Journeys West - Chapter 5 - Just Research

Chapter 5 - Just Research

by Monica Rose and Marina Kelly
Proof-reader: Qmodo

The library was not hard to find as it occupied a good-sized building just down the road from the central area. It had obviously been a church at one time, probably the largest in the area, and it must have been recommissioned as the library when a newer building had been built closer to Laramie proper.

The parking lot was hard-packed gravel, but it was a pretty good size. Mary Sue gathered her things and headed up the stairs to the front doors, finding the entrance located under a beautiful stained glass window. A plaque set into one wall declared that the building was a historical landmark. The musty smell of old books hit her when she opened the doors, which left no doubt as to its current purpose. Feeling herself on familiar grounds, she stepped onto the marble portico in the main vestibule.

The place gave off a comfortable vibe, the condition of the beautiful wood work and stained glass windows made it obvious that the building had been well cared for. Engrossed as she was in taking in the architecture, Mary Sue was not paying attention to her surroundings. That was why she was so surprised by her reception.

"Hi, may I help you?" said a deep, friendly voice.

Mary Sue jumped in surprise and turned to, once again, see the same deep blue eyes she had seen the day before. "Y-you!" She stammered.

There was a twinkle in his eyes and the smile grew on his face. "Funny running into you again, maybe this time I should introduce myself."

As she took a step back to restore her personal space, there was a strange feeling in her stomach. There was something about his voice that seemed to make parts of her vibrate inside. "That would be a good idea. Once I get my heart to slow back down again." She smiled shyly. Not understanding this odd feeling that she was having. "I'm Mary Sue McLaughlin."

"It's nice to formally meet you Miss McLaughlin. I'm Patrick Summerfield, the librarian here in Ft. Laramie."

She felt like a teenager right now, but she was just happy that she didn't giggle. "I'm working on my doctoral thesis in history on the last wagon train on the Oregon Trail. My research says that the train was forced to winter over here in Laramie. I was hoping to find some information about the people who were part of the wagon train. I was just at the newspaper office and I was told that the records are housed here."

He was six feet tall with broad shoulders. His smile fit right in with those eyes, warm and friendly. Patrick’s eyes were the facial feature that stood out the most to Mary Sue. His eyes were the deepest blue she had ever seen, they were set on a face that was strong but not sharply featured. He had dark wavy brown hair that looked like he might need a haircut. The waves rested on his collar and there was a stray lock of hair that fell just above one of those intense eyes.

"Yes, they are. The microfilm is with the historical society in Cheyenne, but the originals are down stairs. You might not want to dig around down there in that lovely suit though, it is a bit dusty." He chuckled lightly, "Okay, it's a lot dusty down there. We don't get much need to go down there and therefore I don't clean it a lot. Let me get the key and I'll show you around."

Pat left Mary with a smile to retrieve the key from a small office hidden behind the receptionist's desk. Mary's eyes followed him as he moved with the grace of an athlete. His jeans and a short sleeved shirt fit him well. He had well defined arms…up close a girl couldn't help but notice. Obviously he was not a couch potato. She unconsciously reached up to smooth her hair.

As he confidently strode back to her, she turned her head pretending to be looking around the library some more. As he neared she turned her head sending her hair back over her shoulders, unintentionally she licked her lips.

He never broke eye contact and he caught her gazing into his eyes. Her skin tone became redder as she blushed, and subconsciously bit her lip. Pat noticed she had a special sparkle in her eyes, which was hard to define. This woman had a gentle smile that warmed his heart. He could picture it in a Da Vinci painting.

Mary Sue could smell his aftershave; a manly scent that increased her pulse rate. He reached out with the key, displaying big, strong hands. He laid the key in her palm and then slowly, lightly withdrew his hand sliding his calloused fingers along the length of her hand until finally just their fingertips touched. They both felt a wave of energy flow between them.

Neither of them were naïve, they knew that they were flirting with each other. The mating ritual was low-key, but Mary knew from her waitress experience that it had begun. She was sure that Pat was aware of it as well; but he was a guy. They were always looking. Mary smiled back; he was so very suave she had no choice. He was looking her right in the eye, and said, "Mary, I have been giving this some thought, the basement really is grungy. Why don't you let me bring up whatever materials you need?"

