Thursday, March 17, 2016

Astounded: Day 15

Word Count: 90,002

Year to Date: 300,026

Summary of Events:
Penrod and the posse from Verdant pushed on to get home instead of camping out for one more night and found some human remains Penrod guessed to be Mr. Vaughan's. He called on Jemima early and she made breakfast for him before he told her about the discovery, which led her to weep in mourning again. After Penrod had fed the animals Jemima gave him some chocolate pie and then got upset at him when he told her she'd be going to stay with one of her siblings shortly. After crying for a long time Jemima thought about how she'd fallen so hard for Penrod when he didn't seem to love her in return. Penrod got back to town and was told by Mr. Bateman that Susanna had come to visit, which he'd forgotten, and unfortunately things fell apart quickly . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
""And you're coming to their aid!" Susanna snapped.
"And why shouldn't I?" Penrod challenged. "She needed help."
"Because your woman, the woman you promised you would marry is the only one who deserves such treatment from you!" Susanna retorted, stalking past Penrod and out of the hotel room.
"Susanna, you told me that part of what you liked about me was my courtesy and my gentlemanly manners," Penrod replied, following her down the stairs. "And I strive to be a gentleman at all times, which includes helping anyone who may have a need. That is also part of my duty as an officer of the law, and as a Christian."
"Have my trunk brought down from my room to the stage office at once, thank you," Susanna said to a stunned Mr. Jackson, who mutely nodded.
"Susanna, you can't leave!" Penrod exclaimed.
"Yes I can, and yes I am," Susanna snipped, stalking out the door.
"But Susanna, I haven't done anything wrong!" Penrod protested. "I've merely done what I ought to do based on my occupation and my morals!"
"And such wretchedly skewed morals they are," Susanna snapped, whirling around to face him for a moment before stalking on. "On top of being horribly deceptive."
"Deceptive?" Penrod asked. "How have I deceived you? Any other woman would have no problem with my conduct."
"Well then go find them!" Susanna roared, coming to a stop beside the waiting stagecoach. "I am through with you!"
Penrod stood dumbfounded as Susanna stalked into the stage depot. He couldn't believe it. He absolutely couldn't believe it.
"I am going back to Rock Springs," Susanna said, reappearing out of the office. "And should you dare follow me there I will make sure that Father, Paul, and Arthur are all notified to shoot you on sight!"
Mr. Jackson appeared with her trunk, which was loaded onto the coach. Susanna watched them, her arms crossed, then turned to look at Penrod one more time.
"We are not getting married," she snapped. "And should I ever see your wretched face again it will be too soon!"
Turning back to face the coach, she climbed inside and slammed the door emphatically. Stunned, the driver got into his place and snapped the lines without a word. Mr. Jackson looked at Penrod like he didn't know what to say and hurried away quickly.
Penrod watched as the stagecoach set off down the street, a cloud of dust in its wake, carrying the woman he'd been fully intending to marry away from him for what she seemed to intend be the rest of their days.
Footsteps hurried up to him, but Penrod kept watching the stagecoach.
"Sheriff Haskell," Dr. Toews' familiar voice barely reached his ears. "I do believe I've got a positive identification on the remains."
The stagecoach disappeared among the trees.
"The remains belong to Henry Vaughan."
Dropping to his knees, Penrod burst into sobs. What had he done? What had he done?"

The next post will be on April 2.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Astounded: Day 14

Word Count: 84,010

Summary of Events:
Penrod struggled with his gelding as the posse rode out to find the invaders, being as his gelding wanted to run. Jemima was called on by Mr. Bateman and Mr. Magnan, and she refused to admit them. The posse approached a ranch and found the invaders inside, the shooting began. Jemima baked and worried about Penrod some more, although not as much as she had been. After two days of shooting Penrod was woken by approaching horsemen and found it was the Army come to intervene and stop the fighting; one of them willingly started to search the dead for the men Penrod suspected killed Mr. Vaughan, as Mr. Albers was numbered among the dead . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
"Two of them. Four left.
"Louis . . . There . . . Thir . . . ?" he looked like he was struggling.
"Threlfal," Penrod replied.
"Is that what it says?" he asked.
"What are you finding their names on?" Penrod asked.
"They have cards with their names typed on them saying they're employed by the GLA Ranch of Sheridan, Wyoming," he replied.
Penrod nodded. That was interesting, and not necessarily a bad idea. He had half of them. Maybe he should stop by that other body on the way home and see if he could find one of those cards.
"Arntzen you said it was?" he asked.
"Yes," Penrod replied.
"Here," he said.
Only two left. Penrod was impressed. There weren't many left among the dead, though.
The cavalryman straightened and shook his head. "No Whenam, no Simants."
Penrod sighed. He had two left to look for.
Alarmed conversation came from the barn and several soldiers hurried out, struggling to hold a convulsing man. One soldier sat on each limb while another soldier tried to attend to the struggling and agonised looking man.
Everyone watched quietly for a long time as the man struggled, until finally he started to weaken. The soldiers got off of his limbs once he'd settled down some. Soon he went completely still and the last soldier rose, shaking his head.
"He's dead," he said succinctly.
"What happened?" Penrod asked.
"Something poisoned, I guess," the cavalryman replied, not bothering to look back and see who'd asked him.
Penrod looked over at the soldier who'd been inspecting the dead for him. The soldier quickly hurried over and checked the pockets. "Simants."
Penrod nodded as the soldier who'd been trying to save Mr. Simants looked at his fellow soldier with puzzlement. Penrod had one left.
Looking toward the barn, Penrod scanned the faces of the men standing inside. The sun had now fully crested the horizon and was shining brightly on the scene — a bright and vibrant light that didn't look the least bit suitable for the scene of dead bodies, soldiers, armed men, and a bullet-riddled barn.
A dark haired man with equally as dark eyes met Penrod's gaze. His gaze was dark and severe. Penrod had a feeling he was looking on the face of the last one: Jules Whenam, and it looked like Mr. Whenam had revenge on his mind.
Penrod raised his chin and looked down at Mr. Whenam. Suddenly Mr. Whenam drew his gun, aimed, and fired.
A hot streak of pain like a hot knife slicing the surface skin stroked across Penrod's cheek, causing him to flinch slightly. Several cavalrymen quickly went into the barn and disarmed Mr. Whenam, who still looked at Penrod with a ferocious expression.
Once the Army was done with Mr. Whenam Penrod had a feeling he was going to have a caller, and he was going to have to be well prepared, lest his life be taken."

