The Evangelist

The Evangelist
A Fiction

d Lon IllustrationGoing into town was a chore. People were always prying – usually prying for information, or prying for money.  The trips were unpleasant, so he kept them short and infrequent. It didn’t take long to pick up salt, coffee, dry beans, potatoes in season, and flour. Sometimes he’d get something unusual, like a window or hinges. Sometimes it was cartridges. He could sense that the windows caused more talk than the cartridges. Everybody around here had guns, but few of the mountain cabins had windows. And since d’Lon didn’t live in town, most people simply assumed he was a hardscrabble miner going for gold. Townsfolk figured buying something like windows meant he’d hit a good vein.

This trip was already looking like trouble.

The local lawman met him at the dry goods store, and told him that according to local ordinance everyone was required to check his guns at the jail. d’Lon knew the local lawman from the war. The lawman and his deputy didn’t remember d’Lon, and he hoped to keep it that way. And so, although he respected them less than a dog respects fleas, he checked his rifle and pistol.

Then he saw the youngish dog sniffing at his wagon. She was thin, with distinct ribs. When he walked to the wagon, she sat still, with just the slightest twitch of the tail now and again. d’Lon knew he was an idiot for doing it, but he went back into the dry goods store and bought a cheap bowl. He pumped water into it, and set it before the pup, who drank, and laid down and drank more. Soon there was no water in the bowl. The dog put her paws in the bowl and started digging.

d’Lon, who’d never owned a dog, found this behavior puzzling. He hoped the dog would wander off, but it sat and looked at him. Maybe if he just ignored it?

He walked across the street for a dinner of pancakes. When he came out, the dog was laying just outside the door. d’Lon went back in and got two more pancakes. The dog ate them in a gulp.

Not good. The few people on the street saw him feeding a stray dog. This was not the kind of notice d’Lon needed. Tongues would wag.

Since he wasn’t quite ready to ride out, d’Lon walked over to the saloon.  The dog laid down in the shade of the wagon. The mule munched on a few oats in the feedbag. Maybe, d’Lon thought, things will get normal.

When he sat down at a table in the bar he got a very strange feeling, much like he’d had before the gray coats started coming his way. d’Lon moved to a different table, with his back to the wall, and a clear view of the door, the stairs and the bar.

“That’s the sheriff’s table mister. You better move.” That was Flin, the bartender.

“If he comes while I’m here, I’ll gladly move.”

“No, you move now.”

d’Lon moved to a table closer to the front. There was no sense making a scene. The front table had a different line to the top of the stairs. Because he’d moved, d’Lon could now see a hasp and lock on it. This was new. The rooms for the upstairs girls were never locked before.

Rebekkah
“Why the lock?”

“We got a new one up there, and she keeps trying to run away. C’mon, I’ll show you. She’s three dollars a time, and she’s good. Wild though..”

A strange sickening sensation built in his stomach as d’Lon climbed the stairs. He was afraid of what he’d find in the locked room. It wasn’t the fear of danger, more the fear of some unknown – thing – happening, and upending his life.

Flin unlocked the door. “Jew girl, get over here and show the man what you got.”

She was neither tall nor short, neither stout nor thin. Her thick black hair was pulled back and tied with a rawhide lace. d’Lon didn’t know if she was 18 – half his age – or 40.

“You got three dollars, fella? Flin again. d’Lon wanted to strangle him there and then, but he pulled out the money and handed it to the bartender.

“You keep her in that room, you hear?” Another word from Flynn, and he’d have been a dead man. d’Lon groaned, holding his anger in check only by great effort. The bartender mistook the anger for something else. When Flynn left, d”Lon closed the door.

“What do you want mister?” The resignation in the upstairs girl’s voice was thick enough to cut with a knife.

“I want to know your name. Jew Girl doesn’t work for me.”

“It’s Rebekkah.”

“Rebekkah what? Where are you from?”

“Mister, the sheriff’s gonna come in here for his any minute. If you want some, you’d better take it now.”

“No Rebekkah, I can’t do that.”

d’Lon went back out, and found the dog still sleeping under the wagon. This day was a mess, and he figured it would only get worse.

He went back into the dry goods store, and told the man he’d completely forgotten some things. He bought a new hat, a shirt and pants, a jacket, and a pair of boots. Then he added a .45 and a holster. He’d have to put another hole in the holster belt, but that could wait.

The shopkeeper totaled up everything, and d’Lon carefully counted out the exact amount. The shopkeeper was obviously curious. d’Lon told him he was going down into Denver for the winter. In Denver the supplies would hold him all winter. d’Lon hinted he wasn’t sure if he’d be back. Then he wrapped the gun in the clothes, and took everything back to the wagon. Though the day was cooling, the dog was still there.

This day was a disaster.

d’Lon went to the jail, and asked the deputy – Hooker was his name – to return his guns.

“Stop on the way out of town. I’ll give ‘em to you then.”

“Well, that’d be now. I’m just going to the livery stable to fill the feedbag, then I’m gone.”

Hooker said he thought it would be okay, and he handed over d’Lon’s rifle and pistol. So far, so good. d’Lon clucked to the mule, and they headed toward the livery stable. He opened the doors as fast as he could and startled the mule by pulling it into the stable. The dog barely got her tail through the door before it closed.

The liveryman came scurrying, and asked what was going on. d’Lon said it was getting cold, and he wanted a warm place to cover his load, and maybe shelter the mule and dog for a bit while he had a drink. The liveryman said that was okay, but d’Lon would have to pay for the feed for the mule – ten cents.

d’Lon asked if there were any horses and tack for sale. The liveryman pointed to a mare and said Susie had a few more good years left in here – forty dollars with saddle, bridle, and blanket. d’Lon made a show of inspecting the animal, and said twenty-five.

“Thirty.”

“Nope.”

“Thirty-five is as high as I’ll go for that nag. She might actually make it to Denver, since it’s all downhill.”

“Deal.”

“She been fed and watered?”

“Yup, but I’ll give her more for the trip.”

d’Lon took his time covering the load, and he didn’t tie the cover down tight. Right now he had no idea how things would play out, and he wanted his options open. He knew he wasn’t leaving without Rebekkah, but how it would happen was anyone’s guess. He wondered if she could shoot or ride. Both might be needed. What might come after was also food for thought.

d’Lon sat quietly in the livery stable as the town went to bed. It was after ten when he ventured out. Darkness had come quick, and he used it to advantage. He took a back route to get across from the saloon. Flin was behind the bar. There were two customers, but Sheriff Meade and Watts were gone.  d’Lon waited another half hour to be sure they weren’t upstairs. One of the customers left, and d’Lon could hear Flin talking to the other. The street was empty, and d’Lon chanced walking straight across to the saloon. Flin looked up.

“I’m closing up. This deadbeat here is about to get thrown out.”

“I’ll have just one drink, and help you throw him out if you want.”

The deadbeat looked at d’Lon and let out a huff.

“Guess I ain’t wanted here. I’ll pay you tomorrow, Flin.”

“No you won’t, Toad. Go on home.”

Toad wobbled out, as Flin poured a glass of whiskey for d’Lon.

“Does that Jew woman upstairs owe you money?”

“Yup. Me and Meade.”

“How much?”

“Two hundred.”

“That’s a lot.”

“Well, that’s fines, court costs, room and board, and interest.”

d’Lon stood up and took a battered wallet from his inner coat pocket. Flin watched with a keen eye. d’Lon pulled out some bills, and set them on the bar.

“There’s three hundred dollars there. I’m paying off her debts, and giving you some extra for lost income.”

“Nope, no dice. She brings in good business.”

d’Lon pulled out the wallet again, and withdrew more bills.

“That makes four hundred. I suggest you take it, or I’ll just shoot you, take the woman, and keep the money.”

With that, he brought out the Colt that had been concealed in the small of his back.

“You can buy another woman. Can you buy another life?”

