The heat of the wood-fired oven and the smell of warm, yeasty bread filled the modest kitchen where the weekly baking was being done. It was a fun activity shared by both mother and daughter, yet today they had a third, quite welcome set of hands to help them: Deana’s dear friend, Amelia.
Amelia was visiting for a week while her parents were away to tend a sick relative. The two young women chatted excitedly as they scattered flour on the wooden table to knead the bread before setting it to rise near the stove.
Deana loved having her friend with her, it was sometimes lonely being on her own. She had no sister or close friend nearby, and at twenty-four years old, she longed for companionship besides just her mother. She wished they could hurry and finish up in the kitchen so that she and her friend could get outside and get some fresh air. She and Amelia had more to talk about: handsome young men (of course) and those other topics that young girls enjoy talking about, but don’t wish to share with their mothers.
Elaina, Deana’s mother, smiled as the two girls lowered their voices conspiratorially, and then burst out into peals of laughter. She could only catch a little of what the girls were saying.
“Sounds like you girls are making up stories. Care to tell me about it?” she asked, meeting her daughter’s eyes with a questioning look. More peals of laughter came from Deana and Amelia.
Deana caught her breath enough to say, “Oh, it’s really nothing Mother. Amelia heard that young man from town, Tom Adams, has a crush on me. He used to always stare at me in class.” She blushed and laughed to herself at the memory. Now at twenty-four, she felt she was above such childish antics. It was fun to think of Tom Adams pining away for her for the past ten years or more. He was so shy he had never had the gumption to even speak to her.
Amelia said, “The other day when we went to the store, he practically fell off the loading dock when he saw you, Deana! His face was as red as a tomato!” Both girls began giggling again.
“If Tom Adams is all that I have to choose from, I really will be an old maid, I practically am already!” joked Deana. The joke had a semblance of truth to it, but that didn’t worry her. Deana liked living with her family and helping her folks around the farm.
Elaina could see her husband Alan through the kitchen window as he fed and watered their team of work horses down by the barn. It was a beautiful summery day with a slight breeze that gently moved the linens and towels hanging on the line to dry.
“Come on now girls, let’s get this last batch of biscuits mixed up and the bread into the loaf pans. You girls need to get out of my kitchen. You’re wearing me out!” Elaina took a sip of water and used the corner of her apron to wipe the perspiration from her forehead. She turned back to the large mixing bowl and picked up her spoon.
Amelia and Deana looked contrite enough, and went back to the task at hand. As expected, within minutes they were back to their excited chatter, punctuated with laughter.
Their merriment was cut short in a single second as a strangled sound came from across the room. Both girls looked up to see Elaina’s face turn pale and her happy expression turn to a grimace of pain. Deana jumped up from the table as the mixing bowl crashed to the ground with ceramic shards and biscuit batter flying everywhere. She reached her mother just as she collapsed onto the kitchen’s flagstone floor. She screamed, “Amelia, get Father! Daddy! Help! Oh, Mother no!” she cried as she cradled Elaina in her arms.
Elaina’s breathing was labored and her eyes were full of fear and agony. Deana cried out again for her father, but it was already far too late for anything he might be able to do.
By the time Alan McCain came racing into the house, Elaina was exhaling her final breath. Alan fell to the floor beside them gasping for breath as Amelia stood by helplessly. Alan’s mind struggled to process what was happening. He reached out to pull them both into his arms. All he could do was sob out her name. His wife, Deana’s beloved mother, the love of his life, was still and unmoving. The heart of the family had stopped beating. Their beloved Elaina was gone.
Deana regarded her father as he sat at the kitchen table. They’d finished with the evening meal and she was drying the dishes and putting the pots and pans back on their hooks in the tidy kitchen. She swept the dishrag across the worn dining table, remembering how her mother had always kept it fresh and beautiful with a linen tablecloth and cut flowers in a bowl for a centerpiece.
In the four years since Elaina’s death, Deana and her father had settled into a sort of dreary routine in the evenings. Deana returned home in the late afternoons from her job as a caretaker in town, and started the fire in the stove for dinner, which was usually beans and some meat. She often baked bread once a week, just as she had done when her mother was alive: one loaf for her and Father, and one for her employers.