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Astounded: Day 13

Word Count: 78,024

Summary of Events:
Penrod received a telegram saying a group of ranchers had formed a vigilante group and were out to kill innocent civilians they thought were rustlers, and was told a posse was being formed to combat them. Jemima was filled in by Penrod about the posse and everything over breakfast and tearfully bade him farewell as he set out. Penrod and the seven members of his posse headed out through the forest without any signs of a threatening attack. Jemima was visited by Mr. Bateman — who hadn't gone along because he was still recovering from his gunshot wounds that'd been worse than Penrod's — who told Jemima Easter was a week away, prompting her to set about baking while he talked. Penrod and his posse arrived at Buffalo, Wyoming, where the larger posse was gathering and Penrod met with the organiser before he and his men set up camp. Jemima continued Easter baking, along with worrying about Penrod even though she was trying not to.

Excerpt of the Day:
"Soon the buildings of the town closed in around them, and Penrod saw that there were definitely a lot of men about with guns on their hips and belts of ammunition slung across their chests or around their hips as well.
Many of the men bore badges that indicated they were sheriffs or deputies of various towns in the area, although there were other men like Penrod's posse, good townsfolk or homesteaders, also intent on defending their land from the vigilante invaders.
Penrod found the sheriff's office centred in the greatest concentration of men and horses anywhere in the town. Their getting to the building might be difficult.
Turning Clarence, Penrod tossed one of the reins to the hitching rail, which it flipped around once — all Clarence needed to stay in one place — and then swung out of the saddle.
"You all stay here," Penrod said. "I'll go see if I can find Red and tell him we're here."
The men nodded, most of them tying their horses alongside Clarence and getting out of the saddle so they could stretch their weary legs.
Penrod turned and forged into the crowd to make his way through. A man collided with Penrod's shoulder, causing him to grimace in pain, but he soldiered on and eventually managed to make his way into the sheriff's office — which was even louder and noisier than outside, mainly because all of the sound was contained within four walls.
Many of the men were talking amongst themselves, Penrod felt like there was a little bit more space inside than there'd been outside, despite the volume, and finally he found a man who looked very much like his name ought to be Red Angus.
The man he was talking to nodded and headed away before Penrod had fully approached and as the man left he turned to face Penrod.
"And where do you hail from?" he asked.
"Verdant," Penrod replied. "I've brought seven men with me."
"Glad to have your help," he said. "Red Angus."
"Penrod Haskell," Penrod replied, returning the firm handshake.
"There's over a hundred and fifty of us right now, but I think it would still be wise if we wait until tomorrow," Red said. "Give everyone a chance to arrive, then we'll set out for KC."
"I've know about the tension and whatnot," Penrod said. "But what all happened?"
"Nate Champion was barricaded into a bunkhouse at the KC by gunfire and shot to death when he tried to escape," Red replied. "He was the head of the NWFSGA."
"I heard an attempt was made on his life in November too," Penrod said. "I think that this mission by the invaders is intended to rid themselves of competition, again, and not rid themselves of rustlers."
"I think they want to get rid of the rustlers," Red said. "But they're definitely going about it the wrong way, along with thinking the wrong people are rustlers. Not that every homesteader is guiltless, but to brand them all rustlers by pure association is completely unfair.""

NWFSGA: Northern Wyoming Farmers and Stock Growers Association

Monday, March 14, 2016

Astounded: Day 12

Word Count: 72,014

Summary of Events:
Jemima was baking biscuits when an unsettling stranger came to her door, introducing himself as Elmer Arntzen, after she got him to leave she heard gunfire. An injured Mr. Bateman told Penrod two strangers were at the Vaughan homestead and had shot at him; Penrod rallied all of the men in town to defend the town and then went to go check on Jemima. Jemima heard Penrod approach, but remained hidden under her bed until she recognised him and he told her to stay there until he came back and told her it was safe, which wasn't until the next morning.

Excerpt of the Day:
"Ahead Penrod saw the trees thinning. He reined Massachusetts in. He saw no smoke and smelled none either. The house wasn't in flames. He could take solace in that much, but where was Jemima?
Emerging out of the trees, Penrod scanned and saw two men on horseback heading into the trees. One of the men stopped and pointed at him, the other kept going.
The one who'd pointed at Penrod drew a rifle out of a scabbard and aimed. Penrod felt for his own, then remembered that he was riding Massachusetts, his rifle was on Clarence's saddle.
Penrod signalled Massachusetts to reverse back into the trees, to which the gelding obliged.
With a loud report the gun fired. Pain suddenly tore through Penrod's chest underneath his left collarbone. Clutching at it, Penrod bent over the saddle, biting his lower lip at the pain. . . 
. . . A lightheadedness was making Penrod feel faint, but he fought against it as hard as he could. He needed to get back to town and make sure that everyone was alright. He needed to make sure the gunslingers hadn't hurt anyone else or destroyed the town.
The trees thinned ahead. Penrod couldn't help but feel relief welling up in him. He was almost to safety. It'd taken a longer time walking, being as trotting had caused too much pain, and he didn't think it would necessarily be a good idea to go any faster.
Buildings appeared in front of him. No human activity in sight. Penrod rode onto one of the streets and started winding his way toward Dr. Toews' house. Hopefully he'd be able to get an update from there.
"Shh!" Penrod interrupted the man who'd appeared, his pistol drawn. "Are they gone?"
"They went into your place, looked around, and left, but they weren't happy," the man replied. "We need to get you to Doc Toews."
"I was heading that way," Penrod replied.
"They met you?" the man asked, taking the reins from Penrod's hands.
"Yes," Penrod replied. "Shot at me from long range."
"They didn't shoot us," the man said. "Although I'm pretty sure it's because we were watching them so close and all had our guns with us. I think we scared 'em some good."
"Good, that was the plan," Penrod said.
Penrod sagged on Massachusetts' back, the pain still throbbed and blackness was clawing at the edges of his mind, trying to pull him under.
He didn't feel Massachusetts stop and so initially tried to resist when hands grabbed at him as if to pull him out of the saddle.
"We're here now sheriff, let go," the man said.
More than one man's hands helped Penrod down and guided him to Dr. Toews' side door, which was open. Penrod barely managed to stagger up the steps before blackness utterly swallowed him on the threshold."

