January, 2015

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Issue #64

Looking for free, tantalizing Tales of the Old West?
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Read this month's Tales and vote for your favorite.
They'll appear in upcoming print volumes of The Best of Frontier Tales Anthologies!

by J. M. Shinpaugh
The stage driver was dead, the stage burned, and the woman was badly beaten. She wore a nun's habit, but $100,000 was hidden in its folds. What was she? A nun, a thief, or even a killer!

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Lorny's Burro
by Dionna L. Mann
The drought took away the extra feed that her burro needed and little Lorny fretted as he grew skinnier. Could she muster the courage to stand up for him?

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New Beginnings, Part 1 of 2
by Jesse J Elliot
Bad luck and bad men can take away your security, leaving you with few choices. Unfortunately, people tend to look down on a young woman who lives in the whorehouse.

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by Gary Ives
Niles Olson had a hankering to rob a train and get away from his many "responsibilities." It would be as simple as pie, if only he could keep his big mouth shut.

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The Stolen Brooch
by C.A. Simonson
Her Precious had been stolen and the lady from back East wanted everyone on the stage coach arrested on the spot. What did she have up her sleeve?

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Want all of this month's Western stories at once? Click here –

All the Tales

New Beginnings
by Jesse J Elliot

Iragene Jones, New Mexico Sheriff Series

PART 1 of 2

If yur too dam ruff
Then yur too dam drunk
Yur too dam mean
For this establishment and you aint wanted here!

The gaudily dressed and overly made-up woman banged the small room's door open and hollered to the younger woman. "Marnie, run and get the Sheriff, she's in town tonight and we need her now!"

The younger woman, free of make-up and in the middle of delicately embroidering a blouse, quickly placed the needle in a safe position, threw on her shawl, and asked, "What shall I tell her?"

The older woman shot back, "The usual, a drunken S.O.B. hurting one of the girls, this time Matty. Jenny heard her safety bell. Now, hurry!"

The girl ran to the center of the town, a good 10 minute run since Mrs. Brown had been asked to build her establishment back in the trees away from town. The girl was out of breath, and her sides were aching, but she sprang open the Sheriff's door and loudly told the Sheriff that one of Mrs. Brown's girls was in trouble.

Iragene Jones, Sheriff of El Brazo County, New Mexico Territory, snarled and swore under her breath, hoping Marnie wouldn't hear her. She wasn't angry that the girl was from Mrs. Brown's but angry that so many men were so willing to hurt the working girls so frequently. Iragene had encouraged Mrs. Brown to hire a strongman for incidences such as this, but good, strong men were not always so willing to work at a whorehouse or follow Mrs. Brown's rules—no dallying with the girls.

Noting that Marnie was breathing so hard, Iragene encouraged her to stay until she caught her breath. Gratefully, the girl sat down in the office and relaxed. She sat there expressionless and thought pensively about how she arrived in this out of the way world and how she had ended up in a whorehouse, sewing and designing clothes for the girls and the few townspeople daring enough to ask the resident of a whorehouse to sew for them. This sure wasn't what she had imagined her life to be.

New Mexico was a long way from St. Louis, and she often found herself wondering about how she ever arrived here. She looked at the ring on her right hand, her mother's wedding ring, the last thing of value she owned and the last object from her past life. Was it only six months ago that her mother had died and left her alone? She sighed and walked out the door, trying to think about nothing and meandered back to Mrs. Browns.

Iragene ran to the whorehouse. She was in better shape than Marnie, and getting her horse and saddling it would have taken too long. She arrived at the building and bolted up the stairs in time to hear Mrs. Brown demanding that a large, naked patron dress and get out of her house immediately.

He turned away from the badly beaten girl and started towards Mrs. Brown. Iragene walked in and pulled her gun, ordering that he stop where he was and put his hands up. He saw her for the first time and then laughed. He wasn't a pretty picture. He was unshaved, dirty and hairy, and he was huge, everywhere.

