Mackinac

Note – 11/2013  This story is currently undergoing reconstruction but is posted here in its entirety.

Thank you to my husband for your continued support and inspiration!
Thank you to an amazing group of contributors and beta readers, especially Calico!

Lilacs 2

Mackinac

St. Louis, Missouri
June 1887

“There it goes, Heyes.”

“Hmm?” Hannibal Heyes mumbled through his worn black hat, barely awake enough to notice his partner was addressing him.

“The Mississippi River.  Guess you can’t say you’ve never been east of it anymore.”

Heyes sat up pushing his hat back to look out the small window of the train.  The Kid was right, they’d just crossed the Mississippi and Heyes could see his beloved West growing smaller behind them as the train raced eastward.   A whole new world and a whole new life spread out before them.  A future, waiting to be written.  It wouldn’t be long until they’d be in Chicago.  Then they’d be getting off this train and onto the steamship that would take them to the island.  What was it called again?  Mackinac Island.  ***”Spelled funny, but you pronounce it MACK-in-awww.”***  That’s what Lom had said. Heyes liked the sound of it and repeated the name again in his mind.  This was so new, so unfamiliar.  Amnesty!  And real jobs waiting for them. He gave a chuckle as he looked back over at his partner.

Kid Curry was lost in his own thoughts now, his arms crossed in front of him, a worried frown wrinkling his brow.  It hadn’t been that long ago Lom Trevors had summoned them to Porterville saying it was urgent.  The Kid had rolled his eyes at the news, expecting yet another impossible hoop to jump through in their never-ending quest for amnesty.  But this time it was real.  They were free men.  Even had the papers to prove it, signed and sealed by the governor, delivered by Lom.  All they had to do was spend the summer working at Mackinac Island’s soon-to-be-opened Grand Hotel, making atonement for their crimes against the railroad.

It seemed the railroad had joined forces with a steamship company in the building of a resort.  A most impressive resort.  The Grand Hotel on Michigan’s Mackinac Island would be one of the finest in the country. It was hoped the hotel and its beautiful, remote location would entice wealthy visitors, greatly increasing travel by both rail and water. The venture promised to be a profitable one for all involved. The names of the two notorious, former outlaws, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, would be used in connection with this railroad project, attracting curious visitors from all parts of the country, perhaps even Europe.

Heyes and Curry would serve a penance of sorts. They’d help with security, make sure visiting dignitaries were enjoying their stay and perhaps share a tale or two of adventure with affluent guests who had probably never lived a real adventure in all their pampered lives.

The thought of being trapped on an island for the summer, going to the same job day after day made Curry nervous.  The West was his home, his and Heyes’.  He enjoyed the wide open spaces and freedom to come and go as they chose, or as a posse chose which had more often been the case.  Worse, he had the feeling that both he and his partner were being reduced to nothing more than a circus act, tea party entertainment.  No, the Kid wasn’t at all sure that he was cut out for this “free man” job, but hoped for Heyes’ sake he was able to pull it off.  He was startled out of his thoughts when he heard Heyes chuckle.
“What?” Curry asked, irritated that Heyes seemed to be laughing at him.

“You.  You look so serious.  Will you relax and enjoy this?  It’s all new to me too, but we’re gonna be just fine, I promise.”

The Kid still looked unconvinced, but decided to settle in for a nap before the next stop.  With any luck, they’d be on the ship by tomorrow and off this cramped train.

Grand Haven, Michigan

Heyes and Curry, high on the top deck of the “Morning Song,” watched as the ship’s crew loaded cargo from the dock.  Furniture mostly, bound for the Grand Hotel, but some passenger baggage as well.  Of particular interest was one young woman.  Near her were piled, more trunks than any woman ought to need in a lifetime.  She appeared to be giving instruction to the crew on the proper handling and stowing of her baggage while struggling to keep her hat in place with the strong Lake Michigan winds.

“Looks like the lady could use some help.”  Heyes exchanged a mischievous smile with the Kid before he tipped his hat to his partner saying, “See ya later.”

He arrived on the lower deck just as the woman was attempting to board, a tricky undertaking considering the tossing of the ship.  She still held her hat with one hand, so Heyes reached out to steady her.  “May I help you aboard, Miss?”

Amy Beresford looked up into the most winning smile and handsome, dark eyes.  She gratefully accepted the offered hand.  The two stood, openly admiring each other until Amy remembered her good breeding.  “Thank you, sir, you are very kind.  I am Miss Beresford.  And you are?”

“Heyes.  Hannibal Heyes.”  He looked for any recognition of the name, hoping her reaction would not be one of fear.  It was the first time he had used the name in introducing himself for many years.  It felt awkward.  Something he and the Kid would need to get used to now that they were free men.

“Hannibal Heyes!  You’re THE Hannibal Heyes!  I’d heard he would be… ***you*** would be on the island this summer, but I never expected… I mean… It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Heyes!”  Amy blushed to find her hand still held by the former outlaw who had helped her board the ship, but made no attempt to remove it from his.

“Believe me, Miss Beresford, the pleasure is all mine.”  A better reaction than he had hoped for. Heyes, taking a moment for his mind to catch up with his senses, reluctantly released the delicate hand.  “Would you like to join me in the ship’s dining room for coffee, Miss Beresford?”

“I’d love to Mr. Heyes.”  Perhaps this summer would be even more interesting than she had hoped.

As the crewmen made final preparations before departure for Mackinac Island, Curry watched the scene from the upper deck.  A young woman gently slipped her hand through Heyes’ arm and the two walked off together.  The Kid smiled and shook his head.  It appeared his partner was doing just fine East of the Mississippi.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Madelyn Kraus woke to the sun shining through her bedroom window.  She was late.  She had hoped to speak with Mr. Petersen this morning.  She would have to hurry now if she wanted to be at the hotel before the new employees began to arrive.  The nightmare had haunted her again.  Dark, afraid, alone.  She was never exactly sure what it was that frightened her so about the dream, but she always woke suddenly, covered in sweat, to find that she was indeed, in the dark, afraid and alone.  She pushed the gloomy thoughts aside and quickly prepared for her day.

Without her usual cup of coffee, she gathered her papers and headed out the door. She hurried through town and began her journey up the road to the site of the new hotel.

The Grand Hotel was truly an impressive structure.  To think, its construction had taken only three months!  Madelyn stopped momentarily on the long, covered porch, filling her lungs with fresh, northern Michigan air and admiring the breathtaking view of the Straits of Mackinac.  Gathering enough strength to face the new day, she passed through the large front doors and continued to the office suite she shared with Mr. Petersen.

A quick glance around the room assured Madelyn that Mr. Petersen had not yet made an appearance. Perhaps she would be able to talk some sense into him this morning before the new employees arrived.  The idea of hiring two outlaws, train robbers none-the-less, was simply preposterous!  Never mind that a governor had seen fit to give them amnesty.
Madelyn’s thoughts were interrupted as Mr. Petersen blustered into the suite.  She pasted a smile on her face and gave him a cheerful greeting.  He mumbled a, “Good morning,” and moved into his office, closing the door behind him.  Not easily deterred from her mission, Madelyn followed him in, hoping to ply his mood with the cup of coffee she offered.

“Mr. Petersen, I was hoping we could discuss an important matter this morning.  The hiring of Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry.”
Henrik Petersen shuffled through papers on his desk without appearing to pay much attention to Madelyn’s words.
She raised her voice slightly to make sure her point was made. “Mr. Petersen, I just don’t see how the hiring of two outlaws, two ***criminals, *** can be good for the hotel!  I’d like you to reconsider, sir!  With all due respect..”  But the sight of two visitors in the doorway halted the one-sided discussion.

Standing in front of Madelyn, were two well dressed gentlemen, one, with dark hair, a lovely smile, and an air of confidence about him.  The other had the same confident manner, with a lighter complexion and pleasant, almost boyish features.

“Good morning, gentlemen.  May I help you?  I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you arrive,” she addressed the guests.

Petersen’s booming voice overtook hers.  “Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry!”  He shook each man’s hand.  “The porter sent word your ship had arrived.  I trust you had a good trip from Wyoming?  I’d like you to meet Mrs. Kraus, my assistant.”

After the initial moment of shock, Madelyn managed to close her gaping mouth and paste the familiar smile back on her lips.  She greeted the men cordially, then, closing the office door behind her she retreated to her own desk where she buried her face in her hands.  It was clear Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry had heard every word she said about them.  This day was not going well.  Not well at all.
***

Amy Beresford and Madelyn Kraus met as planned for lunch that day at a cafe in town, where Madelyn relayed her horrendous morning incident to her dear friend.  Although Amy sympathized with her friend, she found it hard to suppress the girlish giggle that wanted to erupt.  She put a hand to her mouth and cleared her throat.

Amy and Madelyn had grown up in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, spending summers with their families here on the island.  This summer, the two would be sharing the Beresford family cottage.

Although Amy and Madelyn had been friends since childhood, they were different as night and day in many respects.

Amy’s dream was to be an actress and travel the world.  She had secured a position at the hotel’s theater for the summer in hopes that the opening of the hotel would give her dream the boost it needed.  She had an outgoing personality, was quick with a laugh, and had a compassionate heart.

Madelyn had always been the quieter of the two.  She was meticulous about details and sometimes a bit too cautious, which made her the perfect choice as assistant manager of the Grand Hotel. Madelyn also had a kind heart and liked to laugh, although it had been a while since Amy had heard it.

