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The families they were obligated to were friends. A romance developed and they were married within a week after they completed their indenture-ship. Mom and dad always said they owed their lives, and that of their future generations, to those wonderful people in need of servants. His family history never bothered him, in fact, he was quite proud of his family. Each of his parents had obligated themselves to five years. They worked hard, stayed honest and God fearing and made a good life for themselves after they were married.

The land they set out to homestead, in Ohio, was good land. Dad worked the farm and produced a bounty crop every year. Lawson took his hat off and wiped his hands through his hair. As he went to put his hat back on, he saw the buzzards.


Now what? Long before he reached the wagons, he knew there was trouble. Pieces of clothing, bits of cloth and various other debris were blowing out across the plains. From a distance, he could see the wagon tops flopping around and the only sounds were the buzzards. He nearly lost his stomach when he pulled his horse to a halt at the wagons.

Good gawd! The Kiowa were the most tenacious fighters on the plains. The Kiowa seemed to have a grudge.

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Some said it was because other Natives had forced them from one region to another over the years. Whatever the reason, they were very destructive. It was so faint he nearly missed it.

It had definitely been made after the horses left and was headed into the wagons. He knew at least one person survived, but where were they now? He decided it must have been sometime yesterday when the attack came.

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Was the sole survivor hold up down by the river? A print that light had ta be a kid.

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There were good tracks here in the soft dirt. Yep, the kid come down here. The tracks were a little deeper here. The kid was at the river when the attack come. Jesus, what a sight fer a young kid ta walk up on! Musta been damn tough on the lil squirt. Then there was the indentation where Catherine laid her bundle. All too soon he came across the tracks where Joseph was lifted onto a horse and taken off to join the others. One was carried off on horseback and the other headed down river on foot. He headed down river, a good distance from the wagons and picked a spot to set up camp.

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He went back for Smokey then out to look for some food. He could make do with the jerked beef in his saddlebags, but it sure would be nice to have some fresh meat, if possible. After his meal, he rolled out his bedroll and laid back. He could hear the Coyotes yipping and howling from the direction of the wagons. Daylight found him packed up and headed down river. On the trip home he went over the events of the last couple days, carefully, in his mind.

His boss liked things done proper. Lawson laughed at the thought of saying that to his boss, but he liked his job. Not to mention his paycheck, so he went over everything again. The last thing he wanted to do right now was mess with some lengthy report. Well, maybe if he was lucky, he could get it put off until morning. All he had on his mind right now was to freshen up a little, get a hot meal and hit the sack.

Yes, food and rest was a very smart choice. Bright and early in the morning, Lawson was at his desk, diligently working on keeping his integrity intact, when the boss walked in. He gave a quick run-down to his boss of the past events and said he would be rounding up a little help as soon as he got his report finished. Boss Mills just grunted, like the great conversationalist that he was, and walked back to the cells.

He sure hated to bother him so early in the morning. With that thought, Lawson knew he was proud to have people like that in his town. Burke was in the kitchen of his little cabin sipping on a cup of hot coffee when Jason and Lawson knocked. Lawson filled Burke in and told him that he and Jason were on their way to round up Pete.

Burke set his cup on the lamp table and said he would catch up with them at the Irish Belle. Pete was a tough one to wake up and could be real ornery early in the morning. Once they got him to stop growling and explained the situation, he said he would meet them downstairs directly. They walked into the dining room to find Burke waiting with a cup of coffee in front of him looking much more awake then he did just a short while ago.

Just as Lawson and Jason got their coffee, Pete joined them and the four men knew it was time to do their job. They left Independence behind at a comfortable, but timely pace.

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Pete was elected to walk up on high ground with the horses as they followed the survivor. It stood to reason, if the kid got this far, the Comanche missed him.

The worst they could find was the kid wandering around in shock, half starved. The kid seemed too smart for that. By the time they arrived at the second camp the kid made, everyone in the group agreed he was still alive. Pete was making a fuss above them about the winds kicking up and black clouds moving in. The rain came with a force only seen out on the plains. All of them were soaked to the skin by the time it passed over them.

Burke nodded his head in agreement; knowing the rain washed away all tracks and destroyed any chance of locating the kid now. Lawson had a feeling they should go on down the river a ways just to look around, but the others were right. Jason had the look of a lost schoolboy on his face, but he mounted up with the rest of them.

It was getting dark when the group turned their mounts toward home. The trail was clear, so the ride was easy even in the dark. On the way back to Independence, each man was going over in his mind what happened out there.

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Lawson just let them get things straight in their own heads while he contemplated on the thought of one kid wandering around, alone. No one could undo it. Lawson knew that was how he should feel as he went about the task of keeping order, showing new folks around town, advising the travelers headed west and putting up with the trappers.

It was November first when the town woke to the first frost of the season. Lawson was relieved, in a way, as it made his job easier. Well, maybe a few stragglers, but they would stop here for the winter. Most of the troublemakers would stay in now until warmer weather came. Trappers were set up somewhere for the winter too. The days were pretty quiet now and he had a lot more time to think. He sat at his desk and let his mind go back to a few months ago. Guess them Germans got lucky. Wonder what ever happened ta that kid?

Lawson thought. Probably never know. As far as he knew, no one new came into town from that direction, alone. He tried to keep up on all the goings on so he would know if there were any strangers.