"Thank you, but I'll go back to the hotel and change into something more dust resistant." She headed out to her car. "I'll be back in about an hour," she called back over her shoulder. Now it was Pat's turn to stand and stare. Mary wasn't one of those anorexic skinny girls. Rather she had a more rubenesque build which Pat found quite appealing, he liked a lady with some meat on her bones.

* * * * *

As promised, Mary Sue returned dressed in jeans, a polo shirt and tennis shoes which her feet would be very happy with by the end of the day. Patrick had been watching for her out his office window and met her at the door this time.

Having him standing at the door as she came in was nice. Had he been waiting for her? She hoped he was not another creep. She patted her bag superstitiously, reassuring herself that the pepper spray was in easy reach. Still she stopped rather close to Pat.

"I'm back and ready to get started. I understand the wagon train had to stay here for the winter before moving on. I'm hoping to find more detailed records of people and events related to their time here."

Pat stood for a moment, taking in her casual dress that looked as good as her formal appearance had just a little while ago.

He finally broke out of his daze and said, "I haven't spent much time looking around down there, but feel free to dig to your heart's content."

He led her over to the basement door, a staircase disappeared down in a lighted space. “You’re lucky that you stopped here instead of continuing on to Laramie itself because they would have sent you back here in the end. The wagon train actually wintered over in this general area. The fort itself is further on, but the wagons and people were here.” He paused before adding, “I believe that several of the families who left the train actually still have descendants living around here.”

As they descended the stairs she got to check out this librarian's other side. She liked what she saw and Mary Sue got that funny feeling in her stomach again. Patrick switched on lights as they moved through the basement. He turned into a large room with shelves around the room and a lot of file cabinets. He took a rag from his pocket and wiped off a table.

He pointed over to the side of the room. "The newspaper records start over in that corner. I am not sure what all is down here so feel free to look around. If you need anything I'll be in the office, unless you're afraid to be down here by yourself? I'd be glad to stay and keep you company." His tone said that he would be happy to stay with her.

He glanced down at his feet, shifting from bold to bashful in the wink of an eye. Mary found this to be a bit amusing, but attractive at the same time.

In a rather brazen display, Mary licked her lips and with an angelic smile said, "No, I think I'll be fine. I wouldn't want to keep you from your duties."

"Helping lovely visitors such as yourself is what I am here for." He grinned.

"I think I can manage on my own." She said with a little more force in her voice.

He took the hint gracefully and headed for the door. "Okay then I'll leave you to it. Have fun. Call me if you need me." He backed out of the room.

"I will. Thank you," she called. She hadn't meant to be rude, but she wanted to at least start this part of the project on her own. Taking out her notebooks, pens and recorder and placing them on the old wooden table, she meticulously went through the room to get her bearings.

Patrick hummed to himself as he climbed the stairs. His job was not that exciting but he thought that with a little effort on his part and a little cooperation from the lovely Mary Sue, he could find it more interesting. He had thought her attractive at the store when he had run into her the first time. He thought she was even more so now that he had gotten to see her again. She conducted herself as a poised, confident woman, obviously intelligent. Something his mother had told him once came back to him. ‘Looks fade, but a girl with brains will make life interesting forever.’ He wondered if she was The One or if she would want to be.

This was a small town and he knew most of the single women and had not found one that had caught his attention like this lady had. She was attractive and he really wanted to get to know her better. There was chemistry between them that he hadn't felt with any other woman. It was something he planned to investigate further or regret for the rest of his life. He didn't have a lot to offer any woman as far as money went; he wasn't the richest man in town. He prided himself on being honest and kind though.

He went to his office to do his paperwork. The window in his office looked out onto the parking lot. He smiled as he thought about watching for Mary Sue walking up to the front door when she came back. Patrick wasn't sure why he had sat and watched for her return. He chuckled out loud as he thought about the way she had jumped almost into his arms when he had first startled her. He had so wanted to take her into his arms then.

The phone rang. In a smooth tone, he answered, "Fort Laramie Library, how may I help you?"

"There's a woman snooping around town. Don't let her into the records." said a man's very authoritative voice.
He recognized the man's voice; everyone in town knew who Tom Kaylock was.

