*** The worst happens when Rosella is discovered...
*** Reggie is happy his games are proving fruitful toward his nemesis...
~ A ray of sunshine forever extinguished ~
Logan jerked awake when he heard a scream. "What the hell?"
"Logan! What was that?" Rachel cried out, clinging to her husband.
He jumped out of bed when the scream filled the air. "It sounds like it came from the kitchen. Rosella must have fallen. Here, put my robe on and go check on Arnie." He pulled two guns out of his bedside table and gave one to his wife. "Take this with you, just in case. I'll go check downstairs, and I want you to stay with the old man until I find out what happened. Whatever you do, do not leave his room."
Logan hustled into his wedding trousers and then stumbled on his boot. "Son-of-bitch!" He quickly regained balance as Rachel lit a candle. "No - blow it out, honey! Someone could be in the house. I don't want anyone to know we heard anything!"
Rachel blew out the candle and wrapped the robe tighter. "Logan, I'm scared," but he didn't answer, because he was all ready out the door. She made her way to her father's room at the opposite end of the hall by feeling along the wall as she walked. Tears flooded her eyes as she prayed, please, God, don't take Logan away from me, too.
Before he entered the kitchen, Logan checked all the rooms downstairs. Satisfied nobody was inside he approached the kitchen, careful to stay clear of the door in case someone was in the room. Instead of rushing in, he took hold of a single candlestick holder from the buffet and tossed it through the door. When it fell to the floor, rolled around, and he heard no movement or shots fired, he decided it was safe. Logan lit the lamp on the dining room sideboard, held it in front of him and walked through the kitchen door. He was dumbstruck at the sight of Rosella lying on the floor. He rushed over, knelt at her side, but it was too late when he discovered the pool of blood and that she'd been struck with a fatal blow to the head.
Rachel whispered when entering his room, "Daddy, are you okay?"
"Little one," his voice shaky, "I'm fine. How are you?"
Arnie struggled to sit up and get his bearings. "I heard a scream. What the hell is going on, and where's Logan?"
He went downstairs to-"
With a slight tremble in his voice, Arnie said, "Where's Rosella?"
"Daddy, please stay calm. Logan will be here in a minute to tell us what happened. When we heard the scream, we thought Rosella may have fallen down. You know how she always fixes herself hot milk in the middle of the night." Rachel tried laughing and making light, but failed miserably. "Before we know it the both of them will be charging through the door, and then she will have us drinking hot milk with her. Honestly, she is the berries." Rachel realized her rambling but was as distraught as her father was. She also knew that the longer it took Logan to return, the worse the news would probably be. She closed her eyes.
"Dammit, after all this excitement, I'm going to need a double remedy, little one, or I'll be a week-nigh-on-to-Sunday getting back to sleep."
Rachel prayed for her husband to come soon, and then she heard something outside her father's bedroom. She pointed the gun at the door. "Don't come any closer! I have a gun!"
"It's all over, Rachel," said Logan before he opened the door.
Rachel gasped her excitement when she saw her husband. "Oh, thank God, you're okay!"
Logan sat the lamp he brought from downstairs on the dresser. Rachel laid the gun on the night table and flew into his arms.
"What happened, boy? Where's Rosella? She'll need to fix me a heap of remedy after all this fright of the night."
Rachel felt it; the news would not be good. "Are you okay, sweetheart? I was so scared."
"I'm fine, honey. Come here," he said and then led over to Arnie's bedside. "It isn't good news I'm afraid. Someone broke in downstairs." He hesitated, "Rosella's dead."
"No!" Rachel cried.
Logan held her tighter. "Whoever broke in was long gone by the time I got to her. Arnie, are you okay?"
Arnie felt as if his heart had been ripped from his chest as he cradled his head in his hands, mournful tears welled. "My dear friend, Rosella," he cried out, "now you have been taken too! There is just too much death - far too much." She had been his best friend over the years since he had lost his Maddie. His partner in crime, he had called her.
Rachel pulled herself together and turned to her father. "I'll get you some remedy, Daddy." She went to the bureau, retrieved the brandy and poured her father a healthy dose. "Here, Daddy, drink this."
Arnie Wesley downed his remedy, clunked the empty snifter on the bedside table, and then swung his legs over to the side of the bed and got up. He moved too quickly and began to stagger.
Logan caught him before he fell. "Old man, you're going to fall on your backside!"
"I've got to see Rosella! Help me, boy!"
"No! You are not going to see her tonight," Logan said sternly. "I've taken care of things, so you get back in that bed right now."
While giving Arnie aid into bed, he said, "Rachel, honey, get him some more remedy."
Rachel did her husband's bidding. "Here, Daddy."