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Astounded: Day 11

Word Count: 66,012

Summary of Events:
Penrod met with the man who'd bought Mr. Vaughan's cattle and found the man more than willing to legally buy the cattle from Jemima and give Penrod a couple for Jemima's brother to keep. Jemima helped Penrod put the cattle away and then got dressed to go to town and open a bank account in which to put the money from the sale. Penrod was impressed by Jemima's confidence in the bank, and got upset at one of the men in town whose morals he disliked who tried to flatter Jemima. Jemima compared Penrod and her father and thought about how much they were alike and how she'd much rather marry Penrod than Mr. Bateman. Penrod received a letter from his fiancée and was then sent to get the doctor for Mr. Plumley, albeit too late.

Excerpt of the Day:
"Sliding his finger under the flap, Penrod broke the seal and opened the letter. It was another one of Susanna's, and he felt it'd come too quickly to be a response to the letter he'd last sent to her.
Unfolding the paper, Penrod looked on Susanna's neat and looping script, elegant and well-written, evidence of her mother's emphasis on good and proper education being given to her children despite the lack of a school in the area.
Dearest Penrod,
I'm writing to tell you that positively the worst thing has happened for me. Father approved of Mildred courting Mr. Griffith Sissons, the young hand Mr. Primrose hired to replace you. The two of them have been positively besotted since they first set eyes on each other, and now Mr. Sissons is coming over to dinner and everything.
I have been positively desperate in my longing to see you again as it is, but I've solaced myself that your return to wed me this summer would come soon enough, but now it is that I cannot stand it, I absolutely must see you again before summer comes.
Father says that I can wait, and that I should, as none of the boys can be spared to escort me, and being as Mother still has Mary to school, along with Irene somewhat, although she's pretty much learned everything, she can't either, but I absolutely must, and being as I am going to see my fiancé I really don't think that I need an escort.
I have decided, though, that I will not come in all due haste, as much as my heart begs me to do so, I am instead going to enforce upon myself a greater patience, and I will come to visit you the week before Easter.
I also think it would be wise for us to get together and discuss some of the affairs regarding our wedding, such as what date we should like to be wed on, and how we should be transporting all of my things to your residence.
I do desperately look forward to the week before Easter and hope that we will be able to have an immensely enjoyable time together for the last time before it comes to pass that we will be wed, which it is that I greatly anticipate.
Sincerely with all my love,
Shifting his jaw, Penrod refolded the letter. Right. He was getting married this summer. He needed to find a place to live. He couldn't share this place with Mr. Bateman and Susanna. She'd detest the idea.
He was also pretty sure Susanna wouldn't like to live in a house attached to a barn either, she would want to live in a proper house, so Penrod could leave Mr. Bateman in this place and go find one of his own."

Friday, March 11, 2016

Astounded: Day 10

Word Count: 60,005

Summary of Events:
Jemima thought about Penrod and how, in all truth, she really wanted to marry him. Penrod was out looking around in the woods, thought he was being followed, discovered he was, and successfully arrested the man he was certain was his attacker; when he returned to Verdant, though, he found Mr. Bateman was away visiting Jemima again. Jemima was disinterestedly listening to Mr. Bateman tell his life story when Penrod rode up furious and tore a strip out of Mr. Bateman for leaving the town unguarded, going against orders Penrod had given him. Penrod interviewed Mr. Hindley, the man who had, indeed, been a part of the attack on him, and learned some valuable information. Jemima told Penrod to be a little easier on Mr. Bateman and had her suspicions aroused that Penrod was trying to get her and Mr. Bateman married.

