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(Tombstone, Arizona Territory, 1880)

The room felt smaller than it actually was. Sitting on the narrow bed with a single mattress, bed slats creaking when she moved, Fallon sighed. A pretty oil lamp topped the small side table as she looked around at the room, wondering how her short life ended up here. A single window looked out from the second story of the saloon towards rugged hills in the distance. The woman who was preparing to leave, gathering her few things, explained, “Be nice to the gentlemen dear, they’s libel to get rough if you don’t.”

Mind still reeling from her quick and to-the-point facts of life talk, Fallon felt like crying, but couldn’t find any tears in her numb heart. Only days before, she’d been with the Hák’ą́yé, the Apache tribe who found her wandering, half dead, after her parents died. Pa went quickly, but Ma lingered before she passed. She vividly remembered sitting with her mother’s body, brushing away flies as she ripened in the heat.

“Yes, I know where it goes,” Fallon replied as her matron made movements with her fingers.

“They’ll do the rest anyway,” picking up the wash basin and towel. “Here, put this shawl over your nightshirt, let them take it off, they like that sort of thing.”


She’s ready?

Madam Frannie May Morten opened the door, asking, “Daisy, she ready?” Daisy couldn’t help but look at the big jawed black man standing with Frannie, then down to his big hands, then across to his trousers, nodding as she left.

Turning to Derek, looking up with her missing tooth sly smile, Madam Frannie said, “You two have fun, room’s yours for the night. Remember, she needs breakin’ in. Enjoy.” Turning to Fallon, she said, “You be good to this fine man and maybe he’ll be gentle,” then turning and patting Derek’s chest as she walked out, “But, I reckon not.”

Derek looked at Frannie and mumbled, “Thanks ma’am. Good evenin.”

Smiling to herself as she descended the stairs, surveying the crowd of cowboys below, Frannie thought, Who’s next!


The room before Derek was a bed, a chamber pot with a mirror situated above, a table and a old leather sitting chair, beside which he propped up his Winchester rifle as he sat, removing a pair of worn boots. Fallon said nothing, too scared to move, not having seen many black men up close, having grown up in the “good” part of town back in Ohio.

Standing, Derek unbuckled his remaining gun and criss-crossed ammunition belt from his chest, hanging them on the bedpost.

Fallon, stomach feeling sour, dared look as he sat back down to remove his socks, one a time, folding them carefully, resting them on the top of his boots in the corner. Thought he’d jump me first chance.

“Wha-what’s your name, mister?” voice shaking, clenching the shawl around her shoulders tightly.

Derek, finding a place to hang his hat, unbuttoned his shirt, saying nothing.


“My name’s Fallon,” she offered.

He looked, as she gazed up at him, meeting his stare. Her auburn hair, shoulder length, curled at the ends, framing her blue eyes with dark eyelashes. Like a cactus flower after a prairie storm, the young woman sitting before him was unexpected beauty in a harsh land.

“That be’s a funny name for a woman. What it mean?”

“I don’t rightly know, sir. It’s Irish.”

Stopping for a moment, Derek turned, staring at the wall, “You know’s what about to happen here?”

Fallon nodded, “Yes sir.”

Watching him undo his belt, Fallon asked, “May – May I ask a favor?”

Stopping for a moment, looking around and down, Derek scowled, “You’s mighty chatty for a sportin woman.”

“Please sir, it – it’s my first time. Just one small favor?”

Pausing in heart and action, “Sure.”

“I’ll do anything you want, I- I just want to say a small prayer first.”

Shocked, buckling up his pants, Derek sat down in the chair across from her bed.

“Can we hold hands – please?” she held her hands out, palms up.

Incredulous, big calloused hands reached over, captured by Fallon’s slender fingers.

Touching him, Fallon sensed gentleness in the big man, something she’d not expected. Closing her eyes, feeling God’s presence descend like it had that day before Lozen had seen her, she prayed.

The Lord is my shepherd

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures…”

Derek interrupted, “Where you learnt that?

“Momma taught me, sir. Ma and Pa were believin folk.”

“Where they’s now? Why’s you here?”

“The cholera took them along the trail from Ohio, sir.”

Derek leaned back in the chair, Fallon releasing his trembling hands, “I’s remember my’s momma prayin before I’s sleep. Lay her hand on my head, if she thought I was sleep’n. I liked the part, ‘though I’s walk through the valley of death, I won’t fear evil.’ Then I’s feel her lips kiss my forehead, and she’d whisper, ‘Lord, watch over my boy, make him a good man.’ My Momma – she had a’s powerful faith.”

Fallon looked at the man before her, his eyes tired, face somewhere else.

“World’s a hard place, sir, prayin’ always helps me get through the rough spots.”

Remembering how Momma cried the day he was taken, he wiped a tear from his eye, “First time I’s prayed …”

Calming a bit, unclenching her shawl, Fallon said, “Thank you, sir.”