Thru The Mist

This is a book that I wrote in the late 90's. I decided to upload video's of this story to my YouTube channel of Betty Bowman. You can go to this channel and listen to what I have done so far on this book. My ideas for this book along with a sequel would make a great mini series. The videos include a lot of pictures of Natchez, Mississippi of the 40's and then again the late 90's. Hope you enjoy what I have done so far.
You can contact me at her on this site if you are interested in the manuscript or ideas for a mini series.
This book is based on some true historical part of my heritage along with a little mystery and imagination of mine.If you have a YouTube account, I would love if you would subscribe to my channel.




Thru the midst of time, I have tried to go back into the past to find out what happened to a distant Grandfather of mine. My interest in the genealogy of my Scottish heritage prompted me to check the library for information. I searched from Columbia, South Carolina to the red hills of Bogue Chitto, Mississippi. I found that I was eligible to be a member of several Patriotic Societies. I also found that information concerning my distant Grandfather was swept under the rug over a century ago.
The main character in this story, Ava, was created from some of my true life experiences of the past and the present. As this story unfolds, perhaps we will see what will arise from the distant past.

Chapter One

     There is a tall strikingly good-looking man with long wavy dark auburn hair standing on the Natchez bluff of the Mississippi River located at the Rosalie Mansion. This man standing on the bluff is remembering the time when his great-grandfather, Malcolm MacLain told him a story about Neil MacLain; his  grandfather. The man named Red MacLain finds himself now standing where these ancestors once stood in 1852. He felt as if for a moment he was now being taken back into time.

     There was the sound of a train whistle blowing in the distance where the old railroad once stood below the bluff. The courtyard was now full of people dancing, children playing, and distinguished looking men and women discussing the events of the day. There had been a coming out party for the local Debutantes in Natchez. Lots of available young men and young ladies were attending this party. We find Neil MacLain standing on the same bluff, looking out at the sunset when a young Lady walked up behind him and said,

     "Come on Neil, let's return to the party."
     "Give me a moment and I'll be with you," he replied.
     "Don't be too long because I still want one last dance with you," the young Lady said.

     Neil turns back to the young Lady and smiles. The young Lady was named Jean and was the daughter of Archibald Buidhe. Archibald was at that time one of Mississippi's wealthiest men.

     Jean had light reddish blonde waist length hair. She was wearing a light blue silk dress with a long full skirt with long sleeves. The dress was trimmed with many ruffles and lace. The Southern Women would wear these dresses over a hooped petticoat so the dress would stand out all around. Her shoes were high-heeled, silk, and embroidered with silver threads. She had on silk gloves over her delicately long thin fingers. She always carried the Oriental silk fan that Neil had given her. It was afternoon and the sun was out, so she still had on a close-fitted silk bonnet. Peaches and cream complexion was very important to a prominent Sothern Lady.

     Jean possessed the same beauty as that of her Mother's. She was a perfect catch for any of the available young gentlemen at this extravagant party.

      Suddenly there is a loud toot coming from a tugboat passing under the Natchez Bridge that gets Red's attention. He is immediately brought back from the memories of the past to the present. Red turns back towards the Rosalie to see an attractive Lady making what appears to be her first attempt to walk in an Antebellum dress. This dress had been made to look like the dresses that had been worn by the young ladies and women in 1852.

     This lady had chosen this dress to wear for her first time to serve as a Pilgramage Tour Hostess. She stumbles on the hoop of her dress aand nearly lands on her face. She catches herself before falling and says,
     "Okay, girl. You have got to do better than this."

     The Lady keeps on walking unaware that she has been seen and heard by this handsome man standing on the bluff. She turns up her nose, laughs, and keeps on walking up the stairs leading into the Rosalie.   Red is captivated by this Lady's beauty but not to graceful appeaance. He thinks that it couldn't hurt to tour the house just to get another glimpse of this Lady that has caught his attention. Red then walks across the courtyard and through the gardens where he sits on the porch to wait for the last tour of the day.

     Two months earlier in Scotland, Red receives a phone call from Sid. Sid is a business partner and friend of Red's that owns a quiet little pub downtown. He ask Red to come down to the Pub because he needed to talk to him about family matters.

     Red had been out of contact with everyone since his girlfriend Sara had died three years earlier. Red had become somewhat of a loner since his parents had divorced. He had been sent away as a small child to live with his grandparents. He lived with them until he later was sent to military school. Red served two years active duty as a medic. While in the military, he met a Christian Doctor and they became friends.

     Red needed to get away after Sara died to deal with the pain of losing her. Red decided to travel across Europe with the only person he really trusted with his feelings other than Sara. Red and his Christian friend spent the next three years helping the poor. Red began to change without knowing it. Helping others now became a comfort to him as well as the ones he was comforting

     Red had only been back for a couple days when Sid reached him. Red knew it must be urgent by the sound in his voice. So Red headed downtown to talk to Sid. Red walked into the Pub and found that most of the same old regulars were still sitting around getting hammered. He walked up to the bar and sat down.

     "I hate it about Sara. I know how much you loved her." Sorrowfully Sid

     "Thanks my friend but I'm doing much better now."
     "Red, you have other problems to take care of in your family. Mr.& Mrs. Buidhe and their son-in-law from Natchez, Ms., were killed in an automoble accident. This happened about 2 years ago. Some of us think it wasn't an accident." Sid explains."  

    "What about Ava?" Anticipating the worse," Red sighs.
     "She wasn't in the car with them, I'm not sure why?" Sid tries to comfort Red but the look in his eyes was disturbing.
     "All I want to know is who do you think might have killed them." Red ask.
     "The investigation did not show any indication of foul play but Ava is almost sure that it was. First go to the Selina Cascino in Natchez and ask for a man named Sam. He is the owner and a friend of mine. He will give you all the information on who might have killed your family members. Do not let anyone know who you are. Take a few days before you do anything. You need time to cool off and get some rest. You need a clear head." Sid demands at this time.
     "Where is Ava and how is she taking all of this." Red abruptly asked.
     "She is doing okay. Sam is looking after her. Don't contact her just now. You need to see if the investigation is closed. The last we heard, they still claimed it was an accident. You need to find new evidence and get it reopened if it is closed. Sam thinks you are an investigator that has been sent by family from Scotland to try and reopen the case. How long has it been since you saw Ava?" Sid inquires.
     "We were only 6 years old. I wouldn't even recognize her now. My family left for Scotland to live not long after." Red says.
     "Sam doesn't know that you are Ava's family. Keep it that way. Please be careful. This is another big shock to you. Don't rush into this and make any mistakes cause it could cost your life."
     "Thanks Sid, this won't take me long to do. I'll be okay. I promise.You know me."
     "Aye! That's what I'm afraid of." Sid said and bid Red goodbye. 