It was all drudgery to her these days, with little joy in the process. It felt mechanical as she went through the motions. Deana had no motivation or desire to brighten the table as her mother once did. It was usually all she could do to get through the meal and the washing up. Conversation these days didn’t flow too readily, either. Her relationship with Father just wasn’t the same anymore.
Alan poured himself another drink, and by the looks of it, Deana guessed it must be whiskey; his hands were unsteady and his face tense. Deana could sense there was something on his mind, and he was struggling to bring it to light.
She and her father had always been close, but since the loss of her mother, the glue that held the family together, Alan had become cold and distant. He drank most nights, and she could hear him in his bed in the wee hours of the morning crying out her mother’s name. It broke her heart, but she didn’t know how to help him. She felt less like a daughter and more like a housekeeper these days, working hard with no end in sight.
“Sit down, Deana, there’s something I want to talk to you about.” Alan rubbed his hands over his stubble, and sat up straight in his chair. His body language was stiff, showing his resolve. “I’m going to have to sell those hogs at the market next week.”
Deana hung her dish towel and apron up and sat down opposite her father. She was surprised to hear him say this. “Those hogs aren’t ready to go yet. They’ve still got six weeks to be ready for the market. They’re not going to earn us much. Why do it now?” she asked.
“Got no choice!” Alan was adamant. “Don’t you think I know that? We’re low on forage and the grain crops aren’t going to be enough to feed them for six more weeks! I’m going to have to take a loss on them hogs. Money’s tight and it’s not looking good. We’ll keep one to finish out here but the rest have to go.”
Deana nodded. She knew not to argue with Father when he was “in his cups.” She had learned to placate him by letting him blow off steam. Then, as the candles burned low, she would gently suggest he go to bed, which usually worked. He’d gotten worse lately, acting testy and sharp with her. She worried about how much he was drinking, knowing that the path he was on was a destructive one, destined to have a bad end.
She was more than aware that there were money troubles. The grocer had politely asked after her father last week when she was there buying dry goods, and she got the distinct feeling then that he was going to be calling in their bill. Mother had always handled the business dealings with Father, but now it looked like it was going to fall to her. He was clearly becoming incapable of managing alone.
Deana thought when she had gone to care for Mrs. Penvenen and her infant daughter Rosalee several months ago, they would soon be in better shape financially. Mrs. Penvenen had been in fragile health and was taking a long time to recover from childbirth. Deana had been hired to help her keep house and look after the baby when it had become clear she was not up to the task. Deana’s small salary had seemed like a lot and she was proud that she was contributing to the family and the farm. She’d never made her own money before. She hadn’t realized how bad things had gotten at home, being preoccupied with the job lately.
Now, here, having to face Father and the truth of their financial situation sent her into an emotional panic. She tried to remain outwardly calm as she asked Father, “What can I do to help? Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?”
Father’s hair had gone gray over the past few years and the deep wrinkles around his dark brown eyes that used to be laugh lines now were crevices cut into his angular face. Alan McCain was etched with sorrow. His alcohol consumption was starting to show with broken blood vessels on his rather large nose, giving him the rosy look of a habitual drunk. He shakily poured and tossed back another shot of whiskey before speaking again.
“I’ve decided you should get married. Gregory Adaley has asked for your hand, and I’ve agreed. I’ve talked it over with his father, the mayor, and we all agreed there will be a wedding this fall.”
Alan ignored Deana’s shock and continued. “Mayor Adaley has been a good friend to us, Deana, and this is a good match for you. Gregory is a fine young man who will make you a good husband.” Alan chortled, “And having the mayor in the family won’t hurt us none either. At your age, you can’t be too choosy. You should feel proud Gregory Adaley wants you for a wife!”
Deana’s face was white and her eyes were wide. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Gregory Adaley, of all people, would be the last person in Leadville, Colorado that she would ever expect would be interested in her, let alone actually marry her! He had a reputation for being a spoiled and rather wild young man.
Raised in a life of wealth and privilege, Gregory had an arrogant and entitled attitude that she’d encountered more than once. He talked pretty, but underneath that socially acceptable front, he was a greedy and selfish young man. He ran with some other young toughs that she didn’t like the look of. Their camaraderie and foolishness seemed just this side of dangerous and she always avoided them when she could.
It was well-known that Gregory flirted with anything in a skirt and rumor had it that he’d even gotten a local girl in trouble two years ago, ruining her reputation and forcing her to leave town. Deana couldn’t confirm the rumor, but his outwardly boorish and flirtatious behavior had put her off.
