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First pages



Patrick O’Kelly set up glasses for the three strangers who had just entered the Copper Town Saloon. They waited patiently while the bartender poured the whiskey. However, when Patrick turned to replace the bottle on the back bar, one of the men growled with a gravelly voice, “Leave the bottle. We got lots of dust to settle.” He had the physique of a sack of cow feed, a heavy man with a red face and straggly beard.

Patrick obliged, then asked, “Where are you from?”

“It don’t matter where we’re from. We’re here and we aim to stay,” another man answered. He was boney of frame and narrow-faced, resembling a fish.

“Welcome to Bluestone. I’m Patrick O’Kelly. What’re your names?” The bartender said,

“I’m M. R. Quinn I’m sure you’ve heard of me, These are my men. You’ll get to know ’em in time.”

Quinn was larger in stature than the other two and ruggedly handsome. He carried some Havasupai blood in his veins, not enough to be called a breed, but enough to show in his complexion, dark eyes, and soft voice.

“Are you looking for work in the mines?” Patrick said. “I hear the Bluestone Copper Mine is looking for good men. I can’t imagine you not liking Bluestone. It’s a nice, peaceful little town.”

“Did ya hear that? He asked if we’s lookin’ for work,” Fish Face said.

The men laughed and downed their drinks.

“Work in a mine?” Gravel Voice said, to the other two in a low tone. “I want a bank job.”

“Yeah, I like bank work. That’s where all the money is,” then with a loud laugh, Fish Face said, “Easy money.”

“You boy’s hobble your lips,” Quinn said. “Don’t let yer liquor loosen yer tongues.”

Patrick hadn’t been open long when the strangers came in. The only others in the saloon were the men that Patrick referred to as the Four Aces, who gathered every morning for coffee and a friendly hand of poker.

Patrick started a fire in the wood stove, put coffee grounds and water in the coffee pot, and placed it to boil, but not too vigorously. He couldn’t wait around to watch it he had other chores to do. He retrieved a broom from the back room and began sweeping the floor, wiping tabletops, and adjusting chairs.

“O’Kelly,” Quinn called. “Set up another bottle. I told you my men needed to settle the dust. I’m not accustomed to being neglected.”

“Yes, Mr. Quinn. I didn’t mean to ignore you.” Patrick immediately propped his broom on a nearby table, returned to the bar, and set up another bottle.

“Worthless Irish Rat,” Quinn said, in a loud voice. “The country would be better off rid of ’em.”

“Mister Quinn, is it?” The sheriff inquired, standing in the doorway with the sun at her back. She had noticed the three unfamiliar horses tied at the hitching post as she turned onto Main Street going to her office at the jail. As was her custom when strangers were in town, she made a point to meet them, size them up, and determine if they warranted further surveillance. After she had crossed the street, she paused to look at the horses, and then greeted Sam Watson and Ben Randolph, two dominoes players who once fought on opposite sides of the War Between the States. Now they spent their days competing on the porch of the Copper Town Saloon. After exchanging good mornings, she had stepped up onto the boardwalk and cautiously approached the swinging entrance doors of the saloon.

Quinn turned, faced the entrance, saw a silhouette between the batwings, a tall figure with a six-shooter on each hip. He squinted, tried to make out the image but the sun was too bright. “That’s right,” he said. “M. R. Quinn. And who might you be?” He cocked his head high.

The sheriff stepped to her right, out of the sunlight, and stood next to a table. The men followed her with their eyes. She held her stare as she placed her long fingers on the table and began to tap, studied the three men, and then answered. “I’m Sheriff Bonny Lou Baker. I’ve been listening to you and your men and I don’t much like the sound of what I’m hearing.”

“Well now, I’ve seen everything,” Quinn said, turning to his men. “A woman sheriff. Have you ever seen anything like this?” He sat on the bar stool and leaned back against the bar, relaxed, as though he were watching a stage performance.

“I’m skert to death, Boss,” said Gravel Voice.

“Me too,” added Fish Face. “I ain’t never in my life seen a woman sheriff.” He spat tobacco juice toward the nearby spittoon missing it by a foot.

They laughed and threw up their hands.

“I give up Sheriff, arrest me,” Fish Face said.

