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Authors: Brenda Jernigan

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Whispers on the Wind

BOOK: Whispers on the Wind
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Copyright © 2004 by Brenda
K. Jernigan

2012 Published by Brenda K. Jernigan
- at Smashwords

 

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Whispers on the Wind

 

 

Brenda Jernigan

 

 

 

This book is dedicated to
my cousin, Carol Haught. When I was young I spent one Easter at
Carol’s house, and three boys brought her Easter baskets. I knew
right then and there that I wanted to grow up to be just like Carol
Over the years, I’ve always looked up to Carol. She is pretty,
smart and very sweet. Everybody loves Carol But now I admire Carol
for a completely different reason

it’s not for her beauty or great
personality

it’s
for her courage. You see, Carol has been battling breast cancer for
the last fifteen years. And she has done it with a positive
attitude and a great sense of humor. When I call her, she asks how
I’m feeling. I hope one day that Carol will win her battle and be
cancer free.

So, Carol, this book is for
you. And one day when I grow up, I want to be just like
you!

 

 

Prologue

 

 

Billy West and Mary Costner
were thirty miles away when they caught their first glimpse of
Pikes Peak. The mountain rose to a majestic height of 12,000 feet
and its apex was covered with perpetual snow.

As they wound their way
around the mountain through lofty pines and cedars, the air grew
cooler so that they had to slip on their jackets. Billy wondered if
there really was a mining town in this wilderness. They had ridden
for miles without seeing anything other than antelope and a bear or
two.

About the time he was ready
to suggest turning back, they reached a small mining town. The
rough wooden sign said they were in Gregory Gulch. In a field to
the left was a herd of antelope grazing in a meadow. Everything
appeared very peaceful, or was the word dead?

“This isn’t much of a
town,” Billy said as they sat on their horses looking down a dirt
street that had log cabins scattered on both sides. Each brown
cabin looked alike—some didn’t even have windows.

“I’m not sure what I was
expecting, but it wasn’t this,” Mary admitted.

“Do you want to go
back?”

“No. I’m determined to
make this work. If a little hard work will bring me gold and
independence, then I can handle this. However, I am glad we stopped
and picked up supplies and heavy clothes. It is the middle of
August, but it’s cool up here.”

“Yes, it is,” Billy said.
“I guess we should go to the claims office first and find out where
your claim is located, and then we can see about finding you
someplace to stay.”

“I really do appreciate
your help,” Mary said.

Billy smiled at her. That’s
what brothers are for.”

It was easy to find the
recorder’s office because it was in the middle of the buildings and
had a big sign hung on the side. When they dismounted they found a
line of prospectors waiting to see the clerk, so they had to
wait

Finally Mary made it to the
desk. She pulled out her deed and handed it to the man. It took him
a few minutes to read it over. He reached under his desk and pulled
out a very large book that looked like it contained a variety of
maps.

After flipping several
pages, he frowned and reached for a brown book on the edge of his
desk. He turned back and forth between several pages until he found
what he wanted. He scanned the page with his index finger. “Ah,
yaw,” he said, and tapped the spot with his finger before looking
up at Mary. “You have a problem.”

Mary gave a disgusted sigh.
“What is the problem?”

“Somebody has already
filed a claim on this here land.”

“But this is a legal
document. I’ve had a lawyer look it over,” Mary insisted, and then
added, “What can I do?”

“I’d go see Marshal
Stanley. Maybe he can straighten this out for you.”

Bitty stepped forward.
“Where do we find the marshal?”

The clerk pointed. “Two
doors down on the right”

“Do you know the name of
the other owner?” Billy asked.

“Let’s see,” the clerk
looked down. “Oh dear, it’s Big Jim McCoy. He’s an Irishman with a
mean temper.

“Great! ” Mary rolled her
eyes. “Just what I need.”

They took their horses and
pack mules with them and tied them outside of the marshal’s
office.

Upon explaining to Marshal
Stanley the problem and showing him the deed, he sent a deputy to
get Big Jim.

Fifteen minutes later Big
Jim McCoy strode into the office shouting, “Who the hell is trying
to welsh my claim?”

The man made two of Billy.
McCoy was broad-shouldered and wore faded overalls with a blue
flannel shirt, a gun and a bowie knife tucked into his work belt He
wasn’t a young man, but a weathered veteran.

As soon as he saw Mary, he
removed his wide-brimmed hat displaying his black hair streaked
with gray. “Ma’am,” he said with a nod.

Turning his attention back
to the marshal he said, “Now who is this cussed
sidewinder?”

“I am,” Mary said, and
stepped in front of him. “My mother sent me the deed.” She handed
him the papers. “As you can see, it’s legal. It says nothing about
me having a partner.”

Big Jim snatched the deed
from her.

Billy was proud of his
sister for not backing down from Big Jim. As a matter of fact, she
looked more like an angry cat with its fur standing straight up.
Big Jim would scare most men with his thick black beard and long
black hair that was tinged with gray.

