His Lucky Charm - Cover

His Lucky Charm

Copyright© 2012 by Argon

Chapter 2: Baltimore Rose

Independence, MO, February 1861

"In the case of the People of Jackson County, Missouri, versus the woman known as Baltimore Rose Donegal, she is found guilty by a jury of her peers of whoring and of viciously attacking an upstanding citizen, Landon Bunion of Independence, and she is hereby sentenced to seven years in the Women's Work House of the Great State of Missouri. Her possessions of jewelry, gold, and other items of value are forfeit to the county and will be sold at auction to cover the expenses of this court and to compensate the victim for his injuries."

The gavel banged, and Rose Donegal stared at the Justice unbelievingly. Not two weeks ago, he had taken her upstairs for a night, during one of his weekly visits to the Emerald Isle saloon, and told her what a sweet girl she was.

And now? Not a word of mention of how the 'upstanding citizen' had taken his belt to whip her. Rose had screamed, scratched, and bitten the foul man, and he had lost the sight of his left eye. She was not even given a chance to testify for herself. In fifteen minutes flat, Justice Alberts had buried her alive for seven years.

Rose was under no illusion as to her chances to survive seven years in the hell that was known as the Work House. The women in there had to work for fourteen hours each day, with little food, and in sack cloth dresses. Hardly anybody survived ten years in there, and seven years were not much better.

To the jeering of the spectators, the sheriff's deputy pulled her up from the bench by her manacled hands and dragged her out of the courtroom. In her dazed state, she did not notice it at first, but a moment later, she found herself in the chambers of Justice Alberts.

"Leave her here, Deputy!" Alberts ordered.

The deputy grinned lewdly and left.

"My dear Rose, what a mess! This breaks my heart! You know how much I enjoyed you, but I had no choice. Bunion and his family and friends are up in arms. Believe me, I would not last a week in this office had I acquitted you."

Rose stared at the old geezer.

"But, seven years! Nobody survives seven years in the Work House!"

"I know! We cannot even risk sending you there, my sweet. Bunion's brother-in-law is the warden. I shudder to think was they might do to you."

Rose was confused.

"You just sentenced me, didn't you?"

"Yes, I had to, I told you that. Rose, there is only one way out. A woman sentenced to the work house can gain her freedom when a man pays her fine and takes her for his wedded wife. There is a man in town, John Caplan, who arranges these things. He will leave this afternoon. He has one slot left to fill. If you agree to marry his client, he can bring you out of Independence before the Bunion clan will know."

"Marry?" Rose asked in panic. "Marry? Whom?"

"I don't know," the Justice answered. "Caplan goes west to Fort Laramie. That's where you'll find out. His clients are farmers, traders, and prospectors. Anyway, you'll be safe from the Bunions."

"Fort Laramie? Isn't that in Oregon?"

"No, not even half way to Oregon. Rose, you have to decide. It's either Fort Laramie or the Work House. We, the patrons of the Emerald Saloon, have collected a few things for you, like warm clothes, a coat, and three gold eagles. We all care about you, Rose."

Slowly, realization set in for the young woman. She would have to leave civilization to save her life. She had an idea then. Whoever she was to marry, she would have an easy time to fool the backwoods simpleton. A girl with her face and body would not have to stay long with a fur trader. She looked up at the Justice.

"I accept. When will I have to leave?"

"Mr. Caplan is ready to collect you. "He's waiting outside."

Rose suddenly realized that once again she would be uprooted. She was twenty-two years old, and since her fifteenth year she had been used by men. The last years in Independence had given her more freedom, more sense of being herself. That would be over. She would be married to some moron. Yet, there was no way out. She nodded.

"All right. Tell that man, no manacles. And if he tries stuff with a belt I'll scratch his eyes out, just like Bunion's."

It was two weeks later, and Rose Donegal wanted to go back to Independence and skin Justice Alberts alive. No fewer than twenty-five women were huddled together in the three covered wagons, and they were miserable, cold, and hungry.

John Caplan was the worst weasel. From what Rose had learned, he charged the men in Fort Laramie one-hundred and twenty dollars to deliver wives for them. He wanted more, though. He wanted the women on his little wagon train to entertain men in the small settlements they passed. With that Rose would have had small problems, but the weasel wanted all the money for himself.

Most of the women on the train had worked as saloon girls or whores at one point in their lives, but to service men without being paid went against their grain. They refused. That was why Caplan starved them. He claimed that they had to work for food. All they received was water, for greedy as he was, Caplan knew they would die without water and deprive him of his $120 head money.

