Legends in Time
"Where is that damn turn off?" Logan sighed, wishing she had taken better directions instead of trusting the rental agent. She could still hear his words when he assured her the GPS system in the car would get her anywhere she needed to go. "To the door Lady," she mimicked his well-rehearsed words. "This little baby will guide you right to the door of any address you're looking for. You won't even trip over a stone on the walkway without it warning you first." Logan blew several strands of golden hair off her forehead in a frustrated huff. "I guess you need a door for this thing to do you any good." She glanced angrily at the GPS system and stuck her tongue out at it. She stared at the desolate road ahead of her and smirked, "Too bad I've got to find the land first before my boss can put any doors on it."
As she made her way down the two-lane highway, images of her co-worker Alex Rodriguez sipping at a tall, cool drink came to her mind. "That little weasel, I hope you're enjoying that Grandmother's funeral to get out of this trip," she fumed. "I need to find out just how many grandmothers you have. I can't believe you could be that lucky to have five of them. And to think, they all conveniently pass away in the last three years that you've worked with us."
The miles came clipping by on the monotonous stretch of road as Logan's temper rose just thinking about the man. "I wonder how many of them died at your last job?" She suddenly laughed, "Or maybe at that job you lost your grandfathers."
The irony of it passed quickly and once again she roiled with anger. "You're the God damned point man, not me. It's your job to find and inspect these future sites in the middle of nowhere so that our boss can turn them into resorts." She stepped a little harder on the gas pedal and locked the cruise control at a higher speed. "I'm the one who is supposed to be enjoying one of those plush resorts this weekend. Pool, tall cool drinks at the bar, eyeing up all the hot suits showing off wonderful tans, and maybe·" a coy smile came to her lips, "just maybe·getting la·" Logan stopped in mid word.
Her attention now focused on a small gas station coming up on her right. "Well, look at that·an oasis for information on the super highway to nowhere." She slowed the vehicle down and pulled into the parking area. Eyeing the sign, Logan mumbled her thoughts aloud. "Hmm·Bob's Hunting and Roadside Supplies." Logan turned off her engine. "I sure hope Bob knows where I am heading." She got out of the car and stretched her aching limbs while checking out the oasis.
The place looked almost deserted as she opened the door and walked into the small store. Her eyes roamed the haphazard piles of merchandise covering the few tables right inside.
"Hello, my friend," an old gentleman said from behind the counter, startling Logan.
"Hi, I was wondering if you could help me? I'm looking for Solana Trail."
"Ah, you be meanin' Freeman's Pass," he said as he moved down the counter to stand in front of her.
"Some developer a few years ago came up here and bought all the surrounding land and started changin' the names. You won't find their fancy names on most maps of this area." He explained, as he looked her up and down. "You must be headin' out that way to hike since you don't look like a hunter," he questioned.
Logan's heart began to race at the seemingly innocent question. Her memory jolted her to a place just as desolate as this one. It was the first time she'd ever gone out to a potential development site. Naively she had introduced herself as an agent for a developer that was interested in the lakefront property. The rifle-toting squatter wanted no part of their plans and taught her an easy lesson. Be anything that they think you are. Don't divulge personal information, and if you must, only when absolutely necessary. She quickly found herself agreeing with the man's view of who he thought she was.
"Yes, I heard about some of the trails up this way and thought I would take a look at them before they are no more," she said to cover her true motives.
"Well if you be headin' up the trails, I should tell ya the Legend of the Ghost Train," he said in a sad voice.
"Ghost Train," Logan scoffed. "I've heard of ghost towns but trains? You've got to be kidding me."
He turned a knowing eye to the woman, "I've heard of ghost towns too, but they're all just empty buildin's that were left standin' when the livelihood of the town done dried up. I'm talkin' about real ghosts here, missy. And ifin' you're goin' to be out there hikin' around, you best be ready for 'em."
Logan watched the man's gaze became so intent, she could almost feel his need to impart his knowledge on her. "You're not going to give me directions until I hear this ghost story," she asked reluctantly, "are you?"
"Damn right." Bob's eyes gleamed at the stranger. "You can drive around all day lookin' for that trail, or you can sit a spell an listen to my story and then be on your way to the trail, lickity-split." His weathered face creased at the corners of his mouth as the grin came to his face. "Now why don't we pull ourselves up a seat?" He motioned to the empty chairs sitting by a barrel.
How homey. It's an impromptu table via a checkerboard. A sigh came from Logan. I don't have time for this. Her shoulders slumped as she resigned herself to the man's wishes. "Alright, but remember, I only came here for directions," she pointed a finger at the man, "not an entertaining story."
"How it affects you ain't any of my concern," he turned, leading the way to the chairs. "I'm not the one goin' to be a hikin' around out there ifin' that ghost train comes through." Bob pulled out one of the chairs from the makeshift table and offered it to Logan. "It'll be you."
There was something in that last phrase of his that sent a chill down Logan's spine. She could feel the whole five foot four inches of her body tingle with the reverberating echo of his words in her ears. "This is crazy," she mumbled under her breath and took the seat that had been offered to her. "Okay, Bob, I'm here sitting and listening. You can start that story of yours anytime."
The man stood behind the chair opposite Logan and turned its back to face the checkerboard. Straddling the seat with his long, jean-clad legs, he eased into it like a saddle. He crossed his arms over the back ridge of the chair and then leaned into it with the assured timing of a professional storyteller. His eyes narrowed, locking onto Logan's face and his features became deadly serious as he began his tale.
"It was back in the days of the buildin' of the great transcontinental railroad that our ghost train came into bein'. It all started with the needs that hard workin' men have. You got to feed 'em, give 'em directions, and take care of their bodies to keep them a'workin' to the point of exhaustion to get the job done. That's what Big Bill set out to do. He'd bring his Union Pacific Railroad to the meeting point if it took him to hell and back to do it." Bob looked off into the distance and sighed. "Some of his own men thought he could be the devil's own brother," his eyes met Logan's, "ifin' you know what I mean."
"Yeah, alright, so Big Bill wasn't an angel." Logan shrugged, "Can we move on with this story?"
"I was a hopin' you'd say that." Bob smiled as he shifted in his seat before he continued. "Now in order to keep all those men in line, Big Bill made sure that a few necessary things were always close at hand to his camp. The first was a good group of hunter's and trappers that could provide meat for his crew. The other was entertainment·" he paused for effect, "women to be exact."
"Great, so now you're telling me he was a pimp, too?" Logan said in a disgusted tone.
"No, he wasn't a pimp," Bob reiterated, "but he was a man. He left the running of the tent city bordello up to Miss Mary. What she said pretty much went down as law when it came to her girls. Big Bill just carried out her wishes," Bob cleared his throat, "usually. He made sure that his hooligans were right proper gentlemen when it came time to pay a visit to the ladies. He figured it would soften Mary's heart and turn her head in his direction."
"So where does this·" Logan rolled her eyes, "ghost train come in to the picture?
Bob's face became very serious looking. "I'm just gittin' to that part now." He took in a breath and continued. "Big Bill had eyes for Miss Mary but the woman's heart was no one's but her own·until Injun' Joe came riding into camp one day. That Injun could trap better than any white man, and he could hunt like a god of the forest. If you wanted meat on the table, Injun Joe was your man. Why stories have it that he could drive the head of his arrow into a buffalo's heart at thirty paces."