“Yeah, you got me shakin’ too,” Quinn said. “My, my. Ain’t she pretty, though? Say, you ought to go over to Tombstone. They sure ’nuff need a tough sheriff over there. I think Wyatt Earp could use yer help.”

“Boss, can we take her with us?” Gravel Voice spouted off. “Law is me. I could snuggle up mighty cozy and warm with her.”

“Go ahead. Have your fun,” Bonny Lou said, with a wry smile, as she continued to tap her fingers.

“Forget it, boys. She’s mine. I could sure have me some fun with you, Miss Bonny Lou, ooh, ooh, ooh.” Quinn said, and then looked at his men.

“You’re not man enough,” Bonny Lou said. “This is a tree you could never climb.” Bonny Lou stood tall and dropped her hands to her sides. “Now, before you fantasize anymore, let’s come to an understanding. You and your boys have wet your whistles, and it’s time to ride on. Pay for your drinks and get out of town.”

“Oh, Sheriff, it ain’t that simple,” Quinn, said in a soft voice. “You see, we rode a long way to get here, and we need to rest up a few days. Why, we been thinkin’ about makin’ this our town, our new home, so to speak.”

“Mister Quinn, I thought I was clear about what I expected of you, but I guess not.” She shook her head from side to side, “Let me try again. I have a jail down the street. You may have seen it when you rode in.”

“There she goes again,” Quinn, said. “Tryin’ to scare us outta here.”

“Mister Quinn,” Patrick said, somewhat sheepishly and apologetic, “if I were you, I’d ride on out of here, like the sheriff suggested.”

“Shut up, Irishman! No one tells me what to do.” A crease showed between Quinn’s eyes and he sat erect on the barstool.

Patrick backed away into a room behind the bar, leaving the door ajar behind him.

“As for you, Missy Sheriff,” Quinn continued. “No woman’s gonna cow me. I go where I want to go and do what I want to do. You hear? Now get outta here and leave us alone. You’re starting to grate on me.”

Bonny Lou canted her head to one side, took a deep breath, shrugged her shoulders, and dropped them in exasperation. “Well now, I guess I’ll just stay put. I’d like to see how a bully acts when he’s been grated on. Do your men stand behind you or, do they cower back and let you do the killing? Then gather around to make you feel important, and tell you how great you performed?”

“My men do what I tell ’em to do, and I do what I say I’ll do.”

Bonny Lou’s eyes fixed hard on Quinn’s and nodded as though she were agreeing with him.

“Quinn, I’ve served you notice and now your time is up. I’m putting you under arrest.”

“You ain’t arrestin’ no one. You’re gettin’ to be a bad joke. Why don’t you go on home and play with your baby dolls?”

Bonny Lou’s countenance fell. “I see you’re resisting.” Her lips tightened and her eyes of blue steel bore into Quinn, as she spoke to the others.

“Stand back,” Bonny Lou motioned to the two men on Quinn’s right. “My fight is with your boss, so stand clear. There’s no need in you getting hurt.”

The expression on their faces showed disbelief but as they slowly moved away theykept their eyes on the sheriff and quickly realized it was a showdown. Three armed men against one woman sheriff. As they moved they dropped their hands to their sides.

I’m up against three men who’d risk their lives rather than take orders from a woman sheriff.

“I ain’t never killed a woman,” Quinn said. “But, you ain’t running me outta town and I ain’t gonna go to your jail. Looks like you’re hell bent though.”

Bonny Lou held her stare as Quinn slid off the bar stool and stood to face her. His moves were now slow and deliberate, calculated as a cat stalking its prey.

She moved slowly to her right, clear of the table, stopped, and waited for Quinn to make the first move. He’ll draw first, then the other two. It makes no difference. Make your play, tough guy. These times try men’s souls and skills. Texas Blacky Hazard prepared me for just such a time.

Quinn smiled confidently, winked at Bonny Lou, and went for his gun. The other two followed suit.

The first hint of movement triggered a reflex in Bonny Lou. Her agile hands and long fingers moved in unison without thought or effort. Before Quinn cleared his holster, both of Bonny Lou’s Colts were pointed at him and the other two. They froze, their eyes fixed on the muzzles of Bonny Lou’s Colts. It was clear they were outmatched. Quinn eased his gun back into its holster and turned his palms outward. The others did the same. They stood bewildered. It showed on their faces. The tables were upside down, and they didn’t understand how it was possible.