Gregory’s father, Mayor Adaley, was a kind and upstanding man: a leader with integrity who had been supportive and helpful to both Deana and her father in the months following the loss of her mother. His son, however, showed none of his father’s good qualities. Neither of Gregory’s parents seemed able to handle their boy now that he was of age and able to go off on his own.
Why Gregory had turned his attentions to her, she couldn’t fathom. Maybe Gregory wanted to marry her to give himself an air of respectability or maybe he really was ready to settle down and begin to live the way his parents, and all the mothers of all the daughters in Leadville, certainly wished he would. Deana couldn’t believe that he would even consider her as a wife unless his father was truly cracking down on his wild and youthful ways. Marry Gregory Adaley! Not in a million years, not if he were the last man on Earth!
Deana jumped up from the table so quickly that the chair overturned. “Father! You can’t be serious!” Her thin willowy figure reminded him so much of his late wife, Alan drew in a quick breath. Those hazel eyes, wide-set in a perfectly oval face, and her blonde curls were so like Elaina. Alan shook his head to clear his vision and push the ghost away.
“Father! Gregory Adaley? He’s nothing but a spoiled and unpleasant young man. Marry him? I won’t! I could never love that man, I don’t even like him.” Deana’s voice was full of emotion and sounded shrill to her father’s ears. The whiskey had given Alan McCain enough courage to broach the subject with his daughter, now he was ready to drive his point home.
“You will marry who I tell you to marry, Deana McCain! I am your father, your guardian, and you will do exactly what you are told!” Alan’s face was bursting with emotion and his booming voice caused Deana to take a step away from him as he approached her with his demand.
Deana’s face fell when she realized that her father was truly serious, and that she was about to be sent off to be married to Gregory Adaley just like those hogs out there were going to be sold at market. She sure would fetch a pretty penny, and that was all that mattered to Father now. She began to weep.
“If Mother were alive, you’d never send me away to be married to someone as awful as Gregory Adaley! I won’t… I can’t do it! He makes me sick. Why would you do this to me?” Deana sobbed out the question, her voice catching with her breath. She actually did feel sick to her stomach at the thought of Gregory Adaley coming anywhere near her. Let alone to be her husband! The thought was more than she could abide.
She beseeched her father, “Father please! Don’t ask me to do this, I couldn’t bear it!” Her shoulders quaked with sobs and yet a stubborn streak of will kept her standing up to her father. She looked into his dark eyes so filled with pain and resolve, and for a moment, she felt that she would do anything for him. But marry the mayor’s son? That was asking too much!
Deana squared her shoulders and raised her chin in defiance. “I would do anything else you asked of me Father, but this is really too much. I won’t do it, not even for you.”
Deana exhaled a ragged breath, as in the same moment Alan McCain’s eyes turned cold and he reached out to grab her arm. His long, cold fingers wrapped around her bicep just above her elbow and he squeezed hard.
“Deana,” he spoke through gritted teeth, his jaw rigid. “This discussion is over. Gregory Adaley will come calling on you in two days’ time. You will receive him in a nice frock, with your hair dressed and you will allow him to court you.
If I hear that you are unkind or treat him poorly, I will take a switch to you like I did when you were a child and I will drag you, if needed, kicking and screaming to the altar on your wedding day.” Alan’s voice was thick with emotion as he added, “You could do a lot worse than marrying the mayor’s son, Deana. I don’t want to hear another word about it now.”
Deana cried out and jerked away from her father, her body heaving with sobs. She ran away from him, out through the kitchen door and into the yard. Slowing her pace and trying to catch her breath, she found herself ascending the front porch steps. Tears still flowed as she settled into her mother’s favorite old porch rocker where so many ears of corn had been shucked and bowls of peas shelled throughout the years. There she prayed softly, wishing her mother was there to hear her, but finding no response or help coming from the darkening dusk.
The only sounds she heard were the crickets and katydids beginning to chirp their songs in the Colorado twilight.
Samuel sat back and relaxed in his saddle as he brought his horse to a stop under a large spruce tree. He removed his hat, pulled out his bandana and wiped the sweat from the band, mopping his face and neck with a sigh. The cool of the valley was a welcome change from the hot, steep, and rugged terrain he’d just traveled through.