"Well that is not going to be easy as she's doing research for her doctorate and she's here now." Patrick replied.

"If you know what's good for you, you will go stop her now. Tell her that only town council members have access and that she will have to leave." The voice stipulated.

"And just who are you to threaten me or make demands?" Asked Patrick. Obviously the voice had expected that he should be easily cowed. Pat didn't feel like being run over roughshod by the Kaylock family today.

"This is Tom Kaylock!"

"I'm sorry Mr. Kaylock, but the research she is doing is in the public record and there are no restricted areas here. This is a public library."

"I have it on good authority that she was asking questions about me and my family, she is lying about the doctorate. She's here to sabotage my run for congress. I want her stopped. Now!"

"I'll look into it Mr. Kaylock. Have a good day." Patrick hung up on the man. He was not a fan of the Kaylock family; they pushed everyone around because they had money.

Well...now he had a reason to go back downstairs. Trying to be a good host he took a bottle of water from his office refrigerator and headed downstairs. "Ms. McLaughlin," he called from the hallway to avoid startling her again.

Not hearing a reply, he moved into the room where he found her lost in total concentration sorting through the newspapers that had been filed away. He knocked on the door to announce his presence. He thought that it might be a bad idea to keep scaring her.

When she looked up he said, "I just got a phone call from one of our prominent citizens. Miss McLaughlin what have you done to upset the Kaylocks?"

She grimaced at the mention of the Kaylock name. "Mary or Mary Sue please. I really have no idea what you are talking about. I asked a couple of people at the diner about the school house and the sheriff questioned me about what I was doing in town. But I've never met Mr. Kaylock and I don't think I want to."

Pat nodded. Mary Sue's opinion matched up with most of the folks he knew. "He's under the impression that you are lying about doing research on the wagon train and that you are here to get dirt on him and his family for the purpose of destroying his run for Congress."

"That's outrageous! Here is all the research that I've done and it is all on the wagon train." She pulled out several notebooks and handed them to him. He glanced at them before passing the books back to her. He really did not care about checking her story. He had found that first impressions were usually pretty accurate and he hadn't gotten the impression that Mary Sue was making up a story about why she was here. Actually, his impression of her was of a rather attractive and intelligent woman who would be well worth getting to know better.

He leaned against the table she was using as a work table and folded his arms.

"Well my lady, I'm afraid you have ruffled the feathers of a very powerful peacock. I hope you can take a little scratch or two." He smiled at her. "I'll do what I can to keep the congressman wanna-be from interfering in your research. Tom Kaylock and his son Ron are not the nicest people around here, and somehow you have become a target for their displeasure."

Mary flopped down into a folding chair she had found. "Great and I thought this field work would be a piece of cake. I was looking forward to digging around for information on the wagon train and then moving down the trail. What could possibly be in these records that would cause so much trouble?"

"I'll help you where I can. The two of us working together we might find what you need for your thesis and maybe find out what is so important to Mr. K."

"You don't have to do that I can manage on my own." Even as she said it, she was reconsidering her words. She kinda wanted him around now.

"Hey...I don't like the attitude the Kaylocks have most of the time and I am not fond of being threatened. I don't have a lot to do here right now and I don't like the idea that you could be stirring up a hornet's nest just by doing your research. The faster we find what you need the faster you can be safely down the road." Not that he wanted to rush her out of town.

Mary sighed. He had a point and if the interview with the sheriff had been any indication of what this Tom Kaylock was like, maybe she should let Patrick help. Consenting, she split the mountain of newspapers into equal piles, "Alright I'm looking for anything concerning members of the wagon train. I've been through the headlines of dozens of papers and haven't seen anything yet."

Mary opened her worn notebook that contained the list of names she had accumulated. "Since we've decided you're now officially my assistant, let me show you what we're up against. Here are all the names of the people who started on the 'Journey West'. So far, I have identified that only about three-quarters of those individuals who made it this far. Between deaths and those that gave up, the numbers are dwindling fast. If you can read my hand writing, I'll explain my index for what happened to those missing individuals: Dropped out, settled down or turned around, died in childbirth, died in a wagon accident, drowning, accidently shot, murdered, hung, and died of Cholera, Typhoid, Mountain fever, the flu, measles, and smallpox. There are even cases of drug overdose."

