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That was Then, This is Now - Part 2

by: CLK


Chapter 7

It was only after much badgering from Gram that Harm and Mac agreed to stop reading long enough to eat supper.  They all chatted over dinner about the farm, the stories, but mostly about Hosiah.

Mac was especially intrigued by the fact that he was so taken with an O’Hara.  Even if Mac was technically a MacKenzie, her mom’s family made her part O’Hara.  What do they say about history repeating itself?

“Sounds like Uncle Hosiah had a thing for picking up strays.” Mac helped clear the dinner dishes.

“You might say looking out for the world has been a Rabb tradition for years.  Rabb men have all been bred that way, can’t do a thing to change it.”  Gram began loading the dishwasher.

“Taking care of people is as much a part of the Rabbs as being in the Navy.  I used to tell Trish, ‘You can take a Rabb out of the Navy, but you can’t take the Navy out of a Rabb.’  Even cousin Ralph, he was adopted but you’d never know it.  He was always looking out for the next guy.  He was just like your grandpa.  Folks often thought they were twins.  There’s a lot more than just genetics that makes a man a Rabb.” Gram looked Mac straight in the eye before closing the door on the dishwasher.

“Well, you’ve been setting us Rabb men straight for over 60 years and there’s not a drop of Rabb blood in you.”  Harm grabbed Gram by the waist and pulled her close enough to hug.

Gram pulled away from his embrace with a huge smile, “Harm, would you mind starting a fire before we begin reading? There’s a bit of a chill in the air tonight.”  Still grinning, she led the way to the living room.

While Harm worked on the fireplace, Mac flipped the pages of the history book, admiring the photographs.  If she squinted just right, she could even say the widow O’Hara and she bore a slight resemblance to each other.

November 1941

Now it seems to me that when the Rileys held a shindig that month the Doc showed up alone, but spent a goodly time talkin to the widow. An’ let me tell you, others noticed as well. Lots o’ the womenfolk, well they weren’t too happy with the widow gettin all that time with the Doc. Seems more than a few o’ them had set their cap at ensnarin’ the young Doc Rabb.


Calamity Texas
1875
O’Hara place

Jeremiah was a good sport about accompanying the Doc to the widow’s. It wouldn’t have been proper for him to go courting without a chaperone.   Always the gentleman, Doc was worried there were enough unpleasant stories and rumors around town about the widow, he didn’t want to add to them by visiting her unchaperoned.

Kaley and the Doc were sitting on the porch swing watching Matthew and Jeremiah walk through some new cattle they’d bought at auction.

“He’s quite the young man.” Doc smiled, trying very hard not to focus too much on Kaley’s soft lips.   Just like any other man in 1800s Texas, Doc was known to get a little friendly from time to time with the saloon girls.  Since he’d been visiting the widow, he’d been staying away from the nighttime card games and company.  Sometimes he found it almost impossible not to notice how beautiful Kaley was.

“I’m very proud of him.  I was a little concerned after his Da died that he might start taking after Clete, but he’s an O’Hara through and through.” Kaley followed young Matthew intently with her eyes.

“He and Jeremiah seem to get along well.” Doc looked back at his friend.

“Jeremiah’s been good for him.  I can teach him about ranching, but he’s still got a lot to learn about being a man and I can’t teach him that.” Kaley wasn’t ready to mention how she hoped Matthew would learn from Hosiah.  She had given up hope long ago on meeting a man like him.  That’s why she had gone ahead and married Clete Randell.

“You won’t get any argument out of me.  Jeremiah is as good a man and friend as they come.” Still looking off at the two men in the coral, he continued, “You planning on going to Chet’s tomorrow?”

“I thought Matt and I would make an appearance.” Kaley held back a smile, but her eyes were twinkling brightly. “I don’t usually like going to large gatherings. Sometimes things get a bit out of hand with all the drinking, but mostly they’re just good fun and I think Matt needs to start doing a little more socializing.  He’s getting to be a man and he can’t stay locked up here forever.”

“Would it be too presumptuous of me to ask you to save the first dance for me?” Hosiah had been itching to get close to the widow.  This would be the perfect opportunity.

“I would like that very much.” Kaley smiled broadly, never moving her eyes from her nephew and friend still handling the new cattle.

Chet Riley’s Ranch
Outskirts of Calamity Texas
Following evening.

Chet Riley’s spread was almost as big as the O’Hara place.  Chet and Mary Sue Riley were two of the nicest people God ever put on this earth.  Before Doc’s arrival in town, Mary Sue had brought most of the babies of Calamity into the world.  She was well liked and respected. Even though she’d been the attending midwife to just about every child in Calamity under five years of age, Mary Sue had a special place for Doc in her heart. 

She’d been about 8 months pregnant when Doc arrived. It had been a tough pregnancy and an even harder delivery. The baby had been breech and there was some problem with the cord.  Mary Sue knew if it hadn’t been for Doc, instead of being home with her, little Jimmy would have a small marker at the edge of town next to her other two babies.

When word got around how Doc had saved Mary Sue and Jimmy Riley, most of the birthing business of Calamity started going to the Doc. Mary Sue would still help out from time to time, but she was happy to be home finally raising a family of her own.

The Doc and Jeremiah had arrived at the Riley’s pretty early.  A handful of the folks from town were there already helping set up the food and drink.  All the women chipped in and brought something different, Hosiah was looking forward to trying some of Rachel McAdams’ lamb stew.  It was famous in Calamity, but Doc had yet to taste some. Every time the McAdamses would invite the Doc over for dinner, some nit wit would get himself shot over a card game at the saloon, or one of the other fair ladies of Calamity would see fit to go into labor before the stew was served.

He carefully searched the grounds to see if the widow had arrived yet.  When he and a few of the men helped Chet lay down some pine planks from the barn for a dance floor, the corner of his eye was always watching for Kaley’s buggy.

