New Beginning

by Q'Mar

Notes: Occurs March to May 1998, Thanks to Kitipurr for an idea or two! My Non Fic reading Mother says this is a two hanky story at least. Warning Very Sharp Reality Turns, This is the Story that begins the Weirdness for the Traviner.
Very Long, after all Stagecoach trips take time! <Gryn>

Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven belongs to Mirisch Entertainment Inc., with all rights and privileges thereof. This work is a work of fanfiction, for the amusement of the author and fandom who have nothing else to do since they aren’t making any more episodes of the show. No money or other renumeration has exchanged hands, this is just for fun, guys! All other Characters and shows belong to their respective owners, Three Characters, Alliance, Atlantis, etc. No intentional infringement intended.

Some text was taken from the original Magnificent Seven Episode, "Ghosts of the Confederacy"

The "How did JD get there?" challenge: In the old west a stagecoach ride could take weeks for a person to actually make their destination. JD was born in New York according to the official website, and New York was quite a city even back then. Culture Shock would be the least of the things that JD would face en-route to Four Corners. Although he read Dime novels, he probably wasn’t prepared. Tell me a story about what happened to the ‘kid’ before he jumped off of that stagecoach. It doesn’t have to be OW, it can be anything, but make it long, just like the trip!
Extra points if you can work in three really unexpected things!

SIZE: Approx. 310K

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Dunne Apartment
Fourth Floor,
New York City
May 1998

JD Dunne walked around the now empty apartment for the last time. Barely five hours had passed since he buried his mother. Now he was leaving the only home he’d known forever. It hadn’t taken long to pack, the furniture belonged to the landlord and most everything of value the Dunnes had owned had gone to pay for Rachel Dunne’s Cancer treatments. Every thing JD had left had easily fit into the two denim saddlebags his mother had made for his motorcycle.

The motorcycle itself sat in the corner of the kitchen, as it had since JD bought it. Being old and battered had saved it from the sale, and Rachel Dunne had pleaded with her son not to sell it. His mother hadn’t wanted him to be totally helpless in the world and she had known that the motorcycle meant independence for her child. Fortunately, there was enough, just enough money from selling off everything else to pay off all of Rachel’s debts. There was no weighty burden of financial obligation hanging over her son. But then again there was little left to make a new start. Only the bike and Rachel’s inherited Dunne wedding ring were able to be spared from the sale. Even the picture frames from around the family photographs had been sold. For the last several months the pictures of the people Rachel had loved and lost hung on the wall courtesy of masking tape.

JD unconsciously tapped the left pack to make certain that the precious photos, now tucked into his baby book, were still there. Most young men his age might find such pictures embarrassing, but to JD they were all he had left and therefore priceless. The ring box and some old toys were carefully rolled up in his clothes. His grief made him feel a hundred years old, but he was still young, only twenty-two though he looked sixteen. There had never been a time in his life without his mother’s presence, and now here he was uncertain of his feelings.

He twisted his keys in his hand, running a wistful touch across the constellation key tag his mother bought him that long summer years ago. Rachel Dunne had tried to make the most of every opportunity available to her. There was no chance that she’d ever be able to give JD the life he ‘deserved’ but she’d given him the best of everything out there. The planetarium tickets had been a real treat. Discarded by the Toffler children as ‘boring’, but for the curious young man and his poverty-stricken mother they’d been the treasures of a lifetime. Every time they could get away, the Dunnes went to the Star shows that summer. Naturally lively and kind, JD had made so many friends among the staff, that if he was honest with himself, he could guess how they’d ended up with season passes for the museums the next couple of years. So many people had reached out to be kind to them. It was hard for his mother to accept, but she wouldn’t allow the opportunities to pass by, not for her son. Even if she couldn’t go, she made sure that he could. Anything that JD wanted, Rachel would try to make happen. JD found himself remembering how he’d insisted that they dress up as the Big and Little Dipper for Halloween that year.

The treasured telescope he’d been given by Professor Salonpa that incredible summer had paid for food for almost all of the last three months. He’d regretted having to sell it, but he knew the old man would have understood. If selling everything he’d ever owned or would own would give him just another hour he would have.

A last check of the apartment yielded a surprise. Half-hidden behind the now empty bookcase, JD could see a tiny hand and arm. Twisting himself into a knot, JD reached down behind the bookcase and pulled out a small stuffed doll. As he gently pulled it free, he smiled to himself. Hoss Cartwright, long missing and mourned over.

