Title: Out of the Blue

Fan Fiction: Peacemakers™ USA Networks

Author's Name: Aimee L. DuPré

Comments new scenes; new story

Rating: PG-13

Status: work in progress – Prologue and Chapter One, Two and Three are complete.

Pairing: none

Spoilers: none

Archive: Yes, at http/aimee-dupre. Stone's actions in the civil war may come back to haunt him. This is a story about a serial killer on the loose in Silver City.

Warnings: This story contains some violence.

Disclaimers: The characters in this story (with the below-noted exceptions of original characters) are the sole property of Peacemakers™ USA Networks in association with Michael R. Joyce Production. This is a work of fan fiction that intends no infringement on any copyright or trademark.

New, original characters of Mrs. Robert Richmond, Mrs. Lougenia Sullivan, Cade Sullivan, Patrick Ramsey, Silas Andrews, Margaret Hesler, Mr. Edwards, and Mrs. Swayne are the sole property of Aimee L. DuPré, ©2004-2005.

Out of the Blue

By Aimee DuPré

Synopsis: Out of the Blue (actions in the Civil War come back to haunt Stone)

Prologue (Teaser)

The eastern sky lightened on a crisp, spicy autumn morn in the Colorado of the late 1880's.

Marshall Jared Stone drew in a deep breath of the cool air. It was still the wee hours of the morning, but he'd been awake now for some time. He gazed out at the still quietly sleeping city nestled amidst the pines. Silver City -- his city.

Some time later, in the mid-afternoon, Detective Larimer Finch took a buggy ride in the countryside. Still new to the area, he enjoyed exploring the landscape of his newfound home at every chance he got. He'd finished his work in the laboratory just after lunch and took advantage of his free time.

He soon came upon a small farm on the far outskirts of Silver City, where he met a woman trekking towards town on foot. He pulled up his horse on the road leading to her farm.

Pleasantries and introductions exchanged, and she introduced herself to him as Mrs. Robert Richmond, a widow woman living alone because she had no family left except her son.

"Can I get a ride into town with you?" she asked. "My boy's comin' home today. He'll be on the three o'clock train."

"It's nearly three now, Mrs. Richmond," Finch politely commented. "We cannot make it."

"We'll make it all right, 'cause the train's always late."

"Oh, very well," Finch said as he helped her into the buggy.

"How thankful I am to the Lord to see him once more safe at home!"

"Where's he been?"

"All over, he says in his letters," she answered. "Places I'll never see, never even dream of seein'. Vicksburg, Manassas, some place that starts with a 'g' in Pennsylvania. That's the last place he wrote me from. Why, I hardly slept at all last night, I was so excited about seein' him again. Today is the fifteenth, isn't it?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Today's the day. I'm so glad you showed up when you did, Mr. Finch. I didn't know how I'd get into town otherwise. These old legs won't hold me up for that long a journey."

She prattled on and on until Finch wondered if he bothered Marshal Stone that much when he prattled on and on. Surely not.

They got to town and watched the train pull in. The old woman peered into every man's face that disembarked, but her son wasn't there.

"Just don't know what could've happened to him," she told Finch.

Marshall Jared Stone came up on them.

"Mrs. Richmond," he gently called to her. "You're getting' all upset over nothin' again."

Aside, to Finch, he said, "This happens every month, on the fifteenth. She's a little early today, I guess 'cause you gave her a ride."

Louder, he said, "Mrs. Richmond, you know your boy's safe up on the hill."

She looked up at the marshal with a tear in her eye, but his expression was kindly towards her.

"Oh, Marshal Stone. Silly me! That's right," she said. "Maybe this nice young man will take me there to see him. I got things to tell him."

"Yes, ma'am. Mr. Finch, you don't mind givin' Mrs. Richmond a ride up to the cemetery, now do you? Bobby Junior is buried just inside the gate, on the right. Mrs. Richmond, you be sure and tell him I send my regards."

"I will, Marshal Stone. Come along, young man. Don't dawdle. Help me in this buggy."

Finch did so and turned to Stone.

"She's harmless enough," he told Finch in a low voice. "She forgets he died at Gettysburg some twenty-five years ago. Comes every month on the fifteenth. That was when his body came back on the train. She'll go visit his grave now and talk to him some. Then she'll go on home and forget about it until next month." Stone paused and looked pensive. "You know, Finch, the war cost more than anyone can put a dollar price on."

"Isn't there some family who can look after her?"

"Well, now, I reckon that's why the good Lord sent you, Mr. Finch," Stone said. "And me. To help look after the ones who need lookin' after."

Finch got a far away look in his eyes and quoted, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction."

Stone looked startled, and Finch explained. "James 1, verse 27. My parents were missionaries, you know."

"Yea. I forgot there for a while. You ever think of bein' a preacher, Finch?"

"It's not a calling a man gives himself, Marshal."

Stone nodded in agreement. "Wish some of those tent preachers I've heard tell of believed that."

Suddenly, Mrs. Richmond's voice cut through their conversation. "Young man! My boy's waitin' on the hill. You gonna talk the daylight away?"

"No, ma'am. I'm coming."

He gave Stone a wry smile and got in the buggy.

"Giddyup," he called out, slapping the reins on the rump of the horse, and the buggy jerked away from the train station.

Stone flinched. Poor fellow couldn't even properly drive a buggy.

Chapter One

The marshal sat on the bench at the way station. He pretended to read the newspaper he held in front of his face, but anyone who really knew the man would know he couldn't see to read without his glasses. He was actually studying the passengers as they got off the train. His blue eyes, still sharp at a distance, darted from person to person as he observed everything going on around him.

Even as he watched, he could not get Mrs. Richmond off his mind. Robert Richmond, Jr. had died near the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg in July of 1863. Marshal Jared Stone hated to recall just how many years ago that had been.

In the wake of the Civil War, land had been set aside in every city, county, and state for soldiers' burials. Widows of these soldiers formed a ladies group and in 1862 began placing flowers on the graves. In 1868, each May 30 was designated as "Decoration Day" to decorate the soldiers' graves. The first public service was held in the Silver City cemetery on May 30, 1869. The ladies dressed all in white to honor heroes from all wars and those who served in peacetime. Then there was a Memorial Day Parade.

Stone had not been in Silver city for the first parade, but he was present ten years ago when the Ladies Aid Society placed the Civil War cannon in the cemetery. He could not help but smile at the memory of the theft and ransom of that cannon, and the fact that it no longer existed in its original condition, but just then the train whistle blew, warning travelers that their transportation was about to pull out of the station.

If Finch had been there, he would probably have told him how the railroad companies had gotten together back in 1883 and established standard railroad time to increase safety and surmount complex scheduling on local times. As if he didn't already know that. As if it really mattered.

Silver mining camps sprang up quickly and died out just as fast, but Silver City was growing in leaps and bounds, well on her way to fulfilling her title of "city". There were still miners working the silver mines, but now there were white women and children, in addition to the Chinese and Indians. The Chinese laundry prospered, as did the general stores and saloons.

Federal marshals were assigned to certain districts. Jared Stone was such a U.S. Marshal, an officer of the law who duties were similar to those of a sheriff in carrying out the judgments of a court of law. He was the peace officer in Silver City who had the power to arrest, to serve civil processes and subpoenas, and to act as bailiff in the courtroom.

With the coming of the women and children, several denominations of churches sprang up – Catholic, Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, Presbyterian. There was a daily newspaper, too, although God only knew what would become of it now that "Scoop" was gone. She'd been quite a woman, that Twyla Curry. Quite an editor, too.

He snapped out of his reverie as the mayor pulled up to the train station in his brand new automobile.

"Marshal!" Mayor Malcolm Smith called out.

Jared cautiously walked towards him, stopping before he got next to the loud contraption.

"Mayor," he said and touched the brim of his hat. "You buy this, this -- thing?"

"Well, now, not exactly. It's on . . ., well you might say, 'on consignment.' I'm testing the waters for marketing these fine automobeels. Why, this new invention will sell itself."

"Yea. I've heard that before."

"Marshal, you ever think of getting one of those new automobeels?"

"No."

"I can set up an easy payment plan for you. We might even work it into the Silver City budget. Maybe even get it some flashing lights so people would know it's an official vehicle. You could really run down the criminals."

"Till it run out of fuel. My horse is a lot faster and more dependable."

The mayor climbed out of his vehicle, leaving it running. Realizing he could not interest Stone, he dismissed him with a quick jerk of his head, as he walked over to meet a finely dressed gentleman and the lady dressed in a black mourning suit who accompanied him.

Marshal Jared Stone evoked a certain weary grace, as if keeping the peace in a small mining town was an honorable way for an old cavalry officer to end his life. His fifty-odd years sat lightly on him and he could have passed for a man younger by 10 years. He had earned the respect of many men who would willingly follow him wherever he would lead them.

And, apparently, he was leading them into a fast-paced, growing future.

Take, for example, those two that the mayor was meeting, he thought to himself. Probably a new businessman and his wife coming into town. New businesses were springing up every day. Just in the past month, there was a new saloon near Chinatown, a new restaurant down the street from the Velvet Cushion, and even a new dress shop right on the main street, for all the latest Denver fashions. The new dressmaker traveled extensively and employed a seamstress to make her designs a reality. The shop had a new Singer sewing machine, not the old-fashioned Howe machine the other seamstress had. He'd read that in her advertisement in the Sentinel.

The mayor escorted the two people to his vehicle, and when the man turned towards him, Stone recognized him as Charles Curry, owner of the Silver City Sentinel. He assumed the lady was his wife, though she looked too young to have been Twyla's mother. Since the Marshal was still standing beside the automobile, the mayor was forced to make loud introductions in order to be heard over the running motor.

"Marshal, you know Charles."

"Yes, indeed." He took off his hat and held out his hand as the older man shook it in warm friendship. He hadn't seen Charles Curry since his daughter Twyla had been killed. He'd come to Silver City to bury her and settle the business of the newspaper.

"And this," the mayor said haughtily, as if proud to know someone Stone didn't, "is Mrs. Sullivan, Mrs. Lougenia Sullivan, from Wyoming." He leaned closer to Stone and told him, "Mrs. Sullivan is our new editor."

