others remain
“May I quote you on that, sir?”
He laughed. “Keep fighting
to the end. Isn’t that what Cade
She nodded, remembering the last news article that Cade Sullivan had
written and those very words he had ended it with.
She was silent because she was afraid to show how choked up she had
become at the mere mention of his name.
be staying in the back room until you decide what you want to do – if you want
to stay on permanently or not. Can
I help you with your bags?”
I’ll be able to get them just fine. You
go on, now. You’ve got a train to
you’ve got your first assignment: a
special report on the success of the new ‘forensics team’ in Silver City.
Don’t you worry, now. We’ll
keep in touch by the usual means of communication:
telephone, telegraph . . .”
. . tell a woman,” she quipped and laughed.
laughed with her as he took his leave.
luck, Lou, and God bless.”
the new editor arrived in Silver City, she did not have a chance to meet all the
townspeople. Nevertheless, they all
got a certain opinion of her by reading her editorial and by talking to the
“She’s a fancy skirt!” Mayor Smith told
anyone who would listen. Right now,
that person was Larimer Finch, as the two men stood outside the alleyway leading
to the storage room Finch rented from Luci Prescott.
can tell she’s not from around here,” the mayor continued.
“And I’m not very happy that Mr. Curry has sent us another female
editor. It’s just no job for a
her first editorial on technology made some very good points,” Finch replied.
“Didn’t Charles Curry say she had shown herself to be an accurate
mayor looked beyond Finch without answering, and as Finch turned around, he
nearly bumped into the new editor.
me, Mrs. Sullivan,” Finch said, tipping his hat and bowing from the waist.
mayor cleared his throat and made the proper introductions.
“Mrs. Sullivan, permit me to introduce Larimer Finch.”
Finch,” she replied as she hesitantly held out her hand.
Finch took her gloved hand in his fingers, gently raised it to his mouth,
and kissed it. “A pleasure,
indeed, to make your acquaintance, Madame,” he politely said.
Smith looked uncomfortable and suddenly excused himself.
smiled at that, knowing the mayor was unfamiliar with continental manners.
am acquainted with some of your work, Mr. Finch.”
were a detective with Pinkerton. Now
you work with the U.S. Marshal as part of a new forensics team.
Mr. Curry told me about some of the cases you have been working on.
You appear to be an extremely interesting gentleman.”
these are interesting times,” Finch said.
“That’s from an old Chinese proverb, you know.”
one that sounds like it might be a curse,” she commented with a big smile.
“May you live in interesting times,” she quoted.
Her face was a
little on the plain side, but she had a cheerful personality and Finch noted how
her whole expression brightened when she smiled or laughed.
she continued, “I rather like the Arabian proverb, ‘trust Allah, but don’t
forget to tie up your camel.’”
“Yet,” Finch bantered, “why waste time worrying about things that
don’t even exist?”
“How true, sir.” She
looked behind him, down the alleyway beside the Velvet Cushion saloon.
“Is this where your laboratory is located?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am. Would you
care to take a look?”
She fidgeted at her long black skirt.
“If only I had more time, Mr. Finch.
I am on my way to meet Marshal, ah, . . .”
“Jared Stone,” Finch finished for her.
She smiled sweetly. “What
do you know about him?”
be quite honest, not all that much,” Finch replied.
in crime solving. I don’t always
agree with him, but I have a great respect for him, for who he is and his
character, and for what he does. He’s
got solid ethics.”
“He is a war veteran?” Mrs.
Sullivan asked, knowing that most men his age had served in the war, either blue
“He’s a decorated Civil War hero.”
“He seems a little worn around the edges.”
“Oh, he’s cranky and irritable now and then, but he has a wry sense
of humor, and he’s actually very witty. He’s
tougher and wiser than he appears, and he can handle himself in a fight.”
“I met him briefly at the train station,” Mrs. Sullivan told him.
“What’s a handsome man like that doing without a wife?”
well, so it appears, madam,” Finch replied.
“I think,” she said in a quiet voice that Finch had to strain to
hear, “that very fact is what some woman must find so attractive about him.”
“I had not really
paid attention, Mrs. Sullivan.”
The ‘I don’t need a woman clingin’ on me’ attitude he projects.
Yet he has a certain boyish shyness around women, an easy embarrassment
over innuendos and matters of the heart.”
“You picked up on
all that just from a brief meeting at the train station?”
“Well, Mr. Curry
might have told me a little about him.”
Finch gave a knowing nod. “Women
always want what they can’t have,” he commented.
“And the challenge,” he added.
She raised her eyebrows.
“The challenge,” he explained, “of conquest.”
“I thought the ‘challenge of conquest’ was what men enjoyed,” she
“Oh, you ladies have your ways. You,
too, want the challenge of the hunt, the conquest of the untamable beast, the
wild stallion no one can break except you, the muzzled dog who responds only to
your voice, the ring through the bull’s nose.”
“You make him sound like an animal, Mr. Finch.
It’s almost frightening.”
“And exciting. Admit it.
Jared Stone is a challenge. He
is wild and he is a loner, and that threatens your sense of security.
You want to subdue him, subjugate him to your will.”
“I never thought about it like that, Mr. Finch.
I was thinking I’d prefer him to subdue me! But I will certainly give it some thought, and I’ll be sure
to let you know.” She abruptly
turned to leave, and Finch
stared after her as she walked towards the restaurant.
Restaurant was the place for meeting the townspeople of Silver City.
new editor caught up with Mayor Smith waiting for a table, and she spoke as she
got in line behind him.
Sullivan!” he said, loud and
friendly. “I do hope you will
join me for lunch.”
am afraid I shall not be able to, Mayor. I
have another appointment, but I do want to schedule your interview.”
mayor beamed from ear to ear. “Any
time most convenient for you, of course. Ah,
will my interview be on the front page?”
sir, that depends upon many factors. Let’s
get together soon. You may come to
the newspaper office this afternoon, if your schedule permits.”
do believe it will,” he said.
what do you know about the Marshal?”
a whole lot. He’s been the U.S.
Marshal stationed in this territory for the past ten years.
Trouble’s made him what he is today.
He used to be quite the brawler, so I hear.”
Smith leaned nearer to Mrs. Sullivan and spoke in a low voice.
killed a man once. He was tried and
served time in a state penitentiary. I
think he was in for three years. I
guess that’s when he lost his woman. Sorry,
but I don’t know any of the details, just bits and pieces.
I don’t know if she ran off or if she died.”
can’t imagine a woman running off from Jared Stone,” Mrs. Sullivan softly
runs away from Stone if he wants to find them, that’s for sure.”
Smith,” she continued with a smile. “I
have often wondered why any man in his right mind would want to be a mayor.”
beg your pardon?”
the mayor gets blamed for everything that goes wrong in town.
He’s unfairly criticized at every opportunity, often the victim of
untrue rumors, and his private life is unfairly scrutinized.”
my, Mrs. Sullivan. What an astute
besides power, prestige and the chance to acquire a vast fortune with very
little physical labor, why would anyone want to be mayor?”
mayor raised his eyebrows in surprise, and Mrs. Sullivan hurriedly admitted,
“I am only jesting, Mayor.”
knew that,” he replied.
“The Silver City Sentinel will cover all seven deadly sins, I
assure you. Greed in the business
section, sloth in the unemployment section, gluttony in restaurant reviews, and
lust in the news of barroom brawls. Envy
will be found in the gossip column and pride in the birth announcements.
And I am sure the letters to the editor shall be full of wrath.”
smiled sweetly at him, but behind him, through the window,
she noticed Stone walking towards his office.
She cut the mayor off before he could say a word, as politely as she
mayor looked after the new editor as she walked away without waiting for a
fool woman writer,” he said under his breath, to no one in particular.
was sweeping up the jail cells when his broom swept debris directly onto the
shoes of a lady. He looked up,
startled that she had come up on him so quietly.
I apologize. I sure didn’t mean
to get dirt on you.”
Sullivan smiled sweetly at the youth. “That’s
quite all right,” she said. “I
stepped right in your way.”
the marshal’s upstairs right now, but I can go get him.”
all right,” she said, smiling at him once again. She started toward the stairs.
“I’ll just go up . . .”
ma’am! You can’t do that,”
Chipper quickly told her, nearly in a panic.
“I mean, that’s the marshal’s private quarters.
He don’t like anyone to go up there, ‘specially not a lady.”
I can understand that,” she replied. “You
are Chipper Dunn aren’t you?”
ma’am. And you’re that lady
grinned, one side of her mouth turning up more than the other.
do you know about Larimer Finch, Chipper?”
caught him off guard. He’d been
sure she was going to ask about Jared Stone.
“All I know is,” Chipper answered, “that
he’s got a room he rents off of Miss Luci, and some god-awful smells come
nodded, and when Chipper failed to continue, she searched for something to say.
“This town seems to roll up the sidewalks in the early evening.”
for Miss Luci’s. That place just
starts rolling at midnight.”
do you know?”
. . .,” he drawled tentatively. “I’ve
pretty ladies over at the Velvet Cushion can be very distracting.”
Chipper smiled broadly. “Don’t
I know it!” he agreed. He was
just beginning to warm up and get talky when they heard footsteps coming down
the stairs announcing the marshal’s return to the jailhouse.
stopped when he saw the editor.
Sullivan, I see you’ve already met Chipper.”
Mr. Stone. We were just finishing a
was skilled enough in social intercourse to realize that he had just been
summarily dismissed, but Stone motioned for him to stay.
up your sweepin’, son,” he told him. Then he motioned to one of the chairs
on the other side of his desk. “You’re
welcome to sit a while, ma’am, but I do have some paperwork to complete for
Mr. Finch and Miss Owens.”
Mrs. Sullivan took the proffered chair.
She dug around in her reticule until she found a stubby pencil and a
small leather-clad notebook. “I
have already had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Finch, and Charles, I mean, Mr.
Curry, told me Katie Owens runs her late father’s mortuary.”
“Funeral parlor,” Stone corrected.
“I beg your pardon?” she asked.
“Around here, we prefer call it a funeral parlor.
Mortuary sounds so . . . well . . .”
“Deathly?” she ventured, and he nodded.
“So you three work together as peacekeepers?”
“Peacemakers, ma’am. There’s
a subtle difference.”
“And, Mr. Stone, what exactly is the subtle difference between a
peacekeeper and a peacemaker?”
“Laws don’t carry themselves out, Mrs. Sullivan.
There has to be enforcement. A
peacekeeper maintains what’s already there.
A peacemaker develops what’s needed on the spur of the moment.”
“Now that is fascinating, Mr. Stone,” she said, truly impressed.
“What are some of the steps that you take to make the peace?”
“Well, Mrs. Sullivan, right now, we’re building evidence for some of
“Building evidence?” she inquired.
Finch spoke from the
open doorway, as he slipped sideways around Chipper’s sweepings.
“I don’t want my honesty or trustworthiness called into question.
Controversial conclusions need strong proof.”
He stood beside the other chair in front of Stone’s desk, waiting to be
invited to sit. Stone just looked
at him, so Finch took off his hat and held it in his hands.
He continued, “Mrs. Sullivan, the more surprising, arguable or obscure
the claim, the better the evidence must be built. Evidence must be reliable and relevant to the issue at
Mrs. Sullivan looked up at him. “Not
everyone might agree with such a self-evident statement.”
looked at Stone and asked, “May I please be seated?”
“I rather you
wouldn’t,” Stone said under his breath, but aloud, he said, “I guess.”
Finch seated himself
and then continued, leaning toward Mrs. Sullivan.
“I beg to differ, my dear Madame.
The boldest assertion can be dead wrong.”
Mrs. Sullivan looked
Finch straight in the eye, and Stone got the feeling neither one of them
remembered he was there. “These
calculations you come up with, Mr. Finch, are highly sensitive to variations in
value. Why are your results any
more trustworthy than, say, the local sheriff’s over in Yellow Dog?”
shot up. “I know him.”
They both looked at
him, and Finch asked, “Whatever are you talking about, Marshal?”
“Sheriff Moore in
Yellow Dog. He’s a fine
Sullivan laughed. “I was just
using that as an example. I
didn’t know there really was a sheriff in Yellow Dog.
I just saw the name of that town on the map at the train depot and it
caught my attention.”
Finch cleared his
throat. “If I may continue, you
must weigh the probability that the claim is true.
The evidence should directly affect that probability.
All our work is for nothing if no one believes it.
We can’t use weak evidence against a suspect.
The judge would not trust us, and it would harm our reputation as
“Peacemakers,” Mrs. Sullivan corrected, and Stone nodded his
Finch asked, “just what is the difference between peacekeeping and
Mrs. Sullivan smiled, and Stone laughed.
“Funny you should ask, Finch.” Stone
stared directly at him. “Well, I
reckon it’s the difference between sittin’ around and actually goin’ out
and doin’ something. You see, I
can sit here in my nice comfortable office and keep peace, or I can go out into
the streets, actually confront people, and I can make peace.