When he’d been little the only time of day that JD had with his overworked mom had been very late at night. Rachel took care of cleaning the Toffler Mansion and that took all day. She was lucky to get home much before Midnight. JD would stay with old Mrs. Leviwitcz until Rachel came and got him. Being an extremely active child, JD would often be awake all night. When his mother got home, he’d be awake and desperate for her attention. There would be nothing available to them except the television. Mr. Toffler had considerately given them Cable, but the only station the ancient T.V. tuned in at all well was an oldies station, playing every old western known. JD knew and loved them all, The Virginian, Have Gun, will Travel, the Big Valley, the Lone Ranger, and Bonanza.

They’d never had much money, and certainly none to waste on ‘action figures’ even if such had been available from the classic T.V. shows. Rachel had surprised JD with the handmade ‘Soft action figures’ one birthday, and he’d never let go of them. No one could convince him that they weren’t the best ones in the world. Not his playmates who scoffed at the homemade things. Not his teachers who’d been concerned enough to put the family on the Sub for Santa list. And certainly not the Toffler Children who’d had much better things to play with, but nothing made with such loving care.

Mr. Toffler owned the apartment, a place to keep his staff separated from the ‘big house’ as it were. JD’s mother, Mrs. Leviwitcz the cook, Mr. Dalley the gardener, Miz Cass who did the automotive repairs, Mr. Weiss who drove the cars, Miss Emily the maid, and Mr. Long the butler and Rachel’s second in command, all lived in the ‘apartment’ building, kept out of sight of the mansion. The old rambling Mansion that John Toffler had bought from the family who’d owned it for generations had been remodeled by him so many times since then that the Historical society had demanded a restoration to an approximation of a traditional layout. It had been a long and exhausting task, primarily landing on the shoulders of Rachel Dunne. Having money made the Tofflers think that they were above such things. In fact, if Marcia Toffler hadn’t been on the board of a couple of Cancer Charities, Rachel and JD would have lost their home the first time Rachel had been unable to drag herself to work.

JD’s own job as a police officer brought in enough to keep them going, and had paid for most of the bills, but if they’d had to find a new place to live.... It didn’t bear thinking about. The bills were paid and everything taken care of. Rachel Dunne was gone and no amount of reminiscing would change that. Squaring his shoulders, JD tore himself away from the memories, both good and bad, and put his attention back to making sure that none of the little he had left was left behind.

It was his mother’s wish for him to make this trip to Denver. She was certain that it was where he belonged, that it was the new horizon that he needed. When she was feeling well, she’d tease him about following his compass star, his own Polaris, out west. It had been a daydream of his, but in his dreams she’d been there to share it with him. He’d wished that he could have been some old style Sheriff or a Texas Ranger. Law Enforcement had been his goal for a long time, though he had to admit that it wasn’t anything like it had been on TV or in books. Both he and his mother had been voracious readers of mysteries, though having to wait for a new one to become available at the library had often been an annoyance. JD had promised himself that he’d get a job and make enough money so that his mother could have any book she wanted or to go to the theater, or the movies.... but that was impossible now.

His Captain, wanting to discourage the young man from spending his life on the Force, had assigned him to every dull or gruesome task that he could come up with. Capt. Meredith was sure that JD’s immense talents would ‘take him places’ and didn’t want him burnt out with the day to day ugliness that was a police officer’s way of life. In spite of Meredith’s disapproval, JD had thrived in the world of Law Enforcement, willingly taking on any task that was asked of him. Very much his mother’s son JD had a steely determination to do the job, do it well, and most importantly to keep a good attitude about it.

When Rachel was his age, she had been studying advanced sciences at NYU. A small town girl, she’d come to New York on scholarships that had ended with her marriage to her cousin Edward Dunne. She’d been pregnant and Edward had soon abandoned them forcing Rachel to take the demeaning job at the Toffler Mansion to keep a roof over their heads. His mother wouldn’t have called it demeaning, she called it honest work, but JD’s memory was full of slights and the weird things that Rachel would have to do to keep the Toffler family in some semblance of order. She’d done far more than honest work for them, she’d spent almost her life’s blood in their service.

