This is a work of fiction and not intended to be historically accurate but merely a representation of the times. The names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental and unintentional. Historical characters used are strictly for dramatic purposes. This story contains some violence. The Ghost of Mountain View
Michelle Tanner made a go of it until late in the night. With people around her all through the day, many thanking her for her actions, she kept up her brave front. No one thought killing the two outlaws bothered her at all. The US Marshal Holloway bought her dinner and talked to the young woman about her new duties. Buffalo Head was worried about Michelle, as was Meeker, but the two men knew better than to say anything. Being considered a dangerous person had drawbacks, you could never let your guard down and you could never show doing bad things bothered you.
She managed to brush Sarah's hair one hundred strokes. Sarah was more than happy to return the favor, it was their nightly ritual. Once she managed to get Sarah tucked into her bed, the girls yakked. They gabbed for some time until eventually Sarah drifted off to sleep. This left Shell alone with her thoughts. Alone was a hard place for her to be, it gave her the opurtunity to dwell on what happened. Michelle relived every moment of that awful clash. Even though the dreadful thing happened all those hours before, it moved through her mind more clearly than when she lived it.
The bullets zipped by her. Some zinged past her head others struck the ground next to her or in front of her. Marshal Uriah Holloway slumped down on his knees in the street. Blood covered his white shirt and brown vest as he fought the pain trying to reach his gun lying in the grimy street. Finally one of the assailants, Slim, died in a hail of bullets fired by Michelle. He plunged hard to the sidewalk. Red knelt down on the walkway next to his friend, one of Shell's bullets buried deep in his arm, and another in his leg. The bastard still grabbed his gun. His body shook with excitement as he proclaimed Shell was out of bullets. Raising his weapon up the brigand pulled the hammer back. Making her mind up in a flash, Michelle pulled the trigger and the ball struck him dead center in his chest. The look on his face haunted her, with his eyes wide and his mouth gaped open. His disbelief and confusion painted across his face.
"A LaMat holds up to nine rounds, you addle-head!"
"You know, I did not know that," Red Wilson fell face down making the big jump from this life. She remembered the dead banker and the guard lying in pools of blood. Then there was Marshal Cord Connelly's wife Brenda shot in the back through the wall. The woman bled to death in her husband's arms. She remembered seeing Mary Todd standing in the street waiting for her, having followed her from the stable to the bank. Her saddle was not cinched and the leather straps hung down to the muddy, grimy street.
Michelle held it in for thirteen hours. Her brave, grave face showing no emotion for everyone to see, proving it didn't matter to her that she killed two no account bandits. Just after midnight, the smokescreen vanished. Alone in the dark in the middle of the night it did matter. Sitting on the edge of the bed her tears started. At first just a dampness around the eyes, then a stream running down her face, and finally, she could contain it no more. Shell blubbered into her pillow trying to muffle the noise, Michelle Tanner had killed two men. It didn't matter that they were worthless, no account bandits. They were no more and she had taken their lives from them. A diminutive soft hand started patting her on the back. A gentle voice breathed words in her ear as Sarah comforted her. The girl's mouth so close to Shell's ear she could feel Sarah's breath as she soothed her.
"It's alright Shell you done what you had to do. They made you do it for they would have killed ya if you didn't kill them." Sarah reassured her telling her she wasn't to blame. Eventually, Sarah and Michelle curled up in the bed as Sarah held her. Something that Michelle had done before when Sarah had a bout of sadness over the murder of her parents. In due course, sleep overtook them both.
Michelle Tanner dreamed of the gunfight and Brenda Connelly. The woman in the store with Brenda had told her of the woman's last words and those words burned into her brain. She could see her in her husband's arms telling him, "I heard the thunder my sweet, but it was too late to get away. I'll be waiting for you." She whispered to him, "It don't hurt darling, I don't feel nary a thing. I'll be waiting just over on the other side. I wouldn't dare go in without you. I think God will under... ," Brenda Connelly died mid-sentence.
