Journeys West - Chapter 16 - A Rattlesnake on the Trail

Chapter 16 - A Rattlesnake on the Trail

By Monica Rose and Marina Kelly
Proofread by: Qmodo

The sun was bright outside the bedroom windows but the muted glare really did not bother her. It registered somewhat, but the events of the previous day had taken a bit out of her. Their bedroom gymnastics contributed to that as well. As a result, Mary Sue snuggled back into the warmth of Pat's arms.

Sadly, she did not have the ability to slip back into sleep once she had started to wake up. It had to be something about how her mind worked. Her brain insisted on working once it had been turned on and just insisted that she pay attention.

Regardless of whether she was awake or not, Mary Sue refused to climb out of the cozy nest she was in. There was something about Patrick. The guy produced heat like a mini-furnace and it felt good against her bare skin. She bet that he would be nice to cuddle with on a winter's night.

She stayed still for several minutes, enjoying the sensual feeling of a man's body wrapped around her. She could sense Pat's cock against her backside, but there was no erotic sensation at the moment, just a feeling of comfort and rightness.

She was hit with a wave of sadness when she thought of having to arrange for a flight back to New York. She was going to miss the love that she had just found, but she didn't know how she could stay. She really wanted Pat to feel the same way she did, but they were going in separate ways. Did she want him to feel as bad about her leaving as she did? She fought back against the melancholy even as tears started to form. She didn't see how a relationship was possible for them. She had to finish her thesis and he wasn't going to just pick up and go with her to New York. Maybe it was better to be the only one in love.

About that time, Pat shifted his weight and his arms tightened around her. His hand folded over her breast and squeezed gently, both an invitation and a request. Her breast tingled and she felt the nipple stiffen into his palm.

It was nice to be wanted. Either because he wanted her around longer or because he was looking for a morning quickie. She was okay with either one though.

She shifted herself against him and felt little Patrick harden against her. She wriggled her backside against him playfully. She had never done anal and really did not want to now. She just hoped that her lover wanted what she wanted.

He rubbed himself along her butt a few times. Even though it was not an erotic spot for her, Mary Sue felt herself becoming furiously turned on. Her nether regions felt like they were soaking wet and Patrick's hand had not yet left her breast. She wanted him so much. The combination of squeezes, strokes across her nipple, and the kisses on the back of her neck were enough to almost drive her wild.

She was more than ready when Pat rolled her gently onto her back and leaned over her to kiss her. Instead of climbing on top of her, he cradled her in his arms and kissed her again. Their tongues darted between each other's mouth and hands stroked across bodies.

Mary Sue was nowhere close to being inexperienced with sex, but Pat was doing things to her now, that were creating feelings she had never experience before Every point on her body seemed to be super-sensitive and she jumped a little as his hand trailed across her body. She didn't think that she could be any more aroused as she was right now. She couldn't help but moan with want.

She was more than ready when Pat finally entered her. She was so wet that he slid in easily enough, but she could feel herself stretching to accommodate him. She wondered how it must feel to him, but she spared only a passing thought for it. She let herself get lost in the feeling as they settled into a smooth rhythm of pull back and push together. When her first orgasm struck, she went completely rigid and her head and back arched back. It felt absolutely glorious. Pat only slowed a little in middle of her ecstasy, probably because Mary Sue was so tense that he must feel like she would cut him in two.

By the time they were both spent, they were both soaked in sweat. Pat collapsed on top of her for a moment before he slid over to one side, still cradling her.

"Isn't this where we share a cigarette?" Mary Sue asked, rolling up on her side once she didn't feel so much like a wet towel.

"Probably," he answered. "But neither of us smoke." He returned her smile. "At least I won't roll over and go back to sleep."

She was basking in the afterglow of the best session of making love she had ever had or even read about. Even knowing that she would have to leave this experience behind did nothing to dampen the euphoria she felt. She felt too good to become depressed. There would be time enough to cry on the plane.

She gave Pat a cute look and said, "So…Was it as good for you as it was for me?"

He smiled back. "I thought I was supposed to ask that."