It might have been JD’s fate as well, but a fight with Allen Toffler when they were both thirteen caused him to be black balled forever. Allen wanted him to come beg the family for work, but JD had found jobs in the neighborhood, often working as much as the law would allow. He’d gotten his GED at fifteen, and gotten work as soon as he could after that. His teachers had given him a computer and he’d flown across the ‘cyberspace’ like it was his natural habitat. That computer was now sold, but JD promised himself that he’d buy a new one just as soon as he could afford it. Applying to the Police Academy at the earliest opportunity, JD had decided that this was what he wanted to do with his life. Being gifted with advanced Computer skills had helped, though JD wanted to be part of the work, not typing in reports and scanning in old case files. One whole month of scanning in mug shots had convinced him that ‘Computer services’ was not a place he wanted to be.

Even as a rookie, JD’s ability to solve puzzles had drawn amazed praise. If he’d stayed in New York, he might just have made Detective very early on. However, Rachel had been right. He really needed to go somewhere else, somewhere not trapped in memories. That was what made this trip so desperately important. He’d promised his mother that he’d go, that he’d try for the job.

Towards the end Rachel had been so sick that JD had taken leave from the job. He’d check dozens of books out of the library to read to her, but the thing that she’d enjoyed most was listening to him read the Capt.’s Law and Order magazines to her. The March issue had an announcement of the formation of a new RMETF out in Denver. It gave an in depth, sort of, profile of the new team’s leader, Christopher Larabee, and asked for applicants for various positions. JD had gotten the feeling that Larabee was not happy about being interviewed, and that he was very hard to please. There was a Computer specialist/Technical operations specialist position open.

His mother had believed in his ability to get the position, even though it was on a Federal level and he was so young. Rachel had made him promise to go there directly after the funeral, not stay and not to tell anyone they knew about it. She’d made it a sacred promise to her, even making him swear on a Bible that he would do as she asked. JD loved his mother so he had, but he was hard pressed to decide if it had been his mother speaking or her illness. Her doctor had told him that the progression of the disease had interfered with her judgment sometimes. Paranoia, he’d said, was a real possibility, but Rachel had seemed lucid all through her illness. The only oddity was her real dislike, borderline hatred for his partner, Ben Slatterly.

Rachel and Ben seemed to have a mutual pact of hatred. Ben ‘tolerated’ his partner’s weird mother, and Rachel had been coldly courteous to him, never welcoming his presence in the little apartment. It was really strange, JD decided. His mother had never shown anyone the kind of dislike that she had for his new partner. He was really at a loss to figure it out. But Rachel had made not telling Ben about Denver a part of his oath. Ben was a really nice guy, always willing to discuss PD politics with the ‘rookie’, giving him advice about how to handle people, and especially about his idealism. Ben was sure JD’s idealism would get him killed on the street. Ramsey, his partner before Ben, had been cautious but had told JD that idealism was what made changes in the system, and Heaven knew that there were enough changes that were needed.

The cancer had made making changes all that more important. It was hard for JD to remember the last few months as his mother had sickened and died, worn out and fragile. To him, she was always so strong, he had trouble associating his memories with the woman he’d cared for. Shaking off the memories, he went to check his food supplies for the trip, pausing as a frayed cord caught his eye.

When JD was a child, his mother told him stories, often of the Old West, but a few about their family. He didn’t remember much of them, but there was one that he asked for over and over again. The Dunne family was haunted, Rachel had told him. Haunted by the ghost of a man that the Dunnes had wronged. The Major, he was called and he was a strange ghost. Protective of all children, but very angry with the adult Dunnes. Rachel had said that only if the wrong was righted would the anger cease. He was a justified ghost, maltreated and vengeful. It had made him shiver to listen to the stories about how the Major would ride out to deal with those who wronged the ones under his protection.

She’d even told him to call for the Major if anyone tried to hurt him or take him away. Surely the ghost would protect him because he was a child! But Rachel warned him about calling for him as an adult Dunne. If he did, the Major might take the awful revenge that was his right out on JD. She’d shown JD the pretty knotted cord hung by the door. One of her aunts had taught her to make it. The charm supposedly kept the Major away. JD frowned as he noticed the torn cord hanging loosely from the knot.

Not really believing in ghosts, but feeling that it was token of his mother, he pulled the knot free from it’s nail and added it to the packs, completely unaware of the man in a grey overcoat who watched every move from the corner of the room. The man watched him thoughtfully as he remembered the day Rachel Dunne pulled the cord free herself.