Words are fine and dandy, but sometimes you gotta put feet on your
Sullivan asked, “And just what cases are you presently working on?”
no-nonsense blue eyes narrowed in a way that made it clear he wasn’t about to
trust a stranger, no matter how charming.
“That’s privileged information, Mrs. Sullivan,” he answered and
then looked over at Finch. “And don’t you go tellin’ her anything, Finch.”
The marshal stood up. “I
apologize for cuttin’ this conversation short, but I’ve really got a lot of
paperwork to do.” He pointed to a large pile of wanted posters and other papers
on his desk.
Sullivan rose, notebook and pencil still in her hand, and Finch stood up.
Finch said. “I really must take
my leave as well. Good day, Mrs.
Sullivan,” he said as he put his hat back on.
day, sir,” she replied as he hurried toward the door, and Lou started to
follow him out..
Stone yelled gruffly at him.
he answered as he turned around, bringing Lou to an abrupt halt.
day,” the marshal sweetly said with a mischievous grin.
smiled. “Good day, Marshal.”
Mr. Finch,” Mrs. Sullivan said, still in the doorway. “How about stopping by my office for an interview?”
don’t give interviews,” Finch replied.
“Your reporter, Parker, knows that full well.”
Stone interjected, “is just afraid you’ll ask him a question he can’t
answer. He hates that,” he said
with a sly grin.
she said, “the biggest fool can ask more than the wisest man can answer.
What time,” Mrs. Sullivan then asked Stone, “would be most convenient
for you to come for the interview?”
interview? Finch just said he’s
not giving you one.”
interview, Mr. Stone. For the Silver
you. People love a human-interest
story. I believe your story would
be extremely interesting.”
don’t have a story.”
you do. Everyone has a story.
My Uncle Artie said everybody has at least one good novel inside of them,
even if it’s simply the story of their life.
grumbled and mumbled, “When hell freezes over might be about right.”
jotted notes quickly in scribbles, and Stone watched her with a fearful
expression on his face.
not writin’ that down, are you?” he questioned in sudden horror that his
words might make the front page of the next day’s newspaper.
of course not,” she replied, turning the notebook towards him so he could see
her unintelligible scribbles. It
was far enough away that he could see it without his glasses, but it looked like
can you read that?”
a ‘short’ hand. Just between
you and me, sometimes I can’t read it.”
She winked at him.
I wish you wouldn’t do that.”
Wink. Ladies don’t wink.
‘Specially not at men. It’s
. . .” he paused, searching for the right word.
he finished. “I also wish you
wouldn’t finish my sentences. It’s
almost like I don’t talk fast enough for you.”
Being a Yankee and all, I am used to a faster pace of speech.”
a Yankee, too,” he said without a smile.
you have the trace of a southern accent. One
of the Carolinas?”
I stayed there a while after the war.”
made a point of looking at her notes again.
print any of that. This is not an
course not, Marshal Stone. Is that
‘Jared’ with an ‘e’ or an ‘o’?” she asked.
‘a’,” he quipped.
Mrs. Sullivan was leaving, she nearly bumped into a very tall, particularly
darkly handsome middle-aged man coming into the marshal’s office.
Stone introduced her to him.
“Mrs. Sullivan, this is Doc Ramsey,” Stone
Ramsey,” the man elaborated in a deep voice as he tipped his hat to her.
“Not a physician of the qualifications of Doc Gates, however.
I am a surgeon, a noticeably less-exalted profession than general
practitioner. I received my
training during the war years. I am
mostly retired, nowadays.”
was afraid the doctor was going to tell her his entire life story as they stood
in the doorway, but Ramsey was a good man.
He and Stone had occasionally shared war stories over a drink in the
evenings. Doc had seen more men die
under his hands during the war than he’d thought possible.
Sometimes it showed on his face, especially in his deep brown eyes, when
he became silent in his own dark thoughts.
The civil war had been more costly than at first believed, not only in
lives lost but in lives changed.
continued, “Mrs. Sullivan is the new editor of the Sentinel, but she
was just leaving, I’m sorry to say.”
regrets, ma’am, that I did not have more time to make your acquaintance.
I am sure we shall see more of each other at a later date.”
rolled his eyes. Doc Ramsey usually
didn’t talk in such a high-falootin’ manner.
watched the lady leave, giving her a lingering look, and then he eased his tall
frame down into a chair without being invited.
He was a large man, big boned but not obese. He towered over most men but especially the marshal, who was
built solid and stocky.
lady,” he said under his breath, then he realized Stone was staring at him.
you wanted to see me about something, Jared,” he stated.
leg’s killin’ me, Doc. You got
some of that stinkin’ liniment I can rub on my knee?”
Try this,” the doctor said. He
handed him a small, dark blue glass jar with a white lid.
ever heard of a lichen that grows on old bones, skulls and the like?
It’s known as a cure for the fulling sickness and a healing salve for
“That’s not what this is, is it?” Stone fearfully asked.
“Oh, no. That particular concoction is rare and quite expensive.
I usually don’t recommend herbal remedies, but this oil of emu is good
for muscle aches.”
oil?” Marshal Stone repeated, and the doctor nodded. “Where’s it from?”
The emu is a type of large bird.”
mean, where’s it from on the emu?” the marshal asked with a wry grin.
doctor laughed. “I never asked.
We probably don’t want to know.”
Stone joined him in laughter, but Ramsey stopped first.
Stone noticed the sullen look in Ramsey’s eyes.
nodded, knowing he referred to the battle in Sharpsburg, Maryland, where Maj.
Gen. George B. McClellan confronted Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.
16 through the 18th, 1862. The
anniversary is coming up soon,” Ramsey explained.
“General Lee was outnumbered two to one, but he committed his entire
force. McClellan sent in less than
three-quarters of his army.”
the Confederates fought the Federals to a standstill,” Stone remembered.
“It was a strategic victory for the Union.”
gave a wry grin. “And September
17th was the single bloodiest day in military history.” He suddenly seemed to snap out of his reverie.
“I keep an eye on the calendar ever since the War.
Historic dates, you know, dates of important battles or skirmishes,
generate strong emotions for some people. Sometimes
it’s related to crime.”
didn’t know that,” Stone said with a smile, “but I’ll bet Finch does.”
the way, Marshal, do you find the full moon affects criminal activity?”
That’s an old wives’ tale. But
Doc Gates can attest to the fact that it affect babies bein’ born.”
physician laughed. “That, my
friend, is just an old husbands’ tale.”
Lou left the marshal’s office, she met Luci, the proprietor of the Velvet
Cushion, at the corner leading to the newspaper office.
Although most of the other ladies avoided contact with Miss Prescott, Lou
could not bring herself to act that way. She
knew that pain and self-destruction came with promiscuity.
She was certain Luci had heard enough about how shameful passions and
unclean lusts dishonor the body, both from righteous church-goers and the
snobbish ladies society. The very
gentlemen desiring their evening companionship shunned them in the daylight
smiled and stopped beside her, holding out her hand in greeting.
“Oh, good day! I am Mrs. Lougenia Sullivan, Editor of the Sentinel,
but you can just call me Lou, Miss . . .,” Lou paused to allow her to
But you call me Luci, please,” she said, and she took the proffered
hand hesitantly. “You probably
don’t want a lot of folk noticin’ us talkin’.”
Luci looked around to see how many people were around.
do not care about things like that,” Lou said.
voice dropped. “You any kin to
the C. Louis Sullivan who writes those dime western novels?”
a matter of fact, I am one and the same, but don’t tell anyone.
People wouldn’t read them if they knew a woman wrote them.”
make ‘em any worse in my mind,” Luci said.
you care to come to my office and have a cup of tea? I was just going to fix some for myself and it’s lonely
drinking alone. I guess that’s a
not sure what a redundancy is,” Luci commented. “But I do know about drinkin’ alone bein’ lonely.”
She smiled at her little joke. “I
reckon I can’t stay long enough for a cup of tea, though,” she said as she
followed Lou to her office.
inside, Luci took a seat at the small table in the back room where Lou was
didn’t you get a room at the hotel?” she asked Lou.
Lou smiled. “I am not at all sure
I’ll be staying here in Silver City. I
did not wish to infringe on my friendship with Mr. Curry by incurring
unnecessary expenses. The city
appears a little rough around the edges.”
“It’s no Denver, that’s for sure.
Silver City started out as a godforsaken mining camp.
Since then it’s become at least some respectable, in some
“It looks like this is a town where people come to start over, make a
clean break with the past, make a fresh start.”
“Appears to be. People’s
still prejudiced about women like me, but I’ve been treated worse.”
“I see,” Lou said. “Though
somewhat prejudiced concerning gender, race, or age, people feel free to live an
unpopular lifestyle should they decide to.”
“Guess you could say that. Lou,
do you think you’ll find what you need here in Silver City?”
“I trust God to supply my needs. I’ve
learned that most of the time, I don’t need half as much as what I thought I
saw you leavin’ Jared’s office with a big smile on your face.”
Stone,” Lou repeated, a little surprised at the familiarity at which Luci
addressed the man.
laughed. “You almost look jealous
at me callin’ him by his given name,” she commented.
“You’re the one who was smilin’ like a possum eatin’, well, you
corner of Lou’s mouth turned up in a smile.
“He’s one of the most handsome men I’ve ever seen.
Of course, I haven’t seen all of them.”
laughed again, harder this time. “I’ll
have to remember that one,” she said.
isn’t he married?” Lou asked, trying to sound casual and nonchalant about
the whole subject but knowing she failed miserably.
marshal? Honey, he’s a serious
catch. Ladies been tryin’ for the
last ten years he’s been in Silver City to snap him up, me included.
Why, that kind of man should have no trouble findin’ a wife.”
he doesn’t want one,” Lou commented, and then asked, “Is he playing hard
to get or is he broken hearted?”
know, I ain’t sure. What do you
looks broken hearted to me, sad all the time, hardly ever smiles.
I could make up a story about it, but I bet his real story is better than
any I could invent.”
got a real talent for storytellin’. Remember,
I’ve read most of your dime novels. Maybe you and the marshal can work out a love story.”
She broadly winked. “I’d
doubt that, but I would like to interview him.” She noted the other’s knowing wink and wondered if Marshal
Stone minded it when Luci winked at him. “For
my newspaper,” Lou explained.
days later, Lou watched from just outside her newspaper office as Marshal Stone
met a young lady across the street.
home, Katie,” the marshal called to the beautiful blue-eyed blonde.
Katie gave Stone a huge smile and rushed into his
arms for a quick embrace and a peck on his cheek.
Lou felt such a terrible stab of jealousy that it surprised her.
never seen the marshal so happy, not even when she’d peeked in through the
saloon window and seen him flirting with Luci.
And that jealousy had been miniscule in comparison.
This was definitely a lady he was holding in his arms, and she was
definitely enjoying his embrace. Lord,
she was pretty. And young.
And shapely. And small – a
petite girl a head shorter than him.
thoughts ran rampant. Of course,
any man would be attracted to such a beauty, such youthful enthusiasm.
walked into her office, sat down, took a big deep breath and tried to compose
herself. As she looked out her
window, the marshal and Katie were walking on the other side of the street, arm
in arm, conversing rapidly with bright smiles on their faces.
And she remembered wanting that kind of happiness with Cade Sullivan.
That’s when she started crying. She
had made it two whole days without crying over Cade.
bayonets!” came the shout, and the clashing sound of metal to metal was heard.
Then the thundering rush of men ran towards the captain with yells and
screams, and finally he gave the command, “Charge!”
uproar was earsplitting as the line of men cut a bloody swath before them.
A soldier in gray rags plunged straight towards him with eyes wide and
wild, his own bayonet drawn, and he took a deep breath as the ghostly apparition
ran right through him!
The former captain
awoke in a panic, confronted by his own mortality in the nightmare.
sat straight up in bed, eyes open but unseeing. His breath came as hard and fast as though he’d been
running, and the sweat poured off his face in droplets.
eyes tried to focus on a shadowy figure before him. He sighed in relief as he realized it was not the ghost
soldier again. “Doc? Is that
you?” he called out, but there was no answer.
“Ramsey?” The shadow
drew closer to his bed and its left arm raised in greeting.
is it?” he asked. “Who are
you?” Then his eyes widened in
recognition. “Oh, it’s you. I thought you had already gone.”
the shadow stood directly over him, the arm came down and he fell backwards by
the force of the blow to his head. His
skull made a loud cracking sound at the impact, and his legs jerked once, then
moved no more.
Lou Sullivan knocked on the hotel clerk’s counter, not bothering to use
the bell. Getting his attention, she calmly said, “The man in 2C is
“How do you know?” the clerk asked.
“I went up to his room when he failed to meet me for breakfast.
After knocking on his door, I tried it and it was unlocked. He is dead in his bed.”