"Hell, I don't need to put no hands up. I'm done with the whore. Yur a purty little thing. Yur next, Honey." Iragene looked him over quickly. His fist and his other appendage let her know he was very serious. She knew she had to do something since the distance between them was short, and he could leap and subdue her quickly.

"Mister, you have one chance to get dressed and come with me or I'll shoot you right here."

He was big and drunk, but he chose to take his chances with the woman who challenged him. Knowing she had no choice, she lowered her gun and shot him in his knee.

The man hadn't expected her to shoot, let alone blow up his knee. His surprise was quickly replaced with his bellow as he fell over and grabbed his shattered leg.

"Ah! You fuckin' bitch, you blew away my knee. God damn, get me a doctor! The pain! God damn it, the pain! Help me!"

Iragene looked around to make sure the injured man had nothing within reach that he could use as a weapon, then she turned toward Mrs. Brown and asked her to send someone for the doctor.

Mrs. Brown turned, "Jenny, please get Doc Stein for us!" and the girl left swiftly.

"Matty," Iragene asked kindly, ignoring the crying man, "where are you hurt?"

In tears the frightened girl answered that she lost some teeth and she thought her arm was broken. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Brown, I tried to fight him off, but he was too strong." She whimpered, trying to avoid looking at the naked man lying on the floor next to her bed.

"Honey, I'm sorry this job puts you in harm's way," the older woman whispered back. "I'd hold you, Sweetie, but honest to God, I don't wanna hurt you," the older woman said soothingly. She then added, "Now hush now Matty, the doctor will be here soon." The girl tried to smile back.

Mrs. Brown gently covered the girl for modesty purposes, being careful to avoid touching the damaged arm. She then pulled up a chair and sat by her, holding her free hand.

The doctor arrived within less than an hour. He surmised the situation quickly, and started toward the badly wounded man.

"No, Doctor," Iragene said quickly and firmly, "he can wait. Check the victim first. She has a broken arm and several missing teeth."

Doc Stein said nothing to Iragene, but walked toward the crying girl with his bag. He took out a bottle and poured a generous dose of painkiller and asked for all of the missing teeth to be gathered and dipped in whiskey. "And don't pull off anything that looks like skin or gum," he commanded.

"Matty, isn't it?" the doctor said in a gentle but firm voice, "I want you to try something. Sometimes it works and sometimes, it doesn't. When we get you settled, and I have your arm fixed, I want to put your teeth back in. Sometimes they stay and sometimes they don't. Okay?"

With awe on her face, the girl shook her head obediently. The doctor examined her arm, asked for a small straight board, and proceeded to painfully set the bone. Relieved that the break was clean, the doctor then proceeded to examine the rest of the girl, cleaning abrasions and teeth marks. With her teeth placed firmly back into her mouth, the girl finally slept.

The man lie on the floor, semi-conscious with a pained and grotesque expression on his face.

"Get some volunteers and let's get this man out of here," demanded the doctor, whether for the man's own good or the girls, no one knew, but Mrs. Brown left the room and came back with two happy looking cowboys who were given a full free night and unlimited drinks to carry the man down the stairs, put him in a wagon, take the man to jail, and then put him in a cell.

"Sheriff, if you would be kind enough to escort me to the jail, I would like to look after your wounded prisoner as soon as possible."

Iragene looked at him and heard the disapproving tone of voice, but she knew she had had little choice. Too small to take the drunken giant on as a man might have done, she had only the gun to help subdue him.

"You know, Sheriff, this man is probably going to lose his leg. He'll never be the same if he survives."

"Yes, Doctor, I know that, but what would you have done if you were a woman facing an enraged and I might add engorged man wanting to first rape you then beat you, or maybe beat you then rape you? And who knows what he would have done to Matty or Mrs. Brown." She paused and looked at him. "I could have killed him, you know."

"Yes, yes, I do know, but, oh all right, you're right," and he finished the last few hundred feet in silence. They both entered the jail where the man was lying and shouting out in pain.

"Help me, God damn it!!! Help me! And keep that bitch away from me. I'll kill her, I promise. I'll kill her!"