She leaned in for a light kiss. "I've never had so much fun before."

"I'd love to help you feel that good again, but I think I'm going to need some time," he said wryly. That was understandable. She needed some time to recharge herself. "Could I offer you some breakfast instead?"

"That would be nice, but I need to take a shower."

"I'll tell you what. You go ahead and use the bathroom while I get breakfast organized. Then I'll get cleaned up and I'll fix you an authentic western omelet."

"Okay," she said. But it was obvious that neither of them wanted to get out of bed just yet. She was happy to just be held. It wasn't too long though before their bladders forced them to get out of bed and to start their day.

As much as Mary Sue would have loved to stay in the shower and let the warm water run across her still-sensitive skin, she wanted to leave some hot water for Pat. It still took her the better part of an hour to feel presentable. When she finished, she went out to the kitchen to give Pat his chance in the shower.

Pat had used the time to organize everything for omelets. Once she heard the water in the shower shut off, Mary Sue started the process of preparing breakfast. She knew that Pat had said he would fix breakfast, but she had grown up learning how to cook and bake. That was one of the things her mother had insisted upon and Mary Sue had not fought about.

She slid Pat's breakfast on to a plate just as he entered the kitchen. She set it down at his place on the table and spun back to the stove to begin her own meal.

"I assumed that you would want a little everything because you had it set out," she said apologetically. She had just realized that he might have laid out things especially for her. "Was that okay?"

"That's fine Mary," he replied. "But I should be fixing breakfast for you."

"I don't mind at all. I haven't had a chance to cook for someone else since I left home."

Before long, her omelet was ready and the two of them were enjoying their meal together. She finally had to bring up the unhappy subject and pointed out that she needed to arrange for a plane ticket back to New York.

"I know," Pat said. "I wish that there was some way for you to stay."

"I do too," she answered sadly. "I need to organize all of my material and complete my thesis. It's going to take me weeks, if not months. But, based upon what has happened this past week, I believe that my subject will change from being about the wagon train to focus upon Yolanda and the part she played."

"What will you do when you finish your doctorate?"

"I don't know now. My area of study was the latter 1800's and early 1900's in the West, but I believe that I might narrow it even further to just the 1800's and the Pioneer West."

Pat's eyes brightened and he smiled at her. "If I can help, all you need to do is ask.”

"Thank you." Even after last night and this morning, she still blushed.

While Pat worked on cleaning up from breakfast, Mary Sue began the process of calling the airlines that flew out of Cheyenne and booked a flight for the next evening.

Pat came of the kitchen saying, "I should see if I can get back into the library."

"I can help," she said. "I have a flight back tomorrow night."

She went back to the bedroom to get her bag. As she was returning, there was a loud, insistent banging on the front door. Pat checked the peephole before he opened up to find Liz there. Her expression was frantic and she was on the verge of tears, some were already breaking free to run down her face.

"Liz? What's the matter?" Pat asked. He looked beyond her to see what was causing her to be so upset. Liz was always upbeat and flirty, so to see her like this meant that here was something seriously wrong.

She was obviously not in a disposition for pleasantries. "Do you know how to find that state police friend of yours?"

"I think that I can find her," he replied. "What's wrong?"

"I can't find Sam and no one answers her phone or the door! I don't know where Jackson is and his deputy can't get him on the radio!"

"Come in," Pat said, he was pulling her into the house as he said it. "I'll make a call and see if I can find Leslie."

Mary Sue was behind Pat at the door and drew Liz over to the loveseat. While Pat made his call, Mary sat down with her. Once she was off her feet, Liz sagged back into the cushions and began to cry. All Mary Sue could think to do was wrap her arms around Liz and to just hold her.

"I tried to check on her," Liz said through her tears, gasping because she was short on air. There was none of the saucy teasing she always had on display. "I saw how mad Jackson was when he found out about Samantha and me" She looked up at Mary Sue and asked plaintively, "Do you think she's okay?"

