The new arrival tied a bonnet under her chin then studied a wrinkly map. She was rail thin yet conveniently curvy in just the right places, though it was hard to tell as her dress went down all the way past the ankle.
She was paler than a glass of milk but attractive just the same. A few freckles. Red lips. A pretty face, though it looked very frustrated. She tucked the map into her bible and decided to see if there was a stranger willing to give her directions.
“Excuse me…excuse me…sir!”
Her voice was very soft. So soft that passers by kept passing on by, no interest in helping her out whatsoever.
Gunther looked at Slade.
“A damsel in distress.”
Slade kept watching. He took another elbow from Gunther.
“Go get her, boy!”
Slade didn’t budge. Gunther sighed.
“Shit,” the old man said. “Look at her. She is a damsel. She is in distress. Marshals are supposed to help people, ‘aint they? You’d be doing your duty if you went over to see how she’s doing, wouldn’t you? And then maybe by the grace of God if by some miracle she found you interesting, that would be nice, wouldn’t it?”
Slade puffed on his cigar.
Gunther stood up. “Son of a bitch. I have to do everything around here. PARDON ME, MA’AM?!”
The young woman turned around as the old man approached.
“Howdy ma’am. Deputy Marshal Gunther Beauregard at your service. I couldn’t help but notice you seem to require some assistance.”
“Oh, thank goodness!” the young woman said as she shook Gunther’s hand. “A pleasure to meet you, sir. Sarah Farquhar.”
“What seems to be the hullabaloo, Miss Farquhar?” Gunther asked.
“I’m looking for the Olmsted property,” Sarah said.
“Oh,” Gunther said. “You don’t mean Frederick Olmsted do you? Are you his relation? Because I’m sorry to say he went belly up a few months ago.”
“No relation,” Sarah said as she pulled a deed out of her bible. “I purchased the property from the bank and the coachman said it is nearby but that can’t possibly be…”
“No ma’am,” Gunther said. “It’s about two miles west of town. Your coachman sounds like a lazy shit heel if you ask me.”
“Oh dear,” Sarah said. “Sometimes I think that if it weren’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck at all.”
“Now don’t talk like that,” Gunther said as he put an arm around the young lady and headed toward Slade. “Surely your husband will arrive soon and set this all right.”
Sarah frowned. “Oh. No. I’m afraid he’s gone.”
“Run off?” Gunther asked.
“Deceased,” Sarah answered. “I thought I’d make a new life out west but it hasn’t been going very well.”
Gunther looked at Slade and silently mouthed the words, “Dead husband!”
Slade shot his deputy a look of disapproval.
“Well, ma’am,” Gunther said. “Your luck is about to change. Allow me to introduce U.S. Marshal Rainier Slade, the finest law man this side of the Mississippi.”
Upset as he was at his sidekick, Slade didn’t mind the opportunity to feel Sarah’s soft hand inside his own.
“Hello,” Sarah said.
A politer than usual grunt was Slade’s response.
“The Marshal here was about to come to your aid,” Gunther said as he pointed to the church. “But he was too busy standing watch over the thirty scoundrels inside. We’re holding onto to them until their trial, you see.”
“Oh my,” Sarah said.
“The Marshal caught ‘em all single handed,” Gunther said. “They got one look at him and threw down their guns, knowing they wouldn’t stand a chance against this deadeye gunslinger.”
“Is that right?” Sarah asked.
“Marshal,” Gunther said. “This is the Widow Farquhar, the new owner of the Olmsted property and in need of assistance in locating her claim.”
Gunther stepped up to the porch and motioned for Slade to follow. “One moment, ma’am. Official Marshal business.”
The lawmen stood inside the doorway, just out of Sarah’s earshot.
Gunther grabbed Slade’s shoulders and looked his boss in the eye.
“She’s pretty, she’s loaded and she’s desperate. Do not f%^k this up!”
Inside Slade’s heart brewed a storm of emotion. He longed for Miss Bonnie and couldn’t help but wonder if maybe one day his love might change her mind. Then again, Sarah was right there.
When it comes to romance, never underestimate the power of a person who is “right there.”
Slade stepped down to the ground. Gunther followed.
“Miss Farquhar,” Gunther said. “This country is filled with all kinds of dangers. Injuns. Thieves. Killers. Mormons and such. I tell you I’d feel a lot safer if the Marshal here would show you the way to your new home. Oh and don’t worry Marshal. The men and I will do our best to carry on in the absence of your astute leadership.”
This was a rare moment where Slade didn’t look at Gunther as a nuisance. The Marshal untied his horse. Chance was the name of the Slade’s noble steed. He was a big bronco, mostly broken in though there was some pep left in him. His previous owner was about to shoot him, finding him too difficult to train, but he took a liking to Slade and got a “second chance.”
Slade climbed on up then reached his hand down to Sarah, who clearly had never rode a horse before. She fumbled as she put her foot into the stirrup then clumsily pulled herself up behind the Marshal. Slade reached back, took Sarah’s right hand, and placed it around his waist.
Sarah pulled it back.
“Oh Marshal! I don’t know if that’s proper. We just met.”
Slade shrugged his shoulders. He kicked his feet against Chance’s sides and his old friend took off, so fast that Sarah quickly changed her mind and wrapped her arms tightly around Slade’s waist for dear life.
Mr. Tough Guy didn’t mind that at all.