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The Strange White Man 45

Carpenter left long before Sunrise which allowed the Monk to return to his research. He double and triple checked his findings and each time the answer he arrived at was the same.

"There is only one way to test this theory, but if I am wrong I fear it might prove fatal," he said to his reflection.

Back at the ranch Carpenter found Holly waiting for him. She embraced and kissed him as soon as he stepped through the door. She handed him a tall bottle of cows blood and he drained it in one drink.

"We have more to talk about," Carpenter said.

"About what?"

"Do you want to remain here all Winter?" he asked.

"I never really thought about it. What are you thinking?" she responded.

"That gambler we met in the territorial capital mentioned that San Francisco has become a wonderful place to stay and it might the perfect time for a visit."

"That sounds like a good idea, but we will need a place to stay," she responded.

"We can live on the rail car until a suitable place can be found."

"What about the ranch?" she asked.

"Marcus and the rest of the hands will tend to it."

"Well I guess that the only thing left to do is decide where to have our wedding and I have a suggestion," Holly stated.

"Tell me your suggestion?"

"We can have it at the Cactus Flower," she responded with a smile.

"Why there?" Carpenter inquired.

"Well it was there that I first laid eyes on you."

"Ah yes, my first meeting with Texas Jack. I had interrupted you two and you tried to kill me later that evening," Carpenter recalled.

They can provide all the food and drinks for a small price and we can invite the whole town," Holly suggested with a smile.

"Not a bad idea at that. We will go into town tomorrow and speak to the owner before I visit the Monk," Carpenter responded taking her into his arms.

The owner of the Cactus Flower was approached by Carpenter and Holly the following evening with a request for a few moments of his time. He left the bar and they went to his office in order to have some peace and quiet, it was there that they asked about using his place for their wedding.

He was overjoyed that Holly thought of using his establishment. He hugged and kissed her and then shook hands with Carpenter and congratulated him.

"You two leave everything to me. Mr. Carpenter, I will need a couple heads of cattle for meals," he explained.

"I shall instruct my foreman to give you whatever you need," Carpenter responded.

Soon the whole town was buzzing about the upcoming wedding and where it was to be held. Many folks thought it was a great idea as Holly had been a part of the Establishment shortly after she arrived in town sixteen years ago.

Everyone was invited, even those passing through town.

News of the upcoming wedding soon reached the tiny town of Sinking Wells. Stiles listened with great interest as a passing cowhand talked about the upcoming wedding in Springwood. All were invited to stop in and toast the newlyweds.

Stiles no longer looked like he did when he was banished from Springwood. His hair was longer and he now sported a full beard. He had lost weight working by the hot forge all day and his chest and arms had filled out, he was now unrecognizable.

He thanked the cowpuncher for the information and began making plans to attend this wedding.This would be the perfect opportunity to expose that dance hall girl for what she really was and this time there would be a roomful of witnesses.

Back in Springwood Holly was making plans to travel to the capital as she wanted to purchase the perfect dress to be married in. Carpenter thought it was foolish as he didn't care what she wore.

"Carpenter, I want to look like a bride worthy of a Prince and not some dance hall whore in a white dress," told him

Carpenter took her in his arms and kissed her deeply," You are never to refer to yourself as a whore again. If you are going to the capital you might as well bring some more gold to turn into paper money."

He then grabbed a few empty bags and sprinted toward the cave and disappeared into its inky darkness. He stopped at his resting place to recover his pick axe before he moved on. Each time he was forced to venture deeper into the mine and found the veins bigger that the earlier ones he had dug out.

He exited just before dawn and raced to the house. He then spent the daylight hours in bed wrapped in Holly's arms where he remained until just after sundown and then headed to town. His first stop was the Cactus Flower where he informed Texas Jack that another trip to the capital was needed as soon as possible. Texas Jack informed him that he would be ready.

He then headed to his rail car. He asked Brother Sebastian about performing the wedding ceremony and he told Carpenter that it would be his pleasure. Soon he was placed in a hypnotic state and his mind was sent racing backwards in time.

He was instructed to remember what had occurred after he had warned the new King not to attempt to marry the Princess.He saw himself reading from the books on the old and dusty shelves in Felsar's lair as he waited for his old mentor to return, he did not wait long.

Felsar informed him that he had spent most of the day with the new King answering hundreds of questions put to him.

"Questions about what?" Carpenter asked.

"Questions about ghosts," Felsar answered as he poured himself a generous portion of wine.

"Does he believe?"

"I think so. Now if he listens to the warnings the Princess will return home and you will lose her. If she marries him you will still be able to see her."

"The thought of her and another man in bed together makes me crazy. I could follow her to her home," the Prince responded.

"Where will you hide yourself during the daylight hours? I doubt if that castle boasts the same secret places that this one does."

Later that evening the Prince once again visited the room of the Princess and he was surprised to find her awake. She embraced him and they shared a lovers kiss and then she pulled him onto the balcony.

He spent the next few hours questioning her about her ancestral home. Did it have any secret chambers or hidden rooms? What about the stables? There seemed to be no place in her Father's castle that was not accessible to anyone.

"If it means not being separated from you then I will marry the King," she said sadly.

Just then the door to her room was kicked open and the King and a dozen guards burst in accompanied by the Princess's parents.

"Fiend, Monster, stay away from her," the new King ordered.

They watched as the young Prince's fangs appeared in his mouth and he hissed a warning for them to stand back. The royal guards raised their crossbows and aimed at the Prince.

"Stand back or I will order them to fire," the King warned.

The Prince did not move, he only hissed a warning again and the King gave the order to fire. As they did the Princess stepped in between the arrows and their target and screamed for them to stop. The arrows meant for the Prince went into the Princess.

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