Discovery - Chapter 3

Jalen had felt Dallas's presence as he walked through the woods with Daniel. He
and Dallas had done this very thing when he lived with him and he had helped
Christmas to be a joyous time for him. He'd never really thought much about
Christmas, or the meaning of Christmas or even heard the Christmas story in full
until Dallas had read it the first time from the Bible. Church and God weren't
much in his life before Dallas. It wasn't that Dallas was a religious man, but
he did believe in God and Christ and salvation and tried to instill Christian
values into Jalen while they were together. Jalen had grown to respect this and
carried on many of the traditions of Christmas. He'd generally had a very small
tree in the Sheriff's office this time of year, but this year he felt Dallas's
presence even more as he sought out a good Christmas tree.

As he marked the tree and headed back with Daniel, he heard his young outlaw
teasing him and he did to him what Dallas had done to him many times when he was
teasing also and Brett took it in stride and understood they were playing, that
it was all in fun.


Daniel watched the Sheriff and his young probationer and could see there was
more to their relationship than the formal court one. He smiled at Cole to see
the other men enjoying themselves and playing.


Cole smiled as he watched the Sheriff and Brett playing. It was nice to see that
the two men did things like he and Daniel did at times, although most times in
private. He was glad to see that these two felt comfortable enough and trusted
them enough to let down their guard and let them see their relationship. He
grinned back at Dan when he saw Dan looking at him.


Brett was surprised when Jalen flipped him up over his shoulder and began to
land light spanks. He was a little embarrassed for him to do this in front of
these other men, but they didn't seemed surprised by it and had just stood
around grinning at him and the Sheriff. He couldn't help laughing and was glad
when Jalen finally set him back on his feet and hugged him close and tight.

"I take it you and Cole found your trees?" He asked.

Brett nodded. "Yes we did."

Jalen smiled. "Good. Dan and I found ours too. I thought since we're all here
why don't we eat our picnic and then go look at the trees and decide which two
we'll chop down and take with us. Is there enough greenery for you to make the

Brett grinned. "Yes, I saw some real nice evergreens that will be suitable for

Jalen smiled. "Good."


The four men sat on the sledge and ate their picnic lunch of fried chicken,
biscuits and strawberry tarts along with their hot chocolate. It was a simple,
but filling meal and there was nothing but bones left by the time they were

Once they had eaten Jalen said, "Okay, time to pick out the two best trees."

The four men tromped through the stand of trees once more and were guided by red
strands of cloth fluttering in the light breeze. They laughed and joked as they
tried to find flaws in each others trees. There was much teasing and laughter
and the final choices were made.

Brett grinned. "I'm glad my pine tree made the cut."

Jalen smiled at his young outlaw. "Me too."

Cole was thrilled that his Cedar tree had also been chosen for Gabe. "Looks like
us younger men are more successful at tree hunting than you old men." He teased.

Dan came up behind him and asked with a teasing smile. "Who you callin' old
little boy?"

Cole grinned back. "You." He answered.

Dan turned Cole and gave him a few playful spanks on the seat of his jeans and
Cole pretended to dance and squirm like they hurt.

Dan chuckled and hugged Cole to him tight.

Jalen and Brett looked on smiling and with an arm around each other.

Brett said, "I have all the evergreen I need for the wreathes, but I saw one
more thing we need."

Jalen asked, "What's that?"

The young outlaw grinned. "Mistletoe."

Dan laughed "Well now, where would we be without mistletoe?"

The Sheriff asked, "Where did you see Mistletoe?"

Brett said, "On the Blue Spruce you tagged."

Jalen shook his head. "All right, we'll go back and see if we can find it."

The four men tromped back to the Blue Spruce.

Brett pointed to a spot near the top. "It's right there, see it?"

Jalen nodded. "Yes, I see it now. Wonder why I didn't see it before?" He asked
out loud, but to himself.

Brett said with a cheeky grin. "Maybe you're getting' so old your eye sight is
failin' you Sheriff."