He’d spent the morning gathering the cows with their calves, and slowly driving them down through rocks and scrub, chokecherry and oaks, to the lower pasture where they’d be living for the remainder of the summer.
The cows seemed to welcome the shady coolness of the bristlecone pine trees, with some of the cows already bedding down to rest after drinking at the creek that ran southward through the land. Samuel felt the peace and tranquility of the scene before him and took a deep breath. This ranching life he was living was a world away from where he’d been just a few years ago.
Once a wealthy and prosperous miner in Arizona, Samuel Trendell had it all: wealth, position, and a lovely wife to share it with. His inheritance was pulled from the ground in the form of gold and cooper and handed to him by his father. Then just as quickly, it was all taken away.
The second generation of miners from Oatman, Arizona, his father had worked and toiled in the very mine Samuel came to inherit. After striking a copper vein, Samuel’s father Caleb, a shrewd businessman despite his menial profession, was able to buy shares in the mine and earn enough money to purchase a controlling interest. When Caleb died of a respiratory illness caused by the mining dust and his mother followed him to heaven one short year later, Samuel inherited those shares. The mine was still active and producing, providing Samuel with increasing wealth and position. He took his beautiful bride Suzanne to live in his childhood home, where they were blissfully happy together until tragedy struck. Samuel felt a queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach and his palms began to sweat just thinking back to that terrible day.
He had agreed to accompany Suzanne to the dressmaker’s shop to choose fabric and be fitted for a new frock. It was a perfect spring day and Samuel knew that he and Suzanne made a perfectly lovely couple as he stepped out and handed Suzanne down off the carriage. He told his driver Jim to take the horse over to the blacksmith shop to have his loose rear shoe reset while they were detained at the dressmaker’s. Samuel didn’t want his horse to lose that shoe before they arrived back home.
The inside of the dressmaker’s shop was dimly lit, and the seamstress worked in the back, next to a large window that let in the light. Electricity would come to Oatman in the next few years, but tradesmen were used to working by gaslight or oil lamps.
Samuel waited patiently, admiring his wife’s figure and physique as the dressmaker took the measurements of waist and length. He agreed with Suzanne’s choices of fabrics, not really having an opinion beyond enjoying the way a deep gold brought out the green of her eyes and set off her beautiful fair skin. Suzanne’s auburn hair was highlighted in gold and he thought she shone like the sun itself.
The sound of the door crashing open startled them as a man burst into the shop. The women screamed as the man knocked Suzanne off the wooden platform she had been standing on while the dressmaker measured her skirt length. She fell into Sam’s arms as the bandit grabbed the dressmaker and pushed her into the back room. He terrorized her, demanding all the money in the shop. Samuel shielded Suzanne behind him and headed through the curtain to the back room, stopping short when he saw the bandit had a pistol leveled straight at him.
“You can hold it right there,” growled the man. “I’m not aiming to kill anyone, I just want the money.”
The dressmaker was whimpering in fear and the bandit shouted at her to be quiet. She went into her cash box and pulled out the money. “Yer handbag too, Lady.” Then, turning his attention to Samuel and Suzanne, the bandit spotted the jeweled necklace and earrings on Suzanne’s neck and ears, and demanded them as well as the gold nugget tie stud that Samuel had on.
Samuel was in a panic, fearing for all their lives and figured that discretion was the better part of valor. He hadn’t been carrying a gun. He had never felt the need to. They lived in a peaceful and civilized town and it was not his practice to go into town armed beyond a pistol that was in the box on his carriage in case of an emergency. If a horse and carriage wrecked, sometimes it was necessary to put the poor horse out of its misery due to the injury, and cut him from the traces.
Samuel removed the tie stud from his tie. He turned to the man. “Stay calm, no need to hurt us. Suzy, give the man your jewels.” He could feel his wife trembling next to him as she removed her earrings, following his command. The dressmaker was quietly sobbing while putting her cash into a bag the man had provided. The robber was getting more riled up and impatient by the minute. Sam could see him becoming more agitated and again considered making a play for the gun.
The robber grabbed the bag of cash and the jewels from Suzanne and suddenly stopped in front of Samuel and pointed the gun at him. “Where’s your billfold Mister? Got a money clip? Hand it over too or yer lady gets it.” He aimed the gun at Suzanne.
