Monday, October 27, 2008

You know what always bothered me about Young Riders?

The fact that they never seemed to be know...working. How come they were always all present and accounted for? And how come there was never some strange guy who showed up occasionally sleeping it off in the bunkhouse? Who was passing off these mochillas?

I'm guessing because they didn't really have contracts with Russell, Majors, and Waddell. They had contracts with MGM.

Don't get me wrong, I loved that show. I just thought it was kind of funny is all.

I didn't think the research into the show was bad, really. I mean, they kind of had to take some liberties to make the TV show, so you know, you do what you have to do.

For instance: Sweetwater Station. Sweetwater station was in fact a Pony Express station. I just don't think, after poring over various sources over and over again, that it was a home station.

Home stations were, give or take, about a hundred miles apart. We are pretty certain that Three Crossings Station was a home station. In fact, William Cody his own self, who really did ride for the Pony Express, wrote that Three Crossings was his home station. However, Sweetwater appears on maps of the trail to be around 20 miles away from Three Crossings. Not only that, but one source states that it was abandoned in favor of Split Rock in the summer of 1860. So I'm thinking that Sweetwater was probably a relay station. (cool link I found listing all the stations: .)

I think the thing that baffles me the most about how the stations were laid out was the fact that a guy could endure having his unit pummelled by a saddle and a running horse for a hundred miles. Just sayin.'

Anyways, just a heads up. I'm thinking of making the posts shorter so it's easier to sneak peeks at them throughout the workday when you are taking a little break. It's been put forth as a suggestion and I think it's a good one. Also, I think I'm going to try to post more often to make up for the shorter posts.

Hope you are enjoying the ride!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chapter 8: Jesse

“Jesse, I’m so glad you’re back!” Lily threw her arms around the lanky young man’s shoulders, pulling him downwards and releasing a cloud of brown dust from his clothing. The red fabric of her brother's shirt was dingy with the stuff. The swirling motes danced in the bright sunlight streaming in through the kitchen windows, but Lily didn’t care. She was just relieved to have her older brother back safely. The job was dangerous, and none of his disclaimers or sugarcoatings would change her mind about that. “You’re back kinda early.” She said. “I’m glad.”

Jesse hugged her hard, pulling her up onto the tips of her toes as he straightened up. “Well.” he replied sheepishly in his honeyed drawl. “I sent back as soon as I got there. I would normally have stayed a bit to rest up.” He swept dirty hands back over the shoulder-length strands of equally dirty yellow hair that had escaped the braid behind his head. “Gosh, Lily, I’m gettin’ ya all dirty...”

She grinned at him. “You know I don’t care anything about that. Why’d you get sent back?”

She guided him to the bench at the long kitchen table and pushed him down onto it. Fiona stopped peeling carrots long enough to pour him a tall glass of water and set it in front of him.

“Thanks, Miss Fiona.” He took a long, thirsty draught, then set the glass down. “Well... they said there was maybe some trouble along the route ahead. They wanted me to bring word down the line to Mr. Lynch. I’m sure it’s nothing.”

Lily watched his blue eyes shift to the tabletop. He had always been an inept liar. And he’d done a poor job of convincing her his job as an express rider wasn’t dangerous, that all the stories were a bunch of exaggeration. “Jesse...what happened?"

Jesse fidgeted with his hands. "Well...look, it's not like we know exactly when the riders will arrive. The fellow I was to switch off with didn't show up, so...uh...I just had to relay that there was a delay, is all."

Fiona interrupted, coming back to stand in front of the table with a half-skinned carrot in one hand and a paring knife in the other. “What happened?” Her face was tight with concern. “Don’t tell me Storm rode off into a bad spot this morning.”

Jesse looked from his sister to Fiona and his sweet face softened into a gentle smile. “Nothing to worry about, Miss Fiona, really. He went northeast. I was riding southwest. Some of the relay stations further out on my route were closed, that’s all, so they sent me back so I could pass the news down. I’m sure Storm’s fine.”

“Why were they closed?” Fiona pressed, obviously unconvinced. “What about the mailbags?” She sat down at the table besides him, the carrot dangling forgotten in her white-knuckled hand.

“Well, they told me to leave the mochilla at Weber and they’d just have them picked up when the trail re-opened….”

