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Jessica Walters looked around at the new office she’d been assigned, but she felt no satisfaction at all in the promotion despite all the hard work she’d put into achieving her goal as head of the sales department at Wedgewood’s largest corporation. Her promotion meant that Bill Goodson was without a job now, and at his age he would be hard-pressed to find anything even close to the income he’d earned at Computer International.  No, Bill would find it difficult to find a job, period, and that made Jessica’s heart hurt.  Yes, she’d wanted the job… badly, but not this way.  She imagined herself taking over the position when Bill was ready to retire in another year or two.  The look on his face when the announcement was made would forever mar what should have been a proud moment for her.  Instead, she wanted to cry when she realized her former boss was being pushed out before his time.  Even worse, Bill wouldn’t hear her out when she told him she hadn’t known what was happening; he blamed her for his early dismissal, and that was so unfair!

And, she mentally continued to examine everything that was wrong, the entire sales department went completely quiet when she’d walked through the doors earlier this morning.  She’d hidden her hurt feelings and called out a cheery good morning, but only one or two people made an effort to answer her.  It was all the proof she needed that they were blaming her for Bill’s enforced retirement, too.  Or, perhaps, there was some jealously from those who’d worked here longer and thought they should be the one promoted to Department Head.  At this moment she would gladly trade this fancy office for her cubicle on the sales floor.

Her main worry, however, was her new boss.  She had to answer to Barney Snowden, whose family owned Computer International.  Barney fancied himself a ladies man, but Jess found him disgusting and vile.  At the Christmas party, he’d tried to talk her into going out with him for a bit of private partying.  Jess had refused, and he’d laughed and told her that she would soon change her mind.  When the announcement was made promoting her, the look he sent her way was chilling in its intensity, and she suddenly realized that he expected her to be grateful for the promotion!  They had their first meeting in another hour, and Jess was determined to be all business-like and not give him a chance to get personal.  Frankly, Jess was in no mood for any of Barney’s foolishness, and if she had to be blunt with him, then she would be blunt.  If that bluntness resulted in her firing, then so be it!

An hour later, Barney Snowden was leering at her from across his desk, and the indecent proposal that he’d just made had Jess gagging at the thought of performing the sexual act with him!  As if she’d ever in a million years get on her knees and lovingly kiss him there! He could take this job and go straight to hell, and his face turned black when she told him so.

“How do you think you got this job, bitch?” he demanded, his voice a harsh whisper while his face reflected ugly personified! “I thought that your own private office might encourage you to be smart.  What makes you so special that you can’t give your boss a blow job?  It’s not like you have a boyfriend!”

“You promoted the wrong woman if you think the job entitles you to sexual favors; and a court of law would agree with me.  Do you want a lawsuit?  I am sure your wife would be impressed.”

“You leave Pamela out of this, bitch!  She’s worth ten of you.”

“Then go and ask her for a blow job!” Jess retorted, using words she almost never used!  She’d never had time for intimate relationships with men.  She’d either been studying or working, and sometimes both.  She didn’t date casually, and she certainly didn’t sleep around!

Barney raised his hand to slap her just as the door to his office flew open and Bill Goodson entered, a wild look in his eyes.  “I knew I would find the two of you together!” he said as he drew his hand out of his jacket pocket and showed that he was armed.  Bill collected guns, and Jess knew this was very real.


“Don’t try to talk to me, Jess.  That innocent act of yours only goes so far, you know.”  He took aim and fired.

Jess felt a burning pain as she fell to the floor.  She felt as though she was floating, even as there was another shot fired.

“You both got what you deserved!” Bill said, then tossed the gun on the floor and waited for the cops to come.

The paramedics arrived first and pronounced Barney dead, but Jess heard them say she was still breathing. They did all they could to save her, but Jessica died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.


Chapter One



“Evan, the girl is starting to come around.  I thought sure I was gonna lose her, but she’s getting a bit of color back and she’s breathing some easier.  If Hooter hadn’t stopped the coach to water the bushes, she would have died out there all alone.”

“That’s a pity, Doc, and I aim to find out who did this to a woman!  Shooting her was bad enough, but hiding her like that…!  Well, it makes me real mad.”  Sheriff Evan Croft was a big man, and no one who knew him well wanted to see him angry.  In his normal frame of mind he was a force to be reckoned with, but when provoked, someone was going to end up hurt real bad or in jail for a long, long time.  “She’s real tiny,” he repeated again, as though Doc wasn’t aware of the woman’s petite size.

“Yeah, I noticed that,” Doc said with a touch of sarcasm in his rough voice.  “I’d better get back in there; I don’t want her to wake up all alone and not know where she’s at.  You’d better get out there and do your rounds.  I’m not gonna let you talk to this lady until I’m sure she’s out of the woods.”

