Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Clouding: Day 8

Word Count: 48,002

Summary of Events:
Asher packed up Ashley and set off in the direction he recalled the tracks having gone, although even if he wasn't following them he had full intentions of getting away from Tucson. The pastor came by to discuss the argument Theresa's mother and his wife had gotten into, but gave no indication of what he was going to do about it. Asher encountered some Apaches and appealed to them for help with his arm, which was getting really sore. The deputy came by to give Theresa's mother an update that Theresa felt deliberately put Asher in a negative light; her mother refused to believe what the deputy told her . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
Mr. Peck shook his head. "I have given you the truth, and it is a truth you are going to have to accept no matter how much it does not reconcile with what you wish to be true."
Mama looked at Mr. Peck with a measure of defiance. "I do not believe Jeremy would be pleased with this."
"He would be pleased," Mr. Peck said. "For it is the truth."
"You, who have known Jeremy only for some eight years think you can tell me what would please a man to whom I was wed for three decades?" Mama asked.
"Mrs. Rose, you are being delusional," Mr. Peck replied. "The sudden and tragic loss of your husband has taken its toll on you, and it has prompted you to lose control of your senses. I will not trouble you with any further developments on the investigation until I believe your mind has regained soundness enough to understand the truth."
"Good," Mama said. "I should not like to see you in my home again Bartholomew. I am sure you are well able to show yourself out."
"My condolences Mrs. Rose," Mr. Peck said.
Mama nodded and Theresa watched silently as Mr. Peck got to his feet and left the house rather briskly.
"What if he did it?" Theresa asked.
"Whatever do you mean Theresa?" Mama asked.
"What if everyone was fine when he went out there to check on things and he shot them all to make it look like Bullseye had done it, and he did it like that because he'd seen evidence of the Hunter passing nearby, and planned to pin it all on the Hunter because he doesn't like the Hunter and doesn't like how Papa was willing to give the Hunter the benefit of the doubt?" Theresa asked.
Mama silently turned her gaze toward the door Mr. Peck had just departed through. She remained silently gazing toward the door for a long time before turning and looking at Theresa.
"I don't know that I can reconcile that either," she finally replied. "Jeremy would assuredly have been able to tell if Bartholomew were capable of murder."
"Papa wasn't perfect Mama," Theresa said.
"He'd never misjudged anyone," Mama replied. "He could tell who might actually go so far as to murder, and who might just be jealous. He never said he was suspicious that Bartholomew would actually commit murder. I am convinced the killer is Bullseye."
"Isn't it a believable theory though Mama?" Theresa asked.
"I cannot lie, it is a believable theory," Mama replied. "And in all truth, any of the present theories could be proven by further investigation. Each have their merit, but I pray God shows us through diligent search which one is, indeed, the true set of circumstances."