The floor was down and the fiddler had been playing for what seemed like forever when Doc finally spotted Kaley and Matt making their way through the crowds of laughing guests.   There were already a few men who had drunk more than their fair share of the liquor, but it was all in good fun.

Standing by one of the tables of food, Doc walked up behind the widow.

“May I have this dance?” Extending his hand and bowing slightly at the waist, you could hear all the women around the table sigh.  The men folk of Calamity were good men, but none had the polished manners of the Doc.  He always made the women feel like ladies, something hard to do in this dust filled cow town.

Doc was delighted to notice the fiddle had slowed to a softer beat. Keeping a respectable distance, his hand resting carefully against the middle of her back, he was filled with a loving warmth he had never felt before with anyone.  It was in that instant that he knew he had to find a way to convince Kaley to be his wife.

“They sure do make a lovely couple.” Mary Sue leaned into Jeremiah.

“You think?” Jeremiah wasn’t going to add to the gossip one way or another, even if Mary Sue wasn’t one of the troublemakers.

“He loves her.  I can see it.” Mary Sue was smiling brightly.  “From the looks of it, I’d say she’s pretty smitten too, considering they don’t seem to realize there’s anyone else here.  They’ve danced through three songs already.  I don’t think he wants to let go.” 

Mary Sue was right.  Doc was dreading the moment he’d have to let go of Kaley.  The longer they danced, the stronger the need to keep her in his arms grew.  It wasn’t long before Hank King decided it was time the Doc gave a few other guys a chance with the widow.  Of course, if Hank hadn’t drunk half his body weight in booze, he might have thought better of the idea.

“Scuse me, I think the little lady’s ready for a change.” Almost falling over trying to tip his hat, Hank grabbed at Kaley’s arm.

Hosiah came really close to laughing at poor Hank when he saw the fire in Kaley’s eyes.  He’d only seen it one other time and she’d been holding a shotgun over him. Even though she didn’t have a shotgun now, Doc was pretty sure it would be better for Hank to deal with him than an angry Irishwoman.

“I think now wouldn’t be a good time Hank. Why don’t you have a cup of coffee and a piece of one of those nice pies the ladies made.”  Doc tried to direct Hank towards the food tables.

Shoving Doc back with more force than Doc had expected from the drunk, Hank grabbed Kaley and pulled her up close to him, too close.  Before he knew what had hit him, Hank King found himself spinning around in midair and flat on his back.  Somehow, he managed to kick Bill Smith with a flailing leg before landing hard on the ground. He shouldn’t have messed with a mad Irishwoman.

“You drunken...” The rest of the words never made it out of Bill’s mouth before Bill picked Hank up by the collar with one hand and landed a right cross on his chin with the other. 

It didn’t take long before half the place was either brawling or trying to break up the brawl.  The women were all off to one side, scurrying to move the food and tables.  Mary Sue was trying really hard to stop the backbiting.  Most of the women were blaming the widow.   It was obvious to Mary Sue they just resented the fact that Kaley had Doc’s attention, but no matter what she said, the venom was flying as strong and fast as the men’s fists.


Chapter 8 

Harm looked up and noticed Gram sound asleep in the rocker.  “I wonder if this is what family life was like back then? No television or distractions, just family sitting around telling stories of what used to be.”

“I suppose it was like this some of the time,” Mac commented, “Most of the time they probably fell into bed after supper.  Up with the sun, down with the sun.  Working themselves into early graves.”

“Grams.” Harm walked over to the chair his grandmother was resting in and nudged her shoulder. “Gram, why don’t you go up to bed now?”

Opening her eyes slowly, Grams looked around the room and smiled. “Morning comes awfully early, doesn’t it?  Don’t stop the reading on my account.” Grams stood up, placing the blanket on the back of the rocker.  She kissed Harm and Mac good night and made her way up the stairs.

Harm walked over to the wall behind the TV and turned on the radio.   Finding something soft and smooth, he walked back to where Mac was sitting.  Bowing lightly at the waist, “May I have the honor of this dance?” 

Slowly rising from her place on the sofa, Mac carefully stepped into Harm’s arms.  She couldn’t help but wonder if this was how Kaley felt in the arms of Doc Rabb. How much simpler could it have been if she and Harm had only met a hundred years ago.

With the music playing quietly in the background, Harm and Mac swayed around the room.  Her hand held tightly in his, she could feel the warmth of his other hand igniting the skin on her back through her heavy sweater.  Resting her cheek closer to the crook of his neck, his breath began gently caressing her ear. 

Harm loved how Mac had always fit so well in his arms.  Dancing was the only authorized form of closeness they could both freely indulge in.  From the first time he’d held her at the NATO Ball so many years ago, to tonight, he felt whole and complete with Sarah MacKenzie in his arms.  If he could only find the way to convince her they belonged together.

He struggled with his own thoughts. The moment was so private, so close. Did he dare bring up their relationship and the child he hoped to share with her?

“Mac, …Sarah...”

“Harm, please don’t.  Not now.  I can’t.... please.”  She knew what he was going to say, at least, she thought she did. What ever it was, she couldn’t handle it, not now, not yet.

Taking a deep breath, Harm forced a smile. “Thank you for the dance.”  Bending his head he placed a lightly there kiss on her lips.  Then, pulling himself back up, he spun her around to the beat of the music and continued dancing with the woman of his dreams in his arms.

November 1941

Doc knew that night it was the widow he wanted for his wife, but soon ‘nough he had himself some new problems.

The railway men had started to come into Calamity. Seems to me that it was in the spring when that big railway man we had to deal with here in Calamity showed up. Name was Beaumont, Joseph Beaumont the Third. Had hisself a railway business out of Boston, and got hisself dreams o’ running a line out through the west. Was gonna have hisself an empire based out here, or so he was tellin everyone who’d listen. Even brought his fancy dancy wife an’ daughter. What would possess a man to bring peacocks like that out here I will never know. Tarnation, the man was a peacock hisself, had no right bein out here with the real men.