"Pleased to meet you, sir," she said as she held out her hand. Her voice was so soft that he could hardly hear her, but he took her proffered hand, touching only the tips of her gloved fingers with his fingers as he nodded his head politely. He smiled at her and at the thought that Finch would probably kiss her hand upon meeting her.

Stone noted that she had the same color hair as Twyla had – that rich mahogany red -- and she had vivid green eyes behind her wire-framed glasses. As Stone stared at her, she met his gaze unabashed. Finally she dropped her eyes shyly. He noticed her blush, not understanding its significance. Then he realized that he was still holding her hand. He dropped it as if it were a hot branding iron, embarrassed and suddenly feeling as bashful as a youngster at his first barn dance. He had to force himself not to squirm.

He was extraordinarily good-looking, this U.S. Marshal. Lou had not been prepared for just how handsome he was. Those too, too blue eyes that held the glint of his smile; the sun-tanned, weathered face, lined with wisdom; the full, ruby red lips – what would they feel like? She froze in shock for the first few minutes she was near him, just staring at him like a village idiot. Then, when he kept holding onto her hand, when it appeared he was not going to let her out of his grasp, when she could swear that she could feel her blood pulsing in her fingertips -- she felt shy all of a sudden, so she dropped her gaze first. She got the distinct impression that the marshal seemed genuinely baffled that he might be considered handsome.

"Charles, you didn't tell me you had another beautiful daughter to take over your business," Stone said, already knowing that Twyla had been his only girl. Stone wasn't quite sure why he'd even said such a thing, particularly since it made the new editor blush again.

Stone had really respected "Scoop," as he called her, and she had not minded his nickname for her. She was a smart woman with guts enough to try to use the system already in place to make it in a world where women were considered second-class citizens, men's property. A woman had little or no say without a man, and he had respected Scoop for the way she had gotten around that, without offending most people.

"Jared," Charles said. "You know all I have left are boys. Mrs. Sullivan is the widow of a reporter who worked for me in Wyoming," Curry explained.

"A recent widow," she softly added, as if that information was very important for Stone to know. Perhaps it was. A bereaved widow should mourn at least two years before taking up with another beau. And he wasn't quite sure why he suddenly thought of that, either.

"Jared," the mayor began. "Charles was just telling me how newspaper publishing has become a major business in the United States. Most people do not realize that it will not be very long before the population of the United States, just since 1870, will double. The population in cities will triple, and the number of daily newspapers will quadruple."

As he spoke, he helped the quiet Mrs. Sullivan into his 'automobeel.'
"Yes," Curry took up the story. "The editorial staff at the big-city daily newspapers is growing and becoming more and more specialized, with an emphasis on reporting. More women work at newspapers, as correspondents, writer, and editors."

"Why, I'll bet," the mayor said excitedly, "that these new telephones and typewriters have sure changed the way work is done in the newsroom."

"Without a doubt," Curry agreed. "And photographers are becoming quite popular since photographs are beginning to appear in our daily newspapers."

Stone had a look of disgust on his face.

"Something wrong, Jared?" the mayor asked as he jumped into the driver's seat.

"Nah," he answered. No need to go into how the west was changing, was being forced to change. He backed off quickly as the mayor put the vehicle in gear and left the marshal in a cloud of ill-smelling exhaust fumes.

Mr. Curry assisted Mrs. Sullivan as she took her bags out of the mayor's automobile and placed them on the wooden sidewalk just in front of the words "Silver City Sentinel" written ornately on a large glass window. Mr. Curry waved at the mayor as he pulled off, then handed the lady the skeleton key that fit the lock to the door of the newspaper office.

"It's all yours, Madam Editor."

"I don't think I can do this, Charles," she said. "Oh, I know God is with me, but I don't think I'm up to my part of the bargain."

"Lou, any challenge that we ever take on could bring us to our knees, and Lord knows it should. You know prayer works wonders. Besides, I have faith in you. I know you can do it. Just keep focused on your goal – being the best newspaper editor you can possibly be – and you'll be fine. Take one day at a time, Lou. Tackle the problems as they come up, and always remember, you are a survivor. You're still breathing; your heart is still beating; the blood still stirs in your veins. As long as it does, you are victorious. See your problems as challenges to keep you out of the rut others remain in."

"May I quote you on that, sir?"

He laughed. "Keep fighting to the end. Isn't that what Cade said?"

She nodded, remembering the last news article that Cade Sullivan had written and those very words he had ended it with. She was silent because she was afraid to show how choked up she had become at the mere mention of his name.

"You'll be staying in the back room until you decide what you want to do – if you want to stay on permanently or not. Can I help you with your bags?"

"No, I'll be able to get them just fine. You go on, now. You've got a train to catch."

"And you've got your first assignment: a special report on the success of the new 'forensics team' in Silver City. Don't you worry, now. We'll keep in touch by the usual means of communication: telephone, telegraph . . ."

". . . tell a woman," she quipped and laughed.

Charles laughed with her as he took his leave.

"Good luck, Lou, and God bless."

New Editor Announced

Mr. Charles Curry has appointed Lougenia Bennett Sullivan as the new editor of the Silver City Sentinel. Mrs. Sullivan hails from Kaycee, Wyoming, where her recently deceased husband was editor and reporter for that city's weekly newspaper. Mrs. Sullivan has many years experience as assistant editor and is an accomplished journalist in her own right.

Editorial

For as many years as Silver City has been in existence, the vaunted Silver City Sentinel has presented straight, honest, undiluted news and hard, cold facts.

The founders' original noble vision of objective, impartial, and unbiased journalism shall continue, with editorials clearly indicated as being the viewpoint of the editor.

It is not the mission of the Sentinel to manipulate attitudes or to promote political agendas. The duty of the Sentinel is to present the facts in leads, headlines, and placement as balanced, fair, and impartial.

Stories shall not be slanted, and loaded language shall never be used to convey particular views instead of genuine news. The Sentinel newsroom is staffed with honest reporters and editors, not hacks who manipulate information to further an agenda of political favoritism. Such fraudulence has directly corrupted hundreds of newspapers across the United States. These false presentations of facts are affecting our country, and the Silver City Sentinel hereby makes a stand to make a difference.

However, freedom of the press is one of the fundamental foundations of American liberty.

One of the first issues to be tackled shall be to rediscover what a woman's role is in society, what opportunities exist for them. We shall be asking women what they hope to accomplish.

A secondary question, which will be answered, is this: How can women use new technology?

Of course, there are the obvious answers. Technology will allow them to live longer and better lives. It will change our natural environment. We must find the delicate balance in order to survive. Will it be a benefit or a bane?

Human ingenuity knows no boundaries, much like imagination. New inventions create a new demand for materials previously ignored. If one could tap into that need, one could make a small fortune in a very short length of time.

Examples are the iron ore in demand for railroad tracks, oil, now demanded for all kinds of energy use as we move from coal to petroleum, and copper for wiring for telegraphs, telephones, and electricity. Silver is being used in dental fillings and in photography.

Proper analysis of new inventions, along with monetary backing and investment in the needed materials, may bring a prosperity that our foremothers only dreamed about.

Machines can do more than men and women, leaving them free to utilize their imaginations and ingenuity. We come full circle as technology increases our productivity.

When the new editor arrived in Silver City, she did not have a chance to meet all the townspeople. Nevertheless, they all got a certain opinion of her by reading her editorial and by talking to the mayor.

"She's a fancy skirt!" Mayor Smith told anyone who would listen. Right now, that person was Larimer Finch, as the two men stood outside the alleyway leading to the storage room Finch rented from Luci Prescott.

"You can tell she's not from around here," the mayor continued. "And I'm not very happy that Mr. Curry has sent us another female editor. It's just no job for a woman."

"Except her first editorial on technology made some very good points," Finch replied. "Didn't Charles Curry say she had shown herself to be an accurate reporter?"

The mayor looked beyond Finch without answering, and as Finch turned around, he nearly bumped into the new editor.

"Pardon me, Mrs. Sullivan," Finch said, tipping his hat and bowing from the waist.

The mayor cleared his throat and made the proper introductions. "Mrs. Sullivan, permit me to introduce Larimer Finch."

"Mr. Finch," she replied as she hesitantly held out her hand. Finch took her gloved hand in his fingers, gently raised it to his mouth, and kissed it. "A pleasure, indeed, to make your acquaintance, Madame," he politely said.

Mayor Smith looked uncomfortable and suddenly excused himself.

She smiled at that, knowing the mayor was unfamiliar with continental manners.

"I am acquainted with some of your work, Mr. Finch."

"Oh?"

"You were a detective with Pinkerton. Now you work with the U.S. Marshal as part of a new forensics team. Mr. Curry told me about some of the cases you have been working on. You appear to be an extremely interesting gentleman."

"Well, these are interesting times," Finch said. "That's from an old Chinese proverb, you know."

"The one that sounds like it might be a curse," she commented with a big smile. "May you live in interesting times," she quoted.

Her face was a little on the plain side, but she had a cheerful personality and Finch noted how her whole expression brightened when she smiled or laughed.

"Personally," she continued, "I rather like the Arabian proverb, 'trust Allah, but don't forget to tie up your camel.'"

"Yet," Finch bantered, "why waste time worrying about things that don't even exist?"

"How true, sir." She looked behind him, down the alleyway beside the Velvet Cushion saloon. "Is this where your laboratory is located?" she asked.

"Yes, ma'am. Would you care to take a look?"

She fidgeted at her long black skirt. "If only I had more time, Mr. Finch. I am on my way to meet Marshal, ah, . . ."

"Jared Stone," Finch finished for her.

She smiled sweetly. "What do you know about him?"

"To be quite honest, not all that much," Finch replied.

"Is he married?"

"No, ma'am."

"Engaged?"

"Only in crime solving. I don't always agree with him, but I have a great respect for him, for who he is and his character, and for what he does. He's got solid ethics."

"He is a war veteran?" Mrs. Sullivan asked, knowing that most men his age had served in the war, either blue or gray.

"He's a decorated Civil War hero."

"He seems a little worn around the edges."

"Oh, he's cranky and irritable now and then, but he has a wry sense of humor, and he's actually very witty. He's tougher and wiser than he appears, and he can handle himself in a fight."

"I met him briefly at the train station," Mrs. Sullivan told him. "What's a handsome man like that doing without a wife?"