Rachel Dunne gasped as she stumbled and fell against the wall exhausted. She had to do this, there wasn’t any choice. If she told her son, he’d never believe her. It would be her illness, JD would think. Not her. Desperate, she dragged herself over to the door and stood, in shock, both from the pain that she was in, but also for what she was going to do. There was no other choice, and she knew it. With a shaking hand, she pulled one of the cords free. Reeling from the act, it took Rachel a moment to get her balance back.

“Major!” she called. “Major!” she called again in greater desperation. JD would be back soon and she had to get this done before her son and that viper he called a friend came back. It was harder to breathe and her vision began to gray out.

Rachel woke in her day bed, gently propped up on the pillows. She caught sight of the phantom hand that was tucking her blankets around her.

“Please” She begged.

“Dear Lady, what need do you have that you pour such energy into faerie tales?” a soft voice whispered to her. She braced for pain, but she felt only a gentle hand stroking her forehead. “Hush, now. That’s it. Breathe in deeply, let the pain slide past you.” The voice was gentle, encouraging.

“Please,” Rachel said again. “I know JD’s a man now, but to me he’s just a boy and he’s in danger. Please, Please. If I have to pay the price for the Dunnes, I’ll pay it, but save my child.”

“Easy now, Lady. Hush. There is no need. What danger is this that you see for your son?” Before Rachel could answer she heard the scuffling in the hallway that heralded JD’s return.

“Please stay. Don’t let them see you, but stay. Do not interfere, but watch and stay!” Rachel was frantic.

“Gently, my Lady. I am here. I will not leave. And none shall see me but you, if that is what you wish. No one shall know that I am here.” Rachel nodded and slipped back against the bed as if she had been sleeping the whole time.

JD Dunne and his partner, Ben Slatterly entered the apartment. “I’m going to check on Mama, but if you want a soda, there’s some in the fridge,” JD said. Ben just nodded and turned toward the kitchen. JD leaned over his mother’s day bed. He frowned a little seeing the sweat across her forehead. With a tender hand, he used a Kleenex to wipe it away. Rachel opened her eyes to smile at her son. JD kissed her forehead. “Mama? Is there anything I can get you?” he asked softly.

“I’m alright, John,” Rachel whispered, talking hurt. “Are you off shift?”

“Not yet, Mama. Four more hours and then I’m on leave. Are you alright? Should I get Mrs. Leviwitcz?” JD was anxious.

“No, John. I’m just going to take a nap. Will you read to me when you get home?” Rachel asked trying to pretend that everything was normal. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the Major’s grey overcoat and feel the intensity of Ben Slatterly’s glare.

Before JD could respond, his cell phone rang. He looked at the caller ID. “It’s the Captain. I’ve got to take this. I’ll read when I get home if you want, Mama,” JD said. “Bad reception. I’ve got to go outside. I’ll be right back.” JD brushed his lips against his mother’s forehead with a gentle kiss and rushed out.

Rachel struggled to sit up. She glared at Ben Slatterly who’d been watching the entire time. “I don’t want you here,” she hissed in outrage.

“Your son is master here, Stupid Woman,” Slatterly hissed in a far different voice than the usual melodic one he used. His eyes blazed red. “I have the Master of the House’s leave to enter. Your life is fading. Soon you shall know the earth’s embrace and he shall be mine!”

If JD had been able to see Ben as he now was, he’d never have recognized his partner. With a sickening grace, Slatterly slid over to the day bed. He glared at the woman who’d stood against his will with such iron determination. “He is mine, you can not change that. Your pitiful God doesn’t seem disposed to allow you longer life. In fact he seems quite intent on your pain. Why would you choose such a thing for your son? He will know eternities that you will never see. In fact, why don’t I give you a little gift? You are in such pain,” Ben mocked her. “Just a little ‘gift’….” He gave a bone chilling laugh.

“Don’t” Rachel cried. Ben thought it was to him, but in reality it was to the Phantom Major who burned with fury at the sight.

Ben’s teeth grew long and pointed and his face drained of color. His eyes became redder and more intense. Lifting Rachel to him effortlessly, He sank his teeth into her fragile throat.