" What's a mochilla?" Lilyfrowned.

“The mailbag. The...uh....” Jesse glanced at his sister and squirmed. “there was a...well... fire down the trail and a relay station”

Fiona’s green eyes widened in shock. “Burned?” She looked helplessly at Lily, her face a mask of worry. Jesse, what on earth...”

“Ah, I’m sure it’s nothing, Miss Fiona. An accident.” Jesse seemed to be troubled that he’d worried Fiona. “You know Storm as well as I do, Miss Fiona. Even if there is trouble, he’ll be fine. Don't worry. But you know,” He perked up, happy to change the subject, and turned back towards Lily. “I got to talk to Harris while I was in Fort Bridger. He’s the postmaster, you know. He said he’d try to find out about the stake. He said as far as he knew the land was pretty much worthless. But he’d ask around for me.”

Lily raised an eyebrow. “Well, somebody sure got a lawyer out here pretty quick. One was out here this morning" And, she thought ruefully, your buddy Saint made a fool of himself in front of him, but we won’t talk about that.

Jesse frowned. “Really? That was fast. He beat me back here.”

“I know. He said someone wanted to buy it.”

“Well, heck. I told Harris I’d just as soon sell it for whatever we could get, if you agreed.”

Lily shrugged apologetically. “Well, Jesse, I think we ought to at least find out what we have, first. I told the lawyer that.”

Jesse’s teeth showed in his tanned face. “Hey, the final decision is up to you, of course. The deed’s yours.”

Lily reached across the table and squeezed Jesse’s grimy hand. “No, it’s ours. We’ll both decide what to do with it.”

He gave her a smile and a nod, then turned his attention to back Fiona, who was nervously picking at the carrot in her hand. “Miss Fiona, Storm went off in the complete opposite direction, all right? You know them boys northeast a’ here got it pretty soft. He’s prob’ly got his feet up, drinking coffee with way too much sugar in it at Three Crossings right this very minute.”

Fiona gave him a feeble smile and stood up. “You’re probably right, Jesse. I know I worry too much.”

“Sometimes.” Jesse grinned at her. He quaffed off the remaining gulp of water in the glass and set it back down. “Lily, we need to talk to Lynch about taking a few days to go on out there and find out what this deed is for. I’d like to see what we’ve got ourselves into.”

© 2008 Regina Shelley

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chapter 7 Showdown

Saint strode purposefully to the big, whitewashed barn out back and walked into the shadowy maw of the front doorway. Hay scented dustmotes swirled in the sunlight shafting down through the warm dimness. I gotta get the hay replaced in the stalls. I don’t have time for this...horseshit. He walked over to a support post and thudded the top of his head against it, leaning there and looking down at his dusty boots.

Ah, merda. What the hell just happened?

He had just gotten finished making a complete ass of himself back there. It wasn’t that he’d simply made an ass of himself...that was nothing particularly new...but over what? Some young girl he didn’t even really know talking to some smarmy lawyer he knew even less?

He was trying to take advantage of her, the lying pig. As I was coming up through the yard I heard the slimy little pantywaist ignore her questions twice. Pomade-smelling worm.

He sighed, pushed himself off the post, and stalked over to the ladder leading to the hayloft. He grabbed the highest rung he could reach and swung himself up. I don’t like seeing people getting pushed around like that. He walked over to the nearest bale of hay, jerked it up by the binding cords, and heaved it over the side, watching with satisfaction as it partially exploded and lost part of itself when it connected with the dirt floor.

'It’s rough territory for such an attractive young lady as yourself.' He mentally mocked Galloway's voice in his head. Oh, don't make me sick. He grabbed another bale and tossed it after the first, feeling a bead of sweat roll down his spine, and giving the bale considerably more force than was really necessary to get it down below.


Lily could feel the heat of her anger roiling inside her as she stalked across the dusty yard towards the barn. The wide doors were open, and the interior of the barn hidden in shadow. She glanced around the property, and saw with dismay that she seemed relatively alone. Luis was off God only knew where, Fiona was in the bunkhouse changing bed linens, and Mr. Lynch was in his office. With Jesse and Lights The Storm off on mail runs and Wash and Tommy running errands in town, the property was relatively deserted.

