Dodge City, Kansas
Cinnamon O’Brien, better known as “Mindy, the whore’s kid,” bent to place a pitcher of beer on a table with three rowdy cowboys attempting to drink themselves into a coma. It wasn’t even noon on Saturday, and a new bunch of cattlemen had arrived, along with the buffalo hunters, railroad workers, drifters, and soldiers. All of them drinking, swearing, and wearing out the girls who hauled one man after another upstairs.
A sweaty hand landed on her leg, and slowly made its way up her dress, until it cupped her bottom and squeezed. Mindy jerked and turned, anger flooding her at the laughter and lewd remarks coming from the table next to her. Giving her a lopsided smile, Mayor Stumpy Gardner continued to pat and rub her more private parts. “What do you say, Mindy? Wanna make some extra money and take a few of us upstairs?”READ MORE
She stepped away from the man and fisted her hands at her side. “Get your filthy hands off me. Mayor or not, you have no right to touch me.”
“Ah, come on, now little lady. You can’t tell me your ma ain’t given you lessons on how to please a man.”
More laughter and stomping. Another man called out, “Come on, sweetheart. We got the money, and I’m tired of waiting for my turn to go upstairs.”
The mayor reached for her again. “I said get your hands off me,” she growled.
The man leered at her and continued to squeeze and rub. Mindy leaned across the table, picked up the pitcher of beer she’d just delivered, and giving it all her might, she swung it at the mayor, hitting him over the head, with a loud thunk. His eyes bulging in his face, he grabbed his head, foamy beer running down his eyes, nose, and face to drip from his chin onto his rotund belly. Then his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he slowly slumped to the floor with a loud crash that stopped all noise in the saloon.
Aw shit, I’ve gone and killed the mayor!
Good. The lecher deserved it.
The stunned silence soon ended with more yelling and shouting. Someone hollered to get the doctor, and another man grabbed her and pulled her hands behind her back. “Go git the marshal. This here woman is a murderer.”
Mindy tried to pull away, but the man holding her was having none of it. Within minutes the doctor—who had been playing cards next door—and the marshal—who was buttoning up his pants, stomped into the room, looking none too happy for having been disturbed. Dr. Benson bent over the prostrate man and began to feel his head. Marshal Dane Jones took Mindy by the arm. “What the hell did you go and do now, girl? Did you kill that man?”
“Nah, he ain’t dead,” the doctor said. “She knocked him out cold, though.”
“Let’s go.” The marshal marched her out of the saloon. “If you’re here when ole Stumpy wakes up, he’s gonna be tearing after you.”
“Where you taking me?” Mindy was a bit breathless trying to keep up with the marshal’s strides as he dragged her down the boardwalk.
“Jail.” He hustled her past all the other saloons doing a raucous business. Two men flew through the batwing doors of the Golden Buck, rolling on the boards, punching each other until they almost knocked her and the marshal over.
Marshal Jones dropped Mindy’s arm and walked to the horse trough. Picking up a bucket sitting alongside it, he scooped out water and dumped it on the two men. They sputtered and shouted. The marshal took Mindy’s arm again and went on his way. “Two bit cowboys,” he mumbled as they arrived at the front door of the jail. “Goddamn, I hate Saturdays. It’s only gonna get worse as the day goes on.”
One of the town’s deputy marshals, Terry Perkins, leaned back against the wall, his chair braced on two legs, his crossed ankles resting on the desk. His hat was pulled over his eyes, and it was obvious from the sounds coming from underneath the hat that he was enjoying a nap.
Dane kicked the chair legs out from under him, spilling the man onto the floor. “What the hell?” He jumped up and went for the gun in the holster strapped to his thigh.
“Put that thing away before you shoot your fool head off.” Dane glowered at his deputy. “The town ain’t paying you to sleep. You’re supposed to be watching the prisoners.”
“There ain’t nothing to watch. All you have back there are three women who spend most of their time crying.”
“Yeah, well now we have four women.” He all but dragged Mindy to the back of the room where, sure enough, three women sat in a cell. He pulled the key from the ring on a hook by the jail cell and opened the door. “Y’all have a new cellmate.” He shoved Mindy in and locked the door.
“How long do I have to stay in here?” Mindy rubbed her arm.