"Meat, huh?" Logan sneered with skepticism. Men, they all think alike. "I think I see where this story is going," she muttered disgustedly, folding her arms across her chest.
"You think you know," Bob's eyes twinkled as he leaned even further toward Logan on the back legs of his chair, "butcha don't." He settled his chair back onto the floor. "Miss Mary didn't know what to make of the Injun until she looked into those blue eyes of his. One look and she was under that Injun's spell. They say that no Injun ever had eyes like that. I guess that's what comes from being a half-breed but I reckin his claim to the red man's way was more spirit than blood."
"Ooooooh, is this where I'm supposed to get curious?" Logan ran her hand through her blonde hair and lifted it off her neck only to let it cascade down across her shoulders a second later. "See, no goose bumps or hair standing on end. I told you I wasn't going to be entertained."
"You just wait, Missy, I was only settin' the stage. The real story's a'comin'."
The smugness of Bob's reply stopped any further rebuke from the woman. Logan's eyes locked onto his, and the determination that she needed to know this story made her feel uneasy. "I'm·I'm listening," she said, her focus more intent then before.
"As a kind of reward for keeping them in meat, Big Bill took Injun Joe over to the tent bordello. I'm guessin' he figured that after being up in the mountains for so long, any man would need some companionship even ifin' it was only for a little while. He left that Injun there knowin' that Miss Mary would see to it that he collected his reward. That's when it all happened. Miss Mary took one look into those crystal blue eyes and fell head over heels in love with the man. Some say that Cupid done took out his bow and ran it right through her young heart." Bob looked away and shook his head. "They'd always said that she was a real gentile lady. Not the kind at all that you'd think would be a runnin' a house like that. Other's said it was her cross to bear."
"So," Logan said sounding interested, "Mary and Injun Joe hit it off then?"
Bob's grin almost split his face in two. "No one rightly knows for sure, but rumors have it that Injun Joe was seen bringing meat into camp more often after that. He never was so bold as to go to her tent but the sweet sound of cooing doves could be heard in the night air long after everyone else was fast asleep. Legend has it that it was his signal to her. When the last customer stepped across her doorstep and her girls were all asleep for the night, Miss Mary would steal herself off into the cover of darkness to meet up with the Injun."
"Big Bill on the other hand, would have given anything to have Missy Mary catering to his needs. It didn't set well with him that Mary never serviced any of the customers, so his idea of getting close to her was about as likely as a snowball's chance in hell." Bob's face grew pale. "And speakin' of hell, Big Bill swore on that fiery gate post that he'd catch them in the act. It wasn't right for a white woman to be carryin' on that a way with a half-breed. Not when there were white men standing a hundred deep for just a few minutes with one. Being the boss put Big Bill into a real quandary. He couldn't just go and rip Miss Mary's heart out without thinking of what it might do to his chances with her. Besides that, he had to think of his men and the work they needed to get done before he could justify losing his best meat provider. Proof would make it all that much clearer for him. When he had it, he'd know what to do."
"Let me guess," Logan let out a breath. "He caught them at Freeman's Pass.
"He did more than catch them there," Bob's eyes narrowed until they were almost slits. "That's where he laid down his justice, swift and certain so there was no mistakin' what he meant. Legend has it that when he saw them together, the fire in his eyes nearly exploded his head. Big Bill sent his boys on Injun Joe while he had a right long talk to Miss Mary. He could see the defiance in her eyes and he knew there would be only one way to settle this tryst of ill begotten favor. If he couldn't reason with her, he would use her love for the half-breed to his advantage."
Bob relaxed a bit in his seat, letting his shoulders move with him. "In no uncertain terms, Big Bill spelled out what he meant to do to the Injun ifin Miss Mary didn't see her way clear to marry the railroad boss. He'd have Injun Joe killed and scattered to the ends of the earth. Either way, she'd never know his favor again."
"Okay," Logan rubbed her chin with her hand. "I'll grant you the unrequited love, the outlawed love, and a lover's triangle all rolled up nice and neat in this story." She cocked her head in thought for a second then nodded. "Yep, all three of them are there. So tell me, where are the ghosts?" She looked at him poignantly. "Oh, and besides the men getting things laid," Logan cleared her throat, "I haven't heard one mention of train at all. That is what this story was supposed to be about, wasn't it?" Logan smiled politely as her green eyes pinned him down like a spike to the rail.
Flustered, Bob sniffed a time or two as he muttered under his breath, "Why I tell this story to you city folk I'll never know." His eyes darted to the checkerboard as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. In an effort to regroup, Bob took a can of snuff from his shirt pocket and proceeded to place some of the rough cuttings between his cheek and gum. He chewed it a time or two before turning his head to take aim at the brass cuspidor on the floor. Like a lizard catching flies with his tongue, Bob struck his mark sending a dull thud from the side of the container when his spit hit it. He turned his attention back to Logan. "I was just gittin' to that part, missy."
"You don't say?" Logan's green eyes twinkled with mirth. "By all means continue." She glanced at her watch and then to the shadows starting to form on the dirt next to her car.
Bob watched her for a moment then cleared his throat in a preparatory manner. "Now pay attention so you'll remember what I'm about to tell you." He waited until her gaze met his. "Big Bill caught them dead to right and ifin he wanted to, he could've had them both killed. But he didn't harm either one. Bill took it on himself to let Mary know that, and then told her he'd make it so they both could stay alive. He would take Mary as his wife, seein' that no other white man would touch her once they found out she'd had relations with an Injun. As long as she agreed to that, the Injun would be allowed to live. There weren't much that Mary could do seein' two of Big Bill's men holding down Injun Joe and a third standing with a knife to the Injun's throat. In her desperation to keep her lover alive, Miss Mary agreed."
"Train·" Logan reminded him. "I'm not hearing anything of trains or ghosts yet?"
"Hmmm·" Bob turned his head and squinted at her. "Youngin's," he said the word as if it were a curse. "It's comin'." He took aim at the cuspidor once more and hit his mark with another thud before continuing. "Now where was I?"
"Miss Mary agreed," Logan prompted him.
"Right," Bob drew in a breath. "As sweet as he was to Mary's face, Big Bill turned into the devil himself when he went over to Injun Joe. Legend has it that Bill whispered something into Joe's ear. The Injun's reaction to his words caused Bill to grin so big you would have thought his face was going to split in two. In the wink of an eye, Big Bill had Miss Mary's arm and they walked down Freeman's Pass while Bill's men stayed behind with the Injun."
"Woo-woo·" Logan imitated a train whistle. "I'm still not hearing of any train yet?" She watched another spray of spit fly toward the cuspidor before the story continued.
"Now listen up, youngin'," Bob centered his gaze on the woman. "That weren't the last time that Miss Mary saw Injun Joe. The poor woman laid eyes on the Injun one last time a few days later when the train finally made its way into the camp."
"So this is where the Indian uprising comes, eh? Tell me that Injun Joe captures the train, steals away Miss Mary, and together forever they ride the rails that were laid by Big Bill's crew. " Logan shook her head and leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms over her chest. "Is this story ever going to end?"