Calamity Texas
1876

Doc spent as many evenings as he could visiting the widow and her nephew.  She and Doc had become the best of friends.  Often laughing when one would finish the other’s sentence. The Doc had taken to spending days helping with running the ranch.  From what he’d learned from working with Jeremiah, Doc was a big help to the widow.  She would watch him working with Matthew, thankful for a good man for Matt to look up to.  She’d never thought there would be a time when she would need a man as much as she needed Hosiah Rabb. Still, needing anyone that much scared her, and she wasn’t a woman used to being scared about anything.

Doc had been waiting for the right time.  As close as he and the widow had become, whenever he talked about Matt needing a real father, the ranch needing a man around full time, or his not wanting to grow old alone, he could sense her pulling back.  He couldn’t understand what she was afraid of, but if she needed more time, he was willing to wait.  Kaley O’Hara was worth waiting for, no matter how long it took.

While he was letting some time pass in hopes of getting the widow to agree to marry him, new problems came up. 

Out near the edge of town was a beautiful mansion being built for the owner of the railroad who was coming to town.  No one had mentioned his name or where he was coming from, so imagine Doc’s surprise one day shortly after the house was finished to find himself walking down the street and standing toe to toe with none other than Joseph Beaumont III.

“Hosiah? Hosiah Rabb!”  Joseph Beaumont slapped Hosiah on the back as though they had been the best of long lost friends.

“Joseph, what a pleasant surprise. What brings you out to this part of the country?”  The hairs in the back of Hosiah’s neck were starting to stand up.  Suddenly, a lot of things were starting to make sense. His father had always warned him to watch out for Joseph Beaumont.  He’d been a pillar of Boston society, but the oldest families in Boston knew better than to have any direct business dealings with the man.  Now Doc understood why so many ranchers unwilling to sell their land were having trouble.  If Joseph Beaumont was behind the buying, he was one man you didn’t say no to.

“We’re bringing civilization to this God forsaken country.”  Joseph Beaumont looked down the street, his voice dripping with disdain.

Just then Hosiah spotted Harriet peeking out from the coach.  “Daddy?”

“Oh, sorry honey.” Joseph turned towards the stagecoach a few feet away.  Before he could make a move, Hosiah had opened the door and was helping Harriet and her mother, Daphne, down to the street.

“Why Hosiah Rabb, if you’re not a sight for sore eyes!” Harriet Beaumont cried.

Tipping his hat, a sincere smile spread across Doc’s face. “ Miss Harriet, it is indeed a delightful pleasure to be in your company again.”  As dangerous and unseemly as Joseph Beaumont was, Daphne and Harriet were charming and pleasant.  Daphne Wilshire Beaumont came from an old Boston family.  In some ways, her marriage to Joseph Beaumont reminded him of Kaley’s marriage to Clete.  If Clete had been a little smarter, and not spent so much time in the saloon, Joseph Beaumont might have found himself walking into a totally different town.

Extending his arm to Harriet, the Doc asked, “Will you be staying at the hotel?”

“No, I believe the house is ready for us to move into. If you could tell me where we could get a coach here, we’d be honored if you’d join us for tea,” Joseph Beaumont interrupted, practically sneering.  He knew darn well where Hosiah had moved to and had every intention of making sure he didn’t run away again this time.

“The house isn’t far. I’d be happy to give you a ride over.” Doc pointed to his wagon, hitched over by the general store.  He had to be polite, but inside he knew there was a storm brewing and it had Joseph Beaumont’s name all over it.

No sooner had they finished their tea than Beaumont’s top enforcer came knocking at the door.  If Doc had suspected before that the ranchers’ woes were endorsed by Joseph Beaumont, he didn’t have any doubt now.

The men sat down in the parlor after Mr. Beaumont very ungraciously dismissed Daphne and Harriet, sending them to oversee Maggie’s unpacking.  They’d hired a local cook, but their housekeeper, Maggie Houlihan, and her 10 year old son Brian, had come with them from Boston.  After all, they didn’t know how difficult it might be to find decent hired help out in the middle of nowhere.

While Thomas Webb seemed somewhat uncomfortable at discussing business in front of the Doc, Joseph Beaumont made it perfectly clear that Doc was ‘part of the family’.  It was a thought that made the Doc’s stomach turn.

A few of the local ranchers had been happy to sell their ranches, or portions of their land, in order for the railway to come in. Some were just happy to be done with their struggle with rustlers, but many of the folk were either anxious to have easier ways to transport their cattle to market, or felt life would be bigger and brighter if the railroad could bring the rest of the world to Calamity.

Some of the other ranchers were happy the way things were. They liked the simple quiet life of Calamity.  The problem was the railroad, Mr. Webb in particular, didn’t seem to like taking no for an answer.  Mr. Webb would be the one to make an offer for the land. If the offer was refused, it was becoming obvious to most folks that an unfortunate accident of some sort seemed to befall all those who said no. Not long after the ranchers unexpected misfortune, Mr. Webb would come back and remind them of the railroad’s generous offer. 

Beaumont and Webb were discussing the successes and the still-needed land acquisitions when Doc politely excused himself.  The line the railroad had drawn was more apparent to him now, and so were the problems that would lie ahead.  Jeremiah and Kaley’s ranches were right smack-dab in the middle of railroad country.

Chapter 9

Gram’s living room after breakfast

“Excuse me.” Mac stood up, grabbed a jacket, and walked out the front door.

“She doesn’t look very good. Maybe you should go after her.” Gram put the book down and dropped her glasses down to the tip of her nose.  Baron had been sitting by Gram’s side, his head going back and forth between Gram, Harm, and the door Mac had just exited through.