“Stupid Woman. He’s mine,” Ben hissed, pleased with himself. Lowering Rachel’s weakened body to the day bed, Slatterly resumed his ‘cheerful partner’ personae. JD came bounding into the apartment. He looked at his mother with concern. “She just drifted off,” Ben whispered. He moved to ‘comfort’ his partner. “Let’s just get these four hours over so you can get back here. Hang in there, rookie-boy,” Ben teased, using the department nickname for JD. “Let’s just get back on patrol.”

JD nodded, tucking his mother in with a loving hand. “Only four hours,” he said. Both men left the apartment, watched by the narrowed eyes of the phantom. The Major continued to tend the fragile Rachel. His anger burned brightly.

“His!” he hissed in defiant outrage. “Never!”


It was almost time for JD to return by the time Rachel woke. She could feel the comforting hands and soothing voice of the ‘Vengeful’ ghost she’d roused.

“Please,” Rachel begged. “Please.” Ignoring the ghost’s attempt to calm her. “Here,” She said, pulling something out from under her pillow. A flare of gold revealed itself as her wedding ring, a ring given between sweethearts long years ago. The Major looked at her in astonishment. “I have only one treasure besides my son. I’ll give it to you, if you protect him.” In vain the Major tried to speak. She pressed the ring into his shadowy hand. “If I had millions I’d give them all to you, please, it’s all I have left. Save my son. Please get him to Denver and away from that creature,” Rachel gasped for breath.

“But...,” the Major began, but Rachel cut him off.

“Swear!” she begged.

“I swear. I will get him to Denver,” the ghost solemnly vowed.

“And into the hands of Larabee. I know that name. It’s almost time isn’t it?” Rachel whispered. Wordlessly the Major nodded. “Just get him to safety!” She slipped into a weary sleep with the ghost caring for her.


JD’s movement caught the ghost out of his reverie. The boy was packing what food remained. The perishable things would go to the neighbor downstairs, the non-perishable would go with the boy. Somehow he’d have to do something about young Mister Dunne’s diet. Dreadful!

Putting the cans into the heavy-duty saddlebag, JD thought he caught a glimpse of something grey out of the corner of his eye. He took a look around the apartment but there was nothing there. Blaming his overactive imagination, JD took the milk and the rest down to Mrs. Leviwitcz.

The Major looked around remembering his last visit to this dreary little apartment and it’s Dunne family.

JD Dunne knelt by his mother’s daybed. It was the only place that she was comfortable and he couldn’t deny her that now. The end was so near. Father Kelly had given her the Last Rights and was quietly waiting to help him deal with the loss. The old priest was a comfort, but JD wished with all his might that this was not going to happen.

“John?” Rachel’s voice was almost a whisper. She was fading away. A pale shadow of his lovely mother. “John?” she said again, garnering his attention. She lifted her hand and gently drew it though his long dark hair. “No mother could ever have had as good a son as you have been to me, John. I love you and I am proud of the man that you’ve become.” Rachel coughed and struggled for breath. Shaking off JD’s attempts to quiet her. “For all of the future I wish that I could have been there. I give you my blessing, knowing the man that you are, and loving you. I’ll be loving you forever, son. Forever.” She made a little token cross on his forehead as a sign of her blessing. JD wept unashamedly, neither man or boy, but a son losing his mother.

“Rachel Cassandra Dunne,” a soft voice whispered. Rachel was startled to see the Major was there, he was bright and she could see him fully instead of in shadows.

Promise! Keep your promise.”

“I will Mama. I will,” JD answered, choking on his tears.

“I will,” the Major said. “The thread of your mortal life is almost at it’s end.” Rachel nodded and stroked her son’s hair until the life left her fingers.

“Come, it’s time,” the Major said gently. “Do not be afraid.”

“I didn’t want it to end,” she said feeling herself leaving the shell of her body.

“This is not an end,” the Major laughed. “The Vampyre told you of eternities, but there are eternities beyond his comprehension and reach. Come.” He took her by the hand and stood her spirit on it’s feet. “For you the gate will open.” He bowed over her hand then followed her gaze to the weeping JD. “I only wish that every child had a mother such as you.” He watched Rachel stroke her son’s face with fingers he could not feel. “You have been and still are his North Star. You have brought up a good young man, I do not believe that he will lose his way completely, no matter the pressure brought to bear on him.” Rachel looked at him in wonder.

In the space behind them a great door had opened. The Major led her to it as if they were partners in a slow formal dance. On the threshold, Rachel stopped eyes widening, looking at the Major clearly for the first time in her life.

