(Rewrite)Snowed: The Weekend Trip

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The station light snow-a composite

Evidence photo 1-a, 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road

(Note: This was published a few years ago, I opened it and facepalmed.  This is a rework of it. The story is the same, just grammar has been adjusted for clarity and attempts to increase the emotional content.)

 

Snowed: The Weekend Trip

 

 

Jason Best Ph.D. took another swallow from the old whiskey bottle while he pulled on the wrench as he struggled to remove the cap that protected the fill valve.

The cabin, originally constructed during the California Gold Rush. The heavy timber construction was built over an entrance of a horizontal mine that produced small amounts of gold. It functioned as the home of the elderly prospector who continually mined underneath his home until he died and ownership passed, eventually, to Jason.

In the construction style of the era, the first owner built the cabin’s foundation out of charred cedar logs on bedrock. The foundation held up better than the modern versions. Remodeled twice, the one-floor abode grew into a split-level, two and a half story mountain home with a hot spring. Built during the Reagan administration, the steam generator used isobutane in the heat exchanger.

Leaks in the plumbing lost much of the volatile gas in the system. Checked and rechecked, he found the valve seal that charged heat exchanger had failed. It Appeared to have been screwed down too tight and the seal developed a slow leak that took a toll over the years. This had the gradual effect of power generation down to zero.

The Doctor studied the concepts of the hot spring and geothermal sources and Jason taught himself enough to rebuild the system, updating the electrical system in the cabin that he called “Mountain House.”

After a few moments when he had his doubts of success, the cap gave stubborn creaks as it turned until it was loose enough for him to spin it off with his hand. The threads were in good shape, however, the rubber seal was in bad shape. Cracked and falling apart.

He used the special tool he’d tracked down over the internet to a company that dealt with replacement parts and shipped to him at his house in the city and brought it to Mountain House to rebuild the power system.

While he performed an upgrade in the of the house, Jason accidentally discovered a room below the house. What started as a simple fusebox on a half-rotted board was all the more useful when he knocked a hole in the wall, and discovered to his pleasure, a hidden space carved out of the bedrock. He took full advantage and turned it into a room that an electrical engineer would be delighted to call home.

As an added plus, the room was a wine-cellar of sorts. Stored on dusty shelves in the cool corners of the dark, were bottles of wine. Many he had found dated from just before the prohibition era, two-dozen were stored on their sides.

A few sat upright with the corks exposed, he found these corks to be dried and leaking. Nine out of ten bottle seals failed in that position and he didn’t want to try them.

But!

Those bottles, laying on their sides, were all intact. But with so few, Jason opened only one and tasted its treasure inside.

And it was excellent.

A greater discovery, however, was a treasure-trove of rye whiskey. With labels marked “Robert’s Rye” and each onion-shaped flask had a layer of rye-seeds on the bottom.

As he drank the potent brew, he conjectured that the rye grains left in the bottom were the reason that the rye whiskey was so excellent. And he had a hundred bottles with seals intact.

He drank half of the bottle of the rare and potent nectar and each sip was even better than the previous, but he was getting hungry and the whiskey had gone to his head a bit. But first he was going to recharge the heat-exchanger.

He tightened the hose to the rebuilt valve and turned the handle, he watched the cylinder’s gauge indicate the system pressure.

A delicious smell of food reached his nose. Doctor Tessa Pershing clanked about in the kitchen as she prepared the meal.  She was his colleague from the university, they had dated each other outside of work for a few weeks, but Tessa worried about being caught. She didn’t have tenure yet and didn’t want to jeopardize her position and future, so they kept it quiet and only with close friends.

But here, with the whiskey, wine, and snow so heavy, no one would come by. The storm was dropping four inches of snow per hour on top of the six-feet of the cold white stuff that was already there when he had arrived.

When he drove up two days before, Jason dragged, cussed and pushed the big gas cylinder through the deep snow to the basement door.

Now his efforts of sweat, profanity and bruised knuckles paid off. The hiss of gas subsided and system now showed green lights and the sweep needle gauge indicated the system was full.

Electric power was now available.

He put down the craftsman wrench. The best thing that Tessa thought to buy him in a kit. He walked to the electric panel and read the displays. Lights blinked and flickered as electricity flowed through new wiring in the panel and the house. Everything was green.

He wondered what might go wrong. It was too smooth. Nothing ever went that smooth unless it was broken.