“But, Doc, I need to find out who did this to her!” Evan protested.

“It will keep until she’s strong enough to face you.  Now go on,” Doc ordered in his raspy voice.


Jessica realized she was in pain, and her eyes flew open.  She was alive!  She needed to explain to Bill that it was all Barney’s doing.  She didn’t want him to get in trouble for shooting her!  Then she recalled the paramedics saying that Barney was dead.  They also said that she was dead in the ambulance!  But, she certainly wasn’t dead now, and from the pain in her chest, she knew that she’d had surgery.  Maybe she misunderstood the men who were helping her?  Maybe they were talking of someone else…? 

“Well, young lady, are you ready to join the living again?” a man asked as he looked down at her.  He had blue eyes that were smiling kindly at her from over a pair of wire-rimmed glasses.  “You gave all of us a good scare, that’s for sure.  The Sheriff has questions for you if you feel up to answering him?”

“Tell him it was an accident, please.  Bill was upset.”  She closed her eyes from the effort of speaking, and went right back to sleep.

The next time she woke, the same man was there.  He had his back to her, and Jessica watched as he put a bandage on a little boy’s elbow.  “You’re lucky you didn’t break this arm, Jimmy.  You stay down off that shed, hear me?”

“You sound like Ma, Doc!” the child complained.

“I’m not your Ma, but I will tan your britches for your Ma if I learn of you climbing on that shed again,” Doc promised firmly.

“You cain’t do that, Doc!” the boy said in disbelief.

“Try me,” Doc said firmly. “I’ll bet I spank harder than your Ma is able to.”

“Don’t figure I want to find out,” Jimmy said in a respectful tone.  “Thanks for fixing me up, Doc,” he said, remembering his manners.

“You’re right welcome, Jimmy.”  He walked the boy to the door and then spoke to Jimmy’s mother, telling her that his arm wasn’t broken, but would be pretty sore for a day or two.

Her voice low, Jessica heard her say, “I don’t know when I can pay you, Doc… I’m not making much right now.”

“Don’t you worry about it, Millie.  You can pay me when you can.”

“Thanks, Doc.  You’re a good man.”

“I appreciate that.  Now then, you get that boy on home and sit him down and give him what for and maybe he won’t go to climbing on that shed again.  I promised I would tan him if he did, and I mean it, Millie.”

“Good,” Millie answered.  “Since his Pa died, that boy has been a regular handful.”

“The men will step in and give you some help, Millie.  Jake would expect that of us.”

Millie nodded and then left.  Doc turned around and said, “Are you done pretending to be asleep so you can eavesdrop, young lady?”

“Where am I?” Jessica asked.

“You’re in Wedgewood, but no one here in town seems to know who you are. Were you supposed to meet someone here?”

“Is this a hospital?” she asked, looking around the room in disbelief.  She could see bottles containing medical supplies, and there was a treatment table across from the bed she was lying in, the one he’d used to fix Jimmy’s arm.

“No, this isn’t a hospital.  This town certainly isn’t big enough to warrant a hospital!” he snorted.  “I’m the only doctor here, and for fifty miles in any direction.”

“Oh my!  What has happened?” she whispered, tears filling her eyes.

“You were shot, honey,” Doc said sympathetically.  “Do you recall anything about that?”

“Yes, of course.  Bill Goodson shot me because he thought I used my body to get Barney Snowden to fire him and promote me, which was not true!  Poor Bill!  He killed Barney, and may I say I’m not sorry!  That evil man expected me to thank him with sexual favors!”

“Young lady, I don’t recall these men, and I reckon I know everyone in town,” Doc insisted, a bit shocked at her frank way of speaking.

“Nonsense.  How could you possibly know everyone in a city of this size?”

Doc chuckled, and then shook his head. They heard a bell jingle from the front room, and Doc looked at her to say, “I must have another patient.  “You stay put in this bed, Missy.”  He left the room then and wasn’t gone but a few seconds before he returned with a very large, tall man.  The man was wearing a cowboy hat, and he had a badge pinned to the pocket of his tan shirt.  He was also wearing a gun strapped to his waist!

“Miss, I’m the Sheriff here in Wedgewood; I want to know who did this to you so I can hunt him down and throw him in jail until the trial, then see him hang!  What can you tell me?  I’ve lost time waiting to talk to you because Doc didn’t want me to upset you.”

Jessica felt as though she was going to faint, something she’d never done before in her life! She forced herself to look up at the big man. “I just don’t understand what is going on… You should already have Bill in custody.  It was no secret that he shot me and killed Barney.  There were witnesses, and Bill didn’t run.  Why do you keep asking me for information?  The paramedics came and took me away in the ambulance, but the police were already there…!”

