Ride for the Sun
Copyright© 2011 by woodmanone
My legs almost healed, Rafe thought as he made his morning walk down to the barn and corral. Should be able to start riding again real soon. Rafe chuckled to himself. Course if Emma has her way, she'll keep me here at the house for another month or two.
As soon as he could get out of bed after being shot in the leg, Rafe started walking to the corral every morning. He wanted to take care of his horse Bowie and it was a good way to get the leg back to normal. He held out a handful of oats to his horse but Bowie turned his nose up at the feed.
Damn horse has been spoiled rotten by Emma, Rafe thought and laughed. Bowie doesn't want just a few oats as a treat now. He's got to have a piece of carrot or apple or even a piece of sugar.
"All right you big baby," Rafe said as he pulled a carrot out of his vest. "Here's your carrot. But don't think you're gonna be getting those when we get back on the trail."
"Back on the trail?" Emma asked. Rafe hadn't heard her come up behind him. "I thought you were going to stay with us Rafe." Before he could answer, Emma turned and ran back to the house. He had seen the tears in her eyes before she turned.
"Aw hell," Rafe said out loud. "Reckon I better have a talk with her," he said and walked back to the house. Rafe had thought a lot while in bed recovering from his wound. He knew that if he wasn't already in love with Emma that he soon would be. Rafe thought of Juanita sometimes but it was with a feeling of fond regret. He no longer thought of her as the woman he'd lost but as a friend he would probably never see again.
The problem wasn't Juanita but the things he'd done since he left home. I've been forced to defend myself several times, Rafe thought. More than most I guess. But I never shot any that didn't have it comin, but killin puts a stain on a man's soul.
Molly looked up from shucking corn when he came into the kitchen. Silently she pointed to the back door. Rafe nodded and stepped out into the covered area that was used for cooking during the hot summer months. Emma was sitting on the low stone wall that surrounded the outdoor kitchen.
"Can I talk to you please?" Rafe asked. Emma didn't say anything and wouldn't look at him. Rafe went on with what he wanted to say.
"I was gonna talk to you and tell you what I'm thinkin." He paused and took a deep breath. "Emma I have feelings for you."
Emma looked up for the first time. There was a hope on her face.
"But you don't know anything about me," Rafe continued. "Emma, I've had to kill men and would have killed another one but I missed my shot. I'm not the hero you've made me out to be." He hesitated and added, "If Emmett hadn't stopped me I would have tracked those bandits down and shot them ... Emma I'm not what you think I am."
Rafe looked at Emma's face and the hope in her eyes. Damn this is the hardest thing I've had to do, he thought. "Emma there's a mark on my soul because of the things I've done. I'm not the type of man you deserve. That's the reason I decided to leave you and the ranch.
"I know most of the things you've done," Emma replied. "I heard you telling Daddy about the bounty hunter and that fellar over to Fort Stockton. I also heard you talk about that vaquero back in San Antonio." Rafe started to interrupt her but she held up her hand to stop him.
"Every one of those men was trying to hurt or kill you. Those bandits tried to do the same thing. You were within your rights to protect yourself." Emma stopped, stood, and stepped closer to Rafe. "How can you tell me you've got feelings for me and then ride away? Cause I have feelings for you too Rafe." She put her hand on his cheek.
"I know the type of man you are Rafe," Emma said. "I've seen you work hard for my family, harder than you had to. You put your life on the line to save the money we earned from the cattle. Not because you'd get a share but because you gave your word to help us. The kindness you've shown to our family shows what type of man you are."
She stopped for a few seconds and angrily added, "So don't tell me I don't know what kind of man you are. You're the kind of man I want to spend my life with, to have children with, and grow old with."
Emma was crying now and Rafe didn't know what to do. After a few seconds he put his arms around her and pulled her to him.
"Reckon I won't be leaving after all," he whispered into her ear.
A month and a half after getting shot, Rafe was allowed to go into town. He still couldn't ride very far but sitting in the wagon wasn't too hard on him. Especially since he wasn't allowed to handle the team; he had to sit next to Emma or her father as a passenger. He still used a cane to help support his left leg when he walked.
"If you get tired or hurtin Rafe get down and ride in the wagon," Molly had told him the first time she let him ride Bowie to town instead of riding in the wagon. He still wasn't allowed to work the ranch or herd cattle. "Promise me now; you won't try to do more than you should."