“Maybe you should give the two of them a chance, Maddie.”  Amy hoped to put her friend’s mind at ease.  “It’s been a long time since either one of them committed a crime.  And the governor obviously feels they’ve reformed.”  She sipped her tea, giving her friend a chance to think.

“I just don’t think I can do it, Amy.  Mr. Petersen wants me to work with them, teach them about the island, entertain guests with them!  How can I do that when all I keep thinking about is, well… They rob trains?”

“You’re forgetting, I’ll be there to help you.”  Amy leaned across the table placing a supportive touch on her friend’s arm.  Then, unable to contain herself any longer, excitement bubbled over.  “I’ve met them, Maddie!  On the ship and they’re adorable!  I’ve got dibs on that Hannibal Heyes, but his friend, Mr. Curry, he’s a charmer too!  And those blue eyes!”  She rolled her eyes heavenward and finished with an afterthought, her voice taking on a teasing note, “You know, Maddie, you could do far worse.”

Madelyn nearly choked on her tea.  Her dear friend, carousing with outlaws!  And the thought of herself, not yet widowed a year, seeking the company of any man, much less that gunman!  She was getting a headache. She needed a walk on the beach to clear her head before returning to her desk.

Declaring her need to return to work, Madelyn hugged her friend and promised they would talk more at dinner that evening.

***

“They arrived today, Edgar,” Henrik Petersen informed his boss at dinner that evening.

“Good.”

Edgar Schultz was a hard man, and difficult to work for.  He had little concern for his employees, interested only in the bottom line — profit.   For a good portion of the time Petersen had worked for Schultz, they had seen profits reduced considerably at the hands of two particular young outlaws.  Schultz was eager to turn the tables, reaping the benefits of a new partnership between the aforementioned outlaws and the hotel.

When Henrik Petersen had been promoted to the position of manager of the Grand Hotel two weeks ago, he had jumped at the opportunity.  His friend and colleague, Jonathon Kraus had been in line for the job until his untimely death last fall.  Everyone involved with the project had assumed Schultz would take over the position himself.  The truth was, Edgar Schultz knew the amount of work that would be involved in getting the hotel off the ground so, opted for the more comfortable position of “overseer of the manager,” which meant he would have no real duties of which to speak.

As the magnitude of his new position unfolded, Henrik Petersen began to have doubts about his ability to fulfill the job requirements.  The position he had inherited had been neglected for so long, Petersen was having a difficult time keeping tabs on everything that needed to be done.  Not to mention, Edgar Schultz made Petersen nervous at best.  Up to now, Henrik had kept any doubts on the hiring of Curry and Heyes to himself.  After Madelyn made her feelings known to him this morning, Henrik felt he had no choice but to address the issue with his boss.

“Seems Mrs. Kraus isn’t very pleased about their presence here, sir.  Can’t say as I blame her, after what happened with Jonathon.”  Petersen finished off a second glass of wine, trying to swallow down with it his disgust for the older man.

“I didn’t like what happened with Jonathon either, but you’re the manager, Henrik!  She doesn’t have to be pleased about it, just make sure she follows instructions!”  Schultz pounded a fist down on the table, a little louder than he’d planned.  “I want those two happy here.  After all, the happier they are, the more money WE make!”  Schultz smiled greedily, stabbing at the last piece of steak on his plate.

It wasn’t that Henrik thought Curry and Heyes posed any danger to Madelyn or her friend Amy.  He had simply hoped to save her the discomfort of dealing with them.  Deep down he had known Schultz would not agree and that Mrs. Kraus was dedicated enough to do whatever needed to be done.
He closed his eyes and reluctantly continued.  “I’ve asked her and her friend to show them the island tomorrow, make a day of it, picnic lunch and all.  Madelyn will keep them happy.  She wants the hotel to be a success Edgar, she’ll keep them happy.”

Edgar Schultz swirled the wine around in his glass and smiled.  “And if you want to keep your job Henrik, you’ll make sure she does.”
***

Kid Curry spent the early morning hours admiring the sunrise over the water and listening to the cry of the gulls as they hunted their breakfast of fish.  He leaned his head back against the bench on which he sat, trying to recover from a night without much sleep.

This island was beautiful, but it wasn’t home.  The suite of rooms he and Heyes shared was more than adequate, in fact he couldn’t remember staying anywhere nicer since the last time they had visited their friend Soapy in San Francisco.  Things were different here.  Or maybe, the amnesty is what made the difference.  People knew who he was now.  Addressed him as “Mr. Curry” instead of the more comfortable “Thaddeus Jones” he had become accustomed to.  Funny, how some people seemed to admire him and Heyes, now that they weren’t wanted anymore.  Others still saw them as outlaws.  Saw him as a gunman.  Would that ever change?  Curry thought most likely, not.

He began a leisurely stroll through the streets of town.  “Mornin’ ma’am,” he tipped his hat to the young woman sweeping the steps in front of the town jeweler.  Miss Michaels’ cheeks flushed a becoming shade of pink as she watched the attractive stranger continue on down the street and up the hill toward the new hotel.

From a distance, the Kid saw Heyes waiting for him on the hotel’s long front porch, ready for their first full day as hotel employees.  Heyes was dressed in a business suit, but Curry had opted for more comfortable attire.

Heyes shook his head as his partner approached.  “You’re gonna get us fired before we even start, Kid.”

“Petersen said he wanted us to explore the island today, Heyes.  Can’t go explorin’ dressed like a banker now, can I?”
The Kid had a point. Heyes briefly considered going back to their room for a quick change of clothes, but Mrs. Kraus and Amy arrived, capturing his attention.

Amy, in her usual bubbly manner greeted the two men excitedly, looking forward to showing them around the island.  She carried a large picnic basket on one arm which Heyes politely took before helping her into the waiting buggy.

Madelyn hesitantly accepted the Kid’s offered hand up into the buggy and took a back seat.  Heyes gathered the reins and seated himself in the front next to Amy, who had already begun rattling off the history of Mackinac Island – the long version.

“You know, Jean Nicolet is credited with the island’s discovery, but there were Indians here long before he arrived.  In fact…”  She went on to include everything from native legends to fur traders and the building of Fort Mackinac.

As they made their way slowly around the outer edges of the island, Amy continued to chatter on, pointing out site after historic site.  “…And that right over there is called Arch Rock.”  As she extended her arm to point, she leaned rather close to Heyes, allowing him the opportunity to inhale her enticing, womanly scent.  “Legend says it’s the bridge between life and death, formed by the tears of a young maiden, waiting for her lover who was never to return…”
Amy told the tragic tale with so much emotion, so much energy, that Heyes felt himself squeezing the reins tighter than he normally would, causing a blister for form on his left hand. He rubbed it against the cloth of his pant leg and cleared his throat in an effort to regain control of his thoughts.  Amy Beresford was one bewitching woman.

The morning continued pleasantly with Amy, ever the fount of island knowledge, pausing only for a breath between stories.  Occasionally, when Heyes or Curry would ask her a direct question, Mrs. Kraus would give a brief answer.  It was obvious she was not enjoying the outing nearly as much as her friend.  Mrs. Kraus was business-like and polite, but not overly friendly.

When they stopped for lunch it was the Kid who took charge of the picnic supplies, with the assistance of Madelyn.  Heyes had managed to discover her first name during the buggy ride, along with permission for the two of them to address her using it.

Amy grasped Heyes’ hand as soon as her feet hit the ground, pulling him off to see the view from the nearby bluff as she called to Madelyn, “Be a dear Maddie, and set up the picnic for us?”

Curry gave Madelyn a hand spreading out the picnic supplies and made a cautious attempt at conversation.  “Might be a good idea if we got to know each other a little Madelyn, seein’ as how we’ll be workin’ together.”

Madelyn saw the sense in this, although the idea of getting to know a criminal, even a reformed one, made her more than a little nervous.  After a momentary pause, she agreed.

“Well, since Amy told you my first name, perhaps you could tell me yours,” Madelyn suggested, trying to sound less apprehensive than she felt.  “I presume your mother did ***not*** name you,” she cleared her throat, ***”Kid.”***

***”An attempt at humor,”*** thought the Kid.  ***”That’s a start!”*** He realized he and Heyes made this woman uncomfortable and hoped to put her doubts to rest.  Their success in this job and in the future would depend a great deal on their ability to adapt to public opinion about their past.  He wondered if Madelyn had any idea just how uncomfortable she made ***him.***

“No, I guess you could say it was Heyes who named me Kid.  My parents named me Jed.  Jedediah actually.”

“Jed suits you.  I’d prefer calling you that, if you don’t mind,” she requested.  The name sounded so much more law-abiding than “Kid.”  More professional, even Biblical.  “And where is your family now, Jed, back in Wyoming?” she continued.

“Don’t mind at all and, I don’t have family other than Heyes. They died, a long time ago.”

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t know.”  If Jed was being truthful, Madelyn was indeed sorry, and understood his loss.  But inwardly, she wondered if his family had really died or if they had disowned him due to his outlawing ways.

“What about your family?”  The Kid was surprised to discover he really wanted to know more about Madelyn Kraus.

“My family is gone too.  Amy has been my best friend as far back as I can remember.  Our families were friends when we were small, then, when my parents died, the Beresfords took me in.”  Madelyn conveniently avoided telling Jed about her husband and his death.  It would be too difficult to talk about, too personal discuss with him, especially considering his former occupation.