"Very well, so it appears, madam," Finch replied. "He's a loner."

"I think," she said in a quiet voice that Finch had to strain to hear, "that very fact is what some woman must find so attractive about him."

"I had not really paid attention, Mrs. Sullivan."

"You know. The 'I don't need a woman clingin' on me' attitude he projects. Yet he has a certain boyish shyness around women, an easy embarrassment over innuendos and matters of the heart."

"You picked up on all that just from a brief meeting at the train station?"

"Well, Mr. Curry might have told me a little about him."

Finch gave a knowing nod. "Women always want what they can't have," he commented.

"Exactly."

"And the challenge," he added.

She raised her eyebrows.

"The challenge," he explained, "of conquest."

"I thought the 'challenge of conquest' was what men enjoyed," she said.

"Oh, you ladies have your ways. You, too, want the challenge of the hunt, the conquest of the untamable beast, the wild stallion no one can break except you, the muzzled dog who responds only to your voice, the ring through the bull's nose."

"You make him sound like an animal, Mr. Finch. It's almost frightening."

"And exciting. Admit it. Jared Stone is a challenge. He is wild and he is a loner, and that threatens your sense of security. You want to subdue him, subjugate him to your will."

"I never thought about it like that, Mr. Finch. I was thinking I'd prefer him to subdue me! But I will certainly give it some thought, and I'll be sure to let you know." She abruptly turned to leave, and sFinch stared after her as she walked towards the restaurant.

Swayne's Restaurant was the place for meeting the townspeople of Silver City.

The new editor caught up with Mayor Smith waiting for a table, and she spoke as she got in line behind him.

"Mrs. Sullivan!" he said, loud and friendly. "I do hope you will join me for lunch."

"I am afraid I shall not be able to, Mayor. I have another appointment, but I do want to schedule your interview."

The mayor beamed from ear to ear. "Any time most convenient for you, of course. Ah, will my interview be on the front page?"

"Well, sir, that depends upon many factors. Let's get together soon. You may come to the newspaper office this afternoon, if your schedule permits."

"I do believe it will," he said.

"Mayor, what do you know about the Marshal?"

"Not a whole lot. He's been the U.S. Marshal stationed in this territory for the past ten years. Trouble's made him what he is today. He used to be quite the brawler, so I hear." Smith leaned nearer to Mrs. Sullivan and spoke in a low voice. "He almost killed a man once. He was tried and served time in a state penitentiary. I think he was in for three years. I guess that's when he lost his woman. Sorry, but I don't know any of the details, just bits and pieces. I don't know if she ran off or if she died."

"I can't imagine a woman running off from Jared Stone," Mrs. Sullivan softly commented.

"Nobody runs away from Stone if he wants to find them, that's for sure."

"Mr. Smith," she continued with a smile. "I have often wondered why any man in his right mind would want to be a mayor."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Well, the mayor gets blamed for everything that goes wrong in town. He's unfairly criticized at every opportunity, often the victim of untrue rumors, and his private life is unfairly scrutinized."

"My, my, Mrs. Sullivan. What an astute observation."

"Well, besides power, prestige and the chance to acquire a vast fortune with very little physical labor, why would anyone want to be mayor?"

The mayor raised his eyebrows in surprise, and Mrs. Sullivan hurriedly admitted, "I am only jesting, Mayor."

"I knew that," he replied.

"The Silver City Sentinel will cover all seven deadly sins, I assure you. Greed in the business section, sloth in the unemployment section, gluttony in restaurant reviews, and lust in the news of barroom brawls. Envy will be found in the gossip column and pride in the birth announcements. And I am sure the letters to the editor shall be full of wrath."

She smiled sweetly at him, but behind him, through the window, she noticed Stone walking towards his office. She cut the mayor off before he could say a word, as politely as she could.

The mayor looked after the new editor as she walked away without waiting for a table.

"A fool woman writer," he said under his breath, to no one in particular.

Chipper was sweeping up the jail cells when his broom swept debris directly onto the shoes of a lady. He looked up, startled that she had come up on him so quietly.

"Ma'am, I apologize. I sure didn't mean to get dirt on you."

Lougenia Sullivan smiled sweetly at the youth. "That's quite all right," she said. "I stepped right in your way."

"Ma'am, the marshal's upstairs right now, but I can go get him."

"That's all right," she said, smiling at him once again. She started toward the stairs. "I'll just go up . . ."

"No, ma'am! You can't do that," Chipper quickly told her, nearly in a panic. "I mean, that's the marshal's private quarters. He don't like anyone to go up there, 'specially not a lady."

"Well, I can understand that," she replied. "You are Chipper Jones aren't you?"

"Yes, ma'am. And you're that lady editor."

She grinned, one side of her mouth turning up more than the other.

"What do you know about Larimer Finch, Chipper?"

She caught him off guard. He'd been sure she was going to ask about Jared Stone.

"All I know is," Chipper answered, "that he's got a room he rents off of Miss Luci, and some god-awful smells come outta there."

She nodded, and when Chipper failed to continue, she searched for something to say. "This town seems to roll up the sidewalks in the early evening."

"Except for Miss Luci's. That place just starts rolling at midnight."

"How do you know?"

"Well . . .," he drawled tentatively. "I've heard."

"Those pretty ladies over at the Velvet Cushion can be very distracting."

Chipper smiled broadly. "Don't I know it!" he agreed. He was just beginning to warm up and get talky when they heard footsteps coming down the stairs announcing the marshal's return to the jailhouse.

He stopped when he saw the editor.

"Mrs. Sullivan, I see you've already met Chipper."

"Yes, Mr. Stone. We were just finishing a nice conversation."

Chipper was skilled enough in social intercourse to realize that he had just been summarily dismissed, but Stone motioned for him to stay.

"Finish up your sweepin', son," he told him. Then he motioned to one of the chairs on the other side of his desk. "You're welcome to sit a while, ma'am, but I do have some paperwork to complete for Mr. Finch and Miss Owens."

Mrs. Sullivan took the proffered chair. She dug around in her reticule until she found a stubby pencil and a small leather-clad notebook. "I have already had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Finch, and Charles, I mean, Mr. Curry, told me Katie Owens runs her late father's mortuary."

"Funeral parlor," Stone corrected.

"I beg your pardon?" she asked.

"Around here, we prefer call it a funeral parlor. Mortuary sounds so . . . well . . ."

"Deathly?" she ventured, and he nodded. "So you three work together as peacekeepers?"

"Peacemakers, ma'am. There's a subtle difference."

"And, Mr. Stone, what exactly is the subtle difference between a peacekeeper and a peacemaker?"

"Laws don't carry themselves out, Mrs. Sullivan. There has to be enforcement. A peacekeeper maintains what's already there. A peacemaker develops what's needed on the spur of the moment."

"Now that is fascinating, Mr. Stone," she said, truly impressed. "What are some of the steps that you take to make the peace?"

"Well, Mrs. Sullivan, right now, we're building evidence for some of our cases."

"Building evidence?" she inquired.

Finch spoke from the open doorway, as he slipped sideways around Chipper's sweepings. "I don't want my honesty or trustworthiness called into question. Controversial conclusions need strong proof." He stood beside the other chair in front of Stone's desk, waiting to be invited to sit. Stone just looked at him, so Finch took off his hat and held it in his hands. He continued, "Mrs. Sullivan, the more surprising, arguable or obscure the claim, the better the evidence must be built. Evidence must be reliable and relevant to the issue at hand."

Mrs. Sullivan looked up at him. "Not everyone might agree with such a self-evident statement."

Finch looked at Stone and asked, "May I please be seated?"

"I rather you wouldn't," Stone said under his breath, but aloud, he said, "I guess."

Finch seated himself and then continued, leaning toward Mrs. Sullivan. "I beg to differ, my dear Madame. The boldest assertion can be dead wrong."

Mrs. Sullivan looked Finch straight in the eye, and Stone got the feeling neither one of them remembered he was there. "These calculations you come up with, Mr. Finch, are highly sensitive to variations in value. Why are your results any more trustworthy than, say, the local sheriff's over in Yellow Dog?"

Stone's eyebrows shot up. "I know him."

They both looked at him, and Finch asked, "Whatever are you talking about, Marshal?"

"Sheriff Moore in Yellow Dog. He's a fine lawman."

"Oh," Mrs. Sullivan laughed. "I was just using that as an example. I didn't know there really was a sheriff in Yellow Dog. I just saw the name of that town on the map at the train depot and it caught my attention."

Finch cleared his throat. "If I may continue, you must weigh the probability that the claim is true. The evidence should directly affect that probability. All our work is for nothing if no one believes it. We can't use weak evidence against a suspect. The judge would not trust us, and it would harm our reputation as peacekeepers."

"Peacemakers," Mrs. Sullivan corrected, and Stone nodded his agreement.

"Marshal," Finch asked, "just what is the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking?"

Mrs. Sullivan smiled, and Stone laughed. "Funny you should ask, Finch." Stone stared directly at him. "Well, I reckon it's the difference between sittin' around and actually goin' out and doin' something. You see, I can sit here in my nice comfortable office and keep peace, or I can go out into the streets, actually confront people, and I can make peace. Words are fine and dandy, but sometimes you gotta put feet on your prayers."

Mrs. Sullivan asked, "And just what cases are you presently working on?"

Stone's no-nonsense blue eyes narrowed in a way that made it clear he wasn't about to trust a stranger, no matter how charming.

"That's privileged information, Mrs. Sullivan," he answered and then looked over at Finch. "And don't you go tellin' her anything, Finch." The marshal stood up. "I apologize for cuttin' this conversation short, but I've really got a lot of paperwork to do." He pointed to a large pile of wanted posters and other papers on his desk.

Mrs. Sullivan rose, notebook and pencil still in her hand, and Finch stood up.

"Yes," Finch said. "I really must take my leave as well. Good day, Mrs. Sullivan," he said as he put his hat back on.

"Good day, sir," she replied as he hurried toward the door, and Lou started to follow him out..

"Finch!" Stone yelled gruffly at him.

"Yes?" he answered as he turned around, bringing Lou to an abrupt halt.

"Good day," the marshal sweetly said with a mischievous grin.

Finch smiled. "Good day, Marshal."