“I gotta ask Meade.”

“No you don’t. You can tell him she ran off, or you can split the money with him. I don’t imagine he’d complain about getting a couple of hundred dollars.”

“All right. It’s a deal. Drink to it?”

“Why not?”

Glasses clinked, and whiskey went down in a gulp.

“I’m going up to get her. How many guns do you have behind that bar?”

“Two.”

“Okay, let’s keep this friendly. I don’t want to shoot my way out of here, but I will if need be. And I can probably reload before Meade gets here. How does that sound to you?”

“We’re good.”

d’Lon went up the stairs, Colt in hand. He unlocked the door, and found Rebekkah standing just beyond.

“Did you hear?”

“Yes.”

“Get whatever you can, and let’s go. Hurry. Stay behind me as we go down the stairs, then get out the door at a quick walk. Don’t run. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Good, let’s go.”

Flin was stacking glasses. There was no trouble.

d’Lon hustled Rebekkah to the livery stable.

“Rebekkah, we don’t have time to chat or argue. Put these clothes on. Do it now.”

She did. In the darkness, wearing the newly acquired men’s clothes, she would pass for a man at any distance greater than ten or fifteen feet. As she pulled on the boots, d’Lon cursed himself for forgetting socks.

The dog, sensing tension, had been laying head down under the wagon. When d’Lon smacked the seat she circled out and back, jumping up behind the dashboard, and then onto the seat. Smart dog, thought d’Lon. Then he opened the stable doors and looked around. The town was mostly dark, and very quiet. He got Rebekkah on the horse, and told her if anything went wrong she should ride north. She said if anything went wrong, she would use the new Colt he’d given her. It was loaded, but he’d had her strap it on more for appearance than anything. Still, Rebekkah seemed determined, and he didn’t doubt she’d fight rather than run.

That was more than he could say for Lieutenant Meade and Sergeant Flin. They’d abandoned their positions on Major d’Lon’s flank at Chickamauga. Fifteen of d’Lon’s men died when flanking grays came around unopposed. Eight more died pushing them back. Meade, who claimed to be related to the general, had hollered he was going back to report to the commander. Flin ordered his men to fall back. The flanking grays were nothing but a probing squad, yet they cost the blues 23 dead, and many injured.

Meade and Flin were reassigned to guarding prisoners of war near Chicago – a gravy station that seemed to d’Lon to be a reward for deadly cowardice.

d’Lon and his men had been attached to Sherman’s forces. The march to the sea, as it was known, was a painful memory.

Meade and Flin drifted into town a couple of years after d’Lon got his place. Just another reason to stay away. Meade and Flin hadn’t reported to d’Lon, and probably only met him once or twice. They never showed any signs of recognition.

Well, they’ll remember me soon enough, he figured. He shook his head to regain his focus. No time for fuzziness now.

d’Lon pulled the wagon out of the stable. Rebekkah followed, neither comfortable nor uncomfortable on the horse. They hadn’t come to familiarity yet, and d’Lon hoped they’d adapt to each other fast. He closed up the stable as quietly as he could, then clucked to General Grant, the former army mule so named because of the U.S. brand on his flank. Rebekkah followed.

There was one light on above the saloon. None showed in the jail, and since they were moving away from Meade’s house, it was impossible to tell if there was any activity there.

They held the slow pace until they were well out of town, then d’Lon clucked to the General again. The mule knew the road, but d’Lon didn’t want to force the pace. A stumble now could ruin everything.

What was normally a six hour ride took a little better than eight in the dark. During the second stop, d’Lon asked Rebekkah if she wanted to ride on the wagon. She’d been very quiet, and only nodded. Before he could get seated, the dog insinuated herself in the middle. She put her head on Rebekkah’s lap – welcome warmth for both of them. d’Lon cursed himself again for not having a blanket, but this strange day was full of unexpected events that befouled any attempt at preparedness. Just like the war.

The only tricky part was where the creek crossed the road just at the edge of d’Lon’s property. When the General came to the creek, he knew he was almost home, and he picked up the pace a little. The dog shifted then, and for the first time d’Lon wondered if it had fleas. Rebekkah’s chin was on her chest, and she seemed very small.

d’Lon’s track wasn’t exactly hidden from the road, but you needed to know where it was, or you’d go right past. The turn was a little tricky, and the horse tethered to the back of the wagon snuffled in annoyance at the changes in direction. When they got to the buildings the General made a sound like a grunt, as if to say, “That’s it, I’m done.” d’Lon unhitched him and led him to the small corral. The mule went straight to the shelter. d’lon took the saddle and blanket off the horse, and led her to the corral as well. He pumped water in the trough, and threw in some hay. The two animals fussed over the hay for a bit, but they soon came to some kind of agreement.

At the cabin, d’Lon found Rebekkah just inside the open door, she was shivering, but unwilling to risk the strange surroundings in the dark. He lit a lantern, and set to work on a fire. He told Rebekkah she could take off the holster, which she did, setting it gently on the table. He gave her socks, and she immediately set to putting them on. Unloading the wagon would have to wait. There were a couple of other things to do now. The dog laid down near the fire, comfortable, but alert to everything in the new surroundings.

“Rebekkah, I think Meade and Flin will come and try to take you back. I won’t let them. They’ll be on the road soon, and I guess they’ll need about six hours to get here. I intend to meet them at the creek. If anyone comes through that door before I get back, I suggest you shoot him. Cock the hammer first. Alright?”

“Yes. What do you plan to do?”

“Discourage them from coming any further.”

“How?”

“That’s yet to be decided.”

d’Lon knew she’d be asleep in minutes, and the likelihood of her shooting anyone was thin. It worried him. He was dead tired, and that worried him more, because he expected to be doing some shooting. He went out to get water. The dog followed, sniffed around until she found a place to her liking, and relieved herself. She wouldn’t go far, though, staying within a few feet of d’Lon no matter where he went. He grabbed her bowl from the wagon and took it in. She sat and waited while he filled the bowl, then drank about half of the water. When d’Lon asked her if she had fleas, she gave him a quizzical look, then, as if on cue, she started scratching behind one ear – a long, strong scratching that contorted her face in a funny look of dogish satisfaction.

Two hours of sleep was about all he could afford, and he hoped he wouldn’t sleep longer. The dog took care of that, waking him at about ten. She was hungry, and the water bowl being empty, she might have wanted to go out again. The dog seemed too well trained to be completely wild. When he opened the door she trotted out and sat down, taking the air. Then she stood very slowly. She crept off a bit, and then lit out at a dead run. d’Lon figured he’d never see her again, but a few minutes later she was back, with a dead rabbit in her mouth. It was a clean kill. No blood dripped. Not a muscle moved. d’Lon dressed the rabbit as quickly as he could, but he didn’t have time to skin it. That would have to wait. Other, more pressing matters remained to be dealt with.

When d’Lon went inside Rebekkah was awake, adding wood to the stove. He asked her if she could keep the dog inside until he got back. She called “here”, and the dog trotted over and sat by her. It seemed like the only problem would be if either Rebekkah or the dog needed to relieve themselves. That was nothing he could control, so he decided to not worry about it.

Court Martial
d’Lon was in a good hiding place by the creek well before noon. They’d be here soon, he was sure.

They didn’t show up until mid-afternoon, and d’Lon might well have missed them altogether if they hadn’t been arguing as they rode. He’d nodded off a couple of times, and was only partly awake when he heard Meade tell Flin he was a stupid sonofabitch who should have just shot the fool and took the money. Flin told him to give it a rest, that they’d get her back, and get the fool’s money too. Why, there was probably more in his wallet. Besides, shooting an unarmed miner was one thing, shooting an armed miner was something else. Flin said maybe this time Meade could do the killing.

They dismounted at the creek – the first thing that went as expected since yesterday morning. They shared a bottle, which was also not unexpected.