Bonny Lou raised her chin, held her stare, and gave the men time to realize she held all the aces. Time to think, time to regret. I can imagine what must be going through their minds, especially Quinn’s. Never having seen a woman sheriff, and then to be outdrawn by one must be the most humiliating thing he’s ever faced.

Nothing moved in the Copper Town Saloon. Hearts seemed to stop. The air thickened and the foul smell of beer and whiskey accentuated its heaviness. The four poker players in the alcove watched in awe, mouths agape. They watched and waited to see what Bonny Lou’s next move would be.

She was in no hurry.

Practice she had every day, without fail. Fascinated with her new double action .41 caliber long Colts, she’d handled them, twirled them, and repeatedly drew, pointed, and pulled on an empty chamber, every private moment. It was as though she were obsessed with them, as some are to playing poker, or dominoes, or an alcoholic drawn to liquor.

This was her way of staying busy even as she might be thinking of an evening at the theater or whom she might someday marry or any number of things. She had learned to draw, point, and shoot without thinking about the subject, while her mind was on something else. Often, she rode out of town alone for target practice. While forcing her mind to stay on her childhood days in Ohio, she shot whiskey bottles placed at five, ten, and twenty yards apart, never breaking her concentration. Blacky Hazard, her dear friend in Texas, had been a good teacher, and she, a student with a knack.

As a young child, she and her older brother had gotten into fights, as most children do. Of course, the brother inevitably got the best of her and she ended up crying. Their father would scold the brother and then admonish Bonny Lou for starting the fight. “You just don’t know when to stop do you, young lady? You know he’s bigger than you are and he’ll end up making you cry. When will you learn to back down and find something else to do?”

Bonny Lou thought of those times with her brother, whom she dearly loved but she never could remember backing down from a fight. It was one of those things she had fought with all her life but had been unable to change. Her Papa had always said, “Bonny Lou, you’re good to a fault.”

Her steely blue eyes dissected each man in turn, and then back to Quinn, never lowering her six shooters or blinking. Let them die a thousand deaths. Let time stand still. They deserve it. Finally, Bonny Lou broke the silence. “Quinn, take a good look at me and remember. I’ll give you a choice. You can ride out of Bluestone and never return, or you can die right where you stand. Everyone saw you go for your guns first.” She held her aim and her stare. “You’re options aren’t good but the choice is yours. What will it be?”

“We didn’t mean anything, Ma’am,” Quinn said, nervously. “We was just having a little fun. I reckon we had a little too much to drink.”

“Time’s running out” Bonny Lou demanded. “Make up your mind..”

“We’ll be going now, Ma’am,” Quinn sheepishly answered. “We’re going right now. Come on men, let’s ride. We got no further use for this town.”

“Don’t look back,” Bonny Lou said, as she followed the men with her aim.

The men made haste to their horses, and as the bat-wings swung closed behind them, she eased her pistols back into their holsters but kept her eyes on the doors.


In 1882, a new copper mine began operation, bringing new miners to Bluestone and with them came the expansion. The Kinnear Express offered daily stage service to and from Bisbee and Tombstone. A theater with nightly shows was being planned. The town buzzed with excitement. The population of Bluestone had doubled in the three years Bonny Lou had been sheriff. The town’s expansion brought shady characters, unruly miners, card sharps, drunks, and prostitutes. The town’s spirit had changed.

Although Bonny Lou’s no-nonsense attitude kept the petty criminals at bay, of late, she sensed that a more sinister element had moved in.

Locals were hesitant to gather in town, fearing trouble. The good local women stayed in their homes or only went into town with their men. When Bonny Lou made her rounds, she met as many strangers as friends. The Copper Town Saloon stayed busy all day, every day of the week.

Tombstone had discovered mountains of silver and some said, “The town is growing so fast it will soon be bigger than San Francisco.” The fast growth and easy money drew every shady character that could ride a horse or had the price of a stage ticket. Many migrated to Bluestone, where the boarding houses and whiskey were cheaper.