"Oh, Mr. Finch," Mrs. Sullivan said, still in the doorway. "How about stopping by my office for an interview?"

"I don't give interviews," Finch replied. "Your reporter, Parker, knows that full well."

"Finch," Stone interjected, "is just afraid you'll ask him a question he can't answer. He hates that," he said with a sly grin.

"Technically," she said, "the biggest fool can ask more than the wisest man can answer. What time," Mrs. Sullivan then asked Stone, "would be most convenient for you to come for the interview?"

"What interview? Finch just said he's not giving you one."

"Your interview, Mr. Stone. For the Silver City Sentinel."

"About what?"

"About you. People love a human-interest story. I believe your story would be extremely interesting."

"I don't have a story."

"Sure you do. Everyone has a story. My Uncle Artie said everybody has at least one good novel inside of them, even if it's simply the story of their life. So when?"

He grumbled and mumbled, "When hell freezes over might be about right."

She jotted notes quickly in scribbles, and Stone watched her with a fearful expression on his face.

"You're not writin' that down, are you?" he questioned in sudden horror that his words might make the front page of the next day's newspaper.

"No, of course not," she replied, turning the notebook towards him so he could see her unintelligible scribbles. It was far enough away that he could see it without his glasses, but it looked like gibberish.

"How can you read that?"

"It's a 'short' hand. Just between you and me, sometimes I can't read it." She winked at him.

"God, I wish you wouldn't do that."

"What? Take notes?"

"No. Wink. Ladies don't wink. 'Specially not at men. It's . . ." he paused, searching for the right word.

"Disconcerting?" she tried.

"Awkward," he finished. "I also wish you wouldn't finish my sentences. It's almost like I don't talk fast enough for you."

"Sorry. Being a Yankee and all, I am used to a faster pace of speech."

"I'm a Yankee, too," he said without a smile.

"But you have the trace of a southern accent. One of the Carolinas?"

"South. I stayed there a while after the war."

He made a point of looking at her notes again.

"Don't print any of that. This is not an interview."

"Of course not, Marshal Stone. Is that 'Jared' with an 'e' or an 'o'?" she asked.

"An 'a'," he quipped.

As Mrs. Sullivan was leaving, she nearly bumped into a very tall, particularly darkly handsome middle-aged man coming into the marshal's office. Stone introduced her to him.

"Mrs. Sullivan, this is Doc Ramsey," Stone said.

"Patrick Ramsey," the man elaborated in a deep voice as he tipped his hat to her. "Not a physician of the qualifications of Doc Gates, however. I am a surgeon, a noticeably less-exalted profession than general practitioner. I received my training during the war years. I am mostly retired, nowadays."

Stone was afraid the doctor was going to tell her his entire life story as they stood in the doorway, but Ramsey was a good man. He and Stone had occasionally shared war stories over a drink in the evenings. Doc had seen more men die under his hands during the war than he'd thought possible. Sometimes it showed on his face, especially in his deep brown eyes, when he became silent in his own dark thoughts. The civil war had been more costly than at first believed, not only in lives lost but in lives changed.

Stone continued, "Mrs. Sullivan is the new editor of the Sentinel, but she was just leaving, I'm sorry to say."

"My regrets, ma'am, that I did not have more time to make your acquaintance. I am sure we shall see more of each other at a later date."

Stone rolled his eyes. Doc Ramsey usually didn't talk in such a high-falootin' manner.

Ramsey watched the lady leave, giving her a lingering look, and then he eased his tall frame down into a chair without being invited. He was a large man, big boned but not obese. He towered over most men but especially the marshal, who was built solid and stocky.

"Pretty lady," he said under his breath, then he realized Stone was staring at him.

"Heard you wanted to see me about something, Jared," he stated.

"My leg's killin' me, Doc. You got some of that stinkin' liniment I can rub on my knee?"

"Here. Try this," the doctor said. He handed him a small, dark blue glass jar with a white lid. "You ever heard of a lichen that grows on old bones, skulls and the like? It's known as a cure for the fulling sickness and a healing salve for wounds."

"That's not what this is, is it?" Stone fearfully asked.

"Oh, no. That particular concoction is rare and quite expensive. I usually don't recommend herbal remedies, but this oil of emu is good for muscle aches."

"Emu oil?" Marshal Stone repeated, and the doctor nodded. "Where's it from?"

"Australia. The emu is a type of large bird."

"I mean, where's it from on the emu?" the marshal asked with a wry grin.

The doctor laughed. "I never asked. We probably don't want to know."

Stone joined him in laughter, but Ramsey stopped first. Stone noticed the sullen look in Ramsey's eyes.

"Antietam," Doc said.

Stone nodded, knowing he referred to the battle in Sharpsburg, Maryland, where Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan confronted Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.

"September 16 through the 18th, 1862. The anniversary is coming up soon," Ramsey explained. "General Lee was outnumbered two to one, but he committed his entire force. McClellan sent in less than three-quarters of his army."

"And the Confederates fought the Federals to a standstill," Stone remembered. "It was a strategic victory for the Union."

Ramsey gave a wry grin. "And September 17th was the single bloodiest day in military history." He suddenly seemed to snap out of his reverie. "I keep an eye on the calendar ever since the War. Historic dates, you know, dates of important battles or skirmishes, generate strong emotions for some people. Sometimes it's related to crime."

"I didn't know that," Stone said with a smile, "but I'll bet Finch does."

"By the way, Marshal, do you find the full moon affects criminal activity?"

"Nah. That's an old wives' tale. But Doc Gates can attest to the fact that it affect babies bein' born."

The physician laughed. "That, my friend, is just an old husbands' tale."

As Lou left the marshal's office, she met Luci, the proprietor of the Velvet Cushion, at the corner leading to the newspaper office. Although most of the other ladies avoided contact with Miss Prescott, Lou could not bring herself to act that way. She knew that pain and self-destruction came with promiscuity. She was certain Luci had heard enough about how shameful passions and unclean lusts dishonor the body, both from righteous church-goers and the snobbish ladies society. The very gentlement desiring their evening companionship shunned them in the daylight hours.

Lou smiled and stopped beside her, holding out her hand in greeting. "Oh, good day! I am Mrs. Lougenia Sullivan, Editor of the Sentinel, but you can just call me Lou, Miss . . .," Lou paused to allow her to introduce herself.

"Prescott. But you call me Luci, please," she said, and she took the proffered hand hesitantly. "You probably don't want a lot of folk noticin' us talkin'." Luci looked around to see how many people were around.

"I do not care about things like that," Lou said.

Luci's voice dropped. "You any kin to the C. Louis Sullivan who writes those dime western novels?"

"As a matter of fact, I am one and the same, but don't tell anyone. People wouldn't read them if they knew a woman wrote them."

"Don't make 'em any worse in my mind," Luci said.

"Would you care to come to my office and have a cup of tea? I was just going to fix some for myself and it's lonely drinking alone. I guess that's a redundancy."

"I'm not sure what a redundancy is," Luci commented. "But I do know about drinkin' alone bein' lonely." She smiled at her little joke. "I reckon I can't stay long enough for a cup of tea, though," she said as she followed Lou to her office.

Once inside, Luci took a seat at the small table in the back room where Lou was staying.

"Why didn't you get a room at the hotel?" she asked Lou.

"Well," Lou smiled. "I am not at all sure I'll be staying here in Silver City. I did not wish to infringe on my friendship with Mr. Curry by incurring unnecessary expenses. The city appears a little rough around the edges."

"It's no Denver, that's for sure. Silver City started out as a godforsaken mining camp. Since then it's become at least some respectable, in some neighborhoods."

"It looks like this is a town where people come to start over, make a clean break with the past, make a fresh start."

"Appears to be. People's still prejudiced about women like me, but I've been treated worse."

"I see," Lou said. "Though somewhat prejudiced concerning gender, race, or age, people feel free to live an unpopular lifestyle should they decide to."

"Guess you could say that. Lou, do you think you'll find what you need here in Silver City?"

"I trust God to supply my needs. I've learned that most of the time, I don't need half as much as what I thought I did."

"I saw you leavin' Jared's office with a big smile on your face."

"Marshal Stone," Lou repeated, a little surprised at the familiarity at which Luci addressed the man.

Luci laughed. "You almost look jealous at me callin' him by his given name," she commented. "You're the one who was smilin' like a possum eatin', well, you know what."

One corner of Lou's mouth turned up in a smile. "He's one of the most handsome men I've ever seen. Of course, I haven't seen all of them."

Luci laughed again, harder this time. "I'll have to remember that one," she said.

"Why isn't he married?" Lou asked, trying to sound casual and nonchalant about the whole subject but knowing she failed miserably.

"The marshal? Honey, he's a serious catch. Ladies been tryin' for the last ten years he's been in Silver City to snap him up, me included. Why, that kind of man should have no trouble findin' a wife."

"Maybe he doesn't want one," Lou commented, and then asked, "Is he playing hard to get or is he broken hearted?"

"You know, I ain't sure. What do you think?"

"He looks broken hearted to me, sad all the time, hardly ever smiles. I could make up a story about it, but I bet his real story is better than any I could invent."

"You got a real talent for storytellin'. Remember, I've read most of your dime novels. Maybe you and the marshal can work out a love story." She broadly winked. "I'd read it."

"I doubt that, but I would like to interview him." She noted the other's knowing wink and wondered if Marshal Stone minded it when Luci winked at him. "For my newspaper," Lou explained.

Several days later, Lou watched from just outside her newspaper office as Marshal Stone met a young lady across the street.

"Welcome home, Katie," the marshal called to the beautiful blue-eyed blonde.

Katie gave Stone a huge smile and rushed into his arms for a quick embrace and a peck on his cheek. Lou felt such a terrible stab of jealousy that it surprised her.

She'd never seen the marshal so happy, not even when she'd peeked in through the saloon window and seen him flirting with Luci. And that jealousy had been miniscule in comparison. This was definitely a lady he was holding in his arms, and she was definitely enjoying his embrace. Lord, she was pretty. And young. And shapely. And small – a petite girl a head shorter than him.

Lou's thoughts ran rampant. Of course, any man would be attracted to such a beauty, such youthful enthusiasm.

