Juliana stood and walked over to the small window her arms folded across her chest. "I left about six months after you did but I only made it as far as St. Louis before my money ran out."
J.D. sat on the corner of the bed allowing Juliana to take her own pace.
"After a couple days of sleeping on the street I heard of this high stakes poker game." Cox continued softly. "I talked my way into the game where one of the other players was your friend Ezra, but he wasn't going by that name at the time."
J.D. froze. "You're not sayin' that Ezra......"
Juliana shook her head as she turned around. "No, he was nothing but kind to me. It was his colleague, a man I only knew as Stanton who took an interest in me. It was well after midnight and the game was just half way through. Everyone was drinking since the Saloon was supplying free alcohol to the poker players who kept the crowd coming in."
"This Stanton fella Cheryl's father?" J.D. asked quietly.
"I think so." Juliana replied as she sat back down next to her friend. "I was able to win enough during the game to keep my head above water but I also had quite a lot to drink. So much so that when the game finally ended around two I could barely stand. The last thing I remember clearly is Stanton offering me a room to sleep it off in."
"I don't understand." J.D. began as he turned to face her. "If you didn't loose any money at the poker game...."
"Why am I running?" Juliana replied with a sad shake of her head. "Because I can't go home, J.D.. My parents don't even know about Cheryl they think that I'm living happily in San Francisco with my Aunt."
"How can I help?" J.D. asked.
"I need to talk with your friend Ezra." Juliana replied softly. "Cheryl's father may be a jerk but he has the right to know she exists. Perhaps Mr. Standish knows where to find him. Maybe after I locate him I can take the next step and straighten things out with my parents."
Colin stood by the window of the small ranch house. He glanced at the clock on the wall for the second time in ten minutes and yet it still told him the same thing. His brother was late.
Not that Colin could really blame Vin for not showing up. After all this was a lot of information to digest in such a short amount of time.
Perhaps he had scheduled this meeting too early.
"How's your left hook?" Vin asked quietly as he stepped into the living room.
Seimers jumped and whirled around.
"Needs more of a work out, better with my right." Colin replied with a smile as he stepped toward his brother. "Didn't think you were going to come."
Vin leaned against the far wall. "Almost didn't."
"What changed your mind?" Seimers asked quietly.
"Been thinkin' a lot about my past lately." Vin replied as he moved away from the wall. "Figured it was time to put some of it to rest."
"Hey, Ez, you have a minute? "J.D. called as he and Juliana caught up with the gambler outside of the hotel.
"Only that, Mr. Dunne." Standish replied wearily as he turned to face his friend. "It's been a very long week."
J.D. nodded as he gestured to the young woman next to him. "This is Juliana Cox, an old friend of mine."
"It's a pleasure, Ms.Cox." Ezra replied with a smile. "How long will you be staying in our humble town?"
Juliana glanced at J.D. before replying. "That depends on you, Mr. Standish."
Chris stepped out of the saloon and spotted Travis crossing the street toward him telegram in hand.
"Judge." Chris said as the older man came closer.
"Chris." Orrin replied grimly as he stepped onto the boardwalk. "Just received word from Tuscosa."
Larabee frowned. "Eli?"
Orrin shook his head in disgust. "Escaped, killed five soldiers in the process. Are you going to tell Vin?"
"Don't have a choice." Chris replied darkly.
Colin glanced at Vin before turning and walking toward the window. "I know you must have questions as to why our father separated us."
"I have no memory of him." Tanner replied quietly as he stood next to Nettie's rocking chair.
"Probably best that you don't." Colin stated as he turned around. "He was an angry man most of the time. Oh he had his good moments but they were few and far between. His anger came from not being a success, at least in his eyes. Nearly all of the get rich quick schemes failed miserably, ending him in jail half the time."
"Why didn't he take us all back east?" Vin asked though he wasn't sure if he wanted to know the answer.
Colin crossed the short space between them. "I wish I knew, Vin. He never spoke of our Mother. The only way I found out that she had died was through his journal after he passed away."
"How did he die?" Vin asked sadly.
Colin sighed and rubbed a weary hand along the back of his neck. "Fool was shot during a robbery. For once in his life he tried to play hero and it ended terribly. He was in a bank when it got robbed. The robbers grabbed a woman intending to use her as a hostage. Dad jumped in and pulled her away from the robber. He was killed before the authorities could arrive."
Ezra glanced at J.D. for a moment before gesturing back toward the hotel. "Let's step inside."
"Thankyou for your time, Mr. Standish." Juliana replied as she stepped past him into the hotel.
"I appreciate this, Ezra." J.D. commented as the two friends walked into the hotel.