The Professor of Biochemistry laughed at himself. With the power running, he had the good fortune to turn on the hot-tub on the patio. Tessa and he could sip ninety year old whiskey, sit in the bubbling warm water and watch the snowstorm, safe warm and naked.

Maybe they might get a clearing and watch the stars during the night. Then he’d shower with her and, he hoped, sleep with his arms around her.

“Dinner’s ready.” She called down.

“I have a surprise for you up there!” He said, waited a heartbeat and threw the circuit breaker and energized the system.

The exterior of the house lit up.

LED rope lights he had hidden in the eaves over the last few weeks, illuminated.

The lights gave the optical effect of electronic icicles and made the snow appear to glow blue.

It was breathtaking.

Tessa walked around with just a light work shirt and looked out the window in amazement.  She had complained that a bra was too uncomfortable to wear while she did lifted and helped him clean the debris of new construction and century old corners that had not been touched. So she had disposed of the constricting undergarment.

Which was fine in Jason’s point of view. With an oversized sleeveless shirt, sometimes he would get lucky and watch her accidentally flash him. Her bare legs were smudged and dust-covered while she wore shorts and slip-on flats.

He sat down with a bowl the chicken soup and warm bread that had baked all day. Tess and Jason used his grandmother’s recipe that the elderly woman had taught him in his childhood.

In a conversation about the house, he apologized for making her work when she should have been relaxing and enjoying the sights.

Tessa smiled brightly and touched his lips with a warm kiss. “Helping set up the cabin with you is my pleasure.”

He nearly passed out from the thrill of her words and the touch of her lips right then.

They could hear sounds from the upstairs bedroom, the walls echoed with a rhythmic thump as the other couple had gone to organize the rebuilt Mountain House.

Doctor Lettie Hackett and her rebound boyfriend, Kevin Acker, a post-graduate from the School of Pharmacy, were not coming down the stairs for food.

Jason yelled up the stairs for them to give it a break. They were supposed to be setting up the bedrooms, not testing the beds in each one.

That was when the first scream sounded. A sound,like a gunshot, echoed throughout the cabin.

Jason jumped up and left Tessa at the table while he ran up the stairs, taking them three at a time. At the top he ran into the arms of the half-naked Dr. Hackett who screamed that the wallpaper had come to life. Tentacles grabbed at her and tore her clothes while Kevin fought the sticky appendages to save her.  

“It sucked him in!” She screamed. “It sucked him in! The wallpaper grabbed Kevin! It sucked him in!” The voice of the calm doctor was a squeak of hysteria.

Jason sent her down the stairs and looked into the room. Underneath the paper, a silhouette of a man moved slowly, as if some crazed worker plastered over an unfortunate person who stood in the way.

Jason grabbed a putty knife out of a plastic bucket to cut the paper-covered Kevin out. The colored wallpaper began to show details of Kevin’s form behind the branches and birds, as if he were on the other side of a multi-colored hedge.

Jason called Kevin’s name and the young associate professor of pharmacology looked at him for a moment, then faded into the wallpaper. Leaving it as flat and perfect as if just placed by professionals and left Jason with no place to cut.

But he tried anyway. He sliced and slashed over the area where he saw Kevin under the paper, but all he found was wall. Kevin was no longer discernible among the branches and trees of the wallpaper, he was gone.

Screams again, downstairs. Jason sprinted the short hallway, and leaped down the stairs. Tessa was at the door, her eyes bulged in abject terror as if she saw moving shadows in the corners. The muffled sounds of screams coming from a lump in fresh wallpaper. The scene was a horror with Lettie’s hands were sticking straight out from the wallpaper. The textures and colors of the wallpaper crawled up the length of her arms towards her fingers while she waved about in the futile effort to grab for something, anything, for rescue.

Jason slashed at the paper with the sharp corner of the putty knife they used to spackle the walls for new paper.

A high-pitched sound came from the wallpaper, a scream louder than the screams of the women came from the cuts. It sounded as the Jason slashed at the wallpaper with the sharp corner of the metal blade of the putty knife.

Lettie screamed that the wallpaper was haunted.

The wallpaper? Jason froze, slack-jawed. He could not accept it, but it moved like something alive. It tried to pull Lettie into a growing wrinkle that looked like…

It looked like a mouth! Just like it did with Kevin. The wallpaper had a hunger.

He grabbed his coworker by her left arm and pulled hard on her, using his right foot to stomp the wallpaper flat against the wall, and tore it away from Lettie’s body.