“Don’t concern yourself, my Lady, with the fictions we tell ourselves in mortal life.” He gently silenced her apologies and handed her across the doorway. Rachel turned to look back at JD. “He is in my charge and in another’s. Unless he willingly chooses it the creature shall not have him. You have done all that is possible for him. There are people waiting for you, my Lady Dunne.” He turned to look back at JD. “ Do not worry. You are still his North Star.”

“Rachel? Rachel!” She turned to the voices beyond the door.

“Mama? Daddy?” she called out to them and stepped across the threshold. The Major bowed to the Dunne family on the Other Side of the door and watched it swing shut. He turned to his young charge and tried to give what comfort a shadow such as himself could.


Startled by such woolgathering at his age, the Major watched as JD led the motorcycle out of the apartment door for the last time. He slipped a couple of odds and ends into the bags that the boy would find useful on the way. Young people never planned everything out.

JD led his motorcycle out of the building he’d grown up in with no hesitation. The desire to see the horizon was on him; the need to find open sky and new places almost overwhelming. He carefully checked his bike and looked at the gas gage. He’d need to fill up after he left the city. Taking a deep breath, he released it, and with it his pain. Grieving was not something that Rachel had wanted him to do, to remain lost at her death. It would be hard to tuck that part of himself away, but his mother had wanted it, and JD could have denied the sunrise before he denied his mother anything.

Behind him the Major looked around the apartment for the last time making sure that nothing was left behind except memories. The phone rang and he picked it up. His frown turned to a twisted little smirk as he responded to the caller.

“No, I’m sorry Mr. Dunne is unavailable at the moment. I believe that the Doctor said something about giving him a sedative and letting him sleep. Given the situation, I would imagine that his friends would let him rest for the next day or two.... Food? The excellent Mrs. Leviwitcz has that under control. No I don’t imagine. I’ll give him the message when he’s ready for it, Mr. Slatterly. Who am I? Just the Caretaker. Very well. Good bye.”


As JD left the city, a weight seemed to lift from his chest. He was still grieving, but he was living, just as his mother would have wanted him to. The gathering dark led to the clearest star field he’d seen since the planetarium all those years ago. Automatically he found the Big Dipper and whispered that he was keeping his promise.

The long night’s drive went easily, JD’s thoughts dwelt in his memories, his happy memories of his mother. Bittersweet now, he knew, but those memories lived in him and always would. He decided to stop for a nap at one of the rest sites. Hoping that he wouldn’t have problems with people out in the night or police officers thinking he was a vagrant, JD rolled out his ‘bedroll’. It was a poor collection of blankets, but topped by his ‘star blanket’, another reminder of that amazing summer. JD looked up at the sky and named off all of the constellations that he could see until he drifted off.

Standing watch, the Major sat beside the sleeping young man. Some feral animals came sniffing around but fled at a glare from the ghost. Looking around the so-called rest station, the Major kept all threats at bay through the long hours of the night. He whispered gentle reassurances to the grieving young man in his charge. The ground looked hard to him, and he could remember many nights on the cold hard ground. Without disturbing the sleeper, the Major removed his grey overcoat and draped it over JD.

Next morning, JD was up before dawn. He’d slept on the ground but he didn’t feel at all stiff. It was as if he’d been in a soft, warm bed. JD stretched, there was a lot of ground to cover today and he was eager to get started. Rolling up his blankets, he gave the star blanket an extra pat. It seemed very warm and he smiled thinking about how it had seemed to keep him warmer than it should have. His mother would have claimed that love made it so. Taking a moment to orient himself, he chewed on his breakfast, beef jerky and cheese strips.

The Major frowned at the boy’s meal. It really would be necessary to do something about young Mr. Dunne’s eating habits. This could not be a healthy way to eat! Such things might be okay for the trail, but that was long ago and there were better things out there in this soft modern world.


Reaching Pennsylvania, JD decided that he’d stop for gas in Philadelphia. He’d always wanted to see the Liberty Bell and he’d promised his mother as they’d discussed the routes that he could take to Denver.

“Here I am, Mama. Just like I said,” he said as he waited in the historic quarter for the line to form.

Being one of the first in line meant that he was out early. Lots of tour groups were bunched around their leaders each following the different colored umbrellas. It was hard to hide a smile. This would have appealed to Rachel’s sometimes twisted sense of humor. They were all scurrying around as if they could cram two hundred years or more of history into a single morning’s touring!