Mary Sue could see how much the woman wanted to hear her say yes. Anything other than encouragement right now would only send Liz into a bout of hysterical crying. Mary Sue gathered her into her harms again and stroked her back. "Samantha will be fine Liz. Pat is tracking Leslie down right now." She held Liz and let her cry.

Across the room, Pat spoke quietly into the phone before hanging up. He sat down in the armchair with them and said, "Leslie is still at Emily's. She'll be here in a few minutes." He leaned forward and asked, "When did you see Samantha last?"

Liz looked up and said, "I saw her the night before last when you and Mary Sue were at the diner with the police officer. I talked with her on the phone yesterday afternoon and she was going to stop by the diner after Jackson went on his county patrol. But she never showed up or called." She dissolved into tears again, obviously assuming the worst.

Mary Sue just held her until there was a knock at the door. She and Liz looked up as Pat opened the door and allowed both Emily and Leslie to come in.

Pat had already explained why Leslie was needed and she went directly to where Liz sat. Pulling up an ottoman, she sat down in front of Liz and held her hands.

"When was the last time you heard from your friend?"

"Yesterday," Liz said. "She called me when Jackson was busy. She was afraid of how he was acting and she was going to come over to my place when Jackson left and we were going to leave town together." She was crying now.

"She never showed up like she was supposed to and I don't know where she is. No one answers the phone and I've knocked on the doors but no one answers. I watched Jackson leave this morning on patrol before I went over there."

Leslie stayed still for a minute or two, thinking, before she came to her feet. Her gaze swept the group in front of her and she said, "I'll go check it out myself. I don't want to put you ladies in harm's way, so I want you to stay here. Mr. Summerfield, could I ask you to come along and remain in the car while I look around?"

Involving a civilian was definitely against regulations, but her superiors had put her into a bad situation by withdrawing everyone in response to Ron Kaylock's political maneuvers. All she would do would be to look around the sheriff's house and keep Pat out of trouble. She knew that Mary Sue would never forgive her if something happened to her boyfriend.

"Of course, let's go," he replied. He was up in one smooth motion.

Leslie stopped at the door and turned back to the ladies being left behind. "I'll look around and see if there is a problem. We'll be back in a little while."

It was only a half mile drive from Pat's house to the sheriff's. The lawman owned a fairly good-sized, single story structure that backed up against a green belt so that there were no neighbors behind. There was a good space between each house which provided a good bit of privacy.

Leslie drove past the house slowly before turning and parking on the street in front of the house. There were no vehicles in the driveway and all the windows that they could see were all covered by shades or drapes.

Leslie turned to Pat and said, "I want you to stay here. I'm going to go up and look around. If I'm not back in five minutes, I want you to get on the radio to yell for help. Okay?" She checked her pistol in its holster. "I don't expect any trouble, but I can't put you in any more danger than I am right now. You'll be safe here in the car. The windows in these cars are bullet-resistant. You can either stay here or drive away if you have to."

All Pat could do was nod in acknowledgement, she really was not giving him a chance to answer back. He watched her walk up the driveway and knock on the front door. When she got no response she disappeared behind the house.

As Leslie walked up to the back of the house, everything was quiet. It even seemed like the birds were still, but she could hear them off in the distance. Every window had a shade pulled down or drapery closed tight. Of course, she could see nothing through the windows.

At the back of the house, she looked through the screen door into the porch. Nothing unusual was visible and the house door was closed as well. Liz had said that there was no answer when she had been here; but protocol required her to knock anyway and announced herself as a policeman. She was in so much trouble now from violating policies that entering the house was a minor infraction. She tried the porch door to find that the door was unlocked.

Stepping quietly on to the porch, she moved to the door into the house proper. She carefully tried the door and found it locked. She heard nothing when she listened at the door, so she hammered loudly on the door.

"Hello! This is the police! Samantha are you in there?" She heard no answer, but there was a faint thud against the door. She called out again and was rewarded by a pair of weak thuds near the bottom of the door, almost as if someone were bumping or kicking at the door.