"Nah! That ain't how it goes." Bob scathed, his eyes coming to life. "But the end is close·" Bob thought for a moment, "closer than you think."
Logan sighed. "Go on, I've heard it this far already, what's another few minutes." She begrudgingly looked outside to the lengthening shadows.
The man's eyes twinkled as he got ready to bring the story to its big finish. "Big Bill knew that the only way Mary would embrace her role as his wife was to see the genuine hurt he could truly give to her heart. That's why Bill arranged for Miss Mary to be with him when his men dragged the bruised and battered Injun over to the train. The sorrowful look in their eyes as one lover mentally embraced the other didn't do a lick to Big Bill, the heartless devil. He just stood there with a satisfied smile on his face as he watched them say their silent good-byes." Bob paused for a moment, obviously caught up in the emotion of the story. Clearing his throat, he continued on. "It didn't take Bill's men long to prod the half-breed into the tinder car and slap a shovel in his hands. That was the irony of it all," Bob smirked, "Joe would be supplyin' the engine its fuel to carry him away from the woman he loved."
"Sounds like Big Bill would have made a hell of a C.E.O. in today's work place," Logan made her disdain for management obvious.
"Shhh!" Bob slapped his thigh with his hand as he shushed her. "I'm gittin' to the good part,"
"All right already," Logan mumbled.
"Big Bill wrapped his arm around Mary and held her trembling body next to his as the train started the slow, labored motion of its wheels heading to the East. That's when Injun Joe rose to his full height and attempted to call out his signal to his lover. The cooing of doves that he so readily gave from his heart was strangled and soft. Hardly loud enough for the men in the engine to make out, let alone for Mary to hear. Seeing that, Joe knew he had to get his message to the woman he loved. It may take them forever, but he had to make sure that she knew he would meet her again. With all of his strength, Joe pulled the engineer away from his post and seized the cord for the train's whistle." Bob's hand raised up as if he was Injun Joe himself and acted out the next scene. "With a jerk of the cord, the Injun started his amplified cooing. Woo-woo-woo-woo," Bob warbledout his best imitation of a whistle cooing. "The steam rose up into the air as the sound found its way into Mary's ears and her body stiffened in Big Bill's arm. Woo-woo-woo-woo," Bob did it again only louder this time. "Legend has it the cooin' train was never seen again. To this day that's why you can still hear the echoin' of that cooin' whistle along Freeman's Pass. It's Injun Joe waiting to rendezvous with Miss Mary."
Bob watched the absorbed interest of Logan as she pondered the ghost train story. "Woo-woo-woo-woo," he warbled out like a distant whistle coming through time.
The unexpected sound made Logan shiver. "Stop it," she chided the man. "It's a story·nothing but a stupid story." She got up, pushing her chair back from the checkerboard. "Okay, I've listened to your story, now just tell me how to get to·"
"Freeman's Pass?" A deep timbered voice asked.
Freeman's Pass·Solana Trail·whatever you want to call it," Logan said in a huff. She turned in the direction of the voice and saw a tall, dark haired figure standing in the shadow of the doorway.
"I can see you've been telling your version of the legend again, Bob." The figure stepped into the artificial light of the room. Well worn, dusty boots gave way to faded blue jeans and a fringed, buckskin jacket. A tattered, old cowboy hat covered the figure's face with its brim. A subtle glint of metal flashed out from the rim of sunglasses under it as the light caught the moving form.
"Mattie," Bob snickered, "to each their own. I just tell it how it was told to me...the natural way of things."
"Don't worry, I won't interrupt your misconception of it all. I just stopped in to get my usual supplies before I head back home."
"Damn it! Who cares about the ghost story." Two sets of eyes pinned Logan as she continued on in her obvious frustration. "All I want to know is how to get to that damn pass."
"Driven, isn't she?" Mattie's stoic face cracked a smile.
"Hiker," was Bob's reply, letting go with spit heading in the cuspidor's direction. "City folk too," he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
Logan could almost feel the roving eyes of the tall intruder as they all but undressed her where she stood. She couldn't see them behind the sunglasses, but she knew Mattie's eyes were focused on her, or at the least, at her spotless shoes now by the tilt of her head. Acting more out of defiance than fear, the blonde balled up her hands into fists and rested them on her hips. "HIKER," she said in her defense.
"Not a very experienced one or you wouldn't be asking for directions." Mattie cocked her head to the side and studied the woman further. After a few seconds, the tall figure slapped a leather glove against a thigh and waited for the dust cloud to dissipate. She turned and looked out the door at the only other vehicle parked there. "Does that fancy gadget help people to find you when you get lost?"
"I·it·" Logan's mouth went agape and a second later her strawberry blonde eyebrows scrunched together as the frustration came to her face. "It's not mine. It's a rental car."
Bob looked out the open door at the sleek styling of a low riding car and the air was punctuated by Bob's slightly wolfish whistle. "Ain't that a beauty?" He crossed the room to get a better view. "Real fine lookin' car." He turned and grinned at Logan. "You're not thinkin' of takin' that up to Freeman's Pass are you? Why, the first thousand yards or so will chew that suspension package right up. "
"A few bumps won't hurt it," Logan defended her choice.
"Well, it will hurt me when I've got to push you off the side of the road and baby sit you until the tow truck comes to haul you and that fancy car back to the city," Mattie snorted. "Do you really want to hike this trail?"
No, it should be Alex, the little rat. Logan thought of her co-worker and begrudgingly muttered out her answer, "Yes." This better be worth it or I'll make sure your Grandmother comes back to haunt you, Rodriquez. "I've given myself some personal goals," Logan said, trying to sound convincing, "and this is one of them." She halfway smiled, "Call it a chance to meet the forces of nature." She looked over at Bob, "Who knows, maybe the Ghost Train will give me a lift home." She cleared her throat, "That is, if someone ever shows me where Freeman's Pass is at."
Tight-lipped and pensive, Mattie studied the blonde for a moment then nodded slowly. "Maybe·" she let the word dangle for a few seconds, "but it will be better if you let me take you up to the pass and you walk down it to your car." A hint of a smile came to Mattie's face, "That will save us both a lot of time and effort. That is·if you want to get back to your life after spending some time here."
"Not everyone is a hermit like you, Mattie. We can't all live off the land." Bob turned his attention to Logan. "She won't harm you ifin that's got you worried. I've known her now for the better part of five years and she ain't killed one stranger yet." He stopped to think for a moment then grinned devilishly, "Well, except for scaring the bejeebbers out of that developer man."
Logan sucked in a breath and held it.
"I know, I know." Bob held up his hands trying to quiet the rage in the woman across the room. "It weren't you, it were the Ghost train."
"You're damn right it was. I never laid a hand on him·not that I didn't want to," Mattie's voice trailed off as her face became more determined looking. "I told him that the spirits would guard the sacred ground until the lovers were reunited. He didn't believe me. What else could I have done? The arrow missed him."
"Arrow?" Logan gulped and her eyes got bigger.
"Missed him by this·" Bob drew the word out as his thumb and forefinger gradually came together until they ended up a hair's breath apart, "much. Damn near ruined that fancy suit of his." The man's eyes shifted over to Mattie. "You're good with that bow now, aren't you Injun?"