* * *

Bonny Lou was all business when she visited Alphonse McBride’s office. “Miss Baker, I’m glad you stopped in, I’ve been meaning to have a talk with you,” the mayor said. “Take a seat. What’s on your mind?”

Bonny Lou took a chair in front of the mayor’s desk and removed her hat.

“Mayor, what do you know about, Thaddeus Dorsett?” Bonny Lou asked.

“Very little,” the mayor replied, leaning back in his swivel chair. “Holds up over at the Royal Palace Hotel. I’ve seen him in the Copper Town Saloon a few times. He always speaks but never holds a conversation. Usually disappears soon after.”

“That’s the same answer I get from others I’ve talked to,” Bonny Lou said. “I’ve been doing some asking around and it appears he has an abundance of friends and money. People come and go, but no one stays around. They ride in, go up to his room, and a little while later they leave town.”

“Seems odd, alright,” the mayor said. “He showed up about the time the town began to change. ’Course, that doesn’t mean anything.”

“No, could be a coincidence. Nevertheless, if it’s all the same to you, I’m going over to Tombstone to ask around. Earp might know something.”

 “You’ve been our sheriff now for three years and you’ve done a good job. I have no complaints with your work. However, the population is growing and you’re right. With the growth, there are a great number of undesirables. We can’t simply tell them to leave. I’m afraid we’re stuck with them.”

“That’s why I want to talk to Wyatt,” Bonny Lou said. “I need to know more about this Dorsett fellow.”

“I can appreciate that, but I believe the town has outgrown a woman sheriff. It’s become too dangerous. I’ve sent for a U. S. marshal until we can find a man to take the job.”

Bonny Lou’s eyes fixed on the mayor but she stayed quiet.

“I don’t know how long it will be before he arrives, but I wanted to give you some notice.”

Bonny Lou stood, eyes still fixed on the mayor, “I’ll be on tomorrow’s stage to Tombstone.” She said nothing more, replaced her hat, turned, and left.

Chapter 3

The Kinnear Express Stagecoach Line had operated for several years between Tombstone and Bisbee. It was only within the last year that they had extended service to Bluestone, which was not far out of the way, and offered rest, food, and rooms between the two towns. There were transfer stations between Tombstone and Bluestone, as well as between Bluestone and Bisbee.

The roads were smooth and Bonny Lou rocked with the Concord Stage as if in a cradle. She had not dressed in her usual outfit, the one she called her sheriff’s uniform, the buckskin pants and shirt, felt hat, and boots with spurs. Nor did she wear her Colts. Anytime she left her jurisdiction, she dressed like an Eastern Victorian lady. This day, she chose her black, soft kid, side-laced boots, a close-fitting damask skirt, and white muslin blouse with puffed shoulders and embroidery at the neck. To give her the finished look, she wore a hat of purple grackle feathers, a net veil, and covered her hands with white gloves. Since she never wore the same hat two days in a row and hatboxes were too cumbersome for stage travel, she chose hats that were easy to pack in her carpetbag.

She could have slept all the way to Tombstone, if not for the two men sitting opposite her. Each tried to outdo the other with flirtatious remarks. They introduced themselves as Albert Thompson and Winston Shirley as soon as they had seated. She, in turn, introduced herself.

The young woman who sat next to her was either a bit snobbish or smart. Upon entering the stage, she pulled her bonnet down, covered her eyes, and pretended to sleep.

“Mr. Thompson, from where do you hail?” Bonny Lou asked.

“I’m from Indianapolis, Indiana.”

“And you, Mr. Shirley?”

“Springfield, Illinois.”

“President Lincoln’s hometown. What brings you to the southwest?”

“We’re geologists. Working on a survey for the Tough Nut Mining Company in Tombstone” Albert answered.

“And you, Ma’am? I wouldn’t guess you’re from these parts. You don’t fit the western landscape.”

Cherokee Nick held six in hand and cracked his whip. The stage moved at a fast gait.

“Nick must be running late,” Bonny Lou, said. “He seems to be in a hurry.”

“I said you don’t fit the western landscape,” Albert repeated.

“Hardly.” Bonny Lou answered. “I grew up in Ohio, near Cleveland.”

“And what brought you to Bluestone?” Winston added.

“Adventure. I got tired of college, grew restless, and decided to find out what lay over the horizon. I left school and caught a stage west.”