The Kid discretely glanced at the ring on Madelyn’s finger and found it odd that she made no mention of her husband, but he didn’t comment.

“You two have to take a look at that view after lunch!  It’s spectacular!”  Heyes called as he walked back toward the picnic blanket, Amy’s hand in his.  Madelyn noticed Heyes’ dimpled smile and Amy’s matching one and wondered secretly if it was the view or the company Heyes found “spectacular.”

After lunch, Heyes enjoyed the warm sunshine while Amy and Madelyn reminisced about past summers spent here on the island.  The Kid decided to do some exploring on his own, looking for a little time alone.

He had gone some distance when he found a secluded meadow perfect for target practice.  The activity relaxed him.  It might be just what he needed to feel like himself again.

Six shots rang out in quick succession, startling Amy and Madelyn.  Heyes, being more accustomed to the Kid’s style of relaxation, put the women’s fears to rest, or at least Amy’s.  She jumped up, excitedly heading in the direction of the shots, hoping to get a glimpse of Curry’s next round of practice.

Heyes called to her as she hurried off.  “Just don’t go sneaking up on him!  Not wise to surprise the Kid when he’s got a gun in his hand!”

Curry heard Amy approaching.  It wasn’t too difficult to notice since Amy wasn’t exactly what he would have called the silent type.  When she saw him looking at her she spoke, “Sorry, Kid.  I didn’t mean to disturb your practice.  Mind if I watch?”

“You’re not disturbin’ me.  You can stay if you like.  I’m almost finished.”  The Kid re-set several hunks of wood on a fallen log.

Amy watched as Curry reloaded and prepared for his next round.  She took note of his intense focus in contrast with his relaxed stance.  Almost before she had seen him draw, six more shots had been fired and the Kid was twirling his Colt back into its resting place on his hip.  Amy applauded.  The accounts she had read of Kid Curry’s speed and marksmanship had not been exaggerated.

Back at the picnic site, Heyes saw Madelyn jump with each shot.

“Are you alright, Madelyn?”

“I,” Madelyn stuttered, “I don’t like guns,” she explained.  With some difficulty, she pushed dark memories from her mind and quickly changed the subject to something more comfortable.  “Why don’t we take another look at that view you enjoyed so much?”  She rose and held her hand out to Heyes, her practiced smile re-appearing.

The view from the bluffs was beautiful.  The water glistened as it reflected the sun.  Land was visible to the west on the horizon, which Madelyn knew was Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  She pointed it out to Heyes.  Turning at the sound of Amy’s giggle, she saw her friend walking back toward them, Kid Curry at her side.   Looking at him now, western attire, gun belt low on his hip, the walk slow and deliberate, Madelyn saw him only as dangerous, deadly.  A shiver ran through her even though the day was warm.  Had the man who had killed her Jonathon looked like this?

The ride back to the hotel continued in much the same fashion as the morning.  Amy divulged the island’s mysteries while Madelyn stayed mostly quiet, answering questions only if they were directed to her.

“That concludes our tour,” Amy said, as the buggy came to a stop in front of the hotel.

Heyes and Curry helped the ladies from the conveyance.  “Mr. Peterson is waiting to meet with both of us so, ladies,” Heyes bent to kiss Amy’s gloved hand.  “I’m afraid we will need to say goodbye.”

“Perhaps the four of us could meet for dinner?” Amy suggested, hopefully.  “There’s a wonderful little bistro, just a short walk down the hill.”

“That sounds like a wonderful idea.”  Heyes smiled.

Curry gave a slight nod of acceptance just before he saw Madelyn’s eyes flash angrily at Amy.

“I’m sorry but the three of you will need to dine without me this evening,” Madelyn said.  “I’ve been away from my desk all day and,” she smiled at Heyes and the Kid, disingenuously, “I’ve duties which need my attention.”

***

“You enjoy your tour of the island?”  Mr. Petersen asked as the two men entered his office.
Henrik had been inspecting the hotel’s accounts and was having difficulty making them balance.  He was ready for a short break and took Heyes’ and Curry’s arrival as the perfect opportunity. He sat back from his desk waving a hand at two chairs in invitation for the men to sit and relax as they talked.

The two men nodded their thanks and sat.

“The island’s beautiful.  A perfect setting for this resort,” Heyes answered.

The Kid nodded his agreement with Heyes’ opinion.

“And you got along alright with Mrs. Kraus?”

“Let’s just say we’re getting to know each other,” responded the Kid, who felt that most of Madelyn’s animosity was directed toward him.

Henrik seemed to understand.  “I’ve know Madelyn a long time.  She’ll come around, gentlemen.  Just give her a little time.”

Heyes wasn’t so sure but continued.  “Mr. Petersen, we’ve been wondering exactly what duties might be required of us during our time here.  Mr. Schultz was a little unclear in his explanation when he hired us on.”

“He was a little unclear with me too.”  Henrik rubbed a hand across his tired eyes.

“Unclear” was certainly an understatement.  In fact, Edgar Schultz had shared almost nothing about the job with Petersen.  Disorganization and chaos might have been better words to describe the mess that had been dumped in Henrik’s lap.  No one had been in charge of supervising the accounts since Jonathon’s death.  Schultz had paid the bills often enough to keep creditors at bay, but that was about it.

“Mr. Schultz mentioned security and entertaining guests when we spoke with him,” Heyes added.

“We will need help with security once the guests begin to arrive, especially when some of the more distinguished guests are here.”  He poured a glass of water, offering one to Curry, then Heyes. “Thomas Edison will be here much of the season, including the opening celebrations, and Samuel Clemens will be making an appearance sometime this summer.”

“Thomas Edison!  And Samuel Clemens?  As in Mark Twain?” asked Heyes, clearly impressed.

“Guess he got an amnesty too, since he’s usin’ his real name now,” said the Kid, more under his breath than out loud, but Petersen heard and knit his eyebrows together in confusion.

Heyes, remembering their long-ago discussion quickly chimed in, brushing his partner’s comment aside.  “We look forward to meeting them both, Henrik.”

“Also,” Petersen continued, “I suspect some of the wealthier guests might have items they would like kept in the hotel’s safe.  Other than that, I can’t imagine hotel security being enough to keep you two busy for a whole summer.”  Henrik stretched his cramped muscles as he crossed to the window.

“Entertaining guests would fall under Mrs. Kraus’ duties,” he continued, “and I suppose she will need your help in that area.  But again, not enough to keep you occupied every day. The more I think about it, the more I think Mr. Schultz hired you two just to capitalize on your names.”  He paused, thinking, “And maybe to prove the railroad had finally won their long-standing battle with you two.”  Petersen watched carefully for their response.

The look Curry sent Heyes spoke volumes.  It was exactly as he feared; they would be put on display as trophies of the railroad.

Petersen interrupted their unspoken conversation, “I’ll ask you two, what other duties do you think you might be qualified for in the running of a hotel?”
They turned the question over in their minds while Henrik waited.

“I’m pretty good with numbers and accounts,” Heyes thought out loud, “and the Kid here is real good with people, like organizing workers and such.”

He was remembering their days in Devil’s Hole now.  Heyes would work out the calculations and timing of a plan, while the Kid orchestrated the members of the gang, making sure each one carried out his part correctly.

Again, Curry nodded his affirmation of Heyes’ words.

“You’re good with accounts?” asked Henrik, excited at this good news.

Heyes was just opening his mouth to answer when Henrik tossed a ledger toward him, asking if he’d be willing to take a look.

Heyes agreed.

Before the short meeting was over, an arrangement was in place.  The Grand Hotel would open with one manager and three assistant managers.  Madelyn Kraus, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.
***

Two new assistant managers of the Grand Hotel walked the short distance from their place of employment to the eating establishment Amy had suggested earlier that day.  As they approached, they saw her in the distance, kneeling on the damp ground beside a water pump.  A young boy who looked to be no more than five years old in sniffled front of her.

“You were so brave, while we cleaned that scratch!” admired Amy.

“Woun‘!” corrected the boy, wiping a sleeve across a little nose that clearly, however brave, had only recently stopped sniveling.  “’Snotta scratch!  WOUN‘!”

“I ***do*** apologize,” accepted a contrite Amy.  “That serious WOUND!  It’s all bandaged now.”  A makeshift dressing, apparently fashioned from Amy’s lace handkerchief, adorned one plump, grubby leg.  “Shall we go find…” The shadows of two ex-outlaws fell over Amy.  She looked up.  “I’ll be late,” she apologized.  “Tommy here has lost his mother and we’re about to go looking for her.”

“Well Tommy.”  With a smile, the Kid squatted down to bring his face level with the five-year old. “You reckon if you told me and my partner here what your ma looks like, we could help look too?”

“Uh huh.”  The child looked down, suddenly shy.  “I ain’t a …a mama’s boy.  Just…”

“’Course you’re not a mama’s boy,” declared Heyes, firmly.  “Anyone can see you‘re one tough fella, being so brave about your wound and all.  Just, my partner and I know how women can be, worrying all the time.  And it’s not right for a man to leave his womenfolk worrying.”

Amy graced Heyes with a look of appreciation.

The retired leader of the Devils Hole Gang gathered his way with words had been found acceptable.

“Tommy! Tommy!”  An anxious-looking woman rounded the corner.

“Reckon we found your ma,” grinned the Kid.

Face splitting with delight, Tommy scampered away to be caught up in a maternal hug, being kissed and scolded by turns.