Excerpt of the Day:
""Tell me what you did, heard, and observed on the thirteenth of August last year," Penrod said.
"I got up at sunrise, as usual, and had biscuits, eggs, and sausage for breakfast," Mr. Hindley replied. "And then I went out to check the stock."
"There was nothing particularly significant heard in the morning conversation, or did you eat alone?" Penrod asked.
"No, there was nothing significant," Mr. Hindley replied. "A couple of men were going to head out west to spell the men already out there."
"Who were the men they were going to spell?" Penrod asked.
"Arntzen, Greene, Threlfal, Roland, Whenam, and Simants," Mr. Hindley replied.
"When had those men gone out?" Penrod asked.
"The week before," Mr. Hindley replied.
"Do you recall anything significant about their departure?" Penrod asked.
"No," Mr. Hindley replied.
"They didn't mention any plans for catching rustlers?" Penrod asked.
"No," Mr. Hindley replied.
"Did they bring the horse back?" Penrod asked.
"I didn't see 'em get back, I just saw 'em around, and then I went in the barn to ask the boss a question and I saw the new horse, and then I saw him fillin' out the bill of sale for it," Mr. Hindley replied. "I thought it was odd, he usually made sure the bill of sale was written up for anything he bought before he brought it home. He didn't tell me who we'd bought the horse from when I asked either."
"What are the full names of the six men who came back that day?" Penrod asked.
"Elmer Arntzen, Robert Greene, Louis Threlfal, Albert Roland, Jules Whenam, and Clovis Simants," Mr. Hindley replied.
"Did you notice any black cattle around the yard?" Penrod asked.
"No," Mr. Hindley replied. "Didn't notice any black cattle until they were sold a couple'a weeks later."
"Who bought them?" Penrod asked.
"Lionel Fringe," Mr. Hindley replied.
"And who is he?" Penrod asked.
"Owner of Bar E Angus Ranch," Mr. Hindley replied.
"Near Sheridan?" Penrod asked.
"Yes," Mr. Hindley replied.
"I would presume the Angus he runs are black," Penrod said.
"Yes sir," Mr. Hindley replied.
"You didn't ask Mr. Albers where the black cattle came from, did you," Penrod said.
"No," Mr. Hindley replied. "It didn't matter to me."
"When did you hear that Mr. Vaughan was no longer proving to be a bother to Mr. Albers?" Penrod asked.
"I didn't find out until the roundup when I never saw him," Mr. Hindley replied. "We usually saw him at least once on our roundup, I asked and they said he'd gone to the big roundup in the sky."
"You didn't suspect anything?" Penrod asked.
"I knew what they meant," Mr. Hindley replied. "Isn't the first time."
"Oh it isn't?" Penrod asked.
"I'm not tellin' you about those times," Mr. Hindley said. "You only want to know about this one, it's all you're gettin', you can dig the rest out of them if you want to know.""

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Astounded: Day 9

Word Count: 54,020

Summary of Events:
Jemima thought about Penrod, his apology, and what she felt about him. Penrod went and got the mail, which included a letter from his fiancée that left him feeling uncomfortable; he got word from the mayor that a deputy was coming and then went to visit Jemima and talked with her about his visit to the ranch near Sheridan. Jemima was then visited by the new deputy, whom she couldn't say she entirely liked. Penrod returned from investigation to find the new deputy wasn't in the office like he'd expected, instead . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
"Penrod looked up and saw Mr. Bateman on his sleek, sidestepping chestnut heading toward him. He had a somewhat dreamy looking smile on his face and seemed completely oblivious to Penrod's presence as he dismounted.
"What called you out of the office?" Penrod asked flatly, inclined to think he wouldn't be pleased with the answer.
Mr. Bateman startled. "Oh! Sheriff! I didn't see you there! You're back already?"
"I am," Penrod replied.
"Things didn't go so well?" Mr. Bateman asked.
"No, they went fine," Penrod replied. "I'm not just not one who appreciates being ignored."
"I'm not ignoring you," Mr. Bateman said, looking astonished.
"I asked you a question," Penrod replied. "And you've yet to answer it."
"What question?" Mr. Bateman asked.
"What called you out of the office?"
"Nothing," Mr. Bateman replied.
"Then why did you leave?" Penrod asked.
"Sitting around in a rather bare office all day isn't terribly entertaining," Mr. Bateman replied.
"Where did you go?" Penrod asked.
"I went visiting," Mr. Bateman replied. "Might as well get to know people in the area."
"Who did you visit?" Penrod asked.
"You seem awfully suspicious," Mr. Bateman said.
Penrod crossed his arms and glared firmly at the young man in lieu of a response.
"I found a trail through the woods, I thought it was kind of suspicious at first, but the I found it led to a house," Mr. Bateman replied. "She said her name was Miss Jemima Vaughan."
A wave of fury and rage unlike Penrod had ever known before swelled through him at the mention of her name. He wanted to grab Mr. Bateman and give him a beating, and yet he hadn't the faintest idea why.
Inhaling several deep gulps of air, Penrod suppressed the rage and managed to ask with a relative calmness: "And what did you learn from her?"
"Not much, mostly where she's from and whatnot," Mr. Bateman replied. "Well, other than the fact that she's beautiful. I've a mind to marry her if she's willing, although she didn't seem to be terribly interested in me, she didn't look at me the entire time, and she seemed slightly uncomfortable."
Penrod found himself feeling pleased, but he said nothing. He didn't entirely know what was coming over him anyways.
"She said she knew you, too," Mr. Bateman said. "She's so beautiful, though. I've never seen such gorgeous blonde hair. I can't imagine what it looks like down."
"Good," Penrod replied firmly. "Don't."
"What, you want to marry her?" Mr. Bateman asked.
Penrod startled and looked at Mr. Bateman aghast. "Of course not! I've got my own fiancée I'll be marrying this summer!"
"Well then why shouldn't I dream of Miss Vaughan?" Mr. Bateman asked.
"Because you have better things to do," Penrod replied. "Like making sure that law and order is being upheld in this town. As calm as it is now, I have a mind it's going to waken like a spring bear.""

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Astounded: Day 8

Word Count: 48,011

Summary of Events:
Jemima was instructed by Penrod on how to feed the animals while he was gone and they had somewhat terse discussions over breakfast in which Jemima suggested Penrod was controlling, while he insisted he was protective. Penrod left to visit the rancher near Sheridan and found no evidence for arrest, but his suspicions were aroused, and he also made a rather convicting discovery. Jemima, surprised at how lonely she was without Penrod, set about baking and thinking about their discussion, eventually being so moved by guilt that she resolved to apologise to Penrod immediately upon his return. Penrod was thinking about the same conversation, and realised how controlling he'd become to Jemima and decided he, too, should apologise.