"Yes em, I promise." Rafe would have promised anything to get out from under Molly's thumb.
The next trip into town Rafe started out a stride of Bowie. The big horse kept trying to gallop; he wanted to run. "Take it easy big guy, we'll get out on the trail pretty soon," Rafe said and leaned forward to scratch Bowie's ears.
Emma and her father rode in the wagon and Rafe rode on Emma's side. They talked a little on the trip into Camp Verde and Emma hinted at a late summer wedding; Rafe just nodded as she talked. He'd just come to grips with the fact that he loved her and now she was talking about a wedding. She don't let no grass grow under her feet, Rafe thought with a smile.
As Emmett stopped the wagon in front of the general mercantile, a tall man who had been leaning against the store front and watching them ride in, stepped to the wagon and offered to help Emma get down.
"My daughter's perfectly capable of getting off the wagon by herself stranger." Emmet didn't like the looks of the man. He was dressed like a dandy wearing whipcord pants, a frock coat, a shirt with a button on collar and a string tie. The man's hair was dark, long, and hung down almost to his shoulders. The stranger also wore a gun with a tied down holster low on his right hip.
"No offense meant Miss... ?" The dark haired man said with a smile.
"If I wanted to tell you her name I would have," Emmett said. "Step back and leave us alone."
"I'm Woodson Rhodes Miss. I'd be proud to buy you a midday meal."
"I told you to step back Rhodes," Emmett ordered again.
Rhodes flipped his coat behind his holstered gun. "How do you plan to make me old man? You're not heeled."
Rafe had dismounted on the far side of the wagon and now came around to join the Riley's. He slipped the safety tie off the hammer of his Remington .44- .40 sidearm and confronted Rhodes.
"If need be I'm wearing a pistol Rhodes," Rafe said with barely concealed anger. "I'd be happy to show you how it works."
Rhodes looked hard at the young man challenging him. He saw a man leaning on a cane but he wasn't fooled by that. The boy's eyes are cold and hard, Rhodes thought. He's done this before. This isn't the time; I need to prod him a bit more. There'll be another day.
"I know how a gun works sonny and if you're not careful I'll have to give you a lesson," Rhodes said with a sneer. "But not today." Turning back to Emma he said, "I hope to see you again Miss. Maybe next time I'll get your name as well as the pleasure of your company."
"Not likely," Emma replied. "I'd rather eat with the horses down at the livery. Good day sir." Emma walked past Rhodes and went into the store.
Rhodes watched her go. "Perhaps another time sonny," he said, turned and walked toward the saloon.
Sheriff Rawlings came walking fast to join the Riley's in front of the mercantile. "What's going on here?"
"You sure got here fast," Rafe said sarcastically. "Yep, just as soon as you knew the danger was over, you sure got here lickity split."
"Now see here Rafe..." Rawlings started.
Rafe didn't try to control his anger. "You wouldn't do anything before about Morrison and his band of rustlers; hell you didn't even want to hold Jim Morrison for the circuit judge. So don't come around now trying to play lawman. Stay out of my way Rawlings."
The Sheriff sputtered for a few seconds and then walked away.
Emmett nodded in the direction Rhodes had gone. "Just who in the hell does he think he is?"
"He's known as Woody Rhodes," Rafe answered as he watched the man walk away. "He's a gun hand from down in Texas."
"You know him?"
"Heard of him and what I heard wasn't good. He'll work for whoever will pay him. Doesn't matter who they are or what they want him to do; as long as they meet his price he'll do their dirty work." He turned and looked at Emmett. "You best stay clear of him Emmett. He'd shot you down right here if he was a mind to."
Emmett, Molly, Emma, and Rafe got the supplies they'd come for and headed back to the ranch. Along the way Rafe was deep in thought about Woodson Rhodes. He wondered if someone had hired the gun hand or if the man was just passing through. Rafe didn't like the idea of the pistolero being around Camp Verde.
Three weeks later another trip was taken into Camp Verde. This time in addition to supplies, Emma and Rafe were going to talk to the pastor at the local church; they wanted to schedule their wedding. As they rode into town, Rhodes was sitting on the porch in front of the hotel. His chair was leaned back, balanced with his feet on the porch rail. When he saw Emma and Rafe, he let the front legs of the chair come back down and stood. He tipped his hat at Emma as she rode by.
