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   Chapter 1 The Pickle Barrel

Loving River By LadyRosabella Characters: 16183

Updated: 2017-12-20 16:05

Hey ya'll! I just wanted to dedicate this chapter to wildnfree999. Check out their story: Edges of Blythe! I loved it and I'm sure you will too! It's pretty cool! Enjoy! And have a great day!!!??

And now: chapter one of Loving River!

"Shhh." Willow murmured as held her daughter closer. The poor child was terrified, and she had reason to be. The sound of men talking could be heard through the wooden doors. It wasn't easy to hear what they were saying but Willow knew how the conversation would go.

Robert Krillin had come for his rent. The deal had been that the rent would be paid when the crops came in. The weather refused to cooperate however and Mr. Krillin was not a merciful man.

The shouting was getting louder and Willow heard her daughter whimper as she press closer to her.

"Mama, I'm scared." River whispered with a sob.

"Shh, River girl." Willow comforted. "Don't worry-" Her statement cut off then as a particularly loud bellow was made above. Making a decision, Willow pulled away so she could see her girl's a face. "River girl, you listen to me now. I'm going up stairs to help your papa convince-"

"No, Mama!" River cried as she clung to her mother tighter then before.

"River." Willow gently pulled her daughter's hand free. She tilted the girls face up and spoke in her no nonsense tone. "You stay in this cellar. Hide if you have to but do not come out. I don't want Mr. Krillin to see you again. Do you understand me?"

Unable to speak through the sheer terror that was clogging her throat, River nodded.

"I'm going to diffuse this discussion outside. You wait for me, River girl. I will be back."

River nodded and felt her mama pull away.

"Do not leave this cellar, River." Willow warned, then she was gone.

River wrapped her arms around her knees and pulled them to her chest. "Dear God, please help my mama and my papa. Please God, save them." Over and over she repeated her short heartfelt prayer as she sat on the cold hard packed ground rocking back and forth.


River sat in the cellar for a long time listening to the hum of adult voices, when a particularly sharp voice caught her attention. "We would never agree to that!" She heard her mama cry.

"I will take my payment!" Mr. Krillin bellowed. "One way or another."

"But she's a our daughter!"

"Please, we only need-"

"I have needs too, woman and I am done waiting!"

River jumped at the quick succession of gunshots. Trembling beyond believe, River rose to shaky feet.

They had been eating supper when Mr. Krillin had arrived. Her papa was not armed. Those gunshots meant something horrible had happened.

'You stay in this cellar.' She remembered her mama saying. 'Hide if you have to but do not come out." River glanced around the dark cellar. Where should she hide? If they opened the cellar door the sun would fill the hole with light. She would be found. Holding her hands out in front of herself, River cautiously walked forward. She found the shelving her papa had built for when the garden was ready. She nearly stumbled over her papa's old saddle. Undaunted, she continued forward hoping to find a safe place before the cellar was searched.

"Find me that girl." Mr. Krillin announced. "I'll take her as payment."

"But Papa, what do you need a girl for?"

"Find me that girl." Mr. Krillin growled. " I have plans for her." Loud rambunctious laugher followed his statement.

River knocked her knee against something hard. She's clamped her small hand over her mouth to keep from crying out. Reaching her other hand out carefully, she leaned forward until her hand came to rest on the object before her. A barrel. A pickle barrel. She remembered the time her mama and she had been playing hide and seek. She hid in the pickle barrel. It took mama a long time to find her and when she did she kissed River's head and told her that was the best hiding place she had come up with so far. That was last summer though. River pulled off the lid and hoped that she still fit as she crawled inside. It felt tighter then the last time but she could make it work. River dropped the lid on the barrel just as the cellar doors opened. She held her breath.


Zane stared at the lifeless brown eyes staring up at him. Dead. The woman and man were dead. River's parents. He turned his gaze to his father as the men returned their guns to their holsters. His father had murdered an innocent couple, and a woman at that! And he showed no regret. Of course he wouldn't. Zane knew his father had no conscience. But what would poor River do? She couldn't be more then seven. For her sake, Zane hoped she found a hiding place. A good hiding place. He didn't want his father to lay one bloody hand on that little girl.

"Search the cellar." Robert Krillin instructed. "That's where the woman came from and I bet her brat isn't far behind."

Zane ran ahead of the men and opened the cellar door. He purposely made plenty of noise as he clomped down the narrow wooden steps. He blinked as his vision adapted to the darkness. When he was finally able to see about the small cellar he breathed a deep sigh of relieve. River was no where in sight.

"Don't just stand there, ya lazy lout." His father snarled. "Search the place. She's probably hiding. Cryin' like a baby." He laughed as the other men made their way into the small cellar.