“Miss, I can see it is too soon for questioning and Doc is right.  You are confused.  One of the stage drivers found you hidden in some bushes, and he brung you in to Doc.  He didn’t see anyone else around the area.  Do you recall your name?”

“My name is Jessica Walters,” she automatically replied as she tried to understand about the stage coach driver finding her and bringing her to Doc.  Could it be that something weird happened to her and she was really dead, but not dead?

“Are you married, ma’am?”

“No, of course not!” She looked at him as if he’d suggested something horrible.

“Who’s your Pa?  I’ll get off a wire to him so’s he can come and fetch you home.”

“My father is halfway around the world, working with impoverished people.  He doesn’t even know that I exist, and before you ask, my mother died of breast cancer two years ago.  She and my father were divorced when I was a baby. I wouldn’t even know where my father is if it wasn’t for a documentary I saw on television,” she said.  It was difficult to tell who was most horrified in the moment; Doc, the Sheriff, or Jess.  The men looked at each other, and Jessica decided to take the easy way out.  “I’m so tired,” she whispered, and then closed her eyes.

Evan looked at Doc.  “If I thought she was lyin’ to me on purpose, and if she wasn’t hurt so bad, I would turn her over my knee and wallop her butt!”

“Son, you need to calm down some.  I know you don’t like being lied to; I don’t either, but this little gal has had a rough time of it, and who knows what she dreamed?  Could be she thought the stage an ambulance?”

“Okay, Doc.  That could be... but what I’m wondering is who this Bill guy is…?  I’m wondering if she isn’t a girlfriend to that Billy Sands?  He’s a mean s.o.b., and I wouldn’t put it past him to shoot a woman and leave her for dead.”

“My suggestion is that you hold off with anymore questioning until this little gal is on her feet again. She needs time to sort what is real from what is imagination or a dream.”

“She looks sweet like a lady, but that mouth on her needs a good soaping!” Evan stated, shaking his head.

“I don’t think soap is going to go down well on an empty stomach, son,” Doc said, chuckling.

“Okay, I get the hint.  I’ll get out and let you work your magic over her.  Oh, Margaret said that if you need her to sit with this one for a night or two, she’s willing to help out.”

“Sure she is…. That woman is getting on my short nerve!” Doc muttered.

“I’m just delivering the message, Doc,” Evan said, snickering all the while.  “I’d best be goin’ now.  You keep an eye and ear open… just in case my suspicions are right.” Evan warned as he left the treatment room.

Jess felt tears well up in her eyes once more.  What was going on?  It was as though she died in 2013 only to wake up in the historical period of Wedgewood!  She knew the town’s history, and there was a lot of violence in the early years.  Gun battles, range wars, and thieves who wanted to clean out the town’s one and only bank. There wasn’t much schooling available for the children, either, because an unmarried woman would be carried off like as not!  Single women were scarce in the early times, and if it was as she suspected, she would not be safe unless she had someone to help her!  As a modern woman, she resented the fact that she couldn’t simply call her own shots, but that wouldn’t be possible in early Wedgewood… and maybe it was like the Doc said and she was dreaming all of this and when she really did wakeup, she would be in a normal hospital! She allowed herself to relax and she went to sleep once more, trying to ignore the pain she was feeling.

When she next woke, Doc was bringing someone into the room, and Jess kept her eyes closed and her breathing even, wanting them to believe she was asleep so she could figure out what was truly happening to her.

“Suppose you have a seat, Jason, and tell me what’s ailing you,” Doc said calmly.

“I ain’t sick, Doc,” Jess heard a young voice reply.  “I need some advice, and I know you will be tellin’ me the truth of it.”

“I’ll do my best, Jason.”

“Thanks. It’s about Cilly; I don’t know what to do with her.  Since we been married, she’s like a different person.”

“How is that?” Doc asked.

“Well, I come home for my dinner every day.  Some days she don’t have nothing ready to eat; says she don’t feel like it, or that she’s tired.  Other times she won’t even be home, and there ain’t a note to tell me where she is, neither.  I get all worried then ‘cause I’m not knowin’ if someone took her, or if she walked over to her Ma’s…  Then she gets all mad at me for checkin’ up on her.  I swear, Doc, I wasn’t raised by my folks to raise a hand against a woman, but scoldin’ her ain’t gettin’ her attention.”

“Sounds to me like she needs a damn good spanking,” Doc stated matter-of-factly.

“I threatened her with turning her over my knee and she said that she’s too old for that.  I told her that she was behaving like a spoiled brat, and she said that if I touched her like that she’d leave me.  Doc, what can I do?  I don’t want people whispering about me behind my back and calling me a wife beater, but I don’t want ‘em whisperin’ about not bein’ able to control my wife, either.”