She walked into her office, sat down, took a big deep breath and tried to compose herself. As she looked out her window, the marshal and Katie were walking on the other side of the street, arm in arm, conversing rapidly with bright smiles on their faces.

And she remembered wanting that kind of happiness with Cade Sullivan. That's when she started crying. She had made it two whole days without crying over Cade.

CHAPTER TWO

Out of the Blue

By Aimee DuPré

Act Two

"Fix bayonets!" came the shout, and the clashing sound of metal to metal was heard. Then the thundering rush of men ran towards the captain with yells and screams, and finally he gave the command, "Charge!"

The uproar was earsplitting as the line of men cut a bloody swath before them. A soldier in gray rags plunged straight towards him with eyes wide and wild, his own bayonet drawn, and he took a deep breath as the ghostly apparition ran right through him!

The former captain awoke in a panic, confronted by his own mortality in the nightmare.

He sat straight up in bed, eyes open but unseeing. His breath came as hard and fast as though he'd been running, and the sweat poured off his face in droplets.

His eyes tried to focus on a shadowy figure before him. He sighed in relief as he realized it was not the ghost soldier again. "Doc? Is that you?" he called out, but there was no answer. "Ramsey?" The shadow drew closer to his bed and its left arm raised in greeting.

"What is it?" he asked. "Who are you?" Then his eyes widened in recognition. "Oh, it's you. I thought you had already gone."

When the shadow stood directly over him, the arm came down and he fell backwards by the force of the blow to his head. His skull made a loud cracking sound at the impact, and his legs jerked once, then moved no more.

Lou Sullivan knocked on the hotel clerk's counter, not bothering to use the bell. Getting his attention, she calmly said, "The man in 2C is dead."

"How do you know?" the clerk asked.

"I went up to his room when he failed to meet me for breakfast. After knocking on his door, I tried it and it was unlocked. He is dead in his bed."

The clerk ran upstairs to find gawkers already in the doorway to room 2C.

"Telephone the marshal!" the clerk yelled to anyone who would listen.

"Boy, run and get Jared Stone," another man said. "It's quicker than finding a phone and answering Sarah's questions," he explained.

"Who is Sarah?" Lou asked. Simultaneously, she managed to push past this man who was blocking her way back into the dead man's room.

"Our telephone exchange operator," he explained. "She's a little on the nosy side."

Now the hotel clerk pushed past the onlookers and ordered them to stand back. Lou was already inside the room as the clerk blocked the door. He managed to get it shut so he could block the others' view of the dead man.

"I've heard a good deal about the marshal's crime solving techniques," Lou commented, and the clerk jumped, not realizing there was another person in the room.

He turned and leaned his back against the door. "Ma'am," he said and gave her a nod. "People pretty much do what Stone says." The clerk took a step away from the door, pretty much ignoring the fact that he, a married man, was in a bedroom alone with a widow woman. He craned his neck to look at the corpse. "Law abidin' folk, that is," he continued as he took a step toward the bed. "The marshal's got a good way with people."

Just then the door swung open and Katie Owens rushed into the room, shutting the door again behind her. "That's almost a mob," she said. "Oh, hello again, Mrs. Sullivan."

"Lou, please, Katie. I thought we agreed to use first names." Katie nodded in agreement.

Lou had met Katie the previous day, when they had exchanged only a few pleasantries before realizing they were kindred spirits. Lou had finally asked her what she had learned from the mortuary business.

Katie had looked Lou straight in the eye and replied, "One cannot always tell a gentleman from his attire."

That had brought a smile to Lou's face, so when Katie asked Lou what she had learned from the newspaper business, she replied, "The Equine Paradox – the fact that there are far fewer horses than there are horses' asses."

Just then, Marshal Stone arrived, and people courteously made way for him and Detective Finch just behind him. The marshal easily got rid of the clerk by making him responsible to clear the hallway of onlookers. The clerk eagerly left to perform this important assignment as Katie and Finch walked over to the bed to look at the remains.

Katie went about the work of a mortician with the matter-of-fact attitude of a shopkeeper. But before she could move the body, Finch stopped her as he looked closely at the dead man's balding head and saw blood and bruising.

More carefully, he studied the head wound. The bruising appeared to be in an oddly shaped, pointed triangular pattern.

"This man," Finch said, "is registered as Mr. Silas Andrews, a Denver businessman."

"Yeah, Finch," Stone said. "We already know that. He comes to town on business about once a month."

Finch pulled a pair of small scissors out of his pocket and snipped off a piece of the man's nightshirt at his neckline, a piece with a food splatter on it . . . or a bloodstain. Then, with a tape, he took measurements of the room, drawing a rough floor plan of every piece of furniture and every opening – doors and windows.

Stone watched him out of the corner of his eye, trying not to show his curiosity, but when Finch looked at him, he couldn't help but notice.

"The odds and ends have their own little secrets," Finch explained as he gently moved Stone out of his way and continued his measurements. Finch had placed the marshal next to Mrs. Sullivan, who was furiously taking notes.

Stone's attention was now on her. "Ma'am, you should not be in here. This is a crime scene, not a breaking news story." He moved as if to gently escort her out the door.

"But, Marshal Stone," she told him, pulling away from his touch. "I am a witness. After all, I discovered the body. Don't you want my testimony?"

Stone sighed deeply. "Not unless you committed the crime," he said, half under his breath. "Ma'am, you should not be watchin' this."

"Oh, let her stay, Marshal," Finch called over his shoulder. "I do not mind her being here, and perhaps it is best for the lady reporter to see our techniques in person in order to better prepare her article on the new forensics. She might use this time as part of our interview."

Stone looked surprised. Under his breath he said, "I thought you didn't give interviews."

Finch heard him but ignored his comment. He went back to the body and began a careful examination.

"Thank you, Detective Finch," she told him. Looking at Stone she said, "I promise not to touch anything, and I promise not to faint . . . or gag," she added with a smile. Stone gave her a hard look. There was no way she could have known that he sometimes had that very problem – the gagging, not the fainting – yet he felt his face flush anyway.

She dropped her intense gaze at Stone when she noticed him blush. "Scientists, I have found," she commented, to change the subject, "tend to ignore evidence that does not fit their standard theory. I certainly hope, Mr. Finch, that your detective forensics does not do that."

Finch spoke as he worked. "Something tangible always remains to exhibit the peculiar style of workmanship belonging to the criminal. The uninitiated, Mrs. Sullivan, would be surprised to learn just how many traits of character can be picked up by careful study of the minute points presented for inspection. There are many indices of habit and vocation. I have cultivated thoroughness even down to details and trifles that might at first view appear utterly insignificant."

Finch plucked at a few very short, loose hairs below the dead man's waistline and placed it inside a small envelope.

The editor looked at him with wonderment at both his efficiency and his vocabulary. "You're a regular Sherlock Holmes," she said.

"Who's that?" Stone asked.

"A character in a novel," Finch inserted. "By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. An Englishman."

"Oh," Stone said. "I thought maybe it was another detective on his way here. Guess I'm not as well read in fiction as you are. Spend most of my time readin' law enforcement magazines."

Much to Stone's dismay, Finch continued prattling on about nothing as the editor took copious notes. Stone tried to keep his eyes from crossing as he droned on and on. Just how long could the man talk without taking a breath?

"Finch?" Katie asked. "What did the murderer leave behind at the scene of the crime?"

Stone perked up at that.

"No murder weapon, not that I can find. I have tried to match up the marking I found on Mr. Andrews' head to several blunt objects present in the room, to no avail. I have traced a drawing of the markings, to scale." Finch took a deep breath before continuing. "Some hairs from the victim's . . . ah, . . . pubic region . . . were not his own. He is dark haired and these are red. I will be analyzing samples to verify what I believe transpired in the last hours before his murder."

Stone was worldly wise and knew exactly what Finch was referring to. Mr. Andrews must have been with a woman prior to his death. Stone glanced out of the corner of his eye at the wavy and thick mahogany hair that Mrs. Sullivan wore pulled back into a bun, a most becoming hairstyle for her facial features, he could not help but think.

Seeing his sidelong look and being worldly wise herself, Lou quickly said, "Not only would I never do such a thing with a man not my husband, Marshal, but I am not a natural redhead."

He raised his eyebrows, and realizing he now knew much more than he had wanted to know about the lady, he again blushed. He tried to get the image out of his mind, which only served to stir his curiosity more and more. He was sure his face showed how uncomfortable this made him.

"I have found this," Finch said as he held up a broken piece of feather. "Unusual looking, is it not?" he commented as he turned it in his hand. "Perhaps from a rare bird?"

"Ostrich," Katie spoke authoritatively.

"Ostrich?" Stone repeated.

Finch commented, "There are no birds like that around here!"

"Except in a lady's hat, silly," Katie explained.

Finch said to no one, "This feather is sufficiently important to invite closer scrutiny."

"Yeah," Stone dryly replied. "Well, you go follow up, Finch."

"I shall give this investigation my fullest personal attention," the detective assured him.

"Something circumspect is going on," Lou said.

"No foolin'," Stone agreed.

"And I found this by the bedside," Finch said as he held up a white glass jar with a blue lid. "A prescription bottle of emu oil, prescribed by Doctor Patrick Michael Ramsey."

Stone took all this information in as he helped Finch put the deceased on a stretcher to take him to Owen's mortuary.

Stone had questioned the hotel clerk. Silas Andrews had arrived the previous day from Denver, on his monthly business trip to Silver City.

"He had a clean reputation," the clerk told him. "Mr. Andrews had been a major in the war, well-decorated for bravery."

"Which side?" Stone asked.

"Why, Union, of course," the clerk replied as if that were the only side there had been. "We all know Silas Andrews served in the Union during the War. He never stopped reminding us of his heroism at every opportunity."

Half under his breath, Stone muttered, "Too bad a man who accomplished such great things hasn't done much since."

"Well," the clerk said. "He has his business in Denver."

"And that is?"

"Millinery. Ladies' hats."

Now he stood at the bar sipping on a beer and impatiently waiting for Katie Owens and Latimer Finch to complete their autopsy.

"What are you thinking, Marshal?" Luci suddenly asked him from behind the bar.

"Humm?" was Stone's only reply. He looked at her but she could tell his mind was a thousand miles away.

"Oh, never mind."