Monday, May 21, 2018

Clouding: Day 7

Word Count: 42,075

Summary of Events:
Theresa's mother and the pastor's wife got into a heated argument over the sovereignty of God while the pastor's wife and some other women were over to offer comfort. Asher went over to where the murders had happened and found the bodies, which reviled him; he pilfered supplies from the house before fleeing back to the mountains as a thunderstorm broke. Theresa's brothers and brothers-in-law had all spent the night due to the thunderstorm and, naturally, gave a report of the developments . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
"And what did you learn?" Luc asked.
"Constance, Emmaline, and Velma were, were moved after they were killed," Alfred replied.
"By the killer?" Mama asked.
"I'd think so," Alfred replied.
"He violated them," Patrice said bluntly, staring blankly at the steaming mug in his hands.
"How horrible," Mama gasped.
Everyone around the table nodded.
Theresa shuddered. It was depraved enough for a man to violate a woman while she was living, but when she was dead? That was an entirely different plane of depravity.
"From what we can gather Jeremy was killed first," Clyde said. "Then Clem, then Wilford and Isaac, Maybelle and Dorothea, Angus, Patsy and Sterling, then Velma, Emmaline, and Constance."
"How horrible," Mama repeated.
"It looks like Papa and Clem heard something," Patrice said. "They went out to investigate and were shot, hearing the shots, Willie and Isaac came out with the rifle and were shot."
"Papa had drawn his gun, but he didn't likely fire it," Joel added.
"Maybelle, holding Dorothea, came to the door to see what had happened and they both were shot," Patrice went on. "Patsy and Sterling were hiding under the table, they got shot there."
"From the looks of things Angus may've been with them and rushed out to his mother when she fell," Alfred added.
"The three girls were washing dishes when they got shot," Clyde finished.
"That's unspeakable," Mama said.
"I don't think I need to ever join the military," Isaiah said. "I don't ever want to see that again."
Mama put her hands gently on Isaiah and Joel's shoulders. She looked tortured to think her sons had even witnessed such carnage.
"Without a doubt they were killed by Bullseye," Patrice said, looking up at Mama. "One bullet in each, right through the heart."
"And with the rain now all his tracks are gone," Mama said.
"We followed them for a ways," Patrice said.
"Then we ran into the Hunter already on the trail," Isaiah said.
"He's in the area?" Luc asked.
"Apparently," Isaiah replied.
"That's good," Mama said. "What had he found?"
"Bartholomew never asked," Clyde replied.
"Why not?" Mama asked.
"Bartholomew thinks the Hunter is Bullseye," Patrice replied, looking at Mama soberly.
"Heaven forbid," Mama said, looking appalled.
"If you really think abut it," Benjamin said. "It does make a brilliant cover: play the part of the best bounty hunter in the West to disguise your real role as the most feared killer in the West."
"He does bring in all his crooks dead," Alfred added.
"Not to mention he's yet to bring Bullseye in," Clyde said.
"Nor does anyone actually even know what Bullseye looks like," Isaiah added.
"I cannot reconcile it," Mama stated emphatically.
"Why not?" Benjamin asked.
"Not with what Jeremy said," Mama replied. "I trust no one's judgement of a man more than I trust Jeremy's."

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Clouding: Day 6

Word Count: 36,103

Summary of Events:
Asher, after some trouble, found tracks leading away from the rocks showing where the person who'd been there before him had gone. Theresa and her mother discussed how her mother could possibly be at peace with everything that had happened. Asher followed the tracks and found a creek, where he watered himself and his horse before watching the approach of a group of some thirty men, led by Deputy Bartholomew Peck of Tucson . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
Peck reined his horse in despite the horse's head-tossing protests — which stopped upon the horse's notice of Nizhoni; they reached noses close together for a few moments before Nizhoni pinned her ears back and squealed, prompting him and Peck to both check their horses.
"This is a surprise," Peck said.
"Not really," he replied.
Peck raised his light eyebrows up to nearly disappear into his hat. "Does nothing surprise the Hunter?"
"Not really," he replied.
"You're not surprised that you were going to get caught eventually?" Peck asked.
"Caught?" he asked.
"Now you're going to play dumb are you?" Peck asked.
"No," he replied. "I'm going to be genuinely confused and lack understanding as to what you're talking about."
"I don't think you really are," Peck said. "You know where Jeremy Rose is."
He surveyed the group. He identified two men — one looking more about his age, the other looking much younger — as looking like Jeremy Rose, but neither was him; Jeremy was older.
"Not seeing him here, I would presume some sort of ill has befallen the man," he replied.
"Jeremy Rose is dead," Peck replied. "In fact, he and a family of eleven, down to the little one-year-old girl are dead."
"By whose hand?" he asked, astonished.
Peck smirked. "Really?"
"Answer my question," he replied, annoyed. He didn't like what Peck was playing at.
"Yours," Peck replied.
"Not on your life," he replied.
"Yes," Peck replied. "You, Asher . . . the Hunter, because apparently you are devoid of a surname, are under arrest for the murder of Jeremy Rose and the entire Hanington family."
He swore. "That's complete and utter lies. I have done nothing. I would not harm children, and I would not shoot a lawman."
"Even if you were caught rustling cattle?" Peck asked.
"Do I look like I have the means to rustle cattle?" he asked.
"You're without your saddle," Peck replied. "Hiding evidence."
"I guess I am surprised," he said.
"Oh, and what surprises you?" Peck asked.
"The fact that I would be accused of murder by the deputy of the esteemed Jeremy Rose, of all people," he replied. "Jeremy was all about evidence, about facts, about proving things in a court of law. He didn't just nab the first person he found, he wanted to nab the right one. If he were here I could give him some valuable information about who he might actually be looking for."
"We'll see about that," Peck said. "You're coming with us."
"No," he replied. "I am innocent, regardless of whether you like me or that fact or not."
Peck snaked his hand out, an open cuff held in it, ready to close around Asher's wrist.
"Ha!" he shouted, driving his spurs into Nizhoni's sides, seizing fistfuls of mane in both hands.
Immediately she took off at top speed, heading northward along the creek before he pulled her north-northwest and toward the mountains.