And Saint, she knew, was in the barn.

She drew in a deep breath, steeling herself. She didn’t relish being alone with him, and she liked even less confronting him about what he’d done in the kitchen. But his butting into her affairs like that was beyond the pale. If I don’t say something now, there’s no telling what he’ll think he can get away with. No wonder Mr. Lynch dislikes him. I’ve never met anyone so pushy and arrogant! I just cannot believe anyone would be rude!

She paused, gathering up her courage as she gazed at the yawning mouth of the barn. I feel like I’m just waltzing up to the cave of a grizzly bear. She chided herself. What am I afraid of? That he’ll hit me? He wouldn’t dare. Jesse has told me about some harrowing things Saint has done, but hitting women wasn’t one of them. Yell at me? Well, maybe...but I have some yelling to do myself. She was trembling inside. She steeled herself and strode into the shadows.

As her eyes adjusted from the brightness of the yard to the dusty dimness of the barn, the first thing she saw were the scattered remains of hay bales beneath the ladder leading to the loft. She glanced around, feeling dread growing in her stomach, nervously rehearsing what she was going to say. Mr. Bari, my affairs are none of your concern. You don’t know me, and don’t you dare to presume to speak for me. You owe Mr. Galloway and I apologies....

“I bet you’re lookin’ for me.” The husky, accented voice came from the empty stall behind her. She whirled around, heart in her throat and stomach and in her shoes. She wasn’t even aware that she was recoiling a few steps backwards until after she'd done it.

Saint emerged from a stall, brisking his hands against his thighs in a lazy cloud of dust. Bits of hay clung to his shirt and in his charmingly disheveled hair. His hat was pushed back onto his head, and his olive-skinned face was flushed with heat and exertion. In the shafting yellow light sneaking into the barn, the plain white cotton shirt he wore glowed against his dusky skin.

She looked at him for a long, tense moment, trying to find her voice, but her mouth had gone dry. It was the first time she'd taken a really good, apprasing look at him. It was the first time she had dared. The well-rehersed dressing-down she'd had ready for him was rapidly evaporating the longer she held his dark, long-lashed gaze. Her heart pounded loudly in her ears. She was sure he could hear it.

“You had...” she attempted, amazed at how thin and shaky her voice was. She suddenly found the air inside the barn uncomfortably warm and stuffy. “That was...”

He reached up, pulled his hat off, and drew his hand over his face, rubbing his temples. He sighed tiredly. “I’m sorry.”

“I mean, you....” Thunderstruck, she stopped and stared at him. She certainly didn’t anticipate an instant apology. Now, her anger boiled around in her insides with nowhere to go, mixed with...something else she didn’t like and couldn’t identify. If she had ever had an idea of what she was going to say to him, it was forgotten now.

His deep brown eyes shifted to the stable wall and he rubbed the back of his neck before looking at her again. “Look. He wasn’t being honest with you.”

“You didn’t hear the conversation.” She blurted, snapped out of her trance and relieved to have some outlet for how she felt.

“I heard plenty. I’ve had to deal with his kind often enough....”

Now that he was talking, he seemed a lot less threatening. Lily grew bolder. “He said the same about you.”

Saint made a face of disgust. He shoved his hands into his back pockets and slouched, one shoulder against a thick wooden upright. “Oh, he hasn’t had to deal with ‘my kind’ often enough by half, Little Miss.” He growled.

Lily felt her anger flare again. “You were out of line. You can’t tell me you’re sorry if you’re just going to turn around and insist you were right in the same breath!”

Saint grimaced. He ran a hand through his tousled hair and sighed with exasperation. “Look, I’m sorry you’re angry with me, and I’m sorry I butted into your affairs, but if someone’s gonna come in here and rob somebody I work with, they’d better not try doing it where I eat breakfast every day!” His voice rose, a furious edge creeping into it. Lily took an involuntary step backwards. “And another thing...what would Jesse say if I let his sister get pushed around? I have sisters myself, Miss, and I’d be pretty furious if one of my buddies let one of ‘em get swindled!”