Easy, Rafe told himself. You can't shoot a man for being polite to a lady. But I can make damn sure that's all that happens. Rafe gave Rhodes a penetrating stare as they rode passed him to the general mercantile. Rhodes slowly walked toward them, stopped about 30 feet away and leaned against the building next door.
When Rafe and Emma came out of the store, Rhodes stood and took a few steps closer. "Howdy Miss. Wondered if you've reconsidered my offer?" He was talking to Emma but kept his eyes on Rafe.
Before Emma could answer, Rafe stepped in front of her. "The lady told you before she wasn't interested. Why are you pushing this Rhodes?"
"When I see something I like, I go after it sonny."
"There's more to it than that, I think," Rafe said. "But I don't much care Rhodes. Leave her alone and stay away from her."
The gunman started to reply but Sheriff Rawlings stepped between the two men. "Here, let's have none of that," he said.
Rhodes gave Rafe an insolent smile, turned and walked back to his chair in front of the hotel.
"Better watch out Sheriff," Rafe said. "You might have to actually act like a lawman if you're not careful." He turned to Emma. "C'mon let's go see Pastor Innes about the wedding."
Riding to the church Emma said, "I could have told that Rhodes feller to go to hell all by myself you know." Her voice sounded a little angry that Rafe thought she couldn't take care of herself.
"Yeah, I know. But I was afraid you'd take a buggy whip to him," Rafe replied with a grin. Then he sobered and added, "Keep your distance from him Emma. He's not the type to pay much attention to what you want."
Emma started to argue the point but saw the look in Rafe's eyes. Emma knew if she tried to handle advances by Rhodes and things went bad that there would be no stopping Rafe; he would make the gun slinger pay, possibly with his life. She didn't want Rafe to have to brace the gunfighter if she did something stupid.
Two weeks later, Emmett, Molly, and Emma were going into town. Rafe was staying at the ranch. There was a mare about to foal and it was her first. Rafe's horse, Bowie, was the sire, so Rafe had more than a passing interest.
The Riley's had been gone about an hour when the mare gave birth. Everything went fine and Rafe wasn't needed. He cleaned up, mounted Bowie and started for town. Rafe pushed the big horse, hoping to be able to spend the afternoon in town with Emma. Bowie sensed Rafe's mood and stretched out at a hard gallop.
As he came into town, he slowed Bowie to a walk. No need to ride over anybody, he thought as he pulled the horse down off a high gallop. At the far end of the dusty street he saw Molly and Emma standing in front of the general store clutching at each other. In front of them, Emmett stepped off the boardwalk to face a man; the man was Rhodes.
He couldn't hear what was being said, but Rafe thought he knew the problem. Rhodes probably approached Emma again and Emmett objected. I'm too far away to stop this. He saw Rhodes stroking the butt of his pistol while Emmett stood in front of him holding a rifle. Angry words were coming from Emmett as Rhodes taunted him.
Rafe pulled his Winchester from its scabbard, took aim, and fired a shot into the ground at Rhodes' feet. The gunfighter turned and saw Rafe sitting on his horse with the rifle pointed directly at him. Rhodes took his hand away from his gun and put both hands in the air at shoulder height. Slowly walking Bowie toward the two men using just his knees to guide the big horse, Rafe never lowered his weapon or took his eyes off Rhodes.
"Not very sporting sonny," Rhodes said with a grim smile when Rafe stopped his horse.
"I didn't intend for you to shoot Emmett," Rafe replied. Rhodes was on Bowie's left side; still holding his Winchester on the gunfighter, Rafe threw his right leg over the front of his saddle and dismounted. "What's this all about Emmett?" Rafe asked over his shoulder, still watching Rhodes.
"Rhodes wouldn't let Emma pass and I had to step in," Emmet answered.
"Here," Rafe said tossing his rifle to his future father in law. He never took his attention away from Rhodes. Slowly he stepped away from Bowie, fully confronting the man.
He's still limping, Rhodes thought. But that won't affect his gun hand. The boy's as tight as a banjo string. It'd be best not underestimate him.
"Rhodes, I think it's about time someone showed you that manners can be taught as well as learned." Rafe voice was cold and full of challenge.