Iragene ignored him and let the doctor do his doctoring. She sat down and tiredly waited for him to finish up on the man. The doctor had had to leave and get a saw and bandages, letting a very hefty dose of laudanum take effect. When he returned he worked for several hours. The man screamed throughout the ordeal until, after losing a large amount of blood, he had finally passed out. Iragene could have left, but she felt she needed to be there since it was she who shot him. She needed to remind herself of the power and the consequences of a gun.

Several long, hellish hours later, the doctor came out of the jail. He sat down by her with a flask of whiskey and two glasses. She didn't ask where he had gotten them just shook her head and drank what he poured her. They drank in silence, then he got up to leave.

"I'll be back in a couple of hours," he said, "to check the patient." She nodded, saying nothing, and he quietly left. She put her head down and it didn't take her long to drift into sleep at her desk.

The next morning the doctor made his rounds. He checked first on his patient at the jail. The man was alive, but his breathing was labored, and he was feverish. Doc Stein checked the dressings, changed them, then headed towards the door to go to Mrs. Brown's place.

"Wait, Doctor, I'll join you," Iragene said. She had gotten up, cleaned up, and changed while he was with his patient. "You don't mind, do you?"

He looked at her surprised. "Sheriff, why would I mind? Having the prettiest woman in town to walk with? No, not at all."

"I wasn't sure—after what happened last night."

"Sheriff, you were right when you said you had no choice. I keep forgetting that you're a head smaller and half the weight of some of your opponents. I was out of place to even question what you did. Please forgive me."

She smiled sideways at the doctor and was relieved that they were back on positive terms. The doctor was not a big man, but his confidence and his bearing commanded a certain amount of respect from everyone. He was not exactly handsome, but his dark features and soft curly hair were certainly not unpleasant to look at either.

They were met at the door by the new seamstress that Mrs. Brown had hired on her last trip to St. Louis, the girl that had come to fetch Iragene. She was average height with pleasant features and the blondest hair that Iragene had ever seen. Her hair was so blond that it was almost white. Her hair was made even more striking by her brown eyes.

"Hello," she said to the Sheriff and doctor, "please come in and thank you for all of your help last night. I don't know what we would have done without you both." She smiled at them and then led them up stairs. In her hand was the most beautiful piece of linen with Mrs. Brown's monogram, MBM, Molly Mae Brown.

Iragene almost gasped when she saw the delicate stitches. "Marnie, I heard you were a good seamstress, but I have never seen anything so beautiful. Do you take on customers outside of Mrs. Brown's? Would you be interested in taking on some work for me and my family?"

Marnie stopped right on the stairs and turned around to look at Iragene. "You'd hire me—even though I work at Mrs. Brown's?"

"Of course, I would, what does one thing have to do with another?" knowing full well what her sister-in-law, Prudence, would say. "I'm very interested. I haven't eaten yet, and after this I want to go to The Hotel and get breakfast. Would you care to join me?"

"Oh, yes," Marnie said enthusiastically, and led them into Matty's room. Mrs. Brown was there. Without her make-up and gaudy clothes, she looked like any attractive middle-aged woman. She had once been slender, but her years had earned her a now softer shape. Though her smile lines were well pronounced, she had few wrinkles elsewhere.

"The doctor and the sheriff are here, and Mrs. Brown, and would you mind if I had breakfast with the sheriff and discussed sewing business at The Hotel?" she managed to say without a break or a breath.

"Of course, Marnie, glad you're getting out for awhile, and be sure to try their sopapillas. Don't be stingy with the honey."

Marnie left with a big smile, and the doctor checked Matty's arm and other injuries. Today the girl's eye was deep purple and almost swollen shut. Her teeth remained in their places, but time would tell on that. Her arm was swollen and discolored, but showed no sign of infection. Doc Stein left some pain medicine and said good-bye to Iragene.

"I'll look in on your prisoner later, right now I need to go out to the Carlisle's ranch and check on a baby. Speaking of babies, how are your nephew and your sister-in-law doing?"

