Tuesday morning – First Week
Ben Harrow mounted his horse and headed for town. He was furious. How could he have let that woman chase him off the ranch? He stopped about half a mile away and took a sharp left onto an old dirt road. About half mile down the road he whistled. From behind some trees another rider emerged.
“Did you get the money?” the rider asked.
“No,” Ben replied.
“No? Why not?”
“Look, Townson, one of her servants pointed a loaded shotgun at my face. What did you expect me to do?” Bart Townson frowned; this wasn’t what he wanted to hear. “The man fired you years ago. Why’d you wait so long to collect your money anyway?”
“I was in jail, if you must know.” Ben wasn’t interested in getting Townson mad at him. He knew the man had a vile temper.
“We can always try again, when the servants are gone,” Ben suggested.
“She’s probably already on her way to town. Old Tucson has a Marshal and several deputies. I have no interest in stirring up that hornet’s nest.”
“Between the two of us, we could get a bunch of men together. We’ve stormed towns before—“
“NO.” The truth was, Bart Townson had tangled with the Earps before. So going to town was out of the question.
“Let’s go to town. I could use me a whiskey and a girl—“ Ben was almost whining.
“I don’t want us seen in town. If she’s gone to the law, I’m sure she’s described you.” Ben laughed.
“Yeah, tall with black hair. A description that fits everyone in town. We could go to one of them hotels and stay in. I heard the Crystal Palace has room service. We could get our booze and food delivered.”
Bart was certain Mrs. McGintry was on her way to town AND her description would be much more detailed. The lawmen would probably want her to stay in town where they could protect her better. He also knew that after a few drinks, Ben got ornery. Bart was hatching a plan.
“You go to town then,” he told Ben. “I agree, no one could pick you out with that general description. I’m going to go back to the ranch and see if I can talk to Mrs. McGintry. Maybe she’ll listen to reason. If not, that will be my problem.”
“If you get your money, you’ll come to town? I want my share for doing my part,” Ben warned. Bart smiled.
“Yes, I’ll make sure you get what you deserve. Don’t worry about that. I’ll look for you at the Crystal Palace.” With that, Bart turned his horse back down the dirt path in some direction Ben didn’t notice. His head was already filled with thoughts of cheap whiskey and women.
Lorraine dismounted and ran into the Marshall’s office. Once she got inside, she was at a loss for words. Jim Earp stepped forward.
“Mrs. McGintry, is something wrong?” She nodded and fell into the chair Cort offered her.
“I—uh—there was a –a man—“
“Are you hurt?” Cort asked, offering her a glass of water.
“No—no—I’m fine. Uh—I’ve never been so-so-uh—rattled.” She smiled nervously, aware of the spectacle she presented. “I’m sorry—I–.”
“That’s fine, Mrs. McGintry. Take your time.” Jim’s voice was soothing.
“What happened?” Cort asked, always one to get to the point.
“I came home from town. Sarah said I had a visitor.”
“Did you know him?” Cort asked.
“No, I have never seen him before.”
“What did he want?”
“He wanted—money.” Jim straightened up.
“He said he was Robert’s son. I know there was an age difference between us; but he would have told me if he had any children.” Cort got her a cup of coffee. “Thank you, Cort. I don’t know why I let it get to me so.”
“You had a scare,” Jim said. “A stranger in your home…”
“What did he look like?” Cort asked.
“About 6 feet with black hair and a chunky face. It was his eyes though—black and evil.” She shuddered.
“Did he have a gun?”
“Chances are, he’s on his way to town. I’m gonna check the saloon and alert Seth,” Cort said, heading for the door.
“How are you feeling now?” Jim asked.
“Kind of silly. You know what shook me up was pointing that shotgun at him. I never pointed anything at anyone.” Jim chuckled.
“Remind me never to get you mad.” Lorraine smiled. “I don’t want you going home just yet. He may return. We don’t even know if he acted alone.” They both looked up surprised when Cort returned to the office so soon.
“I just passed Morgan,” he explained. “He’ll talk to Seth.” Cort shifted his attention to Lorraine. “Is there anyone in town you feel comfortable spending a few days with? We can protect you better if you’re nearby.”
“May I go back to the ranch to pack a bag?”
“Yes, of course. I can follow you –“
“That’s okay,” Jim interrupted, “I can escort Lorraine back.”
“Have it your way.” Cort followed them outside. “I’m going to look around, alert a few merchants. George carries ammo, I think I’ll talk to him first.”
“Oh, my,” Mattie exclaimed listening to Lorraine’s story. “How awful! You can stay with me as long as you like. The millinery hasn’t any customers now; I’ll close up. Let’s go upstairs and get you settled in.”
“You’re sure this isn’t an inconvenience?” Lorraine asked apologetically.
“Of course not! I hardly see enough of you. I have the spare room.” Mattie smiled at Jim. “It’s okay, I’ll take car of her now.” Jim tipped his hat.
“Thank you, Mattie. I’ll check in later.”
Morgan and Cort were in the saloon. Seth poured them a beer and they engaged in some general conversation. Cort could see Morgan wasn’t his usual effervescent self. Seth moved to the other side of the bar to serve another customer.
“What’s on your mind?” he asked.
Morgan smiled. “It’s a funny thing. Remember our discussion about Chloe Grey and Sarah Prescott?”
“Well, Virgil is escorting Miss Grey to the dance and I happen to know Tommy wants to ask Miss Prescott.”
“It’s not like they’re getting hitched. You can still ask both of them for a dance on Friday.”
“I know,” he sighed. “It’s just–.”
“They aren’t the only females in town. Ask someone else to the dance.” Cort looked at Morgan thoughtfully. “I don’t need to tell you this. What’s really on your mind?”
“Sometimes I think there’s something wrong with me.”
Morgan made a face. “Seriously. It’s the way I view women.”
“What’s wrong with how you view women?”
“Most men like one woman. I seem to like them all.”
“Mrs. Kingsley?” Cort tested.
Morgan’s eyes opened wide. “N-o-o!”
“Just checking. A lot of perfectly normal men appreciate more than one woman. A man can like a woman for a lot of reasons. Doesn’t mean something’s wrong with them.”
“I guess you’re right. i don’t like every woman because they’re pretty. Some are smart, some are just kind. But sometimes they like me, too. Then I get it in my head that I’m some kind of lady’s man.”
Cort groaned. Why couldn’t he have a plain, uncomplicated friend?
“Women are like men. They are attracted to men for all sorts of reasons. Some men are able to make a girl feel at ease. There could be an attraction, too. It’s still normal. It’s nothing to get gloomy over.”
Morgan thought about it for a minute. Cort was right. “So, you’re saying women find me irresistibly handsome and my natural charm makes them feel comfortable.”
“I didn’t say ANY of that.”
“Thanks, Cort. You’re a good friend. I’m gonna go ask Penny Myers to the dance.”
“I hope she has other plans.” Cort shook his head and returned to his beer. Seth laughed.
“Well, you tried.”
“All I did was pump his head fuller than it already was.” He finished his beer and went back to the office. There was a new book waiting for him on his desk.