Roderick’s Purpose – Ellie St. Clair

Roderick laughed and laughed, his breath coming in short, quick gasps as he tried to catch up to his brother and cousin who had already made it to the top of the hill. “Wait!” he yelled out. “I’m coming!” They ignored him, as they always did. Gregor and Callum were a few years older than he and, of course, could move much quicker, but that never stopped Roderick. He, in turn, refused to wait for Adam and his little sister, and though Peg had come close to catching him, he would never let himself be beaten by a wee lass. When they crested the hill, Roderick launched himself in the air, rolling down the grassy knoll as his dog, Chance, bounced beside him, seemingly watching over him to make sure he wasn’t hurting himself. Chance had a tough job, his mother always said, as Roderick was forever getting himself into one scrape or another. He had broken his arm falling out of the big oak in the woodland, had nearly drowned diving into the shallow rocks of the lake, and had hacked a gash in his leg while trying to chop wood with the older men. His mother said at this rate she would become quite a skilled healer, simply because she was always trying to mend her children. Roderick landed at the bottom of the hill next to his brother, and soon enough Peggy and Adam joined them. They lay there laughing as Chance licked their ears and jumped around them, urging them up to play. They finally acquiesced, and Callum suggested they go find Finlay. Roderick rolled his eyes at the idea — Finlay never wanted to play. He followed the rest of them, but stayed back and watched when they arrived at the castle bailey where they weaved in and out of the men at work. Roderick had other ideas, however.

He continued on his own, down to the loch. He climbed to their favorite diving spot and looked out at the water below. He stretched out his arms, feeling the wind flow through his hair, and he closed his eyes as he tilted his head up to the sky to feel the warm sun on his face. He never felt such contentment as he did out here. With the blue of the loch stretching out far and wide in front of him, bordered by the dark-green pine trees of the mountains, Roderick felt a sense of both peace and abandon that he couldn’t quite describe. Already barefoot, he stretched up tall and then dove into the water below, splashing in the waves. He swam toward shore so that his mother wouldn’t get upset with him, and then flipped over onto his back, staring up at the sky. It doesn’t get any better than this. Chapter 1 1886 – Qu’Appelle, Northwest Territory Roderick pulled at his collar. The red wool of his uniform was itchy in the heat of the July sun, and the perspiration was already trickling down his back.

He swatted at a mosquito and readjusted his wide-brimmed hat over his sweat-soaked hair, damning the way the tight jacket he wore restricted his movements. “Corporal McDougall!” came the call, and Roderick snapped back to attention. He was hoping Sergeant McLaren was speaking to his brother, but as he looked around at all of the eyes upon him, Roderick sighed, realizing that, once again, he was the subject of the man’s pointed stare. “Aye, Sergeant?” he asked, attempting to hide his impatience. Could they not just get on with it? In the amount of time they spent sitting around discussing cases like a women’s book club, they could have doubled their efforts in catching criminals. “I asked if ye felt capable of completing your role in this investigation?” “Aye, Sir.” McLaren narrowed his eyes at him. Roderick’s brother, Callum, was friends with the man, but Roderick just couldn’t see why anyone would want to spend more time than was absolutely necessary with him. “Can you, McDougall, repeat back to me what that role is?” McLaren said, maintaining the stance and demeanor of a soldier while doing all but rolling his eyes at Roderick. “I am to be stationed at the Hudson’s Bay building in Qu’Appelle so that the next time the gang of thieves strike — and we believe it to be here or in a nearby town due to their pattern — we are on the ground to capture them as it happens.

” “Very good, McDougall,” the sergeant said, and Roderick thought perhaps he caught a slight measure of respect in McLaren’s eyes. Roderick had perfected the art of listening even when not entirely focused on the topic at hand. The youngest of three brothers and the son of a Highland chieftain with high standards of work ethic, Roderick was well used to being ordered about. As the meeting broke up, Roderick made for the door as quickly as he could, but he hadn’t gotten far when a firm grip encased his shoulder. He turned to see his brother beside him, dressed in the same bright red jacket and blue pants that Roderick had laughed at when he first saw Callum so dressed but a couple of years ago. “Is anything amiss, brother?” Roderick asked in response to Callum’s serious expression. While Callum didn’t approach life with quite as carefree a spirit as Roderick — although perhaps, with a wife and a daughter now, he didn’t have much choice — Callum was typically quick with a grin and had a similar sense of humor. “We are patrolling together today, Roderick, to watch the building in Qu’Appelle,” Callum said, one side of his lips rising in a half-smile. “You didna hear that part, perhaps?” Roderick shrugged. “Sure, I did.

Now tell me why the long look on your face.” Callum sighed, his brows coming together in a vee. “Are you happy, Roderick? I mean, here in the Northwest Territory, in this role ye’ve taken on?” “Of course,” Roderick said with a shrug. “Why would ye think I’m not?” “It simply seems that perhaps … you do not have the sense of law and justice that is required as an officer with the North-West Mounted Police.” “Are ye having regrets, Callum, for recommending me to this position?” Roderick asked, his spine stiffening at the thought that his brother might no longer want him here. “I know perhaps I’m not the officer McLaren would like me to be, but—” “It’s not that,” Callum assured him. “We need men of every type to do the best job we can. No, what I’m wondering is how you feel. You seem to still be… searching.” “Are you going soft on me, brother, with a wife and child now?” Roderick said, laughing off Callum’s question.

