From the Memoirs of Miss Emma Scott

 

 

 

And then there was the day a pair of cowpokes rode into town. 

 

The girls and I were sitting at a table in the back corner chatting.  The place was empty, but it would be filling up with the town men-folk shortly.  There was a township meeting and, as usual afterwards, many of those attending would gather at the saloon, so us girls had to be ready to entertain a little earlier that evening.  We were still pretty tired from the long night before, but when the boss tells us to show up.  If we wanted to keep our jobs, we had to be there.  I stood up to adjust my stocking and had my foot up on the chair I’d been sitting on when I heard footsteps on the boardwalk near the saloon door.  Looking up I saw the silhouette of a very tall man come through the batwing doors.  It was pretty dark in the saloon compared to the bright sunlight outdoors and it was apparent that it took a moment for his eyes to adjust and be able to look around the room.  He glanced in our direction and nodded his head in acknowledgement, but his interest wasn’t in us as he slowly and easily sauntered straight for the bar.

 

George, the bartender, was polishing glasses behind the long, oak-paneled bar.  He set down the one he’d been rubbing his towel over and asked the stranger what his pleasure might be.  The tall stranger said, “Just about anything cold will do.”  George asked, “A beer?” and the stranger replied, “Yeah, that’ll do just fine,” as he removed his hat to run his shirtsleeve across his brow.  It was then that I saw his stunning blond hair and the unruly curl drop to his forehead.  Before replacing his hat, he ran the fingers of his free hand through his hair blending the errant strand in with the rest framing his wide brow. 

 

While George went to get the beer, I walked over to stand near to him and then leaned against the bar next the stranger.  I was surprised at how tall he really was.  My mere five feet and two inches made me feel like a schoolgirl, but then, it might not have only been my stature that had me feeling that way.  He was so very handsome beneath the trail dust and about three days beard growth.  Much to my surprise, I felt my heart skip a beat.  I’d thought all those feeling were far-gone at my age with everything I’d done and seen in my life.  He turned his head to nod to me and I saw his features straight on catching a good look at his tired, but striking pale, sky-blue eyes.  Though I could tell how weary he was from the heavy way he walked into the saloon, his shoulders somewhat slumped, he still gave off an air of strength and gentleness all wrapped up together.  Oh my, just the memory has me swooning.

 

Sizing him up from the beard growth on his face and the dust of his clothing, he’d been hard on the trail for days.  A man riding like that is often part of a trail drive, on the run or after someone on the run.  Since he came in alone, a trail drive was pretty much out of the question.  Those fellas always came in in droves and they were always rowdy.  On the run?  Nope.  We had both a marshal and a sheriff in town.  Those on the run stayed clear of us, and if for any reason they did come here, they sure stayed clear of being seen.  If he was after someone, the handsome stranger wasn’t wearing a badge.  That could spell trouble, no matter which side of the law he saw himself on.

 

I smiled as pretty as I could and tried to strike up a conversation as George set down a beer in front of the stranger who fished in the pocket of his jacket for some coins and dropped them on the bar.  George quickly gathered them up mumbling his thanks to the tall man.  Again, I tried to make conversation with the tall man, asking him where he was from and if he was planning on staying in town long.  With one as attractive as this one, a gal could always hope!  It was our job to make everyone feel welcome at the saloon, but a handsome stranger to spend some time with always made the job so much easier, and he sure was easy on the eyes.  My, he sure was.  He said he was from Laramie and no he didn’t plan to be in town long.  “Just passing through, ma’am,” he said.  He called me ma’am.  I ain’t been paid that respect in many years afore, nor many since.   It was right about that time when we heard footsteps at the door.  It seemed to be too early for the meeting to be breaking up just yet.  Besides, it was only the sound of a single person.  When the town meetings broke up those men came in like a gaggle of geese, all flapping their wings and honking away their thoughts about how the meeting went.  Voicing their opinions on what they agreed with and what they were sorely against.