     Now still sitting on the porch at the Rosalie the sound of birds singing brings Red's thoughts to where he admires the beauty of the gardens. It is now the beginning of Spring and the flowers are in full bloom. Red has found this lovely lady to be a good change from everything that has been going on in his life. He joins the last tour of the day and decides to approach the Lady who has caught his attention.

     When Red reaches the room the Lady is in, he realizes that she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. This Lady has high cheeckbones, wide eyes, rounded jaw, slightly shaped Roman nose, and voluptuous lips.
     Is this really what Red wants to do at this time? Falling in love all over again to get hurt like he did before. Standing in the doorway, he finds it impossible to resist her beauty, charm, and laughter. Red does not know that in just moments the two of them would know each other.
     Red enters the room and stands in the back of the tour group. This lovely Lady does not appear to be as nervous doing the tours as she was earlier in the day. She is in the Granddaughter's room giving a brief description of the furniture and the items in the room.
     The Lady is a talker and has remembered the speech well. She is having fun with the people on the tour. The Lady has a strong Southern accent with a slight Texas drawl. She loves playing up her accent a bit. She asked the tour group,
     "Where are you-all from?" as she uses a little extra accent on you-all.
     "Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York" the tour group replies back.
     The Lady now has a room full of Yankees, as most southerners would say.  She then jokingly tells the tour group that her accent isn't that strong as she pulls back a little bit to give them her true accent. She still has a strong southern accent but just continues to talk the way she would to people she knows. The tour group loved her and laughs with her.
     She lets them know that this was her first day to do this and that she had a fun day doing the tours. She graciously apologizes for any errors that she may have made.
     The Lady has now noticed someone standing in the back of the group. She knows the face but cannot put a name with it. He steps up to the front of the group and speaks with a strong Scottish accent and says,
     "You know you're not the only one with a strong accent, lovely Lady" Red graciously says.  Red smiles as he then walks over to the chain that divides them and ask,
     "May I."
     "Go ahead." The Lady replied.
     Red walks in behind the chain that divides the group from the tour guide. He starts telling the group a little of the history on all the items in the room. The Lady is not sure of what he is up to but she is willing to go along with it. Red finishes his little speech then tells the tour group to have a nice day and for them to continue on to the next room. The Lady tells the handsome man standing next to her,
     "You should be giving these tours. You are good. All I had to work with was a card with the information to read about what was in the room. I was terrified not knowing much about the house and it's furnishings. Excuse me Sir, but may I ask your name?"

    "You first, you're the Lady," Red says.

     "My name is Ava Buidhe. Well that is my maiden name. My married name was Thompson."

     Red turns around and his face is white as a sheet. Not expecting to run into Ava, he took a moment before he spoke. He used the name Sid had told him to use as a cover while doing this investigation. He wanted to tell Ava who he was but Red needed to investigate this case more before revealing his true idenity.
     "You look familiar to me for some reason. Have we met before?" She ask.
     "Uh, my name is Tim Johnson." Replying nervously.
     "Tim Johnson you say! Are you Scottish? I thought with the accent, that you would have a flasher name." Ava laughes knowing that the name Johnson is Scottish.
     Red doesn't know that Ava has a portrait of his distant grandfather, Neil MacLain. The picture of Red's grandfather strongly resembles him. She also has pictures of Red that she found last week in her attic. Ava had only a few minutes at the time to glance at them. She was told that Red was a relative of hers that moved away with his parents' years ago. Only just having that short time to glance at the pictures, Ava wasn't sure if this was Red or not. Ava could see that something was wrong with Tim so she ask,
     "Are you okay?"
     "Aye, I'm just tired from the flight. I also had to drive down from Jackson, Ms. I still feel as though I'm moving." He replied.
     Red still could not reveal himself to Ava. He needed more time. He had admired this beautiful Lady all day to find out that this was Ava. He didn't think they were very closely related but this was a real let down.
     This was the last tour for the day. The Lady in charge of the Rosalie came by the room and thanked Ava for her time as a hostess. The Lady told Ava that she could leave anytime that she was ready. Ava thanked the Lady and told her that she really enjoyed her day here doing this. Then the Lady left to tell the rest of the people incharge of helping.
     Ava turned around to continue to talk to Tim. He interrupts and speaks first.
     "I was going to ask how long it would be before you were finished here for the day. The Lady that just came in, gave me the answer. Would you like to go out for dinner tonight at the Selina Casino, that is if you would like to join me. That's were I am staying." Red was despirately hoping that she would say yes.
     "Yes, that would be nice. Are you sure you aren't too tired?" Ava replied.
     "Got to eat. How about meeting me at 7:00 P.M. in the dining room."
     "That's fine. I'll see you then." Ava was curious to find out who he really was.
     Red and Ava walked out together to then enter the gardens of the Rosalie. Ava ask Red to take a few pictures of her in the antebellum dress she was wearing so she could put them in her scrapbook. Red then walks down to the boat from the Rosalie.
     After returning home, Ava walks by the pictures on the table and takes a good look at them. Then she picked up the portrait of Neil MacLain that looked like the gentlemen she had met today.
     It couldn't be the same man she thought. He wouldn't have any reason to lie about his name. Maybe this man has a look alike.
     I've always wondered what came of Red since we were kids, she thought. He was my best friend. I know we were young but I remembered him always in my dreams. If it is Red, maybe he is playing a trick on me like he always did when we were young. I can't take my time to fnd out about this man. I hope he is as interested in me as I am in him.
     Ava gets ready and goes to the boat to meet this mystery man. 

 Chapter Two  

     Now Red and Sam are sitting down at a table in the dining room at the Selino Cascino talking.

     "Sid called today to tell me to go ahead and give you the information you needed on the person who might have killed Ava's family members." Sam said. 