“Till I’m good and ready to let you out. And with how mad the mayor’s going to be when he wakes up, you best be settling in that cell. It won’t be healthy for you to be traipsing around town, I can tell you that much.” With that statement, he turned and headed back to the front area. “Don’t fall asleep again, Perkins. This is Saturday, and I got my hands full.”
“Yes sir,” the deputy mumbled. Then in a show of force, he added with a raised voice, “Hey y’all back there. Y’all better settle down and stop all that caterwauling. I ain’t listening to no more women bawling.” With that, he took his seat once more, and Marshal Jones stomped out the door, slamming it shut, rattling the windows.
Mindy plunked down on one of the cots shared by another woman. She looked over at her. “What are you in for?”
She frowned. “What’s that?”
“Having no job, no home, and no money.”
“Well, hell, if you ain’t got a job, then there ain’t no way to have a home or money.” She adjusted the straps on her dress and tugged the neckline up. “My name’s Cinnamon O’Brien. But if you know what’s good for you, you’ll call me Mindy. What’s yours?”
“You look like what my ma calls a ‘good, God-fearing woman.’ How’d you end up with nothing?”
The woman cleared her throat. “My husband and little girl died of influenza. Gerald was a gunsmith, and since I didn’t know the first thing about guns, I couldn’t keep his business going.”
“I’m an only child and my parents drowned right after Gerald and I were married. Their buggy went over the side of a bridge during a rainstorm.”
Mindy reached out and touched her hand. “I’m so sorry, girl. You’ve had it hard, haven’t you?”
Fighting the tears once again, Adelaide merely nodded. “I left my house and came to Dodge City. I got a job as a waitress, but having no experience, I didn’t last long. When I got fired I started living in an abandoned building. The owner told me I could stay if I um . . . ‘warmed his bed’ as he put it. When I refused, he had the marshal arrest me for trespassing. He said he would drop the charges if I reconsidered.”
“Damn men. Most of them are good for nothin’.” Mindy looked over at the two other women sitting on the small cot against the opposite wall, watching the exchange. “What are y’all in for?”
The brunette shrugged. “I worked with Doctor Snodgrass, selling medicine out of his wagon. I thought it was real good stuff. But it turns out it was just water he colored with beet juice. He skipped town and left me here. People filed complaints, so the marshal arrested me. I don’t know why, since I never got any of the money. Dr. Snodgrass took it all.”
“Damn men. You can’t trust any of them. What’s your name?”
Mindy gestured with her chin to the other woman. “What’s your story?”
For a full minute the girl just stared at them. Finally, she wrapped her arms around her middle and whispered, “I killed a man.”
The three women stared at her for a minute. “Well, lordy be, I almost did that myself today.” Mindy leaned back against the wall and crossed her arms. “I am so sick of this town. I can’t abide it much longer.”
“Why were you arrested?” Adelaide asked.
Mindy crossed her legs, swinging her foot back and forth. “I work over at the Lady Gay Saloon.” She narrowed her eyes when Adelaide lifted her chin. “Don’t you look at me like that. I ain’t no whore. I just serve drinks.”
Adelaide nodded for her to continue.
“Anyway this fat old geezer kept trying to put his hand up my dress. And he’s the mayor! Can you believe that? Anyway, I hit him over the head with a pitcher of beer. Knocked him out cold.”
“Is he dead?” Adelaide wanted to know.
“Nah. His head is too hard.” She grinned. “But really, I think I probably lost my job. The boss don’t take too kindly to the girls knocking men out.”
“What will you do if you’ve lost your job?”
Mindy shrugged. “I have no idea. One thing I do know, is I ain’t about to do what my ma spent her life doing.”
“What’s that?” Adelaide asked.
Mindy shrugged and once again pulled up the neckline of the red and black taffeta saloon outfit. “Whorin’”
Jedidiah Nelson stood before the panel of elders who would decide if he measured up to be sent to a church in Trinidad, Colorado, that was in need of a pastor. Jed, as he was known to his family and friends, had recently finished his training and was ready to carry the Word of God to the needy in the wilds of Colorado.
Elder Parker took off his spectacles and rubbed them with a handkerchief, giving Jed a piercing stare. “Young man, your record looks impressive. We all know your father and three older brothers dedicated their life to the church. Why do you want to follow in their footsteps?”