Lily’s mouth opened, then closed with a snap. Somehow, she couldn’t imagine this arrogant, swaggering, brawling ruffian as having a bunch of sisters he was protective of. The intensity of his gaze forced her eyes to the wisps of straw on the dirt at his feet. This reaction was the last thing she expected from him.

Her voice was soft, almost a whisper, when she found it again. “Why are you so sure Mr. Galloway is being dishonest?” She kept her eyes glued to the floor.

There was a long silence. A sparrow chirped somewhere in the rafters of big, airy building. She heard Saint draw in a deep, resigned breath and let it out slowly. “Why would someone be so interested in buying this land if it’s as worthless as he says? Whoever it is...and we still don’t know...sure didn’t waste any time getting a lawyer out here. And lawyers ain't cheap.”

Lily looked up at him. “I...uh....” this is not his business...I don’t need to tell him anything....She paused, struggling with her pride before grimacing in defeat. “I told him I wanted to talk with Jesse and find out what we had before I’d consider selling.”

He nodded.

“I’m...going to go back inside, now...I.... I feel stupid . I came in here to keep from being bullied, and here I am feeling I’m supposed to apologize to him!…...well...I have a lot of socks to darn.”

“Sure.” The throaty purr of his voice was akin to being licked by a cat. She realized with a shock that she wanted to hear him speak some more. Does everyone in New Jersey talk like that? How many sisters does he have? Did he really win a fight where he was out -weighed and out-numbered? Does he really, truly have to be so horribly cocky and…horribly…. handsome?

She turned briskly around, tearing her eyes away from him, and forced herself to walk out of the barn and back to the house.


Saint deflated against the stable wall. This is wonderful. Jesse’s sister shows up here and the first thing I do is get into an argument with her. That’s great. Ptah. What in hell was I thinking?

He could hear Jesse’s voice echoing inside his head, remembering the conversation he’d had before leaving for his run. Don’t you be messing’ with my sister, Saint. She ain’t like one of these gals in town you go around with. Don’t be thinkin’ about how nice she is, and don’t be thinkin’ about how pretty she is, he’d warned. And don’t be thinkin’ I can’t deliver an ass whupping to ya. Saint had thought the whole thing was kind of funny. He had absolutely no intention of even thinking about any he-ing and she-ing with anyone he worked with, least of all with a friend’s sister. He’d gone ahead and let Jesse have his rant, and assured him he’d leave her be.

And now, in less than a day, he’d managed to have her hating him. Nice work. At least now I don’t have to worry about Jesse thinking I have intentions on her. She was pretty suprise there, really, but I sure didn’t expect to hear about it. I didn’t think she had it in her.

He thought about that frightened doe look in her eyes at the breakfast table, how her hand trembled when she poured his coffee. At the time, he’d doubted she’d make it out here. Who would have guessed she’d have been out here a couple of hours later, ready to go toe-to-toe with him? His lip tugged in an admiring smile in spite of himself. She had guts, he’d have to give her that. She had been terrified, and yet she’d come right in here anyway, ready to give him a little hell.

You’re gonna be all right, Little Miss.

© 2008 Regina Shelley

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Chapter 6 - Gentleman Caller

In the aftermath of Luis’ needling Saint over breakfast, while Saint squirmed and Lily flinched, and Fiona glowered over the whole affair with a disgusted, disapproving glare, it was Tommy who had come to the rescue.

He had announced, out-of-the-blue and in his quirky, breathless way of speaking, that his socks were full of holes.

Everyone had turned to look at him as if he’d lost his mind.

Everyone but Wash, actually. Wash was apparently used to him.

But everyone else had, and he’d gone on to say that socks were a thing that could make or break a man’s day, and that he was sure that worn-out socks were something condemned souls in the Bad Place were doomed to wear for eternity. It was awful enough to have socks that slid down into a man’s boots and wad up around his arches, he had explained earnestly, as the tense conversation around him ground abruptly to a halt. And according to Tommy, having to endure that horror in addition to having one’s toes burst through and poke out of the holes was nigh unbearable.

Especially when it was cold.

So when Lily had offered to darn his and anyone else’s socks after breakfast, he happily and noisily took her up on it, thanking her profusely. Breakfast quickly broke up, and the crew hurried to the bunkhouse to gather their mending.