“I don’t know, I think she may need some space.” Harm looked out the window to where Mac was sitting on the swing.  “ I think the appearance of a character named Webb just struck a sour chord with her.”  This whole history was starting to extend beyond an amusing coincidence.  It was fascinating that Jeremiah Roberts looked so much like Bud, but the appearance of a possible bad guy named Webb was ruining the escape that walking back through time had created for him and Mac here at the farm.

Waiting a short while, at Gram’s insistence, Harm finally went outside to sit with Mac.

“Permission to come aboard?” Harm smiled at Mac.

She forced a small smile back. “Permission granted.” Mac shifted over, making room for Harm to sit beside her.

Moving the swing slightly, Harm looked out over across the front yard towards the barn.  “Care to talk about it?”

“There isn’t really anything to talk about.”

“I see.” Harm sighed.  “You know, it’s okay to be upset hearing the name Webb.”

“Harm, I’m tired of talking about it.  What happened, happened, and all the words in the world won’t make it go away.”

“I’m not worried about making it go away, I’m worried about how it makes you feel.” Harm hesitated to reach for Mac’s hand but needed to somehow connect with her.  When her other hand came down on his, he breathed a small sigh of relief.  At least she wasn’t completely pulling away from him.

“It’s over.”  Mac looked down at their joined hands.

“Is it?” Harm waited for her to answer.  “Mac, if it’s over, why are we here on the porch instead of in there listening to Grams?”

“Is it ever going to stop hurting?” Her eyes looked up to his pleadingly, as if he had the strength and power to make it all better.

“I’d like to think so.” Harm thought carefully about his next words. “I’d like to help, if you’ll let me.”

“You already are,” Mac smiled.

“Mac, let me in. I want to be a real part of your life, not just an occasional crutch.”

“Is that what you think you mean to me?”

Harm had to take pause – what he said now could be critical.  Somehow, in the past this had always been the turning point, where hopes and dreams would be masterfully shattered with one wrong word or circumstance.

“I know what you mean to me.  I know that you’re the best friend I’ve ever had and I know I never want to lose you, but I also know I want so much more, if you’ll let me.”

Harm didn’t dare wait for her answer.  As he had done on a porch years ago, he reached forward to kiss her, his lips searching hers out, timidly at first but gaining confidence with every passing moment. 

Mac was caught completely off guard and was soon totally lost in the feel of his arms wrapped tightly around her.  His hands moved slowly, gingerly caressing her back.  His lips tenderly teased her own, the tip of his tongue begging for entrance.

Pulling her carefully across his lap, he held her more tightly against his chest, every contour of her soft figure pressing exquisitely against him.  Their tongues were entwined in a dance of desire that was spreading fast and furiously throughout both their bodies and souls.

Harm was fighting to keep a lid on his feelings.  His fingers kept straying around to her sides, barely teasing the sides of her breasts, when his mind would suddenly win out, forcing his fingers back to the safer small of her back.  She was so soft and tasted so good.  Harm knew he had to stop while he still could.

When Mac slid her hand under his sweater and up the front of his chest, Harm thought he was going to come completely unglued.

“Mac....” Harm struggled with his own desire.  Breathing heavily, he pulled his lips away from the sweetest lips he’d ever known.  “I want you so badly. If I don’t stop now, I don’t know if I can, and I don’t think you’re ready for anything more.” That was one of the hardest things he’d ever done or said.

Mac didn’t say a word.  She set her head down in the crook of his neck and wrapped her arms around his waist.  He was right; she wasn’t ready, yet.

November 1941

Turns out that Beaumont was thinkin o’ hitchin his young daughter to the good Doc, but as it turns out, Doc looked upon the young Miss Beaumont at best as a little sister. Way I understand it, that was just fine because Miss Beaumont didn’t look upon Doc that way either. Now, that was just fine with the menfolk round here, because a number of them had noticed Miss Beaumont, much to her ma an pa’s horror. Turns out that most o’ us out here wasn’t good nough for them city folks. That included Jeremiah. Young Jeremiah Roberts looked like he had discovered the moon in his kitchen the minute he spotted Miss Beaumont in town.

There was a couple of problems with that.  See, that Webb fella saw Miss Beaumont as his ticket to the big time.  As far as he was thinking only two things stood in his way, the Doc and Jeremiah.

Calamity Texas
1876

Things were getting worse. Doc had started treating more and more broken arms and legs of ranchers who wouldn’t sell to the railroad.  The townspeople were starting to wonder if the railroad was worth it.  There were still those who wanted the railroad and were fighting those who wanted things to stay the same, but the more of their own that started getting hurt and losing cattle and property to fire, the more people were wanting no part of the railroad.

Webb had started asking to visit with Miss Beaumont.  He was none too happy that Mr. Beaumont kept putting him off. Beaumont had his eyes set on Doc and as far as he was concerned, Webb was no better than any of the other local cretins.

One afternoon, while Webb was waiting for Mr. Beaumont to come back from inspecting the nearest tracks, he tried to work his charm on Harriet.

“You look lovely today, Miss Harriet.”

“Thank you, Mr. Webb.”

“I would be much obliged if you would allow me to call on you this Sunday after church.” He knew his only chance to convince her family of his worthiness was to present himself as a proper suitor.

“Why, thank you Mr. Webb, but Mr. Roberts is expected for tea this Sunday after church.” Jeremiah hadn’t actually asked to come calling, but Harriet had taken as much of a liking to the young Jeremiah as he had taken with her, and the last thing she wanted was for this Webb character to weasel his way into her family’s good graces.

“Mr. Roberts isn’t worthy of your time, or attentions.  Your time would be better spent if you’d honor ME with your company this Sunday instead.” It was bad enough that Rabb was an issue.  Webb wasn’t going to let that lily-livered rancher get in his way as well!

“While I appreciate your concern, I’m afraid I’ve already agreed.  My word is my bond.” She tried to smile graciously, not happy with the way he was moving closer to her personal space.

