Sisters of Mercy Flats Online Page 0,1

head,” Sister Anne-Marie said. “We began the journey with twenty-five hundred, but we suffered losses along the way.”

Sister Abigail reached to lay her hand upon Anne-Marie’s arm. “Still, we have been most fortunate. The Lord has smiled upon us, for we only lost sixty-seven head in all.”

Sister Anne-Marie nodded, clearly repentant. “Of course, Sister. We have been most blessed.”

“You must have had good grass and water along the way. The cattle appear to be well fed,” A.J. noted.

“The Lord smiled on us, Mr. Donavan.”

“Well, ladies,” the cattle baron nodded, “if you’re willing to sell the longhorns at market price—”

“Oh no, sir.” Sister Anne-Marie held up a hand to stop him. “We couldn’t do that.”

“Now ma’am, as fine as those cattle are I’d have to think about paying above market price.” His expression said that he wasn’t about to be fleeced, even by a nun. “You got a mighty fine herd, but I couldn’t pay above three dollars a head.”

“Kind sir, it would only be fair if we sold the cattle for a dollar a head below market price,” the nun insisted.

“A dollar below market price?”

“Below market price,” she stated firmly, and Sister Abigail and Sister Amelia nodded in solemn agreement. “It is imperative that we sell the cattle and return to the mission as quickly as possible. The vaqueros who have so kindly helped us drive the cattle here have families who need tending, and the return trip is long and arduous. Even if we leave before sunset, we shall travel for days before we reach home again. Since it is we who find ourselves on the horns of this dilemma, it is hardly fair to ask you to pay market price.” Sister Anne-Marie glanced at Sister Abigail and Sister Amelia, who were again nodding in full agreement. “If you want the cattle, the herd is yours for a dollar a head below market price.”

A.J. turned to face the room. “You’re sure? A dollar a head below market? You all are witness to the offer?”

Men’s heads nodded in unison.

“We are quite certain,” Sister Anne-Marie said. “If we are able to begin our return journey back to the mission within the hour, the sacrifice will be warranted.”

“Sister,” A.J. said, extending his hand, “you just got yourself a deal.”

Sister Anne-Marie smiled. “May God richly bless you, Mr. Donavan, as He has so richly blessed us.”

“If you’ll wait right here, it’ll only take me a minute to go to the bank and get your draft.”

“Cash,” the sister corrected. “Cash would be most suitable.”

“Cash it’ll be.” Reaching for his hat, A.J. motioned to the bartender. “Get the sisters a glass of sarsaparilla while they’re waiting.”

The women exchanged a glance, their eyes silently condoning the slight stimulation.

The clock on the wall slowly ticked away the minutes as the sisters sat at a table near the doorway, sipping their sarsaparilla. The men had drifted to one corner of the bar, obviously trying to look inconspicuous until Donavan returned with the money.

Exactly fifteen minutes from the time he left, A.J. reentered the bar. The sisters quietly rose when he hurried toward their table.

“Here you are.” He pressed a large brown envelope into Sister Anne-Marie’s hand. “You’ll find the full amount, plus an extra hundred.” He offered a benevolent smile. “A little something for the mission from me.”

“Bless you, Mr. Donavan. Bless you.” Sister Anne-Marie squeezed his hand and then carefully tucked the envelope beneath her robe. “If you will be so kind as to provide a piece of paper and pencil, I will write you a bill of sale.”

The bartender rummaged around and eventually came up with a label torn from a whiskey bottle.

“And something to write with?”

A piece of charcoal was located, and Sister Anne-Marie quickly wrote out the bill of sale on the back of the label, signing her name in bold letters.

“And now, gentlemen, if you will excuse us we must gather our men and be on our way.”

“Of course, Sister. Mighty good doin’ business with you.”

A.J. and the men stepped back as the three sisters floated across the room, the whispering hems of black habits disappearing out the door.

Breathing a sigh of relief, the men returned to the card game as A.J. stepped up to the bar.

“Well, Mr. Donavan, looks like you got yourself a real fine deal,” the barkeep congratulated as he filled A.J.’s glass.

“Yes, sir,” A.J. tucked the bill of sale away in his pocket. “It ain’t often a man falls into a herd of prime longhorns and comes out smelling