She and Samuel both gasped in shock and it was all Sam could do not to reach for the gun, but he wasn’t about to risk Suzanne’s life to be a hero.
“All right all right, don’t do anything, please, here’s all my money. Take it, just please don’t hurt us!” Samuel handed over his leather billfold. As the bandit grabbed it and tucked it into his vest, he reached down and grabbed the watch chain attached to Samuel’s pocket.
The gold pocket watch, a gift from his late father, flashed in the light. The bandit admired it for a second before putting it into the money bag. Still aiming the gun at Suzanne, he barked, “No one moves! No one screams, no one moves! Do you understand me?”
The desperation in his eyes was clear. They all nodded silently with their eyes on the gun. The bandit turned and ran for the door. Jerking it open, he suddenly whirled and shot.
Suzanne’s eyes opened wide in surprise as a crimson bloom began to spread across the gold brocade of the dress, she’d been fitted for just a few short minutes ago. Samuel caught her as she collapsed. He cried out in anguish as he saw nothing but red. Looking up, he made to leap after the gunman who had shot his beautiful bride, but he was already gone. Suzanne too, was gone. The bullet had pierced her heart and stopped it immediately.
Samuel felt the agonizing pain as if the bullet had pierced him through as well. His heart was surely dead, as Suzanne was what had kept it beating.
The memory was just as sharp and devastating to Samuel as it had been the day Suzanne died. In the months after it happened, all the joy and light disappeared from Sam’s world. He wallowed around, going through the motions, completely bogged down in his grief.
The guilt and endless questions plagued him. What if? What if he’d fought for the gun? What if he’d resisted and tried to subdue the man? What if he’d shielded Suzanne with his body and taken the bullet instead? Oh, how he wished it had been him. Life was not worth living without her by his side.
Samuel gave up on life completely. Only his sense of responsibility to the employees in his business kept him from taking his own life. He soon decided to leave. Samuel wanted to get out, to go as far from Oatman, Arizona as he could, leaving it all behind. He had no desire to make a fresh start, only to get away from the memories and reminders that surrounded him everywhere he turned.
He sold everything: the house, the furniture, the artwork they’d collected together, all of it. His wife’s possessions, everything of hers, he had boxed up and shipped overland to her sister in Ohio, her only living relative. It was too painful for him to see those gowns, her silver hairbrushes on the vanity. Even her coat hanging in the hall closet reduced him to sobs.
He sent it all away, but he could not send away the visions of the smoking gun that plagued his dreams, the sound of her scream and the surprised look on his bride’s face as the bullet entered her body. He could ride nearly a thousand miles and never be able to escape that sight.
After nearly two years on the move, something began to change in Samuel’s heart. The dark mood of his grief began to give way to something a bit brighter. He would never be free of the guilt for Suzanne’s death, but after saddle tramping for months at a time, sleeping outside, working cows for ranchers across the West, he woke up one day and felt something he vaguely recognized as a desire to stop running. He finally had a kernel of a feeling of wanting to stick around for more than a month, to put down some roots maybe, and stay for a while.
The place he chose to do that was in Leadville, Colorado. Not for any particular reason, other than that it was known to be good cattle country. He found and purchased a small spread and built a moderately-sized herd of white-faced Hereford cattle. There he settled down to the ranching life.
Leadville, Colorado was another town out West built by the mining of gold and silver from the ground. The town was in its heyday of prosperity when Samuel arrived in 1903, boasting a fancy hotel at the site of the Twin Lakes, an opera house theater, restaurants, and had become an established town and desirable place to live.
Even though Samuel was vastly wealthy from the sale of his home and business back in Arizona, he lived more like a hermit than a wealthy rancher.
After two years as a saddle tramp, he was well acquainted with the lonely life of a cowboy on the move, and had no real desire to return to civilized society. He kept to himself, went to town for supplies as needed, and employed two ranch hands to help with the daily operation of the small cattle herd he was building.
Doing the hands-on work on the ranch had broadened his shoulders, calloused his hands, and given him a strong back. He felt lean and fit as he rode his horse back out of the valley where the cows had returned to grazing.
All this reminiscing had given Sam a heck of a thirst. It was a hot summer day and he decided to ride into town. He could use a haircut and a shave. His beard had begun to itch, and a cold beer at the saloon was sounding better and better the more he thought about it. A fitting reward for the day’s work. He’d pick up his mail and have a good meal before heading home for evening chores.
