The Red Wolf of the Plains – Extended Epilogue

San Francisco

Six months later 

Woe is me, my lady, and woe is me, my doll,

You’re everybody’s darling,

Not really mine at all.

Useless now my roses, and do now what I may,

You’re everybody’s darling,

Our love has flown away.

The band stopped playing, and the crowd of gowned and tuxedoed party-goers clapped their gloved hands in appreciation. The fiercely mustached and bespectacled mayor of San Francisco turned to his dance partner and murmured, “I must commend you, Mrs. Harrington. Yours was not an idle boast. The visitor you sent to my room last night exceeded all expectations. Worth every penny, I must say!”

Celine nodded to acknowledge the compliment and waved her feathered fan coquettishly. “I make it a policy never to overstate,” she told him softly. “I’m glad you were pleased, sir. That is always my goal. I think you’ll find that my presence here in San Francisco will enrich your city, and make it a much pleasanter place, just as it has in all the other cities where I do business.”

The older man chuckled. “I have every confidence of it, dear lady.” He lifted a couple of glasses of champagne off a passing tray and handed one to her with a gallant flourish. “A toast,” he told her with a smile, “to the beginning of a delightful partnership in our fair metropolis.”

Celine touched her glass faintly to his. “I’ll certainly drink to that,” she smiled, and took a sip. She glanced out across the bejeweled crowd filling the ballroom of the Excelsior Hotel. The crème de la crème of San Francisco, and several neighboring cities, were all there. There were politicians galore, society matrons, captains of industry, even a general or two. The people there that night, she estimated, made up more than half of the city’s economy.

Celine sighed luxuriantly and took another dainty sip of champagne. She was in her natural habitat at last, after years of clawing her way up through dismal frontier towns. Now that she had the mayor’s patronage, she didn’t have to worry that the local law or morality crusaders would shut her down. San Francisco only had the thinnest veneer of law, and that meant she was free and clear. The city was a glittering pot of gold, and all she had to do was reach out and take it.

“Excuse me, ma’am. May I have this dance?”

Celine turned to smile at a handsome blonde man at the mayor’s elbow. The older man made a comical face and bowed. 

“It had to happen,” he laughed. “I’m being cut out!”

Celine tapped his elbow with her fan. “You must ask me to dance again, dear sir,” she told him, as her new swain led her away. The band struck up again to a livelier tune, and the young man swung her across the floor as her silken skirts whirled.

She’s only a fallen woman

The world has looked away,

And left her lone to pine and moan

Her blue skies turned to gray.

For pity’s sake befriend her

Have mercy on her shame,

Lift her out of guilt and doubt

We’re sinners all the same.

Celine frowned toward the bandstand and remarked tartly, “There certainly seems to be a theme to the music tonight.”

“Indeed.” The young man smiled. “It might have been written for you.”

She rolled shocked eyes to his face. “What did you say?”

He smiled and blushed. “I meant to say, the tune is so beautiful. Like you are yourself, Mrs. Harrington.”

She relaxed a bit. “Oh.” She shot him another glance. “How did you know my name?”

The young man’s smile deepened. “How could I not know it?” he parried. “Your name is on every lip tonight, it seems. You’ve created quite the sensation in San Francisco.”

Celine stared at him uncertainly, but she was pleased. “Is that so?”

“Oh, yes. In fact, I must confess that it’s why I sought you out tonight. I hear that you can…make a young man’s life very pleasant. Is it not so?”

She met his eyes and dimpled. “I can indeed. One might almost call me Madam Cupid, for I perform his office continually.”

The eager look in the man’s eyes intensified. “If I were to…ask that a young girl of, say no more than sixteen, be sent to my room tonight, a dark-haired girl, would you ensure it, dear lady?”

Celine’s lips curved up. “For five hundred dollars, my dear boy, you may have two.”

He licked his lips and nodded as they whirled around the ballroom. “How shall we…conduct our business?”

“You may leave your thanks with my friend over there by the door,” she told him with a nod toward a tall man across the ballroom. “And I beg you, not in this room. Outside. He will show you how it is done.”

The man’s fingers tightened on hers as the music wound to a stop. “Thank you, ma’am.” He smiled. “You’ve made me very happy.”