The sunglasses on Mattie's face shielded her eyes from Logan's view but the rest of her face reflected her anger. With her face still directed at the man moving behind the counter, the woman took several calming breaths in, and released them without nearly a sound from her mouth.
"The usual along with your mail, Mattie?" Bob tossed a box of shotgun shells on the counter and reached behind the showcase, pulling a small package of gumdrops from the shelf. That will be seven fifty."
The denim clad woman dug deep into her jean pocket as she took the two steps to the register. "Thanks," she said with a snarled lip and laid the money on the counter so that he could see it was all there. She grabbed up the box of shells and gum drops in one hand and held out the other.
Bob toyed with the woman a time or two after he produced a single envelope from a slot behind the counter. "Just came in the other day," he looked at it and squinted trying to make out the writing. "Hmph! Musta been some time trying to find you, bein' all smudged and dirty lookin' like that from the ink," he said, finally letting her grab onto it, taking it from his hand.
Turning, she looked over to Logan. "I'm leaving. If you want that ride up to the trail, I suggest you put your feet in gear and start moving. This train," she turned to look back at Bob, "·ain't waitin' for no one."
Fifteen minutes later, Logan found herself holding onto the dashboard of the open topped jeep, trying desperately not to fall out as it bounced over ruts and gullies in the makeshift road. They had left the smooth pavement of the highway only a minute or two after they pulled out of the parking lot.
Damn, if I'd have known it was this close, I could have driven it myself. The jeep lurched to one side as it dropped into a rather deep rut and Logan's upper body shifted out of the doorless vehicle. The view of the hard-caked earth they were traveling over reversed her earlier thinking. "Damn! You sure this isn't some monster truck training trail or something?"
"They're mine," Mattie said confidently. "No one else ventures up here after they hear ol' Bob's story.
"Even that developer man?" Logan shifted her gaze to the woman to see her reaction.
"Only the stupid or the driven." She turned to her passenger. "You don't look to be stupid, so I'm saying you're the driven kind." A hint of a smile tugged at the corners of Mattie's mouth before she turned her attention back to the treacherous road. "You see, I wasn't lying when I said it was better for you to walk the trail back to your car."
The blonde had to agree and she nodded to show Mattie that she was right. "So where do you fall into those categories?" Logan took a long, discerning look at the face of the woman. She had high cheekbones and a darker complexion than just from the sun. It was bronze but with a hint of earth tone to it. Red clay, like back home on the East Coast, Logan's mind conjured up the delicate match of hues.
"It depends·" Mattie paused as the jeep climbed out of another rut, first with one wheel, then with the other, shifting the jeep side to side in the progress. "Most say I'm stupid." She glanced over to Logan, "Ask any of my brothers and they'll tell you." She shrugged as if it didn't really matter to her what anyone thought. "Me·" she turned the wheel trying to avoid a large rock on the trail, "I'm driven with belief."
"Well, you drive like you know what to expect up ahead, I guess that would be a form of belief." Logan studied the strong hands holding onto the steering wheel. Mattie's hands were definitely bigger than hers, but then again, so was their owner.
It was then that Logan's imagination came barreling through and she could almost feel the long, tapering fingers wrapping around her body, playing with her nipples in the most delicious fashion. The small tingling sensations in her belly dropped southward like a lead balloon and she could feel her body awakening with the jostling of the ride. Perhaps this won't be a lost weekend after all. Logan mused, letting her eyes roam freely over the long, lean body in the driver's seat. I might still get· The driver's head turned in her direction and she was caught in the act. Logan quickly looked away, letting her mind linger over Mattie's latent image as it drifted through her mind.
The grin on Logan intrigued Mattie more than she thought possible, but she knew better than to ask. She'd had that look herself a time or two, back in her wild days growing up. Instead she pressed onward, climbing higher up the trail and closer to her home. There would be time enough to talk if her rider wanted to. Mattie gazed at the lengthening shadows now spilling over the trail ahead. There may even be time for anything else they might want to become involved in.
Whether it was out of want or reflex to the conditions of the road, Mattie's foot lifted slightly from the accelerator as she crawled slowly over a particularly rough patch of trail. By this time, Logan was learning not to fight the nature of things. It was much easier to just let her body sway with the rolling rhythm of the jeep. In the back of her mind, she imagined herself riding out the waves of passion in Mattie's arms. What I wouldn't give to be fu· Suddenly she felt lost in the daydream and an alarm sounded in her head. Don't go there, Logan. It's not good for you. You're here to do a job, now stick to it. She shifted her gaze to the scenery around her. Where's that damn Bob and his ghost story? That would take my mind off her. Then the idea struck her.
Logan waited for the jeep to settle in its bouncing before she asked her question. "So what's your twist on the Ghost Train story? It sounded back there like you have differing views on the legend."
"Legend·" Mattie smirked. "My twist isn't that much different from Bob's except that I know the real story," the driver smirked. "And a lot that ol' Bob won't tell in his version."
Logan stared off to a passing tree then back over at Mattie. "Do tell," she said, half hoping that she would find Mattie's version as interesting as the woman herself. "I'm all ears."
An unexpected lurch of the jeep caught them both off guard as Logan bounced in her seat, grasping out for anything that would keep her from being thrown from the vehicle. She could see her face coming dangerously close to the metal rim of the windshield when she felt her body being tugged back down into its seat.
"Don't go running away," Mattie said settling herself back into her seat as well. "I haven't told you my version of the story yet."
There was an air of confidence in the woman that both excited Logan and scared the hell out of her all in the same instance. The flash of white teeth coming in the form of a smile soothed her soul. Now that's what I call a helping hand.. "Like I said," she redirected her thoughts, "I'd love to hear your story." She sat back into her seat, focusing her attention on the driver. She didn't want to miss a single word.
Mattie gripped the wheel with both of her hands as she took in a breath, then slowly let it escape. Calm and collected, she was ready to begin. She stared at the road ahead and the words that she had heard a thousand times now came to life once again, but this time from her own lips.
"The story that I tell to you isn't centered on a train, any one person in particular, or the feats that men of will work toward. It is a tale of love and bravery that was stronger than most. It is about a bond that could never be broken."
Logan watched the woman intently, and for that she was rewarded. The subtle upturn of the woman's mouth hinted at the path they were about to embark on. This time Logan sensed that the story would be different, very different indeed.
"The forces of nature are a funny thing to people who do not understand them. Water can be seen as a drop of dew on a single blade of grass or as a raging river about to overflow its banks." Mattie paused for a moment then continued on. "The latter was the kind of love that Mary Sims had for the hunter, Joe."
"Whoa! Bob never said her last name," furrowed strawberry blonde brows showed that Logan was giving thought to the detail. "How do you know her name?"
"I know all of their names. It is a storyteller's duty to honor those that have walked over the land before us." Mattie sat up, taking pride in her role.
Unable to hide the smirk that came to her face, Logan turned to look away from the rising chest. A second later she turned back to the driver. "Please, go on," she encouraged her. "Something tells me there is more to this story than just a train whistle haunting the pass." Mattie's single gestured nod confirmed the statement.