Excerpt of the Day:
"Unlike before, no one was around, although Penrod could hear distant activity. Inside the barn it was even quieter. Several horses peeked their heads over stall doors. None of them was black with a bald face, and none of them were markingless and golden with a black forelock like Clarence either.
Finally Penrod found Clarence, still tacked up, looking much more relaxed than he had when he'd been led away. Penrod checked inside the stall and saw there was no food or water, for which he was partially pleased; he didn't trust Mr. Albers, but he couldn't do anything about it either.
Unbolting the door, Penrod led Clarence out of the stall and then noticed a stall that had a cage over the top half of the door, preventing the horse inside from peering out.
Penrod's curiosity was aroused and he walked over to look inside. Lying on the floor, dozing, was a black horse. It bore a right fore stocking, a left hind white pastern, and the face was emblazoned with a bald face marking.
"Samuel?" Penrod asked quietly.
The horse's ears flicked and then eyes opened.
"Samuel," Penrod said.
Bringing its forelegs out from under itself to stick out, the horse heaved to its feet and walked over to the stall door. Nosing the cage wire, it nickered, deep and rumbling, to which Clarence responded.
"Hey Samuel," Penrod said quietly. "What are you doing here?"
Naturally, no response was given, but the horse looked alert, and Penrod was sure he'd found Mr. Vaughan's gelding. Looking down the aisle to make sure no one had seen him, Penrod then walked out of the barn and noticed a man leaning against the side of the barn, lighting a cigarette.
Penrod cleared his throat. The man startled and turned to look at him, and then startled even more, almost as if he were seeing someone or something he hadn't expected. He dropped his cigarette into the snow and nearly fell down as he gazed at Penrod wide-eyed.
"You have a black horse in there, with a big bald face marking," Penrod said. "When'd you come by him?"
"He was bought, like all our horses," the man replied slowly, still gazing at Penrod with wide eyes.
"When?" Penrod asked.
"June," the man replied.
"He working out for you?" Penrod asked.
The man looked at Penrod suspiciously for a long while before finally giving an answer: "Yes."
"You wouldn't happen to want to sell him, would you?" Penrod asked. "A friend of mine lost his horse in a wolf attack, I've been keeping my eye out for a horse he'd like."
"I'd have to ask the boss," the man replied.
"You mean Mr. Albers?" Penrod asked.
"Yeah," the man replied.
"I was just in talking to him, he told me I could have a look at the horses and see if I found a suitable one," Penrod lied. "What do you want for it?""

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Astounded: Day 7

Word Count: 42,007

Summary of Events:
Penrod arrived at the place he and the sheriff shared to find the sheriff trying to force himself on a woman, which prompted Penrod to arrest him — especially after the sheriff punched the woman in the face. Jemima thought that Penrod was just trying to get to be sheriff sooner when he told her what happened. Penrod went searching in the woods where he'd been attacked again and found the body of his attacker partially charred and covered in the latest snowfall. Jemima and Penrod discussed his discovery and the likelihood of what he'd find — if anything — that would belong to her father's body before she got upset at him for doing everything for her in the after supper cleanup. Penrod rode back to town and was greeted by an assembly outside of the town hall who'd just unanimously voted him sheriff to replace the man he'd just arrested days before . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
"Numbly Penrod took Mr. Bromender's hand and was given a firm handshake before Mr. Bromender removed Penrod's deputy pin from his coat and replaced it with the sheriff's pin.
The assembled crowd cheered and applauded as the pin was put into place and Mr. Bromender patted it somewhat roughly. Penrod didn't really know what to think. He'd been sucked up by a whirlwind and deposited in unfamiliar territory, mentally anyways.
"Now I will let our sheriff make an address," Mr. Bromender said, stepping away.
Penrod looked out at the crowd, all of whom looked particularly eager to hear whatever was going to come out of his mouth, then he glanced over his shoulder at Mr Bromender, who gestured encouragingly with his hands.
"What do I say?" Penrod asked.
"Something, anything," Mr. Bromender replied. "Surely you've been looking forward to this."
"No, actually," Penrod replied.
Mr. Bromender startled and looked aghast.
Penrod turned back to face the assembly and licked his lips repeatedly, groping for something — even if it was pithy — that he could say just to satisfy the crowd which was now beginning to look rather concerned.
Clarence turned his head and nodded toward the mountains. Penrod looked at them, then he remembered what he'd told Miss Vaughan. It wasn't exactly a speech, nor was it something that showed appreciation for having been so honoured, but it was something.
"I, would like to take this opportunity, actually, to tell you that I will be leaving shortly," Penrod said.
The assembly gasped in horror.
"Not permanently," Penrod continued quickly. "Just a couple of days, as I'm investigating a suspicious disappearance that some of you may know of already, and it will require me travelling abroad a couple of days."
Many people looked uneasy. Finally a man who looked vaguely familiar, from church if Penrod wasn't mistaken, shouted: "Who's going to be in charge of keeping an eye on us while you're gone?"
That was exactly the kind of question Penrod had been afraid of. "I don't know," he replied honestly.
"We need a deputy again!" someone else shouted.
"You can wait to leave until a deputy's arrived can't you?" Mr. Bromender asked, looking worried.
Penrod sighed. Miss Vaughan definitely wouldn't be happy, and he already felt bad enough that these killers had six months worth of head start on him that was getting nearer to seven months with every passing day.
"Only if a judge can come sooner and we can get Mr. Plumley's trial going," Penrod replied. "Otherwise I'm leaving tomorrow."
"But how will we be safe?" Mr. Bromender asked.
"Name Dr. Toews and Pastor Locke temporary co-deputies," Penrod replied.
Mr. Bromender looked somewhat stunned. "Can we do that?"
"I don't know," Penrod replied. "You're the mayor."
"I'll have to see," Mr. Bromender said. "At least wait until the day after tomorrow, though, give me some time."
"Alright," Penrod said. "I'll leave on Wednesday. No later unless the judge can come for the same day or sooner.""