 

Over the batwing doors I saw a man of average size.  As he came through the door he was finishing dusting off his buckskin chaps with a swat of his hat and placed it on his head.  He, too, had to wait for his eyes to adjust to the gloom of the room.  Once he could see, he walked straight to where me and the handsome stranger stood at the bar.  The tall, fair-haired man looked over his shoulder and must have known the new stranger since he made no moves as the newcomer approached us.  This shorter man made me almost gasp when I gazed at him.  My god, he was almost as handsome as the tall one, but in a much more rugged way.  His hair was dark, but immediately I noted the deep blueness of his eyes as our eyes locked.  He quickly looked me up and down and I hoped that he didn’t notice the flush that came to my cheeks.  Maybe he did, maybe not, but as our eyes met again a shy smile came to his lips before he turned toward the bar and stood to the other side of the tall blond.  It was very apparent that they knew each other even before they spoke. 

 

The darker of the two told the fair one that he saw to their horses being settled at the livery.  I kinda felt like they weren’t going to take much notice of me and I sure didn’t want them to feel unwelcome, so I once again tried to engage them in conversation as the shorter man motioned for George to bring him the same drink as the taller man.  “You boys been on a cattle drive?” I asked, already knowing the answer, but it was a good way to see if I could get them talking and maybe they would tell me why they were in town.  But the taller man said that they weren’t with a drive and repeated that they were just passing through.  He did turn toward me and leaned his elbow against the bar, showing me a little more of his attention.  The dark one said, “How about a table, Slim?”  Aha, now I had a name.  Slim.  It fit him.  He was tall and slim, but ever so well-muscled.  I could tell they both were.  Oh, how I wished I could take one of them home with me.  Oh, such shameful thoughts crossed my mind.  One, or, I blush, both would have brought heaven to my dull life.  We didn’t have a single man in town to measure up to either one of these divine beings.  I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t in my room asleep and dreaming.  To my amazement I wasn’t dreaming.  I couldn’t stifle the sigh I breathed at the reality and my good fortune.

 

Slim agreed to take to a table and the two picked up their beers, went to table and sat down. First, my gaze followed their delightful forms before I trailed after them and sat down not waiting for an invitation.  I sure wasn’t going to give any of the other girls a chance to get acquainted with these two and drive me out.  I did notice that they were watching and showing some interest in the strangers, but, so far, they were keeping their distance.  I guess they saw the look on my face and didn’t want to dare and cross me.  I had a real jealous reputation way back then.  Of course, I was never as bad as they said, but I was no angel either.  I just stood up for myself is all.  “Ma’am,” Slim said.  He called me ma’am again but this time it made me feel old.  Yeah, I was a bit older than these two, but now I suddenly felt it.  Most men called me Miss, Miss Emma or just Emma   He asked about which town hotel I might recommend.  I asked about how long they planned to stay.  “Not sure,” was the answer I got from the younger, shorter man.  I then told them that the hotels were a lot more expensive and charged for extra things like a bath.  I recommended the rooming house down near the livery.  The baths there were free.  I also mentioned that if they were looking for a shave, the barber was right next door to the boarding house.  The dark-haired one put his hand to his face and felt at the growth there and broke into a broad smile and remarked how they both must have looked like a couple of bears come in from hibernation.  We all got a chuckle from that as the fair man stroked his own beard.

 

Just then Lila strolled over to the table, a nervous smile on her face.  I reckon the other girls sent her to test the waters and see my reaction.  She was still new enough that she did as she was told and hadn’t met my worst temper quite yet.  We’d had our head-butts up till then, but she still hadn’t met my full fury like some of the girls, yet I’m sure they’d told her stories.  She seemed to be full of nerve.  Though unsure of herself in some ways, she could be very brazen at other times.  Especially when there were men involved.