"Mary Sims was not the woman that everyone thought she was. She was a woman with a sense of duty and a good mind for business. She would have gone far if it had not been for her brother, Jeremiah. Unlucky in love and with a knack for playing cards, he took up the name of Ace because they always seemed to be near him. Sims soon found himself in a gambler's way of life. Too lazy to work, he lived off what he won until his last hand presented him with a few dollars, a stable of eight women and a hole in his heart."
"Aces and eights," Logan mumbled, "that's·that's a dead man's hand."
"That's how Miss Mary..." Logan shook her head, "I mean·Mary Sims came to be in the bordello business."
"Using the coinage to bury her brother, Mary set out to let the girls have their freedom. With no prospects for respectable employment and their reputations already tarnished, there was little left for them to do to support themselves except what they had been doing. That's when Mary came up with her plan. She'd run the bordello and after taking a small fee out for her role in the business, she would give the rest to the women themselves. With that idea in mind, she rallied the women and headed toward the West where gold was plenty and women were scarce. If they were going to work, she wanted them to get all that was due for their favors."
"So that's how they hooked up with the Railroad. It was a sure fire way to work straight through to the gold fields."
"See," Mattie turned to look at the woman next to her and flashed a smile. "I told you there was more to my story than Bob's."
"Oh yeah," green eyes gave a hint of a twinkle as Logan looked at the woman. And what is your story, Mattie? Logan gazed into the reflective images on the sunglasses and wondered.
"All things considered, Mary and the girls did quite well for themselves. Each pay day the money made its rounds from the coffers of the Union Pacific Railroad Company through the hands of the men it employed and pretty much ended up filling the steamer trunks that Mary's girls were known to travel with. While the girls worked, Mary rode herd over the waiting customers. Even though she was only a wisp of a woman, the men never wanted to see her blonde hair come slipping in through the curtains. If it did, they knew their time, money, and privileges had run out. She was known as a fair and righteous woman by all, and no one doubted her judgement. Keeping fights and injuries to a minimum, kept her in good graces with the Railroad boss, Bill Butrum."
"Was he really sweet on her like Bob said?" Logan cringed realizing she had become interested in the story. "Sorry."
"If you could use the word sweet and say Bill's name in the same sentence, I guess it's true. His reputation in dealing with his workers didn't lend itself to words like sweet or nice. Behind his back he was known to his workers as Diablo."
"Devil," Mattie finished Logan's thought for her. "And an evil spirit he was when it came to those who worked for him. Bill spared no expense when it came to extracting pain from those who owed him. Everyone knew that you didn't disrupt his plans for his railroad for love nor money, or there would be hell to pay. In the same respect, if you aided in his goal, you were rewarded. That's how Mary Sims came to meet the hunter Joe. Bill brought him round one night after a harsh winter and rewarded him for keeping his crew in provisions of meat. It was a gesture of sincere gratitude for keeping his men alive and the Union Pacific on schedule."
Mattie slowed the jeep down as they came to a small clearing. "We'll need to stop here for a little while. She's started to steam up," the driver pulled off the road and killed the engine.
Caught up in the tale, Logan hadn't even heard the hissing of the steam as it vented around the radiator's cap, or the fact that Mattie was now positioned in front of the vehicle and raising the hood. In a moment of revelation, Logan made a snapping noise using her thumb and middle finger, then preceded to point at the last place she knew the storyteller to be. "I bet that happened in the Spring. That's why·" Seeing the empty driver's seat Logan twisted her head around until she saw a glint of light coming off Mattie's sunglasses. "Hey, am I right?" She climbed out of the jeep and made her way over to the woman. "That's why they fell in love, isn't it?"
The tall woman stared silently at the blonde for a long moment and sighed. "Nobody falls in love because of a certain time of the year." Mattie shook her head in disbelief. "They fall in love because·" she looked off in the opposite direction of Logan and removed her sunglasses. In pensive contemplation, the storyteller put one end of an earpiece into her mouth and bit down on it. "They fall in love because they were meant to, because they are·right for each other." Mattie slid her glasses back in place and turned to look directly at Logan. "They know in a single blink of an eye that they are staring into the other half of their spirit."
"You believe a lot in spirits," Logan cocked her head to a side. "Have you ever gone looking for your other half?" She watched as Mattie shook her head.
"It's not my place."
Mattie grabbed a balled up rag that was wedged in the frame of the vehicle. She covered the radiator cap with it and proceeded to open it, slowly removing it to allow the steam to rise with a relieved hissing sound. A few seconds later, she tossed both the cap and the rag onto the driver's seat and started to walk away.
"What did I say?" Logan ran the conversation through her head one more time as she did likewise with her hand through her blonde hair. There was definitely something more to the story and the tall woman that piqued Logan's interest. Putting her short legs in gear, she took several brisk steps to traverse the distance between them. "Hey, wait up. Where are you going?"
Mattie stopped short and turned to face the blonde. "The sun sets quickly here in the pass. If we wait for the jeep to cool down it will be too dark to find our way home."
"HOME?" Logan planted her feet on the ground and placed her balled up fists on her hips. "I hope you don't expect me to walk to the city or even to my rental car." She looked back at the well-worn and treacherous trail that they had crawled over to get to where they were now. Logan turned to see the tip of the sun touching the high walls of the mountain to the west of them. She looked down at her own long shadows and sighed as Mattie started walking again.
Rodriquez, I hate your guts. Logan kicked a small rock out of her way with her hiking boot, putting the first scuff on its leather. "Well, if I pretend real hard·maybe I can think of it as a rustic kind of resort." She looked up to the woman ahead of her and smiled warily. "At least the ratio is in my favor." Logan wiggled her eyebrows and began to move cautiously over the uneven terrain following the black hat of the woman leading the way.
Logan caught sight of their destination a little more than thirty minutes later. By now her steps had slowed as she lagged back a good fifty yards from the woman ahead of her.
"What the hell am I doing here?" Logan thought aloud.
She didn't know. It was that same feeling she had about moving west a few years ago. She hadn't planned it, it just happened. One day she was driving along and the next minute she'd made her mind up to move. "Impulse," she snarled. "I'm more like my Aunt Jean than my parents." She thought about her maiden great aunt, who at the age of sixty-two decided she had to move to the opposite coast. Five generations of relatives all huddled on the eastern seaboard and something sent her packing. Change of life was what her father had said, but Logan wasn't so sure. Instead, she hoped it was to get out from under the scrutiny of family in the business of her daily life.
She looked up to see how much farther she had to go, but her tall landmark had disappeared. In its place, a small beacon of light showed through scraggly pine branches, what she thought might be a window.
""Home, I guess we're there. Great, just what I need," she murmured as she wrapped her arm around a tree to steady herself while she tried to adjust her left shoe. After all of the walking, Logan could feel the ache from a blister starting on her left foot.
"You're not much of a hiker if you've got blisters already."
The voice startled Logan and she looked over to see the silhouette of Mattie leaning in the open doorway, her arms crossed over her chest. "I'm·my shoe·" she said standing up and walking toward the woman. "I guess I haven't broken them in right." She got closer to the cabin and noticed in the dimming light that Mattie was no longer wearing her sunglasses. An ill placed rock on the path caused her boot to shift and sent a jolt of pain into her foot. "Ouch! Damn it," Logan focused on her shoe.