As fate would have it, d’Lon’s position put Flin between him and Meade. When d’Lon cocked his gun, Meade thought Flin was drawing on him. Meade shot Flin twice.

d’Lon shot Meade once in the gut. Both horses bolted.

When d’Lon came out of hiding, Flin was dead. Meade would linger for a while, but the way he was bleeding made it clear he too would die. Already he couldn’t hold up his gun.

“Lieutenant Meade, you have been tried by court martial on the charge and specification of desertion. The verdict is guilty. The sentence on that charge and specification is death by firing squad, to be rendered immediately. May God have mercy on your soul.”

Whether Meade recognized who’d shot him, d’Lon didn’t know. He checked both dead men’s pockets, and found Meade was carrying four hundred dollars. He took half, and put it in Flin’s pocket. The rest he clenched in Meade’s stiffening hand. Then he took Flin’s gun from its holster, fired one shot off into the distance and dropped the gun near Flin.

It took him a half hour to get back to the cabin. When he called out, Rebekkah opened the door. She was holding the Colt. Thankfully it wasn’t cocked. The dog ran past, and nearly knocked her over.

“What happened? You were gone a long time.”

“I don’t know. I heard shots, and thought it best to not get involved.”

“Will they be coming after me?”

“Probably not, but we’ll be careful for a while. I need to sleep, then we can figure out what to do next – probably get you home, or something. Set that gun down, will you?”

He slept six hours. When he woke, the first thing he saw was the dog’s muzzle two inches from his face.  She licked his face with considerable enthusiasm. Rebekkah had emptied the wagon, and watered the animals. d’Lon felt as if he was being snapped from one extreme to the other.

He gave Rebekkah the bed. The dog jumped up by her. Soon they were both snoring.

d’Lon stoked the fire, and fell asleep at the table.

Stories
After two days of rest, they packed everything perishable onto the wagon. d’Lon knew the stage from Leadville had passed through the day before, and he guessed that by now the people in town were aware of the dead sheriff and barkeeper. He saw no reason to sit and wait for whatever might come. He told Rebekkah he sometimes wintered in Denver, and now was as good a time as any to go there. In Denver, they could figure out how to get Rebekkah home. She went quiet then, which bothered d’Lon. Something was wrong, he knew, but there’d be plenty of time to work it out on the road to Denver.

Rebekkah climbed onto the wagon. The dog watched and waited. Rebekkah, called quietly “Mitzvah, come!” The dog backed off a bit, gauged the jump and landed at Rebekkah’s feet. Then she hopped onto the middle of the seat, and looked at d’Lon, seeming to ask, “Are you coming, or not.” Rebekkah patted the dog and said something that sounded like “Atha, atha yalda, Mitzvah.” Mitzvah wagged her tail, and put her head on Rebekkah’s lap. As d’Lon climbed up, he thought to himself, will strange days never end?

The first part of the trip to Denver was tense. There were switchbacks to deal with, and at each d’Lon would ask Rebekkah to get on Susie for a bit. General Grant was used to pulling a load, but now he was being asked to hold a load back. The road was steep and narrow, with breathtaking drops to the creek below. d’Lon’s leg ached from pushing on the brake. Patience and caution got them through the worst part of the trip, and when the road straightened d’Lon relaxed a bit.

He asked Rebekkah about her family. Her father was a tailor in New York. He had dreams of going into business for himself, but that took money, of which Aron Marx had little. Rebekkah’s mother took in laundry, but that didn’t add much to the family’s finances. Her brother Ben left home a couple of years ago, to hang out with other young toughs. Rebekkah didn’t know what he was doing, but she guessed it was illegal.

For her part, Rebekkah had been working as a seamstress in a shop making men’s pants. Long hours in harsh conditions took a toll on the women and girls on the shop floor. Rebekkah and one of her friends had seen ads for mail order brides, and decided to answer them. Rebekkah got a response from a miner in a place called Goldville, Colorado. Several letters were exchanged, and the miner sent Rebekkah money for the trip. After two weeks of sleeping on trains and in depots, she arrived in Goldville, and was promptly greeted by Sheriff Meade, who told her the miner had been killed just two days before, in a mining accident.

Rebekkah had learned from the Rabbi that one day a Messiah would come, to lead all the just to heaven. She soon learned that Goldville was the gate of hell, and Meade was the devil’s gatekeeper. What little money she’d had was spent along the way to Colorado for meals. Rebekkah spent a cold, hungry night behind a vacant building. When she asked around town about a job, no one would talk to her. She went back to her resting place for the second night, but around midnight the deputy came and kicked her feet. She was arrested for vagrancy. The judge sentenced her to a week in jail and a $100.00 fine. She was told she could pay off the fine by working for the sheriff. At the end of the week, Meade dragged her in handcuffs to his home. There he told her to give him what he wanted, or she’d go back to jail. In time, Meade took her to the saloon, and told her Flin had bought her debts. She was to do as she was told, or she’d be punished. Two attempts at running away had resulted in beatings and a lock on the door.

The sheriff, the banker, and the judge were among the frequent users of her services.

There were two other upstairs girls at the saloon, one of whom was also a mail order bride whose would-be husband had died in a hunting accident just days before the girl arrived in Goldville.

At first d’Lon was reluctant to say anything about his past. He’d been keeping to himself so long, it seemed uncomfortable to say anything now. Rebekkah said he must be a very troubled man, and keeping the trouble to himself would mean he’d never get over it. She asked him if he was married, and he said yes. She asked him if his wife was in Denver, and if they would be meeting her. He said no, and she prodded him for more information.

“Mary was something of a gold digger. We had a good marriage and three children. Mary was faithful, and a good mother, but I often thought she married me because of my father’s money. My father made his fortune buying businesses that were losing money, and turning them profitable. When they became money-makers, he’d sell them. My older brother Matthew didn’t care for business. He’s a U.S. Marshal in Flagstaff. My brothers Luke and John came into the business with me and my father. We moved among the select circles of Boston gentry.

When the war came, I thought I’d do my part. Like most people, I figured the war wouldn’t last more than six months. Because I’d been to college, I was given a commission to lieutenant. Our commanding officer and his second were both killed in our first action. I was a captain before that first battle was over, and a major in just a few months. I helped General Sherman march to the sea. We left a trail of death and destruction, and burned whole cities to the ground. When our mail finally caught up to us near Atlanta, I was handed a series of letters telling me first that Mary was ill, then my daughter Margaret, and finally that they’d both died of a fever. My sons Luke and John were at a boarding school, and were spared. I never got to the funeral.

After the war, when I got back to Boston, I tried to put myself back into my old life, but it no longer fit. When the twins turned eighteen, I asked my father to take care of them, and told him I was going away. I’ve sent a few letters home, but for the most part, I’ve kept to myself since then.”

They were both silent for a long time.

“Mark, I’m not going back to New York. I’m staying here, and marrying you.”

“What?!” He said it so loud the mule flinched, and the dog sat up.

“Rebekkah, if you want to stay here we’ll find a suitable young man for you. I’m old enough to be your father.”

“Yes. We’ll find a suitable young man for me. Someone smart and capable. Someone who’s honest and tough. Someone who would be willing to kill to protect me. I’m sure we can find someone like that. And when he finds out I used to be a whore, he’ll say it’s okay. He won’t mind that I’m Jewish. And he’ll be faithful to me only.

I’ve met half of the men between here and Goldville, and I don’t want any of them. I doubt many of them would want me for a wife, either. Mistress maybe, but not wife. I came clear across the country to marry an older man I didn’t know. You’ll do.”

“I’m not sure I love you enough to marry you Rebekkah. Can you understand that? It will take time for me to decide. You shouldn’t rush either. Can you understand that?”

“Yes. You don’t want me either.”

The rest of the trip was spent in silence.