Traces of wallpaper paste remained on Lettie after he freed her and pulled her into his arms, he didn’t stop to consider the slime. They ran towards the the front door where Tessa screamed at them to hurry.

Without warning, the door slammed closed as they got close. Jason pulled as hard as he could on the handle, and the door refused to open.

Jason realized Tessa’s danger. She was locked outside and wore only the thin shirt and shorts.

And it was lethally cold outside.

He pounded the picture window with a chair with futile effort, the glass just wouldn’t break. Jason gave up after the fourth try and pointed to the basement, telling her where to go with sign language. Then he and Lauren ran down the stairs, her long legs lacerated from the branches on the other side of the wallpaper, bled freely. In the basement, stone walls were safe.

Jason showed Lauren where to sit and ran towards the basement’s heavy-timber doors like a football tackle and hit them at full speed.

And bounced off.

The gold mine might be a safe haven, but the doors were part of the house and refused to budge.

Tessa’s voice on the other side of the door called his name, she needed to come in out of the cold.

His mind raced. They woke a malevolence while they worked in the house.

Tessa yelled his name in a feeble voice and pounded on the wood with a failing strength.

In a near panic, he searched for something to open the doors with and then he looked at his work table.

The table! He had built it using the ore-cart that belonged to the long-ago miner, and it still sat on the rails in the floor. He kept it all clean for the sake of nostalgia. Because it looked “Cool”.

Jason got behind the cart and released the brake, he took a last deep swallow from the whiskey for luck and then pushed the half-ton cart as hard as he could.

The ore cart hit the doors with a huge bang and a the door creaked and opened about the width of his forearm from the impact.

Tessa’s hand came through the hole and Jason grabbed her and pulled.

Shivering and covered in powdered snow, Tessa struggled and pulled on Jason to get through the gap.

Halfway through, the doors began to shut!

Tessa screamed in pain, the doors trapped her leg between them as they returned to their locked position.

Jason Grabbed a shovel and wedged the width of the narrow trench shovel’s blade in between the doors to keep them from crushing Tessa’s leg.

He struggled, pushed, leaned on the doors that creaked and groaned with increasing pressure on the blade of the shovel. Ages seemed to pass. Then as if she was a cork from a bottle, Tessa was free of the doors and they collapsed on the floor together. Out of breath, she clung to him while she wept.

“What’s happening? Jason? What is it?”

Screams started again. But it wasn’t the women.

The house seemed to come awake as Lettie ran down the stairs. Jason took her to sit with Tessa and began to explain, as he started to talk to them, the shocking gray face of Lettie looked around, her eyes haunted.

No, not haunted.

Missing!

Her face was no longer beautiful. It was a horror with a toothless mouth that made a big “O” in a scream that matched Kevin’s. A thread of wallpaper extended down from overhead attached to the top of the woman’s head.

Jason grabbed a hatchet from his workbench and jumped at the thread that was stealing the life out of Lauren. Time slowed down.

He’d saved her once by cutting her out of the wallpaper. This time, he swung with every ounce of his anger and fear-fueled strength to cut it off.

And missed.

“Oh God!” He screamed as thick white fluids leaked out of the horrid wound in Lettie’s skull and dripped to the floor.

“Oh God! Oh God! No! No! No! I’m so sorry!.”

They had to leave, and leave now.

Jason looked at Tessa and he knew he was the only one that could make it to the car. But, Tessa would be in this house alone. Even if she was safe for the moment, hiding in the corner behind the work table, between two rolls of…

Two rolls of…

Wallpaper!

He turned to where Tessa was hiding and he could only see a ball of wallpaper where Tessa had been hiding. The big ball of paper quickly shrank, he could see her outline fading under the wrapping that had slid around her like a web.

He leaped over the table with a box-cutter in hand, slashing at the cocoon of wallpaper around her, and found…  

Nothing. Just paper, wadded up and desiccated.

Tessa was gone.

He was the only one left and the gap between the doors was too small to allow escape.

Pulling on the work table, he rolled it as far into the deepest part of the mine that he could reach.

He took a long, deep pull of the whiskey bottle.

“Last drink in this house!” He yelled.

Leaning on the table, he pushed.

Hard.

He had a thirty-foot running start with the thousand-pound battering ram on rails. He pushed for the snow, he pushed with berserker strength. Adrenalin giving him energy, motivation enough to break through the doors.