Mayor Smith looked up from his poker game. "Marshal," he called. "Why don't you join us at a table?"

"No thanks. I like standin' at this end of the bar where I can watch everybody."

"Why don't you just give us all a lesson in crime solving, marshal," the mayor continued, playing up to his poker playing buddies. "Surely a simple murder like this isn't hard for a smart man like yourself to solve."

"Murder is never simple, mayor."

"You do plan to apprehend the perpetrator, Marshal, sometime in the foreseeable future?"

Stone set his mouth in a stern straight line and did not honor the question with an answer, and the mayor just shook his head and returned his attention to his game.

"Motive," Luci said to him in a soft and low voice. "That's whatcha gotta discover."

Stone looked at her again, this time more in focus. "You been listenin' to Finch too long."

"Yeah, maybe so."

"Who wanted him dead?" Stone asked, more to himself than to anyone in the barroom.

Luci smiled at the handsome lawman. "Now whatcha thinkin', Jared?"

"Oh, nothin' much. Just maybe one of those odds and ends Finch keeps talkin' about."

"All this new-fangled technology and inventions," Luci complained, "why, they're makin' us change our attitudes, whether we want to or not. I'm not sure what's comin' of the world."

Stone nodded his head in agreement. "Luci, I'm not sure I want to know."

Later, Stone sat at his desk in his office reading the latest edition of The Silver City Sentinel.

The personal privacy implications of new technology are as chilling as they are unpredictable. The legal system is hard pressed to keep up with new innovations. Even our ethics and morals have to catch up.

Mrs. Sullivan entered the marshal's office and he dropped the paper and rose to his feet.

"Ma'am," he said, "I was just thinkin' about you." He took off his reading glasses so he could see her better.

"Good things, I hope," she replied with a smile that just about melted his heart. In her eyes was a neediness for something stable, someone secure to hang on to, and he knew he could never satisfy such a longing. Or maybe he was just reading something into her expression that wasn't really there. He cleared his throat and asked her to have a seat.

"I was readin' your article," he said as he sat down again, glad his desk was between the two of them. "You know, law enforcement's been changin' for years now. Used to be the law dealt out justice right then and there. Didn't have to haul 'em in and keep 'em in jail till they could be tried. Why, I remember one time in Tombstone a couple cowpokes got caught cheatin' at cards. The Federal Marshal hauled the two into the back room and made one of 'em sit with his hands splayed out on a table. Then one of the deputies took a big hammer and pulverized his hands. Repeatedly."

Stone paused for effect, to allow this image to sink in. "My guess is," he continued, "that cowboy's cheatin' days ended right then and there."

"Probably the other fellow's cheatin' days, as well," she added, and he gave a quick laugh.

"Been meanin' to ask you about your article, Mrs. Sullivan." Stone had turned suddenly serious as he put his glasses back on to read from it.

Obsession often leads a soul down the path to darkness. Despite the noble goal of one man's quest, his obsession has led him to take measures that most would find despicable.

"As you know," he said as he looked up at her, "it goes on with more speculation, in particular about ostriches and emus. I know where you heard about the birds, but I was just wonderin' where you got the other information, you know, about how this murder might be tied to others."

"I never reveal my sources. It could be embarrassing."

"For them or for you?"

She gave him a grim look as he grinned at her and said, "As my Uncle Artie used to say, a closed mouth gathers no foot."

"You know, ma'am, I always heard that lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier 'n puttin' it back in."

"In this case, I'm letting a bird out of the bag."

"Ma'am, I just tryin' to tell you why you can't print information about all the clues we've found and the leads we're investigatin'."

"Marshal, with all due respect, this is what it means to have freedom of the press. No one, not even a representative of the law, has the right to tell me what I can and cannot print in the newspaper."

"This," he grabbed the paper and wadded it in his hand, "can compromise the murder investigation. I need to know if someone else in town has information about the murder."

"I will not reveal my source, Mr. Stone. I am sorry."

"So am I, Mrs. Sullivan. The last lawman in Silver City relied on the occasional beatin' to loosen tongues."

"Are you threatening me, sir?"

"No, ma'am. But the idea's temptin'."

"I realize that in many places in our present times, it is legally and socially acceptable for a man to beat his wife, provided that the instrument used in the beating is no thicker than his thumb. Thus we get the term 'rule of thumb'. That obviously does not apply in our case, sir."

"And obviously never will," Stone angrily replied. The chagrined look on her face made him lighten up. "Mrs. Sullivan, you ever seen a mule dig his heels in so he can't be budged?" Stone laughed. "You sure your name ain't Jenny?"

She gave a huff and stood up. Her lips compressed into a thin straight line and her nostrils flared. There was fire in her eyes as she looked at him.

"You are a pain in my posterior," she said, and now Stone had a strained look on his face. She turned and stomped out the door, leaving Stone to wonder why she had come into his office in the first place.

"There's two theories to arguin' with a woman, and neither one of 'em works," he grumped to himself.

The Velvet Cushion was the evening resort of both working class and the finer gentlemen in the new city. It often amused Stone to think that the men who use the services of these 'dirty whores' still considered themselves upright citizens.

Luci Prescott ran the bawdy house in town. She could be brash and brassy, and her loud voice carried far and wide inside the saloon. She wasn't afraid to speak her mind, and you didn't want to get on the wrong side of her.

Stone walked into the Velvet Cushion, his eyes searching for Luci. He didn't see her and thought she might be upstairs with one of her special customers when a sultry voice from behind startled him.

"Lookin' for a good time, Marshal?" Luci's voice was deeply passionate.

"Jeez, Luce! Don't do that!" he teased. "Sneakin' up on a man with a gun is just plain crazy."

She smiled at him. She had disarmed many a gentleman with that dazzling smile, but she couldn't seem to melt this heart of Stone. She smiled even more at her private play on words.

"Actually, I was lookin' for you," he told her.

"Same thing as lookin' for a good time," she countered, and he clenched his jaw, one side of his lips going up, the other side going down. He sure was cute, Luci thought, especially when he got embarrassed. He was easy enough to frazzle, but it didn't take him long to become all business again.

"I mean," he quickly corrected, "that I need to ask you about a man who was in here sometime last week."

"That man that got killed?" she asked and Stone nodded.

"Ask that new woman in town," she confided in the marshal.

"The one who's runnin' the newspaper?"

"No, not Lou, although he did mention he'd have to leave the Velvet Cushion early, as he was meeting Mrs. Sullivan for a breakfast interview. But then he winked."

"Winked?"

"Yeah. Winked and mentioned how he was meeting up that very evening with the new woman in town."

"Which is?"

"Mrs. Margaret Hesler. You know, the dressmaker. Si, I mean Mr. Andrews, was braggin' on how they'd met in Denver and had a good time together. You know about havin' good times, Jared?"

He shyly nodded and she continued, "She's a lusty sort."

"Mrs. Hesler seems prim and proper to me."

Luci laughed. "Not the dressmaker. Lou Sullivan, the editor."

Stone had a surprised looked on his face. "What makes you think that, Luce?"

"Honey, you ain't been payin' attention to when she looks at you. You ever get in that woman's bed and you'll never be no good for anyone else ever again."

His face turned beet red. Luci loved embarrassing the marshal. He was as shy as a boy on his very first visit to a whorehouse. She softly drew her fingers across his cheek.

"Jared, when you comin' to visit me again? You know I won't never charge you anything."

The marshal looked down at his feet and swallowed hard.

"Maybe some other time, Luce," he softly answered, looking around to make sure no one was listening. "I've gotta check out our new arrivals in town first. Make 'em welcome, you know."

Luci smiled wickedly. "I know, honey."

Luci always made him nervous because she had no qualms about speaking out about the taboo subject of sex. He made his getaway out of the saloon before she could embarrass him again.

And walked directly into an excited Katie Owens.

"Oh, Marshal! Chipper told me you were here. I'm kinda glad I didn't have to go inside to look for you. Listen! We just found a man in his bedroom, leaned over headfirst in the washstand, drowned in his own washbasin, water splashed everywhere."

"What man?"

"Old man Edwards, outside of town on the main road."

Stone tried to ignore how Katie called Mr. Edwards old. He had been close to Jared's age. "Natural causes?"

"I don't think so. Not many ways to accidentally dive headfirst into a washbasin."

CHAPTER THREE

Out of the Blue

By Aimee DuPré

Act Three

The "drowned" man was stretched out on the autopsy table of Owen's Mortuary. Although a sheet covered his unclothed body, Stone averted his eyes, knowing the man was split open from neck to stern. The marshal concentrated on some glass jars on the shelf until he realized that they contained what looked like organs of the human body. He then looked directly at Katie.

"Well?" he asked.

Katie said, "He was dead before he was in the water or the washbasin."

"How can you tell that, Katie?" the marshal asked.

She turned around and got a large jar with what looked like a large beef liver floating in formaldehyde.

"Because, there is no water in his lungs," she answered smugly. "See?"

She held the jar right in the marshal's face, and he crinkled up his nose in distaste and turned his head.

"That's okay. I wouldn't know what I was lookin' at."

"So," the editor of the Sentinel chimed in from the doorway. Mrs. Sullivan walked into the room and stood between Katie and Stone. "No water in his lungs," she continued, "means he wasn't breathing when his head was in the washbasin. So he didn't drown after all."

The marshal scowled at her. "Don't you go printin' that, Mrs. Sullivan."

"Another assassination in Silver City," she replied, "is most definitely newsworthy."

"Just how important," Katie asked, "does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of murdered? I find it difficult to think of old man Edwards as the victim of assassination."

"We are such fools to make war on our brothers," Lou said, as if quoting someone.

"I beg your pardon?" Stone queried, only to be interrupted by Detective Finch, also entering the room.

"There have been a series of depredations," Finch commented.

Lou asked him, "Do you think it is a conspiracy of a number of people?"

"What would they have to gain?" Finch answered her question with one of his own. "What purpose could these murders possibly serve?"

Stone commented, "No demands for ransom. No blackmail attempts."

"Revenge?" Katie asked. "Of course, we're looking at mass murders." Then she asked Finch, "What is the typical profile of a mass murderer, Detective?"

"Not really 'mass,'" Finch corrected her. "That implies many all at once. This fellow kills consecutively. Maybe even in cycles."