"Come on, there were drug addicts? I find that hard to believe."

"Look it up. By some estimates the civil war created as many as 200,000 morphine addicts. It's quite probable that some of those were in the wagon train. It was so common it was called 'the army disease'. In the late 1800's, opiates were readily available to the common person. The pioneers were prone to dose themselves with great quantities of medicine at the first sign of illness - the theory being that the larger the dose, the quicker the recovery. Many died of overdoses, especially of laudanum.

"Look this list of names over. If you find any mention of names on this list, let me know. Let me caution you though. Headlines help tell you the contents of an article. But what you are looking for will more often be hidden in long columns of 'Local News', and letters to the editor. Also don't overlook the 'Ads', people would advertise opening a store or trying to sell property or offer rewards for lost property, that kind of thing."

The two worked nonstop for hours. They managed to work through weeks of newspapers. At first, there were no hits, but they started finding the occasional mention of one of the names they were looking for.

Upon hearing Mary's stomach grumble, Pat realized that it was time for lunch he raced upstairs to his office and brought down his bag lunch to share it with her. Other than the argument over who got the last mini snickers bar, that was settled with a quick game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, it was a lovely picnic. A professional and personal friendship that had started at the beginning of the day was solidified over lunch.

When they were done eating, Mary Sue looked back over all the newspapers they had been through and was amazed at how much the two of them had accomplished. They had found several more families mentioned on the list from the wagon train.

The obituaries had been a good source of information as well. The winter had been hard on the members of the train. She and Patrick had worked hard sorting through all the papers, but she had also learned a lot about her helpmate. Patrick had been born here in Ft. Laramie. He never knew his father, his mother was his only family and she had died a few years back. Patrick lived in the house he grew up in. Because his mother had instilled in him a love of reading, he majored in Library Science at the nearby University of Wyoming. Patrick might be the town's leading bookworm but he enjoyed hiking and biking. Unlike his contemporaries, he was not interested in hunting animals purely for the sport of it.

Mary found herself sharing stories of her childhood and what living with older brothers was like. She found the he was easy to talk to. He was the first guy that had seemed interested in her as a person not just a set of boobs to get hold of. They talked about books and music they liked and didn't like. Surprisingly, they had similar tastes. His favorite genres of films were horror movies, something she did not care for; but you can't have everything.

"Thank you for all your help today Patrick," she said with a warm smile. "I can't tell you how much I appreciate this. We made a big dent in the papers. Do you think the books on the shelves would hold anything of importance?"

He shrugged, "I don't even know what most of these books are. I would relish some time standing. Why don't you start over there and I'll work through these over here. When we meet in the middle we can call it a day. Would you like to go to dinner when we're done?" He asked with a smile.

"Let's see how things go first. Are you sure you can spend all this time down here? I mean how do you know there isn't someone upstairs needing your help?"

"Well ma'am, you see out here in the wild west, we do have a little thing called technology." He said in an exaggerated western drawl. "There's a little old sensor on the door that triggers a chime in the hallway. This place is very quiet most of the time. I blame those damn laptop computers, Kindles and smart phones; no one needs an antiquated concept like a library. Need to do research, use the Internet. Want to read a book, use your phone. I believe that in my life time we'll see the end of printed books. I'm doing what I am supposed to do by helping you find what you need from the hallowed shelves of the library."

Mary hit a treasure trove when she found an entire issue of the paper that was devoted to the wagon train. One article in particular caught her attention, it...was an editorial. 'There was only one building at Ft. Laramie that warranted a visit by the Oregon-bound pioneers -- the post trader's store. It was the only reliable post office within 300 miles. Supplies could be purchased here too, although the article pointed out the prices were outrageously high. Tobacco, for instance, that could be had for a nickel in St. Louis cost a dollar here. Groceries and Liquors were exorbitantly high. For instance, Sugar $1.50 per pint or cupful. Flour $1 per pint. The author commented, ‘In one bargain, concluded in my presence, I calculated the profits that accrued to the Kaylock family that owned the store - and found that at the lowest estimate they exceeded eighteen hundred percent.'