     "Oh by the way, I met Ava today by accident at the Rosalie Tour Mansion. After we met during the last tour of the day, she thinks she knows me for some strange reason. She thinks, I look like someone she knows. I also talked to Sid earlier this morning. I'm convinced like him that I need to start the investigation now." Red and Sid continue small talk as Red keeps his idenity as Sid's couisin Tim, for the time being.
      "Yes, he's right. The investigation needs to start with checking out Mark MacDonnell. He is the President of a local bank here in Natchez. He may have had the murders done. Do you know him?" Sam ask.
     "Aye, I've investigated him before. While he was in Europe, another family had problems with his shady business dealings. He is a descendant of Arcill MacDonnell. Arcill MacDonnell left this area after a wealthy cotton trader was murdered." Red was being very careful not to let Sam know that he knows Mark other than through his invetigations of him.
     Red needed to be careful telling the story of Mark's family's past. Red trusted no one, even if this was a friend of Sid's.
Red has awhile to wait for Ava so Red begins to tell Sam about Mark MacDonnell's family history.

     Mark's family history goes back to Arcill MacDonnell beint at the party that night that had been at the Rosalie in 1852. It was just weeks before the murder of the wealthy businessman.
     Neil was now dancing with the young lady named Jean that had approached him earlier. She was getting that one last dance, when a man walked up to the courtyard. The man was wearing a blue velvet coat that was lined with red satin and the vest was embroidered with white satin. The trousers were blue velvet and came only to the knee. His long stockings were made of silk and his shoes were decorated with large silver buckles that covered half the foot. He wore lace ruffles around the neck and wrist along with a pair of colored gloves. He was Jean's escort who came along with her and her father to the party.
     Neil saw Arcill walking up to greet him. Jean stopped dancing and ran up to Arcill to bring him over to be introduced to Neil. Neil walks over to meet them and calls Archill by name.
     "Arcill." Neil says sarcastically.
     "It's good to see you." Arcill says.
     "You know each other," Jean says with some confusion.
     "Aye, we know each other," Neil said.
     "What have you been doing since we last saw each other? Neil."Arcill asks.
     "Traveling mostly, and you?"
     "Oh, I've been here ahile. Might decide to settle down." Arcill says, as he looks on with desire for the young lady.
     Neil looks over at Jean and asks,
     "How do you know him?"
     "He works for my father, Neil! He is a cotton broker." Jean was worried about where the conversations was going then  excused herself from Neil and Archill's company where she joined her Father, who was about to leave the party. Neil and Arcill walked out to the edge of the bluff to talk alone.
     "Why are you really here?" Neil abruptly asked.
     "As the Lady told you, I'm working for her Father as a broker here in town." Arcill nervously paces back and forth.
     "We both know you don't need to work for anyone. Now what's the real reason you are here?" Neil demands an answer now pointing his finger in Arcill's face.
     "I like it here. It's a nice peaceful place to live. It's a new untamed land and no one here to bother me." He exclaims.
     "You mean, no one to know where you are. We both know that." Neil says as he steps back from Arcill.      

      Jean returned to where Neil and Acrill were now further down the bluff, so she could tell Neil that she had to go. She ask,

    "Will I see you again? Neil?"

    "Aye, I will be staying a few more weeks. I'll stop by your place before I leave." He replies.

     Jean kisses Neil on the cheek and returns to her Father. Arcill tells her that he will be with them in a moment.
     "I'll be seeing you again, Neil before you leave." Arcill turns around with a smirk on his face.
     "I don't know what you want with these people but you know they are like family to me. Don't do anything to hurt anyone of them." Neil has trouble holding his temper.
     "I wouldn't do that would I?" Arcill has an evil look in his eyes.
     Then Arcill starts toward Jean. He gives Neil another evil look and turns back to Jean to rejoin the others.
     "Come on Arcill, Father is waiting."
     "Another time, Arcill." Neil hollers out to him.
     "Yes, splendid another time." Arcill replies.  
     Red pauses for a minute as Sam has interrupted him, thinking that this was all of the story.
     "Is that all or is there more?" Sam is interested.
     "What's the time? I'm to meet Ava at 7:00 P.M. here in the dining room." Ask Red.
     "It's only 6:30 P.M. She' always late."
     "You know Ava pretty good to know her ways." Red wonders.
     "Yes, but not as well as all the men in town would like to know her. She's the best looking woman in town and you've got a date with her. How did you do it? You're lucky. She hasn't dated since her husband's death." Sam is curious.
     "What can I say?" Red laughs.
     "Tell me more about what happened with Neil and Arcill." Sam asks.