Jalen gave Brett a playful swat on the bottom. "Watch it kid." He mock growled.

Dan and Cole chuckled.

The Sheriff studied the location of the Mistletoe and finally nodded. "It looks
like a perfect specimen. Be careful as you climb up." Jalen cautioned.

Brett climbed up and then Cole followed him. Showers of snow fell from the
branches as they made their way upward and a couple of times Cole had to brush
snow out of his face. "Hey! Be careful! Remember…I'm here below you!"


looked down and said, "Sorry." He tried to be a bit more careful. Once he
reached the Mistletoe Cole handed him a knife to cut it with. Then Brett called
"Jalen…here it comes!" He let the Mistletoe drop to the ground, but Jalen was
there to catch it.

Cole and Brett climbed down carefully. Then they went back to the sledge. Jalen
carefully place the Mistletoe on top of the other evergreens and smiled. This
Christmas was certainly going to be fun.

The day was still bright and Brett picked up a handful of snow and packing it
into a ball threw it at Jalen.

Cole fired a similar missal at Dan and the snowball fight was on. The two older
men against the two younger men. It ended up with Dan and Jalen washing the
faces of Brett and Cole in the snow and all laughing hard.

When the snowball fight was over they tied the tree branches and lifted them
onto the sledge and then secured them. Once everything was ready they brushed
off the snow and the boys climbed onto the sledge with the trees and evergreen
and mistletoe and the Sheriff and Dan climbed back up to the seat and Jalen set
the team in motion and they drove back to the Sheriff's place.

Once there, the four men unloaded the beautiful pine tree and laid it in the
barn along with the evergreens and mistletoe. The greens and the tree would be
fine there until Bret and the Sheriff could make a stand. Jalen had filled a
bucket with water and the four men had propped the tree up in the bucket and
Jalen knew from past experience the tree would stay fresh for a while as long as
it was drawing water.

The evergreens were also put away safely and then the men got back on the sledge
and headed to Gabe's.

When the sledge stopped behind the saloon the four men got out and the tree was
set up in an outdoor shed for now. Dan, Gabe and Cole would make a stand for it
and decorate it later. The scent of cedar would permeate the Diamond Dust and it
would make things real nice.

The four men shook hands and shared how much they had enjoyed the outing and
talked about making plans to get together again soon.

Jalen shook Dan's hand. "This was fun and I wouldn't mind us getting' together
some time soon. Perhaps you, Gabe and Cole will be able to come to the ranch for
supper one night."

Dan nodded. "Yes, that might be a nice thing to do. You just let us know when
you want us to come."

The Sheriff grinned. "I will." He turned to Brett. "Come on Brett, let's head

Brett smiled as he heard Jalen call him and said to Cole, "See you soon."

Cole grinned back. "Okay I'll be lookin' for you."

Jalen and Brett headed for their ranch and Dan and Cole headed inside to let
Gabe know about the tree.


A few days later Brett rode into town on Spirit. He had a large wreath tied to
the horse and was headed for the Diamond Dust. He was feeling better and better
as the Sheriff was giving him a little more freedom. Like today, when he asked
if he could ride into town on his own to deliver the wreath he had made Jalen
had studied him for a moment, then nodded and gave permission. He had admonished
him to stay out of trouble and Brett had promised he would. He tied Spirit up at
the rail and headed through the swinging doors into the Saloon.

There was a crackling fire in the fireplace toward the back of the establishment
where most of the patrons were gathered. He grinned to see Cole behind the bar.
"Hi Cole…where's Dan and Gabe?"

Cole grinned. "Dan is over at the old saddlery wheelin' and dealin' sellin' his
leather goods. Gabe is over at the General Store. He's collectin' supplies. Said
he'd be a while and asked if I'd hold down the fort until he came back."

Brett nodded. "I've done that before for Gabe. It's kinda fun."

Cole grinned. "It is." He glanced around and then poured Brett a beer and one
for himself. "On the house. You'd better drink up."