 

 There were two of them so why shouldn’t I share at least one of them, I’m sure was in their thoughts.  Lila put her hand on the dark-haired man’s shoulder and started to massage it.  He looked up at her and smiled and with a sweep of his hand offered her the seat next to him.  I wasn’t pleased and I’m sure she recognized in my expression, but she took the seat anyway, giving me a smug grin.  I tried my best to keep the attention of the two strangers to myself but Lila was the biggest flirt in our bunch.  She sure knew how to get a man’s attention.  If one of her wiles didn’t work, she’d try another until she found one that did.  She may have been new and young, but she sure had a knack for the job and knew how to get the gent’s attention.  No wonder the others sent her.  If anyone could draw the two men’s consideration from me, it surely would be Lila.

 

She and the dark-one seemed to hit it right off with the first of her guiles.  Her hand on his arm then around his shoulder, she snuggled up real close to him and he didn’t push her away.  Myself, I could never be as forward as Lila, but I was determined to try with the tall handsome one, so I too, pulled my chair closer and put my arm over his shoulder.  I felt him stiffen under my touch like he was unaccustomed to such attention.  Was it that he was a single man and not used to a gal with her arm around him, or was it that he was married and felt some guilt being so close to a woman not his wife?  No wedding band I found as I scrutinized his left hand.

 

Lila and the younger man were sure hitting it off.  I wish the fair-haired one were as comfortable as they looked.  Overhearing their conversation, I learned that the dark-haired man’s name was Jess.  But Lila couldn’t get any more information out of him about why they were in town than I did.  Again, no badge and no wedding ring, just a lot of trail dust.  I was really getting curious about the pair.  I was glad to hear the younger man call for a round of beers for all of us at the table.  Maybe a few more drinks would loosen them up to spilling the beans why they were just passing through.  I was starting to feel a sense of danger in the younger one.  I guess I noticed how he walked into the place with too much self-assurance as well as how he carried his handgun low on his right hip.  At the time, I didn’t know what raised my hackles, but now as I reflect on it, he surely had a cocky air about him that wasn’t just for show.  I guess his attractiveness hid that from me at the time.  It only came to terms later in hindsight.

 

Lila and Jess had their heads together and Jess seemed to be enjoying the tart’s attention. Yeah, I reckon I was a bit jealous.  I leaned closer in against Slim and once again I felt his whole body tighten.  George arrived with the beer.  We all straightened up as George placed them on the table and Slim dipped into his pocket to pay for the round.  Normally, we girls weren’t allowed to drink anything with alcohol in it.  If the boss were there George would have brought us tea pretending it to be whiskey.  But since Harold wasn’t even in town, George allowed us a real beer.  Besides, it was still early and so slow that one beer wouldn’t affect our job for the night.  George was like that and we all loved him for it.  He really looked out for us girls, too.  We knew he had a loaded shotgun under the bar and he wasn’t afraid to use it.  One reckless cowboy found that out the hard way about a year before.  He now rests up on Boot Hill.  If George hadn’t stepped in there would have been a lot more dead folks that night.  That cowboy was already out of his head before he came into the place and a few drinks had him going wild.  Gina quit right after that, he had her so scared, but that’s another story.

 

The second beer didn’t loosen up their lips any more than the first.  Whatever coercions we subtly tried weren’t going to work.  Maybe they were a little more relaxed but they weren’t quite ready to talk to us gals about what business they had in town. 

