This is part four of a round robin western historical romance Free Read. To read part one to three go to:
Written Fireside: Be Mine, Marshal
(A Cold Spring Valentine Short Story)
Near the Canadian/US border
East of Cold Spring, Idaho
Marigold Fisher hid behind the mercantile and swiftly changed from dirty breeches, tied at the waist with a rope, and a shirt which was two sizes two big. The clothes belonged to her eldest brother, Lester. He was the instigator of the mischief, justice, he called it. Will, their youngest brother, and Marigold followed his lead. She pulled the dozens of pins from her long, auburn hair and allowed it to tumble in waves down her back. There was no need for shoes, she had been barefoot ever since ma and pa had been killed by some outlaws on their way into town. She still fumed at the thought that no-one in Cold Spring had bothered to look for the killers. After all, the Fishers were poor no-account farmers that no-one would miss.
The three of them had been living in the rundown farmhouse for almost a year now, alone, with nobody to care for them. Lester had said they didn’t need anyone but themselves. The townsfolk had proven how much they cared when they’d done nothing. They had Stargazer, their faithful steed, and each other. What they needed, they would ‘liberate’ from the town. They were owed, Lester said.
Marigold dashed around the corner between the mercantile and the doc’s office running slap bang into a solid wall. She stumbled backwards but before hitting the ground on her derriere, a strong pair of hands hauled her back upright.
Her eyes were level with a man’s chest, a hard wall of muscle was what she had collided with. She lifted her chin and tilted her head back. He was one handsome man. A shiver ran through her when she noted the badge on his chest and she frantically tried to pull from his grasp.
“Whoa there, young lady. Where were you headed in such a hurry?” Daniel glanced around. Why was this young girl coming from the alley between docs and the mercantile?
“Jumpin’ Jehoshophat, let go of me will ya?” She struggled against his grip but he refused to release her.
“Calm down. I’m not going to hurt you,” he said quietly.
Marigold glared up at him. “Let me go or I’ll scream.”
Daniel noted the fear in her eyes and released her. Lifting the skirts of her ragged blue dress, she took off, like a pack of coyotes were hot on her tail. She disappeared around another corner and he shrugged. “Crazy female, he said to Ranger who was peering up at him.” He continued on his way to the mercantile for salve to help heal Sophie’s cut, Ranger trotted alongside. Something niggled at the Marshall’s gut but he ignored it.
The bell on the mercantile jingled as he entered. He swaggered up to the counter and introduced himself to the balding, slightly overweight merchant. “Daniel Reid. The new Marshall. I met you briefly at Miss Carter’s place.” The men shook hands.
“Carl Boltz, the owner of this emporium.”
“I’ve been asked to investigate the fire and find out who has been causing the trouble here in town. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about it would you?”
“The fire was the reason I was at Miss Carter’s.”
“Someone took a knife to Sophie, the dog.”
“Is she okay?”
“Yeah, Doc is stitching her up.”
“I bet it’s the same three ruffians that have been causing havoc around town.”
“Do you know who they are?”
“No, but if they come in here again I’ll bring ’em over to your office. A man has a right to go out back without his store being destroyed.”
“Did you see them in here?”
“No, but I saw them hanging around outside so I know it was them. They were waiting for the opportunity to come in here and trash the stands. Stole food from me too.”
“Hmmm, you don’t know for sure though.” Three hanging around outside docs, three outside the mercantile before trouble. Have to admit it’s awful coincidental. Why the hell is my gut roiling? I haven’t eaten anything that could disagree with me. He ran his hand in circles over his stomach in a fruitless attempt to calm it.
“I’d know them green eyes if I saw ’em again and so would Milie. Ain’t no-one else in town got eyes like them.”
Green eyes. Daniel jolted. The reason for his roiling gut was now obvious, the girl he’d collided with outside had the greenest orbs he’d ever seen. “Sorry, Carl. I have to get going. I’ll take a jar of salve.”
Carl handed him the jar, he paid for his purchase and hightailed it from the store.
Daniel dashed down the street in the direction the girl had headed. He knew he was too late but he would check anyway. When he rounded the corner, no-one was in sight. “Damn it,” he cursed as he strode back to docs.
Fannie was seated, Sophie was cradled in her arms. A large white bandage covered her freshly stitched wound.
“Sorry I was so long. I decided to ask Carl if he knew anything about the fire,” Daniel apologized.
“I’ve only just finished stitching Sophie’s wound so it’s fine,” Doc answered.
“Did Carl know anything?” Fannie asked.
“He mentioned the same three you did, doc. I think I ran into the one with green eyes when I was headed to the mercantile. It was a girl though.”
“A girl?” Fannie asked.
“Yeah, about fourteen, I’d reckon.”
“Don’t know any green eyed girls around that age. In fact, I can’t say I’ve seen any green eyed girls of any age.”
“I know one,” Doc said. I always wondered what had happened to those kids after their parents were murdered. I assumed some relative had taken them. It couldn’t possibly be them stealing and setting fires, could it? She was such a sweet young girl.
Fannie and Daniel turned to the elderly lady.
Written Fireside: Schedule:
Tuesday Feb. 3rd – Lori Connelly
Tuesday Feb. 10th – Paty Jager
Tuesday Feb. 17th – Julie Cerniglia Lence
Tuesday Feb. 24th – Susan Horsnell
Tuesday March 3rd – Aileen Harkwood
Tuesday March 10th – AJ Nuest
Tuesday March 17th – Mandy Baggot
Tuesday March 24th – Kathleen Rice Adams
Tuesday March 31st – Kari Lemor