Monday, March 07, 2016

Astounded: Day 6

Word Count: 36,032

Summary of Events:
Penrod visited Mr. Spracklin, a local rancher, and asked him some questions about rustlers' activity, but came up with nothing. Jemima thought Penrod was going about his investigations backwards and got mad at him. To soothe her like he did his fiancée, Penrod kissed Jemima's forehead, which startled them both and prompted him to leave hurriedly; he rode around to where Jemima's father kept her cattle and was shot at by a man hidden in the trees. Penrod's horse carried him back to Jemima's house and Jemima managed to get Penrod out of the saddle and onto the veranda where she tended to a bleeding cheek. After a time Penrod regained consciousness . . .

Excerpt of the Day:
"Cold was the first thing Penrod felt. He felt cold wetness on his legs, and bitter cold against his cheek, which also felt somewhat numbly sore as well. Slowly he opened his eyes and looked. There was wood above him.
His back hurt, come to think of it, like he'd been dragged up something that wasn't smooth. The wood came into focus and he found it was a roof. There was a wall to one side and a railing to the other.
Now he realised there were warm fingers pressing against his right cheek, and then he saw a figure. It didn't take long for recognition to dawn. Miss Vaughan was staring with intensity at nothing, her arms both angled toward his head.
He ran a lubricating tongue around his mouth, which was inordinately dry, before finally venturing to speak: "Miss Vaughan?"
Her face lit with a mixture of elation and surprise. "Oh Mr. Haskell, it's you, what happened?"
"I don't know," Penrod replied.
"Well, what do you last remember?" Miss Vaughan asked.
Penrod groped for a recollection of something. "I kissed you."
Miss Vaughan's face went tight and her expression darkened.
Penrod looked up at her. Even with her stormy countenance she looked helplessly beautiful. "I'd like to kiss you again."
Her jaw dropped and she stared with utter horror.
"But, I shouldn't," Penrod said. "It's not right."
Miss Vaughan closed her mouth and looked at him with a mixture of sadness and fury. "Surely something happened after that, it's been several hours."
"I forgot myself," Penrod said. "That's why I kissed you. I thought I'd been dealing with someone else. I realised after. I rode between the mountains then. A man, I never saw him. He shot at me."
Miss Vaughan gasped, alarm spreading across her features.
"He missed," Penrod said as the vivid memories rushed back to him. "I shot at him, and I think I hit him. I followed him then, and he stuck his rifle barrel in my face and we talked, then he fired again and . . . and then I don't remember anything."
"He shot you in the face!" Miss Vaughan exclaimed. "But you shouldn't have a head left!"
Penrod reached up and felt his face. It felt largely unharmed. She was right. Why in the world was he still alive if he'd been shot in the side of the head? He recalled the rifle barrel having been angled up under his cheekbone, surely it would've done major damage."

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Astounded: Day 5

Word Count: 30,015

Summary of Events:
Penrod visited with Pastor Locke and asked him what he knew about the Vaughans, along with talking to him about the eligible bachelor situation in town, and found it wasn't good. Jemima did some copywork of what Penrod read to her after they had lunch. After another meal Penrod asked Jemima some more questions in regards to where her father kept his cattle, what they looked like, if they had a brand, and whatnot, with plans to go out looking. Jemima was overcome with emotion while hanging the laundry to dry and spent most of the afternoon crying at the loss of her father.

Excerpt of the Day:
""Are you going to go looking for them?" Miss Vaughan asked.
"Yes," Penrod replied. "It's easier to look for living cattle than a dead man."
Miss Vaughan nodded, her face looking sad. "Yes, it is."
"I'm sorry," Penrod said quickly. He felt like he'd been callous.
"No, you're right, Papa must be gone, I wouldn't have been left alone this long otherwise," Miss Vaughan said. "He would've sent word to someone."
"I was thinking I might go look for them today, and I'll stop by and report back to you if I find anything," Penrod said.
"You should look for Papa's horse too," Miss Vaughan said.
"What did it look like?" Penrod asked.
"His name is Samuel, and he's a gelding, he should be somewhere around fifteen years old," Miss Vaughan replied. "Papa said he was a handsome black with a right fore stocking, a left rear white pastern, and a big bald face."
"Was he branded too?" Penrod asked.
"Oh no, who would brand a horse?" Miss Vaughan asked.
"Some people," Penrod replied. "I've heard of it."
"I should hope they didn't hurt Samuel," Miss Vaughan said.
"I wouldn't think so," Penrod replied. "I worked at a ranch before I came up here, we don't harm a good horse. If a horse is bloodied and battered and needs to be put out of its misery, then we'll give it that grace, but if the horse is calm, in good working condition, and willing to work, we usually work to find its owners. Of course, these men would know full well who the owner is, so they would probably have absorbed his horse into their own herd of working horses."
"So if you find Samuel you may well find who killed Papa?" Miss Vaughan asked.
"Not necessarily," Penrod replied. "If their conscience got to them they might well have sold him off quickly to someone else."
"And they could well have sold or slaughtered the cattle too," Miss Vaughan said.
"Yes," Penrod replied. "And the worst part's that they have a six month head start."
"I'm sorry, I couldn't get into town on my own," Miss Vaughan said.
"That's completely understandable," Penrod said. "I, for one, am slightly more baffled as to why someone from town didn't think that they hadn't seen you or your father in a time and come out here to see what had happened. The fact that no one thought to check up on you really leaves me shaking my head."
Miss Vaughan nodded. "Yes, there was many a night I hoped desperately that someone would come to see if I was alright, or even just find me."
Penrod nodded. He couldn't imagine being trapped alone with no ability to get help for himself. And not even a way to know if there was danger about either."

Friday, March 04, 2016

Astounded: Day 4

Word Count: 24,010

Summary of Events:
Penrod brought Jemima flour, sugar, and the mail, which he read for her, along with giving her long-overdue Christmas presents which moved Jemima to tears. As Penrod left he thought about what he should do to help Jemima and came up with the idea of matchmaking — although he'd have to tread delicately so his own fiancée didn't think he was leaving her for another woman. Jemima found she was running low on cookies and so decided to bake some more; Penrod came and helped the cow deliver her calf and then came inside and talked to her.