She smiled and performed a mock curtsy as the music ended, and another voice at her elbow asked, “May I have this dance?”

She turned with a smile, and a dark man took her in his arms, but the face staring down at her was instantly familiar.

It was the Pinkerton.

“Don’t cry out or struggle.” He smiled as he danced her toward the door. “There are twenty Pinkertons in this ballroom, and five have guns on you right now.”

Celine rolled terrified eyes to the door. Her henchman—she glanced further—all her henchmen were suddenly not there anymore. In their place were young, grim-faced men whose clothes were all wrong for a society ball.

As her eyes scanned the room, she was outraged to see that the young blonde man she’d danced with was following them out. He nodded toward her with a knowing smile.

“Yes, Mrs. Harrington,” he nodded, “you’ve made me very happy tonight.”

“You’ve made all of us happy,” the Pinkerton agreed and swept her out of the room. As he hustled her out into the chilly night air, he slapped a pair of handcuffs on her wrists.

“You remember what I told you, Mrs. Harrington?” the dark man reminded her softly. “About the jail cell and the graveyard?”

She glared up at him as he pushed her into a carriage, and her scream of outrage was muffled as he slammed it closed.

* * * 

“Thank you Mr. Joseph, you’re in Room 241. The boy there will take your luggage up.”

An elegantly dressed Ernesto flashed a beautiful smile at the newest guest at the Regla de Oro Hotel, and Clara handed their guest his key. “As always, it’s on the house,” she told him. “Enjoy your stay, Nicholas.”

Nicholas Joseph slung his jacket over his shoulder and took the key from her hands. “I will. And congratulations to you and Ethan.”

Clara put a self-conscious hand on her stomach and blushed as Nicholas Joseph grinned at her and followed the bellboy to the ornate elevator.

She glanced around her with a happy sigh. It had been a year since she and Ethan had married and arrived in San Francisco. He hadn’t told her how grand and beautiful his hotel was, and she still couldn’t quite believe that it was theirs. The place was made of marble and five stories tall, it had a lobby that looked like a palace, and it had a brand-new elevator that was one of the fanciest in the whole city.

Best of all, she and Ethan lived on the top floor and had a view of the bay from their balcony. It was like she was dreaming.

Ernesto’s amused voice broke in on her thoughts. “You know, I never thought that one of my best friends would turn out to be a detective,” he murmured in a bemused voice. “Life is strange.”

“It is that.” Clara giggled. “I guess we all came out better than we had a right to expect, huh?”

“You sure did!”

Clara frowned, because the voice hadn’t been Ernesto’s, and when she glanced at him, Ernesto was standing there with a terrified expression and his hands raised.

When she turned, there was a grim, haggard man standing at the counter, pointing a gun at them. “Who are you?” she quavered and put her hands up.

“Where’s Ethan?” he demanded roughly.

Clara’s eyes moved past him. “Right behind you,” she told him, and a loud click at his ear made the stranger’s face blanch.

“Clara, take his gun.”

Clara leaned over the counter to pull the pistol from the man’s hand. His face twisted, and he yelled, “Go ahead, shoot me, I want you to do it! Shoot me!”

The guests in the lobby turned to look, and Ethan grabbed the man’s elbow and hustled him into the storage room behind the counter. Clara nipped in just before he closed the door behind them, and watched curiously as Ethan pushed the stranger into a chair.

“I remember you now,” she told him. “You’re the man I talked to on the train.”

Ethan turned to glance at her over his shoulder. “This is Desmond York. He’s the man who shot Ernesto.”

Clara’s face darkened. “Maybe you should do like he says, then!” she replied tartly, and stuck her hands on her hips.

Ethan gave her a rueful look. “Remember what we said, Clara?” he asked softly. “About turning over a new leaf, about letting the past go?”

Clara crossed her arms and looked away, but Ethan turned back to the man. “You came all the way out here to kill me, Des?” he asked.

Desmond’s dark eyes burned on his face. “That’s right. I wanted to kill Oscar, for what he did to my father,” he growled. “But Oscar died, and there was only you. You were the only one I could find! Oscar ruined us, ruined our lives!”

Ethan shook his head. “Must be tiring to hold on to that much hate, Des,” he rumbled. “It gives you strength for a while, but then it just starts wearing you down.”