What Webb didn’t know was that Doc Rabb had been upstairs tending to Daphne’s sprained ankle.  Daphne and Harriet had gone riding earlier that morning, and Mrs. Beaumont, like most Boston socialites, was not an experienced rider.  While Jeremiah had been teaching Harriet how to ride straddled, Daphne was still riding sidesaddle.   When something spooked her horse, Daphne had taken a bad fall, spraining her ankle.

“Harriet, you shouldn’t waste your time with that cowhand.  You need a real man.” Webb reached out and grabbed hold of Harriet’s arms.

“Ow, you’re hurting me, Mr. Webb!” No sooner had the words come out of her mouth than Doc had come down the stairs and was making his way across the parlor.

“I believe the lady asked you to unhand her,” Doc glared pointedly at Webb.

Stepping away from Harriet, Webb stepped up toe-to- toe with Hosiah. “I don’t believe the lady asked for your assistance, Rabb.”

“The lady shouldn’t have to ask.” Rabb leaned over a little closer to the shorter man’s frame.

“Perhaps this would be a good time for you to leave, Mr. Webb,” Harriet suggested, rubbing her arms where Webb had grabbed her.

“You heard the lady,” Rabb repeated.

“This isn’t over Rabb.  Not by a long shot.” Webb turned and stormed out the door, a fire seething in his eyes.

"Are you okay?" Doc inquired gently.

"I'm fine thank you.  Nothing a long bath and a good scrubbing won't cure." Harriet shrugged. Webb gave her the creeps even more now than he had before.

“Then, if you’ll excuse me, I think it might be prudent to ride out and see where he’s heading.  I don’t trust that man, especially now.” Bowing slightly, Doc picked up his hat and headed to his horse.  By the time he’d made it outside Doc could barely see the dust Webb’s horse had kicked up. He was pretty sure Webb was going to do something, and if his guess was right, it would be aimed at his rival for Harriet’s affections: Jeremiah Roberts.

What Rabb hadn’t seen was Webb turning off towards the O’Hara place.

Matt had been over at Jeremiah’s helping him brand some cattle he’d just bought to replace some of the herd he’d lost with all the railroad fuss.  When Kaley heard someone riding up, she thought it was going to be Matt coming home.

Opening up the front door, she was startled to see Thomas Webb.

“I’ve already told you Mr. Webb, I’m not selling and I don’t care what your bunch of hooligans thinks up.  I’m not going to change my mind.”

“I’m not here for your land.” Webb pushed Kaley into the house and slammed the door behind him sliding the wooden plank in place.  He didn’t need any of the ranch hands noticing his intentions.

“Sir, I didn’t invite you into my home.  I suggest you turn yourself around and go out the way you came in, before I help you out.”  Kaley stood her ground.  She wasn’t afraid of this thug, but nonetheless she wished her shotgun were closer.

In a move she didn’t expect, Webb lunged at her, pulling her hard against him and initiating the most disgusting kiss she’d ever experienced.  It was even more repulsive to her than the kisses she’d too often received from a drunken Clete Randell.

Pushing Webb off with every ounce of strength she had, Kaley twisted out from his grip and stepped back, not expecting any more trouble from this oaf.

“I wouldn’t make this any harder than it has to be. You’re a lonely widow.  You need a real man.  I’ll show Rabb to mess with my plans.”  Sneering at her with a look that sent chills down her spine and stood the hair on her neck on end, Webb leered at her.  “Let’s see how he likes someone else taking what’s his.”

Chapter 10 

(for more information on clothes in 1875 go to this website: http://www.ushist.com/wardrobe.htm)

“YOO HOO!!!” Grams called from the edge of the couch.  She had tried calling from the kitchen and kept calling as she moved closer to the sofa. When she still got no response practically standing over them, she tried the only other thing she knew: “ADMIRAL ON DECK!”

Knocked out of their focus, Harm and Mac hopped to attention.

“Graaaammm.” Harm emphasized when he remembered where they were.

“Harmon Rabb, it was the only way I could get your attention. I've been calling you two for almost five minutes. Supper is ready.”

“We’re going to have to talk to her about her timing.” Mac leaned into Harm’s ear, turning to follow Grams into the kitchen.

“So which part are you up to?” Grams set the stew on the table.

“Webb is going after Kaley.” Harm answered, reaching for the fresh baked rolls.

“Ah, no wonder you were both lost in the story.  It amazes me all the things that happened back then. There were a lot of unseemly characters in those days but justice wasn’t far behind.  There’s something to be said for the people of a town standing together for what’s right.” Gram sat down at the table beside Harm.

Gram watched Harm and Mac as they quietly ate dinner.  She was amazed at how much food that young lady could put away and still look so darn thin.  Of course, she had been like that fifty years ago too, she chuckled to herself.

“I hope both of you being so quiet means the food is that good, but somehow I have this overwhelming suspicion that your minds are a hundred years back with Kaley and that Webb character.”

“Maybe not quite that far back,” Mac practically mumbled under her breath.

Silently, Harm reached over and covered Mac’s hand with his own.  Gram could tell, without having said a word, he had just spoken volumes to her.

November 1941

We all knew right from the start Tom was gunnin for Doc, lookin to prove he was more of a man, a better man. Course Doc really didn’t give two figs for what Tom Webb thought. Besides, at this point Doc’s eyes were firmly fixed on the Widow O’Hara, so he wasn’t of too much of an opinion about anything to do with young Miss Beaumont. That is until Jeremiah came to Doc in a fluster, not sure what he should do about how he felt about Miss Beaumont.

See, young Jeremiah, well he couldn’t stop thinking about the girl. Every time he saw her he couldn’t find his tongue with both hands and a hound dog. But boy did his heart skip a beat each of those times.  This is why the Doc thought sure’n if Tom Webb was gonna strike out he’d be strikin’ out at Jeremiah.

Calamity Texas
1876

Doc rode up pretty fast past the gates of Jeremiah’s spread.   He almost didn’t even bother to take the time to tie up his horse before storming into Jeremiah’s home.