 

Footfalls slowing at the batwing doors drew all four of our glances in that direction to see Sheriff Deming entering the building.  He knew the saloon well enough that it only took him a few seconds to scan the place to see where we were sitting.  As he strolled to our table, Slim stood up.  The sheriff apologized to the tall man for not being in his office when Slim stopped by.  The two men shook hands and the sheriff declined sitting down with us.  Now I was certain that the strangers weren’t on the run.  But what kind of business did they have with the sheriff, I wondered.  I was hoping that all my questions would be answered now but was sadly disappointed when both strangers downed their drinks and followed the sheriff out the swinging doors.  Jess was very apologetic to Lila, but Slim didn’t even say goodbye, well not in words.  He tipped his hat to us both before he left and mumbled, “Ma’am,” before he turned away.  He was a man on a mission; it was very apparent and now more than ever.  I wanted to know what that mission was.  Even if they had stayed longer, I guess I wouldn’t have learned much of anything since it was only a few minutes after they left before the town’s men showed up for their after-meeting meeting and I’d have to go to work. With a crowd, we never had much time to spend with any one particular gentleman.  I’d be forced to keep moving and mingling with them all.

 

George was busy filling orders behind the bar while the gals were busy making the gentlemen feel comfortable and hoping to entice a few of them to spend the evening with us and spend a lot of money.  We used any and all empty promises to keep them spending their money long into the evening, whispering sweet nothings into their ears, all the things we knew that they wanted to hear.

 

Two of the towns-men brought a fiddle and a banjo and broke into some lively music.  We were forced to dance with those who asked until our feet hurt either from our tight, fancy shoes or from the uninhibited gentlemen stepping on them without any apologies.

 

 All evening my thoughts and curiosity returned to the two handsome strangers.  Often my evening companions had to repeat something to me to gather my ponderings from where my mind had wandered.  I attributed my inattention to the noise around us and that I just hadn’t heard them.  The alcohol having dulled their senses some, I do believe that they trusted my excuses.  I made sure that I showed them an overabundance of my attention afterwards, until my mind wandered again.  It turned out to be a long evening and I was so glad to see the customers leaving to go home.  I begged off George that I had a headache and was able to retire early to my room without the customary helping to clean up the saloon.  I wished that I stayed at the rooming house, now, instead of the room upstairs over the saloon.  Maybe I could have caught another glimpse of those two attractive men and maybe outside of the saloon, they might have been more apt to give me more particulars about themselves.  But, alas, I was forced to go to my upstairs room.  I guess I could have lied and told George I needed to step outside for some fresh air to clear my head, but I’m afraid someone would have told on me if I’d gotten caught going over to the rooming house.  Lila would surely have told on me.  She was like that, always outspoken and didn’t seem to care whose toes she stepped on.  So far she hadn’t overstepped up against me, but I knew that she wanted to see me fired and moving on.  I knew I had it good in this town and I wasn’t about to move on to please her.  I wasn’t much into thinking about starting over again.  I’d been here a long time and held a certain standing here amongst the girls.  Some might have been jealous, but they knew their place.  I made sure of that.

 

Because I’d gotten to bed relatively early, I was up early the next day and slipped out on the premise that I was going shopping.  Oh, I did do some shopping.  I bought myself a new hat and some high-button shoes.  I’d adored them both in the mercantile over the past month or two.  I’d been saving for them and knew I could finally treat myself to them.  Well, not really, but I found them a good enough excuse to go down by Sally’s Rooming House to see if I could catch a glimpse of Slim and Jess. 

 

As I walked along the boardwalk, I glanced into the café.  It was noon and I could see through the window that there were several people at the tables inside.  It was then that I recognized the two men I had sought.  They were now shaven and looked a lot cleaner than when I met them the day before and I could now see how right I was about how breath-takingly handsome they were.  I nearly dropped my packages but did contain myself.  I walked past the café and went around the corner to the alley and searched in my purse to see if I had enough money left to accommodate my going into the little restaurant.  Yes!  I had enough to have some pie and coffee.  I wasn’t really hungry, but I knew I could put away a nice slice of pie.  I couldn’t remember when I’d had my last taste of apple pie, probably not since my mama made it when I was a small child.  Oh, the memories that flooded my mind at the thought.

