“Ye gods, this paperwork is a nightmare,” Newton Thatcher sighed as he turned over another folder on his desk and picked up another one. His deputy, Wayne Goddard, smiled and glanced over at the sheriff.
“At least we’re sitting in a comfortable office and not facing down robbers or drunks waving guns around.”
“I guess you’re right,” Newton agreed, “but all of these posters to look through in case any one of these wanted men arrives in town is something I never enjoy. I just keep hoping they never arrive.”
Newton put down the pile of posters he had in his hand and sat back in the chair.
“The mayor has provided more money so that we can hire another deputy. The town is growing all the time now and we do need extra help.”
“Will you advertise?” Wayne queried. “Because young Archer Morris has lost his job. He’s pretty good with a rifle.”
“That’s a good idea. He’s easy to get along with and we need someone that can work as part of a team.” Newton stood up. “Come on. Let’s go and find him and see what he says.”
Wayne laughed. “You’ll do anything to avoid the paperwork but we do need to look at the posters in case any of these murderers turn up on our doorstep.”
Newton smiled back as he put on his Stetson. “Marriage is making you look on the bright side of life. You’re a lucky man, Wayne.”
“She tells me that all the time,” the deputy said with a grin as they went out of the door. The two of them had an easy relationship. Wayne looked at Newton. “You are thirty now, boss. Do you ever think about finding a wife?”
Newton gave him a wry smile. “All I can say is that the right woman hasn’t turned up yet. In the meantime, I’m glad the place is peaceful and we have enough money to pay for extra help.”
The two men walked side by side down the main street of Butterworth Township and spoke to the folk that they passed. The railroad had reached the town the year before and the place was growing fast. Archer Morris still lived with his mother behind the stores at the far end, and they turned off behind the hardware store into a more residential area.
The small bungalow in the middle of a group of five was neat and tidy, and a young man was sitting in a rocking chair on the porch. He stood up when the sheriff opened the garden gate.
“Something wrong, Sheriff?” he asked with a hint of concern.
Newton shook his head. “Are you enjoying this life of leisure that you have nowadays?”
“Ha,” Archer Morris replied. “Work is not as easy to find as folk make out. Have a seat. Do you fancy a drink?”
“Nothing alcoholic at the moment, thanks, but a cold drink of lemonade or something would chase the dust away.”
Archer opened the door and called to his mother. Jeannie Morris came bustling out, wondering if anything was wrong.
“No, not just now. I will touch wood as I say that.” Newton smiled and touched the veranda rail as they waited for Archer to return.
He came out of the house with three glasses of lemonade and asked what they wanted him for. Newton took a drink from the glass and told Jeannie it was great lemonade.
“If you’re still looking for a job, we need a second deputy. We thought we would mention it to you before we started to advertise.”
Archer’s mouth actually dropped open and Wayne laughed.
“That’s all we need, a dozy deputy.”
Archer closed his mouth and looked at his mom.
“He’s definitely looking for a job,” Jeannie said. “Do you think he can do it?”
“Thanks, Mom,” Archer said. “That gives me loads of confidence.”
“I do think you could do it, Archer. We need someone we can get along with. What do you think?”
“When can I start?” Archer asked with a grin, and Newton held out a hand to shake. Wayne did the same.
“We have to put up with Wayne living on a rosy cloud since he got married,” Newton joked.
Jeannie chuckled. “that will soon fade away.”
“Mom,” Archer protested, “you and Dad had a great time together.”
She nodded. “I do miss him,” she admitted. “Congratulations, Wayne.”
They all looked down the street as a man came running up to find the sheriff. It was the man from the telegraph office and he was waving a piece of paper.
“Someone saw you come down here, so I thought you might as well have this.” He handed over a brief message and, after speaking to Jeannie Morris, he went away. Newton looked at the paper and frowned.
“Something wrong?” Wayne asked.
“My brother is out of jail, apparently. I just hope to goodness that he doesn’t come anywhere near me.” He tucked the piece of paper away. “You wanna come and sign up, Archer?”
The young man found his Stetson and tied on a holster for a handgun. “Lead on, boss.”
His mother waved them off and took the empty glasses inside. The sheriff and his two deputies headed back to the office.
They settled in and showed the new deputy where everything was kept before they went back to the folders of wanted posters. The three of them looked through the pictures and selected one or two from not too far away. These ones they would put on the notice board outside.
The coffee was always brewing on the stove and they poured a cup each.
“I never told you wages,” Newton said.
He told the man the rate. It was accepted and the new deputy officially signed on. Newton found a badge in the drawer and pinned it onto his new man. They found him a table and a chair and the young deputy settled into his new job with a coffee in his hand.