Zane scanned the cellar. Where would a small girl hide? His gaze landed on a dusty pickle barrel standing in the corner. He casually made his way over to it. He might as well begin his search here. He lifted the lid and froze.

A small head lifted and large brown eyes blinked at him. Beautidul dark brown eyes. Eyes exactly like her mama's. A tear slid down the girl's cheek. Please? She mouthed.

Zane pressed his lips together and gave a slight nod before dropping the lid back in place. He gave the barrel a gentle kick, "Nothing in there except

A bunch of stinky pickles. " he declared to the men.

"We shoulda kept the woman alive." Hefty grunted as he kicked a loos stone. Hefty was the man who didnt pull his weight but had plenty of suggestions. He always had advice for Zane. "We couldve at least had a bit of fun with her."

"It's the girl I want. I can train her." Robert said as he looked around the cellar in disgust. He was sure the girl would be down here. Where could she be? "Hefty, go check the house."

"Aw, Boss. It's already past dinner time." Hefty whined scratching his food incrested beard.

"We might as well eat." Zane offered. He moved towards the door hoping the others would follow. "She can't hide forever. You'll find her, Pa."

Robert chuckled. It was a cracked, harsh sound. "Yer right, boy. She can't stay holed up forever." His filthy boots clomped up the steps. "Come on."

Zane wanted to look towards the pickle barrel again but he was afraid someone would notice and grow suspcious. He couldn't have that. River was almost safe. He just needed to play it smart and she would be free for awhile longer. Zane hated the obsession his father had with the child. At age 13, Zane was a 'man of the world'. Life was rough with his father. He lived through more in his few short years then normal people did in their whole life. Zane dropped the doors down to cover over the cellar. He hurried to catch up with his father and the fellas. He kept his eyes straight ahead, refusing to even glance at the man and woman becoming one with the earth.


"I'm sick of it!" Fritz threw the can of beans at Hefty. Hefty turned his head and snarled at the man when the can connected with Hefty's chest. "What's that fer?"

"I'm plumb sick of beans!" Friz complained.

"So don't throw them at me!" Hefty exclaimed. "I didn't grow the beans."

"Someone did and you might as well take the blame!" Fritz countered unreasonably. "Beans! Beans! Beans! Nobody ever said if I became an outlaw all I'd ever eat was beans!"

"Would you've chosen a different profession if you'd known?" Zane looked up from the wooden wolf he was making. He wa

s curious to hear Fritz' answer. In Zane's mind there was nothing good about this miserable life he was forced to live. Forced. Who said? His father wasn't tying him here. He could leave if he wanted. He was old enough to go off. Maybe he could spend some time cowboying-

"Sure! If I'd settled down and been a farmer at least I would've had a homecooked meal everyday."

"That's another reason we shoulda kept the woman alive." Hefty grumbled. "She coulda cooked us somethin'."

Zane bristled at Hefty constantly refering to River's mama as 'the woman'. The term held no respect. No regret except what her existance would've given him. It angered Zane to see the heartlessnes of this group. They didn't seem to care or even notice that a man and woman were dead for no reason! Unable to sit any longer listening to them, Zane stood abruptly. "I'm gonna go catch a rabbit or something." He mumbled.

"Go fishing." Hefty suggested. "I could go for some fish tonight." Hefty loved fish but he was too lazy to do anything for it.

Taking his shotgun, Zane wordlessly headed off. He walked through the tall grass until he was far enough away from the gang. Then he turned and ran toward town. He ran hard, pumping his fists and weaving around a small grove of trees. Grasshoppers flew as he tore his way through the grass. Soon the small town came into view, but he didn't stoop or even slow down. He knew where he was headed and knew he had to get there fast.

The small wooden house came into view as Zane neared the edge of town. He hoped that Mrs. Kate Christian was at home. Despite his horrible parentage, she had always treated Zane kindly. She gave him the small taste of mothering that he longed for. He knew that Mrs. Christian had been friend's with River's mama. He'd seen them talking at the mercantile before. Dashing up the porch steps, Zane didn't even catch his breath before he knocked pounded on the door.

"I'm coming!" He heard a woman call. Leaning over, Zane fought to catch his breath. He was used to running but for some reason, today he couldn't catch his breath. His mind whirled with the horrific events of this morning. His heart seemed to pound of its own accord.

Mrs. Christian opened the door and gasped. "Goodness, Zaney. Are you alright, boy? Come in dear." She said wrapping and arm around his thin shoulders and ushering him inside.