Denver
When they arrived at the Hotel Colorado, d’Lon paid for two rooms for a month in advance. The clerk said the dog was not allowed, and d’Lon gave the man an extra twenty dollars, plus the promise to pay for any damages Mitzvah might do. Then d’Lon looked around the empty lobby, and asked the clerk if he wanted to turn away a good customer. Mitzvah sat happily between d’Lon and Rebekkah, and the clerk needed no further convincing. He slid two keys for adjacent rooms across the counter, and welcomed them to the hotel.

They went up and found the rooms. d’Lon opened both doors, and gave Rebekkah her choice of keys. She picked one, and went in the door. Mitzvah followed, and the door closed. d’Lon closed the other door, and went to get what few clothes and personal items they’d brought with them. The perishable food he took to a church, whose preacher promised to distribute it to those in need. General Grant was boarded at a livery stable where he’d wintered several times in the past.

He went back to the hotel and asked Rebekkah if she would join him for supper. She never opened the door, and said only that she was tired. D’Lon said he’d bring scraps for Mitzvah. An hour later, when he knocked at Rebekkah’s door, she took the scraps without a word.

It took d’Lon two days to come to the realization that Rebekkah had pulled him out of the deep hole he’d fallen into. And now she was teetering on the edge of that same hole. It took him another day to figure out what he wanted to do about it, and yet another day to swallow his pride and beg Rebekkah to talk to him. When she let him in, the dog turned into a whirlwind of ears and tail. When he saw the gunbelt hanging from the clothes tree, d’Lon had one more revelation. Yes, he would kill if need be to protect her, but he had no doubt she would do the same to protect him. And what she lacked in skill, she would surely make up in determination. Rebekkah told him she was looking for a job, and thought it was just a matter of time before she found something.

“Rebekkah, if that’s what you want, I’ll help in any way I can. But I thought you might be kind of busy helping me get even with the people of Goldville.”

“What do you mean – get even?”

“I want to go back to Goldville, and take financial revenge on the people there. I propose to buy the bank, and possibly several other businesses. Will you help me?”

“Why would I do that?”

“So that every time those people see my wife, every time they look at a business, every time they pass us on the street they are reminded of what they did to you, and what you could do to them. You can get revenge, or you can offer forgiveness, either way works.”

“Mark, is this your way of saying you’ll marry me? If it is, it’s the strangest proposal I’ve ever heard of.”

“Yes, I will marry you if you’ll still have me.”

“I will.”

“Good. That’s settled. We have a lot to do, so let’s get to work.”

They sent Rebekkah’s parents a telegram. d’Lon didn’t know what it said, and he didn’t care. Then he sent a telegram to Max Stein, asking him to send a good lawyer and a hefty sum of money to d’Lon in Denver. He gave Max a very brief outline of what he proposed to do. The next day he got a reply: to mark d lon at hotel Colorado in Denver stop too good to pass up stop doyle and stein en route stop allow 14 days travel time ends

d’Lon asked Rebekkah if she wanted new clothes. She said yes, and they went shopping. At Rebekkah’ s suggestion, they went to a men’s tailor first. After he’d been sized for two suits, Rebekkah said, “Now me.”

She gave the tailor very explicit instructions about how she wanted her clothes to fit, and told the tailor to leave the pants cuffs down for now, that she’ be back with different boots for the final fitting. One suit was to be a light brown so dog hair wouldn’t show up too much. The other was a severe black. She chose a flat brimmed, flat crowned black hat to wear with the black suit. The hat she had would serve with the brown suit. The tailor asked if she always wore the gun belt, and she said yes.

Rebekkah acted like a woman who was used to being attended to – assertive and certain, but not bossy. But when they got back to the hotel, she plopped in a chair, and told d’Lon she’d never had anyone wait on her before. d’Lon asked her if she wanted to get a wedding dress, and Rebekkah said it would be a foolish waste of money. There would be other things to buy that were more important or practical.

They were married a week later.

The two lawyers were delayed a day by a missed connection. Rebekkah and d’Lon met them at the train station. Max spoke first.

“Mark, it’s good to see you again. My young friend here is Cullen Doyle. He’s been wearing that uncomfortable infernal machine under his arm for two weeks. We will require the services of a bank. We’re carrying the money you requested in very large denominations. Anyone silly enough to steal it would find banks unwilling to take such large bills.

And who is this young lady?”

“Max, Cullen, meet Rebekkah Marx d’Lon. We’ll go to the bank first, then if you wish, we can have a meal. How does that sound?”

“Cullen, does that work for you? Or, once we’ve deposited the money we can go to the hotel so you can shed the pistol.”

Doyle figured he could carry the pistol for a while yet, so the order of business was bank, dinner, hotel.

Then Max turned to Rebekkah: “Young lady, many people owe you a debt for bringing Mark back to life. I wish you every happiness.”

They had dinner, and carefully steered away from any talk of business. That would come later, in private. After eating, Rebekkah suggested that she and d’Lon needed to walk the dog, and the lawyers probably needed to rest on something that wasn’t moving. Everyone nodded, and they agreed to meet in the lobby at ten the next morning.

The four of them spent the better part of a week working out details of buying a bank. There were many possible twists to consider. When they were well along, Stein said he thought Doyle could handle things the rest of the way. Stein would return to Boston in a couple of days, and Doyle would stay as long as needed. He would draw up a purchase contract, a hold-harmless agreement, and a transfer of ownership for certain properties the bank probably owned. And a will for d’Lon.

Now that d’Lon was married, Max assumed d’Lon’s wife would become his primary benefactor. Rebekkah said no, that wouldn’t work. She knew d’Lon would take care of her, and she didn’t want his sons resenting her for taking away their inheritance. It was decided that Rebekkah would be a salaried employee of the bank or some other business. That could be dealt with in the future.

Doyle was clearly enjoying his time in Denver. He met other lawyers, and even helped a few with things they were working on. He talked about opening a Denver office of Doyle, Stein and Doyle. Papa Doyle and Max had staff to help them. Young Cullen was eager to spread his wings. d’Lon thought him a good fit for the West – well versed in the law, but practical too.

The winter was spent in preparations, and trying to reconnect with families. d’Lon’s sons didn’t seem too interested in having anything to do with their father, or his new wife. d’Lon’s parents were pleased to get letters, and they tried to fill him in on all that had happened since he left Boston. Rebekkah’s parents wrote much shorter letters, a sign that they were struggling for money, and working long hours. d’Lon read those letters too, and secretly wired Max to send Rebekkah’s parents a little money every month.

For Christmas, Rebekkah gave her husband a bottle of kosher wine. He gave her a sweater.

It would be mid-April before the roads to Goldville were fit to travel.

Goldville
The second week of April d’Lon hired a drayman to take his mule, horse and wagon to Goldville. The man was to bring the wagon a couple of days after the d’Lons and Doyle arrived. He would bring his own horse as well, so he could ride back to Denver.

The d’Lons, Doyle and Mitzvah checked out of the hotel and caught the westbound stage. There was an overnight stop at Leadville. Snow fell as they neared Goldville. Every river and creek was high with runoff from the melting mountain snow. Only Mitzvah seemed unconcerned. This was the riskiest part of the plan. The weather was unpredictable, and they were carrying $25,000.00 divided among them. If any badmen found out about the money, they’d surely come after it. Doyle, who didn’t like dogs, was absolutely delighted to have Mitzvah in the room at Leadville.

They arrived at Goldville in the late afternoon, and went straight to the bank. Willis, the teller was surprised to see three men walk in. It took him several seconds to realize who d’Lon was, and even longer to realize Rebekkah was not a man. Mitzvah laid down just outside the door.

“Oh, Mr. d’Lon! I didn’t recognize you at first. What can I do for you today?”

“Mr. Willis, is Mr. France in?”

“Why, yes he is. Do you want me to get him?”

“Please.”

While Willis was talking to France, d’Lon pulled out a bank passbook, and began writing a withdrawal slip.

The two men came out of the bank office, and France moved to shake hands with the d’Lons and Doyle.