“Doc, what’s up? You look like you just came from wrestling an alligator,” Matt asked, surprised by the way Doc blew into the house without knocking.

“I just had a little ‘altercation’ with Tom Webb over at the Beaumont place.  The ‘gentleman’ has a lot to learn about how to treat a lady.” Doc looked around as if checking things out before relaxing a bit and stepping over to the bar to pour himself a whisky.

“Is Harriet okay?” Jeremiah flew to Doc’s side, ready to take on that land stealing weasel on his own.

“She’s fine, but Webb stormed out of there promising it wouldn’t end with just words.  I figured since the entire argument seemed to be over your intentions with Miss Beaumont, if Webb was heading anywhere, this would be it.  I didn’t want you and Matt facing that coyote alone.”  Doc took a long swig of his drink.

“How did he know about my intentions? I haven’t told anyone but you.”

“Didn’t you ask permission to call on Harriet after church Sunday?” Doc asked, a little confused.

“No.” Now, Jeremiah was confused.

Slapping Jeremiah on the back with a broad smile.  “Well, my dear friend, I suspect Ms. Harriet is equally smitten.  She turned down Webb’s request to come calling, saying she had a prior commitment with you.” Doc was truly happy for his friend.  The young man had fallen all over himself ever since the first time he’d met Harriet Beaumont.  He knew they were going to have an uphill battle convincing her parents that Jeremiah was good enough a man for her, but now that he knew Harriet returned Jeremiah’s interest, the job just got a whole lot easier.

Grinning like a schoolgirl. Jeremiah’s face looked ready to crack from sheer delight. “She did?”

“She did, my friend. She most certainly did.  I suggest you take advantage of her slight fabrication and ask to call on her this Sunday.”

“If Webb doesn’t show up here soon, I think I’ll go ahead and ride into town today.” Jeremiah poured himself a drink, while the Doc took a seat by Matt.

“I guess I got worried about Webb for nothing.  I should know men like that are all bark and no bite.” Doc raised his glass at Jeremiah.

“I would have thought if he had words with you, he’d be after you, not me.” Jeremiah sat down across from Doc and Matt.

“He could have waited to confront me when I left Harriet’s.  No, the way he tore out of town I was sure he was after someone.  I’m just glad it wasn’t you.  I especially didn’t want young Matt messing with the likes of someone like him.”

No sooner had the words come out of his mouth than the color drained from both their faces. Their eyes wide, the two men stared at each other for a fraction of a second.

“You don’t suppose?” Jeremiah managed to ask, despite the knot growing in his stomach.

“Kaley!” Doc shot up like a bat out of hell and headed for the door with Matt hard on his heels.

“You’d better stay here boy,” Doc called over his shoulder.

“If he’s after Kaley, I’m coming and not you or anyone else is stopping me.” Matt answered back with Irish fire in his eyes.  Doc had to admit, in most parts, young Matt would already be considered a man.  It was time to let him do a man’s work.

“You’re right.  Just promise you’ll listen to Jeremiah and me and not go running off like a hot-headed kid.”

“Promise.”

“Matt, you get our horses, I’ll get these.” Jeremiah had taken down several shotguns and was grabbing extra ammunition as the other two ran out the door.

By the time Matt brought the two horses around front for him and Jeremiah, Doc was already turning the bend outside the gate, heading for the O’Hara place.

O’Hara place
Short time later

Kaley’s cheek was on fire.  It had been a long time since she’d felt the sting of a man’s hand across her face.  The force of the blow had sent her flying across the sofa. She landed hard on the floor, thankful she hadn’t hit her head on the table or the brick hearth. Before she could react, Tom Webb had come around and pinned her hands to either side.

“I told you not to fight me. Do you still want to do this the hard way?” Webb leaned down and kissed her hard.  Pressing his full weight heavily against her, he had successfully immobilized her. 

With her arms pinned firmly to the ground, there was no way she could use her arms or upper body to stop him.  Turning her face away from his nauseating kiss, Kaley tried to move her knees.  It was no use. She was pinned hard and flat on the floor and couldn’t do a damn thing about it.

Fury raged through her blood when Webb released his kiss and began working his way down her neck, none too gently nipping and biting at her sensitive flesh.   Lying perfectly still, she waited for just the moment when he would think she had given up the fight. 

Finally the moment came. He released one arm in order to free his hand to rip at the front of her dress.  He barely had the fabric in his hand when she used the momentum of her weight and her free arm to swerve sideways and shove him off her, her dress tearing away loudly.

Scrambling to get away and get to her weapons, she stumbled to the ground when Webb grabbed at her ankle, ripping what was left of her dress.  “You bitch!  You’re nothing more than an Irish whore!”

Before he could pin her to the floor once again, she rolled on her back and raised her knee.  Planting her foot squarely against his midsection, she shoved him as far off as she could.  Not bothering to look where he landed, she got to her feet and made her way to the gun cabinet.

Once again, before she could reach her goal, Webb grabbed her from behind and pulled her around.  Her arms pinned to her sides, he looked down hungrily at her heaving breasts.  He had always assumed she was a well-endowed woman, but with her clothing torn away, her ample bosom was more than even he had expected.  

Shoving her arms behind her, he grabbed both her wrists in his one hand, he wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.  With one hand free, he pulled away her already ripped camisole and quickly tore the front of her chemise, leaving her in nothing but her corset and bloomers.  Loosening the ties, more of the soft flesh peeked out over the top of her corset. 

Kaley thought she would throw up when Webb’s head ducked low, and he licked across the top of her breasts before biting down.  Refocusing her mind on the fight before her, Kaley realized Webb had been so concerned with not allowing her the use of her arms that he had neglected to properly restrain her legs. 

Lost in his consumption of her breasts, Webb was taken totally by surprise when Kaley’s knee rose up with all the strength she had in her and met painfully with his groin.