Over the weeks to come, Shell endured the memory of her new friend dying. It would occupy her thoughts often. At night, she would dream of her friend. Though she knew her less than a month, she had developed an attachment, a deep caring for the woman. While killing the two men sickened her, she was devastated by the loss of Brenda.
One peculiar quirk of Michelle's personality was how fast she developed bonds. When Shell favored someone, her feelings ran deep. It did not matter that they had known each other only a short time. All that mattered was that the woman was taken from her. The event was even more unbearable to Michelle, due to the freakish way that Brenda was shot. The bullet passing through a wall of an adjoining building and into her friend was an unusual event, which challenged her faith. How could such a thing happen? Just what did it say about the nature of the God that Buffalo Head worshiped?
The pair rose early in the morning and prepared for depature. When Michelle and Sarah walked out of the Hotel, the wagon and horses were waiting for them. The old Indian sat on the right side of the wagon's bench seat. Meeker sat on his horse Star while holding Mary Todd's reins. Shell climbed up on her horse and Sarah took her familiar position next to 'Grandpa.'
"Get comfortable, Little Dove, we have a long way to go." Buffalo Head smiled at the young girl next to him.
"Yes sir, Grandpa we sure do, all the way to Denver City."
"Further than that Sarah," Meeker spoke as he worked tobacco into his jaw. "We're heading to Golden, the mining camp."
"Oh, we gonna mine?"
"Nope, I'm going to run the Marshal's office there, Shell will work with me, Henry will be the jailer and you will get schooling." At that point, US Marshal Holloway walked up to the group. His right arm rested in a sling. In his left hand, he held something shiny. He tossed it up to Michelle.
"Pin it on the left... ," he paused, looking at young Sarah, Holloway decided to change his wording, "um the left side, girl. You took the oath last night, but you need the badge of the office. It only weighs an ounce, it's just tin with words stamped on it." Uriah paused a moment while he cleared his throat. Michelle pinned the badge on her buckskins, "The one I make my men, and woman wear is a crescent moon with a star. It is called a Crescent Star." Pausing he looked in the young lady's eyes with an unblinking stare. He wished to impart his feelings to her so there was no mistake. "The words on it are Deputy U.S. Marshall, many a man and a couple of women have worn it before you. More than a few of them have died doing their duty. It is not just a badge of office. It is a badge of courage and honor. Without men and women like us there is no law out here. If there is no law, then all you have left is chaos. You will not bring shame to it or I will be sorely angry with you." He talked about the honor of the job for a few more minutes then changed the subject.
"There are two young girls, younger than Sarah there, running around western Kansas and eastern Colorado Territory." Michelle felt a burn in her stomach, "They have held up some saloons, general stores, a mercantile or two and one bank. They are little blonde haired twins between eleven and thirteen years of age." Realization dawned on Meeker as a cold tingle ran up his spine, "Deadly shots, but they haven't hurt anyone, at least not yet. They haven't stolen more than a pittance. Mostly food, a few guns and they got themselves one hundred dollars at the bank. There is a fifty dollar government reward offered. There ain't no civilian compensation and they aint wanted dead or alive. If you come across them, bring um to Denver City to face justice. Miss Tanner, I must point out federal officers cannot collect government rewards." Somehow even before he said their names the group knew who they were. "Their names are Helen and Hanna Packer! No one has heard anything from them for over a week. Just maybe they gave up their evil ways. Last place they robbed was a saloon in Copper City, down Southwest corner of Colorado, Territory." It was for certain that it was the girls they saw kill the judge back in Learned. Shell now understood what Meeker meant about unintended consequences.
Once more, they set out westward toward the boomtown called Denver City. The wagon creaked and groaned as the group made their way west and the late August sun beat down on them with a relentless determination. Michelle looked at Nate and envied his tanned skin. Her skin was always blistered. Sometimes her face was as red as her hair. By noon, they felt like they were cooking.
"Hotter than a frog in a frying pan today," Meeker spoke as he tried to think of a cooler day. His mind meandered to the past and a memory rose up, Meeker chuckled then laughed.
.... There is more of this story ...