“Seems like a good job so far,” he said, but before anyone could respond, there was a knock at the door. A man came in and closed the door behind him.
“Sheriff, I think there are men watching the road out of town. They never saw me, but they were hiding in the trees on the way to the orphanage and the trading post. One of them was Jimbo Connor.”
“Then they’re up to no good,” Newton said. “When did you spot them?”
“Yesterday, just before the stage came through. They never saw me because I was out on the plains and when I spotted them, I kept out of sight.”
“Thanks, Minty,” Newton answered. “We will take a look around.”
The man went away and the two deputies looked at Newton.
“Let’s ride out there and just look as if we are moving on down the road. There’s cover in that area.”
Newton locked the office behind them and the three men rode away together.
“I would have liked to leave you behind to mind the store,” Newton told Archer, “but you might as well see how we go about the job. This is about where Minty said he had seen them.”
A group of trees was coming up on their right and they walked passed as if they were going on, then skirted around to come up behind the trees. Newton handed his reins to Wayne and walked quietly into the little animal pathway between the tree trunks.
The two deputies sat on horseback and waited.
Newton came back to update them. “Nobody there today but we’ll take turns at just coming up here to see if they return.” He looked around. “There’s cover a little way behind where you can watch and not be seen.” He vaulted into the saddle and led the way to the second lot of shrubbery a little distance away, satisfied that it was possible to stay out of sight.
“The stage is due soon. Wayne, you stay and keep an eye for today. Once the stage is gone, you can come back unless the men stay to watch the road. Then you’ll need to watch them.”
“Okay,” Wayne said. “I wonder if they’re waiting for something in particular.”
“It won’t be anything legal if that Jimbo is part of it. It will be some sort of robbery or easy money.”
Wayne tethered his horse out of sight and waved the other two off as he looked for a log to use as a seat.
“You take the lookout tomorrow, Archer,” Newton told him.
“Real deputy work,” the new recruit said with a grin.
“Don’t tackle them on your own. Ride back without going onto the road and come for me if they arrive.”
The two men went back to the office and Newton sent the deputy down the street to check in with the local businesses that everything was fine. It would give him the chance to show he was a deputy and he might spot something that Newton would miss.
Then Newton Thatcher sat in his chair and pulled the telegram out of his pocket.
“Caleb out of jail,” was the simple message, sent from the sheriff of a town a long way away where Newton had been a deputy. When his brother had gone to jail, it had seemed sensible to move away and start a life where nobody knew about Caleb.
He sat back and threw the note into the waste bin, poured another coffee, and put Caleb out of his mind. Then he went and retrieved it and sat and thought for a while.
“I’m off to do a spell at the orphanage tomorrow. Would you like to come along?” Alvina Rhodes asked her sister Minnie. “Sitting here doing embroidery and painting drives me mad. At least when I go to help those poor kids, I feel like I’m doing something useful.”
“I’ll come because I’m just thinking about Freddie all of the time and I know that it’s doomed to failure.”
“Oh, Minnie. I’m so sorry. It should make you happy when you find somebody that you like and they like you right back.”
“Dad will never let us walk out together when he works at the mine. Instead of feeling good, it feels very cruel, somehow.”
Alvina understood what her sister meant. She craved adventure as well, but their father was a proud man who wanted his daughters to marry money and prove he had brought them up well. He was the biggest local employer and the family lived in a beautiful house in town. The girls had the best of everything money could buy but neither was really happy.
“Are you taking the carriage to the orphanage?”
“Yes. I have some wool for crochet and some papers and paint. The children enjoy making things, but the orphanage never has spare money to buy things for them to use. I have a couple of dresses that might be useful, as well.”
“I will find some things to take, too.”
Thanks, Minnie. I’ll be glad of your company on the road. It’s not far, but the trail is quite lonely.”
The two girls went to sort out things to bring for the children at the orphanage and loaded them into the carriage, ready for the next day.
In the morning, their father went to the mine and they told their mother they were driving to the orphanage and would be away most of the day.
“It gives the people who run the place some extra help and lets them do some other jobs,” Alvina said. “They do appreciate the help.”
“I have some cake you can bring with you,” Molly Rhodes said and brought out a box with a quite large cake. “It was a gift to me but we don’t need it. Better to be eaten than wasted.”
“Thanks, Mama,” Alvina said as she took the box.