Without a word, just a nod, Arnie drank the remedy down and handed his daughter the empty glass. He curled up in a ball and pulled the blankets up to his chin. "Tomorrow, you'll take me to her tomorrow," he said in a weaker voice, his energy spent as he closed his eyes. In the blink of an eye, and the loss of yet another loved one, he suddenly felt older far beyond his years.
Logan and Rachel held each other as they stood watching over Arnie until his breathing became even and was asleep. They went back to their bedroom.
No sooner were they behind the closed door then Rachel sobbed into her husband's chest. "I was so afraid I lost you . . . and . . . and I panicked."
"I'm right here, Rachel." Logan held her tighter. "We need to talk. Can you calm down so we can do that, honey?" Then he led her to the edge of the bed and sat down.
Rachel snuffled, settled herself and said, "How selfish of me not to think of Rosella - what happened?"
"She was struck over the head."
Her eyes as big as saucers, "Why would anybody want to harm a hair on her head?"
Logan took a piece of paper from his pants pocket. "Here, read this." He turned the lamp up on the bedside table. "Maybe you can shed some light on this."
Rachel sat studying the words for a minute.
The games have only begun Arnie Wesley! You should have never interfered with my family! Believe me, we'll be in touch! F. B.
"I don't know. I'm as confused as you are." Shivering, she looked at her husband. "I'm afraid of what this will do to Daddy." More determined, she said, "I want to see Rosella - I have to see her, Logan."
"No," he said solemnly. "Like I told the old man, you can see her tomorrow. I wrapped her in a blanket and put her in the storm cellar for the night since all the hands are in town celeb -" He could not say they were celebrating their wedding. He closed his eyes and held her close.
Rachel leaned into her husband's arms. "Yes, of course. Why is there so much death surrounding us? I wish you could tell me," she said her vulnerability evident.
"I wish I could too, honey." Logan laid his gun on the nightstand where it would remain nearby for what was left of the night. "Where did you leave my other gun, in Arnie's room?"
She nodded yes, "On the night table."
"You hop into bed while I go get it."
Rachel let her husband's robe fall to the floor and crawled into bed. As Arnie had, she curled up into a ball.
Logan was back in the blink of an eye, shed his pants, got into bed and drew his wife into his arms. "Let it out, honey, I'm here."
At first, Rachel said nothing and Logan did not push, just waited until she was ready. When she spoke, it was the form of a plea. Her lower lip quivered. "Don't you dare die on me Logan Burke, don't you dare."
"Little one, I'm not going away, because we have years of living, loving," he chuckled, "and a houseful of babies to make."
He brushed the hair away from her temple and kissed it and whispered, "Don't leave me either, Rachel Burke. Now that you're my wife, and I've had you in my arms, my bed; I can't go through this life without you." Then it was time for Logan to shiver.
Husband and wife lay intertwined with each other, seeking succor just by being. That was all they needed. As gratifying as the heights of ecstasy, the reality they were, by the grace of God's delicate balance was enough for that moment.
Since the day after the wedding was Sunday, Max's day off, he didn't have to account for his whereabouts, so Reggie had Max come to his room at the Greenly Boarding House. While in town, he planned to remain there until his business with Arnie was complete. After that, he hadn't thought about what he would do. He didn't' plan past his revenge.
Reggie asked, "Did you get Blackie paid and the hell out of Dirksville last night?"
"Yes. I settled with him right after I enjoyed Molly's delights. He was primed to be her next, so no one was the wiser. We were just two men looking for a good poke.
"Good plan to have you in town with all the hands celebrating their bosses wedding. No one would suspect you were instrumental in how Blackie could get in and out of the house undetected." Reggie snickered, "I would like to have seen the look on all their smug faces when they found out their dear Rosella met her maker! Lesson number one in why it isn't a safe idea to mess with me."
"Your plan worked like a charm," said Max. "Old Tater will vouch for me the whole way, too."
"Let the fun begin. I'm headed on over to get me a piece of Molly," said Reggie. "We'll meet back in a couple of hours, after my seeing-to, and then plan out our next step."
Within five minutes, Reggie walked into the Golden Garter. "Molly, get your arse over here!"
Molly's heart stopped - she wanted to ignore Reggie. Not only was he disgusting, but he wasn't happy until he left his mark on his whore's body. Sadly, she found that out the hard way. While a whore is by the nature of her activity subjected to many forms of sexual exploitation, debauchery was not as common as one would think in a bordello. While her thigh still hurt from his painful bite mark from the first time he took him, he had not repeated the animalistic act.
Something kept bothering her about Reggie. She was sure she had run across him in the past. Of course, she had worked in a brothel in Phoenix too, so that could be where she met him. Oh, well, no matter, his type came with the occupation.
"Molly - get over here! I need a seeing to, dammit!"
She bit her lower lip, and then answered him. "Sugar, I'd just love to give you a seeing to." She smiled on the outside, but on the inside, she prayed for mercy!