Zane shrugged away. "I can't, Mrs. Kate. You gotta go. You've gotta help her. She's all alone, Mrs. Kate. Will you go to her?" Zane knew he wasn't making any sense but he could't seem to help it. He had lived through many 'buisness dealings', as his father called them, but today was different. Today had struck too closely to home. It hurt him to see the girl's pain, to sense her loneliness, to see those bodies on the ground.

"Goodness, love! You're making no sense. Now calm down a wee bit and tell me what the trouble is. Who needs help now?" Mrs. Kate gripped his shoulders and looked him directly in the face. "Talk to me, Zane."

"River. My pa killed her folks for not having the crop money. He wouldn't wait for it, Mrs. Kate! She's in a pickle barrel in the cellar. I found her but I didn't want my pa to know. He'd hurt her, Mrs. Kate."

"You're right." Mrs. Kate took the information in a stride. She was well accustomed to Robert Krillin's deeds. "You run off now before they come looking for you." She pulled Zane into a tight hug. He wrapped his arms around her seeming to enjoy the brief contact with another human. "Don't worry about River. I'll take care of her."

Zane nodded and pulled away. "Thanks." He said before taking the porch steps two at a time.


He paused and turned towards the middle aged women in the pink apron.

"You're a good boy, Zane. Don't ever forget it. And rememeber, there's no such thing as bad blood."

Zane nodded once and then he was gone.


Terrified and lonely, River stayed in the barrel. She was afraid if she climbed out she would see Mr. Krillin and he would hurt her. Her mama didn't want Mr. Krillin to see her. He was a horrible man. Several tears slid down her cheeks. She knew her parents were dead. The men would've never gotten into the cellar if her parents were alive. She prayed that Zane wouldn't tell his pa where she was. So she stayed in the barrel and tried to calm her terror.

River didn't know how long she had been asleep in the barrel, until the sqeaking of the cellar hinges woke her up. She legs were throbbing with pins and needles and her neck hurt. She didn't dare move though for fear that the men had returned.

"River?" A soft female voice called. It sounded like Mrs. Kate, but River wasn't thinking rationially. To her everyone seemed to be an enemy bound to hurt her. She trembled inside the barrel and fought to withold her sobs.

Soft footsteps padded across the dirt floor. Then the lid to the barrel lifted, and River looked up to see Mrs. Kate peering down at her. "Oh, you poor dear." She crooned. Rather then waiting for River to make the first move, Mrs. Kate reached in and pulled the small girl from the cramped pickle barrel. She hugged her tightly and River melted into her soft caring embrace. She wrapped her arms and legs around Mrs. Kate and seemed to cling to her for dear life. Mrs. Kate didn't speak and neither did River. They just stood in the cellar hugging each other tightly.


Twelve Years Later

"He's out."

"Who is?" Zane asked as he leafed through the stack of wanted posters on his desk. His deputy, Micah, leaned against the cold stove.

"Your pa."

Zane froze. The wanted poster in his hand was forgotten as his brain registered Micah's words. As always, thoughts of his pa brought thoughts of River. A day didn't pass that he did'n't think of the young girl. He wondered what she had become, how she had coped.


Zane met Micah's green eyes.

"He wants River."

Zane's chair hit the floor as he shoved it backward and stood. "What does he want her for! He's an old man! He's already ripped her world apart. When will he leave her alone?"

Micah shrugged. "I don't know. I just heard that he's been asking around for her. He's been checking different town's trying to locate her."

Zane strode for the coatrack near the door. He slapped his hat on his head and checked his guns.

"We going someplace?" Micah asked with a small knowing smile.

"We're going to get River."

Micah laughed and pushed past Zane. "I thought you'd say that." He gestured to bays tied to the hand rail. "Lead the way to your pretty lady."

Zane mounted his horse, and turned toward her toward the east. "She's not mine."

"Yet." Micah mumbled as they rode past the livery and mercantile. "What'cha planning?"

Zane didn't acknowledge Micah's question for several long minutes as they rode throught the empty countryside. It had taken Zane twelve long years to break free from all the probelms life with his father had caused him. He still wasn't fully recovered from the last time he had met up with his pa. He had the scars to prove it. During the last four years, Zane had put a lot of men behind bars, he rescued many innocent folks, stopped more stage robberies then he careed to remember. But his father. His father proved to be his most formible enemy. After years of searching and tracking, Zane had finally come across his father's gang with help from Micah. The man ended up behind bars. But it wasn't enough. Zane would not rest until his father was gone for good. Jail couldn't reform him. His father was way past saving. There was only one thing left for him to do. And he was ready for it.

"Zane. What's the plan?"


"Kill him?"

"All of them."






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