“I don’t need your pity,” the other man snarled. “If you’re going to plug me, stop talking and go ahead and do it!”

Ethan shook his head. “I’m not gonna plug you, Des,” he sighed. “Because I know where you are right now. I was there, not so long ago. So I’m gonna make you an offer. You can take it or leave it.”

Des glared at him suspiciously. “What offer?”

“I didn’t have anything to do with what happened to your pa,” he said, with a serious look. “So you got no real reason to come after me. Oscar’s dead. It’s over, Des. But,” he sighed, “I don’t wanna have to look over my shoulder for the rest of my life, either, so I’ll make you an offer. You let this go, you leave me and Ernesto alone, and I’ll make up for what you lost, even though I’m not to blame for you losing a dime.”

 “What do you mean?”

Ethan’s eyes held pity as they rested on him. “I mean, I’ll give you Oscar’s mansion back in Boston. There’s a hidden safe in his study with a lot of valuables still there. He gave me the deed to that property. I’ll hand it over to you, no strings attached.”

Desmond’s frown deepened. “Why? Why would you do that? I tried to kill you. I almost did kill Ernesto.”

“For peace,” Ethan replied simply. “I got a second chance at life, Des, when I didn’t deserve it. Why shouldn’t you? Then, too,” he chuckled and rubbed his nose, “wouldn’t your old man think it was a hoot, to see his son sitting in his rival’s house, drinking his liquor and spending his money?”

Desmond shot him a frowning glance, but was silent.

“What do you say?”

Clara blinked back tears as she watched Des shake his head. “I don’t understand.”

“You don’t have to. Just tell me yes or no.”

The angry look lifted from Desmond’s face, and he stared at Ethan in confusion. “I’d be a fool not to take it,” he murmured and rubbed his jaw. “Beats me why you’d offer, though, Ethan. You’ve changed.”

“That’s proof that no one’s too far gone,” Ethan replied softly. “Come back with me to my office, Des. Then go back to Boston and leave the past behind. Make a new life for yourself, like I did.”

A chastened look crossed Desmond’s face, and Ethan put a hand on his shoulder as they walked out. Clara watched them go with shining eyes.

She’d married the best man in the world, and the bravest; and when Ethan came back, an hour later, she looped her arm through his and walked him through the hotel to the beautiful marble veranda overlooking the bay. She stood up on tiptoe and kissed his cheek.

“I’m so proud of you, Ethan,” she whispered, and he put one hand around her shoulder as they gazed out over the water. Evening was coming on, and the North Star sparkled in a pale blue sky.

“That’s what I wanted most of all,” he told her, and kissed her hair. “To make you proud, Clara. I’m a lucky man.”

“We’re both lucky,” she murmured, and put her head on his shoulder. “When the baby comes, maybe we should name him that.”

Ethan shoulder’s shook with silent laughter, but he objected, “What if it’s a girl?”

Clara smiled up at him. “Then we’ll call her Grace. It means ‘better than you deserved.’”

“That sounds about right,” he agreed, and they stood there, watching sailboats skim across the placid waters until night threw its dark cloak over the sky.

THE END


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21 thoughts on “The Red Wolf of the Plains – Extended Epilogue”

    1. I too gave the red wolf 5 stars. On amazon.
      Loved the last the extended part worked.
      When I first started out I
      Picked the wrong authors. But once I figured out that what I liked best were Classic and Historical westerns. I will have to get another Kindle for books by CJ box and hillerman and others that I enjoy. There are some Series that have over 100 books and are still writing new ones. Rosenberg, Grey,La more. (Sp) Thanks for writing books that the Duke would have been proud to star in.

    2. I just sent a review and I tell you again, that I am very excited to continue reading your wonderful novels. I’ve
      Just found another author that I am looking forward to reading your stories. Thank you.

      William A Llewellyn

  1. Very good book!! Really enjoyed all the twists and colorful characters! Was glad they got Mrs Harrington at the end!! I hope you keep writing Western for a lot of years!!

  2. I really enjoyed the book, I kept thinking it wasn’t long enough, but the epilogue gave it a nice finish

  3. Great plot line and characters. Well written.
    Annnd holy hell, who is the man on the cover. Gorgeous.

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