The girls drove off in the smart carriage that their father had bought for his wife and daughters to visit friends and go to the shops. Fortunately, he was at the mine most of the time and never saw that his older daughter Alvina used the carriage to visit friends on a ranch where she could ride horses as everyone else did and not sidesaddle as the ladies in New York did. Quentin Rhodes had decided that his daughters should be society ladies and that was what he made sure they did.
“The road is quiet and peaceful today,” Minnie remarked. “Freddie said we could meet this evening if I say I’m visiting Rosie. Rosie and her mom are so good about helping us.”
“Are you going?” Alvina asked and Minnie nodded enthusiastically.
“I’ll say that Rosie’s mom is having friends around,” Minnie was saying when Alvina saw two men come out on horseback from the trees at the side of the trail. They rode in front of the carriage, forcing Alvina to rein in the horse.
She felt anger boil through her veins and clicked the horse to start again, driving straight at the two men who tried to avoid the oncoming horse and carriage. Their horse was frightened and shied away. It pulled the carriage sideways off the main trail but knocked one of the raiders off his horse as it did. The man dropped his rifle and it flew some distance away. The carriage was halted and slewed at a strange angle. The horse was in a panic and trying to rear up but was held by the reins.
“Get out of there,” the man on horseback shouted and pointed his rifle at the two sisters. The other man on the ground had drawn a gun from his holster and pointed it at them from the other side. There was no way to run and the girls climbed down from the shaking buggy and were grabbed by the two men. The second one slid from his horse and grabbed Minnie’s arm as the other one reached out for Alvina.
“Get away from me, you wicked man,” Alvina shouted and threw the box with the cake at him. It broke open and showered him with fruit cake.
She made a break to the side and picked up a stone to hurl at the robber as he ran after her. He grabbed her by the back of her dress and dragged her toward him. He pulled at the gold chain that she wore around her neck and saw there was a brooch on her collar as well. He yanked the brooch away and ripped the collar of the dress at the same time.
“You monster,” she shouted and kicked him in the shin. He swore loudly and slapped her on the face with his free hand. Alvina responded by biting the hand hard as he lifted it to hit her again. The robber cried out in pain as her teeth sank into his flesh. She didn’t let go.
“Oh, dear Lord,” Minnie shouted as the man holding her banged her against the side of the carriage and reached over to take her purse. Then he turned her around and took all the jewelry that he could see.
When he saw that Alvina was stopping his companion from reaching the other purse, he stretched across to take it himself. Minnie started fighting back and grabbed a bag with things for the orphanage. She swept it across his head. It had paint in it and the colors streamed down the man’s face, soaking into the bandana that was pulled up to cover his identity.
In the scuffle, none of them heard the thunder of hooves as three riders came along the road from the town.
“Stop right there,” Sheriff Thatcher shouted out with handgun in hand. The two men seemed to realize this was more than they could handle and the one that had hold of Alvina made for his horse.
The sheriff dropped from his horse and was on the ground without a rifle as the man made it into the saddle and started to ride away. Deputy Wayne was putting the second man in handcuffs and Archer Morris was helping Minnie to her feet and asking if she was alright.
Sheriff Thatcher had a handgun but the man was out of range. Alvina saw the rifle that the robber had dropped and ran to pick it up.
“Sheriff,” she shouted and when he turned, she threw the gun at the lawman. He caught it in a position that allowed him to turn and fire. He slid the safety catch as he turned, lifted the weapon, and hit the man on horseback. The robber fell from the horse and was dragged for a short distance with a foot in the stirrup before the horse came to a standstill.
Both Newton Thatcher and Alvina Rhodes set off at a run to where the man was on the ground. As they came closer, Newton waved and called for her to hold back in case the robber could still shoot. She slowed and followed behind him. When she saw that the man was in no position to fight back, she caught up with the sheriff and he knelt down to check the state of the prisoner.
He stood up quickly.
“He’s dead,” Newton said flatly.
“Good,” Alvina said. “I hope the bite I gave his hand was still hurting.” She went to the man and felt in his pocket.
“What are you looking for?” the sheriff asked.
She pulled out the gold necklace and the brooch.
“Do you need these as evidence?” She held them out to him and he took them.
“I’ll write it up and let you have them back.” He held out a hand to take the jewelry, and their hands touched as she handed the items over.
They both paused at the same time and looked at each other. Newton saw a neat, pretty, blonde woman with large and very dark brown eyes. Alvina saw a strong-looking man with grey-green eyes and a shock of long hair held back with a thong.
Newton cleared his throat and looked at the two items of jewelry.
“Are these of special value?” he asked to cover the feeling he was having as he looked at her. It brought back to him what Wayne had been talking about the day before and he didn’t want her to see that he was embarrassed. He was impressed that she could go over to the dead man and find her property without seeming to flinch.