Pronunciation:
Nizhoni: nihzhohknee

Friday, May 18, 2018

Clouding: Day 5

Word Count: 30,025

Summary of Events:
Theresa's mother was altering a black dress she had to fit Theresa better and the two of them had a discussion about what could possibly be the purpose of the murders. Asher was quite curious as to who had occupied the cave before him and started looking around for clues; those he found suggested  the person had committed a crime in nearby Tucson. Bennett had brought over some food his aunt had prepared and sat with Theresa after supper; they had a bit of discussion about the demise of her father and how it might affect their future together, among other things . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
"How can I live without Papa?" Theresa asked.
Bennett sighed. "I wish I had answers, but I don't Theresa, I'm sorry, I really am."
Theresa put the handkerchief over her face and sobbed.
"I'm sure you'll find a way," Bennett said. "Somehow."
She had her doubts. Even though Mama seemed so completely and thoroughly at peace with the fact that Papa was gone, she didn't know how Mama could be so accepting of it. Surely Mama was just in shock at the loss; maybe she was even trying to deny it because she hadn't seen Papa's body yet and confirmed that he was actually dead like she'd been told.
The fact that Mama had such a resolve to be at peace even made Theresa somewhat upset now that she really thought about it. How could Mama be married thirty years to Papa and then not even feel inclined to miss him when he was gone? It was impossible.
Yes, Papa had always been occupied by taking car of the farm — both here and in Wisconsin before they'd moved — and then later by taking care of Tucson, but he hadn't been altogether absent; in fact, for all his busyness, Papa had been incredibly present.
He'd always had time to tell them a story, take them along, teach them, admonish them, encourage them. Even without seeing the physical proof that Papa was gone — a proof she didn't really want to see, to be honest — Theresa could feel his absence acutely.
Surely Mama ought to be feeling his absence doubly more, being as she had spent far more time with papa, having known him for far longer than Theresa herself had, and yet Mama seemed unable to miss Papa.
"Theresa," Bennett said, breaking into her thoughts. "Did you hear me?"
"What did you say?" Theresa asked.
"I wouldn't ask you to get married this year," Bennett replied. "I never had plans of doing that originally, but I will marry you, even if you can't bring yourself to be happy on our wedding day because you miss your father so much."
Theresa nodded, dabbing more tears from her eyes.
"I do plan on marrying you soon, though," Bennett said. "After all, if we were to wait too much longer you'd be considered an old maid."
At this point, Theresa didn't really care how old she was when she got married. If she were to get married in two or three years wouldn't bother her, in fact, she was now questioning her desire to be married; had it been the right thing? Or ought she live alone for the rest of her days? She wouldn't want to upset Bennett by being inconsolable on their wedding day.
She'd always dreamed of her wedding day being the happiest day of her life, but she didn't know that it could be that way with this tragedy. She might be able to have moments without crying now, but to ever be happy again? That was surely near-impossible.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Clouding: Day 4