 

I walked in through the door and past the two cowboys pretending to not notice them and accidently bumped Jess with one of my boxes.  Of course, I had to stop to apologize and be amazed that I had, literally, bumped into them once again.  Both stood up and invited me to sit with them.  I was hoping they would.  They hadn’t been served yet but had ordered.  Slim held my chair for me while Jess took my packages and placed them on the empty chair beside him.  Both seemed more relaxed today.  Maybe it was not being in the saloon and in the more intimate café.  I could feel that they didn’t seem to be as much on their guard has they had been the day before. 

 

I didn’t want to be too forward and start interrogating them immediately, so I started with some small talk, mentioning my shopping trip and that I just had to have some of the wonderful apple pie that they served in the café.  Okay, so I lied.  I’d never been in this place before or had their apple pie, but at least it didn’t sound like I was pursuing them.  I just happened to be there.  I guess I was convincing enough since they never questioned it and almost seemed to be pleased to see me again.  A kind and familiar face, as you may.

 

The girl came out from the kitchen and asked for my order.  There was a slight lull in our conversation until she was gone.  I guess I was a little too anxious and couldn’t suppress myself and I suddenly blurted out, “So, what kind of business are you gentlemen here on?”  I immediately bit my tongue as I saw a dark cloud pass over their faces.  I was sorry that I’d asked.  I probably killed any chances of learning anything about why they were passing through.  Jess looked at Slim like he was waiting for the taller man to speak.  I could tell that this tall man must be the boss and Jess was waiting for him to take the lead about how to handle the conversation and how much he thought that I should know.  At that moment I wished that I had a good relationship with the sheriff and that I could have finagled the information out of him, but that wasn’t the case.  He hardly spent any time at the saloon, his staunch wife surely would not have approved.  Sheriff Deming only stopped in when he was called there on some kind of official business.  Most of those official times were when the saloon, itself, was closed and the room was used as a courthouse.  It wouldn’t be long before the courthouse would be completed and we would see very little of Sheriff Deming once that building was open.  A beautiful building from the outside but I never did have the prerogative to step inside.  And, no matter what anyone tells you, I never saw the inside of the jail that was built next door to it, either.  Even with the job I held in my younger years, I have always been an upstanding citizen.  I am proud to say that I marched to help gain the vote for women here in Wyoming, for which we won that esteemed privilege.

 

I noticed that Slim straightened up a little more in his chair.  Jess took his lead from his boss and, though I could tell that he wanted to talk, he buttoned his lip and looked in my direction, a small smile of apology formed on his luscious lips.  If I’d gotten that one alone, I think I could have gotten him to tell me everything.  Maybe later, I thought. 

 

“So how long do you gentlemen think you’ll be in town?” I asked, hoping that the question wouldn’t cause them more discomfort.  Slim answered, “Probably a few days until we finish our business or need to move on.”

 

His response made me more curious than ever.  Usually, if you had business in town, you knew how long it should take you.  And if your business were in town, why would they have to move on and not go home?  Oh, the mystery of these two bedeviled me.  Maybe if they weren’t so darned easy on the eyes I wouldn’t have cared that they were in town or how long they planned on staying.  But I was so attracted to them and loved looking at them. One of the ghostly blue eyes, the other with eyes the color of the sky on a bright summer’s day.  Or maybe it was the mystery of them that attracted me.  I often wonder.  Maybe they weren’t as attractive physically as I recall.  Maybe it was the mystery.  No, they were both very physically attractive in both face and body.  I still have the full faculty of my senses after all these years and I do remember every feature of each of them.  One tall and fair, the other, tall enough and dark.  One of a gentle nature, the other emanating danger.  How much danger I would soon find out.

