The Mine

"Finally! After all this time I get to finish what I started! Those deputies are too busy looking for the kid to worry about the mine! Now to get to work! Better hurry before someone comes." The man unrolls the fuses and attaches the wires to the detonation box. Climbing down into the mine shaft he continues to unroll the wire. Down in the shaft he attaches the wires to four sets of dynamite sticks.

"Huh! All these people think this mine is so wonderful! I've heard them talking when they don't even know I'm listening. They think I'm just a new person working in town. No one knows the real me! All those children! I despise children. I sure didn't want to take that boy and deal with him. It's good I didn't have to stay with him. Now after this I can go back to Denver and stay away from this no good place!"

With this said, he crawls back up the ladder and makes his way to the entrance of the mine. Picking up the detonation box carefully, he carries it into the woods. Smiling to himself on what a great job he's done he raises and then pushes the handle down.

Somewhere outside of Paradise

Waking up suddenly, George doesn't know where he is. Something crawled over him. What was it? He wonders. Looking around he sees a large rat eating in the corner of the room. "That's what I felt crawl over me! " he shudders. Looking around some more he realizes he's all alone. "Mister? Are you here? I'm thirsty! Can I have some water please?" George calls loudly but doesn't receive an answer. "Mister? I need to go to the outhouse too! ARE YOU HERE? " he calls again even louder. This time he hears someone coming. The door to the room opens.

"I heard you boy. No need to shout so. I was going to get you a drink like you wanted. Come let me help you up and you can go over in the corner there. We're not an outhouse type of place here! Too fancy for us!" The man laughs to himself.

"Go Inside ? ON THE FLOOR?" George gasps out realizing what the man meant. "Sir! I can't ! I would get a whipping for doing such a thing!" George says as he wriggles back and forth.

"Well, it's either that or hold it until you get rescued and who knows when or if that might happen. From looking at you I don't think you can hold it much more. It's your choice kid!"

Deciding it would be better to just go than try to wait, George lets the man take him to the corner. Finishing his business he feels himself lifted and carried back to the hay and grain sack bed.

"Here's your water kid. I've got a couple eggs out there, I'll cook them up for you ok? Can you eat eggs?"

"Yes Sir, I can. Thank you." George says handing the cup back to him. While waiting for the eggs, he keeps thinking "Ben, I need you. I'm scared and I want to go home. I'm in a barn. It's big with a well outside but no outhouse. Help me Ben!"

Just after the man returns with the eggs, they hear a loud noise outside. "What was that? " George asks.

"If I am right, that was something at the mine. I hope so anyway. T. will be so excited it his plan worked."

Riding through the pastures towards the barn Ethan remembers seeing, he, Mitch and the boys hear a loud explosion.

"What do you suppose that was?" Joseph asks after calming his horse.

"I'm not sure but it sounded very close to the mine!" Ethan answers. "Mitch, you go check it out. The boys and I will keep looking for George. I feel he's in this barn we're going to. It fits with what Ben is telling us he gets from George."

Looking over at Ben he's surprised to see the boy looking worried. Up until now he's been positive he would lead them to George.

"What's the problem Ben? Is George talking to you? Is he all right?"

"He's all right but he's getting more scared and he doesn't know we're coming. I keep telling him but he isn't getting it. I can get him but he can't get me back right now. Ben answers. Then in a few minutes he asks "Pa? Would you be mad if George did something really bad because somebody told him to?"

"If that somebody was the person keeping him from us I would be mad at that person not George. Whatever George does with this person I won't be upset with him. I just want to get him out of this safely! If I could talk to him I would tell him to do exactly as the person who has him says! If you remember when we talked before about keeping yourselves safe with strangers, that's what I said to do. I'm pretty sure George will be obedient. " Ethan says reassuringly.

Joseph speaks up then " Don't worry Ben. We're going to get to George and he'll be OK. He behaves much better than you or me so he'll be perfect for who ever took him. Remember how you used to say George is too good to be our real brother? He's that good still."

Ethan gives Ben a look that has Ben dropping his head. "I don't say that anymore. I used to tease George when we were little but I don't anymore. I promise I don't, Pa!"

