It’s Monday morning, 1 a.m. so technically, I think it’s Tuesday. But I have had a huge breakthrough, the one I needed. A mighty big THANK YOU to Geoff Le Pard who took time from his Nantholgy to review my research dilemma and explain it in clear terms that made sense. Not only did it make sense, but it led to a revelation.
Two secretes held by Sarah Shull — who shot Cobb McCanles and why was Cobb accused of absconding with taxpayer’s money in North Carolina. They both were intelligent. In fact, that’s the basis of their attraction. Mary was beautiful, a fine cook and loving mother and Cobb adored her, but he couldn’t resist his wicked urges or ambitions of the mind and body around Sarah.
The revelation is that the duo repeated their deed scheme in Nebraska. It’s been there all along in the documents and histories. No one has seen it for what it is. I even felt sorry for Cobb, thinking he kept selling land or bridges or wagons and having to collect them and sell them again to someone who would pay in full. But what if he never intended for anyone to pay in full? Geoff set off my realization when he said Cobb, as sheriff in North Carolina, would have kept the deeds in his dealings. So many historians have written about his selling terms which included…him keeping the deed. He’d get some money out of each buyer, but retain the deed and sell again to someone else. And all the while, Sarah kept his books.
I revised a scene tonight and feel like I have the right tone between the two. While this is a big breakthrough, revision continues to be daunting. Irene Waters said something last week about a page and a half a day; 179 to go! And I thought, that’s why this feels so intimidating — the mind only sees a mountain to climb when all we can do is muster a step or two, but have to reach the peak in an impossible stretch. To all fellow writers in edits and revisions and new drafts, stay the course!
And here’s a bonus scene from today’s revisions:
KATE SHELL by Charli Mills
“You need to go by another name.” Sarah McCanles, Leroy’s pinch-faced wife cleared the evening meal.
Sarah slowly rose to help and calmly replied, “My name is Sarah, too.”
“Leroy, honestly, it’s confusing, two Sarah’s living here and working in the store.” When Sarah McCandles’s voice pitched to the volume of a whine, Leroy grabbed a jug and indicated with a toss of his head to Cobb that they should go out on the front porch.
Sarah envied the men their retirement to the cool evening air. “Do you ever go by another name? Like Sally?”
The other woman frowned, creating creases in her forehead. “Sally. That’s for old ladies. My mother had an Aunt Sally. Oh, do please change your name!”
After the dinner dishes were washed and dried, Leroy’s wife shuffled the two little ones off to bed and Sarah slipped outside. Cobb made room for her on the rough hewed bench. Leroy leaned against the post, staring out into the darkness. “Mountains, that direction,” he said.
“Pining for mountains again, Brother?” Cobb pulled back on the jug and took a long swig.
Leroy turned around and noticed Sarah. “Ah, it’s Sare-Bear.”
“Sare-Bear?” Sarah smiled at the silly name.
Cobb looked at her, his eyes slightly glazed. Liquor or lust. “How about Bare Sarah?”
She poked him in the ribs. “Behave, Mr. McCanles.”
“I’m behaving,” said Leroy.
Sarah shook her head. If ever two brothers had matching mirthful grins, it was this pair when in each other’s company. Too much whiskey though and they were trouble.
“Kate!” Leroy’s wife stepped outside and all three turned perplexed looks her direction.
“Who’s Kate, Wife?”
“She is,” pointing at Sarah.
Cobb chuckled low in his chest. “You were a bonnie Scot in disguise all this time.”
“I don’t think so. No one seems to be confused. Traders respectfully call you Mrs. Leroy McCanles, and they call me Sarah.”
“I hate that! My name ain’t Leroy! You can be Kate and they can call me Sarah. Kate Shell. That’s your name and I’m going to tell everyone it is, that’s all there is to it.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake, woman!”
Everyone turned to look at Leroy who seemed more surprised than any at what he just said. His wife, eyes wide and filling with tears, screeched and ran back into the cabin. Coyotes across the flat responded with yips.
“Leroy, there’s a reason our father always said never swear in front of the women folk. You might be sleeping in the barn tonight.”
Sarah covered her face with palms to hide her want to laugh.
“Damn it. I—” Leroy looked sideways at Sarah. “Sorry.”
Sarah couldn’t hold back and laughed loud.
Leroy reached for the jug, but Cobb held it back. “Think you had enough, already.” He joined Sarah in laughing. Leroy headed to the barn, muttering and a few words Sarah could distinctly detect as swearing.
Cobb walked her across the dark yard to the back of the stone structure that would be the post office soon. She stepped through the door and turned to face him, leaning against the frame. “Come in?”
He breathed deep like a man smelling dogwood blossoms. “Best get home to Mary.”
“Hey.” Cobb reached for her hand.
It felt small, gripped in his larger one. “Yes?” Her voice was breathy and inwardly she said a few of Leroy’s choice words.
“I’m thinking of selling the toll-bridge.” He kissed the palm of her hand.
“I wondered when we might get around to such.” She smiled like a real mistress.If she couldn’t have Cobb in her bed, she could have his clever ambitions to plan and hide.
“Think of some terms. Goodnight, Rosebud.”
Terms. Yes, there would be terms. Down payment. Deed, of course, she’d keep that filed. Difficult terms to meet. The new owners would never really own it. He who has the deed…it was her comforting thought as she readied for bed. Kate Shell. Maybe she could take an alias. No matter. Folk would be slow to catch on in this Territory. Rumors seeped out of North Carolina, but no one really understood how Cobb made off with the cold hard cash and left the bondsmen bickering over land deeds. It would take Weith years to sort it all out. Before turning down the covers she lightly tapped her fingers on the leather ledger.
No one knew Cobb like she did.