Mary read the editorial aloud, "Luckily, only a few of the pioneers needed to purchase supplies at Ft. Laramie; most wanted to sell their excess. Their overloaded wagons had become a greater and greater burden, but most held on until Ft. Laramie--in hopes they could earn some money for their extra supplies. But the fort trader wasn't buying. So here the pioneers underwent wholesale dumping. The Trail near Ft. Laramie was littered with heirloom furniture, stoves and china. Despite the temptation, the pioneers did not pick up this valuable litter because weight was the great enemy of their wagons. 'The Trail' was strewn with abandoned property, the skeletons of horses and oxen, and with freshly made mounds and headboards that told a pitiful tale."

The two of them sat side by side; somehow almost magically their chairs had inched closer together. When one or the other would find something of interest they would lean in to read it.

Contact was inevitable, Mary Sue fought to keep her concentration. It wasn't all hard work; they frequently chuckled over some of the old ads. Mary found a large ad for Coca-Cola, she had no idea they had advertised in 1897.

It had been a rough winter, people died of Typhoid, Mountain fever, the flu, measles, and smallpox. There was also a cholera outbreak that devastated the population of Fort Laramie. Of all the diseases, cholera was the most feared. It caused massive diarrhea, leading to dehydration and death. In those days, its cause and treatment were unknown, and it was most often fatal.

Mary was satisfied with what they had accomplished in a single day. She stood and stretched, trying to get the kinks out of her neck. "Pat, this is remarkable. Of the over 700 souls that had started the trek, I've positively determined that 23 had perished on the trek to Fort Laramie and an additional 16 had died here in their winter encampment. 8 families, 33 people, had stopped en route, and three more wagons with 7 souls on board had turned around and headed back to Missouri. Let me see the percentage is 733, minus 23, minus 16, minus 33, minus 7 divided into 733 is...

Mary Sue fished into her purse for a calculator, before she could find it Pat announced, "9%, or 9.2% to be exact.

A surprised Mary gawked at Pat. He smiled back at her and said casually, "What? I have always had a head for numbers. I'm more than just a pretty face."

Mary dove back into her pile of papers with great gusto, rejuvenated by her success. One death notice in particular caught her attention for its novelty. 'A Mrs. Elisa Wilson passed from the consumption on December 11th and was survived by her husband Harland, their two children Lorraine, 4, and Hiram, 7, and their nanny Yolanda.'

Mary tapped the article with her finger to get Pat's attention and said, "Look here Patrick; have you ever seen a servant being listed as a next of kin? She must have been a very special person."

Pat leaned over her shoulder to read the article, his breath whispering past Mary's ear.

"December 11th you say. That name Yolanda rings a bell."

Pat dug into his discarded pile, "Yes, here it is a month later. There is an announcement from the town Mayor about the hiring of a Yolanda Wilson as the town's new school teacher. That can't be a coincidence; it must be the same person."

Both dug through their respective piles like wood into a chipper scanning for the name Yolanda.

A few months later, there was a front page story about the marriage of Nathaniel Kaylock to Miss Yolanda Wilson.

Mary Sue studied the accompanying grainy picture and mumbled, "It seems the Kaylock's have their hands into everything."

Pat looked at it and commented, "That girl can't be more than 16. God help her getting mixed up with that family."

Throughout the afternoon, Mary Sue found his sense of humor to be in line with her own and was drawn into his smiling eyes once again. He was smart and thoughtful yet didn't take things so seriously that he couldn't have fun.

Like when Pat pointed out a story about the town's 4th of July party that featured a buffalo chip throwing contest. When Mary scoffed at him, he challenged her to one that very evening. When she declined the invitation, Pat merely mumbled 'Chicken' under his breath.

As the afternoon wore on, both were tired and blurry eyed. Then they found a headline that set their pulses racing. It was a full page story on the murder of Nathaniel and Yolanda Kaylock. Other than describing the finding of the bodies and the fact the military at the fort claimed it was a local matter. It stated that the murders would be investigated by the local sheriff's office.

Further searching turned up nothing more about the murders, only the announcement of Nathaniel's funeral. No mention was made of when or where Yolanda was laid to rest.

Jumping up from the table, Mary grabbed Pat's hand and said, "Take me to the church cemetery; I have a bad feeling about this."