Everything that had been happening since she had arrived in town had been unusual. It took her only a moment to decide to add breaking and entering to the list of infractions she had committed so far. Being wrong was worth the risk. Besides, she didn't much care for the sheriff anyway.

She stepped back for a moment to look at the door and the frame it was in. Fortunately, the security door was set into the original door frame. That meant the weakest part of the door was actually the frame itself and not the door. She used the balance and control she had developed through years of martial arts training to deliver a pair of kicks beside the deadbolt on the door. The door itself was strong enough to withstand the force she expended upon it, but the wooden frame was not and door stood slightly ajar after the steel bolt tore through the cheap lumber.

She pushed at the door, but there was little give. It appeared that someone had piled an obstruction against the door to keep it closed. When she heard groans from the other side of the door, Leslie pressed firmly against the door to move whatever it was out of the way. Once the door was open far enough, she looked carefully around the door to see that a body lay there. Leslie could see that the huddled body was breathing, but the amount of blood that stained the clothing made her question just how long that might be.

"Samantha?" she called loudly. "Can you move?" It was obviously Samantha as the sheriff had driven off that morning. Leslie was rewarded by a whimper of pain. It didn't look like the wounded woman even had the power to cry from the pain she must be in. A trail of blood across the kitchen from the closed door at the other side showed the heroic effort she must have made to reach the door, only to find that it was locked.

Leslie slipped through the gap she had made and knelt beside Samantha. Her face was a badly bruised from several different blows and her right arm was draped across her body, looking just wrong. Leslie had seen her share of wounds and injuries during her time in the military and on the highways. The damage she was looking at was no different, but it still made her want to cry because of the anger and outright menace it represented. No one should be able to inflict this kind of pain upon another person, just because they could.

"Samantha! Can you hear me?" Leslie was practically shouting to make sure that Samantha responded. She couldn't tell how badly the woman was hurt or if she was even conscious. Happily, Leslie saw her eyelids flutter and Samantha tried to groan.

"Don't try to talk," Leslie said more quietly. "I have to pull you away from the door so that I can get it open. I'll have an ambulance here in just a few minutes." She was sure that it would be safe to pull Samantha back away from the door by her feet, regardless of how much pain it might cause her. After all, she had crawled across the kitchen already.

Leslie took care to keep Samantha's arm from more damage first and then gently took hold of her legs and pulled her back into the kitchen. Her lower body was undamaged, which meant that Jackson had been raining blows down upon his wife and she had been cowering and trying to protect herself with her arms. Eventually, the man had overpowered her and given his anger free reign.

It looked like the movement had been enough to make Samantha pass out, but she also looked to be breathing a bit easier. Before she ran out the back door, Leslie turned Samantha's face a bit to make sure that her patient / victim could continue to breath. Then she was out the door and back to the car. The total distance was only about thirty feet and it seemed like it took forever to cover it and no time at all at the same time. Pat saw her coming and he had the car unlocked for her. From the way she was running, it must have seemed like the hounds of Hell were chasing her and he braced himself and assumed trouble was coming. It was when she grabbed at the microphone and made the call for an ambulance and then for support from her own office that he understood that something else was going on.

Leslie gave Pat instructions to sound the car horn if the sheriff were to return and send the ambulance up the driveway and to the back of the house while she went to watch over Samantha. While Pat stood by the car, watching for the ambulance, he pulled out his phone and called his own house. He quickly sketched out what he knew and instructed his friends to meet them at the hospital. Coming to the sheriff's house was out of the question because they would only be in the way.

Inside, Leslie cleared away what she could so that the paramedics would have an easier passage in and out of the house. Samantha remained on the floor, but she had moved slightly. Leslie took that as a good sign that she had not done any damage by moving her.

Good thing about being located in town was that the ambulance was less than ten minutes away. It seemed like she had no sooner knelt back beside Samantha when she could hear the siren in the distance and she gave a sigh of relief. The last thing she wanted to deal with was watching someone suffer and possibly die before help could arrive. In no time, the ambulance had backed up the driveway to the rear of the house and the paramedics were looking Samantha over. Leslie found herself shouldered out of the way, which was fine with her. Once they had performed their triage, the medical team carefully moved her onto the litter and got Samantha out to the ambulance and then they were gone.