The clerk ran upstairs to find gawkers already in the doorway to room 2C.
“Telephone the marshal!” the clerk yelled to anyone who would listen.
“Boy, run and get Jared Stone,” another man said.
“It’s quicker than finding a phone and answering Sarah’s
questions,” he explained.
“Who is Sarah?” Lou asked. Simultaneously,
she managed to push past this man who was blocking her way back into the dead
“Our telephone exchange operator,” he explained.
“She’s a little on the nosy side.”
Now the hotel clerk pushed past the onlookers and ordered them to stand
back. Lou was already inside the
room as the clerk blocked the door. He
managed to get it shut so he could block the others’ view of the dead man.
“I’ve heard a good deal about the marshal’s crime solving
techniques,” Lou commented, and the clerk jumped, not realizing there was
another person in the room.
He turned and leaned his back against the door.
“Ma’am,” he said and gave her a nod.
“People pretty much do what Stone says.”
The clerk took a step away from the door, pretty much ignoring the fact
that he, a married man, was in a bedroom alone with a widow woman.
He craned his neck to look at the corpse. “Law abidin’ folk, that is,” he continued as he took a
step toward the bed. “The
marshal’s got a good way with people.”
Just then the door swung open and Katie Owens rushed into the room,
shutting the door again behind her. “That’s
almost a mob,” she said. “Oh,
hello again, Mrs. Sullivan.”
“Lou, please, Katie. I
thought we agreed to use first names.” Katie
nodded in agreement.
had met Katie the previous day, when they had exchanged only a few pleasantries
before realizing they were kindred spirits. Lou had finally asked her what she
had learned from the mortuary business.
had looked Lou straight in the eye and replied, “One cannot always tell a
gentleman from his attire.”
had brought a smile to Lou’s face, so when Katie asked Lou what she had
learned from the newspaper business, she replied, “The Equine Paradox – the
fact that there are far fewer horses than there are horses’ asses.”
then, Marshal Stone arrived, and people courteously made way for him and
Detective Finch just behind him. The
marshal easily got rid of the clerk by making him responsible to clear the
hallway of onlookers. The clerk
eagerly left to perform this important assignment as Katie and Finch walked over
to the bed to look at the remains.
Katie went about the work of a mortician with the matter-of-fact attitude
of a shopkeeper. But before she
could move the body, Finch stopped her as he looked closely at the dead man’s balding head and
saw blood and bruising.
More carefully, he studied the head wound.
The bruising appeared to be in an oddly shaped, pointed triangular
“This man,” Finch said, “is registered as Mr. Silas Andrews, a
“Yeah, Finch,” Stone said. “We
already know that. He comes to town
on business about once a month.”
pulled a pair of small scissors out of his pocket and snipped off a piece of the
man’s nightshirt at his neckline, a piece with a food splatter on it . . . or
a bloodstain. Then, with a tape, he
took measurements of the room, drawing a rough floor plan of every piece of
furniture and every opening – doors and windows.
Stone watched him out of the corner of his eye, trying not to show his
curiosity, but when Finch looked at him, he couldn’t help but notice.
“The odds and ends have their own little secrets,” Finch explained as
he gently moved Stone out of his way and continued his measurements.
Finch had placed the marshal next to Mrs. Sullivan, who was furiously
Stone’s attention was now on her.
“Ma’am, you should not be in here.
This is a crime scene, not a breaking news story.”
He moved as if to gently escort her out the door.
“But, Marshal Stone,” she told him, pulling away from his touch.
“I am a witness. After
all, I discovered the body. Don’t
you want my testimony?”
Stone sighed deeply. “Not
unless you committed the crime,” he said, half under his breath.
“Ma’am, you should not be watchin’ this.”
“Oh, let her stay, Marshal,” Finch called over his shoulder.
“I do not mind her being here, and perhaps it is best for the lady
reporter to see our techniques in person in order to better prepare her article
on the new forensics. She might use
this time as part of our interview.”
Stone looked surprised. Under
his breath he said, “I thought you didn’t give interviews.”
Finch heard him but ignored his comment.
He went back to the body and began a careful examination.
“Thank you, Detective Finch,” she told him.
Looking at Stone she said, “I promise not to touch anything, and I
promise not to faint . . . or gag,” she added with a smile.
Stone gave her a hard look. There
was no way she could have known that he sometimes had that very problem – the
gagging, not the fainting – yet he felt his face flush anyway.
She dropped her intense gaze at Stone when she noticed him blush.
“Scientists, I have found,” she commented, to change the subject,
“tend to ignore evidence that does not fit their standard theory.
I certainly hope, Mr. Finch, that your detective forensics does not do
spoke as he worked. “Something
tangible always remains to exhibit the peculiar style of workmanship belonging
to the criminal. The uninitiated,
Mrs. Sullivan, would be surprised to learn just how many traits of character can
be picked up by careful study of the minute points presented for inspection.
There are many indices of habit and vocation.
I have cultivated thoroughness even down to details and trifles that
might at first view appear utterly insignificant.”
plucked at a few very short, loose hairs below the dead man’s waistline and
placed it inside a small envelope.
editor looked at him with wonderment at both his efficiency and his vocabulary.
“You’re a regular Sherlock Holmes,” she said.
that?” Stone asked.
character in a novel,” Finch inserted. “By
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. An
Stone said. “I thought maybe it
was another detective on his way here. Guess
I’m not as well read in fiction as you are.
Spend most of my time readin’ law enforcement magazines.”
to Stone’s dismay, Finch continued prattling on about nothing as the editor
took copious notes. Stone tried to
keep his eyes from crossing as he droned on and on.
Just how long could the man talk without taking a breath?
“Finch?” Katie asked. “What
did the murderer leave behind at the scene of the crime?”
Stone perked up at that.
“No murder weapon, not that I can find.
I have tried to match up the marking I found on Mr. Andrews’ head to
several blunt objects present in the room, to no avail.
I have traced a drawing of the markings, to scale.”
Finch took a deep breath before continuing. “Some hairs from the victim’s . . . ah, . . . pubic
region . . . were not his own. He
is dark haired and these are red. I
will be analyzing samples to verify what I believe transpired in the last hours
before his murder.”
Stone was worldly wise and knew exactly what Finch was referring to.
Mr. Andrews must have been with a woman prior to his death.
Stone glanced out of the corner of his eye at the wavy and thick mahogany
hair that Mrs. Sullivan wore pulled back into a bun, a most becoming hairstyle
for her facial features, he could not help but think.
Seeing his sidelong look and being worldly wise herself, Lou quickly
said, “Not only would I never do such a thing with a man not my husband,
Marshal, but I am not a natural redhead.”
He raised his eyebrows, and realizing he now knew much more than he had
wanted to know about the lady, he again blushed.
He tried to get the image out of his mind, which only served to stir his
curiosity more and more. He was
sure his face showed how uncomfortable this made him.
“I have found this,” Finch said as he held up a broken piece of
feather. “Unusual looking, is it
not?” he commented as he turned it in his hand.
“Perhaps from a rare bird?”
Katie spoke authoritatively.
commented, “There are no birds like that around here!”
in a lady’s hat, silly,” Katie explained.
said to no one, “This feather is sufficiently important to invite closer
Stone dryly replied. “Well, you
go follow up, Finch.”
shall give this investigation my fullest personal attention,” the detective
circumspect is going on,” Lou said.
foolin’,” Stone agreed.
I found this by the bedside,” Finch said as he held up a white glass jar with
a blue lid. “A prescription bottle of emu oil, prescribed by Doctor
Patrick Michael Ramsey.”
took all this information in as he helped Finch put the deceased on a stretcher
to take him to Owen’s mortuary.
Stone had questioned the hotel clerk.
Silas Andrews had arrived the previous day from Denver, on his monthly
business trip to Silver City.
“He had a clean reputation,” the clerk told him.
“Mr. Andrews had been a major in the war, well-decorated for
“Which side?” Stone asked.
“Why, Union, of course,” the clerk replied as if that were the only
side there had been. “We all know Silas Andrews served in the Union during the
War. He never stopped reminding us
of his heroism at every opportunity.”
Half under his breath, Stone muttered, “Too bad a man who accomplished
such great things hasn’t done much since.”
“Well,” the clerk said. “He
has his business in Denver.”
“And that is?”
Now he stood at the bar sipping on a beer and impatiently waiting for
Katie Owens and Latimer Finch to complete their autopsy.
“What are you thinking, Marshal?” Luci suddenly asked him from behind
“Humm?” was Stone’s only reply.
He looked at her but she could tell his mind was a thousand miles away.
“Oh, never mind.”
Mayor Smith looked up from his poker game.
“Marshal,” he called. “Why
don’t you join us at a table?”
thanks. I like standin’ at this
end of the bar where I can watch everybody.”
don’t you just give us all a lesson in crime solving, marshal,” the mayor
continued, playing up to his poker playing buddies. “Surely a simple murder like this isn’t hard for a smart
man like yourself to solve.”
is never simple, mayor.”
“You do plan to apprehend the perpetrator, Marshal, sometime in the
Stone set his mouth in a stern straight line and did not honor the
question with an answer, and the mayor just shook his head and returned his
attention to his game.
“Motive,” Luci said to him in a soft and low voice.
“That’s whatcha gotta discover.”
Stone looked at her again, this time more in focus.
“You been listenin’ to Finch too long.”
“Yeah, maybe so.”
“Who wanted him dead?” Stone asked, more to himself than to anyone in
Luci smiled at the handsome lawman.
“Now whatcha thinkin’, Jared?”
“Oh, nothin’ much. Just
maybe one of those odds and ends Finch keeps talkin’ about.”
this new-fangled technology and inventions,” Luci complained, “why,
they’re makin’ us change our attitudes, whether we want to or not.
I’m not sure what’s comin’ of the world.”
nodded his head in agreement. “Luci,
I’m not sure I want to know.”
Stone sat at his desk in his office reading the latest edition of The Silver
Sullivan entered the marshal’s office and he dropped the paper and rose to his
he said, “I was just thinkin’ about you.” He took off his reading glasses so he could see her better.
things, I hope,” she replied with a smile that just about melted his heart.
In her eyes was a neediness for something stable, someone secure to hang
on to, and he knew he could never satisfy such a longing.
Or maybe he was just reading something into her expression that wasn’t
really there. He cleared his throat
and asked her to have a seat.
was readin’ your article,” he said as he sat down again, glad his desk was
between the two of them. “You
know, law enforcement’s been changin’ for years now.
Used to be the law dealt out justice right then and there.
Didn’t have to haul ‘em in and keep ‘em in jail till they could be
tried. Why, I remember one time in
Tombstone a couple cowpokes got caught cheatin’ at cards.
The Federal Marshal hauled the two into the back room and made one of
‘em sit with his hands splayed out on a table.
Then one of the deputies took a big hammer and pulverized his hands.
paused for effect, to allow this image to sink in. “My guess is,” he continued, “that cowboy’s cheatin’
days ended right then and there.”
the other fellow’s cheatin’ days, as well,” she added, and he gave a quick
“Been meanin’ to ask you about your article, Mrs. Sullivan.” Stone
had turned suddenly serious as he put his glasses back on to read from it.
you know,” he said as he looked up at her, “it goes on with more
speculation, in particular about ostriches and emus.
I know where you heard about the birds, but I was just wonderin’ where
you got the other information, you know, about how this murder might be tied to
never reveal my sources. It could
them or for you?”
gave him a grim look as he grinned at her and said, “As my Uncle Artie used to
say, a closed mouth gathers no foot.”
“You know, ma’am, I always heard that lettin' the cat outta the
bag is a whole lot easier 'n puttin' it back in.”
“In this case, I’m letting a bird out of the bag.”
“Ma’am, I just tryin’ to tell
you why you can’t print information about all the clues we’ve found and the
leads we’re investigatin’.”
with all due respect, this is what it means to have freedom of the press.
No one, not even a representative of the law, has the right to tell me
what I can and cannot print in the newspaper.”
he grabbed the paper and wadded it in his hand, “can compromise the murder
investigation. I need to know if
someone else in town has information about the murder.”
will not reveal my source, Mr. Stone. I
“So am I, Mrs. Sullivan. The
last lawman in Silver City relied on the occasional beatin’ to loosen
“Are you threatening me, sir?”
“No, ma’am. But the
“I realize that in many places in our present times, it is legally
and socially acceptable for a man to beat his wife, provided that the instrument
used in the beating is no thicker than his thumb.
Thus we get the term ‘rule of thumb’.
That obviously does not apply in our case, sir.”
“And obviously never will,” Stone angrily replied.
The chagrined look on her face made him lighten up.
“Mrs. Sullivan, you ever seen a mule dig his heels in so he can’t be
budged?” Stone laughed. “You
sure your name ain’t Jenny?”
gave a huff and stood up. Her lips
compressed into a thin straight line and her nostrils flared.
