I don't own any of these characters.

Author's Note:

I love the show and thought I'd write a fan fiction revolving around my favorite character, Francis. I'm a new fan of the show, so I apologize ahead of time if my character's personalities aren't up to par.

Chapter One

Something was different. Dulcey was sure. She hadn't seen much of Francis Wilde in the last month and she had seen him with his camera even less. For Francis, this was a bit odd. After all, photography was his livelihood. Well, that was excluding his deputyship. But still… something wasn't right.

"Francis!" She called to him as he ran for the stairs. She had positioned herself at this table for a reason. She could see both the door and the staircase. It would be near impossible for Francis to enter the restaurant and not be seen.

"Um… Yes, Miss Dulcey?" Francis paused at the bottom of the stairs, but didn't bother to move any closer to her. He seemed to be in a hurry.

"I've just wondered where you've been? I have hardly seen you for weeks."

"I'm sorry, Miss Dulcey. I've just been real busy." He spoke quickly.

"Busy? With what?"

"I can't stop to chat, I'm afraid. We'll talk later, okay?" He didn't wait for her to reply and sprinted up the stairs, disappearing from sight, into his room.

"Strange." Dulcey pulled her coffee cup closer towards her and warmed her hands on the porcelain. Francis Wilde in a hurry for something? It seemed so unusual and out of character for the young photographer. That is, unless he was fetching his camera for an intense action scene occurring somewhere nearby.

"Where's the lad off to in such a rush?" MacGregor stepped out from behind the curtained entry at the top of the stairs and began to slowly walk down the steps, while fussing with the buttons on his red shirt.

"He wouldn't tell me." Said Dulcey and she took a sip of coffee.

MacGregor reached her seconds later, "Aye, that boy's been in and out of here all day with hardly a word to anyone." He paused and eyed the blue and white coffeepot that sat on the table.

"Oh, I'm sorry. How rude of me. Would you like some?" Dulcey pushed back her chair. She would have to go to the kitchen and fetch him his own cup.

Macgregor shook his head, "Naw, stay where you's are, Lassie. I'll be leaving soon anyhow."

"Leaving? You too?"

"Isn't the Marshall 'round?"

"No, he left this morning. It seems everybody has a place to be today."

MacGregor nodded. "I see. Well, good day, Lass."

She watched hopelessly as he walked out the front doors. That was it. Everyone was gone doing one thing or another. Business was slow as well. Dulcey had never seen so few customers. It was a strange day indeed!

With a sigh, Dulcey turned back to her coffee.

Francis soon emerged from his room wearing a suit and tie. He waltzed quickly down the stairs and over to her table where he stood proudly. "Well? What do you think?" He lifted his arms and turned around full-circle, so she could get a good look at his outfit.

Dulcey's eyes widened. "You're asking me what I think? Francis, where ever are you going, dressed like that?"

"Out on a picnic."

"A picnic, this late in the afternoon and in a suit?"

"Well, there will be the carriage ride before we actually sit down to eat…"

Dulcey held up her hand to silence him. "Hold on, hold on a minute. We? Who's we?"

Francis looked down at his shoes and Dulcey saw the red creeping up into his face. He was blushing. "Well, Miss Ashley and I."

"Miss Ashley? Who's miss Ashley?"

"She's… um… new in town. I've never mentioned her?" He looked to Dulcey and she shook her head. "Well, she and her father moved here from New York. They purchased some land not far away and hope to start a farm."

"A farm?"

"Yep." Francis' gaze wandered to the clock hanging on the wall. The look of urgency returned to his face. "Oh, no! I'd better get goin'. I'm going to be late! Thanks for your help, Dulcey!" He hastily made his way towards the door and out onto the street.

Dulcey watched him leave. Miss Ashley? From New York? She thought it strange that someone from a city such as New York would suddenly decide to become a farmer. But then she decided it wasn't in her place to judge one on such things. After all, she had left Rhode Island, and for what? This restaurant that had once been a bar.

But she enjoyed it in Cimarron. She never had any real friends in Rhode Island, working as a housemaid. But here in Cimarron, she had real friends. Well, she liked to think of Marshall Crown and Francis and even MacGregor as her friends, at least. Yes, perhaps it wasn't crazy to leave city life for a town like this. After all, she had done the very same thing.

* * *

Dulcey was alone at the restaurant until late that night. She was washing her face in the washbasin in her bedroom when a knock came on her door.

"Who is it?"

"It's me, Lassie."

"Um…" Dulcey looked around the room and spotted her robe, hanging on a peg behind the door. "Just a minute." She hastily grabbed the garment and put it on over her nightgown, before unlocking the door. "Yes?" She opened the door a crack and peered out at the worried face of the Scotsman.

"Have ye heard from Francis?"

"No, I haven't seen him since he left at four. Why? What's wrong?" She searched his face for a clue.

"He is not in his room and I haven't seen 'im since earlier today."

Dulcey thought for a moment. "Well, what do you need him for? Is it urgent?"

MacGregor put a hand to his neck and began massaging his shoulder. "No, it is not urgent."

"You are sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

"Well then, I'm sure we can wait until morning to bother him, then?"

"Yes. I suppose." He turned to leave. "Goodnight, Lassie."

But Dulcey wasn't about to let him go. She still had several unanswered questions, "M-MacGregor!"

He stopped and turned to her. "Yes, Lass?"

"Are you sure Francis isn't around. I mean, he should have been back from that picnic hours ago."

"Yes, I 's sure."

Dulcey frowned. This wasn't good, "Alright. Well, t-thank you. Goodnight, MacGregor."

"Goodnight, Lassie."

Dulcey closed her door and locked it again before removing her robe and placing it back on the hook. Francis? Missing? She wasn't sure what to think. Perhaps MacGregor was wrong? He had been wrong before, hadn't he? Yes, she was sure of it. Perhaps he was wrong about this as well?

She walked back over to her dresser and picked up her hairbrush. She began to slowly pull in through her long yellow hair. Francis? Missing? Well, there was one way to know for sure. She dropped the hairbrush back on the table and retrieved her robe. Then, very quietly, she unlocked her door and scurried out into the hall.

She stopped right outside Francis's room and pressed her ear to the door. Nothing. But then again, if he were sleeping, she didn't expect to hear anything. She firmly rapped on the door and waited patiently for a response. Seconds passed and there was no answer.

Oh, Francis! Where could you be? She decided to try her last option. He could very well be in his room, but was only sleeping through all her attempts to get his attention. Very quickly, she returned to her room and fished out the spare key to Francis's quarters. Returning to the door she inserted the key into the lock and entered the room.

All was quiet and the room was empty.

Oh no! MacGregor was right! Dulcey thought in dismay as her eyes settled on the empty bed. He wasn't there. Francis Wilde was indeed missing.