John Runnels

Episode 53: Justice

Justice. The clear, triumphant pealing bell of the word swept over Mamzelle. Justice. What she wouldn't give for justice! Her tired and battered spirit leaned toward the blond woman.

But no--revenge. She wanted revenge, not justice! Bonham was the lesser of the two, and foolish at least in magical matters. She might still find her loophole, find a way to kill him, were he her master. Mamzelle would never find a way out as Duniway's servant; if the woman wanted to keep her bound, she would stay bound. Mamzelle had no doubt of it. She leaned toward her old master; he redoubled his psychic grip, and if a spirit could snarl and spit, his did so.

Episode 52: The Devil You Know | Scryer's Gulch

Sheriff Runnels stood back a ways from the sigil and did his best to stay alert, scoping the area for potential threats--more of Bonham's goons--but it was hard to keep from doing anything other than stare at Annabelle and Bonham, though he couldn't have said why; they were doing nothing but facing one another across Mamzelle.

A hand touched his arm, and he jumped, jerking his shotgun around. "Settle down, Sheriff, it's just me," said the demon cat-man.

"Yeah, well you take some getting used to," John grunted, turning back to the two wielders. "She planning on telling me about you any time soon?"

"I was her ace in the hole. It wasn't time to play me yet."

Episode 51: Trouble Is Expected | Scryer's Gulch

Annabelle lifted her chin. She didn't smile; smiles on a woman's face in combat always made her look weak, and she kept her gaze steady and sober. She unbuttoned her duster just in case, and a good thing.

"Boys, come here!" called Bonham. "It's okay, Mamzelle's corralled." Three men carrying rifles crept out one by one from under the far-flung cover of rocks and equipment. "Were you expecting me to give you trouble, Mr Bonham?" said Annabelle.

"I'm alive because I expect trouble," he answered, "though I do confess I did not expect it from your particular corner."

The End...?

And now...a very special episode of Scryer's Gulch:

As Annabelle tied her bonnet laces, Lily hung around the front of the school room after class, beaming, hands clasped behind her back to contain her excitement. The other students filed out, the boys eager, but restraining themselves from shoving their female peers out of the way.

"Well now, Miss Lily," Annabelle said, and Lily giggled at the formality, "are you ready to visit your big brother's establishment?" Mr Bonham had elected to accept Annabelle's offer of refinement, doubtless in his continued misguided attempt to seduce her. Annabelle restrained her nose from twitching at the unpleasant thought.

Episode 44: Friendship | Scryer's Gulch

Mrs Smith was some cook all right. Annabelle had tried to be ladylike, but sitting through services on an unusually empty tummy had taken the restraint right out of her; she'd eaten herself to within a pinch of her stays.

After dinner Mrs Smith retired to the washing-up, Jamie was sent in to help her, and Rabbit excused himself to the jail: "My, uh, my monthly troubles are coming due. Time I got ready for 'em."

"Going up into the mountains, brother?" said John.

"No," said Rabbit reluctantly. "No, I'm stayin in town. Maybe next month."

His departure left Annabelle and John alone before the front parlor stove. "He goes up into the mountains when he changes? Is that safe?" she whispered.

"No need to whisper, everyone here already knows. Yes. Uh, sometimes he goes hunting then."

Annabelle crinkled her nose. "I am uncertain as to how that might work, I fear. A werewolf, or a mountain lion, yes, but a hare?"

Episode 43: A Prognostification | Scryer's Gulch

Emmy Parsons stood in the Hopewell kitchen doorway, pulling bristles out of the scrub brush in her hand as she stared after the couple going through the front door. She did not like the schoolmarm's visiting over to the Runnels house one bit. But what could she do about it? She knew only one thing. She had that letter the Duniway woman wrote to that other man. John Runnels needed to see it before he did something stupid, "stupid" in Emmy's mind being anything that didn't end up with his loving her.

