Redeeming the Rogue – Kit Morgan

“Hey, Jeb!” Atticus Judrow called as he entered the saloon. He went straight to his and Jeb’s usual table and sat. Jeb Mayfield set down his drink. “What ya got there?” he asked, nodding at the letter in his hand. “It’s from my pa.” Atticus opened the envelope and pulled the letter out. “Remember that ridiculous job we did down in Creede last fall?” “How can I forget?” Jeb rolled his eyes. “It was a plumb mar on our repitation.” He glanced around. “I suggest ya keep yer voice down if’n yer gonna bring that up.” “Yeah, well, I wrote my pa about it and he finally wrote back. Seems Cooper White, the man that Sullivan fellow wanted us to murder for him, is related to the White family Pa knows.” “Ya don’t say?” Jeb sat up. “Read it to me.” Atticus cleared his throat.

“Dear Attie,” he said, his cheeks warming at the use of his childhood nickname. He took a deep breath and continued: As you are aware, I know a family by the name of White in Oregon. After all, how many Whites own and operate a stage stop between Clear Creek and Oregon City? In fact, the Whites’ stage stop is where I met your mother. She’d fled the East as the War between the States was dying down. You’re familiar with the story. Thank the Lord your situation didn’t turn for the worse. The Whites are good people and I’m sure their son is also. I’d feel poorly if anything happened to them or their of spring. I hope you’ve made a formal apology – I would if it were me. You don’t have to if you don’t wish to, but I’d say it’s the right thing to do.

Your mother misses you and wonders when you’re going to come visit us in Cutter’s Creek. We hope it will be soon. We miss you, son. Your loving father “Are you gonna do it?” Jeb asked. “Formally ‘pologize?” Atticus put the letter back into its envelope and stuffed it in the pocket of his black duster. “Pa’s right – it is the right thing to do. Not that we would have torched the house with Cooper White in it, like that weasel Bart Sullivan wanted, but I do feel bad about the whole business.” “So I take it yer returnin’ to Creede?” “Yes, I feel I should. I’ll say my piece, then head to Montana and visit my family. You want to come along?” “Nah, I just picked up a job.

I was hopin’ ya’d come along with me.” “What kind of job?” “The usual. As it happens, it ain’t far from Creede – some outlaw gang that keeps givin’ the marshal the slip. But I understand if ya wanna go home for a visit. I would too if’n I had a home to go to.” Atticus nodded. Jeb’s family had been wiped out in the Civil War during one of those innumerable skirmishes in the Virginia mountains, and he was all that was left. He was older than Atticus by a good thirty years. Atticus was only twenty-three but looked older, as bounty hunting could age a man prematurely. “It’s been a while since I’ve been back to Cutter’s Creek,” Atticus said.

“I really ought to go. Besides, the passes should be clear at this time of year.” “Ya go on ahead, then,” Jeb said. “I ain’t gonna stop you.” Atticus smiled. “Well, why not finish the next job and join me in Cutter’s Creek, take a little rest? We both have plenty of money set aside – it won’t hurt to take a break.” Jeb’s thick gray eyebrows drew together. “Ya know, I might just. ‘Sides, I could do with some of yer ma’s cookin’. Man oh man, those rolls of hers!” Atticus laughed.

“Those rolls come from a recipe by Oscar White.” He leaned toward him. “Cooper White’s uncle, I believe.” “Ya don’t say? Small world, ain’t it?” “It truly is. I had no idea this Cooper was related to my parents’ friends. I feel bad just thinking about it.” “Do what ya think best, son. I’ll catch up to ya in Cutter’s Creek – maybe even Creede if I have the time.” “Make it Cutter’s Creek. I won’t be in Creede long, maybe a day or two before I move on.

” “Cutter’s Creek it is, then. Now, how ‘bout we go find ourselves some supper?” Jeb stood and put on his hat. “Sounds good,” Atticus agreed. “You can fill me in on the details of this new job while we eat.” “Ain’t nothin’ I cain’t handle myself,” Jeb said as they left the saloon. “Good.” Atticus wasn’t keen on doing another job for a while. He had some serious thinking to do. Bounty hunting ran in the family – his father Lucius had been one, as had his Uncle Eldon. They still took the occasional job, but now Lucius was the de facto sheriff in Cutter’s Creek, while Eldon had a ranch outside of town he’d built for the entire family.