      Red continues telling the story about Arcill to Sam.
     There was a time a few weeks later when Neil came by to say goodbye to Archibald and his family. Neil was now at the dinner table with Jean while she was waiting for her father's return from Natchez.
     "Thanks for dinner, I must be moving on. I like to travel at night while the moon is full. It's cooler in this part of the country at night." Neil tells Jean.
     Jean and Neil walked to the front porch then sat in the swing to wait for Archibald.
     "Neil, I'm getting worried. Father hasn't returned from Natchez yet."
     "It might have taken longer this time to sell his crop. Maybe he got more money this time. Everything is probably okay, Lassie." Neil tried to comfort her.
     At a distance one of Archibald's workers that had been riding with him came running down the old dirt road towards the house. The worker was named Charlie and was a good friend of Archibald's. He staggers upon the porch and collapses from exhaustion. Almost out of breath, Charlie begins speaking to Jean.
     "Miss Jean, oh Miss Jean. I'm so sorry."
     "You're sorry for what? Tell me. Please tell me what's wrong. You are scaring me." Jean tells him.
     Neil gets some water for Charlie to drink. Jean tries once again to try get him to calm down to talk to them.
     "Go ahead. Tell us what's wrong. Where is Mr. Archibald?" Neil ask.
     "They killed Mr. Archibald and stole his money. I told him not to fight, but he did," Charlie begins to weep.
     "No! Charlie! No!You're wrong! No! You're lying! Why are you lying? Neil!!!!" Jean falls to her knees and cries out hysterically.
     "You know I would not lie to you, Miss Jean. I'm sorry." Charlie sadly replies
     "Who killed Mr. Archibald? Did you know who it was?" Neil asks.
     Neil and Charlie move away from the porch where no one could hear. Others from the house hear the cries and come to comfort Jean.
     "Oh no, he will kill me." Charlie frightfully answers.
     "No one will know, I promise. You must tell me." Neil said.
     "It was Mr. Arcill MacDonnell." Charlie stands up worried about all that had happened.
     Neil assured Charlie that nothing would happen to any of them. Neil told them to tell no one of who killed Mr. Archibald. Neil returned to Jean, still sitting on the porch.
     "Charlie must be wrong. father can't be dead. Who could have done such a thing?" Jean started crying again.
     Neil tells her that Arcill has killed her father. She refused to believe that Arcill could have done this.
     "Jean, you don't know Arcill as I do. Arcill is a very cruel and greedy man. That's why I was so concered about your family the time I saw you at the party a few weeks ago. Don't say anythinng to anyone about knowing who has done this to your father. Please trust me. I will take care of everything. Arcill will not be back and he will not hurt any of you again.
     "Okay, I will tell no one." She says.
     Neil knew she was much to young to be facing this.
     "If this was truly Arcill that killed your father, I will take care of him myself. He has done this many times before for money. See a human life means nothing to him. If he has truly done this, I will have to leave after the funeral never to come back. I'll return later. I am so truly sorry." Neil gently tells her.
     Neil gets on his horse, leans down, and kisses Jean's lips knowing it would not be long and he would not be able to see her again. Then tells her that Arcill took more than her father's life from him today. He took the only chance of any lifetime with her that he might have had. He said goodbye and rides out with some of the men to go just outside of Natchez to see what happened to Archibald.
     Sam interrupts Red's story once more, to tell him something.
     "You better get down to the main dining room. Ava should be there soon. You don't want to let a woman wait on you."
     "Aye, you're right. I'll see you later. You can join me if you wish." Red said.
     "No, I have a lot to do checking on the employees. I'll catch you two before you leave. Now go before you make her mad." Sam laughed knowing that she didn't like to wait on anyone.

Chapter Three

     Ava enters the main dining room from the back. She slips down the side hall to enter her dressing room to prepare for the show. Ava is almost ready to perform except she needs Tim, the mystery man to sit at the table in the front of the stage. Ava wants to see his expression when she comes out on stage. Ava tells the waiter what Tim looks like and asks him to esort him to a table in front of the stage. Red arrives just a few minutes before 7:00 P.M .and looks for Ava.
     "Is your name Tim Johnson?" The waiter ask.
     "Aye, it is." Red almost forgets a minute of his name change.
     "Mrs. Ava will be right with you. Follow me."
     The waiter shows Red to a table in front of the stage. Red then sits down to wait for her. The lights dim and Ava comes out on the stage with her spectacular light show and music. Ava loves her singing career. It's just another extention of her bubbly personality. Red loves it but is taken back a little. Ava continues her performane keeping her focus on the audience 
     Just before the show ends she has a special song to sing to Tim. Ava wrote a song about her Scottish Heritage. It was special to her and she thought it would be special to Tim. The song tells the legend of a man who died many years ago. He lived through hard times, struggled for the wealth of his family to have his life cut short by a murderer. Sam walks into the dining room to listen to Ava sing and gives his look of approval as he always does.
     This was Ava's first time to sing this song and she had been saving it for the right time. The song was about Archibald's life. The song revealed to Sam much what he and Tim had discussed earlier. Ava had put it together in a beutiful ballad. Ava sings directly to Tim. He is not making any reaction to the song because he has to keep his idenity unknown to her for a little while longer. He is now concerned that Sam might realize that he has another connection to Ava.
     When Ava finishes the song, the lights dim and she disappears in a cloud of smoke. She goes back to her dressing room and changes into a strapless silky purple evening gown that she designed herself. Her hair is below waist length, dark  brown, and hanging loose. Ava returns to the dining room to join her mystery man. She find out from Sam that he is on  the deck. Ava steps out on the deck of the boat and quietly approaches Tim.
     "I hope I didn't shock you too much back there with the performance. Did I Tim?" Ava waits for his response.
     "You didn't then but you do now. You look beautiful." Red gazes on at her beauty.
     "Thank you," Ava replies with a blushing face.
     "Tell me about yourself. How did you get started singing? How are you  associated with the mansion you were at today? Red ask.

     "I started singing at festivals, fairs, and local restaurants. Then Sam came by one night and heard me singing in a restaurant. He liked me and has become my best friend. The hostessing at the mansion is a heritage thing. Are you sure you want to hear all this boring stuff?" Ava ask.
     "Aye, go ahead. So far I haven't found you boring." Red graciously tells her.
     "My first tour of the mansion was in April of 1994. I had never been on a tour of the homes until then. I had lived here but that didn't seem to interest me too much until one afternoon, Paul wanted to tour one of the homes. We chose this one because it was near our Antique Shop and we could get back to close up the shop by 5:00 P.M. We both enjoyed the tour. I remember telling Paul at the time that I felt like a part of this heritage.I could see myself in a long dress and walking these grounds like they did many years before. I stood on the porch and used my Southern accent, flung my head back, and gracefully walked across the porch in a pair of blue jeans, then laughed. Well two years later with research, my dreams came true and it was at this very home that I was able today to be a hostess for a local patriotic society. The Chapter that I belonged to and other Chapters are able to keep this mansion open for yearly tours. We get to dress up twice a year and serve as a hostess for the Pilgramage. I was so much into my work and myself all the time that I failed to look around at all the beauty and the blessings that were there for me."
     "Why didn't you know anything about this before now?" Red listens on at Ava telling about her life.
     "My grandmother and mother were Christian woman and the only thing that was truly important was raising me with good moral values. They just felt that at the right time I would find out about my Heritage and what was available to me. It has been much more important to me now than it would have been then. I was given back some of what I had lost. I lost both of my grandmothers about 10 years ago. They were all there with mother to lay down the foundation of my life." Ava pauses with a little sadness in her voice.
     "Do you sing every night? I have to ask. If you do then I'll be here every night." Red wants to tell Ava who he really is and was changing the subject to make her feel a little better.
     "No, just when I feel like it"
     Sam opens the door to the Casino and peeps out at Ava to see if she is doing okay. The music playing inside could be heard out on the deck. Sam no doubt is trying to play cupid.
     "Would you like to dance? Ava."
     "Yes, that would be nice." She said.
     "Why did you become a member of this society? There must be more than just the glamour of it." Red asks trying to pull information from her.
     "I was trying to research my family heritage for other reasons at the time. My mother, father, and husband were killed in an automobile accident and I needed to find out some information about the family." Ava started to get upset.
     "I'm sorry, I can see from the look on your face that you loved them very much." Red knows Ava is very upset by now.
     "That I did. It has left me very empty and very bitter." Ava pulls away and sits down next to the rails of the boat.
     "My father and mother were my life, my rock, strength, and my guidance. They went to the Lord for problems and leaned on Him for His guidance for everything in their lives. I have not gotten there yet. I pray to the Lord and ask Him to help me through the day. My husband was my friend and my lover. He understood things about me that mother and father couldn't. He loved me and put up with a lot of things they wouldn't have. I am sorry that I have been left so empty. I also am angry at everything most of the time. Oh, I hide it with laughter and sometimes I don't. It's not right to strike out at someone that has no idea what you are feeling. There is an emptiness, hole, or void space in my life that I don't know if it can be filled. No one will ever take their' places. The only thing is to hope that I can soon get over this awful feeling of loneliness." She says as she stares out across the river.
     "May I ask, how did it happen? This is obviously very painful for you. If you don't want to continue we can stop." Red was afraid that he had ask too many questions too fast.
     "They were murdered, excuse me, the authorities could not prove it. They did not have enough evidence to try and proceed with the investigation. I'm sorry, I do not wish to talk about this anymore." Ava sighs. "Who are you anyway to be asking me these questions?"

