chapter-1 the message
It was a beautiful month of April, in 1873, just out side Pittsburgh, PA. The farm life was agreeable to Joe Potter, his wife an' five kids. It wasn't a really profitable life, but it was a home. He did alright, an' they ate fairly well. He was even able to put back a few dollars every so often, Especially when the crops came in an' done good. This year however, they wouldn't get that opportunity. Ya see, the war'd been over for a few years now, an' several vagrants, thieves, rapists, an' even killers were running round the country side, takin what they wanted. Mostly food, an' money. Sometimes horses, an' sometimes women, an' sometimes lives. Sometimes it got ugly. Sometimes it even came to murder. More often than not. Most of this type people headed west, where there was less law-men, but there were those who preferred to stay close to where they growed up. The law tried to keep the worst of 'em caught, but they just couldn't keep up with all the thievin, rapin, an' killin. Farms all over the Pennsylvania country were constantly bein' bombarded by these people. Farms seemed easier to rob than banks, an' stores in the towns. A few of the farmers kept guns, but in those days in Pennsylvania, the most of the people were Pennsylvania Dutch, Quakers, or Amish. Most of which didn't believe in even ownin' a gun. Let alone usin' one on another man. An' most of 'em didn't believe in fightin', no matter what form of evil arises. Either that or they were just too scared. An' the thieves, rapers, an' killers who growed up around there knew which farms to hit.
Word of the killins grew an' grew, an' finally it spread clear to Missouri, where a federal marshal, Joseph Cates lived, an' kept the law in those parts. He lived just outside the city of Jefferson, the capital of Missouri, or soon to be. An' 'e had 'is own reputation. One that went all over the country, even all the way back to New York City. People on both sides of the law either knew 'im, or knew of 'im. Joseph had but one brother, an' two sisters. Their names, respectively, were Peter, Josephine, an' Penelope. Peter was the eldest, then it was Joseph an' Josephine, they were twins, an' then Penelope came along. They growed up in Kentucky territory, an' later moved to Boonsboro after the war, then on to Jefferson. Peter an' Joseph both fought for the south, an' after that, Joseph moved with his wife an' little half pint tom boy of a daughter to Jefferson, in Missouri, where 'e took the badge of U.S. marshal. Peter, well, he took another path. Not so much a law abidin citizen, but opposite of that. Josephine fallowed 'er twin brother to Jefferson, an' married a man called Patrick Baxter, a banker. He was a weaselly little feller, but 'e had money, an' 'e just couldn't say no to them big green eyes. Life was good for all concerned in Missouri. Penelope decided to stay in Kentucky, cause 'er long time love was there, along with 'is family farm. That's where she decided to live, since the Cates family farm was burned during the war, an' she was welcome by the Becker family an' it looked to be a promising life. Peter on the other hand, went to Missouri, but 'e went on to settle in a town called Kansas City. He started out workin on the docks, an' gamblin a bit, till he got better at winnin, or cheatin, whichever 'e needed to do at any given time. He was good with a gun too, real good, an' used it whenever 'e needed, no questions asked. He soon quit working the docks, an' lived by the cards or gun, an' in that order. First cards, then guns. He got use to killin in the war. They had plenty of it there. It was no big deal to him, or Joseph. He built 'is reputation with the guns pretty fast. Soon it came to the point that local farmers, ranchers, an' merchants, at least the ones who could afford it, hired 'im out to do what was needed, when guns were the tools. However, Joseph only killed when it was absolutely necessary. If it was either kill or be killed, he killed, no questions asked. An' 'e was fast, almost as fast as Peter. Almost. Although both brothers lived by the gun, the older of the two made more use if his, an' made a lot more money doin it. However they both had principles. Principles that their father beat into 'em. Never kill women, or children, an' never ever shoot anybody in the back, an' kill only them who needed killin. This was an oath with at least one of the Cates boys. It was probably the only lesson their father taught 'em that really stuck in Josephs mind an' heart. Makin money kinda changed Peters thinkin when it came to killin someone who didn't really need it. The fact that family comes first, regardless how that family member was, now that stuck with both brothers. Coarse all the Cates family members were good souls, some were just mis-led. Take Penelope for instance. She stayed in Kentucky to marry 'er long time love. She stayed on 'is family farm an' was welcome there, an' when 'e came home from the war, they married. But when thieves an' the likes came upon the farm an' decided to take what they wanted, they decided they wanted her. They killed 'er husband, an' the rest of the family, an' hauled 'er off to their hideout. Now most women would put up a fight in this kind of situation, but she simply went along with ease. Almost like that was what she wanted to do. After all, it was a friend of 'er family that was the leader of the bunch. At least 'e said 'e was the leader. They were sweet on each other when they were young'uns. Surely she couldn't have been part of that gang. Or could she? By the way, she was kinda frail. Maybe that was why she didn't put up a fight. Well sir, it just looked like nobody put a fight at that farm. When the sheriff, John Weston, came to investigate, he found only the bodies of the fallen family. He never found her body. Although 'e knew she was livin there. The whole county knew it. They had a search, an' came up with nothin. The posse tracked the gang into the hills, but lost all sign of any horses or the gang when they got to the rocky parts of the county along the river, over by the ol' Cates place. They gave up after about two weeks of lookin. The time finally came for sheriff Weston to send word to Joseph Cates that 'is sister was lost. He didn't want to send that message cause 'e knew Joseph an' his family from the time they were young'uns. They were good friends with each other, always have been. They went to school together, an' tried for the same girl at one time or another, best friend competition they called it. Although the sheriff won the best girl at that time, they remained best friends. Well sir, he sent that message an' waited nervously for a reply to come back, an' received that message the next day. It simply read; I'm comin home to find my sister. Be there in two days, on the Red Line train.