Atticus grew up on that ranch, and his siblings and cousins still lived and worked there. He was the only one to leave and follow in his father and uncle’s footsteps. He’d idolized them growing up and loved listening to their stories of adventure and derring-do as bounty hunters. But in truth, it was hard, sometimes dirty work. People expected certain things from a person in that occupation, and he’d gained a reputation for being a rogue that he wasn’t partial to. Sure, he’d been an occasional gun-for-hire, as when he and Jeb were hired by Bart Sullivan to help him “rescue” his betrothed Hattie Dodge. Then they’d found out Miss Dodge hadn’t been abducted at all, but had run away. And Atticus couldn’t blame her – Sullivan was a rat through and through. The man had another ten years to serve for attempted murder and kidnapping, and the thought of him rotting in prison never failed to put a smile on Atticus’ face. But now Creede and a much-deserved apology beckoned.

It would be good to see Cooper and Hattie White again. He was sure they were married now, and maybe had a baby on the way. Heck, maybe he’d find out if the crazy rooster from that fateful night was still around. He’d never seen anything like it, the way that feisty chicken attacked Sullivan. It was a joy to watch. He and Jeb reached the restaurant and sat inside. They talked of business in general, the money they’d saved up and how much longer they’d stay in the business. Jeb, in his mid-fifties, wasn’t ready to quit, but Atticus was having difficulty focusing on his work. He wanted to do something else, but didn’t know what yet. Like his father before him, he’d built up such a reputation for being not only a good bounty hunter but a fast gun that he could pick up money doing either with a snap of his fingers.

Easy cash was hard to give up. Regardless, after he paid a visit to Mr. and Mrs. White he’d ride home, rest a spell and do some pondering about his future. Maybe talk it over with Father and Uncle Eldon. Satisfied with that plan, Atticus settled more comfortably in his chair and, along with Jeb, waited for their meals to arrive. * * * “Persephone!” Hattie White cried when she saw her cousin get off the train. “Hattie!” Persephone Dodge, hanging onto her hat, hurried over and gave her a big hug. She drew back. “Oh my!” Hattie put a hand over her growing belly.

“Yes, things are coming along, as you can see.” “I should say so!” Persephone said. “I’m glad I got here when I did. Mother wanted me to wait until after the baby came, but you must need just as much help now as then.” “Either way I can use it. Baxter’s wife Maja does what she can, but he started building their house and she’s been busy with that too. I can’t expect her to do both.” She took Persephone’s gloved hands in hers. “I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you!” “And I you! What a lovely trip I had!” “I’m surprised your parents let you come by yourself – I know how protective Uncle Edward is.” “Well …” Persephone said with a sheepish smile as a familiar man got off the train and headed straight for them.

Hattie caught sight of him and smiled. “Uncle Edward!” “Hattie!” He took her in his arms. “My, but it’s good to see you.” He glanced at her belly. “And how is my future niece or nephew doing?” “Just fine. You didn’t have to accompany her all this way,” she said with a nod at Persephone. “I’m not letting her out of my sight! She’s barely eighteen and used to New York. This is wild country – she’s not familiar with it any more than you were when you first arrived.” He cleared his throat. “Though you had different circumstances.

” “Did I ever,” Hattie agreed. “But never mind that – how long can you stay?” “For a week at most, then I need to get back. When it’s time for my little Parsnip to come home, she can wire me. If I can’t come myself, I’ll send someone to escort her back to New York.” Persephone rolled her eyes. “Father, please don’t call me that while I’m here.” Hattie laughed. Uncle Edward had called her young cousin “Parsnip” for as long as she could remember. He had a nickname for everyone. Including her.

“What do you say, Old Hat? Is that agreeable?” Hattie giggled. “Of course, Uncle Edward. How is Aunt Violet?” He put an arm around each of them. “You know your aunt. Busy as a bee, heading up charities, hosting parties … spending your uncle’s money.” Hattie giggled again. “Somebody has to.” “But what about you, cousin?” Persephone asked. “You’ve done all right by yourself.” “Yes, I have.