Ducking the wedged shovel handle he had jammed in over Tessa’s head as he and the cart hit the doors at a full run, the left door trembled and creaked open.

He seized the momentary advantage and dove through the opening as the door tried to shut on the table time and again as the house tried to claim another victim.

Laying in the snow, it was strangely quiet, illuminated by the inviting, cold-white LED icicle lights he spent so much time hanging.

A beautiful and deadly structure.

He crawled through the snow away from the devil house. Then his hands felt like they were on fire. Burning hot, like the flesh was going to melt off.

Pain!

It hurt! So much pain. It had to be the snow, it had to be.

Then he looked at his hands, the skin was pale.

In the dim light from the house, was his skin mottling? Or turning into wallpaper?

Doctor Jason Best stood and ran through the snow as fast as anyone could. Slipping and falling, he covered the mile in nearly an hour when he fell and rolled onto Spicer Road. His hands feeling like no other pain he ever had in his life.

As he layed on his back, the ground rumbled, he could feel it up through his spine. Something was coming.

Something huge. House-sizd.

It was the Mountain House! It chased him on cedar pillar legs. The ground trembled with an evil hunger that stalked him down the mountainside.

Too tired and cold to run, he lay supine on the lonely mountain road and began to scream that he was sorry. From the distance, lights from the porch bore down on him, unstoppable and implacable. He had nothing left, his mind broke as he screamed out his last prayers and the lights engulfed him.

Jason Best awoke in a bed to the beeping sounds of a cardiac monitor. It took a long time before he was able to get his eyes focused on a pole that held IV bags that ran into his arms.

For a week, he could not understand all of it. His soul should have been taken or some-such.

 

It was all like in another world. Soft, but cloying like spiderwebs to drag him back. Nightmares of the events were slow to fade, it kept on. Soft and horrid.  Whispers in the shadows that invited him back to the Mountain House to stay, pulling on the spiderwebs lodged in his mind. It was difficult to comprehend all of it.

This room, bed, poles and equipment were solid, real, easy to understand.

After two weeks and the realization that he was alive, Jason was discharged home from the hospital. Then the interviews for days by the police about the three deaths ended.

Detectives took notes, wrote down everything the college professor described in vivid detail, and interviewed the attending physicians.

After a month, a preliminary report was ready for review. Jason obtained a copy and read it while sitting at his breakfast table.

“Jason Best, Ph.D. was found by a snowplow driver, Honey Gareth (See interview notes: Honey Gareth), laying in the middle of Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the two days in question, Dr. Best spent the time alone in the cabin at 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the course of the weekend, Doctor Best discovered an old wine cellar stocked with wine and rye whiskey. Tests of opened whiskey bottles showed high levels of ergot alkaloids, consistent with acute ergot toxicity causing visual and auditory hallucinations, per the attending physicians. This resulted in Doctor Best becoming convinced that he was with three other people over the weekend who died as a result of paranormal attacks.

Subsequent interviews with the named people, Doctor Contessa AKA “Tessa” Pershing is alive and well, continuing to work at Ocean Bay Community College. Doctor Best is familiar to Doctor Pershing in that they have attended same meetings and office functions but denies any relationship that might exist between Doctor Best and herself.

Doctor Lauren MacKay is friends with Doctor Best, but states no knowledge of anyone named Kevin. Her spouse, Michael MacKay, works at Ocean Bay University as a Fine Arts Professor. Further, no record of Kevin Acker, student or faculty, have been discovered. Searches of phone listings have proved fruitless.

To date, no evidence of any deaths at this address during the weekend in question exists.

Interior of 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road shows the wallpaper slashed and torn in the kitchen and third-floor bedroom (See attached photos). The barn door to the basement has been knocked off the hinge by a gold-rush era ore cart on rails and a hatchet discovered embedded into a can of white paint.(See attached photos)

A horizontal goldmine dug circa 1850’s shows evidence of modern reinforcements and extensive work in a room with a power management center from a self-contained geothermal generator. Adjacent to the power room is the previously mentioned wine cellar. (See attached photo series)

Ninety-six bottles of Rye Whiskey were found with rye grain still floating in the bottom of the bottles. Original labels, dated from 1910 to 1919 of quart-size “Robert’s Rye Whiskey.” Two bottles were discovered opened, one empty, the second appeared three-quarters full.(See attached photos)

It’s the conclusion of the investigation that Dr. Best suffered from accidental ergot intoxication per the attached pertinent physician’s notes.