“It is all I’ve ever wanted to do, sir. I cannot imagine my life any other way. I not only want to bring the word of God, but I want to help those in need.”
He hoped God would forgive him that little lie. One thing he’d learned in life was to tell people what they wanted to hear. And this was what the elders wanted to hear. However, all Jed ever wanted to do was draw. He currently had a job at the Dodge City Times newspaper as an artist. He drew all the ads for the businesses.
Lloyd and Walter C. Shinn had started the Times at Dodge City in May of 1876, and Jed had been with them since that very first day. He enjoyed the work, and the men were happy with him.
But Jed’s Papa and brothers had all gone into preaching, and Jed knew it was expected of him, also. Papa never said it outright, but just assumed he would follow the others. He loved his Papa and didn’t want to disappoint him, so he took his training, and if the church elders accepted him, he would hand in his resignation at the newspaper.
Elder Parker nodded and placed his spectacles back on his nose. “We have reviewed your application, and we are prepared to offer you our support in sending you to Grace Christian Church in Trinidad, Colorado.”
The tightened muscles in Jed’s stomach relaxed. Papa would be proud, he had won! “Thank you, sir. I know I will not let you down.”
“One thing, Mr. Nelson.”
“Yes sir?” He stopped, cold. The expression on the rest of the panel’s faces did not look happy.
“The last man we sent to Trinidad disgraced us and our church by leaving the area, along with a woman who was married to another man.”
“Oh.” Not too sure how that affected him, he waited.
“Yes.” Mr. Parker leaned forward. “If we send you to Colorado, you must obtain a wife before you go.”
“A wife, sir?”
“Yes. You know, one of those women who stand in front of a preacher with you, who you agree to love, honor and cherish.”
Jed didn’t smile since he didn’t know Elder Parker to have a sense of humor, so most likely the man was being serious. “Yes, sir.”
“Do you have a young lady in mind?”
Mindy O’Brien immediately flashed into his mind. Long reddish brown hair, beautiful pale skin white as fresh milk, snapping green eyes, and a personality to go along with it. He’d had an affection for her since they were playmates on the school grounds. He’d gone home from school more than once with bleeding knuckles after defending her against bullies.
With her mother being a prostitute, Mindy had taken a lot of taunts and insults over the years. He knew her to be a good girl, though. Even with her job at the saloon, she stayed away from the kind of work her mother did. Jed had taken her on picnics and town dances. If he had to select a wife right away, she would be his choice. Heck, if he had to choose a wife with any amount of time to think about it, she would be his pick.
If there was a bonus to him having to give up his artist work to be the Grace Church of Trinidad, Colorado’s new pastor, it would be marrying Mindy. If he could convince her, that was.
Mindy had made it clear she could never marry him because she wasn’t good enough. The anger that flooded him when she said that usually resulted in an argument, so he no longer brought up marriage. He enjoyed her company too much to cause her any more distress.
“Yes, sir. There is a young lady who I’ve been stepping out with.”
“Good. See if you can get married quickly. The people of Trinidad are in need of a new preacher, and since you qualify in every other way, we don’t wish to begin the search again.”
Jed left the office and stepped onto the boardwalk. Now what? He’d convinced himself he really wanted this assignment, and he’d always wanted Mindy. If he couldn’t convince her that she was good enough to marry him, he would lose both.
After making two quick stops, he made his way to the Lady Gay saloon. He hated that she worked there, but with so few opportunities for women to support themselves in Dodge City, and with Mindy’s mother’s reputation, it had been the only job she could get.
The place reeked of cigar smoke, beer, and whiskey. As well as trail dirt and unwashed bodies. A new gang of cowboys must have hit town. Only mid-afternoon and the saloon was bouncing. He looked around the room and didn’t see Mindy. Usually by now she was busy running drinks back and forth from the bar to tables full of cowboys that she had to duck to keep from being grabbed. He walked up to Silas, the bartender. “Where’s Mindy?”
Silas threw his head back and burst out laughing.
“What?” He didn’t like the fact that Mindy was missing, or that Silas thought it was funny.
“Well, I figure right about now little Mindy O’Brien is sitting in the jailhouse.”
Jed drew in a deep breath, and attempted to shout over the sound of four cowboys arguing over a card game. “Jail! Why?”