There was fire in her eyes as she looked at him.
are a pain in my posterior,” she said, and now Stone had a strained look on
his face. She turned and stomped
out the door, leaving Stone to wonder why she had come into his office in the
“There's two theories to arguin' with a woman, and neither one of
‘em works,” he
grumped to himself.
The Velvet Cushion was the evening resort of both working class and the
finer gentlemen in the new city. It
often amused Stone to think that the men who use the services of these ‘dirty
whores’ still considered themselves upright citizens.
Luci Prescott ran
the bawdy house in town. She could
be brash and brassy, and her loud voice carried far and wide inside the saloon.
She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, and you didn’t want to get on
the wrong side of her.
Stone walked into the Velvet Cushion, his eyes searching for Luci.
He didn’t see her and thought she might be upstairs with one of her
special customers when a sultry voice from behind startled him.
“Lookin’ for a good time, Marshal?”
Luci’s voice was deeply passionate.
“Jeez, Luce! Don’t do
that!” he teased. “Sneakin’
up on a man with a gun is just plain crazy.”
She smiled at him. She had
disarmed many a gentleman with that dazzling smile, but she couldn’t seem to
melt this heart of Stone. She
smiled even more at her private play on words.
“Actually, I was lookin’ for you,” he told her.
“Same thing as lookin’ for a good time,” she countered, and he
clenched his jaw, one side of his lips going up, the other side going down.
He sure was cute, Luci thought, especially when he got embarrassed.
He was easy enough to frazzle, but it didn’t take him long to become
all business again.
“I mean,” he quickly corrected, “that I need to ask you about a man
who was in here sometime last week.”
“That man that got killed?” she asked and Stone nodded.
“Ask that new
woman in town,” she confided in the marshal.
“The one who’s
runnin’ the newspaper?”
“No, not Lou,
although he did mention he’d have to leave the Velvet Cushion early, as he was
meeting Mrs. Sullivan for a breakfast interview.
But then he winked.”
Winked and mentioned how he was meeting up that very evening with the new
woman in town.”
Hesler. You know, the dressmaker.
Si, I mean Mr. Andrews, was braggin’ on how they’d met in Denver and
had a good time together. You know about havin’ good times, Jared?”
He shyly nodded and
she continued, “She’s a lusty sort.”
“Mrs. Hesler seems
prim and proper to me.”
laughed. “Not the dressmaker.
Lou Sullivan, the editor.”
Stone had a
surprised looked on his face. “What
makes you think that, Luce?”
ain’t been payin’ attention to when she looks at you.
You ever get in that woman’s bed and you’ll never be no good for
anyone else ever again.”
His face turned beet
red. Luci loved embarrassing the
marshal. He was as shy as a boy on
his very first visit to a whorehouse. She
softly drew her fingers across his cheek.
“Jared, when you
comin’ to visit me again? You
know I won’t never charge you anything.”
The marshal looked
down at his feet and swallowed hard.
“Maybe some other
time, Luce,” he softly answered, looking around to make sure no one was
listening. “I’ve gotta check
out our new arrivals in town first. Make
‘em welcome, you know.”
wickedly. “I know, honey.”
Luci always made him
nervous because she had no qualms about speaking out about the taboo subject of
sex. He made his getaway out of the
saloon before she could embarrass him again.
And walked directly
into an excited Katie Owens.
“Oh, Marshal! Chipper told
me you were here. I’m kinda glad
I didn’t have to go inside to look for you.
Listen! We just found a man
in his bedroom, leaned over headfirst in the washstand, drowned in his own
washbasin, water splashed everywhere.”
“Old man Edwards,
outside of town on the main road.”
Stone tried to
ignore how Katie called Mr. Edwards old. He
had been close to Jared’s age. “Natural
“I don’t think
so. Not many ways to accidentally
dive headfirst into a washbasin.”
The “drowned” man was stretched out on the
autopsy table of Owen’s Mortuary. Although
a sheet covered his unclothed body, Stone averted his eyes, knowing the man was
split open from neck to stern. The
marshal concentrated on some glass jars on the shelf until he realized that they
contained what looked like organs of the human body. He then looked directly at Katie.
said, “He was dead before he was in the water or the washbasin.”
can you tell that, Katie?” the marshal asked.
turned around and got a large jar with what looked like a large beef liver
floating in formaldehyde.
there is no water in his lungs,” she answered smugly. “See?”
held the jar right in the marshal’s face, and he crinkled up his nose in
distaste and turned his head.
okay. I wouldn’t know what I was
the editor of the Sentinel chimed in from the doorway.
Mrs. Sullivan walked into the room and stood between Katie and Stone.
“No water in his lungs,” she continued, “means he wasn’t
breathing when his head was in the washbasin.
So he didn’t drown after all.”
marshal scowled at her. “Don’t
you go printin’ that, Mrs. Sullivan.”
assassination in Silver City,” she replied, “is most definitely
how important,” Katie asked, “does a person have to be before they are
considered assassinated instead of murdered?
I find it difficult to think of old man Edwards as the victim of
“We are such fools
to make war on our brothers,” Lou said, as if quoting someone.
your pardon?” Stone queried, only to be interrupted by Detective Finch, also
entering the room.
have been a series of depredations,” Finch commented.
Lou asked him, “Do you think it is a conspiracy of a number of
“What would they have to gain?” Finch answered her question with one
of his own. “What purpose could these murders possibly serve?”
Stone commented, “No demands for ransom.
No blackmail attempts.”
“Revenge?” Katie asked. “Of
course, we’re looking at mass murders.”
Then she asked
Finch, “What is the typical profile of a mass murderer, Detective?”
“Not really ‘mass,’” Finch corrected her.
“That implies many all at once. This
fellow kills consecutively. Maybe
even in cycles.”
“A sequential killer?” Stone interjected.
From his serious
expression, Lou wasn’t positive if he was pulling Finch’s leg again or not,
but she thought he was.
“We’re sitting around here,” Lou said, “anxiously awaiting his
next victim just like my readers anticipate the next episode in a serial
“That’s it!” Finch loudly said.
“We have a serial killer on our hands.”
“So back to your question, Katie,” Stone said, taking control of the
conversation. “He enjoys killing, and there is probably something that
ties all these victims together.”
“Katie,” Finch asked, “did you find any bird feathers on Mr.
“Ostrich feathers,” Stone corrected.
“That is a bird,” Finch replied.
Katie just looked from one to the other and answered, “No feathers of
Mrs. Sullivan spoke up. “The
feathers found in the hotel room might be explained by Mr. Andrews’ occupation
– ostrich feathers are used on ladies’ hats, and he was in the millinery
Finch rubbed his chin. “Yes,
we did find hat boxes in his trunk. I
suppose the hats they contained were samples.”
“The latest New
York fashion,” Mrs. Sullivan added.
Finch looked at the
two women and asked, “Do hat makers use flat irons?”
“Sometimes,” Katie answered. “Momma
used to starch and iron our sunbonnets. Why?”
Finch continued, “I attempted to discover what had made the
triangular-shaped wound. It fits
the impression of an iron.”
Katie turned back to the cadaver. “That
would be heavy enough to inflict lethal damage.
Somebody must have really hated him.”
“A man hater?”
Katie laughed. “That’s
half the wives in Silver City.”
Finch cleared his throat. “We’re
talking about a male murderer from the clues he’s left us.”
“Maybe he wants to be caught,” Lou said, half to herself. Something was nagging at her but she couldn’t put her
finger on it.
“Well, then,” Katie said. “What
did the victims have in common?”
Stone beat Finch to the punch this time.
“They were both men. They
died in or near bed, seemingly after . . . uh . . .” He stumbled around for the proper term in the presence of the
“Intimate relations,” Lou interjected for him, and he nodded.
“A jealous husband?” Finch threw out.
“A jealous lover?” Lou countered.
“A woman could not do this,” Finch affirmed.
“Why not?” Lou asked.
“Too violent. A woman
would not have the strength to subdue a struggling man.
Besides, a woman would not have the stomach for murder.”
“My dear Detective Finch,” Lou said with a patronizing air.
“You have no idea just how much hatred a woman can harbor for a man.
A woman can hold grudges for years.
Sir, we are all – each one of us here in this room -- capable of
Stone looked at her in a new light and cocked his head slightly.
“Sounds like you speak from experience.”
“Maybe,” was all she said.
Katie kicked the
three of them out of her back room makeshift autopsy room, and they each went
their separate ways.
Back in his office,
Stone found an envelope on his desk. Inside
was a printed letter with the name RAMSEY at the top and a list of cities
underneath. Stone turned the letter
over in his hands. Nothing on the
back, and no indication of who had left it on his desk. Stone recognized the cities as those the doctor had recently
visited. Ramsey had told him of his
travels when Stone had inquired of his reasons for being in Silver City.
The doctor was hiding something, because he was reticent to reveal much
more than the fact that he had given up his practice to do some traveling.
yelled, and the boy came downstairs.
he said. “I was just upstairs
cleaning up some. Didn’t hear you
“Do you know who
left this envelope on my desk?”
Chipper replied. “Is it
Stone then telephoned Denver and spoke to another US Marshal about
unsolved murders with the same unusual clues, in particular the apparent
lovemaking. In the course of his
conversation, he discovered that the cities where unusual unsolved murders had
occurred matched the cities on the list. They
were the same places the doctor had recently visited.
If so, the
evidence pointing to Ramsey was very strong.
It was, at the very least, suspicious circumstances.
When he finished his call, he said goodnight as Chipper left the office.
He remained at his desk for a while, finishing up some paperwork before
calling it quits for the day. Stone
locked the office behind him as he began his walk over to the restaurant for his
He met Mrs. Sullivan on the street and tipped his hat.
she greeted him with a big smile. “I’ve
been asking around about Dr. Ramsey, about how he gave up his successful
practice as a surgeon back east and came out here to retire.
Chipper says you’ve got a different idea of what Dr. Ramsey is doing
here in Silver City, that maybe he’s involved in these serial murders.”
never ceased to amaze the marshal how quickly rumors could spread.
got a big mouth,” he told her. “He
needs to learn to keep it shut.”
what’s the real story?”
marshal leaned in close to her and whispered, “The real story is, I’m gonna
tell Chip not to talk to you any more.”
“Oh, Mr. Stone,” she chastised him as she placed her hand on his arm.
“May we go back to your office. I
could share with you some of my interview with Dr. Ramsey.”
“Your interview, ma’am?”
“Could we talk as we walk?” she asked, and he relented, trying to
ignore the grumblings in his belly.
“You see, Doctor Ramsey tells me that he is tracking the real killer,
and I believe his story.”
Back in Stone’s office, Lou continued her story.
good doctor would not give me her name, but he said she is a seemingly innocent,
demure lady. He gave me a few
details of her method of operation.”
operandi, as Finch would say,” Stone remarked.
continued, “This woman is cold and calm, with no remorse.
She is manipulative and charming. He
said he first got on her trail just after the war.
She decided to take revenge into her own hands.”
“Doc was a surgeon in the war?” Stone asked.
“Yes. He said that soldiering was not easy to get used to.
Naturally, the money was less than what he had earned in his practice in
New York City, and sometimes food was scarce.
I know that for a fact, myself. We
had to wait until the bugs floated to the top of the rice before we could eat
“Ramsey was a Union doctor?” Stone asked.
“Confederate,” Lou answered, and there was a look of surprise on
“Oh, I went through the same thing myself,” she explained. “As a northerner in the south, there were suspicions of my
loyalties, and Paddy’s as well, although the CSA often retained captured Union
surgeons for their hospitals.”
“Paddy?” Stone queried.
Lou blushed. “Oh, that’s
short for Patrick. I suppose I
allowed myself to become too intimate with Doctor Ramsey as we told each other
our war stories.”
Stone laughed. “That can
easily happen. I mean, ma’am,
that sharin’ the war years tends to make quick friendships, that’s all.”
I may continue,” she said and he waved his hand for her to go on.
“Paddy said how germs were unheard of during the War.
Men drank out of water that, thirty yards upstream, a man had relieved
himself in. Surgeons never washed their hands after an operation, because
all blood was assumed to be the same, nor did he wash his instruments.
“They amputated quickly. There
was no time to delay. They cut off
limbs that could have been saved in better days.
The wounded came through the surgeon’s tent in an endless stream of
nameless faces, and the bone saw became the weapon of saving lives. I know that for a fact, too, Marshal, because I was at a
field hospital and saw it.”
Stone sat silently, unflinchingly, lost in thought and memory.
The editor had a far away look in her eye as she reminisced.
Suddenly, a deep
voice came from the doorway: “We
are such fools to make war on our brothers.”
It was Doctor Ramsey
himself, and Stone gave Mrs. Sullivan a strange look, as she did not realize
that she had quoted the doctor once before.
“Since you are
talking about me, may I join you?” the doctor inquired.
Lou blushed as Stone
motioned for him to take the chair beside her.