“I feel just fine! I always do. You know me, Callum, I’m happy no matter what the circumstance.” His words didn’t seem to have the desired effect, however, as the look of concern remained in Callum’s eyes. He finally nodded, though, and dropped his hand. “I know you came here looking for something, and I’m just not sure it was all you expected. I dinna want you to remain here because you’re too proud to return home.” Roderick laughed off Callum’s words, but they dug in like a snake bite, its venom going straight to his heart. For Callum was right. Roderick had come here because he always thought the Americas held such a sense of adventure, of freedom that couldn’t be found at home. In the Highlands, life was ever-changing, with more and more people leaving the fields and villages for the cities or to travel over the ocean, searching for more abundant work, food, and a better life.

His family had done a fairly good job of keeping their people content, particularly now that his brother Finlay had married Kyla MacTavish from the adjoining property and the clans had joined forces, coming up with creative means in which to stay prosperous. But there didn’t seem to be a place for Roderick. Finlay had all well in hand, while their brother Adam was kept busy with his inventions. There was always the need for another body to work, sure, but it was just taking orders from his brother. Now, however, he had traded one man’s orders for another’s. It wasn’t, as Callum thought, that he didn’t respect the law or justice. Roderick knew and believed they were required for a well-functioning society. No, it was that he didn’t like having to do everything the way another man required it. Roderick felt that he could offer more, if only he was given the opportunity to do things in the way he saw them. He felt more action was required, and all they seemed to do here was talk about what they were going to do.

What Callum had seemed to determine, however, and what Roderick had been trying so hard to hide, was that the longer he remained here, the more he yearned to return to the Highlands. This land was beautiful, to be sure, a hidden, lush valley amongst the stretches of prairie land surrounding them. And yet, it wasn’t the hills he loved so much. The pastures were not the same, the people were different, and the lochs had no monster in their depths, he thought with a smile. At home, the land and the people were as much a part of him as his own body, and he missed them with a ferocity that he couldn’t have imagined. He could finally admit that he had been wrong about coming here. He had been so adamant to do so, had fought his father and his brother about it, and eventually, he had come because of his own stubborn will. To return now, to admit that he had been mistaken… he didn’t know if that would be a worse fate than staying here. He shook his head to clear it. He couldn’t think of this now.

Instead, he would put it to rest for the moment, and simply focus on the trail and the task ahead of him. * * * Roderick’s head jerked up, and he reminded himself of his intention to stay awake despite the fact that his body continued to fall asleep in the heat of the day. He dipped the brim of his hat over his eyes, trying to shield them from the fiery ball in the sky that seemed to have been put there in order to make him feel as if he were in the bowels of hell. He had been stationed on the bench on Broadway Avenue for hours now, and he groaned aloud as he thought of coming days holding a similar fate. At least he wasn’t wearing his wretched coat. He had changed before beginning his patrol, so as not to scare away the Doc Malone Gang. “Stay awake, Rod,” he heard Callum’s voice from behind him, and he didn’t look at his brother as he defended himself, though he knew Callum stood beyond the rail to the side of the brick building. “I am awake. I’m simply resting,” he said, hearing the yawn on his voice. “There is no resting when you are on patrol,” Callum said, slightly exasperated.

“I see Victoria heading toward the doctor’s office. Are you fine on your own for a moment?” “Of course,” Roderick said, allowing his indignation to show. Did Callum really think he was so incompetent that he couldn’t determine when a gang of thieves might arrive? As Callum stalked off, Roderick glanced out over the currently quiet street. It was dusty in the summer heat, and they needed a good rain to wash everything down. Roderick could practically feel the dirt in his throat — another reason he preferred the Highlands to a town like this. His roaming gaze was caught and held, however, when he noticed the vision walking toward him. The woman’s hair attracted him first, though it would anyone who saw her. It was a brilliant red, the kind he had seen so often at home, and yet, the way the sun shone off it, highlighting bits of gold, captivated him. She wore half of it in waves flowing down her back, bouncing as she walked at a fast pace, clearly intent on her intended task, whatever that might be. As she neared, Roderick could see the frown she wore on her lips, and a need to bring a smile to her face rose within him.

His heart raced a little, and his loins strained a bit as she approached, and he realized it had been some time since he had been so attracted to a woman. “Good afternoon, darlin’,” he said, standing as she climbed the stairs to the veranda he currently sat upon. “Lovely day, is it not?” “Fine,” she said curtly, barely pausing in her step, although she slowed enough that Roderick caught wide green eyes over a slightly crooked nose. She was tall, he realized, and while she wasn’t plump, she certainly wasn’t a slight thing either. She looked… strong, he decided, and that sent his blood pumping a little more. “In a rush, are you?” he asked her as she continued past him. “No time to brighten the day of a lonely Scot in search of company?” “I’ve had enough of Scotsmen,” she said, looking back at him with a look of vexation. “I’ve no time for another.” “Come, now, lass,” he said, hearing the slightest Scottish lilt in her own voice. “That’s no way to treat a fellow countryman, is it now?” “I have business to attend to,” she said curtly.

“Good day to you.” “Until we meet again!” he said with a wave, suddenly not so tired after all.

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