After the “thank yous” and the “it was nothings” were over and Tommy and his mother had walked away, Amy turned to the partners.  “I guess I won’t be late after all,” she smiled.  “And that’s good, because I’m starving!”

“Um… You have a little mud on your face.”  Heyes’ words were definitely an understatement, since Amy looked nearly as grubby as her former patient.

Amy fished in her bag for her handkerchief, remembered it was wrapped around Tommy’s “wound,” and prepared to spit on a corner of her wrap to rub off the dirt.

“Don’t do that!” Heyes protested.  “Here, lick.”

Obediently licking the masculine square of linen, Amy allowed Heyes to wipe her cheeks.  She glanced down at her mud-spattered skirt.  “I guess I look a real mess,” she grinned.  “Are you sure you want to be seen with me?”

“Certain sure,” answered Heyes, still holding her chin.  He met her eye as he adde warmly, “And I think you look just fine, Amy.”

***

Amy’s voice could be heard above the quiet of the French bistro.  “You may have mixed feelings about Wyoming…” Amy was in full flow, glowing with enthusiasm.  A new potato on the end of her fork became a substitute “wagging finger” as she emphasized her point.  “…. Since you spent so many years being wanted there.  But, it is a beacon of forward-thinking in the area of women’s rights.” The potato was disposed of by the hungry actress.  “Didsh ’oo ‘how…” Amy, though reluctant to give up the floor, decided it might be wiser to chew and swallow first.  She made it quick.  “Did you know,” she managed more clearly, then coughed.  “Wyoming was where the first …” cough, “…The first woman was elected…”  The coughing persisted.

Heyes patted Amy on the back and handed her a glass of water.  “Esther Morris.  Elected Justice of the Peace.  1870,” he supplied.  “Now, drink.”

Amy blinked.  So did the Kid.

“I’m impressed,” admitted Amy.  She drank some water.  “You are…”  She narrowed her eyes, giving Heyes a searching look.  “You are in favor of women’s suffrage aren’t you, Mr. Heyes?” she checked.

“Sure,” he said, a twinkle in the dark eyes.  “So long as voting doesn’t make ‘em late getting dinner on the table, or stop ‘em from darning socks, or …”

“What?!” gasped a shocked Amy.  “That is the most appalling …”  She stopped.  Her brows drew together.  “Are you teasing me?”

“Well,” smiled Heyes, shaking his head admiringly.  “I was ***trying*** to tease you.  Reckon you’re just a bit too smart to fall for it.”

“You sure know a lot interesting stuff, Amy.”  This was the Kid. It was the first time he had been able to get a word in this evening.  He had to admit Amy was smart, pretty, even sweet, but he would have preferred it if she were a little more…quiet.

Heyes didn’t share the Kid’s opinion, finding Amy Beresford wonderful company.  After spending so many years alone with his partner, he found it quite stimulating to share conversation with this exciting, attractive young woman.

“I take it you are a supporter of women’s suffrage, Kid?”  She didn’t wait for him to answer the first question before asking another.   “I knew it!  So, will you vote in favor of Wyoming becoming a state?”

“We have spent a lot of time in Wyoming over the years, Amy, but I can’t say we’ve actually resided there for quite some time,” Curry informed her.
“But you ***do*** vote?  I mean, it would be such a shame to have the right to vote and not…”  Amy stopped.  Feeling like she’d really put her foot in her mouth, she filled it instead with another potato.  She chewed thoroughly before continuing.  “Sorry.  My mouth runs away with me sometimes.  I guess it would be rather difficult for the two of you to walk in, swear to your names, and cast your votes.”
There was a moment of awkward silence, broken by the arrival of three delicious-looking desserts.

Heyes waited until Amy took a bite of the luscious French pastry.  He then seized the opportunity to turn the conversation to the question he had been wondering about all day.

“Seems Mrs. Kraus doesn’t like us much, Amy.  What we’re wondering is, why?”

Although Amy certainly enjoyed talking, she was not a gossip.  She carefully weighed her words before answering. She didn’t want make her friend angry by revealing too much personal information, yet these men had a right to know where they stood with Madelyn.  She took a deep breath and began.

“Maddie and her husband, Jonathon was his name, were very happy, very much in love. He worked for the railroad and was actually supposed to be the manager here at the Grand.  He and Mr. Petersen seemed to be pretty good friends.”  She paused, taking another sip of water.  “Anyway, Jonathon was sent on business to San Francisco last year.  He never made it home.  The train he was on was robbed.  Jonathon was shot.  Killed.  They never found the man who did it.  Maddie hasn’t been the same since.  I suppose the two of you are a reminder to her of what happened, and of how much she has lost.”

A new understanding dawned for the two former outlaws. Maybe they were responsible for more than just the crimes they had committed themselves. They hadn’t asked to be legends, but many viewed them as such, had followed in their footsteps.  Some of those followers had not been as determined to prevent the loss of life as they had been.  It would take much more than amnesty if they wanted to atone for their past and set a new example, start a new life.  No wonder Madelyn Kraus didn’t want them working in her husband’s hotel.  It wouldn’t be easy to gain her trust, but they’d try.  They had all summer to try.
***
&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&
When Amy returned to the cottage after dinner, she found Madelyn seated in the parlor, book in her lap.  Madelyn greeted her friend warmly.

Amy’s return greeting, although not angry, certainly was not happy either.  “I can’t believe how you treated the two of them today, Madelyn!  My mother would have been so displeased by your rudeness!”

“I was most certainly not rude!  I treated them cordially and politely!” Madelyn defended.

“Well, you were definitely not friendly to them!  Maddie, they were sweet and polite, but you just sat there and barely said a word!”

“I’m sorry if I disappointed you Amy, but I have a hard time getting past their former occupation.”  Madelyn rose, placing the book back on the shelf.

“That’s just it, Maddie.  Former occupation!  They don’t rob trains anymore!  They haven’t for a long time.  And in case you didn’t know it, they never murdered anyone!”  Amy waited while her words sunk in.  She hoped she hadn’t been too hard on her dear friend, but it had been almost a year since Jonathon’s death.  To Amy’s thinking, it was time Madelyn moved on with her own life.

Madelyn was quiet for a while, the stinging words taking affect.  “What do you want me to do, Amy, pretend to like them?”  Her tone was quiet, resigned.

“No, I don’t want you to pretend.  I want you to give them a fair chance.”  She moved closer, placing a hand on Madelyn’s shoulder.  “I really like them both, Maddie.  Can you just try to be friendly?  For my sake?”

Madelyn reached up and covered Amy’s hand with her own.  “I never could tell you no.  Alright.  I’ll try to give them a chance.  I’ll try to be friendly.  Good enough?”

“Good enough.”  Amy smiled.
***

I strongly disagree, Mr. Schultz.”  Madelyn’s green eyes flashed, but she held her anger in check as she debated with her boss.

Madelyn Kraus could have been described as a quiet person, but that didn’t make her opinions any less firm.  When backed into a corner she could defend herself as well as anyone.   Kid and Heyes were witnessing this for the first time at the early morning meeting between members of the hotel administrative staff.

“This resort is supposed to be a place of tranquility.  Shooting demonstrations are totally at odds with the peaceful atmosphere of the island.”

“Score one point for Madelyn,” thought Heyes.

“Peaceful?  Mrs. Kraus, Mackinac Island is home to a fort, the site of bloody battles!  I’d hardly call that peaceful!”  Mr. Schultz was a man used to getting what he wanted.

“…and one for Schultz,” Heyes’ mind kept score.

“But the wars are now over, sir.  And as you will recall, this hotel is to be a place of rest and rejuvenation for our guests.”

Heyes’ head turned back toward Schultz, knowing Madelyn wouldn’t have the last word.

“They’ll rest AND they’ll enjoy shooting demonstrations!  Weekly ‘Wild West’ shooting demonstrations,” Schultz turned from Madelyn pointing toward Kid, “hosted by you, Mr. Curry!  There will be no further discussion!”  Edgar Schultz exited the manager’s office, leaving Henrik to sort out the details amongst his assistant managers.

Petersen was the first to speak, “Kid, Mr. Schultz has made his wishes clear.  I trust you’ll handle the arrangements?”

“I understand,” Kid agreed.  He didn’t like the idea, didn’t like being put on display like a prized bull at auction, but he also didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize his and Heyes’ new-found amnesty.

Henrik continued, “Madelyn, I’m sorry, I know how you feel about guns, but…”

He was interrupted by Madelyn who held up her hand.  “There’s no need to apologize, Henrik.  I know this isn’t your doing.”  Turning to Kid she continued, “Jed, when you have a few moments perhaps we could work the demonstrations into the schedule together?  At your convenience of course.” She turned to Petersen, “Are we through here, Henrik?”

Henrik affirmed that they were indeed finished and Madelyn retreated to her desk to re-work, again, the weekly schedule of events.

Heyes and Kid started across the hall toward their shared office.  With a tip of his head, Kid communicated to Heyes he should go ahead without him while he remained behind to talk with Madelyn.  “I have time to look at that schedule now if you’re free.”

She was, so Kid pulled a chair up next to Madelyn as they worked out a new schedule.

“If we move this event to Thursday afternoon, I could accompany you on Saturday mornings.  Would that suit you?”

“You want to come along on the demonstrations?”  Kid asked, surprised.

Madelyn nodded.  “I think it would be best.  We can arrange it as part of an island tour, educate guests on the historic sites of the island, maybe even include a lesson in local botany.”