"A sequential killer?" Stone interjected.

From his serious expression, Lou wasn't positive if he was pulling Finch's leg again or not, but she thought he was.

"We're sitting around here," Lou said, "anxiously awaiting his next victim just like my readers anticipate the next episode in a serial novel."

"That's it!" Finch loudly said. "We have a serial killer on our hands."

"So back to your question, Katie," Stone said, taking control of the conversation. "He enjoys killing, and there is probably something that ties all these victims together."

"Katie," Finch asked, "did you find any bird feathers on Mr. Edwards' body?"

"Ostrich feathers," Stone corrected.

"That is a bird," Finch replied.

Katie just looked from one to the other and answered, "No feathers of any kind."

Mrs. Sullivan spoke up. "The feathers found in the hotel room might be explained by Mr. Andrews' occupation – ostrich feathers are used on ladies' hats, and he was in the millinery business."

Finch rubbed his chin. "Yes, we did find hat boxes in his trunk. I suppose the hats they contained were samples."

"The latest New York fashion," Mrs. Sullivan added.

Finch looked at the two women and asked, "Do hat makers use flat irons?"

"Sometimes," Katie answered. "Momma used to starch and iron our sunbonnets. Why?"

Finch continued, "I attempted to discover what had made the triangular-shaped wound. It fits the impression of an iron."

Katie turned back to the cadaver. "That would be heavy enough to inflict lethal damage. Somebody must have really hated him."

"A man hater?" Lou joked.

Katie laughed. "That's half the wives in Silver City."

Finch cleared his throat. "We're talking about a male murderer from the clues he's left us."

"Maybe he wants to be caught," Lou said, half to herself. Something was nagging at her but she couldn't put her finger on it.

"Well, then," Katie said. "What did the victims have in common?"

Stone beat Finch to the punch this time. "They were both men. They died in or near bed, seemingly after . . . uh . . ." He stumbled around for the proper term in the presence of the ladies.

"Intimate relations," Lou interjected for him, and he nodded.

"A jealous husband?" Finch threw out.

"A jealous lover?" Lou countered.

"A woman could not do this," Finch affirmed.

"Why not?" Lou asked.

"Too violent. A woman would not have the strength to subdue a struggling man. Besides, a woman would not have the stomach for murder."

"My dear Detective Finch," Lou said with a patronizing air. "You have no idea just how much hatred a woman can harbor for a man. A woman can hold grudges for years. Sir, we are all – each one of us here in this room -- capable of horrendous murder."

Stone looked at her in a new light and cocked his head slightly. "Sounds like you speak from experience."

"Maybe," was all she said.

Katie kicked the three of them out of her back room makeshift autopsy room, and they each went their separate ways.

Back in his office, Stone found an envelope on his desk. Inside was a printed letter with the name RAMSEY at the top and a list of cities underneath. Stone turned the letter over in his hands. Nothing on the back, and no indication of who had left it on his desk. Stone recognized the cities as those the doctor had recently visited. Ramsey had told him of his travels when Stone had inquired of his reasons for being in Silver City. The doctor was hiding something, because he was reticent to reveal much more than the fact that he had given up his practice to do some traveling.

"Chipper!" Stone yelled, and the boy came downstairs.

"Hey, Marshal!" he said. "I was just upstairs cleaning up some. Didn't hear you come in."

"Do you know who left this envelope on my desk?"

"No, sir," Chipper replied. "Is it important?"

"Yeah. Maybe."

Stone then telephoned Denver and spoke to another US Marshal about unsolved murders with the same unusual clues, in particular the apparent lovemaking. In the course of his conversation, he discovered that the cities where unusual unsolved murders had occurred matched the cities on the list. They were the same places the doctor had recently visited. If so, the evidence pointing to Ramsey was very strong. It was, at the very least, suspicious circumstances.

When he finished his call, he said goodnight as Chipper left the office. He remained at his desk for a while, finishing up some paperwork before calling it quits for the day. Stone locked the office behind him as he began his walk over to the restaurant for his evening meal.

He met Mrs. Sullivan on the street and tipped his hat.

"Marshal," she greeted him with a big smile. "I've been asking around about Dr. Ramsey, about how he gave up his successful practice as a surgeon back east and came out here to retire. Chipper says you've got a different idea of what Dr. Ramsey is doing here in Silver City, that maybe he's involved in these serial murders."

It never ceased to amaze the marshal how quickly rumors could spread.

"Chipper's got a big mouth," he told her. "He needs to learn to keep it shut."

"So, what's the real story?"

The marshal leaned in close to her and whispered, "The real story is, I'm gonna tell Chip not to talk to you any more."

"Oh, Mr. Stone," she chastised him as she placed her hand on his arm. "May we go back to your office. I could share with you some of my interview with Dr. Ramsey."

"Your interview, ma'am?"

"Could we talk as we walk?" she asked, and he relented, trying to ignore the grumblings in his belly.

"You see, Doctor Ramsey tells me that he is tracking the real killer, and I believe his story."

Back in Stone's office, Lou continued her story.

"The good doctor would not give me her name, but he said she is a seemingly innocent, demure lady. He gave me a few details of her method of operation."

"Modus operandi, as Finch would say," Stone remarked.

"Precisely." Lou continued, "This woman is cold and calm, with no remorse. She is manipulative and charming. He said he first got on her trail just after the war. She decided to take revenge into her own hands."

"Doc was a surgeon in the war?" Stone asked.

"Yes. He said that soldiering was not easy to get used to. Naturally, the money was less than what he had earned in his practice in New York City, and sometimes food was scarce. I know that for a fact, myself. We had to wait until the bugs floated to the top of the rice before we could eat it."

"Ramsey was a Union doctor?" Stone asked.

"Confederate," Lou answered, and there was a look of surprise on Stone's face.

"Oh, I went through the same thing myself," she explained. "As a northerner in the south, there were suspicions of my loyalties, and Paddy's as well, although the CSA often retained captured Union surgeons for their hospitals."

"Paddy?" Stone queried.

Lou blushed. "Oh, that's short for Patrick. I suppose I allowed myself to become too intimate with Doctor Ramsey as we told each other our war stories."

Stone laughed. "That can easily happen. I mean, ma'am, that sharin' the war years tends to make quick friendships, that's all."

"If I may continue," she said and he waved his hand for her to go on. "Paddy said how germs were unheard of during the War. Men drank out of water that, thirty yards upstream, a man had relieved himself in. Surgeons never washed their hands after an operation, because all blood was assumed to be the same, nor did he wash his instruments.

"They amputated quickly. There was no time to delay. They cut off limbs that could have been saved in better days. The wounded came through the surgeon's tent in an endless stream of nameless faces, and the bone saw became the weapon of saving lives. I know that for a fact, too, Marshal, because I was at a field hospital and saw it."

Stone sat silently, unflinchingly, lost in thought and memory. The editor had a far away look in her eye as she reminisced.

Suddenly, a deep voice came from the doorway: "We are such fools to make war on our brothers."

It was Doctor Ramsey himself, and Stone gave Mrs. Sullivan a strange look, as she did not realize that she had quoted the doctor once before.

"Since you are talking about me, may I join you?" the doctor inquired.

Lou blushed as Stone motioned for him to take the chair beside her.

"One time I treated a young soldier for a shoulder wound," Ramsey said, entering the conversation without hesitation. "He was no more than a kid, and he fought me off tooth and nail until I thought I was going to have to knock him unconscious to get his shirt off. When he finally became too weak to fight any more, I got angry and ripped that shirt off. Much to my surprise, I found that the lad was really a very homely young girl."

Lou nodded. "I had heard rumors of women in disguise who were caught in ranks. But I mostly heard they had, well, 'loose morals,' even if they were plain and homely."

"Hookers," Stone said.

Lou looked at him. "I have heard that the origin of that name for prostitutes came from General Hooker, who apparently kept quite the lively headquarters."

"Fightin' Joe," Stone added. "He was insubordinate and eccentric. Grant once described him to me as a dangerous man. His men had a reputation for poor character and more often than not got in lots of trouble for intoxication."

"However," Lou continued, "technically the etymology predates the Civil War by fifteen or twenty years."

Stone smiled at her. "Technically, I heard that Hooker actually let his men keep prostitutes in the barracks. Whether or not he's responsible for the word, he certainly helped popularize it."

"Well," Ramsey continued, "I cannot swear to her morals, but this particular girl was strong enough to fight in the ranks and smart enough not to get caught. That was her greatest fear: being discovered and drummed out of the army."

"What d'ya do, Doc?" Stone asked, genuinely interested.

"I patched her up best I could, swore my male nurses to secrecy, and released her back to duty -- maybe a little too early -- so she wouldn't be found out." He looked past the journalist and out the window. "I never heard anything about her after that." He shook his head. "Don't know whether she lived or died. Few bodies were looked at closely in the war. We didn't do autopsies, hardly had time for surgeries. When a soldier died, he was buried in his bloody uniform, if he was buried at all. She could be in an unmarked grave or lying under her assumed name."

"Or married with grandchildren," Lou added.

"Absolutely," Doc agreed wholeheartedly. "One thing I do know, Mrs. Sullivan. I would never call that girl a hooker."

Ramsey reached into his ever-present black bag and pulled out a brown bottle half full of a thick liquid. He removed the cork and took a long swig. "My cough medicine," he explained as he replaced the bottle.

"I never noticed you had a cough," Lou commented.

"See? The medicine really works," he said with a wide smile. "Have you already shared your war stories with the Marshal?" Mrs. Sullivan shook her head. "If you wouldn't mind, Lou, I wish you would. Perhaps he can get a feeling for what I believe our prime suspect went through during the war."

So Lou began. "My father sent me to the outskirts of Atlanta where I would be safe with my aunt and my cousins. Little did he know he sent me into the worst of the battle.

"My cousin Lucinda was a month younger than me. She and I helped at a field hospital. At first, we made bandages, served food and drink. But later on, we were needed to help with changing bandages and even . . . " her voice choked up. "Well," she said, embarrassed. "helping clean them up. I saw more than I wanted to and learned things I did not need to learn.