“Cause she hit the mayor over the head with a pitcher of beer. Almost killed the man.”
Just then the argument behind him turned into a fist fight. Several other men joined in the fray, and tables overturned, coins went flying, and glasses smashed on the floor. Geez, he hated Mindy working here. Jed tried to make his way out of the saloon when Marshal Jones strode in, shaking his head at the ruckus.
Sliding his pistol out of his holster, he shot a bullet into the air, which hit the chandelier, causing it to fall and land on another table of cowboys. They jumped up, one of them falling backward, hitting the bar, sliding to the floor, right next to Jed.
With a mission to accomplish and not wishing to get involved in a bar fight, Jed rounded the bar, heading toward the back door of the saloon. Two more shots sounded as he pushed the door open and stepped into a pile of horse manure.
He looked down at the bottom of his boot. “Shit.”
“Yep, that’s about right.” An old man sat sprawled against the building, a bottle of whiskey in his hand. He held it up to Jed, who shook his head and continued on his way. He got as far as the front of the saloon, then took off his boots and cleaned them the best he could with a bucket of water from the horse trough.
Marshal Jones burst through the batwing doors, holding the collars of two cowboys, both of them looking as if they’d taken a beating. He shoved them along, in the direction of the jail. Jed hurried his steps and caught up with the trio
“Marshal, did you arrest Mindy O’Brien?”
Jed swung around and stopped right in front of Jones. The three men came to a halt. Jed fisted his hands on his hips. “I demand you release her. A woman should not be in jail.”
“I agree,” Jones said as he elbowed Jed to move aside, and continued on his way to the jail.
“Then you will release her?” Jed walked backwards in front of Jones.
“She’s already gone.”
“Oh.” Jed pushed his hat back. “Did she go home?”
They reached the jail and the marshal pushed open the door to the jail house and shoved the two cowboys into the room. They both stumbled forward and landed on their faces. Jones turned to his deputy. “Lock ‘em up.”
A young man who Jed had never seen before with a badge pinned to his shirt hopped up and kicked the men’s feet. “Get up.”
Once the men were locked up and the marshal turned to leave, Jed grabbed his arm. “If Mindy didn’t go home, where is she?”
“Are you still here, boy? Don’t you have a bible reading or some souls to save?”
Jed moved forward and got right into the marshal’s face. “Don’t call me boy. And don’t brush me off. I want to know where Mindy is.”
Jones lips twitched. “All right, settle down, son. Mindy’s over at the Dodge City hotel. Since you’re next question is going to be why, I’ll tell you before you ask.”
The marshal walked out the door and Jed followed.
“Mindy and three other women I had locked up this morning are all at the hotel. Miss Nellie’s brothel burned down today, so she’s over there with them.”
“What?!” Jed nearly swallowed his tongue. “Are you telling me Miss Nellie is going to hire Mindy to . . . to . . .”
“Hold your horses, boy. Ah, sorry, son. She ain’t starting up no new brothel. Her girls all left her. Miss Nellie is going to chaperone the ladies I had in jail on the wagon train to Santa Fe.”
Frustrated at the bits and pieces of information he’d received, Jed placed his hand on the marshal’s chest to stop him. “Santa Fe? Why?”
Jones shook his head, but finally stopped and looked at Jed. “I told the ladies they were either going to have to wait for the judge to sober up and come around to hear their cases, or they had to get on the wagon train pulling out soon from Fort Dodge to Santa Fe as mail order brides. Miss Nellie is chaperoning them.”
“You have a brothel owner chaperoning women on a wagon train? Have you lost your mind, Marshal?”
“No, I ain’t lost my mind yet, but I’m gettin’ close. Now get out of my way.” He continued on, heading toward another fist fight in the street.COLLAPSE
Kindle Customer, Amazon wrote:
I am positively hooked on this author. Her stories are the perfect blend of heartwarming, hot, and humorous.
Maria, Amazon wrote:
Wonderful story of two different people and the love they have for each other.
Can Mindy get over her past for a new life with Jed in Trinadad as his wife? This was a beautiful story of second chances and not judge a person on their appearances or background ! Wonderfully written with characters that worm their way in your heart! Love Callie Hutton's books they never disappoint!