Word Count: 24,028

Summary of Events:
Asher was getting ready to set out for another day when his captive kicked him in the face, so he enforced some retribution before they set out. The deputy visited to see if Theresa's father had sent any word home before setting out to see why they hadn't heard from him recently. Asher enjoyed the quiet as his captive had actually fallen asleep, although he wondered if he'd been wise in his choice to kidnap. Theresa and her family were informed by the deputy that her father, as well as all eleven members of the family he'd gone to check on — down to the one year old little girl — had been murdered. Asher had found a cave to spend the night in, although it had bones in it, so he went in to check and see if it was a carnivore's den before he decided to sleep in it . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
They were dry and rough to the touch, suggesting that they were old bones which had been there for awhile, besides, there was no residual meat or other material on them, it was just the straight-up bones.
Thus, if these had been placed by carnivores, they were carnivores that no longer haunted this cave. Too, it wasn't like he could smell any excrement that could suggest a recent occupation of the cave by animals.
Needless to say, it would be a suitable place to spend the night.
He turned around to go back out and stopped. Closer to the front of the cave was a pile he hadn't noticed before. There was a black ring-sort of shape, white ashes, and the black rounded-square shapes that all wood burned into before it became ash, some even still in segments that hadn't been weakened enough at the narrow points to fall apart.
Someone had slept here before. In fact, he would think the stay had been decently recent, as any wind coming from a southerly direction would assuredly sweep into the cave and circle, which would stir up the ashes and even whip them away into the air, maybe even to mingle with the sand.
Making his way out of the cave, he found that Nizhoni and Ashley's horse — with Ashley still slumbering on it — had wandered away a fair bit.
He whistled. Nizhoni lifted her head and looked at him, revealing something on the ground close to her.
Heading toward her, he discovered that it was a pile of horse droppings, and they weren't fresh because they weren't shiny; in fact, they'd probably been there for awhile, considering that they were crawling with the small flies that typically only sought after such things once they'd sat for awhile.
Whoever had recently camped in the cave had been riding a horse, and it was a horse who, like his own, was dining almost exclusively on sagebrush, as evidenced by the colour and texture.
Too, the droppings and the presence of the flies suggested that the camper had been there within the last week, maybe even within the last two days.
Who was it? That he wasn't sure he'd be able to find out.
He hadn't seen any tracks while heading up here, and he hadn't been following any. Not to mention it was notoriously difficult to get a bead on what had travelled the rocks, forget what direction it'd gone.
The best he could do was see what he could find for tracks leaving the rocks without himself leaving the rocks and seeing whether any were horse tracks. If he found anything then he could follow the tracks and see where they led.
That, of course, would have to wait until morning; already the sun was below the horizon, it would be much better to search when he knew he'd have a lot more light before darkness came around again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Clouding: Day 3