“Mr. France, I’m here to make a withdrawal. My passbook shows I have $5,263.88 in my account. I’ll be withdrawing it all.”

France and Willis both turned white. Willis spoke: “Mr. d’Lon, I don’t think we have that much cash on hand.”

“Is that true, Mr. France?”

“Yes. We have assets to cover all the deposits, but not that much liquidity.”

“Mr. Willis, how much cash can you give me right now?”

“A bit over $1,700.00.”

“France, in two minutes I’m going to sign this withdrawal slip, and take every nickel in this bank. That’s how long you have to consider selling the bank to me. Mr. Doyle has a sales contract, hold-harmless contract, and a transfer of ownership for certain personal property. I’m offering you $10,000.00 in cash for the bank and all its assets, plus $2,000.00 for the contents of your home, which I assume is owned by the bank. You can keep all your clothes and photographs.

If you decide to not sell, I’ll sign the withdrawal slip, and clean you out. Then I’ll go out to the street and tell everyone I see that the bank is broke. Times wasting. What will you do?”

As d’Lon spoke, Doyle spread the three contracts on a table, and Rebekkah moved between France and his office door.

“Get out of my bank, or I’ll call the sheriff.”

“Do that France. Call him, and when he gets here we’ll tell him your bank is under-funded, and you’ve defrauded every one of your customers – including the sheriff and the judge, I imagine. You’ll be lucky if you don’t get lynched. I’m fully prepared to ruin your bank and your life. Or you can take the money and get out of town. Your choice. Make it now. Time’s up.”

“But what will I do?”

“You’ll take the money in five hundred dollar bills, and go to a bank, where you will instantly become a big shot. Willis, there’s $8,000.00 in this envelope. Count it.”

Willis counted with shaking hands.

“Yes, $8.000.00.”

“Rebekkah, $2,000.00 more.”

She counted the money and put it on the counter with the rest.

“France, do you recognize Rebekkah? You knew her as the Jew girl. I would gladly shoot you for what you did to her, but she’s willing to let you leave town. Does your wife know about your arrangement with Flin? My patience is getting thin.”

As d’Lon expected, France couldn’t cope with strong resistance. He signed the purchase contract, then asked about the hold-harmless contract.

“It’s an agreement between you and me that neither of us will go after the other in court over anything related to this bank. You’re off scot-free.”

France signed it, then asked if he could keep the organ in the house, it belonged to his wife, and she would hate to give it up.

d’Lon motioned to Rebekkah, and she pulled out another five hundred dollar bill.

“Buy her a new one.”

He signed the amended contract, which now read $2,500.00.

Willis signed as a witness on all three documents. Doyle did the same.

“Rebekkah, will you please check the office for guns? Willis, do you know if there are any back there? Do you have one under the counter?”

“Mr. France has one in his desk drawer. I have one in the cash drawer. Do you want me to take it out?”

“Yes, slowly please. Are both guns on the list of bank assets?”

They were. Rebekkah and d’Lon went into the office with France, to make sure he didn’t destroy records or take bank property.

Rebekkah came out of the office with a pistol, from which she removed the cartridges.

“France, you’ve got ten minutes to take your things and leave. You’ve got one week from today to vacate the house. Remember, you take only clothes, family pictures and jewelry. Now get going.”

France gathered his things and left. Mitzvah came in and found a place to sit. Doyle locked the door and turned the sign to read “Closed”. Willis was still white with fear – sure he was about to be fired.

d’Lon asked Willis if he liked his job. The reply was a shaky yes.

Accounting
“Good, because you are personally going to do a full inventory. We want to know every asset, and its’ carrying value. Then we’re going to see how the carrying value relates to each asset’s true value. Do you think the values are correct?”

“No sir, I know they’re not. The house is on the books at a value far greater than what it could be sold for. Same for this building. Mr. France didn’t have any money of his own in the bank, and neither do I. When I tried to tell him he was asking for trouble, he told me as long as I kept my mouth shut, everything would be fine.”

d’Lon told Willis to get to work. By Willis’ estimation it would be almost midnight before he finished. Rebekkah was already making coffee. Doyle gathered up the rest of the money they’d been carrying, and put it in the safe. D’Lon went over to the eating place, and asked the woman who ran if she would bring five meals to the bank at 8:00 PM. She said yes, and what would he like. d’Lon said anything but pork, and she agreed to provide beef stew, biscuits, and pie.

There was a knock on the door at about six. d’Lon looked out to see Hooker, now the sheriff, who hollered that he wanted to know what was going on inside. d’Lon stepped out and explained that he’d just bought the bank, and they were taking inventory. He said they hoped to be open tomorrow afternoon. He said the whole thing was entirely aboveboard, and he could get his lawyer out to confirm it if need be. Hooker said he wanted to talk to Willis, who promptly confirmed the sale of the bank, and that they were doing an inventory of assets.

Hooker was still suspicious, but he couldn’t find a crime being committed, so he left.

Supper came at eight, and they all sat to eat. Rebekkah asked Willis if there was anyone waiting at home for him, and he said no. It was nearly midnight when Willis finished the inventory. Tomorrow morning they’d start assessing the accuracy of the values. The d’Lons and Doyle spent the night in the bank. Only Mitzvah slept well.

Willis came at eight. He was the only one of the group who’d slept in a bed. He’d washed, shaved and put on a clean collar. Only the redness in his eyes betrayed the late hours he’d worked. The rest cleaned themselves up as well as they could. Then they went across the street for breakfast. Mitzvah followed, and laid down outside the door. The d’lons asked for biscuits and gravy. Willis did the same. Doyle asked for ham and eggs. d’Lon was about to say something, but Rebekkah shushed him.

“Mr. Doyle doesn’t have to pay for the fact that I’m Jewish.”

Doyle looked at the d’Lons for a moment. Then he said “Mr. d’Lon, does this woman have a sister?”

“No, but she has a red-headed friend from Armagh in New York. Perhaps you’ll meet her some day.”

The rest of the meal time was spent in small talk. Willis said little. The dog got a few biscuits, and they all set out for a tour of the properties listed among the bank’s assets. The house France was living in wouldn’t sell for half of its listed value. The house the sheriff was living in (rent-free, Willis noted) was also badly overrated. A building across the street, which had been empty for going on four years, was deemed worthless, and written off as a total loss. A ranch outside of town was on the verge of going into foreclosure. It would probably be gobbled up by another rancher, Hiram Brooks, who owned a spread nearby. Willis allowed as how Brooks was the bank’s biggest depositor, and it seemed certain that in time he would put all the other ranchers out of business. D’Lon told Willis to hold off from the foreclosure, that he wanted to talk to the rancher, and to Brooks. He wanted to take the measure of the men.

Brooks had been quietly working with France to squeeze local land-owners out. In time Brooks came to realize his plan wouldn’t work, so he sold out to d’Lon Holding Company, of Boston.

By noon they’d completed their tour, and reconciled the books. They estimated the bank was under-funded by more than six thousand dollars. D’Lon began to wonder if the hold-harmless agreement was such a good idea.

“Willis, there’s enough cash in the safe to cover the shortfall. I think it would be best to keep things quiet for now though. We want to build up the bank, not deplete my pockets. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir, mum’s the word.”

d’Lon turned the sign over, so the “Open” side showed. The four of them toasted with cups of coffee. Mitzvah was called into the office. It wouldn’t be appropriate for bank customers to be sniffed up by a dog. The first person to show up was Sheriff Hooker. Mitzvah didn’t trust the man, and changed her position so her legs were beneath her.