Kid sat back in his chair crossing his arms in front of him, puzzled at her sudden change in attitude.  “Madelyn, I was under the impression you didn’t like guns, much less…me,” he finished lamely.

“I’m afraid we did get off on the wrong foot, didn’t we?  Truth is, I don’t know you well enough yet to like you or dislike you,” she confessed.  “Amy said she told you and Mr. Heyes about… well, about Jonathon.  You’re right, I don’t like guns.  But the way I see it, we both have a job to do.  Anyway, if I don’t miss my guess, you’re as unhappy with the idea of the demonstrations as I am.”

She was perceptive.  Kid thought he’d used his best poker face during the meeting, trying to mask any emotion at Schultz’s decision.  Apparently, either he should quit playing poker, or Madelyn should start.

“Alright, Madelyn.  Saturday mornings it is.”

Madelyn held out her hand and, pleased at the gesture, Kid took it.  It looked like he would have his chance at winning her trust after all.

Chapter Four

The days preceding the Grand Hotel’s opening celebration were passing far too quickly.  It seemed to Madelyn there were always more items on her ‘to do’ list than there were hours in the day to do them.  She was thankful for Amy, who devoted hours each day to running errands and doing whatever she could to make her friend’s job run more smoothly.  If it entered Madelyn’s mind that Amy made herself available just to spend more time in the presence of Hannibal Heyes, Madelyn had shown the good sense to keep it to herself.

In addition to helping her friend, Amy’s days also included morning and evening rehearsals for the fast approaching opening of the theater production in which she’d make her debut.

Kid and Heyes were proving invaluable to Mr. Petersen and their boss, Mr. Schultz.  Heyes had shown a propensity for business management and Kid was equally well equipped in the management of people.  Schultz gave himself a silent pat on the back at having shown the good judgment to hire these two in the first place!
***
Thomas Edison disembarked from the ship and was overcome with sentimental feelings.  The land of his youth, how he’d missed this place!
“Mr. Edison?”  A dark-haired driver from a waiting wagon addressed him.
“Yes.”
“Sir, my name is Hannibal Heyes.  I’m here to welcome you to Mackinac Island and to the Grand Hotel.”
The two men shook hands.  Heyes, carefully studying the older man, didn’t miss the fact that Edison’s eyes were studying him just as closely.
“Hannibal Heyes?”  Edison rubbed his jaw as if trying to solve a difficult puzzle.  “You say you’re an employee of the Grand Hotel?”
“That’s right, sir,” Heyes responded.
“Why would railroad hotel choose to hire a man who robs their trains?”
“Used to rob trains. My partner and I don’t do that anymore.  We’ve been granted an amnesty.  In fact, you are partially responsible for our early retirement.”
“Me? Responsible?  How so?”
Heyes began loading luggage into the wagon as he answered, “It was your perfection of the telegraph that improved communication between towns.  Got to the point a sheriff or a posse knew we were coming before we did.”  Edison began to chuckle as Heyes finished, “My partner and I decided we’d rather retire alive, than rich.”
“And would that be your partner?” Edison nodded toward the driver of a second wagon which was pulling in right behind Heyes on the loading dock.
“The one and only.”  Kid jumped down from the wagon and walked toward the men.  Heyes introduced them.  “Kid, this is Thomas Edison.  Mr. Edison, this is my partner…”
“Kid Curry!”  Edison greeted Kid with a smile.
Kid, noting the many crates and boxes piled on the docks, suggested, “If we’re gonna have this equipment ready for a demonstration tomorrow, we better get it loaded.”
Thomas Edison’s baggage, along with crates and boxes of scientific equipment filled the two wagons.  More crates were left on the dock.  Kid volunteered to return for the last load on his own which left Heyes free to assist Mr. Edison in setting up his odd-looking gadgets.  Heyes embraced the entire process as a delightful experiment.  It seemed Thomas Edison had found an eager and curious student in Hannibal Heyes.

Opening of the Grand Hotel
July 10, 1887

The opening day activities went exactly according to Madelyn’s well-ordered schedule.  Children happily played supervised games outdoors while their parents took guided tours of the hotel’s interior.  A picnic lunch was served on the expansive lawn and kitchen staff set the large banquet hall in preparation for this evening’s elegant dinner.
Mr. Edison’s demonstration of a variety of his inventions was held on the hotel’s long front porch.  Guests, even one particular hotel employee, found his demonstration fascinating.  The day was shaping up to be a tremendous success.
***

Placing his worn black hat high on the shelf of the closet in his room, Heyes made a final check of his appearance before shutting the door behind him.  He sat down at the small desk to have another look at one of the hotel accounts while he waited for Kid.  They’d need to be leaving soon for the first of the evening’s events.

Henrik Petersen had been kind enough to recommend a tailor to Kid and Heyes shortly after their arrival on the island.  Since entertaining guests would be part of their job description, they would need to dress for the occasion.  Tonight’s opening celebration required formal attire.

A knock on the door interrupted his studying of the accounts.  Heyes looked at the clock and yelled, “Kid we gotta go!” as he walked over to answer the door.

Madelyn was greeted with his delightful smile.  “Madelyn!  We were just about to head downstairs to meet you.”

“I thought we could go over the evening’s schedule one more time before the banquet.”  She nervously checked her watch again.

“You mean once more, in addition to the six times we’ve already reviewed it today?”  His words were not angry, but their meaning was clear. “You’re more jumpy than…than ME the night before a bank job.”

A little surprised at the comparison, she nervously primped her already perfectly arranged hair.  “I’m sorry.  I just want everything to run smoothly.  This is so important.”

“I know Madelyn.  And it will.”  Heyes chuckled.  “Why don’t you try to breathe and enjoy the evening a little?”  He demonstrated a large breath in, a long breath out.

She rolled her shoulders and tried to breathe with him, making a poor attempt at looking calm.

“Heyes, I can’t remember how Petersen’s tailor said to tie this …Oh, Madelyn!  I didn’t know you were here.”   Kid made his entrance into the living area, ready to go except for the tie he held in his hand.

Thankful for something to do with her nervous energy, Madelyn quickly spoke up, “Allow me.  You know, I used to tie my father’s ties when I was a young girl.”  The words rattled from her mouth as she took the tie from Kid.  “My parents were always going to formal banquets.  I used to pull up a kitchen chair and stand on it to reach around Daddy’s neck.”

Kid had never heard Madelyn put so many words together at one time, other than to give instructions about the handling of hotel business. She stood in front of him, reaching around Kid’s neck to place the tie expertly on his collar.

“Lilacs,” thought Kid and he closed his eyes, trying to breathe in deep, but the formal collar became too constricting.  Funny, how it seemed doubly so with Madelyn standing so close.

“Here.  Turn around and look in the mirror while I tie it.  That way you’ll be able to do it yourself next time.”

She placed her hands on his shoulders and turned him toward the mirror then, Madelyn stood behind him, demonstrating the art of tying a formal tie.

“See, you flip this end over the other…”

Her soft curves pressed pleasantly against his back.

“…now this goes through here…”

With her arms encircling him from behind, even Madelyn’s subtle movements made Kid’s efforts at concentration difficult.

“…then tuck this like so.”

Her breath was warm on his ear.  A shiver ran through him and Kid willed his brain to continue functioning.

Coming around in front of him again, Madelyn slipped one gloved finger gently between the collar and his neck, greatly improving his ability to breathe, but greatly increasing the room’s temperature at the same time.

“Now, we tease the ends…” instructed Madelyn as she fluffed the bow.

Kid gulped, his ends feeling pretty dang teased already!

Madelyn brushed her hands lightly over the suit’s shoulders and lapel before declaring, “Voila!  All done!”

She smiled at Kid then, not the pasted on version she’d shown him so many times before, but a full smile that reached her spring-time green eyes.

Why hadn’t he seen her this way before?  He surely saw her now.   Her face seemed aglow with the excitement of the evening, but it was the smile that was Kid Curry’s undoing.

Heyes covered his mouth, not wanting to let on that he’d found the entire episode downright entertaining.  Kid wasn’t exactly one to object to a woman’s attentions, but this particular woman and the degree of her attentions certainly seemed to have an interesting effect on his partner.

Madelyn stepped toward the door, totally oblivious to the stir she’d just created in her co-assistant manager.

“Are we ready to go, gentlemen?”
***

After the sumptuous dinner, guests retreated outdoors for an enchanted evening of dancing under the stars. Lanterns cast a romantic glow over the garden area which had been arranged as a dance floor.  An orchestra sent music floating over the air, joined by the soft sounds of a woodland night to create a magical feeling.  A warm breeze came from the west, carrying with it the lovely aroma of newly blooming summer flowers.

Madelyn couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.  She stood near the gazebo looking out at the happy guests, smiling as she watched the attempts of a young debutant hoping to attract the attentions of Kid Curry.  The poor girl was really doing her best.  It just seemed that her best didn’t meet the qualifications of said gentleman, who appeared to be trying desperately, yet politely, to extract himself from her clutches.  Amy joined Maddie, giggling when Heyes finally rescued Kid from the girl, asking to speak with him on “an important matter of business” which of course was non-existent.

“You’ve done an amazing job, Maddie.”  Amy was proud of her friend.  She’d worked so hard over the past months to ensure the success of the hotel.

“Thank you Amy, but I couldn’t have done this without you!  Petersen really should be paying you, as much help as you’ve been to me.”

“I’m enjoying every minute, Maddie.”  Madelyn followed Amy’s gaze to the place where it rested, longingly, on the handsome Hannibal Heyes.