Evidently not
Mary.

After Jim read the legal
paper, he threw it on the marshal’s desk. Then he pulled his deed
out from a pocket and tossed it beside hers.

“That deed used to belong
to Toothless Tom. When he left, he told me I could have his part
’cause he was through with mining,” Big Jim told the
marshal.

“Do you have any paperwork
to prove that, Big Jim?”

Big Jim frowned. “A man’s
word ought to be good enough.”

“Not when it comes to
property. As you well know, many have been killed over property
disputes,” Marshal Stanley told him. “The way I see it, you have a
new partner.”

“But she’s a female.” Big
Jim pointed out the obvious.

“What’s wrong with that?”
Mary snapped.

“Plenty,” Big Jim said,
and looked directly at her. “Mining is damn hard work, and you’re
puny. ’Sides, every man would be after you once he saw you, and I
don’t have time for such.”

“I’ve already thought
about that,” Mary informed him. “I’m going to dress as a man and
keep my hair under a cap so everyone will think I’m a boy. As for
work, I intend to work just as hard as you. What I lack in muscle,
I’ll make up with brains.”

“I doubt that,” Jim shot
back.

Mary stepped closer to the
man. “Well, Big Jim, you don’t have a choice.”

He glared at her. “You’re a
mouthy little thing.”

“So I’ve been told,” Mary
said.

With that comment, Big Jim
started laughing and all the tension in the room eased. “All right
I give you two months before you’re running back home.” He looked
at Billy. “Who’s he?”

Billy pushed away from the
wall where he had thoroughly enjoyed the exchange between these
two. It seemed Big Jim had a wildcat by the tail and didn’t know
quite how to handle her.

“I’m her brother, Billy
West”

“Good. You can help
her.”

“I’m not staying,” Billy
told him.

The Irishman appeared as if
his patience was all but gone. “Is she plumb loco? Life ain’t easy
up here.”

“So I’ve tried to tell
her,” Billy said. “But as you can see, she has a mind of her
own.”

“I can also speak for
myself,” Mary informed both of them.

“See,” Billy said with a
shrug.

The marshal cleared his
throat “Then it’s settled. You both have equal ownership in the
mine. If one of you dies, then the other inherits full ownership.
Is that agreeable?”

They both nodded their
heads.

“Good,” Marshal Stanley
said. Then he scribbled the agreement on both deeds. “Sign here
that you agree. Myself and Mr. West will witness the
signatures.”

When the signatures were
obtained, the marshal said, “Good. Now get out of my office. I have
work to do.”

Once they were outside, Big
Jim asked, “Where are you staying?”

“I don’t have a place
yet,” Mary said.

“Well, there ain’t no
empty cabins around here.”

“Oh,” Mary said as she
stopped by the three pack mules full of supplies.

“These yours?” Big Jim
asked.

Mary nodded.

“How about if I make you a
deal?” Jim said with a smile. “Seeing as I can’t get rid of you,
why don’t you throw your supplies in with mine, and you can stay
with me.”

“I’m not so sure about
that,” Billy said.

“Don’t
go getting your dander up. I have the biggest cabin up here with
two bedrooms. It’s a little ways up the hill. She’d have her own
sleeping quarters. ’Sides which, I’m old enough to be your
da
. I have a
daughter your age back home.”

So an agreement was
made.

Billy stayed another month
to make sure that Mary was settled in and could handle everything.
Then he decided he needed to worry more about Big Jim than Mary.
She already had the man eating out of her hand.

When it was time to go,
Billy did have a talk with Jim and told him if he ever made the
mistake of hurting his sister that Billy would return with a
vengeance.

Big Jim nodded.

Billy gave Mary a hug. “You
take care of yourself.”

“I will,” she said in a
soft voice. “You take care of yourself and my future
sister-in-law.”

Billy smiled. “I
will.”

He rode off with a peaceful
mind about Mary. She was going to make it on her own. As he started
down the mountain heading for home, he realized that he’d been gone
much longer than he’d expected. He wasn’t sure of the day but it
had to be two months since he’d left Billy did know that Mary was
getting ready to start her own adventure... one that would be
harder than anything that she had ever faced.

But Mary had more gumption
than anyone in the family, and it would take every belligerent bone
in her body to survive mining for gold.

God help those poor
men.

 

Chapter One

 

 

Two years later—1872 Pikes
Peak, Colorado Territory

 

 

Mary Costner bolted
straight up in bed.

She felt
disoriented.

Why was her head so swimmy?
And her skin clammy?

Blinking with difficulty,
it took her several moments before she realized she was in her own
bedroom, even though she couldn’t remember actually going to
bed.

She couldn’t remember
anything!

Panic set in. It was almost
as if she were waking up in a dream. Nothing was real. There had to
be a reason for her confusion.

BOOK: Whispers on the Wind
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