“Why’d you choose the west, why not East? New York City or Boston?” Winston asked.

Bonny Lou laughed. “Cities have never excited me. They’re big and dirty and unfriendly. Not so, the west. Just look out across this country. It’s wild and rugged, and it takes tough people to tame it. I love it.”

“I meant that you look more the genteel type,” Winston said.

Bonny Lou smiled. The Concord stage jerked, and then rocked forward in a gentle motion, and she continued. “I spent a couple years in West Texas to toughen up before I came to Bluestone. Now I’m going to Tombstone. That’s my story, nothing exciting.”

She studied the two men through her veil. Albert and Winston—outdoor types, rugged, tall, strong, good features, indeed handsome. Moreover, smart.

“What did you study in college?” Albert asked, interrupting her thought.

“I thought I wanted to be a school teacher. That’s what all my friends were doing. However, the more I thought about it, the more I became disillusioned. I imagined I’d dry up like a prune in a forgotten town, a hundred miles from nowhere. I couldn’t see myself in a one-room schoolhouse in Montana or Wyoming for the rest of my life.”

“Do you still think you made the right decision?” Winston inquired.

“I have absolutely no doubts. Once I started across the Rockies, I knew. I love this country.”

“Tombstone is a pretty reckless town, as I understand,” Albert advised. “It would be my honor and pleasure to escort you to dinner tonight, if you will allow. I should think it unwise, for one as beautiful as you to venture out alone at night.”

“Yes,” Bonny Lou said, her tone serious. “I’ve heard wolves roam the streets after sundown.”

“Oh, please, allow me, Ma’am.” Winston interrupted. “Albert here has a tendency to tip the bottle a little much, and it sometimes interferes with his ability to make sound judgments. I think it stems from, oh never mind. I’ll be glad to escort you, Ma’am.”

“Thank you both, but I have friends in Tombstone. I’m sure I’ll be safe.” Oh great. Two of the most handsome men I’ve laid eyes on in years and I have friends. Maybe I could let them both escort me. Forget it, Bonny Lou.

Cherokee Nick brought the stage to a slow approach to Kinnear Station. Bonny Lou gathered her magazine, reticule, and parasol, and placed them in her lap. “It was nice visiting with you, Albert and Winston, perhaps we will meet again. If you’re ever back in Bluestone, look me up. Ask at the sheriff’s office, I’m well known there.”

“Whoa, whoa! Nick yelled. “Tombstone.” He pulled up to the stage depot, set the brake, swung his whip around his head and cracked it loudly, and announced, “Kinnear Express, the on-time stage.” He jumped down and opened the coach door. “Watch your step.” Taking Bonny Lou’s hand, he helped her out safely to the ground. “How was your trip, Miss Bonny?”

“Wonderful, Nick. I’ll be going back tomorrow. Don’t leave without me. Where’s Shotgun?”

“He’s been down in his back. He needs a mustard poultice, but he won’t listen to a soul. Don’t forget your bag in the boot, Miss Bonny.”

“Thanks, Nick.”

Bonny Lou waited for Luke, the conductor to open the boot. “The small carpetbag, Luke, the one with the yellow ribbon on the handle.”

“Here ya are, Miss Bonny.”

“Thanks, Luke. Here’s a Ladies Home Journal. I’ve read it five times.”

“I don’t read, Ma’am. I’ll give it to my wife. Thank you.”

Bonny Lou picked up her bag in one hand, reticule, and parasol in the other.

“Let me help you with that, Miss Baker.” Albert rushed over and extended his hand.

“Better let me do it, Albert. You know you’re expected over at the mine. I’ll help you Ma’am, Winston said.

Bonny Lou smiled big and said, “Thank you both but I’m only goin a short distance. I can handle it.


She walked toward the Russ House Restaurant, located on the northwest corner across from the Tombstone Ice Company. Nellie Cashman, the owner also operated a boarding house where Bonny Lou would rent a room for the night.

The town had grown since her last visit. New buildings appeared where vacant lots had been, and many others were in the process of erection. While carpenters laid foundation timbers for one, another was receiving its roof. People moved about the boardwalks like ants after sugar. Bonny Lou wound in, out, around, and between the foot traffic to make her way the three blocks to the corner of Tough Nut and Fifth Streets. Wagons drawn by mules and others by horses carrying freight, moved about the streets. Men on horseback rode in every direction.

