As her foot touched the walkway, Tombstone suddenly became the vibrant, active, living community of yesteryear—a pictorial window in time opened before her. The hot summer day seemed to give most of the people living in the area the same idea.
Dusty streets were busy with cowboys riding into town, and buggies were filled with families hoping for a slight breeze to give them a break from the inferno. Not a hint of rain could be felt in the air. At least there was no mud to mar the hem on her new dress. The long, green calico dress she wore slapped against her sturdy boots as she walked the wooden walkway. She caught a glimpse of her image in the bank window. Her bonnet matched her dress, with her hair tucked neatly out of view.
“You’re as pretty as a picture standing there.” The man tipped his hat and smiled at her as he walked out of the bank.
Taking a deep breath, excitement coursed through her. She peeked at the handsome man at her side. His holstered gun rode low across his hip, one hand never far from the handle while the other held onto hers. It seemed a tad tighter after the man addressed her. Probably only her imagination. Still, the clink of his spurs against the wood became a melodic reminder she felt safe when he was near.
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Tombstone could turn rowdy with little warning. He had said he wanted her out of there before it did. They were one of the several couples among the endless parade of cowboys and miners racing back and forth in town. The heat meant drinking, and before long tempers would flare. The sound of gunfire was the first sign there was trouble. People scattered in all directions, and she ran with them.
The rancid smell of gunpowder filled the air. As quickly as it started it was over, but the scene changed. Peyton walked no longer among the living but the dead. With their haunted eyes and sunken, tortured faces, the ghosts of Tombstone strolled by them on both sides of the street. Some rode on horseback or came to town in buggies and wagons.
They glanced out of hotel windows and from the saloon doors. Ghostly gunfights took place in the street while a dead undertaker picked up the bodies, and a spirit sheriff led someone off to jail. Before she had time to adjust to what she was seeing, modern tourists were the ones passing by her. Jaxon still had a grip on her hand.
Her mind began analyzing what had just happened. People had come and gone through time, one generation after another. Some rested in peace and some were restless, wandering souls still seeking the justice denied them in life, and she had stood between them as a link. There obviously seemed to be more to life than someone ceasing to exist after death. This once booming town forgotten by time but now resurrected for tourists to relive a small piece of history was trying to tell her something. She had to figure out the message. Piece of cake.
“Do you mind if we sit for a minute?” She spied a bench in front of the Crystal Palace and tugged him along with her.
“Fine with me. I want to know what the hell just happened to you?” He sat beside her, stretching out his legs slightly. “You saw something. Am I right?”
“Yes,” she answered, her voice barely audible. “As far as what, I’m still processing it.” “Take your time. I’m in no hurry.” His hand tightened around hers as he waited for her to talk. “Do you think our lives simply end when we die?” She glanced at him.
“One of the big questions of life. I tend to believe there’s something more and greater than ourselves.” She stared off into the distance. “If I had to describe what I saw, it seemed to be clouds of witnesses. Something I heard Destiny talk about as a little girl when we looked for forms in the clouds. I didn’t understand her at the time. I’m not sure I still do. What I saw makes me wonder though.”
“Searching for Closure”
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“Tell me what you saw.” He squeezed her hand in encouragement.
“Families, miners, and cowboys were all going about life on these streets. The whole image looked like a scene from an old West town. Maybe a real image of an actual day in the life of this town at its peak time. For a moment, we were one of them. Later, when I got close enough to the people to see them, that’s when I saw they were ghosts. The butcher standing outside of his shop waving at those passing by was a ghost. Some seemed to be at peace, and others were haunted. Are they the witnesses of life on these streets here every day? Like the clouds in the sky that we observe, are they watching us, weighing our actions? Are some still seeking justice?” “Whoa, that’s way above my paygrade. I have no idea. How does this relate to our case? That’s the question we need to ask and keep asking until we get an answer.”
“I believe it’s all tied together. What I saw in my vision the other night and today. There are people who have been treated awfully in this life. They have not known justice and maybe they seek it after death. The crimes against them are forgotten over time. In the end, maybe they get to see the justice that life denied them and find peace. Maybe karma in some form is real.” “Your guess is better than mine.” He glanced at her profile. “Are you ready to discuss last night?”
“Nope, not yet.” She pulled her hand out of his. Standing, she started to walk away.
“Oh, no you don’t.” He caught up and grabbed her hand. “Look, Peyton, the tension between us has been thick since we met. If you’re looking for me to tell you I’m sorry for kissing you, I’m not. Hell, I want to kiss you again. I walked out of the room because I didn’t expect to like it or want to do it again. I thought I was doing you a favor by being a gentleman and walking away.”
“Kincaid, thank you for the apology.” She turned her face and smiled.
“I didn’t apologize.” He frowned. “You’re putting words in my mouth.”
“Of course you would’ve if you understood how you made me feel.” She squeezed his hand and tried to pull hers free. “For now, let’s forget about it and concentrate on this case. I want to go home as soon as possible.”
“Okay. Tell me where you think we’re headed.” He focused on the conversation at hand. Over the next hour, they went in and out of buildings and took a tour ride past the courthouse and up to Boot Hill Cemetery. Peyton got a case of the giggles after reading one of the headstones.
“Listen to this one. ‘Here lies Lester Moore, 4 slugs from a .44. No, Les, No, More.’ ” She pointed at the wooden grave marker by the pile of rocks.
Jaxon pointed at the wooden markers of three graves. “These were the outlaws that went up against Wyatt Earp in 1881. Wow, I can’t tell you how many times I watched movies about the shootout at the O.K. Corral as a kid and still do. I’m glad I came with you today.”
“Look at this one.” She took a photo of the marker. “It says he was taken from jail and hanged by mistake by a mob from Bisbee, and this man was hanged by mistake too.” She shook her head. “Can you see what I talked to you about earlier? Right here we have seen two people, their lives taken unjustly from them. Carlee was murdered too. I need to think about this some more.”
Iona Morrison is an award-winning, Amazon best-selling author who writes romantic suspense with a touch of the paranormal, including the Blue Cove Mysteries series. She is a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Published Authors League and lives in Colorado with her husband and family.