Hooker asked why, all of a sudden, France sold out. d’Lon said only that France was moving on to bigger and better things. In the meantime, since the bank owned the house Hooker was living in, he would have to decide whether he wanted to stay there and pay rent, or move. d’Lon suggested Hooker might want to find cheaper accommodations, and put his horse up at the livery stable. Since the horse was necessary for the sheriff’s work, he could probably get the town to pay the stable bill. d’Lon said he thought the liveryman might be willing to provide a reduced rate in exchange for a long term deal. The bank would start charging fifteen dollars rent on the first of the month, and payments were due by the tenth of each month. Hooker was clearly unhappy, but he knew he was in a bind. If the d’Lons decided to go public with all the things that had happened in town, Hooker would be out a job at best, and in jail himself at worst, since he’d been aware of all the goings-on. He’d even been a participant in some of them. He decided he’d pay the rent for a while, and see what developed.

The rest of the day was dull. A couple of people came in to make deposits, and one made a withdrawal. Willis said the first of the month would be busier, and people came in to pay on loans.

Doyle and d’Lon went across the street to look at the empty building they’d written off. It was solid enough, and had an apartment on the second level. They agreed this would be the Colorado office of Doyle, Stein, and Doyle. Doyle would deduct a usage fee from his billings. Then they went to the saloon. d’Lon was curious to see who was running it now. Rebekkah too was curious. When she saw the men walk in, she went over to join them. She told the dog to stay with Willis, who smiled at the mention of his name. The man’s a puppy, she thought to herself.

Inge’s Place
The upstairs girls were now operating the saloon. It was cleaner than it had been, but otherwise much the same. Rebekkah was greeted cautiously at first, but with more warmth when the upstairs girls realized she wasn’t there for revenge on anyone. They all sat at a table – the sheriff’s table – to talk. The upstairs girls told how Flin failed to show up one morning, to open the place, so they went on as usual, cleaning up, setting tables, and stoking the fire. When neither Meade nor Flin arrived by noon, they screwed up their courage to look in the box where Flin said he kept their bonds. There was some cash, and three pieces of blank paper. Two days later the stagecoach came in, with two horses in tow, each carrying a dead body. Hooker, the doctor, and the judge decided Meade and Flin had shot each other in a drunken gunfight. Why they were six hours outside of town was never discussed.

The very next day Hooker came in and said he was taking over the saloon. Inge said no, he was not, and she leveled one of the shotguns at him. Clear Water, standing off to one side, pulled out the other shotgun. Inge told him he was a paying customer, or he was leaving. Clear Water made it known she wanted to shoot him now. Hooker said to take it easy, that they could work something out. Inge said the only thing to work out was whether he paid or left. The sound of two hammers being drawn back on Clear Water’s shotgun convinced Hooker to buy a drink, and then leave. The upstairs girls laughed as they told the story. Hooker had been no trouble since.

Doyle asked if there was someone in town who could help clean up the vacant building. They said they’d help if Rebekkah would. They wanted to talk girl talk. The saloon was closed in a moment, and everyone set off for the vacant building. There was furniture upstairs, including a decent bed. Rebekkah told Doyle and d’Lon to go to the dry goods store and get bed clothes. They were told to stay away for at least two hours. When they stepped out they saw that Mitzvah was relieving herself beside the bank. Rebekkah, standing in the door, called the dog. Mitzvah, as was her wont, came bounding over in a flurry of wagging tail and flapping ears. Rebekkah held the door open for her, then looked at the men.

“Go. Shop. She’s a girl, you’re not. We’re having girl talk here. Shoo!”

They did as they were told, and heard peals of laughter and barking as they left. Doyle at least, would have a bed tonight.

The drayman from Denver showed up the following day. The first thing they off-loaded was a wooden sign reading Dillon Bank & Trust Co. The France Bank sign came down, and a handful of men showed up to help hang the new sign. d’Lon thanked them by buying a round at the saloon. It was two more days before France and his wife left town. There were indications that a few things had been removed, but most things had been left behind. For a moment, d’Lon wondered where the Frances went, then he shrugged the thought out of his head. d’Lon, Rebekkah and Mitzvah moved into the house. Susie (Rebekkah called her something that sounded like Soos), and General Grant moved into the stock barn. The woman who had done housekeeping for the Frances came around, and asked if the d’Lons would need her services. After a bit of discussion, it was agreed that she would clean the house, the bank, and the building Doyle was using.

The Bigaouettes
In a couple of weeks time, everyone had settled into a routine. It was time for the second step in the plan. The d’Lons and Doyle approached the owner of the dry goods store – about the only business besides the saloon that seemed to be profitable – and asked him if he was willing to sell.

“Major, I was wondering when you’d come to see me. Don’t look so surprised. I’ve known who you are since you arrived. Knew those sonsabitches Meade and Flin too. I was marching with Sherman when a lucky shot from a gray hit my leg. I saw you plenty of times before the bullet took me out of the march. I wasn’t able to march any more, so the Army sent me to Chicago to guard prisoners. Meade and Flin were there, stealing food, and reselling it off camp. Didn’t matter to them as prisoners were hungry. And neither of them ever stood a turn in the guard towers.

Now, to your original question, everything is for sale except my wife. I might give her away though, if she doesn’t stop nagging me.”

She heard him, and smiled.

“Pay him no mind, Major. Mr. Bigaouette couldn’t find his socks without me, and he knows it.”

“If I buy the business, would you stay on to run it? We could work out a deal to split the profits. What’s your asking price?”

Bigaouette looked at his wife, and asked, “Addie, does eight thousand sound about right to you?” Addie nodded.

“And you’d stay on?”

They both nodded.

“Well, I don’t have that much money. How about six thousand for two-thirds ownership. You would get half of the profits, plus a salary for your work. Would that do it for you? If so, Mr. Doyle here can draw up the papers.”

Addie asked what the salary would be, and they agreed to start at fifty dollars per month apiece. They shook hands all around. Thus was the Dillon Mercantile Company born.

Dillon
The Mayor of Goldville did little else than hang out in the saloon. The only reason he was the mayor was because he did what people told him to do. The d’Lons caught up with him at the saloon one day, and bought him a drink. Then they told him it was time to change the name of the town. He hemmed and hawed, and d’Lon told him to get the town council together to consider the question. A few drinks were all that was needed to settle the matter. The false promise of Goldville was replaced by the hidden meaning of Dillon. The locals knew enough to be embarrassed. Their humiliation was Rebekkah’s revenge. And to make matters worse, the locals knew this woman in men’s clothes, and wearing a six-gun was their benefactor. They needed her, but she didn’t need them.

Going East
In July the d’Lons decided it was time to head back east for a bit. Doyle agreed to stay on in Dillon to take care of things. Mitzvah would stay with him. During the layover at Leadville, d’Lon sent his brother a telegram: to u s marshal flagstaff arizona stop going east on business stop need good man to assist stop any suggestions welcome stop wire d lon at hotel Colorado in denver ends

The reply came two days later. To d lon hotel colorado denver colorado stop freign arriving denver in two days stop will meet you at hotel stop safe travels ends

Freign
Bob Freign, a well armed Negro, showed up at the hotel in the promised two days. Rebekkah asked him if he needed to rest before they headed east, but Freign said riding a train was downright restful compared to riding a horse. He was ready to leave whenever they were. Freign gave d’Lon several letters from d’Lon’s brother. One was for d’Lon himself. The others were for d’Lon’s parents and brothers. D’Lon knew before he opened the letter that it would be an explanation of Matthew’s aversion to big cities, and his love for his family. The letters to the others would probably be much the same. Since the next eastbound train didn’t leave until early the following day Freign was set up with a room for the night. Once again he woke in a cold sweat – the image of the word Cairo, and the barefoot woman in the field were all that stuck from the dream he’d had. That he’d had the same dream twice was unsettling, but he kept his peace about it.