Bonny Lou frowned as she remembered her first visit to Tombstone, three years earlier. It wasn’t as big as Bluestone in those days. There couldn’t have been a hundred people there. Now there must be thousands.

As she crossed Allen Street, Sheriff Johnny Merrill rode towards her from the east. “Look who’s in town. Could that be Bonny Lou Baker?” he said, touching his hat brim.

“Hi, Johnny, I’m glad you happened by. It will save me a trip. I need to see Wyatt, on business.”

“I’m sorry, Bonny Lou. Wyatt is no longer here.”

“What do you mean?”

“He isn’t here, moved on.”

“Where to?”

“Some say, Denver, others California. I don’t know or care, so long as he’s gone.”

“Yeah, he told me you didn’t much care for him and that the feeling was mutual.”

“I don’t care about his feelings. He’s gone and he had better stay gone. He’s a liar, a cheat, and a murderer. Dern lucky I didn’t put a bullet in him.”

“Those are pretty strong accusations,” Bonny Lou said.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Well, since my friend Wyatt isn’t around to defend his reputation and help me, perhaps you would be kind enough to assist me.”

“Of course, I will, Bonny Lou. What do you need?”

“Information. However, not now. I’m starving and need to see if Nellie can put me up for the night. Can you come to the Russ House later?”

“Sure, how about around four?”

“That’ll be good. See you there.”

Sheriff Johnny clicked his tongue and spoke to his horse, “Let’s go, Buford,” and rode on to the west. Bonny Lou continued to the Russ House Restaurant.

Nellie Cashman showed Bonny Lou to her room.

“This will be fine.” Bonny Lou placed her carpetbag at the foot of the iron bedstead and laid the parasol on the bed. “Now I want to see some food. I’m starved. I should’ve brought an orange with me. Obadiah had some nice ones in his store yesterday. I looked at them and then passed them by. My mind must have been somewhere else.”

Nellie smiled. “Come on. Let’s get you fed. I have a pot roast and fresh bread.”

“Oh, that sounds so good.”

Bonny Lou took a table by the front window and a tiny young Chinese woman brought her the Bill of Fare. “Me Mae Ling, you likey food?”

“Thank you, Mae Ling. Yes. I’ll have the pot roast and fresh bread.”

Moments later, Mae Ling served her food. As she ate, Bonny Lou watched the near-carnival atmosphere of hustle and bustle in the street. She heard gunshots in the distance, and then silence. The movement in the street stopped as though they were waiting for the next shot. When it didn’t come, they began to move again as if nothing had happened.

I hope Bluestone never reaches this popularity.

Bonny Lou had used her guns to keep the peace and protect her town but she had never had to fire them at a person. It had always been enough to show her authority with the silver star on her chest. The six-guns on her hips helped to reinforce her authority. Only once had she actually had to prove her ability in handling her Colts and the encounter didn’t result in her having to pull the trigger.

Just as she finished eating, Sheriff Johnny walked in. “I’m a little early. I hope its okay.”

“Of course. I’m glad you took the time to see me. Please, sit.”

Johnny sat across the table from Bonny Lou. Mae Ling promptly appeared. “Sheriff, you likey something?” she asked.

“A coffee would be very much appreciated, thank you.”

Mae Ling bowed, backed away, and returned to the kitchen.

“Well now. What’s this business?” Johnny asked.

“I’m snooping, Johnny. I feel like trouble might be brewing in Bluestone and I’d like to head it off.”

“What have ya got?”

“For one thing, we have a lot of new people moving in. Overflow from Tombstone, I’m sure.” Bonny Lou pointed into the busy street. “A lot of seedy characters, riffraff. A year ago, I knew everyone I met and the names of their children.”

Mae Ling brought Sheriff Johnny his coffee. “You likey coffee too, Madam?”

“I think I will. Please.”

“You know, Bonny Lou, Tombstone is going through the same kind of growth. So did Dodge City. It’s growing pains. Even my hometown of Kansas City had its share of problems.”

