AN: Hi! First year of college is DONE! Moved back home this weekend and now I'm all set to write up a storm! First thing on my plate is to re write one of my first stories. This has been my project for the past few months, getting it all shiny and new like, ready for all you lovely people on FictionPress
It was a quiet day in the gold rush Town of Pine River. Most people had left when the gold was gone, but those who had stayed now enjoyed the small town and its self-sufficient nature. There was a post office, a small restaurant, and a general store, but as usual the most popular spot in town was the Angels Saloon, run by three smart young girls who were favorites around town for their witty conversation and kindness to passing travelers.
The tables were filled with men and occasionally women enjoying the hospitality, entertainment and the reasonably priced liquor. After a few musical numbers on the small stage, most folks were on their way, reasonably drunk, heading home to sleep it off.
By dusk the only ones left were Sheriff Levi McGuire and his deputies Josh Canfield and Zack Johnson.
The proprietors, Cassandra Stone, Anna Strauss and Grace Fisher had engaged the men in conversation as they cleaned their establishment for the coming day.
Anna was stacking chairs on tables in preparation for washing the floor, laughing at a comment by Josh.
"Well, I'm just sayin', you sure act like sisters." He chuckled grabbing a few chairs to help out.
She grabbed the chairs from him and placed them on the table nearest her. "Deputy Canfield," She spoke with formality "I have told you again and again, you three do not work here. Now if you cannot restrain yourself, maybe go help Sheriff McGuire finish off that whiskey."
"Aw, you know I just want to lighten your load Missy." He placed a hand on her shoulder trying to get her to give in and accept the help.
She didn't and he laughed before holding up his hands in surrender and joining his boss at the bar.
Grace handed him a glass filled with alcohol and he tipped his hat in thanks.
"See, they even smile like sisters." He commented to Levi who looked from one happy blonde to the other.
"Where is Miss Cassandra?" He looked around.
"For that matter, where's Zack?" Josh looked around also.
"Cassie went out to feed the horses out back." Anna said without looking up.
"Deputy Johnson followed her." Grace finished wringing out her wash rag in the bucket.
The girls share a conspiratorial look that the man did not notice and went back to their jobs.
Presently Cassie reappeared followed by Deputy Zack Johnson, who had to remove his hat to fit through the doorway.
She grabbed a broom and began sweeping the stage as she chatted with Zack who perched on the end of it.
"Well yes I suppose I would like to learn to ride backwards." She laughed. "My forwards riding could do with some improvement as well. I never get enough time out on the trails, what with running this place." She looked around lovingly at the saloon.
"It would be my pleasure to teach you, Miss Cassandra." Zack spoke with a soft Texas drawl.
She giggled and blushed, her pink face contrasting her green dress. "Oh, you! That's very kind Deputy Canfield."
"Miss Cassandra, I have told you before, there is no need to be so formal, we are friends right?" He handed her the dustpan that was slightly out of her reach.
"Well yes, but-" She started timidly.
"Then please, my name is Zack." He held out a hand. "Nice to meet you." Cassie giggled again.
"And while we're on that subject, these two are Levi and Josh. Got that ladies?" He raised his voice addressing Anna and Grace who answered in unison
"Yes Deputy Canfield."
Levi and Josh broke out laughing, both nearly spilling their drinks on themselves. "Give it up Zack, these nice girls won't learn." Josh laughed.
Anna came up and grabbed a seat near Josh and Levi. "So, what are the boys of the law up to these days?" She asked fussing with her headband. A few of the blue sequins had become tangled in her blonde locks.
"Please, let me." Josh smiled and carefully removed the offending circle of elastic from her hair. "Well, there is one good story, but I don't know if we should be tellin' ladies." He deferred to Levi.
Levi put his drink down and seemed to sober up. "They should know." He said grimly.
Cassie stopped sweeping and came closer, followed by Zack.
Levi began his tale. "You girls know those two brothers who come through town every month, the ones that claim to be able to make lead into gold?"
"Yes, they stay here all the time, Jonathan and Kenneth Dettwiler." Grace nodded.
The girls had grown to enjoy the Dettwiler brothers over the past few years. They made a point to stay at Angels Saloon when they were nearby and became very close friends to Anna, Grace and Cassie. They were a few years older than the girls and treated them like spoiled little sisters, bringing back trinkets from their time in the desert. Anna had a small collection of beautiful stones Johnny found in a river bed once stashed in a corner of her dresser drawer.
"Well it seems they had been camping out in the desert near an old vein of lead, trying their hand at making gold from it. I don't believe anything ever came of that. But earlier today we had another prospector come into the office and say they found someone over by Creed's Hill. We went to check it out, and-" Here he paused and took a sip of his drink. "I'm sorry to be the one to tell you ladies, but it was Jonathan. Someone shot him right in the heart"
Anna let out a soft cry, "He can't be dead!" She whispered fiercely, her eyes watering. Josh took one of her hands in his and tried to soothe her.