     Ava turns away and begins to cry.She has shown little no emotions since the deaths of her loved ones. Red slowly turns Ava towards him and holds her in his arms. Ava for some reason finally feels safe again. This could be Red but if it is, he should have revealed himself by now.
     Ava pulls back a little from his embrace. Red reaches down and wipes the tears from her eyes. He gently takes his hand and pulls Ava's face close to his face and gently kisses her lips. Ava is caught up in the moment with emotions rushing up from the past.
     There it is, a moonlit night on the Mississippi River and a handsome Scottish man in her arms. Well this must not be Red and for now that's okay Ava thinks.  Forgetting for the moment that Ava was family, Red finally pulls away from Ava. Ava is touched by this man's compassion for her but her past still haunts her terribly. Red sees that Ava is getting upset again.
     "I'm sorry, I've upset you tonight. I stepped into areas of your life I didn't have the right to." Red apologizes.
     Red is not aware that today will be two years since Ava's loved ones were killed in the accident.
     "Upset! That's an understatement. You have no idea how much I loved them. Why do you think I would tell you how I feel. I don't ever talk to Sam of how I feel. Do you know where I went after we parted this afternoon? Just up the hill at the cemetery where my life went. It went with them two years ago today. Do you understand???" She rages.
     Red tries to calm Ava down. Ava is set on talking now about the pain that she has kept hidden much too long. Red patiently listens, trying to calm her down. She starts screaming out that she does not wish to talk about this anymore. Then she begins to cry uncontrolably. Red holds Ava in his arms as she cries.
     Sam heard Ava's scream and came back outside to see if she was okay. Ava continues to weep in Red's arms.
     "Tim, what's wrong with Ava?" Still unaware of his true identity, Sam looks at him as if he may have caused her screaming. "Man what have you done to her?"
     "Ava started talking about her family who were killed in the accident. I must have asked to many questions. I'm truly sorry.' Red gets up and lets Sam try and help.
     "No. You wouldn't know. I've been waiting for this to happen. She has held this in much too long. According to close friends, she has never shed a tear over this at the funeral or anytime." Sam tries to comfort her.
     "What can I do? I feel like I'm responsible." Red is almost willing to reveal himself at this point. Thinking maybe he can repair some of the damage.
     Sam tries to get Ava to calm down but at this point she is just talking to herself not making any sense. Ava finally collapses into Sam's arms.  Sam tells Tim that he needs to get his car and bring it aound front of the Casino. Red shuts the door going into where the crowd is that comes on the deck. They, then go down some side stairs. They did't want anyone to see Ava in her present condition. It could ruin her reputation and career. Sam begins to tell Tim where Ava lives.
     "I found the place today. It looks like the pictures that Sid showed me. He wanted me to watch the place and make sure Ava was protected until we could find out who was behind all of this." Red told Sam this story but Red had pictures of the place from an album at home in Scotland. The house had been remodeled but he found it. Red was still reluctant to trust Sam.
     "Take care of my girl. She is a lady. Treat her good. I'll call you in the morning." Sam said.
     Ava begins to come around, so Sam walks over to Ava's side of the car and says,
     "You'll  be in good hands with Tim. You go home and get some rest. I don't want to see you for about two weeks. You are on vacation, do you hear me? Sam scolds Ava.
     "I don't know this man. You are sending him home with me. Is it him you trust, or is it me? Ha!" Ava has calmed down a little. She is back to hiding the pain again behind that laughter and smiles of hers.
     "Just say, he was going to be watching you anyway. This way you will see him watching you." He tells her.
     "Yes! Big brother I love you. I think I'll ask questions about what's going on later." Ava reaches up and kisses Sam.
     Red starts the car up and they leave. Ava leans over looking at him to then ask,
     "How do you know where I live? Where did you get this fine car? I know you didn't rent this at a rent-a-car place. You got to be loaded."
     "Do you always ask so many questions? Sam told me how to get to you house. He also told me, hands off." Red said.
     "That's Sam for you. I'm going to take a little nap until we get there. Don't get lost." Ava smiles, then lays her head back on the seat and goes to sleep.