Lily was in her room, going over the morning’s events in her head. She had just gotten her sewing basket together when a sharp knocking sounded at her door.

“Oh, come on in.” She called. Luis appeared in the open doorway, a bundle of worn socks in his hand. “Good.” she smiled. She was glad to see him. He was, she was beginning to suspect, a career troublemaker. But she didn't care. He was the first of the boys she'd met, and his presence put her at ease. “You got your mending?”

"Yes’m." he nodded. "I got Storm’s, too, cuz he ain’t here. An’ Jesse’s. Listen, Miz Lily, there’s a man downstairs to see you. He's in the kitchen.”

Lily stopped and stared at him. “A man?”

The boy nodded, eyes earnest and black curls bobbing. Lily frowned, her brow furrowing. She took the bundle of socks from him. “Who is it?”

Luis shrugged. “Some perfume-stinking git in a fancy suit, a stupid looking hat, an’ a book bag. You want us to get rid of him for you?”

More perplexed by the moment, Lily’s frown grew deeper. Who on earth? Who even knows me out here? “No, no. Of course not. I’ll see him.” She smoothed her hair and straightened her apron. “Are you absolutely sure it’s me he wants?”

“Yes’m. He knew your name and all. Asked for Miz Lily McMillian.” A teasing smile dimpled Luis’ smooth brown cheek. “So, Miz Lily, you ain’t got any lawmen out lookin’ for you, eh? Or maybe he heard about your cooking and found out you can sew an’ he’s come callin’?”

Lily laughed at that. “Oh, you. Don’t be silly.” She picked up her basket and headed for the door. “Can’t imagine what he could want from me, but we’ll find out, I reckon.”

By the time Lily got down the stairs, through the parlor and out the back door, then through the garden and to the propped-open kitchen door, she was consumed with rabid curiosity. Who in the blazes could be here? And looking for me no less?

The man rose from his seat on the bench where he’d been seated when she entered the kitchen. He was tall, with short, neatly combed blond hair and a handsome face. He wore a tailored brown suit, and a dress style hat sat politely on the table beside his coffee cup. An official-looking case of ledgers and papers sat open on the table, gently shifting in the warming spring breeze wafting through the open doorway.

Lily’s head cocked involuntarily in puzzlement, but she took his hand when he offered his. “Miss McMillian,” he said, in a deep, manicured voice, “my name is Richard Galloway. I’m sure you’re wondering what this is all about.”

She smiled. “Well...yes, sir, I have to admit I am.” She felt him give her hand a gentle squeeze before releasing it.

“Please.” He gestured to the bench across from himself. “Have a seat. I’m here in regards to the land you inherited from Mr.Chet Dillon.”

Lily felt her eyes go wide with suprise. “Oh...” she stammered. “Of course.” She sat down a little harder than she meant to. “Are you here because you spoke to Jesse? My goodness, that was fast. He’s not even back yet.”

“No, ma’am. I’m a lawyer.” He smiled warmly at her, his clear blue eyes on hers, lingering on her face.”I was hired by someone who is interested in buying your land.”

Lily stared back, shocked. My heavens, one day no one even knows what this land is, and the next someone wants to buy it? It had never occurred to her that anyone might be interested in buying this parcel of land that had apparently meant so little to her Uncle and that he'd never even shown it to her. She cleared her throat uncomfortably.

“Well, sir.” She said finally. “I don’t know. I don’t even know what’s on the property, to tell the truth. If you had some information about that, it would help. Who wants to buy it?”

The blue gaze never wavered. “I’ve never been there, myself, Miss McMillain. But located where it is, I can’t imagine it’s worth much. My client is willing to pay good money on it, however.”

A slight shadow flickered across the table. “Hey, Miz Lily.” Luis appeared in the open doorway and slouched against the propped door, a piece of straw dangling from between his teeth. “Say, we got any more of those biscuits left over from breakfast?”

“Uh. “ Lily looked up at him, “Yes. Look in the basket over near the second stove.” It was taking most of her attention to sort out what this lawyer was saying and she was having a tough time focusing on Luis’ distraction.

Luis, sauntering casually and unhurriedly into the kitchen, nodded amiably at the lawyer. The lawyer turned back to Lily. “As I was saying, Miss McMillain. This land more than likely is worthless. I could probably get you a fairly good price for it, if you were willing to sell it.”