“I’ll just bet you are!”  Madelyn gave her friend a knowing smile.  “Go on, get over there and dance with him already!”
***

“It suits you.”  Heyes turned and smiled, hearing Amy’s voice from behind him.

“I’m sorry?”  He wasn’t sure he understood her statement.  “What suits me?”

“The suit.  The midnight black representing your dark, mysterious past, the crisp white – your pristine future.”
“Who said anything about my future being pristine?”  The teasing glint was back in his eyes.

She laughed and held her hand out to him, “Ask me to dance?”

He took her hand kissing it with mock formality, “Ah, so the beautiful lady wouldn’t mind a little un-pristine adventure in her future?”

“Not as long as it’s with a dark, mysterious, former outlaw.  Did I mention… handsome, former outlaw?”

“No, you didn’t.  Would you like to dance, Miss Beresford?”

“Certainly, Mr. Heyes.”
***

With a quick glance to make sure ‘Miss Debutant’ wasn’t watching, Kid joined Madelyn at the gazebo.  “Beautiful night.  Everything’s turned out real nice.”

Madelyn looked at him closely, seeing before her a gentleman, handsome even, barely resembling the desperado she knew he’d once been.

Respect for the two men had begun to grow within her during the previous weeks.  She was wise enough to see how much help they’d been to her and Henrik.  It seemed whenever she needed a helping hand one of the men was there at her side, offering whatever was needed to complete the task:  going to the mainland to check on a delivery, hosting a pre-opening tour for railroad and steamship company executives, making a quick decision when she herself seemed too overwhelmed at the moment, or just handing her a cup of coffee when she needed it most.  She was truly grateful for their help, their anticipation of her thoughts before she expressed them. They certainly were not the men she’d thought them to be at first.  They were kind, thoughtful, caring.

“I owe you and your partner a great deal of thanks for that,” she smiled.

There was that smile again.  Kid was beginning to love it when she did that.

“Would you like to dance, Maddie?” he held out his hand to her, awaiting her response.

He’d called her Maddie, not Madelyn.  She liked the sound of her name from his lips.  It felt so familiar, so right.

“I’d love to, Jed,” she answered, taking his hand as they made their way to the dance floor.

It was comfortable here with him, close to him.  Madelyn found herself talking, laughing, enjoying the company of the man she had feared a few short weeks ago.  And Kid found himself enjoying her company more than he thought possible.

His hands were gentle as he held her, polite, proper, but their effect on Maddie was becoming anything but.  A storm was stirring within her, like a gale blowing in off Lake Michigan.  Waves of emotion swept through her, gently at first then, swelling with the increasing winds.  The music played on, his hands pulled her closer, the waves crashed louder. The smell of his skin, the feel of his arms around her, the sound of his voice when he said her name.

Jonathon!  The sudden memory of another dance, another man brought her back to her senses. She pushed herself back from Kid.  What was she doing?  Her only defense was escape. She needed to get away quick, get away now!

“Lady Fingers!”  The words flew abruptly from her lips.

“What?”  Kid was startled back to reality.  He’d been enjoying the closeness of their dance and thought she had too.

“I almost forgot!”

Then she was gone.

Chapter Five

Last night, Madelyn had seen to the serving of the Lady Fingers in a timely fashion.  Appreciative hotels guests savored the dessert’s flavor and texture, sipping their coffee with it before returning to their rooms for the night.
Today, Kid and Heyes enjoyed breakfast in the hotel’s kitchen along with several employees.  Albert, at sixteen, was the youngest and worked in the stables.  He idolized the two former outlaws and had been honored when they asked to share his table this morning.  Heyes entertained the young man with a card trick while Kid finished off his meal.  Soon, Albert announced his need to get to work, leaving Kid and Heyes alone.

“I was studying the hotel’s ledgers last night, Kid.”

“Last night?  Weren’t you a little busy dancing with Amy last night?”

Heyes gave a full smile, revealing a most delicious set of dimples, but they went unappreciated by Kid.

“Yeah, well, after that.  I had a little trouble getting to sleep so I took a look at the accounts again.  It’s not looking good, Kid.”

“Wha’d’ya mean, it’s not lookin’ good?”  Trouble seemed to follow them wherever they went.  Apparently, amnesty hadn’t changed that fact.

“If I had to guess, I’d say someone’s been skimming money off the top. Embezzling.”
“Petersen?” whispered Kid.

“Maybe, but I don’t think so.”

“Then who?”

“I don’t know, Kid, but that’s what we’re gonna find out!”
***

Tonight, at the opening of the Grand Hotel’s theater, Heyes watched in helpless awe as Amy Beresford completed her task of stealing his heart.  In previous days, he had thought Amy to be the most exciting woman he’d ever known, her soft, caring ways complimented by her spirited outlook on life.  Tonight he saw her talent, the dedication to her craft, heard the passion in her voice as she spoke her words. The part she portrayed in the play was not large, but her presence seemed to engulf him as he watched her move across the stage.

He enjoyed the cool of a summer evening on the steps outside the theater as he waited patiently to escort her home.  Kid had gone on ahead with Madelyn and Mr. Edison when they took the carriage back to the hotel.  Heyes had promised to wait for Amy.

Amy paused before heading out of the theater, admiring the view just outside the window.  The dark-haired man stood, elbows leaning back on the porch rail, one foot crossed in front of the other as he waited.  He looked out over the bay, seeming to take in every detail on the horizon.

“G’night, Miss Beresford!”  A man Heyes hadn’t met before passed as he left the theater.

“Who was that?” Heyes asked and held his arm out toward Amy.

“Jealous?”  She doubted he was, but she enjoyed the flirtatious energy that existed between them.

She’d been many places in her life, met a few men, but none like this one.  No one who captured her interest more thoroughly than he.  He possessed such a confidence, an air of authority.  Many men seemed intimidated by her intelligence, not Heyes.  He shared her thirst for knowledge, her excitement at new discoveries.

“Not jealous, just curious,” he corrected.

Amy was different. There had been a few women in Heyes’ past. Most of them nearly as dishonest as he’d been in his previous life.  He wasn’t quick to trust anyone, man or woman, but something told him Amy might be the exception.

“His name is Smith, I think.  He’s one of the stage hands.  A little rough around the edges, but he does his job.”  She paused, “Why are you chuckling?”

“Oh, nothing!”  He couldn’t hide his smile.  “Just thinking about how the world really is full of people named Smith and Jones.”  He went on to share with Amy their use of aliases during the years he and Kid pursued amnesty.

She laughed out loud.  “Joshua Smith?!  You don’t look anything like a ‘Smith’ to me.  I much prefer your own name.  Hannibal Heyes.”

“Like I said before, Amy, just ‘Heyes’.”

“OK, Heyes,” she stressed the use of his last name only.  They continued walking.

“What’s that land mass over there?” Heyes wondered, pointing in a southeast direction.

Without taking her focus off the man, she answered, “Round Island.  It’s uninhabited.  There’s talk of building a lighthouse there in the future.”  Was it possible for a man’s hair to be as soft as his looked?

They walked past the docks, onto the sandy ground of the lakeshore. The only sounds were the crickets in the nearby woods and the quiet swish of the waves lapping around the boats in the harbor.

“I’ve learned so much about this island from you, Amy, but what I’d really like to know more about is you.”

“What would you like to know?  I’m an open book really.  No deep, dark secrets hiding anywhere,” she smiled.

“Tell me where you’re from, about your family.  I want to know everything!”

“Everything?  OK, you asked for it!”  Amy leaned a hand on Heyes’ shoulder as she reached down to remove her shoes.  Enjoying the familiar feel of the cool Mackinac sand beneath her feet, she began, “I grew up in Mount Clemens, that’s a city in the Lower Peninsula, not too far from Detroit…and before you ask, no, there are no mountains anywhere near, not even a hill and, it has nothing to do with Samuel Clemens.”  Heyes laughed and Amy continued her story.

“Madelyn’s parents and my parents were friends.  Maddie came to live with us after her parents died.  When we were about ten we began traveling.  My mother handled most of our schooling, since we were never in one place too long. Father had investments all over the country and he liked to keep a close eye on them.  But we always returned here for the summer.”

They stopped. Amy spread her arms out wide as if to encompass the entire island then, pressed both hands to her heart.  “This island is the closest thing to home I’ve ever known.”  She watched him closely, willing him to love this place as much as she did.

“That’s it?”  Heyes had expected the story to be longer, more elaborate, given her ability for telling a tale.

“What’s it?”  Amy swallowed, she was having trouble concentrating.

“That’s all you have to tell me?”  She was standing so close he could almost feel the softness of her cheek on his.

“Uh huh.  For now.”   For once, she was lost for words.  It was those eyes, those deep, dark eyes.

He didn’t mean to do it, or maybe somewhere deep inside, he did.  She had so many dreams, so many plans.  He had nothing to offer her.  No bright future.  No plans for anything beyond this summer. No plans for anything beyond this moment.  He touched her face, drawing her into a gentle kiss.
***

“Do you really think we can trust him?” Kid whispered the question to Heyes before they entered Petersen’s office the next morning.

“I know, it’s a chance we’re going to have to take, Kid, but yeah, I have a feeling we can trust him.”

Kid had risen early this morning to find Heyes already dressed and again, going over the accounts for the hotel.  After some discussion, they had decided they needed to share their growing convictions that someone was embezzling money from the hotel.  Petersen had been the mostly likely suspect at first, but what they knew of the man didn’t support this idea, not to mention Petersen himself had been the one to ask for Heyes’ help in balancing the books.