"Okay, but let me lock up the library first. We can call it a day here. We can leave everything right where it is and continue tomorrow."

Mary gathered her notebooks while Pat locked up. They met at the front door. "Are you all set?" he asked.

"Yes, I wonder if Yolanda is the reason Mr. Kaylock is worried?" Mary asked as they headed to the parking lot.

Pat shrugged and said, "I've lived here my entire life. The name rings a bell, I just can't place it."

They drove to the outskirts of town and found the church and its accompanying graveyard. The Kaylock's had a private section so it took no time to find Nathaniel's grave. A detailed search of the rest of the weathered headstones did not reveal one that might indicate Yolanda.

A stop by the nearby rectory found the elderly curator in his office. After introductions and a brief explanation of the work she was doing, Mary Sue inquired why Yolanda's grave wasn't marked. The curator closed the door and spoke in hushed tones, "I shouldn't be telling you this, but as a long time curator I have had lots of time to gather information about the families in this cemetery. As a man of God, it has always bothered me. The Kaylock's and the parish priest refused her a Christian burial. Her body was taken out onto the prairie and buried in an unmarked grave. That's all I can say."

"What can you tell us about her murder?"

"I've already said too much. Sorry I need to ask you to leave now." The old man paused as he walked them to the door, he obviously wanted to tell them more but not at the risk to his job. "You might be able to find more information at the sheriff's office. I know that there are records that go back to that time."

Mary thanked him warmly and promised that anything he had told them would be kept confidential. On the short walk to her car Mary confided, "I can't say that was the most helpful conversation I've had doing this research. I now have more questions and the person I need to talk to doesn't like me."

Pat leaned in close like he was afraid someone would hear and said, "We can visit the sheriff's office tomorrow. He has a bit of an image problem and there are a fair number of people who don't get along with him. Now, how about that dinner you promised to have with me?" Pat gave her a sideways glance.

"I didn't promise I would have dinner with you. I said we would see. Besides, I should be buying you dinner because of the help you've given me." She chided him then smiled back. Not wanting her time with him to end, she agreed on the condition it be Dutch treat. Pat agreed but had no intention of letting her pay.

"I assume you have eaten at Coal Creek Café as it is close to the hotel you're staying at. How would you feel about having dinner at my house?"

"I don't think that would be the best thing to do since I am new to town and I don't know you all that well." The experience of the assault she had escaped from still played on her mind.

Pat smiled roguishly and said, "You're right, being a beautiful woman, alone with me in my house might tarnish my reputation." She chuckled again she had a sense that he was teasing her but the thought of having dinner with Pat at his place was intriguing.

"I guess that leaves only The Cast Iron Grill, it's a short drive but they have the best food in the county."

The drive to the restaurant took maybe a quarter of an hour. The hostess greeted Pat with an oversized grin and fluttering eyelashes. She gave Mary Sue a quick nod when Pat made the introductions. She showed them to their table and told Pat about the daily specials, not giving Mary even one glance. Mary remembered the woman at the store saying that Pat was 'The town's most eligible bachelor'. If this girl's reaction was typical, then she could understand the woman's comment. It also meant that she might get a cold reception around town if she continued to see Pat.

The restaurant was moderately crowded and decorated in a western motif. The menu was what you would expect; steak, potatoes, salad. Pat had given her strict instructions to order anything she wanted. During the day they had talked about her trip across country and he knew she had lived mostly on fast food and hotel continental breakfasts. He told her she needed at least one good meal now and then to maintain good health. She didn’t want to take advantage of her date…was it a date? Pat was certainly acting that way, much to Mary Sue’s delight. She was burning through her own resources to finance this trip and letting him pay for the meal would help with her cash reserves. She just hoped that he would not expect anything for his generosity.

They were enjoying dinner when two men approached the table. "Interesting finding you here Patrick" said the older of the two. "I don't think you understood our conversation earlier today."

Pat stood as they approached, "I understood just fine Mr. Kaylock. I just don't like being threatened!"

Ronald took two steps toward Pat and said, "My father doesn't make threats. That was no threat, just a friendly warning Summerfield."