“One time I treated a young soldier for a shoulder wound,” Ramsey
said, entering the conversation without hesitation.
“He was no more than a kid, and he fought me off tooth and nail until I
thought I was going to have to knock him unconscious to get his shirt off.
When he finally became too weak to fight any more, I got angry and ripped
that shirt off. Much to my
surprise, I found that the lad was really a very homely young girl.”
nodded. “I had heard rumors of
women in disguise who were caught in ranks.
But I mostly heard they had, well, ‘loose morals,’ even if they were
plain and homely.”
looked at him. “I have heard that
the origin of that name for prostitutes came from General Hooker, who apparently
kept quite the lively headquarters.”
Joe,” Stone added. “He was
insubordinate and eccentric. Grant
once described him to me as a dangerous man.
His men had a reputation for poor character and more often than not got
in lots of trouble for intoxication.”
Lou continued, “technically the etymology predates the Civil War by fifteen or
smiled at her. “Technically, I
heard that Hooker actually let his men keep prostitutes in the barracks. Whether
or not he’s responsible for the word, he certainly helped popularize it.”
Ramsey continued, “I cannot swear to her morals, but this particular girl was
strong enough to fight in the ranks and smart enough not to get caught.
That was her greatest fear: being
discovered and drummed out of the army.”
“What d’ya do, Doc?” Stone asked, genuinely interested.
“I patched her up best I could, swore my male nurses to secrecy, and
released her back to duty -- maybe a little too early -- so she wouldn’t be
found out.” He looked past the journalist and out the window.
“I never heard anything about her after that.”
He shook his head. “Don’t
know whether she lived or died. Few
bodies were looked at closely in the war. We
didn’t do autopsies, hardly had time for surgeries.
When a soldier died, he was buried in his bloody uniform, if he was
buried at all. She could be in an
unmarked grave or lying under her assumed name.”
married with grandchildren,” Lou added.
Doc agreed wholeheartedly. “One
thing I do know, Mrs. Sullivan. I
would never call that girl a hooker.”
Ramsey reached into his ever-present black bag and pulled out a brown
bottle half full of a thick liquid. He
removed the cork and took a long swig. “My
cough medicine,” he explained as he replaced the bottle.
“I never noticed
you had a cough,” Lou commented.
The medicine really works,” he said with a wide smile.
“Have you already shared your war stories with the Marshal?”
Mrs. Sullivan shook her head. “If
you wouldn’t mind, Lou, I wish you would. Perhaps he can get a feeling for what I believe our prime
suspect went through during the war.”
So Lou began.
“My father sent me to the outskirts of Atlanta where I would be safe
with my aunt and my cousins. Little
did he know he sent me into the worst of the battle.
“My cousin Lucinda was a month younger than me.
She and I helped at a field hospital.
At first, we made bandages, served food and drink.
But later on, we were needed to help with changing bandages and even . .
. “ her voice choked up. “Well,”
she said, embarrassed. “helping
clean them up. I saw more than I
wanted to and learned things I did not need to learn.
“The first time a man died while I was tending him was very difficult
for me,” she said. “I looked into that boy’s eyes and could see he’d seen
horrors he’d never tell. He
wasn’t just a soldier in blue or gray. He’d
seen innocent lives taken and he’d seen men freely give their lives for the
cause they were fighting for.
“The hardest part was looking at the last cold stare of death in those
eyes I’d grown to recognize. But
when I saw their bodies racked with pain, death became a blessed release for
many of them. Some even prayed to
die. I hope I never hurt bad enough
that I have to pray that prayer.
“Even if I was holding a soldier’s hand, he still died alone. Many of
the men could not hide their tears at the end.
And it seemed that even the strongest fellow would eventually call for
his mama. That was heart wrenching, knowing that no matter how big a
man is, how brave and daring, when it comes right down to it, there are times he
still wants his mama. Maybe it is
not right me telling you that. I do
believe it is something men do not want womenfolk to know. But it deeply touched me.”
Doctor Ramsey leaned over and reached out to Lou, briefly touching the
back of her hand with his in a comforting gesture.
“Those years deeply affected many of us. We’ve all got a lot of secrets we’ve got to keep.”
nodded. “I told a lot of lies in
the war. I have discovered in the
newspaper business that the truth is always more interesting than a lie.
But back then, I used to help the wounded soldiers write home to their
mamas and their girls. Some of them could not write because they had no hands or
arms. Some of them just plain were
not going to make it through. They
would lie up a storm, about how they were not hurt badly, and they would be home
soon because the war was nearly won. I
was the one the Captain got to write their families after they died.
The Captain would tell me how the soldier had died, what battle and all,
and I would send a letter to their folks or their wife bragging on them.
That letter was sent back home with their belongings. It was the most difficult thing I ever did.”
paused to catch her breath and her thoughts before continuing.
“July 22, 1864 was the day of the battle of Atlanta.
The road was filled with carriages, wagons, horses, all going at full
speed. The Yanks were coming!
We womenfolk tried to hide or bury everything we could, the meat, salt,
and lard and our silk dresses, china and silver, even bits of soap.
and the greater portion of his army passed right by my aunt’s house for an
entire day. The bluejackets tore
down fences and made a road to drive their stock through.
Her home was quite devastated. Those
men searched the house, drank up all the liquor, and took the money they found,
as well as any valuables.”
her. “That was plundering by
raiders. Regular army wouldn’t do
such a thing.”
Lou met his gaze.
“Whether regular army or raiders, it was looting still the same.
They broke anything in their way and took what little meat, flour, lard,
butter, and eggs we had left. They
hunted down our chickens and pigs as if they were rebels themselves! No wonder the men called them ‘damn Yankees’!”
Stone was on the defensive now. “They
took what they needed to get by,” he told her.
“The Union army was as decimated as the rebels.”
“Those soldiers took silk dresses for which they had no use.”
Lou’s voice was a little louder. “They
used them under their saddles. That
was not need -- that was contempt.”
Stone spoke slowly, overly calm as if hard pressed to control his anger.
“They weren’t regular army. You’re
talkin’ about raiders.”
“Their looting and pillaging was no way to get the south on their side.
They took food out of poor people’s mouths -- men, women, and children.
They should have had to answer for all the meat and livestock they stole.
They burned and destroyed. Once
they reached Atlanta, the night sky was orange and red from every direction with
reflections of the flames from the burning buildings.
Even though we had had no dinner or supper, our greatest fear was being
driven out homeless into the woods. God
alone saved me from the fires of Atlanta.
“Houses were burning everywhere and refugees filled the woods.
They burned the buildings around the depot, stole horses and destroyed
the railroads. They cruelly shot
men, destroyed private property and took private citizens prisoner.
“And all over
slavery,” Stone calmly said.
Lou stood up and faced the marshal.
“My father’s family never owned slaves,” Lou told him. “Besides, the war was over states’ rights – giving each
state the right to decide it’s own laws.
Sometimes I can understand why there are still hard feelings over the
‘recent unpleasantness,’ especially concerning Sherman and his men.”
“I fought alongside General Sherman,” Stone said, also rising to his
feet. “I don’t tell it to brag,
ma’am, but I had a captain’s commission in the Union army.
I was decorated a war hero by President Grant himself.”
“And you were with
Sherman on his March to the Sea?” she asked, and he nodded. “Then you were one of the bluejackets who passed by my
aunt’s home on that summer day. The
whole intention of Sherman’s march was to break the back of the Southerners to
end the war.”
“It was a military
necessity,” Stone justified.
“That was just an
excuse for a campaign of deliberate destruction.”
Lou was angrier than she remembered being for many, many years.
“There was pillage and rape.”
“I heard,” Stone
said, vainly hoping to diffuse the argument, “that there was only one case of
rape reported in Atlanta and that reports of the pillaging were vastly
“They were not,”
Lou sternly said. “I was there in
Atlanta. Sherman himself measured
the destruction at one hundred millions.”
Stone’s blue eyes
flashed with anger and he opened his mouth to reply, but Doctor Ramsey rose from
his chair and held up his hands between them.
Let’s calm down. This war has already been fought. It’s been over more than twenty years now.
Why don’t we just drop this?”
Stone was still
worked up, but Lou looked at the doctor as if she just remembered that he was
also in the room.
Ramsey said, “shaking hands and making up.”
Stone did not look
happy about it, but he held out his hand to the angry editor.
Lou stood for several heartbeats before she gave him hers in a handshake
“I am sorry,
Captain Stone,” she formally said, “for allowing my emotions to cloud my
judgment. I did not mean to sound
so bitter. I hardly realized that I
still felt harbored such strong emotion. Obviously
our differences of opinion will never allow us to agree.
I think it best if we leave discussions of the war to the historians.”
Stone said, his eyes now a softer blue. “I
am sorry. I am sorry for raising my
voice to you, and I am sorry for what you went through during those years.”
Sullivan made her exit, while the doctor remained.
Ramsey patted his stomach.
“It’s amazing how a good argument rouses one’s appetite,” he
Stone agreed. “I missed supper.
I believe I know exactly where we can still get a good steak.
followed the doctor to Swayne’s restaurant.
Although nearing closing time, the good doctor whispered something in
Mrs. Swayne’s ear and the two men were led to a private corner table where
their orders were taken.
answer to the lawman’s unspoken query, Ramsey told him, “The missus swears
by oil of emu for her rheumatism. I
promised her a jar on the house.”
thought,” Ramsey continued, “that we could talk about women.”
laughed. “I’ve about had enough
of them to last me a lifetime.”
smiled. “Oh, that little tiff
with Lou Sullivan? She won’t hold
a grudge long with you.” He
reached into his inside coat pocket and pulled out a flask.
medicine?” Stone asked.
Want a swig?”
shook his head no and the doctor turned over his coffee cup and poured it full.
As he returned it to his pocket, Stone noticed the engraved initials PMR
on the flask.
know,” he continued, as he carefully took a sip out of his cup,
“after hearing about Lou’s misadventures in the war, one can see how
some people still harbor grudges and resentments towards the winning side.”
aren’t gonna try and tell me Lou is the woman you’ve been followin’, are
marshal. She may have secrets, but
murder is not one of them. Besides,
Charles Curry vouches for her integrity and has taken her ‘under his wing’,
so to speak. As his protégé, Lou
has maintained a detailed correspondence with Mr. Curry. I wonder sometimes what are her words and what are his.
It is almost enough to make a man jealous.”
“Of her mentor and their relationship?”
“It does appear that theirs is an intimate relationship,” Stone
Doc agreed. “That is, if a
man were prone to jealousy over a woman who is not his.”
“And are you?” Stone asked. “Prone
“Marshal, I am even jealous of you.”
“Absolutely,” Doc laughed. “You
don’t even see it? Well, never
“I don’t go around callin’ you ‘Paddy’ like she does.”
“She did?” Ramsey looked
surprised. “Perhaps there’s
hope for me after all.”
They paused in their conversation as Mrs. Swayne bought their meal.
Then Stone encouraged the doctor to tell him about the serial killer.
“She has never been apprehended because no one thinks a
woman could be such a cold-blooded murderer.
Inside, she is a hostile sociopath, while outside, she has a
chameleon-like quality of changing her personality to suit whomever she decides
is her next victim.”
“She sounds like a veritable flower of Southern womanhood,” Stone
agreed. “But she is slightly past
her first bloom,” he said with a sly grin.
“She has palmed
off her fraud all over the western states, and I’ve been tracking her for some
time now. Unfortunately, she has
managed to elude my best efforts at tracing her identity.
She changes her name and occupation, and since I have never actually met
the woman, I have no idea what she looks like.”
authorities have never tied these murders together because of the various
methods she used to kill her victims?” Stone asked.
Each murder became progressively more violent, brutal, even torturous.
Sometimes there were several murders in a city before she moved on.
She keeps to the larger cities or towns with a constant influx of
newcomers. I have news articles I
have cut out from newspapers.” He
pulled clippings from his doctor’s bag and shared quite a collection with the
Doc, reading, “Intoxicated Man Smothers in Sleep.”
He looked up to Stone and commented, “Somehow he became entangled in
the bed sheets and smothered to death.” Then,
reading again and shuffling through the clippings, “Prominent Businessman Dies
in Accidental Fall Off Hotel Rooftop. Fatal
Freak Accident as Man Drowns in Abandoned Well.
Local Citizen Killed by Runaway Stagecoach as spooked horses trampled a
man lying in their path. The bruised, bloodied, broken corpse was barely identifiable.
Food Poisoning Takes Life of Mayor.
And,” he added, “on the few cases identified as murders, no motive
has been revealed.”
“Any suspects detained for questioning?” Stone asked.
“In one city, a man was charged with homicide but was released for lack
“Any links between the victims?”
drained the whiskey from his coffee cup before he answered.
“At first I thought it was random.
Then I realized all the victims of these unsolved murders were Civil War
veterans, not too surprising considering the age range of the deceased.”
picks Union veterans only?” Stone asked and the doctor nodded.