Samuel was riding his horse down 7th on the way to Main Street in Leadville when he saw two young men and a girl. He could tell from a glance that the young toughs were up to no good. The girl looked nervous, backing away from their aggressive attempts at flirting.
Samuel pulled his horse up about ten feet from them and heard the girl exclaim loudly that she wanted nothing to do with “Greg” and she knew he was already betrothed. The young man laughed, toying with her, then grabbed her wrist. She cried out and tried to twist away, but his vise-like grip was no match for her.
Samuel did a quick evaluation and figured he could for sure take the bully who was taunting the girl. He looked scrawny and weak, usually the type to bully others. The other guy was bigger, but seemed more reluctant to push the scenario further. He looked up and saw Sam and his horse, and said something to Greg. Samuel heard, “C’mon, let’s get out of here!” and he nodded his head towards Sam on his horse.
Without warning, Gregory dropped the girl’s arm and rushed Samuel’s horse, waving his arms and yelling. Sam’s horse reared up and spun around, almost unseating Samuel. He was a skilled horseman however; he immediately got control of the animal and in one smooth movement stepped off the horse and dropped the reins. The horse, having been trained to ground-tie, stood still as a statue once the reins hit the street.
Samuel strode forward toward the two young men with such an attitude that they looked at each other and retreated over to where the girl had been standing. She had taken the opportunity while their backs were turned to duck around the corner and get away from them. They looked around, noticing she was gone and that further inflamed their anger and will to fight.
“You boys think you’re pretty tough, do you? How dare you put your hands on a woman like that! Only a coward mistreats a lady. You two are the lowest of dogs, not fit for a pig sty! Didn’t your mothers teach you any manners? You ought to be horsewhipped! I swear if I had one in my hand right now, you’d sure get a taste of it.” Samuel’s voice was full of fury.
The scrawny one–referred to as Greg, and surely the leader of the two ruffians–was red in the face. Samuel noted that they both, while acting like street toughs, were well-dressed if not well-mannered. Clearly enraged at being thwarted by Samuel, and the further insults to his mother’s good name, he looked at his companion and said, “Let’s get him!” The two rushed him in an instant, pushing him hard against the side of the building.
“Just who do you think you are, coming into my town and insulting me and my mother? You have no business here trying to tell me what to do in my own town. Don’t you know who I am?” Gregory and his friend had him pushed up against the wall. Gregory reared back to throw a punch to his midsection and Samuel took the opportunity while he was off-balance to shove him into his friend and get away.
His horse was still there, and Sam had taken two steps towards him when he was tackled from behind. His face was pushed into the dirt and he tasted blood. One of the men was on his back, but Samuel reared and bucked and managed to squirm out from underneath him.
He was just getting to his feet again when he heard the unmistakable sound of a gun being cocked. He froze.
“What’s the matter, Mister? You’re not so tough, now are you?” Gregory had a gun leveled right at Samuel’s belly. The energy drained from his body and he felt rooted to the spot. He could feel his heart beating out of his chest but he was unable to move a muscle.
Gregory was clearly enjoying having Samuel in his sights. “Nice horse you got there. I think he’d like to take a run today…” His partner picked up a handful of gravel and lobbed it towards the horse, scaring him into flight. He galloped up the street kicking up dust behind him.
Samuel’s heart sank. He couldn’t control the trembling in his body and the sweat began to drip from his face as he confronted the man with the gun.
“Maybe you’d like to go for a run too, eh Mister?” Greg’s face was cruel as he taunted Samuel who was now pale and sweating in front of him, clearly terrified. He laughed, feigned a jump towards Sam and yelled as Samuel flinched before him.
“Get out of here! Stay out of my way and out of my town, or else you’re going to get more of the same.” Gregory pointed the gun towards Sam’s feet and said mockingly, “Now. Run!”
Samuel ran, dove around the corner and ran for all he was worth. Seeing the first shop on Main Street he ducked inside the door, hoping beyond hope the young toughs were not still chasing after him. The thunderous thumps of their heavy steps however, drove his quivering hopes far away.
Deana used her key to open the door to the apothecary then tucked it back into her handbag. It appeared the doctor was out seeing patients, as the Closed sign still hung in the window at this advanced hour of the morning on a Tuesday.