Cooper and I have built a nice place. Though Father’s money did help.” “Only to get you started. I’d do the same for Parsnip here.” He tightened his hold on her. “Father! How many times do I have to tell you I am not a vegetable?” He laughed and looked at Hattie. “You remember the story of why I nicknamed her Parsnip don’t you?” Hattie looked past him and smiled at her cousin. “Because she couldn’t pronounce ‘Persephone’ when she was younger.” Persephone rolled her eyes. “Sometimes I still can’t.

” Everyone laughed as Uncle Edward steered them toward the men unloading the baggage car. “Let’s get your trunks and be on our way. Did someone drive you, Hattie?” “No, I drove myself. Cooper is busy helping Baxter today with his house. I believe they’re breaking colts tomorrow – you’ll enjoy watching that.” “I daresay I will,” he agreed. “But you’ll let me drive you back to the ranch. You shouldn’t tire yourself out, my dear.” Hattie smiled at her uncle – he was always so attentive. “Very well, I’ll let you.

I can’t wait for the two of you to see the ranch.” “I’m anxious to see that rooster,” Uncle Edward said. “Rooster?” Hattie said nervously. “Oh, that might be a problem. No one has seen him for a while.” “Oh, that’s too bad. I so enjoyed your letters about him and his friend you met when you first came to Creede. What was his name?” Hattie took a deep breath and smiled. “Albert Dunst.” That’s all she was going to say.

They’d never believe her if she told him that she was sure Albert was her guardian angel. Maybe she’d been so addled at the time that she only imagined it and he was just a nice man who’d helped her out. But nonetheless, none of them had seen any sign of Albert or his rooster friend Bob since Bart Sullivan barged into Cooper’s house, tried to do away with poor Cooper and force her to marry him. Thank Heaven that was all in the past. Now she and Cooper had their future to look forward to. She was eager to tell her cousin all about married life and falling in love. Persephone had just turned eighteen and if she wasn’t marriage-minded already, she would be soon. What were her prospects in New York, she wondered? She wanted to hear all about them when they got back to the ranch … after she took a little nap. Who knew being with child could wear one out so quickly? Uncle Edward loaded their trunks into the back of the wagon, then helped Hattie and Persephone up. Hattie sat next to him while her cousin sat in the back with the trunks.

“My!” Persephone said. “I feel so uncivilized!” Uncle Edward laughed. “This isn’t exactly Madison Avenue, is it, my darling?” “Stop, you two,” Hattie mock-scolded. “This is my new home. Besides, Creede’s not that small.” “How big is it?” Persephone asked. “I’d say we have about ten thousand residents now,” Hattie said proudly. “About the size of Peekskill.” That was a city north of New York that they’d be familiar with. Uncle Edward smiled at her.

“Or our neighborhood in Manhattan, right, Parsnip?” “Father!” Persephone objected. Uncle Edward laughed and gave the horses a slap of the lines. The wagon lurched forward and they were on their way home. As they passed through Creede, Hattie took the time to point out a few of the establishments she frequented. “And there’s the tea shop, Persephone. We’ll go there with Maja for afternoon tea one day. Two British women own it.” “Really? A tea shop in a town like this?” Hattie twisted around to look at her. “Again, think of it like Peekskill, only without New York’s millions looming nearby. No reason we can’t support a tea shop.

” “I don’t mean to offend, cousin. It’s just that I’ve never been to a place like this.” “You’ve never been anywhere, Parsnip,” her father said. “Do you realize this is her first trip out of New York?” “Goodness, no.” Hattie twisted around again. “I know this isn’t London or Paris, but at least it’s a far-off land.” Persephone laughed. “Well, now I can tell my friends back home that I’ve been to Creede, Colorado! The far end of the earth!” The three laughed again. “I say, Old Hat, what’s all this construction I see going on?” Edward asked. Hattie looked around at the different buildings in various stages of construction.

“Fires, Uncle. This poor town has suffered several over the years.” Uncle Edward and Persephone looked here and there, studying the work going on around them. “What a horrible thing, fires,” Persephone whispered. “I admit I’m terrified of them.” “Who isn’t?” Uncle Edward said. “I can hardly light one myself. Our scullery maid takes care of the fires in our house.” Hattie giggled and shook her head. “Oh, Uncle.

Well, the first thing I’ll do when we get home is teach you how to start a fire.” “Don’t waste your time, Old Hat. I’m terrible at it.” “He really is,” Persephone added. “You don’t have to agree with me!” Hattie replied, and the three of them continued to laugh all the way to the ranch house.

.

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