Mae Ling brought Bonny Lou’s coffee, placed it in front of her, bowed and backed away. “Bluestone doesn’t want to grow,” Bonny Lou said. She held her cup near her mouth but didn’t drink. “Not if it means we give up all we’ve worked for. The men are miners with families. Most of our folks go to church on Sunday, and back to the mines on Monday. The rest are like a disease or a plague, hovering about our town.”

“That’s why there are men like me,” Sheriff Johnny said. “Maybe I’ll offer my services to Bluestone,” he said with a wry smile.

Bonny Lou feigned a smile. That’s why Wyatt couldn’t stand you. You’re conceited. “Do you recognize the name, Thaddeus Dorsett?

“Tad Dorsett, land speculator, rancher, cattle rustler, and suspected of having Billy the Kid and his gang to do his killings. Is that enough?”

“It’s a start.”

“He had close contacts with the Regulators. Hung around with Charlie Bowdre, Doc Scurlock, and George Coe. After the Lincoln County War, he disappeared. This is all second-hand information I’ve picked up from conversations with Pat Garrett. He said it was rumored that Dorsett had gone to Denver.”

“I had my suspicions. Thanks for the information.” She put the cup to her mouth, sipped, lowered it back into the saucer, and tapped her fingers on the table.

Johnny watched her fingers move.

“Sorry Johnny, it’s the way I think. A nervous habit I suppose.”

“It’s okay. I scratch my head and tap my heel.”

They chuckled.

“He has men in and out of his room regularly, but not always the same ones,” Bonny Lou said.

“He probably has a gang on his payroll. How long has he been holed up there?”

“I’d say close to a year,” Bonny Lou said as she sipped.

“Whatever he’s doing or planning must be big.”

“Why Bluestone? All we have is copper. No one steals copper.”

“Tombstone is producing loads of silver. And, don’t forget Bisbee. They’re turning out gold and silver, along with copper.”

Bonny Lou sipped her coffee and listened.

“He may be holed up in Bluestone to avoid Tombstone, where he might be recognized, and where the laws are strictly enforced.”

Is he insinuating I don’t enforce the laws?

“It makes sense, a small town with a woman sheriff. What could be safer?”

That does it. Stay calm, Bonny Lou, you came for information, not a conflict.

“You can be sure of one thing. Thaddeus Dorsett is not in Bluestone for his health.”

“Thanks, Sheriff.”

“Anytime. If you uncover something leading back here to Tombstone, keep me informed. And if I find out anything new, I’ll be in touch with you. I’ll shake a few trees and see what falls out. Oh, one other thing.”


“Keep your eye out for a gunslinger called Kalb Renfro. He’s as mean as they come and faster than a sidewinder. Rumor has it, your man Thaddeus used him in Wichita.”

“I’ll remember that name. Thanks again, Sheriff.”

Johnny left and Bonny Lou sat tapping her fingers on the table looking into the street.

I really don’t trust Johnny. I’ve heard of some of his shenanigans. I trusted Wyatt, wish he were here.

Bonny Lou didn’t have anywhere to go, so she stayed seated and stared out of the window. She thought about what the mayor had told her the day before. A U.S. marshal, a man sheriff. Fine, if that’s what the town wants. Perhaps I’ve been here long enough, maybe it’s time to move on and see some new country.

The traffic had not let up and people were starting to enter the restaurant for the supper meal. As she watched, almost in a trance, a voice shocked her back to reality.

“Miss Baker.”

The voice was gentle but so unexpected. She spun around to see who it was. “Oh, Winston, you startled me. I was in another world.”


About me

The author grew up in California along with other first generation descendants of the dust bowl migration. The San Joaquin Valley was wide open spaces in those days and pure country. Western movies and western music would help form what we would become. He is self educated, has had several occupations and made many geographical locations home. He is now retired in Florida and writes fiction for enjoyment.

Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
After retiring in 2013 I began writiing my Memoirs and quickly became bored. Just for fun I wrote a chapter of fiction, which became the start of my first book. I was hooked.
Q. What books are you reading now?
I'm reading "The Good Old Boys" by Elmer Kelton. I have several of his books and plan on reading them all.
Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
I've read several books about the pioneer women that migrated to the west in the 1800's and have been impressed with their tenacity, the unsung heroines of the west. Women have played an important role in settling the west, and it got me thinking.

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