He had three men drive the wagons, and another two for protection, and those men were even worse. They saw the women as fair game and refused to hear a 'no' from them. Three days ago, they had cut off Angie Stevens, from Rose's wagon, while she was behind a bush, peeing. Three of the swine had forced the poor woman so brutally that even Caplan saw fit to intercede, if only to protect his merchandise.

There had been much cussing between the hired men and Caplan, and in the ruckus, Rose had managed to steal a skinning knife from the driver's seat of the wagon. Lucy O'Hara, the acknowledged ring leader of the women, a black-haired giantess, had also busied herself around the driver's seat of a wagon as Rose had seen.

A few whispered words between Rose and Lucy this morning had sufficed. Now Rose was waiting for an opportunity. It came when the wagons were crossing the crest of a little hill. The first wagon with Rose had just cleared it while the second carrying Lucy was still struggling uphill.

Rose took a deep breath. It was now or never. She slid from the back of the wagon and made for the woods to the right, ostensibly to take care of her necessities. Before Angie Steven's rape, that had been common practice for the women. From the corner of her eyes, she saw that the two mounted "guards" watched her instead of the wagons. She also saw that Lucy had jumped from the last wagon and made for the trees without being seen. The trap was set.

Rose walked briskly through the underbrush, trying to get closer to where Lucy had entered the woods. For a moment, she was worried that the guards might not dare to follow her, but then she heard the sound of hooves. A little later, she heard the boots of the men, as they rushed after her. A few seconds later they caught up with her, and Rose whirled around to face them.

"That you, Baltimore Rose? All alone, too, aren't ya?" one of them, Clem, leered.

Rose brandished the knife.

"You fellers know why I'm on this train? I messed up a bloke. He's wearing an eye patch now."

"Damn, where'd you get that knife from?" Clem patted the grip of his gun. "But you know, Rose, we've got guns, an' yore knife won't do you no good."

"Yeah? Too bad you can't shoot, you moron. I'm worth twelve gold eagles alive to Caplan. Shoot me and you'll find out how much you're worth to him!"

"Stick'em up fellers!"

Lucy's voice was as strong as the rest of her. Both men turned to look and gaped. Lucy held a wicked, double-barreled, sawed-off shot gun, and at close range nobody in the path of its discharge would stay alive.

"Drop your gun belts, real slow-like, fellers," Lucy hissed. "I'm a-hankerin' to blow you to pieces after what you did to Angie."

Carefully, Rose moved to a flanking position. Twice in her career as a saloon girl she had seen the mess that a sawed-off shot gun could make.

The two men hesitated. When Lucy's finger at the trigger turned white, though, they opened their belt buckles and let their gun belts drop. Rose saw the minute movement as one man's hand went to his back.

"Watch out, Lucy!" she yelled.

Just as the man's hand sped forward, both barrels of the shot gun went off. The thrown knife barely missed Lucy, but a hail storm of shot swept the men away like bloodied rag dolls. The blast of the shot gun momentarily stupefied both women, but Lucy shook it off quickly.

"Quick, Rose! Their guns! We need to get their horses!"

Rose sprang into action. Quickly, the women searched the men taking what few valuables they possessed. Each of them strapped a gun belt to their hips, and they ran towards where they expected to find the men's horses.

Before they could reach them, they heard Caplan shouting from the trail.

"Clem, Eugene! What the hell happened? Where is the girl? Come out or I'll kill you both!"

The women hid behind trees. Rose held the Navy Colt ready which she had taken from the dead Clem.

With a curse, Caplan dismounted. Still yelling after his guards, he passed the tree line between Lucy and Rose.

"Hands up!" Lucy challenged.

Caplan turned.

"What the... ?"

"Hands up!" Lucy repeated.

Caplan stared at the Paterson Colt in the big woman's hand and grinned. "There's an even chance this piece of shit will blow up in your face."

"Maybe, but you'll die anyway if you don't stick 'em up!" Rose warned.

Caplan looked at Rose, and he saw Clem's Navy Colt which she held with perfect ease. His grin vanished and he raised his hands. Lucy stepped close to him from behind and relieved him of his gun belt.

"Git moving, Caplan," Rose ordered.

They marched the man out from the tree line and towards the horses. Lucy had helped herself to Caplan's fine Remington revolver, and she covered the man while Rose awkwardly climbed into the saddle of Clem's horse, encumbered by her dress.

With Caplan riding in front of them they quickly caught up with the last wagon, and while Rose covered Caplan, Lucy held the driver at gunpoint. He was quickly disarmed and bound by the women in the wagon. Next, Caplan was tied with leather thongs, and Amanda Carlisle who claimed she knew how to ride and shoot, helped herself to Caplan's horse and to the weapons of the driver. They left the Paterson Colt and the driver's shotgun with the women and set out after the other wagons.

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