"I haven't done anything yet, Mr. Dunne." Ezra replied as the trio sat down in the front room.
Juliana got right to the point "Mr. Standish, you and I met in St. Louis about two years ago."
"I'm afraid I don't recall." Ezra replied as he studied the young woman.
Juliana smiled grimly. "I'd be surprised if you did, Mr. Standish. I didn't exactly look my best during that poker game."
Ezra raised an eyebrow. "Poker game?"
Cox nodded as she told the gambler what she had told J.D. earlier.
Ezra leaned back in his chair. "You are one very lucky young woman, Ms. Cox. Not too many people have beaten Preston Stanton and lived to tell the tale. He must've taken quite a shine to you."
Juliana nodded. "Do you have any idea where he is now, Mr. Standish?"
Ezra glanced at her in surprise. "Why on earth would you want to find him? Your daughter is better off not knowing her father."
Juliana glanced down at her folded hands. "That may be, Mr. Standish but I still need to settle my past before I can move on."
Ezra nodded in understanding, "I'll send out a few telegrams and see what I can find out."
Juliana flashed him a warm smile. "Thankyou, Mr. Standish."
"Do you think we can try to be friends?" Colin asked quietly.
Vin nodded as he held out his right hand. "I'd like that."
Colin smiled as he shook his younger brother's hand.
Ezra found Juliana and J.D. at the restaurant catching an early dinner.
"I have some news concerning your quest, Ms. Cox."Standish stated as he sat down next to J.D. a handful of telegrams in his right hand.
"Did you find him?"Juliana asked as she leaned forward.
Ezra nodded. "He's still in St. Louis. Stanton owns the Seventh Star Saloon."
"Thankyou for your help and your kindness, Mr. Standish."Juliana replied with a smile. "This gets me one step closer to home."
"I'd like to thank you for all your help, Mrs. Travis."Colin stated warmly as they stood next to the stagecoach the next morning.
Mary smiled. "It was my pleasure, Mr. Seimers."
Colin nodded as he glanced over her shoulder and saw Vin approaching. "You sure you won't change your mind and come back east? New York's an exciting town."
Vin shook his head as he recalled Chris's warning of the night before 'Eli's escaped. Army tried to track him but he's disappeared.'
"Have some things to take care of here."Tanner replied as he came to stand next to his brother.
"I'll leave the two of you alone. It was nice to meet you Mr. Seimers, I hope you come back this way."Mary commented as she turned and walked back to where Chris was standing on the boardwalk keeping a watchful eye on his best friend.
Colin nodded. "I plan to, Mrs. Travis. This area has lots of possibilities."
"Are you sure you don't want me to come to St. Louis with you?"J.D. asked as he and Juliana stood at the front of the stagecoach a few feet from Vin and his brother.
The young woman shook her head as she shifted Cheryl to a more comfortable position in her left arm. "I appreciate the offer, J.D., I really do. But this is a mess I have to clean up on my own."
J.D. shifted from one foot to the other as he glanced down at the sleeping infant. "I can wire the sheriff in St. Louis, have him keep an eye out."
Juliana reached up and gently touched his left cheek. "J.D., I'll be fine. I'll let you know when Cheryl and I are settled. Besides there's somebody here who needs your attention more than we do."She replied nodding to Casey who stood near the entrance to the General Store.
J.D. followed her gaze and smiled. "Yeah, guess there is."
"Nearly forgot."Colin stated as he set down his suitcase and opened it. He reached in and pulled out a small object and handed it to his brother. "Meant to give that to you earlier. I found it in my father's belongings."
Vin glanced down at the small-framed photograph and instantly recognized his mother. Colin who appeared to be about four flanked her on one side and in her arms was a toddler, Vin.
The sharpshooter gently traced his mother's face. He had nearly forgotten what she looked like.
After a moment Vin shook the memories away and handed the photograph back to his brother. "I can't keep this, it's yours."
Colin shook his head as he pushed the picture back toward Vin. "I promised myself that if I ever found my brother I'd give him that picture."
Vin nodded tightly. "Sure you won't stay?"
Colin smiled. "Wish I could. The company I work for has been generous with the time off I needed but they can only be generous to a point."
"Last call!"The stagecoach driver shouted as he climbed up onto the vehicle.
"Guess that's my cue."Colin replied as he got into the stagecoach and shut the door."Take care of yourself, Vin."
"You too."Tanner replied as he stepped back from the stagecoach.
"You okay, Vin?"Chris asked as he came to stand next to his friend.
Vin nodded tightly. "I will be."He replied quietly as they watched the stagecoach pull out of town.