“Any other connection?”
leaned forward, elbows on the table, and spoke in a low voice.
“Perhaps. You see, I
believe she was in the south when General Sherman rode through in his Federal
blue uniform. It does appear that
all her victims rode with Sherman.”
Stone got very pensive, and Ramsey continued.
“Marshal Stone, you rode with Sherman, didn’t you?”
He nodded and bit his lower lip, deep in thought.
Later that night while making his rounds, Stone thought about all that
the doctor had told him. He
recalled that Patrick Ramsey was questioned as a suspect in a case in Denver but
had been released for lack of evidence. Stone
had considered him a suspect at one time. Now
he was positive it was not the doctor.
Nearing the stables, Stone heard the frightened whinny of a horse, and he
hurried to investigate. He stopped
when he reached the door beside the barn’s main entrance. He carefully
listened to more whinnies and the stomping of hooves.
Placing his left hand on the latch, he quietly pulled his gun and cocked
it. He threw the door open, and it
banged against the wall as he crouched and somersaulted into the darkness.
He pointed his gun toward the commotion in the stall.
There was just enough light from the moon through the cracks in the barn
siding and the open door to be able to see a dark shape leading a horse, bucking
and rearing, into the stall. The
small-framed man was having great difficulty keeping the horse under any
semblance of control; and when Stone had rolled into the barn, the interruption
caused the man to release the reins. As
the frightened animal jumped towards where Stone lay concealed in the darkness,
the figure ran towards the rear of the barn.
Stone hurried to his feet to avoid being trampled as the horse ran past
him and through the opened barn door. By
that time, the man had made his escape. Stone
started to holster his gun and leave the barn to tell Isaac he had a runaway
when he heard a low moan come from the stall.
He warily peered into the stall and saw Doctor Ramsey prone in the straw.
He was conscious but dazed, and Doc’s hand went to his head and came
Stone holstered his weapon and knelt beside Doc.
He had to leave his leg outstretched as he squatted.
His knee gave him more trouble all the time, and he kept forgetting the
More importantly, Doc’s head was bleeding from a gash in the back.
Stone took his handkerchief and held it against the wound.
“Marshal, you’re here just in the nick of time.”
“First, how bad’s my head?”
Stone lifted his blood-soaked handkerchief.
The flow of blood was coming to a stop, but there was a small flap of
skin and hair that probably needed some stitches.
“You need Doc Gates to sew you up, but the ladies will still find you
attractive,” Stone quipped. Doc
gave him a broad grin as he gingerly felt the gash with his fingers.
“Doctor Gates is away right now, but maybe Miss Owens can give me
“You never answered my question,” Stone told him sternly.
“Oh, well, you see, it’s a little embarrassing.
I was walking by the stables and I needed something out of my buggy. Out of my medical bag. I accidentally left it in the buggy
after my last trip. As I was
reaching in for it, I heard a woman whisper my name.
The next thing I knew, I was hit over the head so hard I saw bright blue
lights. I guess a blacked out for a
moment. I felt myself being dragged
into a stall.”
“So your attacker was a woman?” Stone asked, recalling the slight
build of the man he had seen. It
was all fitting together.
“It was our murderess, but once again I failed to see her face.
It seems like I’m always one step behind her.
But I did get a look at what she knocked me over the head with.”
“What?” Stone asked.
Stone stiffly got to his feet and helped Doc up.
getting’ too old for this,” Stone complained, bending down to rub his
Doc said. “Have a shot.”
He reached into his inside coat pocket and discovered his flask was
missing. “Well, I’ll be.
Do you think she took it?”
“We can add theft by unlawful taking to the murders,” Stone said.
“Marshal, that is one thing the authorities withheld from the press --
the fact that all the victims were missing some personal object, jewelry, scarf,
watch, ring. There was a theft from
all the murdered men.”
need a list of stolen items,” Stone softly said as a reminder to himself.
Doc said, “She
used a gun on two or three victims. She
also strangled some and knifed, slit throats, and garroted others.”
“Now she tries to
make your murder look like an accidental death from a spooked horse.”
“Because I do not fit her pattern for selecting her victims.”
didn’t ride with Sherman. You may
be the only man that she’s failed to kill.”
her desire for my death may not have been strong enough or she would have
Stone said, unsure of how to put his next question. “Someone secretly left an envelope on my desk.
Inside was a paper that had your name printed at the top with a list of
cities that you recently visited.”
just came right out and asked him. “Doc,
what are you hiding?”
Ramsey bit his lower lip. “I
gave up my practice to stay on the trail of this murderer, Marshal.
That was not the only reason, but it was a deciding factor.
At first I just wanted to catch her, to help her.
I suspect she has delusions. Now
that the murders are totally out of hand, I must stop her.”
she’s insane?” Stone asked.
“Absolutely. And madness
does not fail to give itself away. The
unbalanced mind is guilty of extravagances which betray it,” Doc explained.
“Any long-tortured spirit can eventually abandon sanity.”
Stone asked, “So why didn’t you go to the law with this information
“I was afraid.”
Stone’s eyebrows raised, surprised that the surgeon would admit his
“No,” the doctor continued. “Not
for myself. I was afraid if I came forward too early, before I had enough
forensic evidence, that I would scare her off.
She’d be on to me, then, and be even more careful.”
“Might even try to kill you,” Stone dryly commented.
“Obviously a correct assumption,” he agreed, gingerly touching his
The next morning, Stone stormed into the newspaper office, a rolled-up
“Sentinel” is his left hand. Lou
was seated behind the desk nearest the door.
jabbed at the paper with his right index finger and demanded, “Do you really
believe this, this . . . dribble . . . you wrote in today’s paper?”
She almost laughed at his incredulous expression, but she hid it well.
She was partly afraid he was going to hit her with the rolled up paper
just as she had trained puppies in her younger years.
Gently, she asked, “Would you like a cup of Arbuckle's,
“I didn’t come
for coffee. I came for answers,”
was his terse reply.
“Would I write something I didn’t believe?” she softly answered.
spread his legs apart in a defiant stance.
“You would,” he said. “Just
to get a rise outta people.”
sweetly smiled. “You know me far
too well, Marshal Stone. What kind
of reaction should I anticipate?”
work for me,” he grumbled, “tryin’ to keep the Ladies’ Society lynch mob
away from Finch. This,” he threw
the paper on her desk and it unrolled itself in front of her, “is just about
the most stupid thing you’ve ever done.”
headlines were upside down from her, but she well knew what they read:
letters took up half the front page. Beneath
them, in a smaller point,
on page two, was an ink drawing of a knife-wielding woman chasing after a
She had used the article to focus on the teamwork between the marshal,
the detective, and the undertaker – the investigation, clues, leads, suspects,
questions and interviews, autopsies, detective work, law enforcement, lab work
– how they all fit together.
She had explained the difference between clues and leads, how a clue was
something that served to guide or direct in the solution of a problem or mystery
-- something that guided one in anything of a doubtful or intricate nature or
gave a hint in the solution of a mystery. A
clue was evidence that helped solve a problem.
a lead showed the way to a solution by going in advance, guiding or directing in
a course; something serving as a tip, indication, or clue in the murder
you cannot presume to know all the stupid things I have ever done in my life.
Trust me, this is not the most stupid, by far.”
He gave a low throated “humph” sound.
“Mind tellin’ me just when Mr. Finch gave you this … uh, ‘prime
revelation of investigative analysis’?”
He quoted from her article in a mocking tone.
“When we were talking yesterday.”
placed the palms of both his hands on her desk and leaned towards her.
Under other circumstances, she would have preferred to be close to the
man, but in his anger she appreciated the small feeling of safety provided by
the desk between them.
I recall, Mrs. Sullivan, you are the one who said it might be a woman.”
Mr. Finch agreed, Jared.”
was the first time she had called him by his first name, but he didn’t seem to
notice or mind. She realized Stone
was mad because she used a lot of things he had said to other people in her
article as if he had said those things to her.
“Why don’t you stick to writin’ stories about Mayor Smith’s first
automobile in Silver City?”
tried to explain it to him. “I
keep my ears open, that’s all.”
“Well, you’d hear a lot more if you’d keep your mouth shut!”
“In other words,” she asked, “write what you know, but never tell
everything you know?”
“At least not at first. Look,
Mrs. Sullivan, you gotta learn to work with the law.
Sometimes that means keepin’ quiet about certain things.”
realized she was saying nothing to calm the marshal, so she put her hands on the
desk and leaned towards him. Their
faces were so close together that she could smell the coffee and tobacco on his
breath, could see those sharp blue eyes widen in surprise, and his full red lips
part slightly as the tip of his tongue flicked out to wet them.
Her heart pounded so hard in her breast that she was sure he could hear
it, and although she tried not to do it, she felt her tongue wet her own
suddenly dry lips.
she softly queried. His name
sounded good on her tongue and she savored it for a while as she swallowed hard.
he said with irritation, not moving a muscle.
His mouth was so dry that he couldn’t even work up a good swallow.
Time seemed to stretch as they stared at each other, paralyzed, his sharp
blue eyes and her daggers of green, until someone just had to say something to
break the spell. It was Lou.
I print a retraction?”
stood up straight and the spell was broken.
He blinked a few times as she took a deep breath and centered herself,
standing defiantly before him.
be necessary,” he said as he licked his lips again and swallowed.
“This time. But I’d sure
appreciate it if you’d run your material by me before you go to press.
I do not want this investigation compromised.
Your article is upsettin’ our citizens, not to mention warnin’ the
murderer that we’re close on his trail.”
it’s a her; maybe not.”
just for your information, Jared, I do not print everything I know.
I know Paddy was seriously hurt last night and that you saved his life,
thank God. Katie telephoned me to
help her stitch up his head. And I
did not print that!”
batted her eyes at him without even knowing she did it.
Stone told her, “don’t you look at me with those cow eyes, either.”
He tried to be gruff because he felt his heart melting.
“If you can’t stand the heat, get outta the kitchen.
of her wanted to tell him off right then and there – “cow eyes,” indeed!
-- and remind him how he had no right to tell her what to do.
But one look at his expression and she could not do it.
He was genuinely concerned for the safety of the citizens of Silver City.
He wanted to catch this murderer as much as anyone did.
she conceded with a soft, “Yes, sir. I’ll
do as you say.”
eyes again widened in surprise and he gaped at her in disbelief when she backed
down. “Scoop” never would have
was all he said, and as he left her office, he looked over his shoulder and
tipped his hat at her.
that afternoon, Stone and Finch shared a drink at the end of the bar in the
Velvet Cushion. Finch recounted his
conversation earlier that morning with Mrs. Richmond.
“Mrs. Sullivan’s article stirred my thoughts
towards women who might be vengeful of war atrocities, Marshal,” Finch told
him. “Therefore, Mrs. Richmond
was under suspicion, and I left for her home after sunup. I informed her how a man was viciously murdered, stuck over
the head by a blunt, heavy object.
I carefully examined her iron, simultaneously informing her, in an attempt to
lull her wariness into cooperation, that the electric flatiron was invented in
1882 by Henry W. Seeley, a New York inventor.”
rolled his eyes as Finch continued nonplussed.
then commented that her iron must weigh almost 15 pounds, to which she replied,
‘And it takes a long time to warm up.’
noted to myself that, indeed, it would take a long time to warm up considering
the fact that the electrical lines do not run out as far as the Richmond place
pursed his lips to hide a grin, then nodded at the bartender and motioned for
him to bring him another beer. Finch’s
glass still sat untouched.
“Then I proceeded to take her iron, for evidence, against her protests.
I was unable to determine if she had tried to clean off any blood or hair
that might have remained, if it was the murder weapon. I did promise her I would return it soon because she informed
me that she had ordered it from Sears and Roebuck, especially for her Robert who
is coming back on the train, and he’ll need his clothes pressed.”
explained, “Her son Robert wrote her after each battle – from Vicksburg,
from Fredericksburg, and from Manassas. He
had assured her that the war would soon be over. His last letter was from Second Bull Run.
He told her he’d be home on the train real soon.
Robert Richmond was killed at Gettysburg on July 1st, 1863.”
had inferred that not only from our conversation at the train station and but
also from the date of his death engraved upon his headstone,” Finch said with
his usual aplomb.
that woman is perfectly harmless,” Stone said, exasperated at the detective.
“She’s gone loco from grief, but she’s no killer.”
compos mentis, I believe is the phrase,” Finch added.
“Afflicted with or exhibiting irrationality and mental unsoundness.”
“She’s not accountable for her actions, Finch,” Stone said.
“We are all held accountable by the sovereign God.”
“Well, the mayor, for one, ain’t gonna wait to let God sort it all
out,” Stone retorted as he downed the last of his beer and left the saloon.
As Stone exited the Velvet Cushion on his way back to his office, he
happened to walk by Margaret Hesler’s dress shop.