Ethan nods his head in understanding. "I don't ever want to hear that you teased him again about not being your brother, Ben. That's just cruel."

"Yes sir, I won't" Ben answers shooting Joseph an ugly look for bringing it up.

"The barn is just over that hill, boys. When we get closer there is a line of trees at the back of the barn. I want the two of you to stay hidden in those trees. NO MATTER WHAT! You are to stay in the trees. If George is there I will take care of getting him out. I don't know what might be in the barn so I need to make sure you two are safe. Do you understand me? I need your word.

"I promise to stay where you tell me." Ben says.

"You have my word, I will stay in the trees and not follow." Joseph tells him.

"Thank you boys. You are helping just by obeying me. I feel George is in this barn.

The Paradise Mine

When Mitch arrives at the mine, there are many mine workers and townspeople standing around. Riding up closer to the entrance, Mitch can see smoke coming out of the Mine.
"Was anyone hurt? What happened ? Was there a gas explosion?"

"No one was hurt because no one was working today. It wasn't a gas build up it was dynamite! Someone deliberately blew up the shaft. Little did they know though, this is helping us! We've been trying to dig thru that wall for weeks! Now the wall is gone and the workers can get in deeper! They've already been down and report there's more veins up ahead. I sure do thank who ever did this !" Leon tells Mitch.

"I'm thankful no one was hurt. I'm also thankful you are the manager and not me, Leon! I'd hate to be the one to send workers down and something happened to them." Mitch says with a smile.

"Yeah, well being the manager is not much to smile about these days. With all the problems we've had lately our supervisors at the headquarters are threatening us with closing the mine. It would mean the end for most of these workers. They just don't hire Chinese and older men in most of the mines in the Colorado Springs area. Most mines these days only hire young unmarried men or single older men who have worked all their lives in mining. Paradise Mine is very unusual in the fact we hire men with families and anyone who is willing to put in a hard day underground."

"Paradise is a bit of an unusual town as well. How many western towns do you know of where people have to check their firearms into the Sheriff's office before being allowed to do anything in the town? Personally I live feeling much better that I'm not going to be shot at just for walking across the street to get a meal! Ethan has shown me it can be done. I'll admit I was very skeptical at first. I didn't think it would happen. Men actually willingly give up their weapons to enjoy time in a nice town. Since he put that law into place last year it's been much more peaceful in town." Mitch smiles thinking about it.

"Ethan Cord is well known in these parts. His reputation as a fast gun proceeds him. I think that particular reputation has helped with any objections he might have faced from the men who enter the town. No one yet has wanted to challenge the well known ex-gunfighter to a showdown. I'm proud to have him on the side of the law. Being a fast gun comes in handy at times, I would imagine. He's a special man. Fast with a gun, hard as steel against wrongdoing and yet he makes a great father to those children of his. I've seen how caring he can be. You wouldn't think those two things, hardness and caring, would work together."

"Well for the sake of who ever it is that took George, I hope Ethan's hardness as you call it, isn't too bad. He might shoot first and look for answers last when he catches up to the kidnappers. Ethan gets wild when someone takes out after his children in any way! He's had several deep discussions with the new schoolteacher for his cruel treatment of the children." Mitch tells him.

"If that is the case, then the man is lucky to still be walking around in my opinion. The old Ethan would have shot him just for threatening a child. He's always had tender feelings for children even before he became an instant father. I always hoped he would settle in and be a father someday."

"How long have you known Ethan, Leon?" Mitch asks

"Oh probably about seven to eight years I guess. I was about twenty five when I moved up here from Texas. Ethan and I are around the same age. I'm just a few years younger. All who knew Ethan then were very surprised when he suddenly left town and returned with four young children. Most of us never knew he had any family. He wasn't one to discuss personal things back then. Heck! He hardly discusses anything to do with the family these days either! I can usually only get a 'they're good' when I ask about the children."

Mitch nods his head in agreement. "Ethan isn't the most forthcoming parent I've ever met, that' s true. He keeps his private life pretty quiet most times. I think it's more to protect the children than to shut people out. He's pretty strict with the children on what they can and can not do. I myself would be the same if I had his background. "