"I don't think you're the one to do the teaching sonny," Rhodes said. He flipped his frock coat away from his holstered pistol. "Better mind your own business while you still can. Hard to do when you're dead."
"Why are you pushing this Rhodes? Rafe asked in a puzzled voice.
"You remember a man named Ralph Colbert?"
"He was from over Roswell way?"
Rhodes nodded. "Was is right; you killed him." It was a statement, not a question.
"He forced the point Rhodes. I gave him the first move and it was a fair fight."
"Doesn't matter. Ralph was kin; my cousin. Now I'm givin you the same fair fight. Go for your gun or die where you stand."
"You two hold on right there," Sheriff Rawlings called from across the street.
Rafe's attention wavered, drawn by the Sheriff's voice. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Rhodes move. The gunman's pistol came to bear just before Rafe's shot hit him in the chest; Rhodes shot went wide of the mark. The surprise on Rhodes face would have been funny if it hadn't meant his death. Rhodes looked down at the blood spreading on his shirt and then looked over at Rafe. He raised a hand in salute and slipped to the ground; dead before he came to rest.
Emma ran to Rafe as Molly hurried to Emmett. "I'm okay Emma, his shot missed me." Rafe holstered his Remington and looked down at Rhodes. "Hope that's the last of that family," he said to himself. "I'm gettin real tired of killing them."
He turned toward Sheriff Rawlings. "You almost got me killed Rawlings. Next time it might be you I shoot at."
"You can't talk to me like that boy," Rawlings replied. "I'm the law in these parts."
"Then act like it. You should'a braced Rhodes yourself but you didn't have the nerve." Rafe put an arm around Emma and teased the family. "If y'all are done causin a ruckus I think we better head back to the ranch."
Rafe and Emma's wedding was the social event of late summer in the small town of Camp Verde. They'd thought about putting it off until after the cattle shipped to market. There was a round up and branding that had to be done before the animals could be driven to the railhead.
"If we get married now, we won't have time for a honeymoon," Emma complained. Emmet and Molly, mostly Molly, wouldn't hear of a postponement.
"Jeb Turner, he owns the ranch upstream on the Verde, wants to sell out and move to Oregon," Emmett said. "He's on a scouting trip right now. His boy, Bob, decided to stay in the Verde Valley. Said he didn't know nothing about Oregon and doesn't want to." Emmett grinned and added, "I think the boy's interest in the Mayor's daughter is the real reason he doesn't want to leave. Anyway, he's lookin for work. I'll hire him, at least until after we ship."
The wedding was held at the church which was filled to overflowing by the friends and neighbors of the Riley family. Most had watched Emma grown into the fine young woman she was and many respected and liked the young stranger that had moved into the Verde Valley.
Rafe and Emma made the ride down the hill to Phoenix after the wedding and the party afterwards. They planned on spending a few days together, alone. Having dinner on their third night together at the Stock Yards restaurant they both started to speak at the same time.
"Honey what would you..." started Emma.
"What would you..." Rafe began and stopped when Emma spoke. "You first," he said.
Emma giggled. "I was going to ask what you would think about going back to the ranch early."
Now it was Rafe's turn to laugh. "I was going to ask you the same thing." He took her hand. "I love you and we've got the rest of our time together. I'm worried about Emmett working the ranch with just the Turner boy to help."
"I worry about Dad too; and Mother," Emma confessed. "Besides, we need to plan where we're going to put our house."
"Yes. I was thinking a mile or so downstream; about where the old tree is where the trail forks. What do you think?"
"Best talk to Emmett about that. After all it's his ranch." Rafe thought for a bit and said, "but if he agrees I think that would be just fine."
"It's settled then," Emma said. "We'll start back in the morning." She leaned over closer to Rafe. "I think we should make our last night of the honeymoon special. Let's go back to the hotel." She smiled and coyly blushed.
The next morning they made the ride back to the Verde Valley. When they got to the ranch, they found that Emmett, Molly, and Bob busy in the pasture closest to the house. Emmett and Bob were both mounted. They would rope the cattle and drag them closer to the fire where Molly applied a red hot branding iron.
Rafe and Emma quickly changed into work clothes and went to help. Emmett and Molly were surprised to see the newlyweds and after a short greeting the work continued. Now there were three riders roping and two women doing the branding.