Excerpt of the Day:
""They've got bumps all over them," Mr. Haskell said.
"Those are letters and words," Jemima replied. "It's an alphabet for the blind created by a French man named Louis Braille not too long ago. Hannah went out East to a school for the blind and was able to buy me the contraption to write with and learned how to use it and what the different letters are. Hannah still wants to send me for the school to the blind, but I didn't want to go so long as Papa needed care. I probably could go now."
"What would you learn at a place like that?" Mr. Haskell asked.
"I'm not really sure, probably just how to be independent," Jemima replied.
"You seem fairly independent as it is," Mr. Haskell said. "After all, you survived six months in the middle of the woods on your own."
"Probably the only thing I'd like to learn would be how to sew and embroider," Jemima said. "I do think I could sew if I tried, but I'm not confident it would be neat enough."
"What if you practised on scraps?" Mr. Haskell asked.
"I might have to," Jemima replied. "I'd just have to find some."
"What does all of this say?" Mr. Haskell asked.
"I've been copying out of the Bible," Jemima replied. "Hannah wanted me to have my own set of the scriptures to read on my own time. We're partway through Second Samuel right now, she's been reading them to me and I've been copying them out whenever she comes to visit."
"Your father didn't do it for you?" Mr. Haskell asked.
"Read?" Jemima asked.
"Yeah," Mr. Haskell replied.
"No," Jemima replied. "He was usually so tired, and I didn't want to make him read it sentence by sentence and have to keep repeating it over until I was done."
"Do you have a Bible here?" Mr. Haskell asked.
"Papa kept one on the table beside his chair," Jemima replied.
"Would you want, sometime, for me to read for you, to help you make faster progress?" Mr. Haskell asked.
"If you want to," Jemima replied.
"How about I do some after lunch?" Mr. Haskell asked.
"Are you sure I'm not taking away from your work by your spending so much time out here?" Jemima asked.
"There really isn't much of anything to do," Mr. Haskell replied. "And what little bit there is to do right now is easily done by the sheriff. I've been told Verdant doesn't actually need a deputy, it's just that Mr. Plumley isn't quite as competent as he ought to be."
"Oh," Jemima said.
"I'm half inclined to think that maybe I should work to take over as sheriff from him," Mr. Haskell said. "But I'll have to see what time holds."
"Will you be able to find out what happened to Papa then?" Jemima asked.
"The sheriff wouldn't have been able to help me," Mr. Haskell replied. "It was news to him that your father was missing.""

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Astounded: Day 3

Word Count: 18,007

Summary of Events:
Penrod joined several other local men on a hunting trip and inadvertently got separated from them pursuing what he thought was a moose; it turned out to be a draft horse who led him to a house in the woods. Jemima answered the door, suspicious at first, then startled to learn that her horse had gotten out, she asked Penrod to fix the fence; which he did, along with feeding and watering the horse and giving the cow extra bedding. Jemima then invited him in for dinner and told him about her Papa's disappearance. When Penrod got back to town he found his hunting party mates were rallying a posse to go find him, which he stopped by arriving.

Excerpt of the Day:
""And you're the deputy?" Miss Vaughan asked, looking like she was hoping against hope.
"I am miss," Penrod replied.
"Well then would you know something about what happened to my Papa?" Miss Vaughan asked.
Penrod swallowed his bite. "What happened?"
"Yes, I haven't heard from Papa in several months, I'm sure," Miss Vaughan replied.
"When about would you say you last heard from him?" Penrod asked.
"It was still warm out," Miss Vaughan replied. "About August sometime."
"You haven't heard from him in six months and you haven't come and told the sheriff?" Penrod asked.
"I can't hitch a horse, and Elijah's size doesn't help anything," Miss Vaughan replied.
Penrod nodded, that was true. "What did he go to do?"
"He went to check his small herd of cattle he keeps just over the mountains," Miss Vaughan replied.
"And he never came back?" Penrod asked.
"No," Miss Vaughan replied. "And I've left poor Elijah starving because I never thought that Papa wasn't around to feed him."
"How many cattle does he have?" Penrod asked.
"Only about twenty head," Miss Vaughan replied. "He'd like to get to around forty and then set up a butchering shop like he'd had back in Illinois."
"What was your father's name?" Penrod asked.
"Henry Thomas Vaughan, Senior," Miss Vaughan replied. "My brother's name is also Henry, but he lives in South Dakota."
"What else do you have for family?" Penrod asked.
"Only my sister Hannah," Miss Vaughan replied. "She lives over nearer to Sheridan."
"Are they both married?" Penrod asked.
"Yes," Miss Vaughan replied.
"And you're not?" Penrod asked.
"No," Miss Vaughan replied. "It's been just me and Papa since Hannah married six years ago."
"Had your father been having any troubles of late?" Penrod asked.
"Yes, there's a big rancher who lives toward Sheridan as well, and some of his hands had been coming and talking unkindly to Papa and telling him to get his cattle off of their land when it's not anybody's land," Miss Vaughan replied. "Well, technically it belongs to the state of Wyoming, but it isn't in the name of any individual man, it's free for all to make use of; and Papa has nowhere else to put cattle, there's too many trees around here, although he usually brings them back to the clearing here for the winter and calving."
"And they're not here now," Penrod said.
Miss Vaughan nodded, having just put the last bite of her meal into her mouth.
Penrod thought it sounded rather sinister, he didn't like it. "I'll see what I can find in town for records that might say where your father's gone."
"I wouldn't think he'd abandon me, he was always so worried about me, and I am assuredly convinced that he loved me," Miss Vaughan said.
Penrod nodded. He didn't think Mrs. Vaughan would've abandoned his daughter either, especially if it was that she truly was blind like Penrod was suspecting."