 

Our food soon arrived and the small talk teased me.  I had so many questions and the few that I dared to ask were not satisfying.  Again, I found out they were from Laramie from a small ranch outside of the town where they ran a stage relay station there.  They leaked out that Slim was the boss, as I had earlier surmised, and Jess was his ranch-hand, but he still didn’t really appear to be just a ranch-hand to my suspicious scrutiny.  There was far more to his story, I was sure.  What business did this unusual pair have in my town?  I didn’t venture any questions in that direction again but kept hoping that in our conversation it might be revealed.  Much later it would finally be revealed, though I never learned anything new about them during my devouring the luscious piece of apple pie and the better than expected cup of coffee.  Had I had more money in my pocketbook, I might have been tempted to treat myself to more after the gentlemen left.  I must remember to ask Fiona bake me an apple pie.

 

They finished their meals far too quickly.  I was still picking at my pie when Slim apologized that they had to excuse themselves and meet with the sheriff again.  More torture.  What business could they have with the sheriff?  Again, I scrutinized them for any sign badges that they didn’t wear on their jackets, but there was not hint of a badge on their shirts or on Jess’ vest.  Most curious, but I didn’t dare to ask.  I watched with longing as the two delicious men left the café.  How tempted I was to follow them.  If only I had a reason to go to the sheriff’s office, but nothing came to mind other than to report a fictitious piece of jewelry being missing or some such lie.  Not being a very good liar, flirt maybe, but not a liar, I figured I’d be found out, so I quickly abandoned that idea.

 

Eventually, I made my way back to my room and sat at the window when I should have been napping, resting for the night ahead.  I could just barely see the sheriff’s office door from my view, but I would be able to see if anyone entered or left.  Much of the door was blocked by the sign that was hung by chains above the doorway, but I could see feet and legs entering or leaving and then hope that anyone leaving would be coming in my direction so I could see who it was.  The wait wasn’t long before I saw three pairs of legs leave and head out in the wrong direction.  My guess was that it was the two strangers and Sheriff Deming heading to the west side of town.  I so wanted to run out and follow them and eavesdrop to hear what was going on. 

 

I waited about an hour, longing to be doing anything more than watching out the window, but I didn’t dare.  I was such a fool.  I soon determined that watching from the window was for naught and decided I’d better try to get some sleep.  It was Saturday and business would be heavy in the saloon and earlier than usual.  It was going to be a long night.  We’d have a small band and dancing with the gentlemen customers would be a must.  I would not wear my new high-button shoes.  I knew that I had to break them in slowly so they would not hurt my feet.  Dancing all night was not the way to break in a new pair of stiff shoes.  I took them out of the sack to admire them, eventually dropping off to sleep holding them dearly close to my bosom.

 

Had I had the gumption to follow after them instead of taking a nap, many of my questions would have been answered. 

 

When I woke, the sun was about an hour from setting.  In the dimness of my room, I glanced at my new shoes lying next to me on the bed and then gazed at the chest of drawers to where my new hat sat on top of the floral decorated hatbox.  I sighed that I’d spent so much money on trinkets to make me happy for such a short while.  I turned toward facing the window and as my head cleared more of the fog of sleepiness away, I remembered Slim and Jess.  I smiled as I sat up and stretched my arms high over my head.  Reaching for my new boots I took them with me to the wardrobe, placed them on the shelf, then started to search through my evening clothing.  Remembering that it was Saturday and I would be dancing with many gentlemen, some of them were gentlemen but some were greasy cowhands who hadn’t bothered to bathe.  I looked for something appropriate that wouldn’t show the grime from so many hands holding me while we danced.  I chose a pretty, gaily-printed frock that I’d often wore on Saturday nights that was wonderfully serviceable.

 

Once I was prepared for the evening, I flounced down a few steps to see that the saloon was already filling up with more townsmen than I expected for so early in the evening.  I’d stopped to look over the room, my eyes searching for Jess and Slim hoping that they would be there for an evening of fun.  Alas, they were nowhere to be found in the gathering crowd. 

 

George was busily filling glasses with the drinks of choice for the men that gathered along the bar.  Two of the girls were working the floor and taking drinks to men seated at some of the tables where decks of cards were in use and cigar smoke was already permeating the room, not only with the aroma but a slight bluish haze was already visible floating near the high ceiling.  I heard the other girls chattering away in the hall above me.  They would be following me down the stairs to the rapidly filling room below.