Getting gas at a station in rundown area of the city, JD decided to buy a couple of things to snack on. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a flash of grey, but seeing no one he ignored it. The Station had coffee and various sweets, like Twinkies. The only other customer was a tall balding man in an overcoat. JD frowned. It wasn’t that cold out. He still had his gun and his permit, but he wasn’t a cop anymore. The guy was too old, he thought after a moment. Reviewing Ramsey’s laws of eyeballing suspects, he listened to his gut and his gut said ‘Cop’. The fact that the man was buying several containers of coffee and lots of Danish and donuts, his instinct further informed him, ‘stakeout’.

JD caught the man sizing him up. He tried to give the nod that Ramsey used to use to ID them as cops when on a border beat. The man raised an eyebrow, but before he could speak three men burst into the store. They had guns and were waiving them around. Willing the clerk not to panic, he and the older man calmly did as they were told. One of the robbers grabbed a roll of Duct tape and tied JD and the older man up with it. Both JD and the man kept throwing calming looks at the teenage clerk, trying to steady her, but she was frightened. Outside the police had surrounded the station and JD could see them pulling out the riot gear. Four people in long overcoats, three men and a woman stood off to the side. The woman was insisting on being given vests for the four of them and seemed to be involved in the planning.

“Damn, Lil. Let Fred do his job,” the man tied to him hissed.

“Is that a good thing or a bad one?” JD asked.

“Lil’s a great detective, but sometimes she’s a little forceful. I do not want to argue with Fred about it later. Nick and Will are there too? What happened to the surveillance on Moon?”

“Guess the Captain is more important,” JD joked. “Mine always was to me.” The man gave JD the once over. “JD Dunne, formerly NYPD.”

“John Stillman, Philly Homicide.”

Eventually the robbers put the teenage clerk down beside them and terrified her into quiet. Both Stillman and JD tried to keep her calm as the hostage crisis went on and on. JD caught that strange flash of grey out of the corner of his eye. One of the robbers bumped into a rack, which came down on him. It backed into the fridges and suddenly soda was exploding everywhere. A rack of children’s toys came down and the robbers slipped all over them like some sort of comedy routine from the movies.

Using the distractions as a cover, JD and Capt. Stillman got the hostage out. Police in riot gear pulled them quickly along and stowed them in a van which showed signs of long term occupation. Stillman’s people, Detective Will Jefferies, Detective Nick Vera, Detective Chris Lassing, and the much-mentioned “Lil”, Detective Lilly Rush, took care of them. Twenty minutes later the robbers were escorted to the squad cars. The nonsense that they were spouting about being attacked and heckled by an unseen presence made JD wonder if they were high on something.

Filling out the paperwork took longer than JD wanted it to, but Stillman’s unit took him out to dinner. The Captain gave him a card and told him that if the Denver job didn’t work out to come back and talk to him. With a full stomach and a full gas tank, JD continued his trip to Denver.


On the way to Ohio, JD saw something that almost made his eyes bug out. A black carriage turned over by the side of the road. Most of the cars were just going past, but some of them paused so that the passengers could make fun of the strangely dressed couple by the side of the road. It took JD a moment or two to place the people. Amish, he decided. He’d read about the Amish when studying for his GED, but had never expected to run into them. Stopping by the overturned carriage, he looked over the situation.

Old man Toffler had kept some horses on the ‘estate’ at the carriage house and he’d invested in a couple old vehicles to impress his friends. JD had done a lot of the work to repair them back when he was thirteen. Greeting the Amish couple gently, he took a look at the damage. Knowing that his teachers had said that the Amish were formal and ‘old fashioned’, JD tried to treat them as if it was Mrs. Leviwitcz. She had always been formal too.

JD couldn’t follow all of the thee’s and thou’s, but what he had on his hands were two teens who had taken the buggy out to deliver comforts to someone who was sick. He released the horse from the tangled traces and started looking for damage to the animal. Once the horse was calmed and checked over, he looked at the buggy. Almost swearing, but holding his tongue for present company, JD glared at the white stripe of paint on the side of it. The kids had been forced off of the road. They could have been killed!

Looking over the carriage, JD couldn’t see any damage so he decided to try to get it upright. With a little sweat and effort, JD got the carriage righted. He checked the thing over carefully when it was righted, fearing for hidden damage. Soon, though he found that he could let them continue on. Re-hitching the horse, he got the kids back on the road, but followed them to make sure that they got home. He was greeted kindly by the Amish parents and when they were told what he had done, he was welcomed into the house and given a very large supper.