The two sat in his office now.  Madelyn brought steaming cups of coffee for each of the three men.

“Would you gentlemen like me to attend this meeting?  I do have other duties that need my attention this morning.”

Catching the brief shake of Heyes’ head, Petersen excused her, “No, by all means Madelyn, you should see to your other business.”

She closed the door, leaving the office suite and making her way toward town.  When he was sure she was gone Petersen began, “You have my full attention.  What did you find in the ledger?”

Heyes showed Henrik the accounts from which large sums of money had mysteriously disappeared.  The accounts dated back to the first investments the railroad had made in developing plans for the Grand Hotel, well over a year ago.

“We’re assuming you didn’t take the money Henrik but we need to know, who else had access to these accounts during that time?”  Heyes waited for Petersen’s response and saw the man’s face turn pale.

“No!  I won’t believe that!”  Henrik rose from his chair.

“Won’t believe what?” Kid asked, leaning forward, trying to keep up as the mystery appeared to be unfolding right before them.

He looked to Heyes who spoke in Petersen’s place.  “He doesn’t want to believe it was Jonathon Kraus.  Jonathon was the one with access to the accounts a year ago.”

“And you knew that before you asked him.”  It was a statement, not a question from Kid.

“I didn’t know it, I suspected it.  Henrik just confirmed it for us.”

Henrik had taken his seat again, but still looked as if he might be ill.  “So what do we do now?”

“Well, the first thing we agree NOT to do is mention any of this to Madelyn.  Until we have proof, there’s no reason for her to know.”  Heyes glanced at his partner, noticing Kid was beginning to look almost as ill as Petersen.

“Right.  Madelyn won’t hear it from me,” Petersen said.  “I don’t want to think it myself, I certainly don’t want to be the one to tell her…”  Henrik’s voice trailed off, not wanting to put the ugly thought into words.

“I should contact Mr. Schultz, he’ll want to know about this immediately,” Petersen said, trying to regain his composure.

“Can we trust him?”  Heyes’ question hung in the air.  “He could have been in on this with Jonathon, we don’t know.”

Heyes was right.  It was quite possible that Schultz was involved from the beginning.  In fact, Henrik began to think it was quite probable, but Jonathon?  This was a shock.

“You’re right of course.  So gentlemen, what do we do?”

Chapter Six

As the clapping from the assembled crowd died down, spectators began slowly making their way back to the waiting coaches that would return them to the hotel.

The weekly shooting demonstrations had become a favorite event for many hotel visitors.  Over time, Madelyn had learned to endure the events even if she didn’t appreciate them.   Although Kid never became comfortable with them, he too tolerated them as a necessary evil.

“That was real good shooting, Mr. Curry!” an excited young boy told Kid, obvious admiration in his voice.

“Thanks.  What’s your name?” Kid asked.  The boy was delighted to have the attention of his hero.

The boy hung his head and replied softly, “Felix.  I never liked it much.  I’m named after my father.”

Felix senior approached along with the boy’s mother, “We need to go son, the coach is waiting and we don’t want to take Mr. Curry’s time.”

Kid shook the man’s offered hand.  “My son thinks very highly of you, admires your…” he searched for the right word, “…talent.”

It was easy to see how much these parents loved their son.  It was also easy for Kid to understand they wouldn’t want their son following in his hero’s footsteps.

Kid stooped low to look in the boy’s eyes.  “Felix, seems to me you’re one lucky boy.  I didn’t have my father around too much when I was young.”  He placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder and continued, “Ya know, being quick with a gun is not much to admire a man for.  Your Pa now, he looks like someone I’d be proud of, takin’ good care of you and your Ma.”

The man gave Kid a look of thanks and Felix saw his father with new eyes as they walked away.

“That was real sweet.”

Kid turned, startled.  He didn’t realize Madelyn had overheard his conversation.  “Hmm?”

“You. You gave that man quite a gift, his son’s admiration.”  She smiled.

Kid smiled back and held his arm out to escort her to their waiting transportation. “Shall we, Madelyn?”

With Heyes and Amy spending every free moment together, Kid and Maddie had naturally started seeking out each other’s company more and more.  The tradition of a picnic lunch after the shooting demonstration had started as a matter of convenience, since neither one enjoyed eating alone, but had quickly become a shared time both looked forward to.  Madelyn would ride to the event with the spectators, pointing out historic sites of the island, while Kid would drive a separate buggy for their return trip.

“Big John’s the slowest horse we got!” Albert remarked earlier that morning, a little surprised when Kid requested he hitch him to the buggy.  “Ya sure ya don’t want me to hitch up Diablo or Shadow for ya?  They pull lots quicker.”

It was true.  Big John was the oldest and slowest horse in the Mackinac Stable. In fact, he held the title for longest tour of the island.  Kid preferred to think of the horse as “highly experienced”. Big John was especially careful about hills, perhaps resulting from a fall long ago.  He had no problem with the pull up a hill, but coming down was where Big John was most cautious.  The slow, shuffling movements of his hooves made for a long, bumpy ride as Big John made his way down a slope. Mackinac Island provided many opportunities for Big John to practice his caution.

Kid assured Albert, “Big John’s the one I want.”  He was grateful for the boy’s concern, but satisfied with his decision.

Albert shook his head and did as bidden.  “I’ll hitch him up, Mr. Curry, but ya know it’s gonna take you twice as long to get both there and back.”

Kid smiled.  He knew.  A slow horse could be a blessing if a man was spending his time with a woman like Maddie.

Kid and Big John detoured from the beaten path.  Kid lifted Madelyn from the buggy when they arrived at Arch Rock where they would enjoy the afternoon.

“What do we have today?” Kid asked, anxious to see what Madelyn had hidden in the basket.

Madelyn removed more food items than seemed necessary on a picnic for two.  Chicken, cheese, fruit, fresh baked rolls from the hotel’s kitchen and finally, fresh lemonade, which Madelyn asked the hotel staff to make especially the way Kid liked it.  She handed to him now and he poured two glasses, passing her one.

“Did you know the Indians believe Arch Rock is the bridge between life and death?”  Her eyes had a far away look as she thought of the legend.

“Seems I remember Amy mentioning something about that,” he licked his fingers and took another piece of chicken.  “Do you believe it?”

“I don’t know, maybe.  Sure is beautiful here, what better place to ‘cross the bridge’ so to speak?”  She was quiet with her own thoughts as she broke off pieces of a roll and put them into her mouth.

“Maddie, you’re not thinking that maybe…”

She looked at him, not understanding.  “Maybe what?”

He didn’t know how to say what he was thinking so he plunged ahead, “You’re not thinkin’ you wanna ‘cross the bridge’, are ya?”

“What?!  NO!”  A hand flew to her heart as she realized how she must have sounded.  “No!  I’m not thinking that at all.”

At least, she hadn’t thought it for a long time.  Perhaps in the days immediately after Jonathon’s death there had been moments …but no, she never really considered…  “I’m perfectly content to stay on this side of the bridge.  There are lots of things I’d still like to do in this life.”

The moment she said the words, she wished she hadn’t.  What if he asked what things she’d like to do?  She was hard pressed to think of one of them right now.  Surely there were things she wanted to do, but she hadn’t let herself think of them in a long, long time.

“Yeah?  Well, good!  There’s a lot I’d like to do too.”  He studied her a while longer, until he was sure she was being truthful with him.

Her smile appeared again.  “Like what?”  She beat him to the question.  There was anticipation in her voice, like a child waiting to be told a tale of adventure.

To Kid, her question was almost like a dare.  His eyes took on a glow of excitement, “I often thought I’d like to raise horses. They seem to like me, ya know?”

She did know. She’d seen his daily trips to the barn with a spare apple or two from the kitchen hidden in his pocket. “In Wyoming?”  Madelyn couldn’t wait for him to go on.

He nodded, “There’s a little town called Sheridan. Nice, quiet place, open spaces, mountains in the distance. I think I’d go to Sheridan, look for some land, a place to start.”

Madelyn closed her eyes and tried to picture what Wyoming might look like and was surprised to find instead, the image of Jed, standing in the tall, wind-swept grasses of a meadow, mountains rising behind him, horses grazing in the warm summer sun.  She lost herself in the peacefulness of his voice as talked and felt herself snuggling deeper into the comfort of his beautiful dream.

“It suits you. Your dream, the horses,” she said when he was finished.

“Sometimes it’s easier to understand ’em than people. If a horse don’t like ya, ya know it. If a man don’t like ya,” he shook his head, “he might not let on, so ya gotta watch your back. Or have a partner you trust to do it for ya.”

She knew he was thinking of Heyes now. “Will you and Heyes stay together? I mean, now that you both have amnesty. Will you still be partners?”

“We’ll always be partners.” He leaned back against a rock, sipping the lemonade. “Whether we work together or not? Guess we’ll have to find that out when the time comes. We haven’t had much chance to talk about it since we got here.” With a wink he continued, “Runnin’ a hotel is pretty time consumin’, in case ya hadn’t noticed.”

Madelyn laughed. Kid liked hearing her laugh. Sometimes when they were alone she seemed so free.

Madelyn leaned back against the rock too, watching him as he watched the waves below.  She spoke aloud a thought she had intended to keep to herself, “It’s always there, isn’t it?”

“What’s always there?”

