I hope you enjoy part-3 of Being Little Sister. I've titled it...
The following day they stopped in the small town of Coaldale, Nevada, about 30 miles from the California border.
"Peter and I are going to get some supplies," Mitch said to Andi when they stopped at a hitching rail and watering trough. "Why don't you head over to the telegraph office and send a wire to Chad?"
"Sure." Andi replied and left on her errand. She was happy to be out in the fresh late summer day. But she was rather saddened at the same time, knowing this was the last leg of the journey.
After entering the tiny telegraph office, she wrote a quick note to Chad. Simply telling him they had gotten a good price on the cattle and were on their way home. She scrawled her name at the bottom and handed it, and some money, to the man behind the counter.
The operator studied the paper. "Carter...seems I've seen that somewhere lately." He looked up at Andi and asked. "Have you got a minute?"
Andi shrugged. "Sure."
He crossed the area behind the counter and began searching through some cluttered papers across the top of a long table. He snatched up an envelope out from under a stack of mail. "Mitchell Carter." He returned to the counter. "Any relation to you, Miss?"
Andi nodded. "Yes, sir. That's my brother."
"Well then, here you go." He smiled and handed her the envelope. "It came in yesterday." Andi stepped away from the counter, unfolded the paper, and read:
Chad threw from horse stop hurt bad stop hurry home stop Justin
Her hands began to tremble. Andi mumbled her thanks to the man and hurried outside. She glanced around and, spotting Mitch and Peter coming up the street toward her, rushed over to them.
"Mitch! We have to go home!"
Mitch laughed. "We are going home." His expression quickly changed when he saw the look on his sister's face. "Andi, what's wrong?"
"The telegraph operator gave me this. It's from Justin." She handed him the telegram and watched his face darken as he read it.
"What's wrong?" Peter asked. Mitch handed him the paper. "We'll head home right now."
"We could go through Breakwater Canyon. It is the quickest way to get home." Peter suggested. It was the next morning and the three were eating breakfast around a campfire. The previous night they had rode towards home until they came to a split in the road. Right through Breakwater Canyon or left towards Carson City.
Mitch nodded, hesitantly. "I thought of that."
Andi and Peter exchanged a look. She had been thinking the same thing. "Mitch, I know what Mr. Gunthrie said. But if Chad's hurt as bad as Justin's telegram said shouldn't we take the chance?" Andi was plenty worried about Chad and the lack of conversation since they left Coaldale told her Mitch was as well.
Mitch stared into the dying embers. Just when Andi had decided he wasn't going to answer her he did.
"Alright. We'll go through Breakwater Canyon on one condition."
"We'll have to disguise you as a boy."
"What?!" Andi exclaimed.
Peter appeared as confused as Andi felt.
Mitch looked back and forth from his sister to his friend. "Don't you understand?" Mitch turned to Peter. "If we get arrested and tell them Andi is my brother they'll put her behind bars too, and-"
"What good will that do?" Peter asked, fairly certain Mitch had lost his mind.
"I'm not finished. If Andi's with us then at least I'd know where she is. If not there's no telling what they'll have done with her by the time we get out of jail for whatever cooked up charge they try to pin us with."
"I still don't understand." Peter muttered.
"You sound pretty sure that they're going to try and nab us." Andi put in.
Mitch shook his head and turned back to Andi. "I'm not sure, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. What do you say, little sister?"
Andi shrugged. "I don't really see the point. But if that's what you think we should do, I don't mind. I'm just worried about Chad."
Mitch nodded. "That's why we need to hurry. If we get a move on we can pass through Breakwater sometime tonight. I'd rather not stop there for the night, so if it's alright with you two we'll go on through Breakwater and camp somewhere past it." Andi and Peter both agreed.
Mitch looked Andi over, head to toe. "Let's see your overalls and shirt will work fine." He studied her braids and frowned. "Do you think you could somehow get your hair to stay hid under that hat?"
Andi shrugged. "I can try."
While Andi attempted to make her long dark hair stay hidden under her felt hat, Peter broke camp. After several tries she managed to keep it mostly hidden and somewhat resembling a boy's.
"That's pretty good." Mitch grinned. "Peter, what do ya think?"
Peter nodded. "I think she'll pass as a boy, as long as we give no one a reason to question her."
Mitch's forehead wrinkled. "What do you mean?"
"Think about it, Mitch. She doesn't exactly sound like a boy." Peter pointed out.
Mitch groaned. "Oh, no. I didn't think about that." He shifted his gaze back to Andi. "Let's see what you can do."
Andi cleared her throat and tried to make her voice sound rough and boyish. "Howdy, there."
Despite their situation, Mitch and Peter laughed. Andi joined in. She did not sound like a boy.
Mitch shook his head, still chuckling. "That's not going to work."
"You could say I have a cold, and can't talk." Andi suggested. She really wanted to get home to Chad as quickly as possible.
"Hey, You might have something, sis." Mitch's face lit up. "We'll say you can't talk!"
"That's what I just said. Pretend I have a cold and-"
Mitch shook his head. "Not a cold. We'll tell anyone that asked that you're mute."
"Mute?" Andi exclaimed. Peter just chuckled and left to saddle the horses.
"Yes, Andi. Mute. Let's see...we could say your name is Andrew, that way if Peter or myself slip and call you 'Andi' no one will be the wiser."
Andi was still confused. "Andrew?"
"Sure. My mute brother, Andrew. Do you mind?"
"No...Uh...I guess not. I just don't see what good it'll do."
"Hopefully none, but then again it may do a lot of good. Let's hit the road."
Glancing around the wooded campsite to be certain they weren't leaving anything behind, Andi spotted the box of matches Mitch had used to light the fire the night before. She snatched them up, stuck it in her overall pocket, and didn't give them a second thought.
Although Andi didn't know it then, those matches would be of great use later on...
What will happen next? What will Andi do with those matches?
Author's Note: Tonopah NV, where the cattle were bought, is a real Nevada town. Coaldale also was at one point in time, but Breakwater Canyon is entirely fictitious.
Here's a picture of this story's bad guy. Hehe. ;P 'm not going to tell his name, but you will get to meet him next week. A certain one of you already knows him...and the end result of the story. You know who you are and you're sworn to secrecy! LOL:)