 

When I reached the bottom of the stairs, Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Blake met me crowing about how happy they were to see me and how radiant I looked.  Trying not to show my disappointment of not seeing the handsome strangers, I graciously accepted their happy greetings allowing each to brush his lips against my cheek.  I often wondered if the wives left at home were aware of the behavior of their rambling husbands.  But it was not my worry.  I was there to entertain the gentlemen, and they all were considered gentlemen as our customers.  I knew my job and I did it well.

 

As I passed tables of men playing various versions of poker, I was either met with a friendly nod of a head, a suggestive wink or my name called out.  I always responded with a smile.  I hoped that the disappointment of not seeing Slim or Jess present didn’t take any of the sweetness away from my smile. My eyes continued to gaze at the various tables hoping that I had only missed seeing them in the mutely lit room.  Scanning the gents standing at the bar it was obvious that none of them were the men I desired to see.  Sure, I only saw them from behind, but seeing them from behind was more than enough to determine that they were not Jess or Slim whose physiques were so identifiable.  I so longed to see them again.  Learn more about them.  Oh, to chance a dance.  A hug.  A final goodbye.  Perhaps the luck of a friendly kiss, if not more.  Either.  Both.  A gal could dream, and I still do.  I still do.

 

The band players were setting up at the back of the room.  Odd notes were heard as the fiddler tuned up his instrument.  My heart wasn’t in it, but I strolled through the room greeting the usual Saturday night customers.  There wasn’t a single new face in the bunch.  As I got close to the bar, George called me over to where he was filling a glass with beer.  “Did you hear what happened?” he asked excitedly.  “No, George,” I replied.  “Tell me what happened,” I said, unable to hide the obvious boredom in my voice.  I was not really interested in anything that could happen in the dull, lifeless town.  I figured some schoolgirl found herself in trouble and was blaming some rich rancher’s son for her dilemma or some such trivial matter that didn’t concern me.

 

He proceeded to tell me that there had been a gun battle down at the livery stable.  I showed a little more interest and asked him to tell me more, but he went off to serve the beer that he’d tapped.  I followed him to the other end of the bar.  He took someone else’s order and was off heading back to the other end to fetch some whiskey for the customer.  I went behind the counter and followed after him to learn more about what had happened. 

 

“Those strangers from yesterday,” he said as he carried a whiskey bottle away with him, picked up a shot-glass and went to set them down next to a customer.  I, of course, followed after him wanting to know much more.  Just mentioning the strangers sure perked up my ears.  George took more orders and, while walking from here to there with me following after him, he told me bits and pieces about what he’d heard about what happened while I napped in my room.  Now I wished I had wakened earlier and had gone downstairs to chat with George, as I often did before the place was filling up with customers.  Or, even better, that I had followed Slim and Jess after leaving the café.  I might have been fortunate enough to witness it all with my own eyes.  Or, well, I don’t want to think about that now.

 

Now that I was paying more attention to what was being said by the various groupings of customers, I realized that the two strangers were the talk of the town, as was our marshal. I should say, our former marshal.  I never liked or trusted that man.  He had shifty eyes, if you know what I mean.  Smooth talker.  Always promising things that you knew darn well that he couldn’t fulfill.  He should have been one of those Washington politicians.  You know the kind I’m sure.  I guess nothing I was to hear about him should have surprised me any.  And thinking back, I don’t think it did.