“The past.  My past, your past.  Can we ever break free of it?”  Her voice was almost a whisper and filled with emotion.

She was right.  In many ways he’d always be the outlaw, the gunslinger, but what about her?  Would she always see herself as the widow, waiting, like the Indian maiden of Arch Rock, for a man who would never return?

“I don’t know, Maddie.”

Kid moved closer as he spoke, placing a protective arm around her shoulder.  She looked into his eyes as he continued, “I s’pose the past will always be there, but maybe,” he paused looking away for a moment then, back into her eyes.  Should he continue, or stop before he said too much?

He took a deep breath and went on, “I been thinkin’,” he brushed her cheek with his fingers.  “I can’t take away your pain, Maddie, but I’d share it with you if you’d let me. Maybe together we could find a fresh start.”

Kid drew her mouth toward his then, kissing her softly, barely brushing her lips with his.  He waited, looking for her response.  His eyes searched hers, unsure of what he read there. Had he crossed some invisible boundary, trespassed on some sacred ground belonging only to her late husband?  Kid braced himself for the cold, hard slap which was sure to follow.

Instead, her hand met his face in a warm, tender caress, followed by Maddie’s lips on his. She kissed him again…and again.  Maddie felt as if the shroud over her heart had been lifted, allowing her to see clearly for the first time in almost a year.   Madelyn wanted nothing more than to stay here in Jed’s arms, exploring feelings she thought long dead.

If Jed Curry had any doubts about Madelyn’s feelings for him, they were quickly evaporating.  He allowed himself to savor the moment, lingering in the lilac scent of her hair, the feel of her touch.

***

Heyes, Amy and Edison sat rocking on the porch of the Grand enjoying the warm breeze of a summer afternoon, Amy listening as both men discussed ideas for future projects.
“Well gentlemen, I need to go to my rehearsal,” Amy stated, checking her watch.
Heyes rose to accompany her, but her hand on his shoulder stopped him.  “Stay with Mr. Edison.  Enjoy the day.  I’m capable of seeing myself to the theater.”  She boldly placed a small kiss on Heyes’ cheek before she turned to go.  He watched as she gracefully descended the stairs.
“She’s quite a woman, Heyes.  You’d be wise to hold onto that one.”
Edison remembered the loneliness he suffered after the death of his first wife, as well as the joy he now shared with his young bride. He hoped his friend wouldn’t take too long in making up his mind about Amy and in the process, lose her.
“Maybe, Mr. Edison.”  Heyes’ focus never left Amy, but he directed his words toward the older man.  “Tell me something. When you find a rare and beautiful flower, do you try to transplant it, take it home?  Or, do you admire it and leave it, as perfect as you found it?”
“I’m afraid I don’t have the answer to that one, son.  You’ll need to figure that out on your own.”
The two continued their enjoyment of the day, talking of other important matters of life, like Edison’s phonograph and the difference between Alternating Current and Direct Current.
***
“You look awfully happy, Maddie.  Anything you want to tell me about?” Amy removed her hat and hung it on a hook near the door.  Her rehearsal had gone well and finished early.

Maddie smiled.  “Let’s just say I’m really glad you made me give Jed a fair chance.  Heyes too, but especially Jed.”

Now it was Amy’s turn to smile.  “I’m not the kind to say, ‘I told you so’, but I do recall telling you he was a charmer!  I’m really happy, Maddie.”  She sat and reached across the table to touch her friend’s hand.

The kettle boiled and Madelyn rose from the table, getting a cup of tea for each of them.  “You and Heyes seem to be growing closer.”

Amy sipped her tea. There was a period of uneasy silence before she went on, “I’ve been offered a position with the theater company, Maddie.  They want me to join them on their tour of Europe.”

“Congratulations, Amy!  It’s what you’ve always wanted!”  Madelyn stopped short when she realized her friend didn’t look happy.  “You haven’t discussed this with Heyes, have you?”

“I haven’t told anyone, Maddie, except you.  I don’t know what to do,” she answered honestly.  “It’s not like Heyes and I have an understanding or anything. It’s just…I don’t know, Maddie.  There are times I feel so close to him.  Other times, it seems he’s pushing me away.”  She sipped her tea, “I wish I knew what he wanted.”

“What is it you want, Amy?”

“That’s a very good question.”  Too bad she didn’t have the answer.
***

Later that night Amy lay awake thinking long and hard about Madelyn’s words, “What is it you want, Amy?” She’d made up her mind.  She knew what she wanted, but if Heyes wanted the same thing…now, that was another question.

Madelyn, alone in her room, prepared for bed.  Her thoughts centered on Jonathon and the life they’d shared, the life they’d planned together. The life that wasn’t meant to be.  She had given him her heart, but it had been returned to her, battered and bruised one day last fall when she’d heard the awful news of his death.  One small tear slipped down her cheek as she removed her wedding ring for the final time and placed it in the jewelry box.  She wouldn’t put it back on tomorrow morning or any morning ever again.  There were things she wanted to do in this life.  It was time to start doing them!
***
Henrik Petersen met with Kid and Heyes in his office back at the hotel. He believed he had a breakthrough in discovering the truth concerning the embezzling of funds from the hotel’s accounts.  Although weeks had gone by, he had been unable to shake the feeling that Edgar Schultz was somehow involved.  What they needed was proof.
Henrik recalled an earlier conversation with Heyes and Curry.  “You’d be looking for two sets of books, Henrik.  One legitimate set and one that was altered,” Heyes had said.

Surely Schultz wouldn’t have kept those records at the hotel.  Today, Henrik had remembered something very important.  “I remember the day Jonathon ordered the safe for the hotel,” he told the two.  “Jonathon was showing me the different types there were to choose from.  We chose one together.  Edgar asked Jonathon to order a smaller version of the same safe for his home!  He wanted one at his home here on the island for his own personal use!  I’m sure that’s where he’s keeping the other set of books!”
***
A summer storm rolled in from the west.  Lightning flashed just before a loud crack of thunder while Edgar Schultz worked in his home office.  He thought the noise at the window had been the wind, until he noticed a figure standing in front of him.  He reached toward a desk drawer.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you Schultz.”  The voice was low, commanding and somehow…familiar.

Schultz stopped his hand where it was, seeing the intruder had a gun pointed in his direction.  A look of horrified recognition passed over his face.

“I see ya do remember after all. And here I thought ya fergot me.  Just like ya fergot ta pay me the rest’a the money?”

“The rest of the money?  I paid you up front, Smith.  Our business was finished months ago.” Schultz forced the words out, trying to sound more confident than he felt.

Smith’s voice rose along with his anger. “It was months ago ya skipped out on me!  Ya paid me for the train robbery, but killin’ that Kraus fella, that was extra,” he drew closer holding his gun nearer Schultz’s head.  “Took me quite a while ta get to ya, seein’ as how I spent a few months in prison after that ruckus you caused in the saloon.  But I’m here, an’ I want the rest’ a my money…NOW!”

Schultz indeed remembered the ruckus.  He had orchestrated it himself in an attempt to send his cohort away for a while. In fact, Edgar had hoped the disgusting man would have been charged with Jonathon’s murder and hanged, thus leaving no witness to Schultz’s involvement in the matter.  But Schultz hadn’t been that lucky and now Smith was out.  Seeing him here, Edgar knew he’d need a better plan to rid himself of this liability.

“Alright!  You’ll get your money!  Just… just put that thing away!”

Smith kept his weapon, waiting for his payment.

“You can’t think I’d have that kind of money here, in my home!” Schultz hoped the man would remain calm.  “I’ll get it for you, but we’ll have to meet somewhere.  Not here!  And not at the hotel!  I don’t want anyone connecting the two of us!”

Chapter Seven

Another loud crack of thunder shook the window as Heyes watched the white caps tossing the Straits.

“Looks like we’re in for quite a storm,” he commented to his partner, whose answer was a short grunt.

Heyes leaned back against a chest of drawers with his arms crossed watching his friend.

“You’re doing it again.”  Kid was cleaning his gun and the look was back, the wrinkled brow, the worried concentration.  The look that caused Heyes to know, his partner had been “thinkin’” again.

“Mmm hmm…,” came the response.

“Ya gonna tell me what’s on your mind?”

There was a long pause while Kid put down the gun and rubbed a hand across his troubled face, then, “Schultz’s safe.”

Heyes’ jaw dropped momentarily.  There was another long pause before his one word response, “No,” he shook his head.

“Petersen said Schultz has another safe in his home, right? You know as well as I do the proof we need is in that safe.”

“You’re talkin’ crazy, Kid!  We just got our amnesty!  Do you really want us to risk that?  Ya know, AMNESTY?  The thing we spent years workin’ ta get?”

Kid sat quietly.  It was true, the idea was crazy.

“We are not going to break into Schultz’s safe to find proof that Madelyn’s husband, Madelyn’s DEAD husband, was innocent!”

There was a long period of silence then, “I never said, ‘we’, Heyes.”

Heyes was momentarily stunned before sufferring a twinge of hurt feelings at the thought his partner wouldn’t include him in his plan.  “Oh, so you’re plannin’ to open that safe alone?  Ya gonna blow the thing open?”

Kid got up and crossed to the window, leaning on the sill. “I don’t have all the details worked yet, Heyes.  I’m just thinkin’ is all.”

“Well ya can stop thinkin’ ’cause I’m NOT gonna let ya do it!”

The story continues inMackinac – Part two

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

All historical people and places are used fictitiously.
July 2008

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