“Hey,” Luis interjected on his way to the door, his mouth full of bread. He smiled and nodded at them both. “Gracias, Seniorita.”

Lily nodded briefly in his direction without really looking at him. Luis disappeared into the yard with his snack. “I don’t know, Mister Galloway, “ she continued....”I mean, I ought to at least go find out what’s out there. And I’m real curious who is interested in buying it. Is it a friend of my uncle’s?”

“Well, ma’am, I don’t know that I’d bother with that.” His eyes swept over her appreciatively, smiled, and gave her a slightly embarrassed shrug. “That’s some rough territory out there for such an attractive young lady to be traveling to. Probably more trouble than it’s worth. You really ought to consider my offer.”

"Well," she stammered, "I don't know. I can't really make a decision like that without talking to my brother first, and as I've said, I haven't even seen the land yet. You have to understand, my Uncle left it to me, and he's gone now. I may not want to sell it."

Galloway cleared his throat, a thread of impatience edging into his eyes. "I do undertand that, Ma'am, but..."

The sunlight spilling through the doorway dimmed again. Lily and Galloway both looked up. Saint had walked into the kitchen with a rough-hewn three-legged stool in his hand, coolly surveying them both. He was a dark, rangy shadow outlined in a nimbus of midmorning light, the stray ends of his long, dark hair dancing in wine-hued glints along the tops of his shoulders. He silently strode across the kitchen, taking his time, and set the stool near the sink with a sharp wooden thump. Straightening up, he made eye contact with Richard Galloway from beneath the brim of the ever-present black hat. He did not look happy.

“Tell England her stool’s fixed.” He grunted at Lily without looking at her. His eyes, which never left Galloway’s, were feral and full of threats. “Who are you?” he growled, his accent making his words harsh and pushy.

“Richard Galloway.” Galloway leaned out of his seat and extended a hand across the table to the glowering teamster. “I’m a lawyer.”

“Yeah, so I heard.” Saint dropped a brief, disdainful glance at the offered hand, but didn't move to take it. His dark eyes snapped back onto Galloway's. “So. What I want to know is why you won’t answer the lady’s question.”

Lily’s head jerked towards him and she stared, openmouthed. How dare...

Galloway’s smile dropped a notch before hitching itself back into place. “And you are...?”

“She’s asked you who sent you at least twice.” Saint stood calmly staring down the lawyer. “ At least, as I was coming up to the door, that’s as many times as I heard. That, and how good-looking you think she is, which I'm pretty damn sure I didn’t hear her asking you about.”

“Mr. Bari!” Lily said, a little louder than she meant to.

Saint ignored her,continuing. “But the part where she asked you about who’s interested in the land, that part I did hear. You’re in here trying to sweet talk her out of her property and you won’t even tell her who sent you? I smell something in here, Dicky boy. Other than the overpowering cheap cologne, I mean.”

Galloway looked helplessly at Lily. “Ma’am, is he...I mean, he isn’t...your...”

“No, he most certainly is not!” Lily was outraged. I can't imagine the sand....the nerve of this...this...oh! “I think I can handle my own affairs, thank you, Mr. Bari.” She said tersely, unable to keep the anger out of her voice.

Saint’s attention snapped to Lily’s face for the first time since he’s entered the kitchen. His gaze held hers for a long, tense moment before he shot a last warning glance at the lawyer. He turned and walked briskly back out into the yard.

Lily and Galloway watched him go.

“Well.” The lawyer broke the silence first. “That was... interesting. Jealous beau?”

Lily’s face, already flushed with indignation, grew even redder. “What? No! Good Heavens!” The very thought… I could...I could wring his arrogant neck! “Mister Galloway, I am so sorry...” She stammered, mortified. "I barely know that man...actually, I really don't know him at all. I can't believe he came in here...and...and..."

“Please, “ The lawyer smiled and rifled though the papers shifing in the breeze on the table. He placed his empty coffee cup on top of them to hold them still. “Call me Richard. There’s no need to apologize, Miss McMillain. I understand there are some rough sorts out here. I deal with …his type… every day.”

© 2008 Regina Shelley