The R Bar R was growing. The Riley's and their new son in law were able to ship almost two hundred head this year; about double what they'd sold for market the previous year. Emmett decided to keep Bob Turner on as a full time hand; he felt if the ranch kept growing they might even have to hire another hand or two.
"Reckon you've been good luck for us Rafe," Emmett said one evening shortly after they returned from the cattle drive.
Rafe grabbed Emma's hand as she was clearing the table and pulled her onto his lap. "I think I'm the one that got lucky," he said as he hugged his wife.
Pulling Bowie to a stop on top of one of the foothills at the base of the Mogollon Rim towering above the ranch, Rafe looked down into the valley below. He stepped off of Bowie and slipped his bit so the horse could graze on the sweet spring grass.
We've come a long way in five years, Rafe thought. At the far end of the valley, against the mountains to the west was the new boundary of the R Bar R. After some serious horse trading, Emmett and Rafe bought the Turner ranch. Rafe invested the last of his stake from his folks and became a partner as well as the son in law.
Bob Turner signed on full time after that first round up and was engaged to the Mayor's daughter, Millie. He made it plain that he wanted to stay on the R Bar R even after they got married. "I got all the good parts of ranchin without none of the headaches," Bob told Emmett. "I get to work outdoors, got plenty to eat, and a good place to sleep." Then he smiled and added, "Sides y'all have been real good to me. Don't see no reason for movin on."
Rafe and Emmett had built a sort of bunkhouse for Bob when he made the ranch his home. Now they were building another, larger cabin for Bob and Millie to live in when they married. Rafe kidded that Bob was the ramrod of the outfit.
"But I'm the only hand," Bob said.
"That just makes it easier for you to get the boys to do what they have to," Rafe replied.
Reckon we're gonna have to hire on another man or two this year, Rafe thought as he gazed up at the Rim. Buying the Turner place and increasing the size of the herd is gettin to be too much for three men. Now that we have a son and a daughter, Emma and Molly can't be bothered to work the ranch; they spend all the time with the children.
Rafe had written to his parents in San Antonio telling them about Emma and the wedding. Emma and Rafe's mother, Sarah, wrote to each other at least once a month and about a year after their marriage, it was Emma that told Sarah that she and Barrett were going to be grandparents.
Barrett and Sarah waited until they received the news about the birth of their grandson William Emmett Cassidy and then made the long trip from San Antonio to Camp Verde. They traveled by train from San Antonio to Amarillo, Texas and from there to Flagstaff, Arizona.
Rafe went to Flagstaff and waited overnight for their train. When they finally got off the train, after an early morning run from Holbrook, it was several minutes of Sarah crying and hugging her 'little boy', before Rafe was able to greet his father. It was a welcome reunion for Rafe after not seeing his parents for so long.
Barrett and Sarah were happy to meet Emmet and Molly, when they finally made it down the hill to Camp Verde and the R Bar R ranch. But their most enjoyable thing was meeting Emma and young William.
Barrett and Emmett were both touched that the boy was named William Emmett after each side of the family. Sarah and Molly laughed about the way the two men puffed up with pride almost every time they saw or talked about their namesake.
"If his head gets any bigger with pride, he won't be able to wear his hat," Molly said about Emmett.
"Barrett's the same way. He's about to bust his shirt open puffing up his chest," Sarah replied.
Two years after Barrett and Sarah visited Rafe; they received a letter from Emma and Rafe. They were going to have another child. This time they had a girl who they named Molly Jean; Jean was Sarah's middle name. Little Jeannie was a joy.
"Okay Bowie, time for us to get back to work," Rafe told his horse. "The family's going into town and Emma will want to say good bye."He put the bit back into Bowie's mouth; the big horse snorted and shook his head. "Hold still you big baby," Rafe said. He got the bit set, mounted and headed down the trail to the ranch.
Emma, the two children, and Molly were already in the wagon when Rafe returned. He guided Bowie close to the side where Emma sat. William climbed over his mother to get to Rafe. He picked the boy up and sat him on the saddle in front of him. Emmett climbed into the wagon, nodded, and slapped the reins on the horse's rump. Rafe rode with them to the big cottonwood next to a rock outcropping. He put William back in the wagon, kissed Emma and young Jeannie and turned Bowie back toward the ranch house.