Doubling over in pain, he momentarily released his hold on her.  “You won’t win!” He yelled. Reaching over to grab her arm before she could get any closer to the gun cabinet, he was suddenly startled by a loud cracking noise.

The front door flew open, the force snapping the wooden bar in two.  In a matter of seconds Hosiah Rabb was all over Webb, pummeling him into the floor.

Feeling the shock of the situation and the relief of Doc’s presence, Kaley slumped heavily to the floor.  Leaning against the back of the sofa, she curled up and dropped her head to her knees, giving no thought to her state of undress.

By this time, Jeremiah and Mathew had come running through the door as well, quickly taking in the situation. 

“Matt, go get a blanket from upstairs. Hurry!” Jeremiah shouted, terrified at the sight of an exposed and bleeding Kaley before him, then he turned frantically towards the Doc.

“Doc!” Jeremiah tugged at the man’s back. “That’s enough.”

Doc was still pummeling at the nearly unconscious man. 

“DOC! I’ve got him.  Kaley needs you.” Jeremiah pulled at him again, as he directed Matt with a wave of his head to take the blanket to his aunt.

Turning to see Kaley huddled on the floor, wrapped in a blanket, with Matt staring horrified over her, Doc’s fury at this animal grew.  Quickly he scrambled off the floor and ran to her side. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her closely against him. He ran his fingers carefully over Kaley’s bleeding lip.  Looking down at some of her other injuries, he felt a chill run through him.

Shoving Webb to his feet with the end of his rifle, Jeremiah glanced over at Matt. “Looks like you’re going to get to practice tying up more than just steer.”

“Better stop while your in town and see if Jen will come back with you.” Doc suggested, tightening his hold on Kaley’s now shivering body.

Chapter 11 

“I think I need to stretch my legs,” Mac announced to no one in particular. Thinking about the similarities between Thomas and Clayton Webb left her feeling as dirty as Kaley O’Hara had probably felt.

“Sounds like a great idea.” Harm began to stand.

“No, if you don’t mind, I’d like to be alone for a few minutes.” Mac smiled at Gram, then turned towards the hallway, Baron following close behind her.

“Is she going to be alright?” Gram asked Harm.

“I hope so Gram, I really hope so.” Harm’s eyes followed Mac as she made her way down the hall and out the back door.

She stood there staring up at the stars.  It was an unusually warm night for January. The sky was like a dark velvet blanket filled with tiny little bursts of light.  The bright city lights of DC made it so easy to forget what the sky should look like.   It was easy to forget how a lot of things should be, if you spent enough time in the city.

Sitting down on the stoop, she reached over and began scratching Baron’s ears.

“You’re a good friend, Baron Von Rabb.” Mac giggled when the dog licked her face.

It was rather ridiculous to let characters from history upset her so, but she couldn’t help equating Thomas Webb using Kaley O’Hara to get even with Doctor Hosiah Rabb, and Clayton Webb using her to get one up on Harmon Rabb.  She had never really chosen to look at it that way before, even after her meeting with Dr. McCool. But, deep down in her gut she had a feeling that told her as far as Clayton Webb was concerned, she had never been anything more than a prize to be stolen from Harmon Rabb.  Now all she felt was empty.  Empty for the lonely life she led, and empty for the wasted time and children she would probably never bear.  Sadik was right, she was barren. Maybe she was even a whore in some people’s eyes.  She had certainly sold herself off cheaply enough to Clayton Webb.

Mac looked at the dog, still scratching his ears.  “The question, my good man, is what am I going to do about it all now?”

November 1941


Well now, lemme tell ya, when we all saw Jeremiah an’ Matt ride into town with that Webb tossed o’er a horse like a sack o’ grain, whoooeee. Nothin’ gets the people curious like someone bein’ tossed down off a horse in front o’ the sheriff’s office. And to watch Roberts kick a man when he’s down, now that’s something that boy didn’t do to anyone. But he did it to that Webb, and it wasn’t long before rumors started to fly bout why.

Word was at first that he killed Doc, then it was Kaley. Wasn’t long before word got round to bein’ almost true; soon the word was Webb took advantage o’ Kaley. Now don’t get me wrong, people, especially the womenfolk, didn’t take much to Kaley, but when someone tries to force themselves on a woman in Calamity, there’s not much room for forgiveness. The word hangin’ started getting tossed around. Wasn’t long before that Beaumont peacock was down at the sheriff’s office raising his hand and voice to God, proclaiming his man innocent.

We’d all seen the way Webb an’ his men worked to run good honest folk off their spreads, so trust me when I tell ya, no one was believing a word about this man bein’ a kind an’ gentle soul.

Calamity 1876

Doc sat rocking Kaley in his arms, his hands caressing her back with a calmness he didn’t possess.  Not sure of what state she was in, not really sure of how much damage that animal had done, Doc gave her all the time she needed to regroup. He waited patiently for her to give some indication of what she needed from him. He would have waited all day if she wanted him to.

After what seemed like an eternity, Kaley finally spoke.

“I thought when Clete died… well, I thought this part of my life was over.” Batting back the tears that threatened to flow, she looked Doc straight in the eye, “I owe you a tremendous debt. I’m not sure who was going to win that battle.” Kaley made an effort to sit up.  All too aware of her battered condition, and torn undergarments, she tried fitfully to pull the blankets around her more tightly.

He must have been holding her for close to an hour, but he wasn’t ready to let go yet. He hadn’t let himself think what it must have been like for her to be married to a drunken louse, but seeing the bruises start to form on her beautiful face made his skin literally crawl.  He swore to himself, whether she was willing to marry him or not, he’d never let anyone hurt her again.

“Maybe we should get you to your room and … well,” Standing up, Doc tried to help Kaley off the floor without letting the blanket fall.

“Thank you.”

Doc had considered letting her go upstairs alone, but as soon as he let go of her, she wobbled and reached out for his arm.  Doc could feel her hand still trembling.  There was nothing on God’s green earth that would get him to leave this woman’s side. Not yet.