Brett smiled and drank the beer down. It tasted good. He and Jalen had a few
drinks in the Saloon together sometimes at night when they were singing with the
girls and having a good time. The Cedar tree caught Brett's eye and he grinned.
"See you and Dan already got your tree up?"

Cole grinned. "Yep, the first day. You got yours up yet?"

Brett shook his head. "No, Jalen wants to wait until it's a little closer to

Cole nodded. "Lot's of folk like to do that."

Brett remembered the wreath he'd propped up against the bar and bent down and
placed it on the bar top. "I made this for you guys. Not sure where you'd like
to hang it."

Cole examined the wreath made of evergreens and holly with pretty red holly
berries. "I think over the fireplace would be good."

Bret looked over there and nodded. "Yes, I think you're right. They got a couple
of chairs and had the wreath hung in a bit.

Cole, stepping down from the chair wiped his brow. "Wow…that was hot work!"

Brett grinned and wiped his brow. "Sure was."

Cole led the way back to the bar and poured them each a couple of beers.

They drank them down and then poured a couple more. Brett said, "That's a nice
sidearm you have there Cole."

Cole grinned. "Yeah, Dan gave it to me for Christmas about four years ago. Said
I needed to learn to shoot. He taught me and he says I'm a pretty fair shot

Brett said, "I'm a really good shot. I was in the Rocky Mountain Gang because I
could shoot well."

Cole looked at Brett. "You were with a gang? Did they rob and stuff?"

Brett flushed a bit. "Yeah, but I had a fallin' out with the leader and left."

Cole looked at Brett askance. "I bet you can't shoot at all. You ain't even got
a gun."

Brett huffed. "Can so…the Sheriff's got my gun. Took it away the night he
arrested me. Says because I'm on probation I can't carry one."

Cole poured them another couple of beers. Sliding another one over to Brett he
challenged, "If you're as good as you say you are then you shouldn't have any
problem showin' me I can lend you my gun."

Brett said, "I'm as good as I say. I can show you."

Cole grabbed a sack, filled it with some empty liquor bottles and said, "Okay,
let's go somewhere where we can see who the best shot is."

By now each young man had consumed several glasses of beer and staggered out of
the saloon, forgetting they were supposed to be watching over things. They
stumbled into the back alley and into a field out behind the blacksmith's shop.


"Bang! Bang!" The horse Hugo O'Brian was trying to shoe balked at the loud noise
and His grip slipped on the horses hoof. "What the devil is goin' on out
there?!" He cried. "Herman…go out side and see what all the shootin' is about!"


Herman Garrett the Blacksmith's apprentice went out back and saw two young men
shooting at bottles and missing them. He shook his head and went back into the
smithy. "Mr. O'Brian, it's two young men shootin' at bottles, but they aren't
hittin' them."

Hugo said, "Go find Sheriff Brooks and tell him. Have him put a stop to it.
They're spookin' the horses."

"Yes Sir." Herman said and went to find the Sheriff.


Cole frowned as he took his third shot. "I could have sworn that one woulda

Brett chuckled and swayed a little. "Well it didn't. My turn." He took the
pistol from Cole and took three shots all that missed as well. "Hmm…he said,
"Maybe there's somethin' wrong with the gun sight?"

Cole shook his head. "It seemed to aim fine the last time I used it." He shot
off another three bullets, none of which hit the targets, burying themselves in
the dirt short of the target.

"Maybe the bottles are too far away." Brett said, squinting. "Though seems I've
shot at things further away and didn't miss then." He took three shots all of
which missed either falling short or wide of their targets.


Herman Garrett saw Sheriff Brooks coming out of the feed and seed. "Sheriff
Brooks!" Herman called.

Jalen heard the young man call to him and turned his way. "What is it Herman?"

"Mr. O'Brian asked that I find you so you can stop those two young men target
practicin' in the field out behind the smithy. It's spookin' the horses."

Jalen frowned. "Show me where Herman and I'll take care of it."

Herman showed the Sheriff to where Brett and Cole were still trying to shoot the
unbroken bottles.