While the family was going to town, Rafe planned to continue digging the foundation for a new house. With Rafe, Emma, the two children, Molly and Emmett, the existing house was getting a little crowded. Rafe and Emma planned to build their own home about a hundred yards upstream of Emmett and Molly's and high above the flood plain of the Verde River. It would offer some privacy and still be close.
Rafe stood and stretched his back; he'd been digging all day with only a few rests. Bob Turner helped for a spell but had to tend to the stock so his time was limited. Another day and the digging should be done, he thought. Rafe looked at the sun and gauged it was about 3 o'clock; he figured that the family should be getting back pretty soon.
He picked up the shovel to start again but stopped when he heard a horse coming at a hard gallop. Rafe walked to where he had laid his Remington and waited for the rider to come into sight. The hard running horse cleared the trees at the edge of the house place. The rider was Reverend Jackson's son Thomas. He saw Rafe and turned his horse toward him. Sawing on the reins, he pulled the animal to a skidding stop.
"Mr. Cassidy, the doc sent me to get you," the young man said trying to catch his breath. "Doc says you better come into town."
"There was a bank robbery and the gang shot up the town as they rode out." Thomas hesitated. "Miss Emma was hurt."
"Are William and Jeannie all right?"
"Yes sir. They're with Mr. Riley at the hotel. Mrs. Riley is with Emma at the Doc's."
Rafe didn't waste time with more questions. He nodded, buckled on his gun belt and ran to the corral whistling for Bowie. He quickly saddled the horse, mounted and put him at a hard gallop back up the river trail to Camp Verde. On the ride he wondered where the hell Sheriff Rawlings had been during the holdup. The Jackson boy and his horse were soon left behind with just the dust from Bowie's pounding hooves hanging in the air.
Bowie sensed his human's mood. He stretched his neck out put his ears back and ran all out. Rafe tried to pull him up and slow down over the roughest part of the trail but Bowie would have none of it. By the time they got to town, Bowie was covered in lather. Rafe rode to the doctor's office and was off the horse before it came to a full stop. He ran the few steps into the Stinson's home, which was also his office. Bowie stood trembling but looking proud of himself.
Judith Stinson, the Doctor's wife, met Rafe as he charged into the office. Judith took his arm to keep him from charging into the examining room. "Jim is in with her; you can see her in a few minutes."
"How bad is she hurt?" Rafe asked.
"I'll let Jim tell you, he'll be finished pretty quick." Seeing the look on Rafe's face she added, "Don't worry, I'm sure she's going to be fine."
"Is Molly here?"
"No, she went to the hotel a few minutes ago. Said she was going to let Emmett know how Emma is."
Rafe was like a caged animal during the five minutes he waited for Doc Stinson. He would pace to the door to the room where Emma lay, stop and stare for a moment, then return to the parlor where Judith sat. She had brought him some coffee but it sat untouched on the table. Unable to stand the waiting Rafe went outside to tend to Bowie. When he came back into the house, Doc Stinson was waiting for him.
"Howdy Rafe," Doc said. "Emma's going to be fine. She's got some injuries but it could have been a lot worse." Holding up his hand to stop the questions from Rafe, he continued. "Emma's got several cuts and bruises. That bump on her head is what's bothering me."
"But she's gonna be okay?"
"I believe so, but we can't be sure until she wakes up." Doc rubbed his chin and paused. "Right now she's in a deep sleep. Again Doc raised his hand before Rafe could say anything. "When someone is injured, usually a head injury, they sometimes go to sleep. Some doctors say it's a way for the body to heal itself. We'll just have to wait until she rejoins us."
"What happened? How did Emma get hurt?" Rafe asked staring at the doorway into the treatment room.
"Those bastards ran her down in the street," Emmett said; his voice was full of anger. He'd come into the parlor as Rafe and the Doc were talking. Seeing the question in his son in law's eyes he added, "The ones that robbed the bank rode her down. Emma was crossing Main Street with William, coming back to meet me and Molly at the general store. They broke out of the bank, threw some shots around, and rode like hell out of town. Emma pushed William out of the way but couldn't get clear herself."
Rafe's face became hard; his blue eyes became sharp and cold.
"You can go in to see her if you like," Doc Stinson told Rafe. "She's asleep, like I said, but I think you need to see that she's doing fine."