Mary fingered a lock of hair behind her ear and then fidgeted a little in discomfort as she watched the unpleasant scene unfolding before her. She noticed that the two men were about the same size and build, although Ron had a lot more flab around his middle compared to Pat’s sleeker muscles. She watched the veins in Pat's temples bulge as he dropped his napkin and his hands closed into two fists. With one large step, Pat closed the distance between the two potential antagonists and the restaurant had gone quiet as everyone watched and waited.

Mr. Kaylock intervened, "Boys, knock it off. This isn't a schoolyard."

Pat returned to his chair, but remained standing. He was embarrassed at his behavior and remembered his manners, "Mary Sue, this is Mr. Tom Kaylock and his son Ronald. Gentlemen, I assure you that Ms. McLaughlin is doing research on the wagon train and has no interest in you or your campaign as you were wrongly informed. I have personally investigated her work. I found no mention of the Kaylock family in any of her notebooks. Now, if you would excuse use, our dinner is getting cold."

During this exchange, Mary Sue sat not knowing what to think. She wanted to stand too, just to not feel quite so small. As Pat and Tom exchanged words, Mary studied all three of them. When her eyes slid to Ronald, she was surprised to find him staring at her. His eyes were very blue and cold as ice. Mary shivered. There was no kindness in his face or mannerisms. He looked at her face and then to her chest, he grinned, this was the typical creeper reaction. What struck Mary was the similarity between Pat's eyes and hair and Ron's.

"The two of you enjoy the rest of your dinner then. Ms. McLaughlin." Tom said as he nodded in her direction. He held her gaze for a brief moment. Just long enough for her to see that his eyes hidden behind bushy eyebrows were as blue as Ronald's but not as menacing. "Miss, I strongly recommend your stay be short." With that the men left.

"Now you have met two of the biggest asses in town." Pat said as he sat down again. "If we could collect all the bullshit that those two produce; there would be no fuel shortage. Ronald is the town bully, between his size and family money, most people are afraid of him. His father is an overbearing jerk."

They finished their dinner with a more subdued mood. "I get the feeling that being with me might not be such a good idea, it could cause you trouble," she said.

"Don't let them get to you; I can take care of myself, I'm not afraid of them. They have always bullied folks around here. They have the biggest cattle ranch in the area and don't care about anyone but themselves."

Mary could not remember when she had last eaten so well, not only was the food good, but the portions were Texas sized. They visited for a little while after they had finished eating. When their conversation was punctuated with yawns, Pat suggested they call it a night.

Pat snatched up the check as it appeared and wouldn't even discuss the issue of Mary Sue paying. Pat drove them back to the library for Mary's car. He pointed out his house as they passed, a lovely old place with a large porch surrounded by shrubs along a quiet tree lined street. There was an awkward moment when both wanted to exchange a goodnight kiss, but the moment passed and they said their goodbyes with a handshake and made arrangements to meet at the Library at nine.

Mary Sue drove back to her motel, pleased with the work she had gotten done with Pat's help. She couldn’t help feeling that there was a lot going on in this little town. Pat had been terrific about everything but Mary was sure that they had not heard the last from Tom and Ronald.

Despite the late hour, she took a shower and prepared for bed. After washing off the day’s dust, she felt a little revived and sat down to organize her notes. It had been a long and productive day and she was thrilled at the amount of data she had gathered.

She had to force herself to relax in order to get some rest, she had a feeling that tomorrow would be another long day. She was tired but sleep eluded her. She lay in bed thinking about Pat. He was tall, handsome and kind. Mary Sue was surprised at how easily they had fallen into an easy working relationship. She couldn’t remember a time when she had felt so comfortable with a guy. She fell asleep thinking about his wonderful blue eyes.

Eyes that were blue like the ocean.

Mary found herself walking barefoot along the beach, the waves lapping at her toes. The sun was warm on her face. In the distance she could see a man walking toward her. As he got closer, she recognized him. It was Pat. She started running and he reached out his arms to her, like they had been apart for a long time. As he took her into his arms, she looked into his eyes and was swallowed up. His mouth met hers. His kiss was warm and tender she closed her eyes and was lost in the feel of his strong embrace. His grip tightened and the kiss became demanding. She tried to pull away but he was much too strong. His hands grabbed at her clothing, his mouth moved down her cheek to her neck. She pushed at his chest. Mary thrashed and pushed until she was able to get a little distance between them. She opened her eyes and was looking not into the depth of Pat’s eyes but the cold and menacing eyes of Ronald. She screamed.