The doctor was always perfectly punctual and had the shop opened up by eight o’clock sharp every weekday. Deana didn’t change the sign, neither did she lock the door behind her. She would be just a few minutes, so it really didn’t seem necessary.
Mrs. Penvenen had sent her on an errand to the apothecary this morning to pick up medicine for Deana’s charge, the infant Rosalee, who had come down with a fever. Deana learned upon arriving for work that morning that the baby had kept Mrs. Penvenen up throughout the night with her crying and fussing. Deana knew her way around the apothecary’s dispensary from top to bottom. She had spent many an hour here, so it was no problem for her to find what she needed and dispense it.
Over the years since her mother died, her father Alan had taken to bouts of hard drinking and gambling. He spent far too much time at the saloon in town. Her familiarity with the doctor and his pharmaceutical supplies came from the many calls on him from Deana pleading for him to stitch and bandage up Alan’s wounds and various injuries. The doctor had spent a great deal of time tending her father when he was hurt and sick from falling, fighting, or poisoning himself with cheap liquor.
It had finally come to a point where it was happening so frequently, the situation so dire, that the doctor, rather than charge them for call after call, knowing that money was tight, gave Deana a key to the shop and free access to his supplies. She kept a cache of bandages, antiseptics, plasters and ipecac on hand, and if needed, could come into the apothecary shop at any time of day or night to obtain more iodine, aspirin or even much stronger remedies such as laudanum or morphia, if the doctor happened to be away on a call.
All the man had required of her was to log the information about the item. He required that she write down the description, amount, and the date and time she had been to the shop in a special dedicated ledger that he had provided her for that purpose. That, and to lock up and secure the shop door upon leaving. It was an arrangement that made Deana’s life ever so much easier.
Over the time they had spent together in dealing with her father, the middle-aged doctor had taken an interest in Deana and her plight. They had formed an unlikely friendship that meant a great deal to both of them. Deana sometimes felt that the doctor was her only real friend in the world. He’d taken the time to listen to her troubles and give her sound and valuable advice. He had become almost like family. Deana saw him as a sort of kindly uncle that she could depend on when her father was not able to be very dependable, which had been the case in recent years. The man knew that Deana was a trustworthy young woman. He admired how she handled her lot in life and wanted to help ease her burden.
Deana felt good about the trust he had placed in her and always made sure to lock up the medicines and to leave the shop clean and tidy, exactly the way the kind doctor wanted it kept. She never took advantage. She even went the extra step, when she had the time, of dusting the bottles on the shelves and tidying up so the shop would look good for customers. Dr. Abbott didn’t always have time to take care of that. Leadville kept him plenty busy with calls on sick patients, delivering babies, the setting of bones, and stitching of wounds.
Deana was happy to help her unusual friend Dr. Abbott keep his shop tidy. It was the least she could do to repay him for his many kindnesses to her. Deana reflected on how lucky she was to have good people like him and of course her employers, the Penvenens, in her life.
Thank goodness for the Penvenens! They had been a godsend to Deana in employing her to take care of their household and now, baby Rosalee. This ended up having the added benefit of giving her a way to get out of the house. Being at the Penvenen home gave her some much-needed distance and perspective from her strained relationship with her fractious father.
Mr. and Mrs. Penvenen had been friends of the family for a good many years. Mrs. Penvenen and Deana’s mother Elaina were friends from childhood. It was Deana’s good fortune that they took pity on her situation and hired her to help with the house and the baby. Deana jumped at the chance to not only help her mother’s friend, but to get out of her dreary, sad home, and spend time with the adorable child.
She helped with household chores and cooking. Now, since the baby came, Deana spent most of her time caring for the infant. Mr. Penvenen worked for an accounting firm, and was away all day, leaving the bulk of the care for his wife and daughter to Deana. He gave her every other Thursday and every Sunday off to go to church and spend the afternoons at home with her father. Deana was so hopeful in the beginning that the modest wage of one dollar a week would make a difference to her father’s financial troubles.
After several months of giving him all her wages, it had become clear to her that even if she had been able to earn three times that amount, it wouldn’t have made a discernible difference. Father was already in debt to the shopkeeper and the butcher. Deanna had no proof, but she also suspected there were some large gambling debts outstanding. Still, she enjoyed the job and the chance to be out of the house daily, even though the actual day-to-day work did not really vary too much between one household and the other.