He glanced over at the front window and noticed a blue silk dress with
matching hat on display.
barely slowed his steps as he wondered to himself how Mrs. Sullivan would look
in something like that instead of her black mourning clothes.
A smile crossed his lips as he pictured the perky feathered hat perched
atop her deep red curls. Then he came to an abrupt stop.
He slowly turned and walked back to the window.
Those feathers on the hat! Ostrich
smiled again as he noted the sign hanging on the inside of the front door
whispered, “I’ll be back.”
Later that same evening, the Marshal tried the third skeleton key in the
back door lock of the dress shop. It
did not turn, and removing it from the lock, he dropped the large ring full of
keys on the ground. They clattered
and clanged against each other in the dust of the alley.
“Shhh!” Finch loudly whispered.
“Must you be so loud, Marshal?”
As Stone reached down to retrieve his keys, he muttered something under
“What did you say?” Finch inquired.
“You don’t want to know,” Stone grumbled.
He fit another key in the lock, and this time the lock turned and he
opened the door with a big smile. “I
reckon I’ve got a key that’ll fit any lock in town,” he said, generously
omitting the “I told you so.”
As Finch entered the dressmaker’s shop behind him, he commented, “I
am eternally grateful that you are on our side, Marshal.”
The back door had opened into a small room in the back of the shop.
There was an ornate treadle Singer sewing machine, bolts of material on
shelves that went from floor to ceiling on one wall, a table used for cutting
out patterns, an ironing board, and in the corner nearest the doorway into the
front shop, a small cast iron stove.
“You know what we’re looking for, detective?” Stone asked.
“I may have found it already, Marshal,” he answered as he went
directly to the stove. On top was a
flatiron, which Finch gently placed in a sack he carried.
“Try this one, too, Finch,” Stone said.
From the ironing board, he picked up and felt the weight of a newer model
electric iron. “This is
definitely heavy enough to do some damage.”
“What made you think of Mrs. Hesler, Jared?” Finch asked as he bent
down to open the lid of a trunk.
Stone explained, “I just never tied in
ostrich feathers with a dressmaker. All
that talk about millinery – hats -- confused me. Then it dawned on me: you iron dresses, not hats!”
“Speak for yourself, Marshal,” Finch joked with a smile.
“Well, look at this!” he said and suddenly straightened up from the
Stone walked to his side. In her trunk were a variety of strange objects, seemingly unrelated and
not something a woman would or should have.
Stone recalled the list Denver had just sent him of missing objects and
the associated murder victim.
Finch held up a pair of eyeglasses, lenses cracked.
“The eyes are the second thing to go,” Stone told Finch. “I forget the first.”
Then he laughed aloud.
“Shh!” Finch urged.
The marshal immediately became serious.
“Sorry, Finch. It’s just
that you have no sense of humor.”
“Are these on the list?” Finch asked, his excitement unmistakable.
Stone looked at them. “I’m
pretty sure I recall prescription glasses missing from one of the victims.”
digging around in the trunk. “All
these objects are in some way broken or torn.
She appears to have a marked antagonism towards men.”
“Finch?” Stone asked. “Aren’t
you getting your fingerprints all over our evidence?”
Finch scowled at a lawman and took his hands out of the trunk.
“You are absolutely correct, Marshal,” he admitted.
“My fascination got the best of me.
It is hard to understand that her theft of personal objects is how she
grumbled his agreement as he took his handkerchief from his coat pocket and
reached down into the trunk. He
came out with Ramsey’s flask, complete with his initials “PMR”, all
scratched and dented.
“Melior est conditio possidentis,” Stone told him.
“Better is the condition of the possessor,” Finch translated.
“Why, Marshal, I didn’t know you knew Latin,” he added with
“I don’t, but I do know some things about the law, and possession is
nine-tenths of it.”
Finch took the flask, wrapped it in his own handkerchief and put it in
his pocket. “I guess we’ve
caught our serial murderer.” He handed Stone back his handkerchief.
“Not quite so fast, Finch. I need you to get as many of her
fingerprints from these stolen items as you can, plus compare the flatiron to
the three head wounds, Mr. Andrews’, Old Man Edwards’, and Doc’s.”
“But we can already infer that Margaret Hesler is the murderer,”
Finch argued. “That’s enough
for you to arrest her.”
Stone sighed deeply. “We
need evidence, not inference,” he said. “Let
me tell you what I’ve come up with, Finch.
There have been two murders in Silver City:
Silas Andrews, a Denver businessman and old man Edwards. We’ve
gotta tie up all the loose ends.”
Finch added, “And since Doc
Ramsey had provided Silas Andrews with emu oil, we have to prove beyond the
shadow of a doubt that he had nothing to do with the murders.”
Stone smiled. “Exactly.”
“Marshal, I never asked you, but since the first victim had intimate
relations prior to his death, did the second also?
Did the other murdered men in other towns?”
“Not all of them by any means. And
I questioned Luci about Andrews. She
asked around about any relationships her girls might have had with him.
He did not frequent her girls. So
our murderess used whatever means were required to gain the trust of her
victims. Then she killed.”
“And Mrs. Sullivan? I
mean, she was the one who found Andrews in his hotel room.
What was her relationship to the victim?”
wanted to interview him for a story she was doing on new businesses in Silver
City. She dropped it after his death or she might have picked up on
the connection between new dressmaker shops in the cities that Doc had
“So Doc has definitely been crossed off as a suspect?” Finch asked.
“Just as Mrs. Richmond is crossed off,” Stone replied.
“Marshal, why have you been withholding information from me?”
set his jaw and looked away from Finch before answering.
“Because of Lou getting information out of you and printing it in the
are right, again, Marshal,” Finch agreed.
“I trusted her too quickly, without knowing her journalistic ethics.
But,” he chastised, “I will be unable to help you in your
investigation if you do not trust me with all the facts, leads, and clues,
“Finch, I’ll try my best. I
reckon we’ve both got to learn to work with each other.”
reached down into the trunk once again with his handkerchief and pulled out a
hairbrush. “See if Mrs.
Hesler’s fingerprints are on the handle of this,” he said, “And you might
try to compare this,” he held up a long red hair from the boar’s bristles,
“to hairs found at the hotel crime scene.”
carefully took the brush, wrapped it in Stone’s handkerchief, and stuck it in
his pocket with the doctor’s flask. “If
those red hairs left at crime scene match up, then we have an important piece of
evidence. We will go my laboratory
“Finch, I’m gonna run down another lead later this evenin’.”
are you going?”
hesitated. He didn’t want the
detective to think he still didn’t trust him; he just wanted to keep him out
of harm’s way. What Stone had in
mind could be extremely dangerous.
Velvet Cushion,” Stone answered. He
was pleased to see he could still carry off a lie with finesse.
do you plan to see?” Finch asked, curiosity getting the better of him.
mouth drew back in a straight line. “Ah,
Finch,” he drawled.
worry, Marshal. I shall not get
involved. I just want to know
should I need to contact you. Regarding
seein’ Luci,” Stone said. “Look,
Finch. Let’s just let this bird
flutter around a little longer before we begin the hunt in earnest.”
course, Marshal,” Finch agreed.
About nightfall, Finch went to Doc Gates’ office in search of Patrick
surgeon opened the door and welcomed the detective inside.
regular doctor is off on a house call,” Ramsey explained.
came to see you. I think I know who
tried to kill you.”
know her name?” he asked.
Hesler,” Finch bluntly stated.
Ramsey nodded his head. “The
dressmaker -- an experienced seamstress. That’s
how she funded her travels. That’s
how she managed to blend in wherever she went.
She just changed her name.” The
doctor motioned for Finch to sit as he absent-mindedly paced in front of him.
“Now I recall how in several cities a dressmaker had just come to town, then
vanished after the murders. Hesler?”
he asked the air. “I think it was
Nesler in one town.” Then
to Finch, he said, “She always kept to the larger cities or towns that were
fast growing. Businesses came and
went, and no one paid any attention to all the new people coming into or leaving
town.” Ramsey finally sat down,
as if he had exhausted himself with his recollections.
He laid his hand on his battered head as if touching the bruise would
ease his headache. “I should have
seen it before,” he chastised himself.
“Doctor,” Finch said. “Do
not blame yourself. The number of
unsolved murder cases in the west is simply unbelievable.
I could not guess how many might be connected to serial killers.
Such a killer might elude capture for decades.”
Ramsey looked Finch
directly in the eye. “One might
wonder,” he mysteriously commented, “just how many of our mild-mannered
colleagues might harboring secrets of murder.”
“I have a feeling many cases of serial murders will be solved strictly
by luck. The good news in our case
is that we have proof. I have
analyzed hairs left at the crime scene. They
match up with hair from the hairbrush of Mrs. Hesler.”
“And the murder weapon? The
oddly shaped, triangular bruises on Mr. Andrew’s and Mr. Edward’s heads?”
“And on your own head,” Finch added.
“They match a flatiron recovered from Mrs. Hesler’s dress shop.
I also found traces of blood and skin on the iron.”
Ramsey asked as he stood up and went to the front window.
Finch looked at his watch. “Marshal
Stone should be meeting with Luci Prescott about now.
She had some information to give him.
Some kind of lead he was checking up on.”
“I don’t think so,” Ramsey said.
arose and looked out the window to see Luci walking down the street beside Lou
Sullivan, deep in conversation.
“Can’t be Luci he’s meeting,” Doc said.
“I fear Stone may be in danger. Where
exactly was he supposed to be meeting with this ‘lead’?”
“Obviously not where he told me,” Finch intoned.
Meanwhile, Luci told Lou, “The abandoned silver mine.
That’s what Margaret was mumbling about.
I bumped into her right in front of her dress shop.
I was going to pick up my new ruffled petticoat, and she was in such a
mad rush! She said she couldn’t
get it for me right now. She was
late for a rendezvous, at the Silverton mine.
Why, that mine’s been abandoned for years, although the old shack the
men used for a bunkhouse is still standing.
I wonder whom she is meeting out there?” she asked.
“If I find out, I will let you know,” Lou told her.
“Thanks, Luci. You don’t
know how much you’ve helped me.”
And as Finch and Ramsey watched, Mrs. Sullivan took off at a very fast
pace towards the stables.
The two men looked at each other for a heartbeat, and then decided to
follow the editor.
Stone rode up to the Silverton Mine, he saw a buggy in front of the abandoned
bunkhouse. She was there just as
she had said she would be. He could
see light streaming from the windows, so she must have had at least two or three
lanterns lit. This choice of
location had been her idea, Stone recalled. It
appeared that she wanted to meet Stone somewhere out of the way so there would
be no chance of witnesses when she killed him.
was positive that was her intention, and he was edgy and wary as he dismounted
and went inside.
opened the door and came face to face with a man with a horrific scar running
right through his face. Stone
tensed and had his gun halfway out of his holster when he realized it was his
own reflection in a mirror. The old
dresser hadn’t been touched in years from the look of the dust and cobwebs,
and the mirror had a large diagonal crack in it.
He allowed a smile to come over his face but his tension was only
slightly relieved. He drew his weapon all the way out of the holster and held it
at his side.
he thought, how the mind plays tricks when you’re on your guard.
looked at himself in the mirror, moving his face from one side of the crack to
the other, when he caught a shadowy movement out of the corner of his eye.
He was just turning around when he saw the bright flash of metal. Intense pain seared through the muscle of his right forearm,
and his gun fell from his fingers. He
grabbed at the knife, but she was too fast for him. As she agilely jumped back, she accidentally kicked his gun.
The weapon spun as it slid towards the still-open door, too far away for
him to reach. He clamped his hand over his arm and watched as a thick red
stain slowly seeped on his shirt and through his fingers.
Keeping a safe distance between them, and still holding the knife on him,
Margaret Hesler finally spoke.
men have plundered with impunity for far too long.
noticed she wielded the knife very expertly, and he estimated his chances at
jumping her. Slim to none, he wryly
thought, unless he wanted to be cut to ribbons by a dressmaker.
He nearly laughed out loud at his play on words.
“What a stroke of luck,” she continued.
“When that doctor started following me.
I got the great idea of pinning the murders on him.
And you almost fell for it. Except
for that reporter. She knew.”
“Ma’am, mind if I ask what your intentions are?”
The Marshal sought to get her talking and catch her off guard.
She laughed as if he’d just told her the funniest story she’d ever
she said, “Why, my intentions are hardly honorable, my dear Marshal Stone.
I plan on giving you a taste of what was done to me.
You see, during the war, Beast Butler assumed dictatorial powers as the
military commander of New Orleans. He
ordered that any New Orleans woman who should dare show contempt for a Federal
soldier should be treated as a woman of the street.
He ordered that a lady dared not show disrespect by word or gesture to
any Union officer or enlisted man. Surely
you remember when I emptied the chamber pot on your head, and how you and your
men treated me as a practicing prostitute from that time on.”