Mary found herself sitting up in bed with the bedsheets twisted every which way. She was breathing hard. She had been dreaming. She untangled herself from the blankets, walked to the sink and splashed some water on her face. Mary was not someone who put a lot of stock into the meaning of dreams but that one had shaken her up. Was it a warning about Pat, Ronald or something else? How could something so pleasant turn so ugly? How could two men have eyes the same color yet one pair be so kind and the other so cold. She straightened the sheets and got back into bed. A chill went down her spine. Pulling the covers over her she tried to erase the images from her thoughts. Taking deep breathes; she calmed herself and was able to get some more sleep.

* * * * *

Her alarm went off at 6:30am. Mary was tempted to roll over and go back to sleep but the dream of the night before came into her mind. She decided that she needed to get some exercise back into her routine. She put on a pair of shorts, a t-shirt and her running shoes. Pat had told her about a couple of trails he used for biking so she headed for the closest one. Even if she just got in thirty to forty minutes, she would feel better. After her run she came back to the hotel. Cleaned up and got ready to face the day. She packed her bag and headed to the café.

When she walked in she was warmly greeted by Elizabeth who found her a table in the corner by gently pushing a couple of cowboys on their way. “You two better get going or you’re going to be late and Ron Kaylock won’t be happy, but you come back and see me real soon, ya hear.”

One grumbled back. “We come here every morning and you know it.”

Liz turned to Mary “So...I heard you met the Kaylocks last night.” Mary’s mouth opened but Elizabeth kept going. “You can’t take a piss in this town without everyone knowing, hun. You better learn that right now. You had dinner with that hunky librarian Pat over at Cast Iron. You could have at least come here so I could keep an eye on you. Being new in town you can’t be too careful. And I could sure use a break from these cow pokes.” She laughed as she handed a plate full of bacon and eggs to a man at the next table. She patted him on the back and said, “ain’t that right George?” He gave her a laugh and a grin in response.

“Yes, I did have dinner with Patrick and met the Kaylocks," Mary answered. "I don’t think they like me much.”

“They don’t like anybody but themselves. Not like me, I like everyone.” She batted her overly made up eyes. “What can I get for you this morning?”

“I’d like one egg over easy and toast with a glass of orange juice please.”

Elizabeth left to turn in the order. Mary noticed several people looking at her. She smiled and nodded at them. Only a couple sitting in a booth by the window smiled back. Mary did not like the attention she was getting. She wanted to eat her breakfast and get out of here as fast as she could.

Elizabeth came back and sat in the chair across the table. She leaned forward, “Tell me all about your date. What did you do to get that man to take you out? I know a few women who would pay big bucks to attract his attention.” She kissed her fingers in an Italian style, “He's yummy.”

“I didn’t do anything. He helped me look for names of people on the wagon train, it got late so we went to dinner.”

“What was the argument with Tom and Ronald about?" Liz asked with a frown. "It's not good to have them gunning for you."

Mary shrugged. “Tom is under the impression that I am looking for things to hurt his campaign. He had asked Pat to stop me from looking around in the town’s old records. Pat checked out my notes and saw that I was really doing research and let me stay at the library. Mr. Kaylock didn’t like it.”

Liz shook her head. “I guess not. He hasn’t heard the word no since his wife passed away. She was the only one that could ever get away with it.” She got up when the cook called that Mary’s order was ready, putting the plate down in front of Mary, she continued, “Rachel was a real looker and a special lady. She could handle life at the ranch and worked it alongside Tom. She didn’t have to put up with any shit from the men because they knew she could handle herself, and she had Tom at her side. Even though she could and did work the ranch she was always a lady. She never came into town that she wasn’t dressed up. Tom bought her the finest things, clothes; make up, perfume, horses and cars.”

“Liz, if you don’t stop gabbing and get to work, you’re going to get fired.” That was from the cook.

“Got to go” Liz said as she jumped up and started flirting with everyone. Soon the place was filled with laughter as she bantered with them and the cook.



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
70 users have voted, including you.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 7607 words long.