Chapter Four


     Ava's estate is about 10 miles out of town. It's a beautiful platation with a pond and lots of farmland. Red is driving up the road that leads to the house, when the surroundings brings back the memories of the rest of the story his Great-grandfather told him. There were rocking chairs now where he was told the old swing once was on this very estate. He remembered asking his great-grandfather what happened to the young lady named Jean, after her father, Archibald died.
     One afternoon many years ago while the finishing touches of this estate was going on, Ava's great-grandmother Jean was sitting in the swing on the porch. Malcom MacLain who was Neil MacLain's son came by to check on the family to make sure they were doing okay. Malcolm walked up on the porch and sat down to visit with Jean.
     "Malcolm, it's good to have you come by to see me."
     "How have you been? Father said that you had been sick. Are you doing better?" Malcolm was concerned because his father knew she wasn't getting better.
     "The doctor told me that I don't have long to live. I want you to take care of yourself and keep a close check on my family from time to time. Why didn't your father come? I would like to have seen him one more time before I go home to be with Jesus." Jean so sweetly tells Malcolm.
     "Father hurt his back while working in the field last week. I told him that I would come for him. You know how stubborn he is. He has no business in the field doing anything." He told her.
     "Yes, that old goat. You tell him that I still love him. You also tell him that he never gave me that last dance that night at the mansion. You also tell him I'll be waiting for him on the other side of the river, to take his hand when he is ready to come over." Jean's face fills with tears, wishing to have one last moment with him.
     "Why didn't you two get married?" Malcolm pulls her close to him in the swing, where he has joined her.
     "Father told me the night after the party that your father was a distant cousin and that I could not date him." Jean tells Malcolm.
     Jean tells him about the family problems that have been going on since her father's death. Jean tells Malcolm about her and Charlie at the funeral seeing Arcill MacDonnell through the mist in the distance. Charlie tells Jean to come on and don't look back again. Fearing for her life she told Charlie,
     "It's Arcill, maybe he's here to kill us." Jean was frightened.
     "No! Be calm. Keep looking forward towards the wagon." Charlie says. "Mr. MacLain said that he would take care of it and he will."
     Charlie gets Jean into the wagon to then look back one more time to see Arcill and Neill arguing. Charlie turns back to Jean and says,
     "It's okay, Mr. MacLain is here. Let's go." Charlie drives the wagon back towards the house never to look back again.
     Neil and Arcill are in the mist into the woods at this time as a heated discussion is going on.
     "I told you to leave them alone. You had to do this, did't you?" Neil says in anger.
     "You don't understand that it was an accident. Archibald fought me to his own death. He was going to kill me if I didn't defend myself. I was going to marry his daughter, get his money, land, and everything." Arcill was nervously backing up against a tree.
     "But your greed got in the way didn't it? Things weren't moving as fast. So you thought you would get his money, then move on since you knew I was in town, and watching you." Neil at this time is close to Arcill pinning him tightly now to the tree. "Well, it's time you leave. Now, tonight and don't come back. I know you are an evil man. I don't think you meant to kill Archibald. He was too good of a man. You had become friends. It will be no accident if I take care of you if you don't leave. Do you understant? I mean tonight."
     "Okay, tonight." Arcill coughs and catches his breath after Neil held his hands arounnd his neck long enough to make his point.
     Jean tells Malcolm that his father left after that night and retuned to Scotland. She was married to some one else and they had three children by the time he returned.
     "I think we would have married anyway if he would have stayed."She tells him
     "I promise, I will keep watch over your family and try to make sure your decendants are taken care of also. I don't believe the hatred really died with Arcilll, according to what father has told me. Well what about the dance my father was suppose to give to you that night? You are still a beautiful lady and I can only imagine how lovely you were that night. Well, what about the dance? Do you feel strong enough? You were promised."
     "You know I can't dance now. You do have charm and I can see that your father raised you up right," Jean graciously declines. "I never got over father's death you know. That Arcill never showed his face again in town. I still have the feeling that he will still cause my family trouble."
     "My father told you not to worry then and I'm telling you not to worry now." Malcolm tried to convince her not to worry about anything.
     "Why do I get the feeling that you aren't telling me everything? Jean asks.
     "Maybe because I'm not. Some things are better left alone." He replied.
     Macolm holds Jean in his arms while they swing and they both sing together an old familiar Scottish ballot. Jean told Malcolm that day he looked and acted just like his father when he was a young man.
     Malcolm had been able to turn the clocks back for her if only one afternoon. That was the last that Malcolm saw Jean. It would also be the last generation to help the Buidhe family until now. This time it was Red's turn to pick up the pieces to try and put a life back together again.

Red continues up the drive towards Ava's Estate. Ava is waking up and has heard him mumbling to himself.
     "What did you say? I'm sorry, I must have fallen asleep."
     "I just said, that you have a beautiful home." Red said.
     "Yes, I do. Kind of like this car you are driving." Ava smiles.
     Ava's wolf dogs are barking as they approach. Ava lowers her window to calm the dogs down. Ava got the dogs for protection after her family member's deaths. She has never felt safe alone since. Ava and Red get out of the car and walk up on the porch. Ava turns the security system off and Red walks in the house behind Ava. She goes in the house and immediately goes to the dining room and puts up some pictures of Red and a portrait that looks just like him.
     "We didn't get a chance to eat. Are you hungry? I can heat up some gumbo that I fixed earlier today." Ava said.
     "I'm not hungry. You don't have to go to the trouble." Red reluctantly replied.
     "Yes, you are hungry and it will not be any trouble. I'm going to go upstairs for a minute and change. Make yourself at home and I'll be right down. There is a cake on the table and cokes in the refrigerator. You won't find anything with alcohol because I don't drink." Ava heads upstairs to change.
     "I'll be okay. I'll just look at this magazine." Red replied.
     While Ava was upstairs, Red was curious of what she was so desperate to hide from him. Red opens the drawer and pulls out the pictures. They were of him at his graduation from Military School. Red then pulled out the portrait that her great-great-grandmother Jean had painted of Neil MacLain.
     Red was sure that Ava must have some idea of who he is or that Tim looked a lot like he did. He decided to keep his idenity a secret a little longer since she was not too curious to ask anymore questions. Red replaces the items and goes back to the living room where Ava left him.
     Ava comes bouncing downstairs with a pair of jogging clothes for him to change in.
     "I know that you didn't bring any clothes. I have a jogging suit that my late husband didn't get to wear. It's a large. You can use the guestroom to the left upstairs. Go on now and I'll have you something to eat in a jiffy." Ava tells him.
     Red goes upstairs. Ava quickly gets the painting and pictures of Red and places it in the closet. She has no idea that he has seen the pictures and the painting.
     Ava heats up some gumbo, garlic bread, a salad, and iced tea. Red was spellbound at all the things in the guestroom. Ava had a collection of swords and other things from Scotland that she decorated the guestroom with. There was also a clipping from a newspaper of Ava in a Scottish outfit stating that she had given a program on her Scottish heritage. The room was almost complete except for the portrait of Neil MacLain and the Buidhe Crest painting that Ava had been working on to hang in the room.
     After changing, Red is lead back downstairs due to the aroma coming from the kitchen.
     "The food smells good. You must be a good cook. Smells like French cooking." Red sits down on the bar stool at the kitchen counter.
     "Mom was French and a very good cook. How did you like the decor in the guest room?" Ava tried to see some kind of reaction from him.
     "I see you are serious about your Scottish heritage. I like the newspaper clipping the best. Where did the blonde wig idea come from? Where did you get the Oriental sword? I also saw the Betty lamp on the dresser. I've been looking for one to put at my place." Red ask.