JD was passed through the Amish community for the next day or two. He blushed and told them that anyone would have done it, but the truth was that no one else had. Telling them why he was on the road and that he was obeying his mother’s last wish seemed to have impressed them. He’d never intended anything but an explanation for why he was on the road, but he was being treated very kindly. Embarrassed by all of the attention, JD made himself useful in every household that sheltered him. Barnyard chores he knew from the Toffler stables, indoor chores were just self-evident. Fetching and carrying, helping every way he could.

JD made sure to thank every family that helped him and to write down the addresses of each farm. It would take a little research, but somewhere a library would have something that he could send as a thank you for all of their many kindnesses.


He rode into the farmyard of the last family, rather confused by all of the attention. Farmer Simmons was a hearty fellow with bright green eyes and reddish hair that made JD think of a fox. The man’s eyes widened, and JD was worried about whether he’d ever seen a motorcycle before. However, the man seemed to be focused on a point beyond JD. For a moment JD thought he saw that flash of grey again. Telling himself that he really needed to get his eyes checked, JD accepted the boisterous hospitality of the Simmons family.

Able Simmons, current head of the Simmons family, walked with his wife toward the grey coated figure that followed the ‘nice boy’ who’d come to their home.

“We welcome thee, will thee join us?” Both of them gestured in invitation.

“I may not,” the Major whispered. “The great unkind act that you have committed prevents it. Care for the boy. He is in my charge.”

“We will, but wilt thou not change thy mind?” Kesiah Simmons begged. A wild cry of animal rage prevented the Major’s answer. “What was that?” She glanced about with a little fear.

“The thwarting of Evil,” the Major laughed. “He is beyond your reach, Creature, and outside your sight! Before you find him again, there will be those that will deny you the boy!” He nodded to the couple and faded from their sight, but they could still feel his watchful presence.

Concerned by the ghost’s words, the Simmonses returned to their home and to their welcome of the young man in the Rider’s charge.


When JD woke, after a particularly good night’s sleep, he found that this family had outdone the others. They filled his packs with food, castoff clothing, and while his back was turned, the women took his star blanket, a present from his mother that long summer ago and made it into a warm quilt. Everything that could be packed was. The saddlebags bulged and the quilt was rolled up like an old fashioned bedroll. The motorcycle had been cleaned and polished, though the mechanical parts had been left alone.

He tried to protest that it was all too much, but Farmer Simmons had hushed him and told him that it was all they could do for one under the Rider’s protection. Shaking his head in confusion, JD thanked everyone profusely.

“Is it thy desire to enter Federal Service or thy mother’s” Able Simmons asked JD before they sat down to the huge breakfast Kesiah and the girls had set out.

“Mine. Why?”JD asked. He worried for a moment that maybe Farmer Simmons would be wanting him to stay. Trying to figure a graceful way out, JD was startled when Able Simmons smiled.

“Two of my daughters left for the world. I am not so strict that I would never speak of them again. One became a Federal Agent and her sister married one. I have grave concerns for my daughter.”

“Which one?” JD asked.

“The wife is dead in mind, only her body is kept alive. I sometimes think that we do wrong by allowing it. However, I do not want to bury my child.” Here the man smiled a painful smile. “We are more in the world than our neighbors.... If thee needs it, thou art welcome to return and we will shelter thee at any time.”


Overwhelmed by the kindness of the Amish and the confusion of the Simmons farm, JD got back on the road later than he wanted to. He took the wrong road and ended up lost on a dark dirt path in Indiana. Eventually a testy old man wearing overalls and carrying a lantern pointed him in the right direction. With the old man was a friendly Irish Setter who sniffed at JD gently in greeting. After thanking the old man for his help and scratching the dog behind the ears, JD rode off not noticing his guide turn to salute his shadowy companion in the grey coat.

“Thank you, William," the Major said petting the Irish Setter on the head softly.

“Grandfather?” William asked in astonishment, his crusty expression softening in surprise. The Major smiled and nodded in response then walked off continuing his chase after the boy on the motorcycle. Behind them, the dog rubbed carefully in comforting warmth against the man’s leg as he stared after the boy and the other ghost in incredulity.