“Jason, you’re going through something that every man since Adam has gone through,” Doc said calmly. “Your wife is trying to get you to draw lines around your marriage.  It is up to you to set the house rules, and if you want her to have a hot meal ready for you at noon, then you need to tell her how you feel.  When she fixes your meal, you be sure to tell her thank you and mention that it was real good.  I’m sure that if Cilly is like my Elizabeth was, that praise means an awful lot.  If Cilly doesn’t fix your meal, and she doesn’t have a good excuse, and Jason, there will be times she does have a good excuse.  It might not seem like it to you, but women think differently than men, and you’ll soon learn what is real and what is just her testing you… If she doesn’t have a good excuse, then you need to put her over your knee and spank her.”

“Doc, I already tried that once,” Jason admitted.  “She called me names, and claimed that marriage wasn’t anything like she thought and said she wanted to go home to her Pa’s.”

“Son, you stopped spanking too soon.”

“I did?”

“You sure did.  Cilly was pouting, and she needed another spanking to put an end to it.”

“Did you ever spank Mrs. Doc?” Jason asked.

“Yes, yes I did,” Doc answered.  “She ended up over my knee pretty often the first couple years we were married, and I remember fetching her home from her father’s house on two separate occasions.  I spanked her all the way home both times, too.  Elizabeth was plenty mad at me for embarrassing her like that, but it put an end to her running to her mother.  I think the most memorable spanking that I gave her was right after we come out here to set up practice.  You’re kind of young to remember Dottie Jones, but she had a…”

“I know about Miss Dottie, Doc.  I have older brothers who told me all about her place.”

“I got called to come out there one night right after I delivered a baby at the Jenkins’ place.  I was there all night, trying to save the lives of two of Dottie’s girls.  They’d got in a fight over something, and cut each other pretty bad.  I managed to pull the both of them through it, then I went home to get some sleep, and found myself locked out of my own house!  Now, I’m a fairly level-headed man, and not inclined to lose my temper without a darn good reason, but that made me furious.  I pounded on the door, and my sweet wife told me just to go straight back to Dottie’s place!  Some busybody saw my buggy in front of her place and told Lizzy, and she jumped to the wrong conclusion.  I told her once more to open the door.  She refused, and I kicked in the door, and when I got my hands on Elizabeth, I put her over my knee and tossed up her skirts, and I turned her backside a nice shade of dark red.  She started crying eventually, and I asked if she was ready to listen to me, and when she agreed to hear me out, I explained what happened.  I also told her that I loved her and would never ever cheat on her.  I also realized I wasn’t as tired as I thought,” he added with a wink and Jason caught his meaning and chuckled.

“So, sir, you don’t think that spanking your wife is a bad thing to do?”

“Jason, as long as you are spanking her for the right reasons, then it isn’t wrong.  A man who beats a woman because he is having a bad day needs his butt kicked, but you aren’t like that. You just need to finish what you start.  Ten swats won’t do; you need to get her attention and keep it for a while.  It might take one time, it might take a couple more times, but once Cilly is positive you are a man of your word, she will respect you and you’ll have a nice hot meal waiting on you.”

“I’m not unreasonable, Doc.  If she tells me she wants to go and visit her Ma for the day, then I can take a meal with me to work.  I’m not trying to keep her home all the time; I ain’t like that.  But, I expect my wife to be a wife to me, just as I expect to be a husband to her and take care of all the manly things I should, like chopping wood and keeping the box by the stove filled.  That is my responsibility.”

“I agree.  It’s also your responsibility to show Cilly that you love her, and sometimes that means giving her a sound spanking.  She’ll be happier knowing that you want her to be your wife.  You must make sure she knows those spankings are given with love, and you make up right soon afterwards.”

“I’ve got it, Doc.  Thanks for the advice.  What do I owe you?”

“Not a thing, Jason.  It’s been good talking to you.”

Once Jason was gone, Doc walked over to where Jess was pretending to sleep.  “Did I give good advice, young woman?” he asked.

“No!” Jess’s green eyes flew open and Doc knew he would have been singed if the fire in her eyes was real.  “Grown women are not spanked where I come from.  Men who dare to do such a thing could be thrown in jail!”

“I’ve never heard of anything so foolish!”

“Women make their own rules and do as they please and if men don’t like it, too bad.  A man can either fix his own lunch or he can go and buy it!  He doesn’t need his woman to make it for him!  That kind of thinking went out of style at least fifty years ago!”

“Where are you from, Jessica Walters?” a deep voice demanded from the doorway.

To be continued…




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