"The first time a man died while I was tending him was very difficult for me," she said. "I looked into that boy's eyes and could see he'd seen horrors he'd never tell. He wasn't just a soldier in blue or gray. He'd seen innocent lives taken and he'd seen men freely give their lives for the cause they were fighting for.

"The hardest part was looking at the last cold stare of death in those eyes I'd grown to recognize. But when I saw their bodies racked with pain, death became a blessed release for many of them. Some even prayed to die. I hope I never hurt bad enough that I have to pray that prayer.

"Even if I was holding a soldier's hand, he still died alone. Many of the men could not hide their tears at the end. And it seemed that even the strongest fellow would eventually call for his mama. That was heart wrenching, knowing that no matter how big a man is, how brave and daring, when it comes right down to it, there are times he still wants his mama. Maybe it is not right me telling you that. I do believe it is something men do not want womenfolk to know. But it deeply touched me."

Doctor Ramsey leaned over and reached out to Lou, briefly touching the back of her hand with his in a comforting gesture. "Those years deeply affected many of us. We've all got a lot of secrets we've got to keep."

Lou nodded. "I told a lot of lies in the war. I have discovered in the newspaper business that the truth is always more interesting than a lie. But back then, I used to help the wounded soldiers write home to their mamas and their girls. Some of them could not write because they had no hands or arms. Some of them just plain were not going to make it through. They would lie up a storm, about how they were not hurt badly, and they would be home soon because the war was nearly won. I was the one the Captain got to write their families after they died. The Captain would tell me how the soldier had died, what battle and all, and I would send a letter to their folks or their wife bragging on them. That letter was sent back home with their belongings. It was the most difficult thing I ever did."

She paused to catch her breath and her thoughts before continuing.

"July 22, 1864 was the day of the battle of Atlanta. The road was filled with carriages, wagons, horses, all going at full speed. The Yanks were coming! We womenfolk tried to hide or bury everything we could, the meat, salt, and lard and our silk dresses, china and silver, even bits of soap.

"Sherman himself and the greater portion of his army passed right by my aunt's house for an entire day. The bluejackets tore down fences and made a road to drive their stock through. Her home was quite devastated. Those men searched the house, drank up all the liquor, and took the money they found, as well as any valuables."

Stone interrupted her. "That was plundering by raiders. Regular army wouldn't do such a thing."

Lou met his gaze. "Whether regular army or raiders, it was looting still the same. They broke anything in their way and took what little meat, flour, lard, butter, and eggs we had left. They hunted down our chickens and pigs as if they were rebels themselves! No wonder the men called them 'damn Yankees'!"

Stone was on the defensive now. "They took what they needed to get by," he told her. "The Union army was as decimated as the rebels."

"Those soldiers took silk dresses for which they had no use." Lou's voice was a little louder. "They used them under their saddles. That was not need -- that was contempt."

Stone spoke slowly, overly calm as if hard pressed to control his anger. "They weren't regular army. You're talkin' about raiders."

"Their looting and pillaging was no way to get the south on their side. They took food out of poor people's mouths -- men, women, and children. They should have had to answer for all the meat and livestock they stole. They burned and destroyed. Once they reached Atlanta, the night sky was orange and red from every direction with reflections of the flames from the burning buildings. Even though we had had no dinner or supper, our greatest fear was being driven out homeless into the woods. God alone saved me from the fires of Atlanta.

"Houses were burning everywhere and refugees filled the woods. They burned the buildings around the depot, stole horses and destroyed the railroads. They cruelly shot men, destroyed private property and took private citizens prisoner.

"And all over slavery," Stone calmly said.

Lou stood up and faced the marshal. "My father's family never owned slaves," Lou told him. "Besides, the war was over states' rights – giving each state the right to decide it's own laws. Sometimes I can understand why there are still hard feelings over the 'recent unpleasantness,' especially concerning Sherman and his men."

"I fought alongside General Sherman," Stone said, also rising to his feet. "I don't tell it to brag, ma'am, but I had a captain's commission in the Union army. I was decorated a war hero by President Grant himself."

"And you were with Sherman on his March to the Sea?" she asked, and he nodded. "Then you were one of the bluejackets who passed by my aunt's home on that summer day. The whole intention of Sherman's march was to break the back of the Southerners to end the war."

"It was a military necessity," Stone justified.

"That was just an excuse for a campaign of deliberate destruction." Lou was angrier than she remembered being for many, many years. "There was pillage and rape."

"I heard," Stone said, vainly hoping to diffuse the argument, "that there was only one case of rape reported in Atlanta and that reports of the pillaging were vastly exaggerated."

"They were not," Lou sternly said. "I was there in Atlanta. Sherman himself measured the destruction at one hundred millions."

Stone's blue eyes flashed with anger and he opened his mouth to reply, but Doctor Ramsey rose from his chair and held up his hands between them. "Jared. Lou. Let's calm down. This war has already been fought. It's been over more than twenty years now. Why don't we just drop this?"

Stone was still worked up, but Lou looked at the doctor as if she just remembered that he was also in the room.

"How about," Ramsey said, "shaking hands and making up."

Stone did not look happy about it, but he held out his hand to the angry editor. Lou stood for several heartbeats before she gave him hers in a handshake of reconciliation.

"I am sorry, Captain Stone," she formally said, "for allowing my emotions to cloud my judgment. I did not mean to sound so bitter. I hardly realized that I still felt harbored such strong emotion. Obviously our differences of opinion will never allow us to agree. I think it best if we leave discussions of the war to the historians."

"Mrs. Sullivan," Stone said, his eyes now a softer blue. "I am sorry. I am sorry for raising my voice to you, and I am sorry for what you went through during those years."

Mrs. Sullivan made her exit, while the doctor remained.

Ramsey patted his stomach. "It's amazing how a good argument rouses one's appetite," he stated.

"Yeah," Stone agreed. "I missed supper. Again."

"Marshal, I believe I know exactly where we can still get a good steak. My treat."

Stone followed the doctor to Swayne's restaurant. Although nearing closing time, the good doctor whispered something in Mrs. Swayne's ear and the two men were led to a private corner table where their orders were taken.

In answer to the lawman's unspoken query, Ramsey told him, "The missus swears by oil of emu for her rheumatism. I promised her a jar on the house."

Stone nodded.

"I thought," Ramsey continued, "that we could talk about women."

Stone laughed. "I've about had enough of them to last me a lifetime."

Ramsey smiled. "Oh, that little tiff with Lou Sullivan? She won't hold a grudge long with you." He reached into his inside coat pocket and pulled out a flask.

"Cough medicine?" Stone asked.

Ramsey grinned. "Whiskey. Want a swig?"

Stone shook his head no and the doctor turned over his coffee cup and poured it full. As he returned it to his pocket, Stone noticed the engraved initials PMR on the flask.

"You know," he continued, as he carefully took a sip out of his cup, "after hearing about Lou's misadventures in the war, one can see how some people still harbor grudges and resentments towards the winning side."

"You aren't gonna try and tell me Lou is the woman you've been followin', are you?"

"No, marshal. She may have secrets, but murder is not one of them. Besides, Charles Curry vouches for her integrity and has taken her 'under his wing', so to speak. As his protégé, Lou has maintained a detailed correspondence with Mr. Curry. I wonder sometimes what are her words and what are his. It is almost enough to make a man jealous."

"Of her mentor and their relationship?"

Doc nodded.

"It does appear that theirs is an intimate relationship," Stone agreed.

Doc agreed. "That is, if a man were prone to jealousy over a woman who is not his."

"And are you?" Stone asked. "Prone to jealousy?"

"Marshal, I am even jealous of you."

"Me?"

"Absolutely," Doc laughed. "You don't even see it? Well, never mind, Marshal."

"I don't go around callin' you 'Paddy' like she does."

"She did?" Ramsey looked surprised. "Perhaps there's hope for me after all."

They paused in their conversation as Mrs. Swayne bought their meal. Then Stone encouraged the doctor to tell him about the serial killer.

"She has never been apprehended because no one thinks a woman could be such a cold-blooded murderer. Inside, she is a hostile sociopath, while outside, she has a chameleon-like quality of changing her personality to suit whomever she decides is her next victim."

"She sounds like a veritable flower of Southern womanhood," Stone commented.

Ramsey agreed. "But she is slightly past her first bloom," he said with a sly grin. "She has palmed off her fraud all over the western states, and I've been tracking her for some time now. Unfortunately, she has managed to elude my best efforts at tracing her identity. She changes her name and occupation, and since I have never actually met the woman, I have no idea what she looks like."

"So the authorities have never tied these murders together because of the various methods she used to kill her victims?" Stone asked.

"Absolutely. Each murder became progressively more violent, brutal, even torturous. Sometimes there were several murders in a city before she moved on. She keeps to the larger cities or towns with a constant influx of newcomers. I have news articles I have cut out from newspapers." He pulled clippings from his doctor's bag and shared quite a collection with the marshal.

Doc, reading, "Intoxicated Man Smothers in Sleep." He looked up to Stone and commented, "Somehow he became entangled in the bed sheets and smothered to death." Then, reading again and shuffling through the clippings, "Prominent Businessman Dies in Accidental Fall Off Hotel Rooftop. Fatal Freak Accident as Man Drowns in Abandoned Well. Local Citizen Killed by Runaway Stagecoach as spooked horses trampled a man lying in their path. The bruised, bloodied, broken corpse was barely identifiable. Food Poisoning Takes Life of Mayor. And," he added, "on the few cases identified as murders, no motive has been revealed."

"Any suspects detained for questioning?" Stone asked.

"In one city, a man was charged with homicide but was released for lack of evidence."

"Any links between the victims?"

Ramsey drained the whiskey from his coffee cup before he answered. "At first I thought it was random. Then I realized all the victims of these unsolved murders were Civil War veterans, not too surprising considering the age range of the deceased."

"She picks Union veterans only?" Stone asked and the doctor nodded. "Any other connection?"

Ramsey leaned forward, elbows on the table, and spoke in a low voice. "Perhaps. You see, I believe she was in the south when General Sherman rode through in his Federal blue uniform. It does appear that all her victims rode with Sherman."

Stone got very pensive, and Ramsey continued. "Marshal Stone, you rode with Sherman, didn't you?"

He nodded and bit his lower lip, deep in thought.

Chapter Four and Epilogue (conclusion) – soon to follow