No complaints filed with the evidence uncovered.

Lt. Liewess J. Jonah, investigating.”

<<<>>>

 

Women of the West

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(Note: This is for a gentleman who loves Louis L’Amour books.  This is as far outside of my normal genre as it can get. To Donnie, Hope you enjoy this, I see it as four “Brands”  {Chapters}, I have no idea where it’s going.)

Women of the West.

 

First Brand: Texas Tracking

The sky was cloudless while Texas Ranger James Austin, whose great-uncle was Stephen Austin, the Father of Texas, looked out over the skyline, hunting a man accused of murder.

His wanted poster rode in his saddlebag, he had studied it until he knew every descriptive detail.

Jorge de Lobo de la Montana was playing poker with several gents in Rusty’s Saloon in Galveston. With Moody Sweetwater, his half-Comanche tracker, they rode swiftly through the hot Texas sunlight, following where his partner of so many battles said that de la Montana’s horse went.

“Jim.” Moody pointed to drifting black smoke. “Trouble.”

The appearance was not like a wildfire, this was a column with a mushroom-shaped head on it, a cloud of dust rose just above the crest of the next hill.

“Reconnoiter the left, I’ll go to the right.” Jim ordered.

Moody nodded and rode off, pulling his rifle from the scabbard on the side of his mount.

Jim rode to the right, a east-northeast direction that allowed him a view from an ancient rockfall.

Moody tied his horse a hundred-paces from the top of the hill and walked, carefully with his Henry rifle, always worried about the rifle firing a round by accident, he kept the chamber empty until he needed it.

This was no exception, although he knew in his heart, after long years of tracking, this was an ongoing fight.

His wisdom, once again proven when he got closer and could hear screams and sounds of battle going on below. Crawling on his knees, he plucked an old branch up and held it in front of him and looked down at the base of the smoke.

What he saw made his eyes go wide.

Moody looked at Jim, a quarter-mile off, the Ranger had his Spencer out and was picking his way near the crest.

Jim, now on a rock, crawled forward and saw what made Moody’s jaw drop.

A stagecoach, and it looked like the Shotgun fighting with, what Jim assumed was empty, his scattergun, using it as a club against another man wearing rawhide pants and a linen shirt. With a headband, it looked like an Indian raiding party had found easy prey.

The reinsman hung upside-down from the front of the stage, tangled in the lines attached to one dead horse, the other three animals, missing and he presumed, bolted from the mêlée.

And two women, one taller with raven-colored hair, the other, smaller with blood-red.

Around them, four bodies lay, two burning like candles, putting up the black smoke, the other two unmoving in the dust. They were in pitched battle with four men with clubs and, it appeared, sabers.

And doing rather well, too.

Two women, one man who was badly hurt, were gaining the upper hand against five road-agents.

Signaling Moody, the two lawmen made their way down, carefully to the tableau on the meadow.

Moody and Jim entered the clearing in different directions, each with a line of sight to cover the other.

“Stop right there.” Jim said. Stretching up to his full five-foot four-inch height. Despite his diminutive height, his voice was more akin to a giant.

The sight of the two Ranger’s standing with their rifles pointed in the general direction, the men put their hands up.

“Thank god you’re here!” One of the men, bloodied from a dozen cuts.

“You will see god before we are through!” The taller woman said.

Jim could see that she was quite young, no more than nineteen or twenty.

The other was little more than a girl, perhaps three years younger, but a definite resemblance, the two were closely related.

As if they came from the same stock, sisters or a mother and daughter.

The younger girl had what looked like a Bowie knife, but greatly ground down, thinning the blade from back to cutting-edge, but still slightly longer than her forearm.

Even if she was a tiny slip of a girl, the weapon was effective if the chunks of flesh that lay in the dirt were witness to.

The other girl, Jim recognized the edged weapons she carried, an ax in her left hand, looking like a slightly oversized tomahawk and, he had spent time down on the waterfronts in Galveston and seen such edged weapons before, a falchion.

A seafarers weapon. Shorter than a cutlass, but just as effective. A glorified meat cleaver.

Face down in the bloody mud, long black hair with a headband, the body of one of the raiders did not move.

Rolling him over, the handle of a knife jutted out of his throat.

An old scar along his face identified him.

Jim pulled out a poster and read off the description.