The train left at six in the morning. Freign boarded last, which gave him a chance to see all the passengers. They made good time to Topeka, where there was a layover to take on coal and water. One new passenger boarded. Freign could tell immediately that this man wasn’t the type to ride a train. His boots were dusty and worn, not from walking, but from rubbing on stirrups. He was still wearing spurs. He was armed, but that wasn’t unusual. Freign made the slightest nod to d’Lon, who acknowledged it with a slight nod of his own. That man was trouble. As the train chuffed out of Topeka, d’Lon whispered to Rebekkah, and she replied that she’s seen him, and smelled him too. He smelled like the cowboys who’d come into the saloon.

About fifteen or twenty minutes out of Topeka, the man stood up and went for the door to the front of the car. The only thing forward was the engine. The train began to slow, and Freign spoke quietly to d’Lon.

“Take him. Do whatever you must.”

Before the train stopped five riders and a saddled horse approached from the north side of the tracks. A quick check confirmed a sixth badman on the south side. Freign told Rebekkah to keep the south rider busy once the shooting started. He was already unwrapping his long gun. The riders were about fifty yards off when a shot came from the mail car. The man on the engine came back, gun drawn. D’Lon shot him before he could get a shot off. The man was wounded, but not mortally so. D’Lon took his gun, and pushed him out the door. The fireman pushed the wounded badman off the train, which was now beginning to move again, in reverse.

Rebekkah fired at the south rider, then ducked as he leveled his gun at her. She fired again from a different window. Her third shot was too close for comfort. Someone from the mail car was also firing, and the south rider broke off. Freign fired his long Winchester once, and hit one of the north riders. He and d’Lon using their Colts, fired in rapid succession. The unexpected gunplay made the badmen pause. As they turned to flee, Freign lifted the Winchester. His first shot hit one of the badmen, who fell from his horse. His second shot seemed to hit nothing. His third shot, now at over two hundred yards, hit one of the badmen high in the arm or shoulder. The man managed to stay in the saddle. Then the shooting stopped.

The train was delayed in Topeka, while Freign and the local lawmen went out to investigate. They found one man wounded, and one dead. Four had fled, one of them was seriously wounded. The wounded man gave up everything he knew about his comrades – names, ages, criminal histories, and more. Freign hoped the local lawmen had enough information to finish the job.

The train left Topeka ten hours later. The remainder of the trip was uneventful except for a missed connection in Cincinnati.

The Family d’Lon
At Boston, they checked into a hotel. The next morning they went to the building where d’Lon Management Company had its offices. Max Stein met them there. d’Lon’s father was pleased to tears to see him, and fussed over Rebekkah. Brothers and sons were another matter. They were shocked by Rebekkah’s youth, and the fact that she wore a suit rather than a dress. (Later, in private they would admit to each other that she carried the clothes well, and was stronger than most of the women they knew.) Their indignation softened a little when Max told them about the will. It softened more when Freign told them about her role in defeating a train robbery. And when they started talking about business ventures in Colorado, it melted completely. There were harsh words from the sons about being abandoned by their father. d’Lon was stung, and Rebekkah was stung with him. It would be a long time before the resentment could be wiped away. Still, the hardest part was yet to come. Four wives and a mother-in-law needed to be met. Though Rebekkah didn’t say anything, she dreaded the meeting. She knew the women would be resentful for various reasons. Everyone agreed to meet for dinner at a restaurant at seven. That way, everyone would be on neutral ground.

The dinner was pretty much what Rebekkah expected. Mother d’Lon pulled her aside, and asked if she loved Mark. Rebekkah said yes, and thanked Mother d’Lon raising such a fine man. Mother d’Lon beamed at the praise. This was a girl she could like.

The wives were another matter. Both of d’Lon’s daughters-in-law took an instant dislike to Rebekkah. One envied her looks, the other thought she had married well above herself. The sisters-in-law both looked at Rebekkah as competition in the social circles of Boston. And her clothes! What was Mark thinking to let her dress like that. Her strength threatened them too. Rebekkah didn’t talk about fashion or social events. She talked with the men about contracts, and takeovers, and profit margins.

After dinner, the men and women split up. Rebekkah could hear the men talking about the attempted train robbery. The women were soon talking about their husbands – probably none of whom had ever fired a gun, let alone killed anyone, in war or otherwise. How little they knew. But she laughed at their stories, and made up a couple of her own about her husband’s inability to find clean underwear or socks. And she shocked them all into a ring of pink faces when she told them the (not true) item about her Mark sleeping naked. d’Lon would wonder for years why all these women tittered and whispered when they saw him. He also wondered why he got so many pairs of pajamas as presents.

After three days of business planning and family mixers, d’Lon told everyone he, Rebekkah and Freign where going to New York to meet Rebekkah’s family. He asked Max to come along because there might be some business transactions to conduct.

The Family Marx
The four of them settled into a hotel in New York. Freign remarked to himself that he hadn’t slept in the same bed three nights running since he left Flagstaff. He felt only partly dressed. His Winchester and standard holster were secured at Max’s law office. The Colt in the cross-draw holster and the boot gun would have to be enough for New York.

Rebekkah’s parents were as warm as they could afford to be. When her father saw them, he immediately judged the quality of their clothes. Max’s suit was deemed good work, the d’Lons were acceptable, but not high quality. Freign’s clothes were good considering they weren’t tailored. d’Lon said they would come to the shop the next day for fittings. Rebekkah knew the real intent was to size up her father, and his work. She was confident in the work. Her father was precise, but could he succeed on his own?

After a bit of visiting d’Lon asked if there was a restaurant in the area where they could have dinner. The day Papa Marx had taken off from work would be deducted from his pay. Dinner was the least d’Lon could do. They went to a small kosher restaurant not far from the Marx’s apartment. The food was good, though simple. Freign asked a lot of questions about what he was eating, but he didn’t turn his nose up at anything.

The next day they went to the tailor’s shop. The owner welcomed them, and they told him they were there to be fitted by Mr. Marx. The owner allowed that was a good choice, since Mr. Marx was probably the best tailor in New York – though he probably had never fitted a woman before. Papa Marx was in his element. Tape measure, chalk, fabrics – he chatted easily. Everyone except Freign ordered two suits. Freign said he had little use for such fine clothes, and it would be a crime to waste such skill on a dusty lawman from Flagstaff. The owner of the shop would have none of it. Marshal Freign would have two suits, one provided free. Even in the wild west a man should always look his best. Papa Marx took care to make sure Freign’s measurements allowed for comfort on a horse.

Rebekkah beamed, and d’Lon was impressed. The next day they all ate a late supper at the same kosher restaurant. d’Lon asked Papa Marx about his dream.

“I want everyone to have good clothes at good prices. Your Marshal Freign is reluctant to wear fine clothes, which is understandable. But he should be able to wear good clothes. There is a market in New York for fine clothes. It’s enough to keep the shop I work in going. But I think a place like Chicago, which is a little more, how to say, rough around the edges would have a big need for good clothes at good prices. Some of my friends and I have talked about this. We could do it, if we had the money to get started. But here in New York, everything is expensive – everything except the labor. No one can save enough money to go out on his own.”

“Max, do you think the family would be willing to invest in a clothing business in Chicago?”

“Possibly. I can suggest it.”

“Please do, but if they decide not to, I’ll do it on my own. It would be best to keep that under your hat though. I don’t want the family to feel they’re being pressured by the prodigal son.”

Mama Marx spoke up then. “What shall I call you? Mr. d’Lon? Mark? No matter. The money you’ve been sending has kept us in our apartment. You would do this now, for us? We cannot repay you.”

“Call me Mark, or call me son, as suits you. I am the one doing the repaying. Rebekkah lifted me from a hole. If you hadn’t borne her I might still be in that hole. To me, you are Mama and Papa Marx – my other parents.”

Rebekkah, who’d had no idea d’Lon was sending her parents money, asked why he hadn’t told her. d’Lon said he was embarrassed to say anything, and that some things are best done quietly. Then he suggested Mama and Papa Marx should say nothing about the Chicago business until everything was finished.

Mary Rourke
That night, back at the hotel, d’Lon spoke to Max, and told him there was one more thing to do in New York. He laid out his plan to Max, who agreed to start things moving in the morning.