“Mrs. Hesler, ma’am, I was not in New Orleans
with General Benjamin Butler.”
first, she looked startled, then as recognition set in, she appeared to compose
Captain Stone. I know you rode with
that arsonist Sherman. I had family
in Atlanta when you burned your way through.
You and your men made me resort to murder. It is all your fault, you know.”
statement was chilling. Obviously, she viewed all Yankees as the enemy.
She had lived her life after the war with this in mind, planning and
plotting various revenges and murders.
glanced around the room, looking for something he might utilize as a weapon.
He saw nothing he might use, but his eyes caught a reflection in the
broken mirror on the wall. He tried
to keep his expression deadpan, so the madwoman would not realize that Lou
Sullivan stood to one side of the doorway peering in at them.
“Mrs. Hesler,” Stone began, trying to keep her attention on him.
“Some say a woman is the product of what the men in her life have made
her. I can see how these men have
driven you to killing.”
She smiled sweetly at the marshal. “I
am so pleased that you understand, Captain.
You see, a forgotten enemy is the worst kind.
Someone had to hand out justice.”
Stone gave a quick glance sideways in the mirror and saw Mrs. Sullivan
bending down. He hoped she could retrieve his gun near the doorway without
alerting his captor.
“But, Mrs. Hesler, do you know when justice becomes revenge?
His mind was screaming, Lou! Do
something now! Now!
“No, Marshal,” Mrs. Hesler answered.
“But you are about to find out.”
She expertly held the knife underhanded and started to rush into the
lawman, as if she were going to embrace him.
A flash of fire from the muzzle, and a shot rang out.
At almost the same instant, the knife Mrs. Hesler held flew out of her
hand, and blood splattered on her dress. She
grabbed her hand and sank wearily to the floor, as Stone kicked the knife out of
Lou Sullivan had fired just in the nick of time.
She approached Stone and he took his gun from her and held it on the
literally fallen woman, who seemed relieved to be captured.
The marshal bent to look at the damage to her hand, and Mrs. Hesler
showed him that the bullet had merely grazed her.
The bleeding had nearly stopped.
“Mrs. Sullivan, you’re mighty handy with a firearm,” Stone told
She gave him a wry grin.
“You do not want to know where I was aiming,” she said, and his
eyebrows shot up in surprise.
Just then, Larimer Finch and Patrick Ramsey entered the doorway behind
“We heard the gunshot,” Finch explained, taking in the situation and
seeing that all was under control.
“Lou here just saved my life,” Stone told them.
Lou blushed and added, “I just came for the story, not to get
“I, for one,” the doctor said, “am glad you did get involved --
this time,” he added rather mysteriously, and gazed at her.
She nodded as if to let him know it was all right to tell.
Doc looked at the marshal. “Lou
has been thinking that she might have been able to have saved her late husband,
Cade Sullivan, from the shootout in which he was killed, but she stood aside and
did nothing, fearful of her own life.” Looking
at Lou, he gently added, “Perhaps this will help alleviate any guilt you may
have lingering from that terrible experience.”
Finch piped up, “Mrs. Sullivan, I commend you for your courage.”
“Gentlemen, this is all well and good, but I do wish, Paddy, you would
look at the Marshal’s arm,” Lou chastised.
Doc checked out Stone’s arm, which had stopped bleeding, and Mrs.
Hesler’s wound, a graze. “I’ll
fix slings for both of you when we get back in town,” he told them.
“And Jared?” Lou asked. “There
is something I would like to know. Just
when does justice become revenge?”
you begin to enjoy it,” he answered.
Detective Finch helped Mrs. Hesler to her feet.
your day in court,” he told her. “Your
prosecution will be severe.”
“So was the persecution,” Lou commented.
“What do you mean?” asked Finch.
suffocated the south,” Lou explained. “I
call it the raping of the south. Atrocities were committed in that terrible time
of war that are now seen as despicable.”
“After all is said and done,” Stone said, “the history books are
written by the victors.”
“And,” Finch added, “the truth is never decided by the sheer number
of those who adhere to a premise.”
Finch led the woman outside to her awaiting buggy.
“She became obsessed with her false beliefs,” Ramsey commented, as
the other three started towards to door.
“Maybe not all of them were false,” Lou interjected.
“The reconstruction of the south was a horrendous blow to an already
defeated land. Southern pride kept
the people strong and became their last remaining hope for the future.”
“Nevertheless,” Stone argued, “Mrs. Hesler was obsessed.
She lost her sense of proportion and blamed every negative circumstance
upon the Yankees.”
“Bluejackets,” Lou corrected, unable to disguise a derisive tone of
voice. “In a sad way, she was
enslaved – a prisoner of her own thoughts.
How foolish it appears when we see that in others, isn’t it, Doc?”
“Absolutely,” he agreed. “She
came out of the blue, in more ways than one.
Her goal became to get even with everyone who had let her down.
Her vindictiveness increased with her resentment.”
Stone looked from one to the other.
“You know, a lot of times if we really look at what we’re angry at,
we’ll discover it’s really hiding disappointment in some situation or
“Or ourselves,” Lou added. “It
is a shame that her hatred controlled her.
Although her actions were unconscionable, yet in a strange way I can feel
sorrow for her. Her life had been
destroyed. Nothing would ever be
the same. Look at all it cost
“Look at what it cost her victims,” Stone said succinctly.
The murderer was brought to justice
Stone took Margaret Hesler to Denver to be arraigned for the murders of Andrews
and Edwards. Once there she was
jailed, and before Stone could even get back to Silver City, Chip received a
call on the marshal’s telephone. Margaret
Hesler had killed herself. She had
hanged in her cell with a strip of material torn from her sling.
week passed quickly as the weather turned colder. The sky was overcast, and there was the feel of a coming
snowfall in the air.
is one good thing about the whole thing,” Finch commented as he watched Mrs.
Sullivan pack her trunk in the office of the Silver City Sentinel.
is that?” Lou asked.
more is over than you know, Mr. Finch. Charles
-- I mean, Mr. Curry -- has been offered quite a goodly sum of money for the
newspaper here in Silver City. He
is taking the offer. That means
I’m out of a job.”
new owners would not hire you as editor?”
probably would, but I am not available. There
is another small newspaper in a little town that needs an editor.
It is a nice, quiet little community newspaper with less strife and
antagonism, which will greatly benefit my nerves.
Mr. Curry thinks I will do well there.”
“You do not act nervous,” Finch told her.
“Mrs. Sullivan, I think you are a mighty fine woman.”
She looked down at the ground as she felt her face flush red.
“Even if you do write those silly dime western novels under the assumed
name of C. Louis Sullivan,” he added.
She looked up with a surprised smile on her face.
“How do you know about those?”
“After all,” he said in a superior tone,
“I am a detective. When
are you leaving?” he asked her.
will be disappointed. She had
planned a supper for the five of us. Sort
of a celebration in anticipation of future collaborations.”
four of you can enjoy your supper. This
is what is best for me . . . and for you.”
hope,” the detective continued as he took her hand in his, “that you find
what you are looking for.” He
gently brought her gray glove to his lips and touched them to the back of her
am reminded of a verse of scripture,” she told him. “Blessed are the peacemakers . . .”
. . for they shall be called the children of God,” Finch finished.
“Matthew 5, verse 9.” He
gently released her hand. “Lou,
may I offer you a ride to the station tomorrow?”
nodded her assent.
paced on the train platform, trying to huddle inside his coat against the
distinct chill in the Colorado air. He
looked very uncomfortable as he saw Mrs. Sullivan arrive in Finch’s buggy.
There was a lot he wanted to say, but he knew he’d keep most of it to
having said his goodbyes already, busied himself seeing that the porters
carefully loaded her trunk.
Sullivan,” Stone greeted her and tipped his hat. “I’ve been meanin’ to ask you, why’d you ever end up
here in my little town in the first place?”
seemed as good a place as any to lose my soul.
Guess I couldn’t stand the heat,” she said, slyly referring to their
argument in the newspaper office.
gave her a grim smile. “Seems I
read somewhere that a ship is real safe in the harbor, but that’s not what
ships were built for.”
“I’ve heard that, too.”
Mrs. Sullivan. Where are you off
Dog. Another little town in which
to lose my soul.”
long will you be gone?”
expect a prolonged absence. I
suppose we could write each other.”
not much on letter writin’.”
am I,” she said with a smile.
reached over and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. This was totally unexpected, and her green eyes beneath the
spectacles grew wide. Stone tried
to no avail to conceal the smile that pulled at his lips.
you could call me Jared again?”
smiled broadly. “Only if you
promise not to kiss me goodbye like that again.
People just don’t kiss in public, not even a man and his wife.
It makes me very uncomfortable.”
“Yeah. Kinda like a woman winkin’.”
she repeated. “Well . . . ,
held out her hand, and he took it, looking at her fingers as if he were
memorizing her gray glove. She
thought for one wild moment that he was going to kiss her hand as Finch had
done, but then Stone seemed to snap out of whatever deep thoughts he was
“I hate goodbyes,” he admitted.
“How ‘bout we say ‘til we meet again?”
“Until then,” she agreed.
As he watched her board the train, he say Ramsey, a large carpetbag in
“You leavin’, too, Doc?” Stone called out.
“I am afraid so, Marshal. Doc
Gates informed me that the doctor in Yellow Dog died last spring and they are in
dire need of a physician.”
“Not foul play?” Stone asked.
winced. His age.
will be editor of The Yellow Dog Democrat.” Doc laughed. “What
a name for a newspaper! Since I’m
going there, too, I’ll be sure to keep an eye on her -- for you.”
hello to the sheriff there, a man named Gabe Moore. He’s a good lawman. Good
all around man.”
Gabe short for Gabriel?” Doc asked.
His real name’s Cheyenne, but don’t tell him I told you.
He hates it, so he goes by his middle name.
Tell him Jared sends his regards. We
spent some time together a while back. About
three years, to be exact. He’ll
will do that, Marshal.” Ramsey
held out his hand, and Stone firmly grasped it.
“She’ll have two guardian angels looking out for her.”
face showed that he did not understand the doctor.
your friend’s middle name. Gabriel
was an angel of the Lord. My middle
name is Michael, also an archangel.”
“Maybe seein’ as how you’re named after an
angel and all,” Stone told him, “you’d better start watchin’ how you mix
your cough medicine and your whiskey.”
gave the lawman a smile. “Oh,
I’m absolutely certain my cough is nearly cured.”
how’s my friend Gabe gonna protect her if he doesn’t even know her?”
I guarantee she will meet him. She
appears to carry a torch for lawmen.” He
gave the marshal a wink and a wry grin.
“Lou’s husband wasn’t a lawman,” Stone noted.
“I thought he was a reporter or a journalist or something.”
Doc set him straight on the facts. “Cade
Sullivan was a writer, all right. When
he gave up bounty hunting, he let Lou read his journal.
Then Lou wrote about some of his escapades in dime novels.
Heard they were quite popular, too.”
Stone nodded his understanding.
The train’s whistle blew loudly, startling the two men.
“Well, Marshal, it has been a great pleasure meeting up with you,
grinned. “Don’t call me sir,
Doc. Makes me feel old.”
doctor winked. “Absolutely!
Lord knows we’ve seen enough water under the bridge, but we’re not
too old, yet, my friend.”
Stone said, unsure of how to end their conversation. “I hope you find what you’re lookin’ for, Patrick
doctor gave a snort. “I won’t.
I’ve already lost that. Everything
I held precious in this life was taken from me.
Sometimes, I wonder if true love between a man and a woman is ever meant
live our lives and then we die,” Stone commented. “It’s what we do in between that makes the difference.”
nodded. “It seems we yearn for
the past and fear for the future. We
must learn to treasure to moments of life God gives to us. Perhaps I can help someone else find her destiny.
Life does go on.”
Stone said with a smile. “Be sure
to drop in and say hello if you ever pass through Silver City again.”
smiled back at him and boarded the slowly moving train.
Looking back over his shoulder, he called, “You never know when I might
reappear, out of the blue.”
watched as the train gathered speed and pulled out of the station.
He turned around to see Mrs. Richmond scurrying up the platform toward
you seen my Bobby, Marshall?” she asked him.
“Was he on that train just pulled out?”
Mrs. Richmond,” Stone began with a sigh.
He saw Finch coming towards him. “Mrs. Richmond,” he continued,
gently taking her by the arm. “Perhaps
Detective Finch will be kind enough to drive you up to the cemetery before he
takes you back home.”
smiled reassuringly at the elderly woman. Yes,
the war had cost more than anyone could put a dollar price on.
more stories, in particular,
Sheriff of Yellow Dog
which continues the exploits and adventures of Mrs. Lou Sullivan as she edits the Yellow Dog newspaper and helps solve crimes with the assistance of Doctor Patrick Ramsey and Sheriff Cheyenne “Gabe” Moore.
can email Aimee Dupré at firstname.lastname@example.org.