He saw her back in the day twice--never saw another girl as far as she knew--and was almost the kindest a man had ever been to her in that way, treated her like a real girl and not a girl for hire. Only one nicer was his brother Rabbit, but she didn't want any of that buck-toothed gawk. She wished he'd stop hanging around, and John would start. Why shouldn't he? Emmy wasn't so hard on the eye. Had most of her teeth, was a real hard worker--harder than that Duniway ever worked, she reckoned--and she liked kids enough not to pester them about history and such. She'd make the Sheriff a real good wife. She'd even settle for being his woman if he didn't want to marry again. He'd taken the death of Missus Runnels awful hard. Emmy wondered again what she'd been like; she died before Emmy'd come to the Gulch.

What was the best way to approach him? How should she give him that letter?

A great crash jerked Emmy around. Ralph stood in the middle of the kitchen, slack-jawed; at his feet lay the pot he'd been about to put by the wash sink. He stared off at nothing with eyes as white and cloudy as milk.

"Emmy Parsons," said Ralph, "I have a warnin fer you."

Episode 42: A Reproachful Chat with a Cat | Scryer's Gulch

John and Annabelle reached the Hopewell Hotel's front door, both aware they might be overheard now that they stood somewhat out of the bustle of the road. "I think we should leave the topic of...our man until a more private moment," said John.

"I completely agree," said Annabelle. "Well, then, Mr Runnels. Until tomorrow, dinner? Good night." She shook his hand. He kept it in his just a hair longer than necessary, their eyes met just a hair longer than was proper, and they parted just a hair before more might be revealed one to the other.

Episode 41: A Challenge | Scryer's Gulch

Being late to an event always proved a good tactic, thought Jed. It gave matters a chance to solidify, for patterns to become evident. It served as a reminder of who was in charge. And it angered Charity no end. He chuckled to himself as the piston inside her brassy head compressed her fury down and down. There would be a big bang tonight, but not before their guests had retired--he had that much control over his wife. More than she reckoned he did. He'd let her explode upstairs, and he'd take her in hand as he always did. Let her use up all that anger in his bed, wear her out. Then he'd promise her a trip to Frisco or some such. Not till spring, though. He doled himself out some kind of roast beef from the tray the greenhorn presented.

Apparently he took too much. The greenhorn cleared his throat; to his left, Cherry widened her eyes and jerked her head toward the tray. He ignored them and took a bite out of both pieces. His wife deliberately turned her back and steamed a great cloud of charm in Tony's direction.

Episode 40: Duchess Soup | Scryer's Gulch

The little dinner party was rapidly slipping from Charity's fingers, and they hadn't even sat down to the meal yet. The cook had spoilt the soup and had to make up a new one, the greenhorn--er, butler--was clumsy, and worse, that schoolteacher was monopolizing both John Runnels and Tony.

How could it be? Duniway looked like a blue-eyed crow in that black dress, while she was resplendent in feathers and plum-colored silk that set off the green of her eyes. She'd ordered the feathers all the way from San Francisco--what luck that they matched her new dress so well, even if they were shedding a bit. It was to be expected of ostrich.

And Jedediah was late. Damn him for not even bothering to show for a dinner he forced her to throw!

Episode 39: Indigestion | Scryer's Gulch

There were times Annabelle regretted having used schoolteacher as a cover. Would that there were enough women in town to have come as a dressmaker, or a milliner. If she'd been either of them, she wouldn't have to be at uncomfortable occasions such this one. She tried not to fidget on the horsehair sofa in the Bonhams' stuffy front parlor as they all waited on Jedediah Bonham's arrival to his own dinner party.

Charity had done herself and her household up a little too fine. A down-on-his-luck greenhorn in ill-fitting formalwear had been pressed into service as butler; he presented Annabelle with a glass of sherry she desperately wished were something stronger. Bourbon. She liked that now and again, but wouldn't get any until she went back home. She probably wouldn't need it then. Might she bolt down the sherry? Not here, no matter how tempting. John and Tony looked as if they wouldn't have minded a snort, either.

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