She secured the porch door entry for the house and walked back out to the car. It never failed to affect her when she witnessed a horrific scene like Samantha's and Leslie found herself shaking once the adrenalin in her system was no longer necessary. Pat could see how Leslie was feeling, so he helped her into the passenger side of the car and got behind the wheel.

"I called Emily and Liz to tell them to meet us at the hospital. Is that where you want to go?" He was watching her carefully, but Leslie was quickly gaining control of herself.

"Yes," she answered. "I need to find out if she can tell us anything. If her husband attacked her, I will need to find out how we need to proceed from here. I may find myself having to take charge, it would be a waste of time involving the sheriff’s useless deputy but I'll try anyway.

She left Pat in the car again when they arrived at the sheriff's office. Inside, she found just the single deputy who had no information about where (or where?) Royce Jackson was. The man reflected much of the sheriff's personality and Leslie managed to keep from showing just how angry he made her.

If this was the general attitude and behavior of the face of law enforcement in this county, there would be some changes in order. It was no wonder that so many citizens were unhappy with the sheriff.

She had Pat drive them to the hospital with sirens blaring. She spent the time talking to her commander and explaining the situation that existed here. Wisely, Pat kept his mouth shut during the conversations. He listened as it was decided that a support team would be dispatched and would remain in the area until the local situation has been assessed and deemed under control. Leslie would be in charge of them all.

They had been sitting in the hospital parking lot for almost twenty minutes before everything had been determined and Leslie was able to sign off with headquarters.

She looked at him and said, "I don't think that I need to tell you that was all confidential."

All Pat could think was: 'Of course it was.' He just smiled and nodded. "I figured that was the case. Besides, who would I tell that even cared?" Leslie returned his smile and an appreciative nod of her own.

They headed into the emergency department and found that there was no waiting to speak to the receptionist. The nurse recognized Leslie and was willing to say that Samantha was in surgery. There wasn't much more information available, but the doctor had reported that she was out of danger. It would be a few hours before Leslie would be able to talk to her.

While they were at the desk, Emily, Liz, and Mary Sue hurried in. They all moved into the waiting room and Leslie leaned forward to Liz. She quickly recapped how she had found Samantha, but skipped over the bloody condition she was in at the time.

"She's in surgery right now. The doctor reported that she was going to be okay, but that it would be a few hours before she will be able to see anyone." The look on Liz's face said that she did not want to be stuck waiting around the hospital when her loved one was in trouble. It hurt doubly so because it was also obvious that there was nothing she could do about it.

"Liz, why don't you and I wait together? I need to see if Samantha can make a statement and I'm waiting for a team from Cheyenne to show up." Leslie looked at Pat and the other ladies and continued, "You three should probably head back. There really isn't anything you can do here and I would like to talk with Liz for a while."

Pat nodded in agreement and everyone gave Liz a hug before heading back to town. They dropped Emily off at her place. Then Pat decided that he wanted to check on the library. The yellow police tape and crime scene notice had been removed from the entrance to the library, so Pat tried his keys in the locks. He was happy to find that there were no surprises, like new locks, and they went on in.

The first thing that struck them was the overpowering odor of smoke. The air conditioning system had done a good job of keeping the air cool, fortunately the electricity was on again. They must have turned everything on again when they had finished their investigation.

Even though the light was dimmed by smoke that had settled on the windows, they could see that everything was still in order. The fire itself had been confined to the store room where it had been set and it had not had a chance to spread to the floor or walls. Considering the age of the building, the place would probably had gone up like a torch. A single case of arson had become attempted murder and could have been murder if Pat had not reacted fast enough.

"Everything will need to be cleaned and aired out. I hope that we can get rid of most of the smoke smell. Most of the books are pretty contemporary, so it won't cost the city a great deal to replace them if we have to. I'm glad that the historical collection was in the other room. I'll bet that the smoke never got in there."