It took Max two days to arrange a meeting with the owner of the clothes factory where Rebekkah had worked, seemingly ages ago. Max had represented d’Lon as a potential investor – which was partially true.

When they met at the factory, it was the same hot, noisy, dusty place it had been just over three years ago when Rebekkah left. Rebekkah had to yell three times to break through the noise.

“Mary! Mary Rourke! Where are you?”

When she finally heard her name, Mary stood up. She couldn’t tell who was calling, but whoever it was, he (he?) was beckoning to her to come to the office. She wondered what trouble she was in now. Then, as she got closer, she recognized Rebekkah.

“Mary, come with me. You don’t work here any more.”

“What? I’ve been fired?”

“No. You just quit, and we’re about to tell the owner why.”

The owner was a thin spindle named Perlmann. d’Lon told him he wanted to discuss certain financial matters, and that the plant manager, who was in the room, should probably be asked to leave. Perlmann agreed, and nodded the man out of the room.

As soon as he was gone, Rebekkah started in on her story. Mary filled in details. The plant manager had hired his wife to be an inspector. He’d hired his daughter to be a seamstress in the rework section. The wife would pull good piecework, which was deducted from each seamstress’ count, and take it to the daughter for rework. The daughter did virtually no sewing, but was paid for each pair of pants she “reworked”. The seamstresses were also pretty sure the plant manager was selling uncut fabric on the side. Sometimes entire bolts would disappear, far more cloth than a woman could sneak out. Rebekkah guessed there would be other things to find, if the owner looked.

d’Lon said such things would prevent him from investing in the business. If Perlmann was interested in taking on an investor, he’d have to fix some of the problems, starting with the plant manager who was stealing from the laborers and the company to boot. Perlmann asked if there were any other problems, and d’Lon told him the ventilation system needed to be fixed – the dust needed to be pulled out of the air. Also, a second shift would be needed, to increase production while reducing the number of hours each woman worked. The pay scale would need to be adjusted so that the women would make the same money while working fewer hours. If he made all these improvements, Perlmann would have a better product at the same cost. He could then either raise his prices, or keep them the same and sell more pants.

To help fund the changes, d’Lon would invest $100,000.00, for which he would become a twenty percent partner. Max offered to add $25,000.00, for a ten percent share. The plant manager, and his wife were fired that day. The daughter was transferred out of rework. Whether she could actually sew would soon be determined. Max would prepare the necessary paperwork.

Rebekkah told Mary Rourke she was joining them tomorrow for the journey to Boston, then to Denver, and perhaps to Dillon. For once Mary’s tart Irish tongue was stilled.

“Let’s go Mary. We’ll pack your things, especially your stories. I have some ideas for how we can spice them up. Maybe you can write one about a woman who wears men’s clothes, and carries a six-gun.”

They were in Boston in a day. In two more days they were headed back to Colorado by a slightly different route. Though Mary Rourke didn’t know it, the d’Lons and Freign were carrying $15,000.00 split between them.

Cairo
As they reached Cairo, Illinois, Freign started acting like a man possessed. He gave d’Lon the money he’d been carrying, and got off the train. D’Lon would have gone after Freign but Rebekkah stopped him.

“Let him go Mark. We’ll see him again when the time is right.”

Doyle and Mitzvah met them when they got off the stage at Dillon. Doyle was immediately smitten by Mary Rourke, and she by him. Rebekkah thought the matchmaker business was too easy. Mitzvah, as was her wont, was smitten by everybody, running from one person to another, ears flapping and tail flying. They all went to the d’Lon house. The ladies repaired to the kitchen, from which could be heard unseemly laughter and tail thumps. The men went to the sitting room, and tried to listen in without looking like they were listening in.

Doyle said nothing interesting had happened in Dillon beyond the fact that Clear Water seemed to have a boyfriend, a frozen one, whom he’d installed as a hand on the Brooks Ranch.

d’Lon told Doyle about all the things that happened during the trip back east. Doyle said he didn’t know whether to be jealous or thankful about missing all the excitement. He did allow, however that he knew d’Lon’s daughters-in-law, and he hoped d’Lon would forgive him for saying it, but he was really pleased to have missed the family reunion.

Novels
In a bit the ladies came out from the kitchen. They clearly had something on their minds. In Mary and Rebekkah’s case, it turned out to be books. Mitzvah was probably thinking food.

“Mark, Cullen – Mary and I are going to spend a few days looking at some of the stories she’s written. When we get them just right, we’d like Cullen to read them, and check for errors. Can you tell us what we need to do to get them published?”

Doyle all but tripped over his tongue saying he’d be happy to look at the stories, and that one of d’Lon’s companies included a small but profitable publishing house. If the editors there approved Mary’s stories, they could be published. d’Lon cautioned that the editors had final say, and the publishing house did mostly dime novels.

Mary and Rebekkah went to work immediately. The d’Lon kitchen was soon cluttered with paper. Rebekkah cautioned d’Lon to not burn anything because some of the ideas that didn’t work in one story might be good in another.

Doyle and d’Lon set about looking for additional business opportunities in the area. Their attention was drawn to a bank in Leadville, where d’Lon carried a five thousand dollar account. They decided to do a little quiet investigating to see if that bank was under-funded like the France Bank had been.

It was, and d’Lon managed the takeover in much the same manner as he’d taken over the bank in Goldville – now Dillon.

It took the women a week to work up three stories in draft form from the notes Mary had written. Doyle, still smitten, set out at once to read the drafts. Near the end of the second day of reading, Doyle stood in his office window. When he saw d’Lon in the bank, he motioned – repeatedly – until he caught d’Lon’s eye. Then he pointed toward the saloon, and made a universal motion indicating drinking. d’Lon nodded, and got his hat.

“My god, Mark! The stories that woman writes! There’s women running ranches and throwing themselves at the cowboys. There’s cowboys wearing their boots to bed. There’s rolling in the hay. When she writes about miners, it’s all about how rough their hands are, and how the miner’s wives – I think they’re wives – give them baths. Buntline writes about blood. Mary writes about sex. Who would buy this stuff?”

“Rebekkah.”

“What? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well, if Mary and Rebekkah would write those stories, it seems likely at least some women would read them. Why don’t you just send the drafts to the editors, and see what happens?”

Doyle did just that. About a month later he got a letter asking if there were any more of these stories. A woman editor Doyle referred to as Blitzen said the stories would sell well in the East. The stories were copyrighted by Mary Rourke. They did indeed sell well to women (and some men) in New York, Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia, among other places. Oddly, Milwaukee also accounted for a lot of sales.

Mary and her Irish attorney husband were soon the toast of Denver, but they spent little time there. Mary had to research background material, and Doyle had some success connecting to lawyers in various places. At one point the d’Lons received a letter from Ireland. Doyle told them Mary’s latest book was now at the publisher, and would be on sale before he and Mary got back to the states. He told them the scene in the sheep meadow, and the one above the pub were true, but the fist fight scene in the pub was false. d’Lon groaned, and Rebekkah allowed that Mary mightn’t be Shakespeare, but she’s fun. Doyle also wrote that Buntline had approached them about a co-authored series of books following a man and woman who traveled the West, righting wrongs. Mary said no, that children would prevent a couple from that kind traveling.

“Do you think Cullen knows Mary’s pregnant?”

“What? How?”

“The usual means, I imagine.”

“No, I mean, how do you know?”

“Well, Mary writes from her imagination, of course, and she’s imagining what having a baby will be like. Maybe I should write to her, and suggest a series about two WOMEN traveling the West and righting wrongs. She could model one of the characters after me. What do you think.”

“Won’t work Even though you wear a hat like Earp’s, you aren’t much of a shot, and you sweat in bed.”

“Oooo, I have to write that down. Thank you Mr. Sureshot. You may have just planted the seeds for another book.”