Alvina rubbed at her hand where it had touched the sheriff’s.
“The necklace, I bought myself. It’s gold but has no sentimental value. The brooch was worn by my grandmother on my mother’s side when she was married. She gave it to me when I was twenty-one and I would hate to lose it.”
As they talked, Wayne, Archer, and Minnie all came over to join them.
“He’s dead,” Newton told them. “Help me throw him over the saddle.” The two deputies did that and then led the horse back to where the carriage was standing. The horse had calmed down.
“We’ll straighten the buggy for you,” Wayne offered.
“If you could come back to the office with us and tell us what happened, it would be really helpful,” the sheriff added.
“Are you alright, Minnie?” Alvina asked. Her sister nodded and said that she had hit the man with the paint in the bag. They all looked at the second robber, who was a multi-colored man now with streams of paint dried on his face and head.
Alvina could not help it; she burst out laughing. The others couldn’t stay solemn and all joined in. The robber wasn’t pleased at being the subject of the hilarity. The three lawmen pulled the horse and carriage onto the road and turned it around. The girls were helped aboard and the sheriff led the way, with Archer leading the horse with the dead man and Wayne leading the other man who was handcuffed but in the saddle.
Back in town, they sent someone for the undertaker to take away the one who had died and the second one was searched, his weapons locked away, and he was pushed into a cell.
“Have a seat, ladies,” Newton invited and offered them both a coffee. “We owe Minty a big thank you for spotting the men watching the trail.”
“Minty from the Greenside Ranch?” Alvina asked and the sheriff nodded. “Lily Green is my best friend,” she said. “I know Minty. I will thank him myself.”
“I think we need to thank you two girls. You were doing a good job at fighting back when we rode up and helped,” Wayne said.
“I saw the tooth marks on his hand when he was on the ground,” Alvina added. “I’m glad that I hurt him and stopped him from reaching for my purse.”
“The two purses are here,” Wayne said. “Check they are complete and we will sign to say we gave them back to you.”
Newton signed for the jewelry and handed it back to Alvina. She took it and that little froth of excitement happened again as the hand of Newton Thatcher made contact with hers again. She looked at him and he gave her a smile that told her he felt the same thing. Alvina felt a little tremor of excitement flutter in her throat as she pinned the brooch back onto her collar.
Minnie took her valuables back, as well.
The sheriff sent Wayne to tell the judge that he would be needed the next day and asked Archer to go to the undertaker and bring back the dead man’s horse. Minnie asked if Alvina would be able to tell the sheriff what happened if she went home and told their mother.
“Have a whiskey when you get home, Minnie. You were brave but the shock will take effect at some point.”
“I will, Alvie,” Minnie said. She kissed her sister on the cheek and Archer said he would help her with the carriage to make sure she reached the house safely.
Alvina and Newton looked at each other. He gave her that slow smile again and asked her to tell him what had happened.
“You were wonderful when you threw me the rifle,” he added. “It came at just the right angle.”
“And I never even learned how to shoot,” she replied.
“You should,” he said. “It could save your life.” He looked at the desk and cleared some space. “I should file this paperwork but I never do.”
There was a slight pause.
“I could do that for you if it helps,” she said.
“You would? That would be a huge help to me.” He grinned. “I could teach you to shoot in return.”
“Redemption in Love’s Arms” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Alvina Rhodes, the daughter of a wealthy mine owner, is bound by the suffocating weight of high society’s traditions. Yet, her heart yearns for something more—an escape from the confines of her privileged existence. When an unforeseen twist of fate sends her coach hurtling into the clutches of danger, Alvina’s world is upended, pushing her toward an encounter that will change her life forever…
Will this fateful encounter open the door to a love more profound and exhilarating than Alvina could ever imagine?
For Newton Thatcher, the law has always been his steadfast companion. Amidst the vast expanse of the untamed West, he finds solace in his duty, never daring to dream of companionship or affection. However, when he crosses paths with the captivating Alvina, a woman who sees beyond his stoic exterior, he tries to keep her at arm’s length, for both of their sakes.
Will Alvina be the key that unlocks his guarded heart, long starved of understanding and connection?
Bound by their unwavering dedication to justice and a burning desire to aid those in need, Alvina and Newton embark on a treacherous journey together. Yet, as their love blooms, a dark secret haunts the sheriff’s soul, shackling him to his tortured past. Will their combined strength conquer the daunting obstacles that lie ahead, or will life’s harsh unpredictability shatter their idyllic romance, leaving only broken dreams?
“Redemption in Love’s Arms” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.