"The baby is bright, handsome, and growing everyday. Pru is fine." He looked at her, only his smiling eyes giving away any knowledge of her on-again off-again relationship with her pretty sister-in-law.

"Okay, then. I'll see you or Cruz later," he said as he walked downstairs.

Cruz was Iragene's deputy. He was a gentle man who had been on his own since a youth. He had spent some time at the Cochiti Pueblo where he learned to hunt and track, but he had no real family. Though Iragene saw herself as his caring boss, he saw her as a beautiful, bewitching woman, capable of achieving anything. Iragene either didn't know of his puppy love or chose to ignore his adoring glances. Either way, they were an effective team that kept law and order in the little town of La Madera.

"Thank you, Sheriff," came a weak voice as she was about to leave the room. Iragene stopped and looked at the once pretty girl. "I know what you did for me, and I will never, ever forget you. Not ever." Iragene looked and smiled at the girl in the bed. My god, the girl looked and sounded like she was a child—probably not far from childhood.

"You're welcome, Matty, I was just doing my job."

"Most lawmen wouldn't a come to help. I know. My ma was a whore, and she got treated like dirt by her men and by the law. You're different, Sheriff. You know that, don't you?"

"I know no one has the right to hurt anyone else, Matty, and it's my job to protect all of La Madera's citizens." Iragene tried to smile without crying like a baby in front of this child. She succeeded in holding back the tears and quickly left the room.

Marnie was downstairs already waiting for her. Iragene had almost forgotten her arrangement to meet Marnie and was about to cancel when she saw the look of excitement on the girl's face. She knew she couldn't disappoint the girl so she continued on out the building toward The Hotel.

The splendid hotel, named The Hotel, was unusual for such a small town, but because La Madera had a lumber mill and was the center of so many successful haciendas, homesteader farms and orchards, as well as recent cattle ranches, a hotel was necessary and lucrative. This one was large and as stately as any hotel east of the Mississippi.

Iragene and Marnie entered the front of the hotel and headed for the dining room. They were seated and for the first time Iragene looked at Marnie. She was crying. "Oh, oh," Iragene wondered to herself, "What ghosts are haunting this young girl?"

Marnie sniffled and blew her nose into the most beautiful handkerchief Iragene had ever seen. It was of the finest linen and had Sophia embroidered on it. Surprised, Iragene looked up to see the hotel owner staring at Marnie and the handkerchief with an unexplainable expression washing over his face. Iragene watched his motionless stare and unusual expression. When he realized she was looking at him, he turned away and quickly left the room. Marnie saw nothing, and Iragene didn't feel right to mention anything. Anyway, what could she mention? Maybe Marnie looked or reminded him of someone he knew.

"I'm so sorry, Sheriff," Marnie tried to explain. "It's just that Mama and I used to go to our favorite tearoom in St. Louis. That was the last time I sat and was waited on in such an elegant room." Iragene just shook her head and asked what happened to her mother.

"Ah, Sheriff, it's a long story," she smiled shyly. For a while she sat in silence then she began, "It was just Mama and me. We lived together, we worked together, and we laughed together. My father died during the War. He never even knew that I existed. When we got word that Papa was never coming back, his brother told Mama that she should marry him. But Mama was still in love with my father, and besides, his brother was cruel, nothing like my Papa.

"I don't really remember details, but Mama and I ran away. She had some money and her jewelry as well as many friends in St. Louis. We went there to live and opened a shop in the best part of town. We had many customers and many wonderful times. She taught me to sew, embroider, and do fine needlework.

"Our reputation as seamstresses was known throughout St. Louis, then all of Missouri. Unfortunately my uncle heard of us. He came and threatened Mama, saying no Slaughter woman was to work ever, and we had brought shame on the family. But we had had to work, for my uncle did not give us any of Papa's money. He threatened Mama. He gave her an ultimatum—either close the store and marry him or face the consequences of saying no to him a second time.