 

It turned out that Marshal Grayson was under scrutiny by the Federal Government for some time.  They were suspicious that he was running a gang of stagecoach robbers in the southern and eastern parts of Wyoming.  As it happened, he and his gang held up the stage from Laramie when the Laramie sheriff was transporting a prisoner to Cheyenne. They had no idea about the transport or Grayson probably wouldn’t have taken a chance knowing an armed lawman was on board that stage.  A gun battle broke out and Sheriff Corey was wounded.  Slim and Jess had served as Sheriff Corey’s deputies on several occasions and were contacted by the U.S. Marshals office and deputized to come to our town to monitor Marshal Grayson until they could get some of their own men there to make an arrest.  Their meetings with Sheriff Deming were to fill him in on their assignment of making sure that Grayson didn’t leave town or have opportunity to meet with his men while waiting for the Federal Marshals to arrive and take over. 

 

Sheriff Deming, Slim and Jess were keeping close watch over the marshal. When they saw him go to the livery stable they were suspicious that he might be leaving town to meet with his gang.  Sheriff Deming tried to stop him on some pretense, but Grayson was persistent about leaving.  In his last attempt to stop the marshal, without giving away his real reason, Deming grabbed Grayson by the arm.  Grayson drew his gun and shot Deming, wounding him badly.  Slim and Jess were nearby and ran to Deming’s assistance and Grayson started firing on them.  During the gun battle Grayson was killed.  It was Jess who climbed through a window in the livery to get behind the marshal and called to him to drop his gun.  Grayson turned and fired on Jess who returned fire and brought the corrupt lawman down. 

 

At Doc Fielding’s office, Sheriff Deming was still conscious and told Mayor Randall what had happened, exonerating Slim and Jess from the results of the gunfight and death of Marshall Grayson.  Sadly, with Grayson dead, the U.S. Marshals weren’t able to interrogate him to find out more about the rest of his gang, but searching Grayson’s house, they found a great deal of money and a bag of mail that had been taken from the robbery when Sheriff Corey was wounded.  They knew they had the right man from the evidence they’d found.

 

I never saw my handsome strangers again, but I did hear that they were involved in ferreting out some of the rest of Grayson’s gang.  I hear tell that the members were scattered all over in several different towns but they were finally all rounded up.  Without their leader to feed them inside information about cargo transports and to arrange perfect times for the holdups, the gang quickly fell apart and was captured.  It was the shooting of Sheriff Corey that implemented the U.S. Marshal’s office into acting immediately, but without personnel in the area whom they could be sure were not involved in Grayson’s scheme, they had to request the help of the tall, blond rancher and his dark-haired hired cowhand as recommended by Sheriff Corey.

 

I still have dreams about those two from time to time.  We are all still young as we were in those days.  Of course, I’m much younger and more worldly in those dreams than I was at the time.  And I do share far more than a piece of pie and coffee with those two in my dreams.  I wake with a smile not wanting to open my eyes and lose the more than pleasant visions swimming in my mind.  Last night I had one of those dreams and would blush telling you about it.  I am a respectable older matron now and must remain quite proper and keep my lustful dreams to myself.  I certainly can’t change or control anything in my dreams.  They just happen the way they happen.  But then, I really wouldn’t change a thing.  No, not really. 

 

 I often wonder whatever happened to those two; the tall, handsome blond and the darker, dangerous one.  Grayson never stood a chance.

 

Over all my years no others have stood out in my memory as much as that pair.  As I asked before, was it because of their delectable good looks or was it due to their mystery?  Or, was it both?  I guess I’ll never know, but then, I digress. 

 

Pie.  I must go ask Fiona to please make me an apple pie and some coffee for this evening.  I can then relive my exquisite memories once again.  In writing this, the memories of those two days have become so vivid once again.  I often wonder why I never visited Laramie afterwards.  I’m sure I could have found a stage that would have gone through their relay station, but then, the trains pretty much put so many of those stage stops out of business shortly after our paths crossed.  I guess we all have regrets.  That is one of mine.  Maybe it would have been a good thing to move on.  Find a job in Laramie.  Who knows what could have happened.  But then, I reckon dreams are sometimes better than what truths may come to happen and ruin them. 

 

 





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