“Who stuck the knife in this man?” Jim looked at the Coach Guard as he reloaded his shotgun who pointed at the older girl.

“That bastaird cac sicín tried to kiss my girl.” She spoke as if discussing what she was cooking for dinner. “We rode with another wagon coming from .”

“Well, I’m Jim Austin, that there is my deputy, Moody. And you are? Miss…” Jim paused.

“I am Mel O’Danu Smite, this is my daughter Enya.”

“Well, this body here, he was a killer and there were  witnesses that saw him throw the daughter of the President of Mexico off a bridge while getting away. She used his own saber against him and cut his face. I have not seen the scar before, but it looks like she cut it down to the bone before it healed. That is hideous.” Jim looked the body over. “A scar on his chest the shape of a wolf. There! Look, it’s been branded in. This is him. The President of Mexico put a bounty on his head, dead or alive, you get ten-thousand Peso’s.”

“Is that a lot? For killing him?”

“Yes, a lot. A Peso is about eight-reales.”

“How much is a Reale?” Mel’s intense dark eyes made Jim back up a step.

“Uh.” He stammered, she did not threaten him, but her sideways turn of her head and smoldering eyes made him dream. “About ten-dollars.”

“She speaks the truth, there are two sets of wagon-tracks. The Concord Coach is much lighter than the other. Eight horses, long wheelbase. Strange wagon, heavy.” Moody stood up. “Extra-wide wheel. Like a pay wagon.”

“That explains why they didn’t stop.” Jim nodded to Moody, then turned back to the girls. “What are you two doing on a stagecoach alone?”

“We are going to my husband’s house outside of Galveston.” The dark-haired one said. “He is a retired Texas Ranger.”

“Retired?” Moody looked up. “A Ranger?”

“What is his name?” Jim asked carefully.

She sized him up for a minute. Close enough that made him uncomfortable while they tied the men up and put them on the coach.

“Donal Smite, he and I married in the old country and had to leave or starve about ten seasons ago. We bought a boat and took our chances with merchant business.”

With the reinsman dead, Moody would drive while the surviving coachline employee rode shotgun. The men would walk behind the stagecoach for the three-hour trip back to where they started.

“I don’t know a Donal Smite.” Moody tightend up the straps on the hands of the dead he slung over a horse to keep them from falling off. “Jim, there is Donnie Smith, he is just outside of Galveston. Has a good spread, even a river that flows to the sea.”

“Ayuh, he keeps talking about sailing to Darien in the east. That may be who you are talking about ma’am. A redheaded Scotsman, a little darker than yours.” Jim nodded to Enya. “Big fisted, I saw him punch a horse so hard, he unseated the rider.”

“Aye, he learnt that on board of our ship.”

“Well, you have a surprise for your man, if it’s indeed him” Jim nodded. “You have a ship?”

“We had three. But there was a storm, nigh on two-months ago. Wiped out the fleet and the house is unfit to live in.” Enya said.

Mel nodded.

“Donal sent a letter, saying he had a place to start again. I told him he would put back to sea, he retired of you Rangers as the moment I arrive.” Mel said matter of factly. “I will not have my mo chéile being shot at. He knows Samuel Colt and will work there if I say anything about it.”

“Well, ma’am. You might want to know, Donnie is something special with us.” Moody said. “In the tribes around, he tells them to not trust any agents. He works hard to get them more of anything they ask.”

Enya nodded at the news of her father, clearly proud of the work he did here.

“As captain of ships, he did the same thing to get the crew well paid for the cargo they would transport. Sometimes they brought back treasures.”

“Enya, enough.” The Irish accent thickening, but the fire in her eyes even made Jim and Moody back their horses away a bit.

“We, ah, we can go now.” The shotgun said. “I can drive, but you gents can keep an eye out for road agents?”

“Make it so.” Jim ordered. “Ladies, you can ride in the coach.”

“Nae. No.” Mel said. “There is blood inside. We will ride on teh empty horses you have there and there.”

“We can’t wait for you to figure out how to ride…” Jim trailed off as Mel and Enya both climbed into saddles and rode up to them.

“Say your words.” Enya said, her eyes flashing like her mom’s.

“That would be a dare, Mister Jim.” Mel laughed, her raven hair blowing in the breeze. “Now we go see if your Donnie Smith is my spouse.”

Looking over at Moody, the two Rangers shrugged. Both of them wanting to see the look on the face of the big Scotsman when these two firebrands walked up to him.