"Yeah, it's my blister. I think it just broke."
No sooner had the words come from her mouth, Logan was swept up into Mattie's strong arms and carried over the last several feet of the trip. Her first instinct was to put up a fight but something stirred deep inside her and she felt comfort and safety in the woman's touch. Loving the sensation, eager green eyes drank in her surroundings as she tried to learn as much about the woman without asking her a thousand questions.
The well-worn boards of the tiny porch creaked under their combined weight as Mattie stepped on them. The rough sheeting on the small house was definitely not mass-produced. Each shingle had a size and shape all its own, giving the cabin a handmade feeling. Next the warm light filtering into the growing darkness of the night drew her attention to the sparsely furnished interior. In one corner, Logan spotted a small, wood-burning stove and table accompanied by two straight-backed chairs.
Looking over Mattie's shoulder as she turned to close the door, Logan viewed another area of the cabin. On this wall, a stone fireplace took center stage. Its mantel held only a framed, old-fashioned photo to one side and a small cluster of colorful photos on the other end. The ancient looking rifle hanging above it seemed right for Mattie in Logan's mind, bringing a smile to her face. To the right of the fireplace was a rocking chair next to a shuttered window. The left side had no window for light, and its only furniture of note was a simple wooden bed. The only true color in the place came from the muted hues of the comforter on the bed and the stretched white fur of a rabbit gracing the wall above the head of the bed.
The last corner of the one room cabin wasn't revealed to Logan until Mattie gingerly sat her down on the bed and moved away. The absence of the woman's touch left Logan feeling cold but her curiosity drove her on. There were two hooks on the back of the door and a chest of drawers against the wall with a small shelf above it. Logan's mouth tugged up into a grin at the sight of a vase of wildflowers standing next to two ancient looking books.
Who are you Mattie? Logan let her mind wonder about the woman who she met a few hours ago. She glanced back to the mantle and could make out the familiar figure in all but one of the photos in the grouping with happy people all around her. You don't seem socially unacceptable. Hell, she's the best looking woman I've seen in a long time. So, why are you staying here? Logan pondered the thought. Did someone break your heart?
Lost in her thoughts, Logan didn't even feel her boots being undone and removed until her socks were gently pulled from her feet. The warm feeling was back again and she looked down to see Mattie carefully inspecting her feet with a hands-on approach.
"You're right, it did break."
"Huh?" Logan was startled out of her daydreams. "What?" She focused on the woman inspecting her foot. "Oh, the blister," Logan sighed. "I thought you were talking about·about something else."
"You were daydreaming about the story, weren't you?" Mattie never looked up to see Logan's face, nor did she wait for an answer. "I'll finish it for you while I take care of bandaging this." She crossed the room to the chest of drawers. When she returned with her supplies, she quickly knelt down in front of the bed and got to work on both the foot and the remainder of the story.
"Bill Butrum didn't know it, but he was the activating catalyst for a match made in heaven. Something had happened with the forces of nature when Mary and Joe set eyes on each other. The usually talkative Mary stood speechless while the assured hunter returned her gaze with hesitation. Bill figured it was more from fear then anything that Mary's gaze was fixed on Joe, even when she spoke to the Railroad man. After a quick negotiation of payment, Bill placed a silver dollar in Mary's small hand and was gone, leaving Joe to his reward for what little time was left of the night."
Mattie gently manipulated Logan's foot as she cleaned and dressed it. "Under the wraps of darkness, Mary took the hunter to her tent and in the silence of the night, two hearts came together as one."
"But I thought she didn't service·" Logan's voice was soft and uncertain as it trailed off. She watched a coy smile grace Mattie's face with the last few turns of the bandage on her foot. "You know something Mattie, ·now give."
"Neither of them were of a mind to walk away from the other once they had sensed their akin souls. Their love was greater than their fear of repercussions and they bathed in its glory with the time they had remaining. When the last remnants of the night still claimed the sky, Joe dressed and started to leave. Wrapped in nothing but a blanket, Mary rose from her bed and retrieved the silver dollar from her nightstand. The touch of Mary's hand on Joe's arm stopped the hunter from leaving. She silently took the coin and placed it into one of the hunter's hands while she drew the other hand to her cheek and nuzzled into it. That was when their pact was made. Each one knew that they had given themselves unto the other free and without binds of any kind. Nothing would be able to keep them apart after that. Not even the fact that they were both women."
"Lesbians?" Logan blinked once, then blinked again. She pulled her foot from the woman's grasp and put it down on the floor. "Bob didn't say anything about that in his story."
"I know·and neither will any of the other folks in the area when they ramble on with their legend of the Ghost Train. They only know half of the story," Mattie said quite smugly, raising her eyes for the first time to look unprotected into Logan's.
The intensity of the gaze captivated Logan. The blue of Mattie's irises reached out to her like no other. Those eyes intrigued her. They invited her to look deeper into the woman's soul. They pushed her to the limit as they both slowly stood up and faced each other. Now, Logan knew what Bob had meant as his voice came back to haunt her, "one look and Mary was under the Injun's spell."
The air around them was filled with an energy that neither of them could have anticipated. The first sense of tingling came to their lips and intensified as the space between them diminished. Like a bit of iron being pulled in by a magnet, Mattie's head cocked to the side and was drawn in toward Logan's until their lips met and the heavens illuminated with the sparks that soared above the cabin.
It was impossible for either of them to tell which had come first, the clap of thunder that shook the ground or the pounding of their hearts racing frantically with unbridled emotions.
The current in the atmosphere surged. Their flesh began to tingle as each protectively wrapped their arms around the other.
Logan felt possessed the further into Mattie's light she let her body go. The urges and desires of a lifetime erupted in Logan as Mattie lowered her to the bed. Between the heavy rolling sound outside and the raging waves of passion within, they readied their bodies for the imminent storm. Without another word said, they gave themselves to each other freely and without reserve.
The urges of nature woke Logan from her slumber. The warmth pressed up against her skin felt right, as did the weight of the woman that covered her. She stared lovingly at the proud face with its high cheekbones that lay against her breast. When nature called, she could wait no longer. Softer then a whisper she spoke the woman's name for the first time. "Mattie?" She waited a few seconds and tried again, only this time slightly louder. "Mattie·Mattie I need to get up, please. I have to go."
In response to her words, Logan felt the tightening grip around her waist and it brought a smile to her face. "I need to use your bathroom, Mattie." She sensed the tentative muscles in the woman's arm ease. The next thing Logan knew, her warmth was gone and so was the weight of her cover. She rose up on an elbow and followed the long, graceful lines of Mattie's back. It seemed like a long time before she was able to take her eyes off her bed partner. Looking through the dim light of morning, she searched for the bathroom and came up empty. The only door in the cabin was the door they had entered the evening before. She sat up on the edge of the bed and gently shook Mattie's shoulder with her hand. "Mattie·where's your bathroom?"
Too tired from their night together to say anything more, Mattie mumbled out her one word reply, "Outhouse."
Great! Logan sighed as she slipped into her boots and Mattie's discarded shirt. I should have known this was too good to be real. I bet I'm one of the few to get morning after aloofness and an outhouse together.
