Welcome to my first fic! Since this is only the prologue, I'm not going to ramble on with a big introduction. (We'll take care of that in the first chapter :D)


Prologue

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul;

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for thou art with me,

Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;

Thou anointest my head with oil;

My cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

When they buried my brother Terrence, they may as well have buried my father. That was the day that he started drowning, carrying the bottle around with him like some sort of wicked talisman. Whatever evil it was supposed to ward off, though, had already gotten him; he just didn't know it.

I watched him deteriorate inside of the alcohol and grief. I watched him go from a respectable doctor to a wreck of a man whom nobody trusted with their broken bones to something that was not a man at all. By that point I had to start dragging him home after work and laying him into bed, taking off his shoes and wiping the sweat off of his face. After a while he stopped getting out of a bed at all, which made some things easier and other things harder. I didn't have to bear his weight all the way across town anymore, but he couldn't pay for the house when he wasn't making any money. I was barely seventeen and without a husband, so I could hardly save myself from going down with the sinking ship. It fell to me to take care of Matthew Slater, the man who'd served in the war and beat darkness off the front porch with a broom. His wife died giving birth to me, and he raised Terry and I by himself. Somehow, the death of his son got him where the death of my mother didn't. He never married again, but he never started the slow process or drinking himself to death, either.

Terrence was shot down in the middle of the Arizona desert. I imagine it was a dirty, disgusting way to die, amongst the dust and the sweltering heat, but that's only in the times that I dare imagine it, and that's not often. I usually push any actual thoughts of his death from my mind and replace them with my newfound need for vengeance.

Some people -- no, a lot of people -- blamed Terry for his own death. They waited a few months after the funeral to voice their real opinions, but they voiced them all the same. They said that if Terry hadn't gotten involved, he'd still be with us. If that were true, I'd sit here and wish that he'd kept his nose in his own business, but somehow I don't think that it would have made a difference. My brother was always plagued with the problem of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time, he happened to be within earshot of a robbery. And, just his luck, it was Ben Wade and company doing the robbing. If there ever was a man without a trace of a conscience in his head, it was Ben Wade.

My brother took the same path from his house every time he came to visit us. When they found him, his horse was still on the path, but he wasn't. The way the authorities figured it, Terry heard guns and went over to investigate. I suppose the theory is that he got a little too close, because he was shot in the throat. He bled to death after a few minutes. I used to wonder what he thought about during those final moments, looking up at the endless blue sky. Maybe he thought about Miranda, his wife, and the baby that they had on the way. Maybe he thought about me -- I'll never know. I'd give anything to be able to ask him.

After we got the first rent notice, I decided it was time to take a job. Why I chose the one I did is still beyond me. I knew perhaps better than anyone what kind of person alcohol turns a man into, so getting myself hired as a barmaid wasn't an action that allowed for any relief of home life stress. I learned soon enough, though, that there were some perks to serving beer to the empty shells that warmed the barstool vinyl. Not only did they tip well, but they talked well, too. I saw a great many criminals come through the doors and drink their sorrows away, and when they had enough drinks in their system, they'd talk to me. That's how I got it into my head to go after Ben Wade. I figured that he'd come back someday, and I'd hear one of his plans and get him arrested before he knew what'd hit him. Men are far too trusting of pretty girls with their hair tied back. They don't know that we do it only to hear their secrets better.