"We'll be back tomorrow night.  It shouldn't take us too long," Nick Riley said as he placed his saddlebags into the back of the wagon.

            "Wow, Dan!  Boston!" Tommy Bangs exclaimed as he and the rest of the Plumfield School stood on the porch, seeing the young man and their caretaker off.

            "We're just pickin' up feed, Tommy.  It's not that excitin'."  Dan rolled his eyes and climbed into the wagon.

            "I think it is very nice of you to be doing this for Mr. Gerson," Josephine Bhaer complimented as she handed Dan a basket of food.  "With his normal driver ill, he wasn't sure how he was going to get this shipment to Concord."

            "Yeah, well, we're gonna need the feed for winter anyways," Nick commented, making his way over to Jo.  " 'Sides, might find something else in Boston to bring back."

            Jo blushed and playfully punched him in the arm.  "Do not spend that money before Mr. Gerson gives it to you.  Especially not on me," Jo finished with a whisper.

            "We'll see about that," Nick replied, kissing her on the cheek and climbing into the wagon.  "See ya soon!" 

            With a flick of the reins, the wagon was set into motion, leaving Jo, Asia and the remaining children behind.  "Have fun!  And be careful!" Asia called after them.

            "We will!" Dan called back and the wagon was soon out of view.

XXXXX

            It was twilight as the four men crept up to the house.  Armed with pistols, they peered through the front window and into the family's parlour.

            "Take the candlesticks by the mantel and there is a couple of crystal bowls on that table in the corner." The man who seemed to be the leader spoke quietly as he surveyed the "loot" within the home.

            "What about the woman?" another asked as they slinked towards the door.

            "Ricky, you keep her quiet.  Keep watch for anyone, 'specially that fella that's always hangin' around.  We don't need no trouble."

            The other three men nodded and silently they made their way to the front entrance.  A sharp knock was made and a female voice called from inside.  As the door opened, the men made their move and bolted through the doorway.  The woman backed into the hallway, trying to scream but was stifled by the man they called Ricky.  He grabbed her and putting his hand over her mouth dragged her back into the center of the house.  The other three split up, covering all floors and grabbing whatever could fit into their oversized sacks.  Items like jewelry and money were taken while dresser drawers and wardrobes were torn apart in the upstairs bedrooms.  The taller man took the candlesticks and crystal bowls as the leader searched the kitchen for money that may have been stashed away.

            The woman, seeing her home being scoured, clawed at Ricky's hand, managing a sharp scream.  Ricky looked at her, horrified.  "You shouldn'ta done that," he warned.

            The leader rushed towards the front of the house and hissed, "You keep her quiet! Or, I swear Ricky.  You don't want things to turn out like last time, do ya?"

            Ricky shook his head.  "I'm tryin'."

            "Try harder," was the answer as the man stormed off in search of more wealth.

            "Not another word," Ricky said to the woman, dragging her into the parlour and shoving her into a chair.  He shakily drew his gun and aimed it at her.  "Done it before," he said.  "Don't want to do it again."

            The rest finished their ransack, their ambition becoming difficult to carry.  " 'K.  We've got what we wanted.  Let's get out of here!" the tall man called out, heading towards the door. 

            Ricky stepped away from the woman and returned his pistol to its holster.  "I'm sorry," he said earnestly and followed the rest outside.

            As they ran down the steps, a dark figure appeared from the around the corner.  "What's goin' on here?" a deep voice thundered.

            At that all four men took off, heading towards the woods at the far end of the estate.  As Ricky neared the group, a gunshot echoed from that same corner, splitting the group up and they entered the woods.  Ricky's feet carried him far and after what seemed like centuries, he caught sight of his fellow thieves. 

"He hit Jim!" the tall man called out.  "Right in the gut.  He's bleedin' bad."

Ricky noticed the large red colour spreading across the injured man's shirt.  "We can take him to the doc in town," he suggested, kneeling down towards Jim.

            "And what are we gonna say?  We were just passin' through?" the leader asked, smacking Ricky on the back of the head.  "We'll just have to find somewhere else keep him until he's mended."

            "He needs a doctor.  Somebody's gotta stitch him up," Ricky pleaded with the rest.  "He'll bleed to death."

            "No… no doctor," Jim managed to spit out.  "Rum… just need rum…"

            "See?" the leader laughed.  "Jimmy here got the right idea.  Let's get him up and start movin'." 

            Ricky stood back as the other two helped the wounded man to his feet.  As they started towards the main road, Ricky shook his head.  He didn't like where he knew this was going to go.

XXXXX

            Jo gently closed the door to the boys' room as she checked on them one last time before going to bed.  It had been a long day.  With Nick and Dan in Boston, the chores had been expectantly delayed and the cooling weather had brought about restlessness in the children as any changing season did.  As she made her way down the hall, Jo extinguished the remaining candles and entered her bedroom, ready for a night's sleep.

            She turned down the sheets and after removing her dressing gown, slipped into bed.  Although incredibly tired, as Jo lay there, a sense of uneasiness kept her wide-awake.  The thought of a certain barn room being empty left her a little nervous.  "This is silly," Jo mumbled as she turned over onto her side.  "Nick will be back tomorrow."  She smiled.  But I still miss him.  She was so used to his presence and now, after eight months of courting, Jo could barely imagine her life without him.

            She closed her eyes, keeping her thoughts on Nick and attempting to sleep when a loud crash of breaking glass startled her.  Uncertain of the origin of the noise, Jo stood slowly and grabbing her dressing gown, crept to the door.  She opened it to find Asia in the hallway, looking just as concerned.

            "Did you hear that?" Asia whispered, hoping that she had been dreaming.

            Jo nodded as the two women stepped from their rooms.  "The children are all in bed.  Or so I thought," Jo commented.  Another large thump came from below them.

            "Sounds like it's coming from the kitchen," Asia observed.  Jo quietly made her way to the stairs.  "Where do you think you're goin'?"

            "To investigate," Jo replied as she grabbed a candle and lit it before descending the staircase.  "Not without me," Asia scolded, falling into step behind her.

            As they neared the bottom, voices could be heard in the hall.  "Who's there?" Jo called out, reaching for Asia.  The voices became silent which caused a more nervous and tense air. 

            "I said, who is there?" Jo's voice shook.

            A shadow passed through the parlour doorframe and the two women caught sight of a large man.  "Who wants to know?" a husky voice spat out.  The smell of alcohol mixed with tobacco filled the air.

            "This is my home," Jo said, stepping forward.  Her temper had overcome her fear.  "And you don't belong here.  Please leave."

            The man came towards her.  "Oh, I don't think so," he slurred.  "We need some place to put Jim."  Three other men appeared from the hallway, one of them being held up by the other two.

            "We have no room here," Asia piped in, grabbing Jo's hand.

            The tall man drew a gun from his side and pointed it between the women.  "You do now."