When Jalen saw who the two young men were he almost groaned. He turned to
Herman. "Tell Mr. O'brian I'm takin' care of the shootin' problem."

"Yes Sir." Herman hurried to tell his boss that the Sheriff was on the job.


Jalen approached the two young men and said in a quiet firm voice that carried
to them. "Freeze!"

Brett froze. He recognized Jalen's voice.

Cole turned and seeing Jalen and the stern look on his face froze as well.

Jalen went up to Brett who still held the gun and held out his hand. "I'll take

Brett with nerveless fingers allowed the pistol to drop into the Sheriff's hand.

Jalen said in a firm, stern tone and with a jerk of his head, "The two of you to
my office…now!"

Brett turned and headed there without a word and Cole followed.

Jalen walked behind them. Once he got to the Sheriff's office he opened the door
and said, "Inside."

Cole's stomach was in knots. When an older man was giving one word orders that
wasn't good.

Brett felt nervous inside. He hadn't seen Jalen this stern since the night he
had arrested him.

Jalen got the keys and opened the cell door. "Inside." He ordered in that same
stern, firm tone.

Both young men went into the cell.

Jalen placed two buckets, one with water in it, and a basin and two cups inside
the cell. He slammed the door shut with a clang and locked it. "I'll be back."
He said tightly, turned on his heel and left the Sheriff's office.


Brett chanced a look at Cole. "Uhm…I'd say we're in big trouble."

Cole rolled his eyes. "What was your first clue?"

Brett said quietly, "Jalen's face, then this." He gestured around the jail cell.

Cole bit his lip. He knew good and well Dan was going to be furious with him. He
left Gabe's establishment without thought for what he had been trusted with. He
also had drunk without Dan and now here he was with his partner in crime locked
up in jail. He wasn't sure what the charges were, but he was sure it wouldn't be
anything good.

Brett sunk down onto the cot and put his head in his hands. "I am so dead…I
suppose this means I'll be heading to prison."

Cole gave Brett a shocked look. "Just for havin' a little innocent fun?"

Brett looked at Cole. "For you it was some innocent fun perhaps, but I have a
feeling for me it is a violation of my probation. I'm not supposed to be
handling a gun. It's against the rules."

Cole came and sat down next to Brett and placed an arm around the other young
man's shoulders. "Uhm…I'm sorry Brett. I had no idea…this is all my fault."

Brett shook his head. "No, it's my own fault. I shouldn't have been drinkin'
without Jalen around and then this wouldn't have happened." He looked quite

Cole hung his head and sat next to his friend, not knowing what to say.


Jalen was furious. He wanted to take and wring Brett's neck and Cole's too. He
had ordered the two fools who apparently had been drinking to the Sheriff's
office and then he locked them both up together for safety's sake. First so he
didn't kill Brett and second so Hugo O'Brian knew the Sheriff of Diamond Springs
was swift to respond to trouble and thirdly so the fools could sober up and not
cause further trouble. He was going to have a serious conversation with his
young outlaw. Dallas had not put up with mixing drinking with tom foolery,
especially with a weapon involved. He knew he would have been paddled soundly
and sitting would have been something not done comfortably for several days. The
two had better be glad no one was hurt by a stray bullet or something. It would
have meant prison for Brett for sure. He didn't want to lose his outlaw. He
loved him too much.


The Sheriff went over to Hugo O'Brian and smiled when he saw the older man.
"Hugo…Hi there. I found two young men who had been drinking and tryin' to shoot
some empty bottles. I've locked them up. One of them was my own young outlaw and
the other Gabe Fairmont's older brother Dan's young partner." Jalen explained.

Hugo glanced up. "Those two need to be taught a lesson. Someone could have been

Jalen nodded. "Don't worry Hugo, they will be taught a lesson one way or


Hugo nodded in understanding. He knew that their Sheriff kept a tight rein on
his young outlaw and had noticed the young man being rather uncomfortable from
time to time, although no mention was ever made of it. What the Sheriff did with
that young man was his business after all, he was in charge of him, but secretly
he was glad to know the Sheriff didn't put up with much nonsense and wasn't
afraid to teach the young man a lesson where it would do the most good

Hugo looked up at the Sheriff. "I'm glad you've taken care of things Sheriff. It
makes the town a safer place for everyone."