Rafe nodded his thanks and went to Emma's side. Entering the room, not knowing what to expect, he very quickly felt a white hot rage build when he saw Emma. The side of her face was one big bruise and her top lip was cut. She had a three inch gash over her right eye which the doctor had sewn closed with catgut stitches. Emma moved in her sleep and gave a small moan of pain.
Doctor Stinson had followed Rafe into the room. He put his hand on the young husband's shoulder. "Emma's strong and healthy so her injuries will heal fine." Pulling a chair over to the side of the bed, the Doctor said, "You can sit with her for a spell if you like son."
Rafe nodded his thanks and settled into the chair, reaching out to take Emma's hand. After an hour, during which Emma continued to sleep, Rafe stood and left the room. Looking around the parlor he asked, "Emmett leave?"
"He said he'd see you at the hotel after you visited with Emma," Judith answered. "He went to help look after your son and daughter."
William came running to his father as Rafe walked into the lobby of the hotel. "Pa, Mama got hurt. Those bad men knocked her down."
"I know Will, but she's gonna be just fine. She's over to Doc Stinson's sleeping right now." Rafe put his arms around his son and hugged him. Thank God you weren't hurt too, he thought. He'd only had eyes for William when he entered the lobby and now looked around. He saw Molly sitting on a sofa, holding Jeannie; Emmet sat next to her. Rafe walked over and picked his daughter up and hugged her for a moment whispering warmly in her ear.
"You help Grandma with your sister while I talk to Grandpa," he told the boy. Rafe motioned with his head for Emmett to follow him and went outside. He leaned against the porch rail and when Emmett joined him, he asked, "Tell me about it Emmett."
"Three men came out of the bank with a money bag. They started shooting, mounted their horses and rode east out of town. Like I said, Emma was crossing the street and they rode over her."
"Anybody know who they were? And where was Sheriff Rawlings?" Rafe's voice was tight with anger.
"Bank teller said it was the Dooley's; he'd seen a wanted poster on them when he was up to Flagstaff. As far as Rawlings, I reckon he was hiding in the saloon," Emmett answered. "He came out a couple of minutes after the outlaws rode away. Made a lot of noise and blustered about how they wouldn't get away with it." Emmett gave Rafe a sarcastic smile. "But he sure didn't do anything to follow them. He went back to his office and I haven't seen him since."
Rafe looked off to the east; his mind already picturing the ride after the men who had hurt his Emma. His thoughts fought with each other. He was worried about Emma and wanted to stay with her until she got better; at the same time Rafe knew if he didn't get on the trail soon that the men would disappear. Maybe this time the bandits will get away, he thought. I need to be here for Emma.
Molly came to the door and motioned to Emmett. He walked over to her and Molly handed him Jeannie and pointed to William who was playing inside. Her intent was plain; you watch the children her actions said. Then Molly came onto the porch and walked to where Rafe leaned against the rail.
"Rafe you have to go after those men," Molly said. "I know you're worried about Emma but Doc Stinson says we just have to wait; you can't help by just sitting around moping."
"But Molly..." Rafe began but Molly stopped him.
"They stole money from your friends and neighbors; they hurt Emma, and shot up the town. We can't let them run loose; they'll just do it again and maybe kill someone next time. Besides we know your chaffing to go anyway." Molly stopped for a few seconds to see Rafe's reaction; he gave her a very small grin. "Emmett will try to put together a posse to follow you, but you need to go now.
He nodded. "Thanks Molly," Rafe said and hugged her. Sometimes it's the women of the family that are the hardest, he thought.
"I'll send Emmett back out before those kids run him to death." She smiled and went back into the hotel. Emmet came back onto the porch.
"When are we leavin son?"
"We're not, but I am," Rafe answered.
"I'm not too old to ride with you," Emmett protested.
"No you're not, but someone needs to organize a posse to follow me. Besides one of us needs to be here with the family. You're the only one I trust to take care of them while I'm gone or if I don't come back."
Emmett's smile was grim and sad at the same time. Rafe's goin after them and he may not be back or bring them back to face the law, Emmett thought. And he doesn't want any blood on my hands.
Rafe saw the smile. "Emmett, you've got no experience in the things I might have to do. If they give me a choice, I'll bring them back. But I'll not let them run free after hurting Emma." He stood and added, "I'm going to talk to Rawlings and then go back to the Doc's for a spell. I'll come back for supper a little later."