He pointed to the back half of the room that was closed off by a glass wall. "I've been watching over the collection and adding artifacts to it as they are brought in by tourists or the folks who live around here. Would you believe that there are people who actually want to sell things to us? They aren't really happy when I tell them that state law doesn't allow them to keep native artifacts." He smiled at the thought. "I make sure that anything that might belong to one of the tribes around here is returned."

Mary Sue went over to the room and looked in at the shelves. There were shelves upon shelves holding a myriad of pottery shards, books, clothing, and even some weapons.

Pat continued, "I know that it's a mess in there, but a degree in library science isn't enough to manage a museum. So I just watch over everything and I only let researchers in there." He looked at her with a lopsided smile, "You never had a chance to get in there though and the fire kept us from coming back."

Mary Sue just shrugged. "I think that I found everything I need for my thesis. I've been thinking that my focus won't be solely upon the wagon train, but will be about women on the wagon train and how they were important to their success. Yolanda will be a big part of my thesis."

"Do you want to check out what I have in there?" Pat asked.

"Yes, I would. Thank you."

Pat led her over to the entry door and unlocked it. He had been correct that the smoke hadn't gotten in here, obviously because of a separate filter system.

"I'm glad that the fire didn't get in here," Mary Sue said. "Each of these items is a link to our past and they have a story to tell. They should be curated and catalogued.

Pat looked at her for a few moments before he said, "I know. I just have to find someone who will come in and work on it. Interested in a job? It doesn’t pay much but has great benefits.” He said with a grin.

They looked around a bit more before returning to the main library. Before leaving, they inspected the store room where the fire had been set. Most of the smell of smoke appeared to emanate from here.

"I only had office furniture, tables, and chairs in here. It looks like I'll have to junk it all," he shook his head. "What a waste. Maybe I can find a couple of college kids who want to make a few bucks to haul everything out. I’m just glad that the fire chief thought about using the fire extinguishers instead of soaking the place with a fire hose."

"When do you think you'll be able to reopen the library?"

"I'll find a couple of volunteers tomorrow when I get back from taking you over to Cheyenne. It should only take a few hours to empty this out and get rid of the smoke smell."

Mary Sue nodded. The mention of Cheyenne reminded her again that she had to leave. She needed to get her materials packed and ready to leave early in the morning. She hadn't given any thought to how she was going to the airport in Cheyenne.

"I…I was going to see about a shuttle service. I wasn't going to ask you to take me all the way over there."

Pat wrapped her in a hug and held her as he said, "I don't mind taking you at all. I'd feel better about taking you over there because of everything that's been going on around here. I know that you'll be safe once you're on the plane. But we'll need to leave early though."

She had to pull back a bit to look up at him. "Then I should get packed and probably get to bed early." There was something about the look in her eyes, maybe how she seemed to look through her eyelashes that said something more.

"Let's go get something to eat then you can get packed and into bed," he said, bending down to give her a warm kiss.

They closed up the building again and drove down to the diner. Rush hour was over by now, so one of Liz's co-workers, Donna, was chatting at one of the few tables that were still occupied. The atmosphere seemed a bit subdued.

Donna came over to their table and smiled warmly. "Hi Pat. Hi Mary Sue. We haven't heard anything from Liz yet. Is Samantha okay?"

They related everything that they knew about Samantha and her condition, which really was not much. Donna thanked them, took their order, and headed back to the kitchen. It was a great meal and they laughed and talked as if Mary Sue was not leaving. It was obvious that they were both making an effort to not dwell on it.

They went back to Pat's place when they were done. It took Mary Sue about an hour to organize her things and prepare for the next day. She carried the last of her bags out to the living room and said, "That's it, except for the one I'll need in the morning."

Pat had busied himself catching up on his housework to clean up the living room and kitchen. With Mary Sue's announcement, he came over to her and replied, "I think that I have everything back in shape around here too. Is there anything you would like to do on your last night here?"

She smiled and pulled his face down to allow her to give him a deep kiss. Then she took him by the hands and pulled him along to the bedroom.

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