Jalen nodded. "Thank you Hugo. I've got to go find Dan Fairmont and let him know
what's happened."
Hugo nodded. He thought to himself that Dan was another young man he liked. He,
like their Sheriff kept a sharp eye on that young one he had with him.


Dan Fairmont had set up his leather craft in the now empty saddlery. He liked
the smell of leather that still clung to the place. The tables and work areas
were just right for him to work on some of his projects and to make adjustments
to orders he had filled. He had also had an area he could display his goods and
had an assortment of bridles and gun belts, holsters and just belts to hold up
your jeans. He had some lightweight halters, although most times they were made
of rope, leather ones were a nice change. He would like to make saddles, but
they were cumbersome to take on the road with him so he stuck to the smaller
items. He was thinking that if he had a nice place like this he could not only
make the smaller items, but he could then make saddles and harnesses as well. He
looked up as the bells over the door rung and saw Jalen entering. He saw the
look on the Sheriff's face and knew immediately there had been some trouble.

"Hello Jalen, what's wrong?"

Jalen was surprised at being read so quickly by the other man, but he explained
briefly what he had found his young partner doing.

Dan's face became grim and stern. "Cole was supposed to be watchin' the Diamond
Dust until Gabe came back from doin' his errands. Not goin' off doin' somethin'

The Sheriff's eyebrow arched. "He was? I'd better go over there and check on
things and let Gabe know his establishment is unattended." Jalen told Dan.

"I'll come with you." Dan said and locked up the borrowed store.

The two men walked over to the Diamond Dust. All was quiet. Jalen noticed the
wreath had been hung over the fireplace so Brett had at least done as he said.
He wondered how hanging a wreath had led to target shooting?

Dan glanced around the place. There was some cash sitting on the bar and he put
it in the till and said, "I'll stay here and hold down the fort."

Jalen said, "I'll find Gabe and let him know what happened. When you're able,
make your way over to the Sheriff's office."

Dan nodded. "All right Sheriff. He gave Jalen a little smile. "Then we can deal
with our miscreants."

Jalen returned the smile, the ice in his own stomach melting a bit as his own
anxiety and tension ebbed. "I'll be waiting."


Gabe came into the Diamond Dust and said to Daniel. "You go ahead over to
Sheriff Brooks. I'll unload and put things away and watch the saloon. The
Sheriff said Cole abandoned it to go off with Brett for some kind of target
shootin'. He also said some honest customers left money on the bar when they
left and that it's in the till."

Daniel nodded. "Yes, I'm sorry about this Gabe. Normally Cole is pretty

Gabe said, placing a hand on his older brother's shoulder and giving it a
squeeze, "Don't be too hard on him. He's not had much opportunity to be around a
young man his age and neither has Brett. There's bound to be mischief

Dan gave his brother a little smile. "Sometimes I wonder who's the older brother
little brother."

Gabe grinned at Daniel. "In my business you get to know people pretty well Dan,
don't worry about it. Sheriff Brooks is a fair man. I'm sure all will be
straightened out in short order."

Dan nodded. "I'm sure. He's always seemed to be a level headed man before. I
don't expect he's changed all that much."

Gabe smiled. "In some ways he has, but not in others, especially when it comes
to his job." A flash of green caught his sight and he smiled. "Well…will you
look at that. It's a beautiful wreath!"

Dan smiled. "Jalen said Brett brought it over. He apparently makes them."

Gabe went over and examined it. He noticed the red velvet ribbon and the holly
with their red berries intertwined in the perfect circle. "He must have spent
some time makin' it."

Dan nodded. "It is very well made."

Gabe gave Dan a hug around the shoulders. "You better get goin' and take care of

Dan nodded. "You're right. I will." Dan left Gabe and headed over to the
Sheriff's office.


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