Sheriff Rawlings wasn't exactly hiding in his office, but he didn't want to face the townspeople. He knew that they would not be happy with his lack of action concerning the bank robbers. His heart sank and he was afraid when the one man he really didn't want to see walked into his office.
"I tried to stop them Rafe," Rawlings claimed when the young man slammed the door.
"That's horseshit Rawlings. You didn't come out of the saloon until they already left town; until after they'd ridden down my wife." Rafe fingered the butt of his pistol. "Were you hiding down behind the bar while they shot up the town?"
"I ... I..." Rawlings stuttered.
"The only reason I'm here is to get information on the men that did this." Rafe saw the Sheriff relax a little. "The bank teller said he'd seen a wanted poster on them up in Flagstaff. Said it was the Dooley's. You know about them?"
"I think I got one of them posters here somewheres," Rawlings answered and dug through the right hand drawer of his desk. He was glad to get off the subject of his actions. "Yep, here tis." He handed Rafe the poster. "Bill Dooley is the leader of the gang; his cousin, Jeff Dooley, and Tom Smith are the other two. They've robbed a couple of stage coaches and the bank in Flagstaff. Guess they're headed east."
"I'll be headed after them," Rafe said after reading the poster. "If I bring them back, I expect you to hold them for the circuit judge." He looked Rawlings in the eye and warned, "Don't fight me on this like you did with Morrison. You hear me?"
Rawlings nodded and sighed in relief when Rafe walked out of the office. Think I'd rather cross the Dooley's than cross Rafe Cassidy, he thought.
Returning to Doc Stinson's, Rafe found Emma was still in a troubled sleep. He sat in a chair next to her bed and Emma seemed to rest easier when he took her hand. The doctor came in to check on his patient and after doing so he motioned Rafe out of the room. Doc led the way into his office, pointed to a chair, and poured two whiskeys.
"I understand that you plan on going after those men," Doc Stinson said. "You should let the law handle them Rafe."
"Our Sheriff says they're out of his jurisdiction and it'll take too long to get the district U.S. Marshal here. The Dooley's will be in Mexico if we wait."
"It's not your job Rafe."
"Not about whose job it is Doc. Those bastards took money that belongs to most everyone in Camp Verde; they shot up my town, and almost killed my wife and son. Maybe not my job but I'll be damned if I'll let them run free."
Doc Stinson looked at Rafe as he sipped his whiskey. "You know a great philosopher once said 'Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves'."
"Yeah, Confucius said that," Rafe replied. He chuckled at the surprised look on Doc's face. "My Ma made sure I had more schoolin than most and she quoted that at me when I was talkin about dealing with a man named Mendoza back in San Antonio."
Rafe's smile became grim. "The Dooley's are gonna pay; if that's revenge, so be it. Save your breath Doc, I'm goin after them. I'm going to bring them back dead or alive; it will be their choice to make."
Rafe stood and threw down the whiskey all at once. "Thanks for the drink. Think I'll spend a little more time with Emma."
Doc Stinson also stood. "You take care of what you have to do and I'll take care of Emma for you." He put the whiskey bottle back into his desk and watched Rafe return to Emma's room. That young man is a force, he thought. I wouldn't want to be in the Dooley's shoes. No, I surely wouldn't.
About an hour later Rafe walked back into Doc's office. "Going to gear up for the trail and spend the evening with my children; I'll be leavin at first light. No matter what happens, thank you for caring for Emma, Doc. If she wakes up while I'm gone, please tell her I'll be back soon."
"We shouldn't a rode down that woman," Tom Smith said to the two Dooley's. They were resting their horses after a day and half of hard riding to get away from Camp Verde before a posse could catch up to them. "No cause to do it."
The sight of the young woman lying in the street still bothered him. Smith had no problem with robbing stages and banks or even rustling cattle, but hurting women didn't sit well with him.
"She were in our way," Jeff Dooley said.
"No she weren't. She were just trying to protect her boy. We coulda rode around her," Smith argued.
"You callin me a liar?" Jeff questioned in an angry voice.
"Not callin you nothin, just sayin we didn't have to ride her down."
"Well if you don't like it, I guess you can ride out on your own," Bill Dooley joined in.
"Might be best. Give me my share of the bank money and I'll head out."