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Astounded: Day 2

Word Count: 12,014

Summary of Events:
Being as the weather had warmed, Penrod decided to go out and introduce himself to the residents of Verdant, and he started with the pastor, who invited him to stay for breakfast. Jemima milked the cow and worried about how the cow's calving would go, being as she wasn't sure she could help if things went wrong. Penrod went to the saloon and ended up visiting with eight local men while they played their daily game of poker. Jemima had her afternoon tea and then set to work cleaning the entire house being as she had nothing else to do.

Excerpt of the Day:
""When're you planning to get hitched?" Mr. Hallman asked, looking at Penrod.
"This summer sometime," Penrod replied. "Hopefully it won't be too hard for Mr. Plumley to hold the fort by himself a week or two."
"Al would have a problem," Mr. Spracklin said.
"Oh?" Penrod asked, surprised.
"This town wouldn't need a deputy if Al paid a little more attention," Mr. Spracklin replied.
"He said he has some thousand people to keep an eye on," Penrod said. "With the rural surroundings accounted for."
"A thousand!?" Mr. Solomon, Sr. exclaimed.
"He was inflating numbers," Penrod said flatly.
"I'll say!" Mr. Solomon exclaimed. "This town's got a good four hundred fifty, and there's probably no more than a hundred in the outlying areas."
"It was verging on some seven hundred souls," Mr. Jackson said. "About ten years ago, but then the scarlet fever came through and a lot of people died. The ones that didn't packed up and ran so they didn't fall ill."
"That was a bad year," Mr. Solomon said, shaking his head.
"There were so many dead eventually we just buried them and had the funeral later once everyone was better," Mr. Spracklin said. "That's the whole reason I have the ranch."
"How do you mean?" Penrod asked. "If you don't mind my asking."
"Killed my older brother," Mr. Spracklin replied.
"Oh, sorry to hear that," Penrod said.
"We've probably got the biggest cemetery west of Casper because of the fever," Mr. Verret said.
Penrod nodded soberly.
"But we're alright now," Mr. Verret said. "No more major epidemics in town since then."
Mr. MacPherson came over to survey the game. "Ye need some wettin' lads?" he asked.
Several men passed him empty glasses and he moved on again.
"But, back to what we were talking about with Mr. Plumley," Penrod said. "How would he not need a deputy if he paid more attention?"
"That?" Mr. Spracklin asked. "Well, Al and Ru spend too much time together for one thing."
"It's Rupert," Mr. Jeffcoat muttered through his teeth. "And we hardly run into each other."
"Well, you're both at the same place," Mr. Spracklin said.
Penrod nodded, he'd been suspicious of as much.
"At least I'm closer in age to the women I spend time with," Mr. Jeffcoat muttered.
Most of the men around the table shuddered violently and made faces.
"As true as that is, it doesn't make you any more honourable than he is," Mr. Jackson said. "After all, you're not marrying any of them either."
"Oh shove off," Mr. Jeffcoat growled as Mr. MacPherson came back with the refilled mugs."

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Astounded: Day 1

Word Count: 6,010

Summary of Events:
Penrod arrived at Verdant at long last — being as it was bitterly cold outside — and got settled in at Sheriff Plumley's place before being told a surprising amount of town gossip for the fact that he wasn't in the presence of a woman. Jemima ate a lonely supper and tried to do some reading, but thoughts and worries about her father led to her eventually turning in early so she'd stop thinking about them.

Excerpt of the Day:
"Mr. Plumley held his mug out under the spout of the kettle and used the fire poker to tip the kettle, pouring out coffee that looked nearly opaque to fill the mug. Penrod wasn't one who liked coffee much, and the darkness of the liquid concerned him, but he was sure it would be rude of him to refuse, so he reluctantly reached out his mug and had it filled.
Even if he would've wanted to put cream or sugar into it, he wouldn't have had the space, he observed as he brought the mug to himself. It was so full Penrod was concerned if he twitched his hand the wrong way he might end up with hot coffee staining his pants — which Susanna would've had a fit over if she would've been there.
Bringing the mug to his lips, Penrod blew softly on the coffee several times before sipping. It took all the power of his facial muscles to keep from spewing the small measure of liquid; he was sure hot water and dirt would've tasted better than it. He wasn't going to sleep for twenty years if he drank the whole mug.
Setting the mug down on the armrest, Penrod built up and swallowed repeated volleys of saliva in what he felt was, unfortunately, vain efforts to remove the terribly bitter taste from his mouth.
"The rural people are the worst," Mr. Plumley said, apparently oblivious to the face Penrod was sure he'd made at the coffee. "They get cabin fever cooped up all on their own so far off in the bush and do all sorts of crazy things. Makes no sense to me. I wish they'd just move into town here so they could get some regular socialisation."
Penrod nodded. He wondered what the rural residents of the area would possibly do that would be so bad, but he was pretty sure he'd find out once things thawed, so there wasn't really any sense in asking.
"The further afield they live, the worse they are too," Mr. Plumley continued. "The ones who live closer to town are usually more sensible and sober. Probably because they come into town for regular socialisation."
Penrod nodded again, cringing at the sight of Mr. Plumley taking a sizeable swig of the bitter brew he was trying to pass off as coffee.
"And of any town they could come to around these parts, I would say that Verdant is the best one," Mr. Plumley went on. "Despite our rather isolated appearances, we've got some of the nicest amenities around here. There's Widow Magnan's millinery, Jeffcoat's barbershop, Thorsteinson's lumberyard, Russ' tailor, Solomon's bank, MacPherson's saloon and hotel, Jackson's hotel, and Miss Sklarenko's place."
Penrod looked over at Mr. Plumley with suspicion. He had an idea what Miss Sklarenko's place would offer, and the thought made his skin crawl."