The next day was Saturday, my favorite day of the week. No school and all day to ride Taffy! But I had resolved I would help Chad any way I could to figure out what Donovan was sticking around for.
Even though it meant skipping out on a wonderful sunny day, my sister was more important to me than a horseback ride. I decided to start at the bottom and work my way up. First stop: Melinda.
“So, Melinda, what do you think of Donovan?” I asked, plopping myself on my sister’s neatly made bed and watching her brush her hair out.
“Isn’t he wonderful, Andi? He has such fine manners, such a rarity in the West.” Melinda sighed dreamily.
“Yeah, I noticed. So, you like him then?” I prodded.
“Of course I like him!” Melinda exclaimed. “I wouldn’t let a man court me if I didn’t like him!”
“True,” I mused. I thought about my next question carefully, then said, “So, when did you meet up with him again, and when did he ask Justin to court you?”
“When Mother and I went to San Francisco a couple of weeks ago he was meeting with Justin to see if Justin would represent him in court. I guess the poor man bought a piece of land near that small town Santa Rosa, only to discover it didn’t even exist in the first place.”
Melinda turned and faced me as she continued to brush her long blond hair. “He’s pressing charges against the man who ripped him off, but Justin says there is no proof of Donovan purchasing the land and therefore his case will never stand up in court.”
Now there could be a motive. Perhaps Donovan wanted to get something from Justin so he could get his money back from that realtor fraud!
The rest of Melinda’s story was full of the usual fluff of her relationship with Donovan, and gushing with flowers and candy, which I didn’t listen to very well at all. All I could think about was what Donovan could possibly get from Justin that would help him press charges.
That afternoon Donovan came over on his flashy, black Tennessee Walker. I stuck around the entire two hours he talked with Melinda to see if I could learn anything, but the only thing they talked about was what they should do after church on Sunday.
I finally got so tired waiting for Donovan to slip up in his conversation that I meandered over to the front door and went outside to sit on the steps that led to our house. I stared at a ladybug climbing up a nearby dandelion and sighed. I wasted my whole Saturday for nothing. Perhaps I was wrong; maybe Donovan was a normal man who was interested in marrying my sister someday.
I heard the sound of hoof beats and raised my head to see Jesse Young, the telegraph operator’s assistant, galloping up to the ranch. He brought his sorrel Quarter horse to a stop in front of me and tipped his hat.
“Hi, Andi.” He greeted me with a smile. “Is Justin around? A telegram came in for him from Georgia.”
“No, he’s out with Mitch checking on the cattle in the north pasture,” I told Jesse. “I can take the telegram for him if you want, though.”
“Thanks. I’ve had a long day,” Jesse said with a sigh, removing his hat to scratch his sandy blond hair. He reached into his pocket and handed me the telegram. “See you around.”
“Bye.” I waved goodbye and glanced down at the telegram in my hands. What I read made my heart stop.