Cassie sobbed softly and hid her face in her hands, and Zack enveloped her in a hug, not minding at all that her tears were soaking his shoulder.
Grace had gone pale, but had the presence of mind to ask "What about Kenny?"
Levi shook his head. "No sign of him. I have to tell you, we first thought that he had shot John to keep all the gold for himself."
"But you said they never made any gold." Grace replied.
"They didn't make any, but they found some all right, he had gold dust all over his clothes and hands." Josh replied digging a handkerchief out of his pocket and handing it to Anna who was crying quite heavily now.
"He would never!" She spat. "Those two were inseparable, as close as two brothers ever were." She dabbed her eyes with the hankie.
"You first thought?" Grace prompted sinking into a chair finally, as the reality of the loss hit her. "So what did happen then?"
The men shared a look over the girls' heads, and after a moment, Zack let out a long breath.
"You all know about Lynn O'Brian?" He asked, still cradling Cassie.
A hush fell over the room as all three paused their sniffling and sobbing.
"But, but she's dead." Cassie whispered. "Right?"
"Well we found this." Levi pulled a small card out of his jacket pocket. "The queen of hearts, it's her mark."
"So she's back?" Anna asked.
"We think so." Levi confirmed. "And judging by this, she's close."
This was an unsettling thought for everyone present.
Grace reached across the bar and placed her palm on Levi's cheek. "Be careful." She said quietly, averting her eyes. "Please."
Her sincere look was mirrored in both Anna's and Cassie's faces as they sat in silence for a few minutes.
The large clock in the corner rang nine times, and the men stood to leave.
Quick goodnights were exchanged at the door, and as they were leaving Josh turned back around. "Lock your doors tonight ladies. And if anythin' troubles you, remember, we're right down the street."
Anna nodded and closed the door as he caught back up with his friends.
Grace went to check that the back door was locked securely and then followed the others upstairs. Living above a saloon had its perks, each girl had her own bedroom with large windows that let the sun in in the mornings, but now they all closed the shutters and latched them to keep out what ever lurked in the darkness.
They said goodnight and separated into their own rooms and fell into an uneasy sleep.
A sound woke Anna a few hours later, she squinted at the softly ticking clock in the dim light and saw it was nearly one in the morning; she slipped on her black robe and quietly opened the door. To her left was Cassie's room and further down the hall was Grace's, all three overlooked the first floor of the saloon via a small balcony. As she tiptoed up to the railing and scanned the first floor, she heard a slight creek, and looking toward Cassie's door, saw the girl up also in her robe, rubbing sleep from her eyes.
"I thought I heard something down there." She whispered to the yawning girl.
"Me too." Cassie confirmed.
Grace opened her door then too.
"Did you guys hear it too?" She asked pulling the satin of her own robe closed over her slight frame.
"Maybe we should go get Sheriff McGuire?" Cassie asked, looking to the other two.
Anna chewed her lip thinking, but Grace shook her head. "We need to make sure we're not just imagining things, I'd hate to drag them out here for nothing."
They agreed and headed slowly down the stairs, skipping the ones that creaked. Once down stairs they could hear plainly the rustling coming from the front door.
Grace and Cassie quietly placed themselves on either side while Anna grabbed the shotgun they kept under the bar. Cassie slowly turned the key in the lock and Grace whipped the door open.
Anna aimed the gun at the figure standing on the stoop and called "Who's there?"
The figure didn't answer, but tried to step forward and fell, Cassie, who was closest recognized him and shouted "Oh my goodness it's Kenny!" In a flash all three were shouldering his weight and helping him onto a chair.
There was dirt and dust covering his clothes and face. His usually blonde hair was matted with sand turning it brown. Grace ran behind the bar and grabbed a cup, then ran out back to fill it with water.
"Here, drink." She ordered upon returning.
He mumbled something incoherent and swallowed a few sips.
"What do we do?" Anna asked looking at the slumped form.
"Let's get him into a bed, he needs to rest, I think he's dehydrated from being out there all day." Grace reasoned. So again they half led half dragged the nearly unconscious man upstairs to one of the vacant hotel rooms.
Once he was changed and neatly tucked into bed, he seemed to go to sleep, and the three girls stood outside the room discussing what to do.
"We should call Sheriff McGuire." Cassie insisted.
"Look, why don't we wait until sun up, that way at least the poor man gets some rest before we badger him with a million questions." Grace said
Anna nodded and Cassie reluctantly agreed and they all separated back in to their rooms to sleep.
A few hours later, Anna woke up to an earsplitting scream.
She was out of bed like a rocket and running toward the origin of the sound, and found Cassie at the bottom of the stairs. The girl stood frozen staring at the balcony. Anna followed her gaze and lost her breath. By this time, Grace had also made it down to them, and she followed their silent line of sight and gasped out loud.
Hanging from the balcony with a rope around his neck was Kenny.
AN: Thoughts and feedback are appreciated ;)