Sins of the Fathers

(no connection with the episode of similar name in series 8)

Chapter 1

John Grainger looked thoughtfully at the envelope on his desk. He didn't immediately recognize the writing but somehow it looked vaguely familiar. The address of a hotel in Laramie written on the back gave no clue to the writer's identity. Curious he slit open the envelope and started to read.

"Twenty-five years is a long time but over the years I often wondered what had happened to you and your family. Sadly Jack died a couple of months ago and as I have no other ties here I've decided to take a trip to see my sister in San Francisco. When I saw an article about you and Shiloh in the newspaper last week it seemed an ideal opportunity to visit you on my way there. I'll quite understand if it isn't convenient but do hope we can meet to talk about the old days and our happy memories."

John Grainger smiled. They had indeed been happy memories. Olivia and Jack Hardwicke had been their closest neighbors when he and his wife had first started out with their own ranch. They had helped each other during the tough winters and the hot summers when it had been a struggle to keep their herds alive on the meager grass available. Times had been hard but they had overcome all the difficulties with the support of their neighbors. Their children had grown up together and also developed a firm friendship.

There was a photograph somewhere, he remembered, one that Olivia had sent the first Christmas after the Graingers had moved away to Texas. It showed Olivia, Jack and their daughter Sarah, standing on the front porch of their ranch, in the typical somber pose of that period. He wondered where he had put the picture – probably in one of the boxes in the attic. He would search for it later. In the meantime, he would send a telegram to Olivia inviting her to stay at Shiloh for as long as she wanted.

Five days later he and his grandchildren traveled in to Medicine Bow to meet their guest at the station. Belden and Trampas accompanied them in the cart to unload the new hay bailer arriving on the same train.

"Stacey, you are the image of your father," Mrs Hardwicke exclaimed smiling. "The last time I saw him he was about your age and you are so like him, don't you agree John?"

"Well, yes, he does take after his father whereas his sister mainly resembles their mother. Elizabeth will join us in a minute. She's over there, saying goodbye to her friend Hannah who's taking the train to Green River."

The men had unloaded the hay bailer and Trampas was signing the delivery note and talking to the train guard. Belden, having checked that the machinery was firmly secured, had turned round ready to climb up onto the cart when he caught sight of the expression on Mrs Hardwicke's face. The grey-haired woman was standing slightly in front of and parallel to Mr Grainger and Stacey, making her face obscured from them, so Belden was the only one to see the angry glare that she gave in Elizabeth's direction. The look appeared for just a brief moment but it was enough to cause Belden to frown. Mrs Hardwicke had never met Liz before. Why should she show such dislike towards her? He continued to watch but now the friendly smile had returned and when Liz finally walked over to greet Mrs Hardwicke she was met with a warm handshake. Belden shook his head. He must have been mistaken. Maybe that noonday sun was hotter than he thought.