The chill of Logan's skin next to her cheek was enough to awaken the dark haired woman. Reflexively, she pulled Logan into her arms and softly kissed her forehead. "Morning," Mattie whispered, her blue eyes coming to life from under heavy lids.
Logan reached for the comforter and slipped back into the warm bed, leaving her boots and the borrowed shirt in the cold. After a moment her body stopped shivering and she snuggled up to the bed's only source of heat. Soaking up the warmth, she lay there for a time before she said her name. "Logan·" Two questioning blue eyes greeted her. "My name·it's Logan." She smiled nervously at first then quickly warmed seeing the pleased look on Mattie's face. "Logan Fletcher to be exact."
"Mattie Nolan here," the other woman said with a sultry voice.
They lay there for a few minutes until Logan's curiosity got the best of her. "There's more to your story, isn't there?" She felt the nod of Mattie's head on her cheek. "Did Bill know they were both women?"
"Yes. But to my knowledge, he never told Mary Sims that he knew. It was something he could hold over the hunter till his dying day." Mattie paused for a second as a tear slowly came to her lashes. Taking a breath, she became firm in her resolve and continued on. "When Butrum spoke to Joe that last time at Freeman's Pass, he warned her to stay away from Mary. Bill swore to hell and back that if the hunter ever came to Mary again, he'd make their abomination known to all the civilized folk around. Mary would be disgraced, not only for having intimate relations with an Indian, but she would be ridiculed and looked on as a perversion to the natural ways of life."
"That heartless bastard." The words were out before Logan could stop them. "I can't believe that he loved Mary and would do that to her."
"That was just the tip of the iceberg," Mattie said. "He played every card he knew to win at this game." The woman's voice became quiet and detached as she disclosed what happened next. "After Bill escorted Mary out of Freeman's Pass, his men did his bidding. First they nearly beat the life out of Joe and held her over without giving her food until the next supply train was ready to depart. In Joe's injured and weakened condition, they knew there would be little fight left in her."
"I wondered why Joe didn't try to escape and take Mary with him·" Logan hurriedly corrected herself, "her, I mean."
"The hunter was helpless to do anything upon seeing the other half of her soul on the platform with Bill Butrum. So she tried to speak her heart with her eyes and her hopes in the sound of their signal. She tried to send off her wish to meet at their rendezvous point on Freeman's Pass but it barely reached her own ears. That's when she sent the signal through the steam engine's whistle. It was the last thing the hunter remembered before they wrestled her away from the pull chain. She came to in the caboose, and days later she was released far from the woman she loved."
"That's so sad," the sorrow was evident in Logan's voice and eyes. "What happened to her, Mattie? What did she do without Mary?"
"Butrum saw fit to have the railroad ban the hunter from setting foot on their rails. That left Joe to make her own way back to Freeman's Pass. It took her five moons to get back here and by that time, Mary was gone. Her solace came in two manners. First, she knew that if Mary ever freed herself of Butrum's hand, she'd return and Joe would be here, waiting for her. Second was the fact that Mary had confided her love for Joe to a girl named Virginia Sue. It seems that Virginia Sue liked to go walking in her off time, and when she saw Joe living up on the trail, she gave him the two things that Mary had entrusted with her."
"And they were?" Logan's eyes searched Mattie's face for a clue. "Come on, I want to know." She prodded the woman by quickly rubbing her chest with the palm of her hand.
"Hmm·I'll have to remember to get you curious more often." Mattie's eyes twinkled in a playful way. "I can see where a little hide and seek could go a long way in the foreplay department with you."
"Mattie·" Logan sighed impatiently, "I really would like to know how their story ends. Call me crazy but somehow, I feel·" she started to blush with embarrassment, "I feel like I'm a part of this now."
"Then it just wasn't me last night." Mattie became serious. "You felt it too, didn't you?"
"Felt what? Like my body was taken over by some·"
"Some force of nature?" Mattie finished her sentence for her.
"Yes." Logan was startled by her own admission. "I mean, no!"
"Be truthful Logan. You don't just hop into bed with everyone that you meet, do you?"
"NO!" A blush came to her cheeks and she mumbled out, "Well, not any more."
"And come to think of it·" Mattie laid on her back and looked up at the ceiling, "I don't remember any inkling of bad weather before we kissed. I mean·you could write off that rolling thunder as a sudden Spring storm or it could have been·"
"Oh no!" Logan sprang up to a sitting position. "You're not trying to tell me that was the sound of the Ghost Train. I didn't hear any cooing whistle as a signal."
Mattie casually started to whistle as she watched Logan's face go from defiant to questioning. She waited for the emotion that she knew would be coming.
"Don't tease me about this. If you know or you have any mind to believe·" Logan paused, seeing the smile come to Mattie's face. "Mattie," she said in her most serious tone, "if we intend to explore this attraction I'll warn you now, I demand total honesty." Logan's green eyes flashed and her nostrils flared.
Sensing the woman's determination, Mattie conceded. "Alright, ask me anything you want to know."
Logan leaned in toward her reclining lover. "What did Joe receive from Virginia Sue?"
The blonde watched as Mattie got up from the bed and crossed the room. She went to the mantel first, then to the small shelf above the chest of drawers. Even though her curiosity was piqued, Logan couldn't help but give in to a little distraction at the sight of Mattie's unclad body moving about the room. As good as she looked in clothing, the dark haired woman looked even more alluring without them. The admiration in Logan's eyes was evident when Mattie turned back toward the bed carrying a book and a picture frame.
"This is Mary's journal," Mattie offered Logan the items, one at a time, "and here is the photograph that Mary had a railroad photographer take of the two of them." A thoughtful smile came to Mattie's face. "Mary told the photographer she wanted to prove to her family that she did indeed live in the Wild West." She studied her lover intently, becoming more sober with her next insight into their lives. "Mary left them in the hopes that Joe would come back looking for her."
Timidly, Logan accepted the journal first and briefly paged through it, coming to a stop at the last written page. The yellowed pages showed signs of numerous readings. The delicate cursive style of the writing was definitely from someone who had been schooled. Starting at the top of the last page, Logan began to read,
My heart is heavy with thoughts of you, my hunter. I have loved you from the first time our eyes met and I will continue to do so with every breath of my being in the long days to come. I need you to know that I do not want to leave you. Trust me when I say that I do this only to keep you alive. When the sun rises each morning, I will feel your breath as it flows through my soul. So too when the sun sets and the moon is on the rise, my dreams will be of you as you have lived another day. You see, my hunter, knowing that you are breathing on this earth is all that I need to accept what fate has cast my way.
In my darkest times ahead, I will think of your moonlit face and remember your sweet, gentle touch on my skin. When the scents of pine and sweet grass fill my senses, I will remember how you filled my nights with passion and the tenderness that we had shared. I will never regret our love. I pray that one day our souls will be reunited, and we will be able to stand proudly side by side for all to see.
Live well and long, my hunter, my love. I know we will meet again. It is our destiny.
Logan wiped the tear that rolled freely down her cheek and choked back a sob in the process. Looking up to Mattie, she saw the empathy in her eyes. She too was at a loss for words to express her emotions.
"Shhh!" Mattie tried to soothe her, offering her the photograph. She waited patiently for Logan's reaction to it.