Word Count: 18,038

Summary of Events:
Asher continued on his trek eastward, getting into a lengthy argument with his captive until he threatened the boy into silence. Theresa was helping her mother bake pies when her father came home to get his bedroll because he was going on an overnight investigation of cattle rustling claims. Asher decided to stop for the night and left his captive to starve when his captive refused the food that he offered. Theresa was feeling incredibly worried about her father's safety when her boyfriend came over for a visit . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
"Your fears are unfounded," Bennett said. "I promise you that. Jeremy is a fine sheriff, and he knows well how to take care of himself. After all, he kept his whole family safe since your oldest sister was born."
"Esther," Theresa said.
"I thought she was the oldest, I wasn't sure," Bennett said. "I'll have to work on getting your siblings all straight. Stephen's the youngest, isn't he?"
"Stephen is Esther's oldest," Theresa replied.
"Oh," Bennett said. "At least there was a Stephen. Aunt Winnifred is convinced I have a brother named Waldo. None of Father's brothers are Waldos, nor any of his sisters' husbands, nor any of my cousins, nor even Father's great nephews, so we have no idea where she got that from. Uncle Malachi says there's not even any Waldos on her side of the family either. We still haven't been able to prove to her that there's no one named Waldo in our family."
Theresa dabbed at her eyes. Ordinarily she would've laughed at Bennett's tale. She knew Winnifred Colvin to be an unobservant woman. She wasn't unintelligent, but she wasn't good at paying attention to things; thankfully her inattentiveness had only led to mirth from what Theresa knew.
"Oh Theresa," Bennett said, putting his hand back on her shoulders. "I'd ride out to go be sure Jeremy is okay if I knew where I was going, but I'm afraid I'm rather hopeless beyond the confines of Tucson, surely I can convince you he's alright, and if he isn't, I would be the man to change that."
"Only if he's injured," Theresa said.
"You don't mean to say you think he's going to die, do you?" Bennett asked.
Theresa nodded.
Bennett slid his hand all the way across her shoulders and pulled her toward him. "That, I assure you, is complete and utter nonsense. It's not like he's going out alone. There are people that live out there, aren't there?"
"He's going to the Hanington's," Theresa replied. "Mr. and Mrs. Hanington's two oldest children are sons, they're right around Luc's age."
"See?" Bennett said. "There's three other men there to back him up if he needs to face down any criminals. There's nothing to worry about."
"Luc's only sixteen," Theresa said.
"Well they're grown up enough to be good shots," Bennett said.
Theresa sniffled. "But they're just boys."
"I don't think your father's going to have to face down anyone that terribly nefarious," Bennett said. "Where is this fear coming from? Were there some other cattle rustlers that nearly killed him?"
"No," Theresa replied, shaking her head. "I don't know why I'm so scared."
Bennett sighed and leaned his head gently against hers. "I promise you he'll be fine Theresa."
And heaven only knew she desperately hoped the same, despite the doubt and fear that so oppressed her.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Clouding: Day 2

Word Count: 12,019

Summary of Events:
Asher discovered he'd been kidnapped by Butler Whitney, a notorious bank robber, who offered him a handsome reward to kill the notorious killer Bullseye, who had killed Butler's brother; not trusting Butler, Asher kidnapped Butler's son to guarantee he'd get the money he was promised. Theresa had tea with the doctor's nephew. As evening neared, Asher continued riding, wanting to put as much distance between himself and the Whitney gang as possible . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
The boy moaned. He glanced over as the boy rolled his head and tried to pull his hands free of the leather that tied them to the saddle horn to stretch.
After a few moments the boy opened his eyes and looked around in all directions. It took him some time before he settled his gaze on the spotted horse beside him.
"Who are you?" the boy asked.
"Who do you think?" he asked.
"An enemy of Butler," the boy replied.
"Isn't Butler your father?" he asked.
"He says we're supposed to call him Butler like everyone else does," the boy replied. "You're an enemy of Butler aren't you?"
"He's more an enemy of me than I of him," he replied.
"Why'd you take me?" the boy asked.
"To guarantee your father will pay me what he's promised he will for doing what I fully intended to do without him commanding me to," he replied.
"What does that mean?" the boy asked.
"Your father wants me to kill the notorious Bullseye," he replied. "I had full intentions of killing Bullseye myself, however, your father has promised me a good quantity of money for when I achieve the task, and I'd like to get that money from him. I don't trust your father, though, so I've taken you to make sure your father pays me what he's said he'll pay me."
"Don't we need to stop and make camp now, before it gets dark?" the boy asked.
"No," he replied. "We're riding all night."
"Why?" the boy asked.
"To put as much distance between us and your father as possible," he replied.
"I don't want to ride all night," the boy complained.
"And I don't care what you want," he replied.
"Butler will come and kill you dead for doing this," the boy said.
"Because there is the possibility that he could, just maybe, kill me alive," he said dryly.
"Butler!" the boy shouted. "Butler help me! Help me! The mean enemy is going to kill me!"
"Quiet," he ordered.
"Butler!" the boy shouted. "Butler shoot him!"
Brandishing a gun, he deftly brought the butt into contact with the base of the boy's skull and the boy immediately slumped over in his saddle and groaned.
Aside from the fall of the horses' hooves all was silent again, and he couldn't complain, he'd much rather silence than noise whenever he could. Butler's son was going to be nothing short of a pain in the neck unless he could find some way to keep the boy sleeping. Maybe he could stop in at a town somewhere and get some laudanum to keep the boy quiet.