"Mama didn't believe he would actually hurt us, but several nights later, our store burned down. In it were all of our expensive fabrics, silk, lace, everything. Mama heard and began to cry. She cried for days. Then nothing. She sat and stared and did little else. Several weeks later, I awoke to find her face contorted. Her beautiful face was twisted and horrible. She was dead. Our doctor said she had died of a stroke."

"Oh, Marnie, I am so sorry. How sad for you."

"I couldn't believe my mama was gone. I was alone in our rooms when my uncle showed up. He was horrible. He said if he couldn't have Mama, he would take me! I gasped. Not only was he a cruel man, he was my father's brother! I screamed this at him and he just grinned. I realized then what I must do. I must do what Mama had done. I had to run away.

"To buy myself time I asked for a proper period of mourning for Mama. Then I would return home to my father's land in Springfield, Illinois, now my uncle's and do whatever he wished. He was content. Not knowing my plans and my will to escape, he paid for my rooms for the week and went home to make wedding arrangements, supposedly returning for me at the end of the week. When I found this out, I was even more prepared to leave as quickly as possible. The only money I had were a few of Mama's jewels and our sewing kits that we kept at home.

"I cashed in the jewels, settled our business, and went to the stage office to buy a ticket to somewhere. While I was there, I met Mrs. Brown who had been visiting her sister. When we sat down in a little restaurant awaiting the stage, she happened to see my handbag and my dress. Both Mama and I had designed and made them. She asked me where I was going, and I told her I didn't even know. She then asked if she could hire me to make clothes for her girls. I immediately said yes. I didn't know what girls she meant, I thought her daughters. Not only did I not know what a whore was, I didn't even know what they did! You can imagine my surprise when I learned!" and she looked at me and laughed.

Marnie's innocence and her story's ending lightened the mood, but I was now aware of how someone like her ended up living at Mrs. Brown's establishment, the need of a woman to earn a living. For the most part, where or how else can a lone woman without money earn a steady income? Sewing, teaching, cleaning, or whoring for the most part. I was a lucky one, educated and financially comfortable. I was definitely an exception, not the rule.

Women lived in a world that discouraged independent women but did not provide for or protect them either. Many jobs that women could do were often closed to them. Iragene admired Marnie, and she told her so. Marnie just blushed and looked at her menu.

They ordered their breakfast, and while they waited for their food, they discussed the outfits Iragene wanted for her nephew, towelettes and handkerchiefs for her sister-in-law, and aprons and lace collars she wished for her dear friend since childhood, Cassie. Marnie wrote the list down, including all details. Iragene asked if she could pay her for the materials now and for the finished work later. Marnie agreed and their food came and went. Both women left the restaurant feeling good and full.

Marnie went back to Mrs. Browns, and Iragene went back to the office to check on her prisoner. He was there, and he was dead. "Shit!" she said loudly and sat down at her desk in a dark mood.

Several hours later, she was involved in paperwork for a burial and saying many a word unfit for man or beast, let alone a woman. Iragene looked up embarrassed, sensing that she had someone in her office. She looked up to find Mr. McDonald, the owner of the hotel where she had just eaten. Briefly she thought about apologizing for her language, but hell, a male sheriff could swear, why not her?

"Mr. MacDonald, what brings you here? Can I help you?" She then remembered his odd look when Marnie began crying in the restaurant. "I hope my young friend did not bother your other customers. She was just remembering a very recent loss."

Mr. MacDonald remained silent and just stood there. She took the time to look closely at his fine features. He was fair haired though not fair skinned. His eyes were brown, and he was strikingly handsome. His age seemed to change with his expressions, he looked anywhere from forty to fifty. Finally he spoke.

"I saw you had company, today, Sheriff. She didn't bother anyone. Is that young woman new in town?"

Iragene did not want to embarrass him by asking him about his reaction to seeing her and her handkerchief, so she smiled and replied yes.

"I've never seen her before, does she live with you?"

"No, she doesn't." Iragene wanted to avoid telling him where she lived, but knew she couldn't lie. Besides, La Madera was a small town. He would find out eventually anyway. "No, she resides at Mrs. Brown's."

He looked at her with shock. He gasped and just stared.

End Part 1 of 2

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