Green eyes scanned over the images, as she studied them intently. Noticing immediately that the taller one resembled Mattie, she inquired, "What became of them?" Logan paused, looking up to the woman for an answer. "Did they ever meet again?"
Mattie took in a breath, then slowly shook her head. "No, Mary died in childbirth two years after they were parted."
Green eyes beseeched the tall woman for more information, then she looked at the photograph. "Mattie·how do you know so much about them?"
"In my family the story and artifacts have been handed down through the ages. It was Joe's belief that their souls would come together again where they were torn away from each other."
"Joe had a family?" Logan looked on in disbelief. "But I thought you said·"
"She was a lesbian," Mattie nodded in affirmation.
"Joe's belief was that the Great Spirit saw her loneliness and blessed her with a seed of hope. Nine moons after her exile, she was given a gift of a daughter. It was her hope that her line would go on waiting for Mary's return." Mattie sat down on the bed next to Logan. "I am a descendant of Joe."
Logan spent the next few minutes reflecting on the lives of Mary Sims and hunter Joe. She took into account both versions of the Ghost Train story and soon came up with a belief of her own. "Mattie·earlier you eluded to the feeling that we weren't alone last night. Do you think that they·I mean·through us·" Logan motioned to their bodies, "finally reunited?"
"I don't know." Mattie answered her while staring at the images in the photograph. "Do you have an ancestor that was orphaned?"
"I'm not sure." Logan thought about it for a second. "I guess·we could find out if you really wanted to know." She looked over into crystal blue eyes and offered up her silent prayer. Oh God please let it be so. "Even if it wasn't true, I would still believe in the power of their love. Wouldn't you?"
The distance between them shortened and with the touch of warm lips to her own, Mattie gave Logan her answer in the most sensual way she knew how. Throughout the rest of that day and long into the night, their hearts beat together as one.
Mattie was the first to see the jeep in the distance. She turned to look over her shoulder at Logan. "We're almost there, Logan. I can see the jeep just ahead of us." The woman used the antiquated rifle she was carrying to point to the vehicle. She stopped her steady gait and waited for her lover to catch up to her. "How's the blister?"
"Not too bad. I guess the boots are broken in now." Logan looked down occasionally at her dusty boots until she was by Mattie's side. Once there the taller woman measured her steps so as to keep pace with Logan. Together they walked the last twenty yards to the jeep. "I have a confession to make, Mattie. I'm not a hiker. I don't even like to walk."
"Hmm·" the dark haired woman looked at her lover and tried to keep a straight face. "You don't say," she shifted the knapsack packed with her prized possessions on her shoulder.
"Mattie, I'm being serious." Logan let out a breath. "What I said the other day about being honest," she stole a look at Mattie, "I meant it."
"I know you did." Mattie walked to the driver's side of the jeep and proceeded to deposit the knapsack in the cargo area, securing it there. A moment later, she was climbing into the driver's seat.
Logan put her hand on the passenger seat and stopped. "The truth is that I work for a land developer. It was my job to come out here this weekend and see if the land around Solana Trail·I mean Freeman's Pass, would be suitable for his next project." She tried to gauge the woman's presumption of her, but it was hard to do without seeing behind the dark sunglasses Mattie wore. Scared at what the woman might be thinking, Logan quickly spoke up. "You don't have to worry, I'll tell him it's haunted. It's not good for any development in the least. He'll just have to find another place to build a mall or resort or something."
"I should hope that you would tell him the truth, Logan." Mattie lowered her sunglasses and gazed at the woman. "Mary and Joe won't be here any more. It's my belief that they were able to move on once they reunited." She pushed the glasses back onto her face then turned the key starting the vehicle's engine. "Besides," Mattie flashed a smile at her passenger, "I figure they would want others to enjoy this place just as much as they had in the past."
"And present," Logan corrected her, returning a coy smile of her own as she settled into her seat.
"Duly noted·and present." Mattie spoke her whimsical thought aloud as she put the vehicle in motion. "Who knows, maybe they'll make it into some sort of honeymoon hideaway."
"Wouldn't that be nice." The jostling motion of the vehicle caused Logan's fast reaction to the envelope sliding along the dash, grabbing it before it could fly out of the jeep. Whoa! Gotcha. She flipped it over and looked at the smeared and blotchy ink, trying to make out the sender's name. Leah·no wait. She looked closer at the written words and tried again. "Jean·something" she mumbled aloud. Her eyes quickly drifted over to the addressees' name. "Mattie·this letter·is not addressed to you. It's addressed to a·" Logan maneuvered the envelope carefully, trying hard to make out the letters, "T something. Tyler·no·maybe it's·"
"Taylor?" Mattie's hands gripped the steering wheel tighter.
"Yeah, that would work."
"What date is stamped on that envelope?" She glanced over to Logan when the answer wasn't forthcoming. "Can you make anything of the date out? A year maybe?"
"Its not that clear, Mattie. I think its·Oh," Logan let her frustrations go. "I'm going to guess it's May. A single digit day in May, nineteen seventy-five." That's around the time my great Aunt Jean split for the West Coast. Funny, huh? "So·who is Taylor," Logan asked cautiously.
"My father's youngest sister. She was one of the believers in Joe's stories. She didn't live very long, but she did write a book or two on Indian folklore. I think her belief in Joe and Mary's love guided her in that direction."
"When did she pass?" Logan crossed her fingers and held her breath. Please·if this is what I think it is, it would mean that Taylor could have just missed her soul mate by days.
" Nineteen seventy-five," Mattie slowed the jeep to a near stop, "We believe it to be in the first few days of May. She was at the cabin by herself, so we're not really sure."
"Are you going to open it?" Logan gave a sidelong look at the driver.
"No," Mattie shook her head. "It was her letter and anything in it was meant for her eyes only."
"Hmm·" Logan pondered the thought for a moment. "I guess you're right," she said taking a last look at the single name Jean in the return address. Aunt Jean·my suspicions about you may have been right after all. You were a lesbian.
Mattie looked over to see Logan deep in thought. "Penny for your thoughts," she glanced from the road to her lover intermittently, not wanting to miss any development in either one.
"I was just thinking about the power of love." Logan turned to Mattie. "That is what we have·isn't it?" She watched as white teeth showed through the driver's beaming smile.
"What do you think?"
"I think·" Logan drew out her response in a teasing fashion. "I think that we better stop and get a journal for me if we want to continue the fine family tradition."
"Huh?" Shielded blue eyes blinked in surprise. Mattie brought the jeep to a stop and stared into impish green eyes.
"Hey, I want our descendants to be as awe inspired with our love story as we were·no are with Mary and Joe's."
Logan thought for a moment about the conversation they had after making love that morning. Neither wanted to be separated now that they had found each other. Life in Logan's city seemed more stable to them with the impending development of Solana Trail, a.k.a. Freeman's Pass. Who knows? Maybe we could even come back here after the project is done. Logan gazed over at the woman who seemed so natural in this setting and quietly asked, "Are you going to miss not living where their spirits roamed?"
"Why should I miss this place when I know where they are," Mattie touched her finger to her chest then pointed to Logan's heart. "They're here, with us, as long as we believe."