Deana had a great deal of pride in her work and endeavored to keep the Penvenen home clean and the meals served on time. She would often make double the amount of food at one home or the other and share the meals between households. Mr. Penvenen didn’t seem to mind and gave her leave to charge any meat or ingredients against his credit at the grocer and the butcher.
Deana guessed he was just happy to have someone to cook and serve him when he arrived home after his time at the accounting offices. Mrs. Penvenen came to the table for dinner most evenings, but had breakfast served to her in bed, and sometimes only took tea or broth prepared by Deana at midday. She did her best to be up and dressed for dinner by the time her husband arrived home. Deana could see it was taking all the energy she could muster to do so. She often had Deana help her to put on her frock and dress her hair in an effort to look her best.
Mrs. Penvenen had come to rely heavily on Deana now that she was having a hard time recovering from a difficult pregnancy and a terrible time in childbirth. She was often weepy and tired, seeming overly depressed and not at all full of joy at the presence of the adorable baby Rosalee.
Deana did her best to encourage the bond between mother and child; Dr. Abbott had told her this sometimes happened with new mothers. Deana had a hard time understanding how Mrs. Penvenen could not be filled with happiness at the joyous, happy, and easy to manage baby that she had been blessed with. Rosalee was a sweet child, always smiling, and she rarely cried.
That’s how Deana had known today that something was very wrong with the infant. She had been whimpering and crying all morning, and it wasn’t hard to see that she was unhappy. When Mrs. Penvenen called her into the nursery, she could feel the heat of the baby’s fever. That was how she found herself standing there in the apothecary shop.
Deana took a deep breath, taking in the smells of herbs and antiseptics that surrounded her. She was frustrated with everything in her life right now, and worries about the baby were weighing heavily on her shoulders. It was disappointing that her job with the Penvenens wasn’t paying enough to make a difference in the family finances, and now with Father ready to marry her off to Gregory Adaley!
“No one should have to marry someone they don’t love, not even to save their family,” she muttered bitterly. Still, it didn’t seem that there was any other alternative. She felt tears well up, but forced herself to remain calm. She’d done enough crying. Deana took a deep, calming breath, and felt the stillness all around her in the quiet of the apothecary shop.
She found the medicine for Rosalee and measured out the dosage. She wrote down what she had dispensed, and replaced the bottle back onto the shelf. She locked the medicine cabinet and replaced the key in its hiding place. She was just gathering up her wrap and putting the medicine bottle into her bag, preparing to exit the shop. Opening the small door from the dispensary, she stepped down onto the shop floor.
The quiet mood was shattered when suddenly, the door to the shop flew open. A man rushed inside and stopped just inside the threshold. He appeared to be in a state of complete panic. He closed the door quickly and pleaded with her, “Please! You’ve got to hide me! Is there a way out the back?”
The man’s clothes were rumpled, he was out of breath, sweating, and looked on the verge of collapse. Deana was startled and flustered. She was not sure how to respond to this man she’d never seen before. He acted desperate, like he was running for his life.
She couldn’t help noticing how handsome this unknown visitor was. Tall, broad-shouldered and lean, he looked like a hero in a dime-store novel. He was dressed like a ranch hand, with a homespun shirt, denim pants and leather boots. She noticed he had a silver belt buckle on his belt. She also noticed that his dark eyes were full of fear. There was something endearing in his face, something that told her she could trust him. Deana wished Dr. Abbott were there! This wasn’t her place of business and she wasn’t sure what to do.
Her indecision about how to respond disappeared when she heard excited voices outside. She heard a man holler, “Down here! This way!” and the sound of running feet.
Deana sprang into action. She waved the stranger over and sent him up the steps and through the dispensary door. “Here! Behind the counter, quickly!” He ran over and ducked down behind the counter.
Hunching his tall frame down low so he was no longer visible from the doorway, he looked up and she could see the gratitude in his eyes. Deana quickly looked away and stood up straight.
She closed the door separating the shop from the apothecary’s dispensary area. She came back down the steps and turned to face the shop door willing her heart to stop beating so hard and her hands not to shake. Oh, how she wished she’d locked the door behind her when she came in earlier!
Trying to catch her breath, she attempted to look nonchalant. She pushed a few loose curls from her face and straightened her skirt. She had barely gotten herself under control when the two miscreants that had been chasing the handsome cowboy burst through the door and flew into the shop.
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