     "So many questions. It's funny about the blonde wig. Most of the Buidhes are blonde or redheads. The Oriental sword was given to my distant grandfather, Archibald Buidhe in the 1800's. We are not sure who it was but we think it was a close friend or relative. The other swords and Betty lamp are just things that I have collected from antique showss that  I go to." Ava explains.

     "There are two empty spaces on the wall. What do you plan on hanging there." Red ask.

      "That would be two paintings that I'm working on. One is of Neil MacLain that needs retoring due to water damage. The other is the family crest. Let's get a try, get our food, and go to the porch. There is a full moon out tonight. Come on. The dogs won't bother us. They know when I come out to eat they are not allowed on the porch." Ava assures him. Red and Ava go to the porch and continue their conversation.
     "You haven't told me anything about yourself. We know you are not from around here because I know just about everyone in this town. Do you have someone special in your life right now? I mean, I had to ask." Ava really wants to know.
     "I did. She died a few years ago. I came to America for a change. See we have a lot in common." Red carefully tells her.
     "I'm sorry. Wife or girlfriend?" Ava listens closely to the answers to see if this may be Red, knowing that he was never married.
     "Girlfriend. I've never married." He replied.
     Ava knew Red wasn't married and had girlfriends but that was all she knew. Ava had just lost family members and it had been several years since they had heard anything about Red and his family. If Red knew of her lose she was sure that he would have come as soon as he had heard. Red and Ava continue their meal, enjoying the moonlit night.
     "Do you need anything else to eat. Maybe some cheesecake?" Ava ask, raising her eyebrows.
     "Aye. Just a tad. If it wouldn't be too much trouble?"
     "Let's go in. I'm getting a little cold. I'll get you a slice of cheesecake and make some coffee." Ava said.
     Ava and Red start back in the house when Red takes a hold of Ava's hand. He then pulls her towards him to then reach down and kiss her. She melts into his arms. She is so attracted to him. Everythig about this man drives Ava's passions to the extreme. The chemistry between the two of them is getting too close too soon. Ava knows she needs to put a lid on this or she may venture past her moral convictions. She uses her little silly ways to pull back from him and says,
     "This is too hot, too fast,and too soon. Now that cheesecake." Ava says.
     "Aye. I think you're right." He said.
     Ava turns around, runs into the kitchen, starts maing coffee, and slices the cheesecake. Red know Ava feels for him the same as he does about her. Here is a woman with a child like innocent ways, yet so beautiful and knowledgeable. Red has been with a lot of women but he has never met anyone like her.
     "I'm not sorry I pushed myself on you because I have never met anyone like you. That's not a line either." Red smiles.
     "Did I say it was?" Ava tells him.
     All of a sudden Red hears a truck drive off close by in a hurry. Ava turns around to get another cup out of the cabinet at the same time and screams out.
     "Oh, no!!!! The barn is on fire. Oh, no, my horse! Thunder!!!!!!!
     Ava runs out the back door heading to the barn. When she gets to the door, she desperately tries to get the barn door open. Red runs after Ava and sees three men running from the pasture to help. Red is sure that who ever was in the truck was the one that started the fire. Ava is still attempting to open the door to the barn so she can get her horse out.
     "Someone put a lock on the door. Why?" Ava screams out as she hears her horse suffering.
     Red pulls Ava back to try and keep her from getting burnt worse. The three workers that lived on the property came over to assist with getting the fire out. Ava is still screaming and crying.
     "My horse Thunder is dying. Mom, dad, Ma, Granny and Paul they are all dying" Ava is in a state of deniel and not excepting what has been going on in her life for awhile.
     Ava collapses from smoke inhalation, emotional, and physical exhaustion. Red picks up Ava and quickly carries her back into the house. Red shouts out to the workers to clean up everything and bury the horse. He tells them that he will call Sam and medical help. Ava is burnt on the hands and forearms. Red takes Ava up to her room and gently lays her on the bed. He can see that she is breathing okay and then calls Sam to tell him what's happened. Sam knows a doctor that will make house calls and not report anything. Red is sure that this is another attempt on his families lives.
     Red checks Ava's medicine cabinet for any kind of medicines that she might have been prescribed by the doctor for pain. He knew that if she woke up before the doctor got there that she would be in a lot of pain. Red knew a lot about burn victims while he was in the military, working as a medic. Red had first had experience and wouldn't do anything without knowing what was safe to give to her. Luckily the doctor lived down the road not far and was at home so he was there within minutes.
     The doctor cleaned and bandaged Ava's burns and gave Red instructions on how to care for her. The doctor gave Ava a shot for pain and infection.
     "Is there anything else I need to do to keep Ava more comfortable." Red ask.
     "Yes, give Ava one of these pills every 8 hours for pain for the next two days. Then give her these for infection until they are all gone. Sam told me some of what Ava has been through. Let's keep her out until most of the pain is gone. If you need me, here's my pager number." The doctor said.
     After showing the doctor out, Red went back upstairs to Ava's room where he then removed her smoked clothing and put a nightgown on her. It was terrible to see her hurt and helpless. He went backdown stairs and outside to check on things with the barn and the horse.
     "How is Mrs. Ava?" Said one of the workers.
     "She will be okay. The doctor wants her to rest for a few days. If you need my help, I will be inside with Ava." Red told them.
     "We are all glad that she has someone with her now. She has been alone and sad for awhile." The worker seemed truly concerned.
     "I know. I hope whoever did this, knows I intend to stay here for some time." Red said.
     "Mrs. Ava's horse did die and they are burying him in the pasture. She loved him very much. Her husband gave it to her for a birthday present. Thought you would need to know. When she wakes up, she will ask." The man said.
     "Do any of you know how this might have happened?" Red ask.
     "It looks like someone deliberately set the barn on fire." The man explained and showed Red where it was started.
     "Do you have any idea who might have started the fire." Red ask.
     "One of the men thought he saw Mark MacDonnell. I said that he was wrong. Mark MacDonnell was a very rich man and wouldn't do this." The worker said.
     "Thanks. Tell the men not to talk about tonight. Tell no one that you saw Mark MacDonnell. He is a dangerous man. I knew him years ago. Please trust me, he is capable of doing this and has ways of getting around the law. Go now and only tell of this beig an accident." Red firmly said.
     Red heard a truck drive off again. Mark must have returned to see what had appened. Red was sure that Mark would not come back until he finds out why Red was there with Ava. Red is sure of a connection to Mark and Ava now. Red just doesn't know how long he can keep Mark from either killing Ava himself or having it done. Mark must have killed Ava's family for the property and the wealth it would have brought him. How could Mark be able to get her wealth without being married to her? His family has been causing trouble for the Buidhe family for years.
     Red was told by his great-grandfather in the story of how their family was to protect the Buidhe family. There must be more to this story or Red's father would have never left this area or someone would have paid more attention to his great-grandfather. I guess it was just the words of an old man they thought he was just trying to get someone's attention. Red wished that he had returned to this area sooner. Maybe he could have spared Ava some of the pain that she was now going through.
     Red returns inside the house. He got a shower, a blanket, and slept on top of Ava's bed for the night. The next two days were difficult for Ava and Red. Ava cried out and was able to relieve some of her past by recalling things in her dreams. The burns were bad enough to cause some fever and pain. The doctor came by each day to check Ava's burns and give her an antibiotic shot.
     Red continued to stay close to Ava and care for her.
Chapter Five