Once in her room, Kaley sat down gingerly in her sewing chair. While the stiffness with which she moved made Doc want to hit something, or someone, the idea of her doing needlepoint made Doc laugh to himself. He had never pictured her as being someone who would sit and do needlework like the Boston prissies.  Surprisingly, it suited her. There wasn’t anything that didn’t suit her, whether it was roping a steer, breaking a stallion, or doing needlepoint.  This woman was perfect. Perfect for him.

“We’d better get you cleaned up some.  I’ll be back in just a minute with some warm water.” Doc didn’t want to leave her alone, but he needed to clean some of the blood off her face.  He hoped Jeremiah and Jen would get back soon, he didn’t think he could deal with cleaning up any other injuries she might have.

Heating the water up as quickly as he could, despite his inexperience with lighting a stove, he made his way back upstairs with a bowl and pitcher of warm water.  Setting it down on the floor beside her, he began to wash up some of the blood.

At the first touch of the washrag on her face, Kaley couldn’t help but flinch.  It wasn’t really the pain, it wasn’t really the Doc, it was just… there.  Swallowing hard, she closed her eyes tightly, forcing back the tears that had been threatening to fall as she let out one long, deep breath.

“Did I hurt you? I’m sorry.” Doc held back touching her again. The pain in her eyes gripped at his heart.

“No, it’s okay. Thank you.” Kaley tried to smile.

When Doc was done cleaning up her face, he began wiping up the trail of bruises down her neck. At some point Webb must have come close to choking her.  Doc could see where his fingers had left several deep round bruises on her throat.  When his eyes moved down her chest, he had to swallow the bile that rose at the sight of teeth marks.  It took everything in him not to let her see the absolute disgust he felt at what that man had done to her.

Carefully wiping away the traces of blood where she’d been bitten, Doc realized there was another question he had to ask. “Did he… hurt you… anywhere else?”

Kaley pulled one arm out of the blanket and held her wrist up to him.  It was bruised and badly swollen. Her hand looked as though someone had cut a tennis ball in half and inserted it under her skin.  “I might have hurt something else when I fell over the sofa.” she whispered. Using that same hand she reached down to show him where her side hurt, wincing in pain when she accidentally let her injured hand brush against her side.

“I’ll have Jen cut up some sheets to bandage that hand. Is there anything else? Anything at all I should know about?” He honestly hoped they had gotten there in time, but with her clothes so badly torn and her bloomers exposed, in all the commotion it was almost impossible to tell what might have happened before they had arrived.

“No. I don’t think so.” Kaley was starting to feel a little more like herself.  At least her insides weren’t shaking nearly as badly as they had been a couple of hours ago.  Taking a deep breath, she looked more carefully into the Doc’s eyes.  She was almost surprised at the pain there, and, was that fear she saw?  As she tried to understand what he wasn’t saying, it suddenly dawned on her with the force of a mule’s kick what he’d been asking.

“I’m okay. He didn’t hurt me that way. Really.” She almost felt like smiling at his concern, almost.  In an effort to reassure him she was telling the truth, Kaley dropped her good hand on his arm and squeezed gently. “How’d you know he’d be here? I mean, the way you busted in, you had to know something was up?”

Just then Jen’s footsteps could be heard running up the stairs with who were most likely Jeremiah and Matt not far behind.

“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you more about it when you’re feeling better. But I will tell you, it seems Harriet is smitten with our Jeremiah.” Doc smiled at that thought. 

For the first time all day, Kaley felt an honest smile spread across her face as well.

“That’s nice.” She nodded. “Really nice.” She let her good hand fall to rest on his hand at the same time that Jen came through the open doorway.

“Thanks for coming,” Doc smiled at Jen.

“Glad to help.” Turning to Kaley, Jen frowned with concern.  “I’m sorry this happened, ma’am.”

“Thanks, Jen.” Kaley nodded, appreciating the sentiment even though she did not know the other woman well. None the less, what little she did know through Doc and Jeremiah made her think ‘Miss Jenny’ was a pretty special gal.

“All right, I’ll let you help her get cleaned up and then we’ll see about what else needs tending to.” Doc left the room, closing the door tightly behind him, thanking God he’d gotten there in time.

Few minutes later

“How did it go?” Doc asked, once the men reached the parlor.

“Well, better than I thought.  With you, me, and Matt here as witnesses, there was no way the sheriff was going to stick his neck out and let that weasel off without even a trial.  The Judge will be coming through in about 45 days.  I think we’ll see him sent off, that is if the Sheriff can keep him from getting strung up.” Jeremiah sat down on the sofa.

“What do you mean?” Doc poured himself and Jeremiah a drink. 

“By the time we were leaving town, word had already started to spread about why we’d brought Webb in.  Folks may not always speak too highly of Kaley, but they are seething about this. Webb might find himself swinging from a tree long before the Judge gets here.”  Accepting the drink from Doc, Jeremiah drank it down in one fast swallow.

Doc was normally a law-abiding man, but this time he didn’t mind the thought of Webb hanging high from the nearest oak tree.

“That isn’t all, either.  All of Webb’s cronies from the railway are already raising hell.  Beaumont himself was at the sheriff’s office hollering and slamming his hands on the desk, demanding justice for the railroad.  I have a feeling we’ve only just begun to see what trouble the railroad can bring us.” Jeremiah got up and poured himself another drink.

“You’re going to owe Kaley another bottle if you don’t take it easy on that stuff,” Doc teased.

“You may owe her one yourself.  Beaumont didn’t sound any too happy with you, either.  He was ranting something about how this ‘God forsaken land’ could drain all the good sense and breeding out of the best of men and turn them into nothing more than glorified cow hands.” Jeremiah raised the bottle at Doc in silent offer of another drink. He was pretty sure what lay ahead of them, and if he was right, they were both going to need a stiff drink.


                                      
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