     Red suddenly awakes to find that Ava has figured out she did not put her gown on and he was in the bed with her. Ava pulls the covers up close to her and ask,
     "Why do I just have a gown on? Why am I in my bed? Why are you in my bed? She asks as Red jumps up trying to find his jogging pants before Ava throws something at him.
     "You don't remember anything that happened?" Red ask her, trying not to fall down.
     "All I remember is the cheesecake and coffee that I was making for...oh, no!" Ava begins to cry out. Ava sits back and begins to feel the pain in her hands and forearms. Red finally gets his pants on, then slowly caustiouly moves towards Ava.
     "Don't you remember anything that happened the past three days? Red is confused a bit of Ava having no memory of all that had happened.
     "Oh! No! My horse is dead, isn' he?"
     "Yes, he is. I'm so sorry." Red tells Ava.
     "Why is so much happening to me? What did I do to anyone to deserve so much pain?" Ava still cries.   
     "You don't deserve this. This is just part of life. You have to deal with death. This sounds sad and bad but it's how you come through all of this that counts." Red tries to so graciously explain.
     "I know that my loved ones are in heaven. I just miss them so. I feel like I have been left all alone and that is what hurts so much." Ava says.
     "I think that's what makes you so special. You love so deeply that you forget to leave some for yourself. You must learn to leave enough for you to go on. This is not fair because you should have had a longer time with your  family members but someone else took that from you." Red replys with a little anger in his voice of why all this came about.
     Red smiles and looks into her eyes. He reaches over, then takes Ava's hand and kisses it ever so gently. Then he reaches up and kisses a tear from her face. Ava does not pull back not just yet. She has started to fall in love with this mystery man. The passion is strong between the two as Ava finally pulls back from his embrace and says,
     "I'm sorry, but I'm in a little pain here. Maybe we could wait for a better time. I think I need more time to sort out my feelings for you. I have not felt for anyone like this since my husband's death."
     "Go ahead, I'm listening. I don't have a problem with that. Please feel free to talk to me." Red pulls back and sits at the end of the bed to give Ava some space.
     "I'm having feelings for you much to fast. I haven't known you long enough for this. I would like to know more about you." She said.
     "What would you like to know?" Red ask her.
     "You really didn't tell me where you were from?" Ava smiles.
     "Scotland, Lassie." Red knows that after all that has happened between them he will need to tell her who he is.
     "Cute, that's obvious. What part of Scotland?" She ask, waiting again to get information from him to see if this was Red playing a trick on her.
     He had told Ava that when they grew up they would get married. She told him that he was silly because they were cousins and couldn't get married. Red told her that he didn't care because he loved her and always would.
     "Where I live and what I've been doing is not what you want to know. Aye. I'm falling for you as fast as you are for me. I've never met anyone like you, Lassie. You are a very special woman with very special qualities. You are very strong beyond your own knowing. I met you at the mansion just 4 days ago, yet I fell in love with you at first sight. You don't find women like you everyday."
     Red gets up off the bed and starts to leave the room. Ava yells out,
     "Where do you think you are going? I thought we were having a good talk."
     "We were but first you need to eat breakfast so you can take your medicine." Red leaves the room and goes to make breakfast.
     Ava is so curious of who this man is. If this is Red, she does not need to be having these kind of feelings for him. Maybe this is someone else as she tries and tells herself that. Red returns with a wonderful breakfast and a rose from Ava's rose garden.
     "I think I might have to consider at least keeping you for your cooking." Ava says.
     "Now eat so you can take that medicine on time. Now what else do you want me to do?" Red teases.
      "I don't remember much about the past three days. Who dressed me? How did I get to the bathroom? Obviously someone gave me a bath cause I don't smell bad. Wait, don't answer those questions." Ava really didn't want the answer not quiet yet.
     Red sat down on the edge of the bed and said nothing. The time for Ava to really test her mystery man was at hand.

    "Hand me that scrapbook over on the table. Thank you. It's time we read this together. I think we will find some answers to some questions I haven't ask you about. I found this scrapbook in the attic but I haven't read it yet. Please read some of it while I eat." Ava watches as her mystery man's face turns a little while.

    "Before I read this to you I want some answers from you." Red says. 

    "What kind of answers?" She asks.

     "You know a lot about me, aye. You have been playing cat and mouse with me since the day we met at the mansion. Then you hid the painting and the pictures of me made at my graduation."
     "Red McClain, you dirty rat. I thought it was you. You just look a little different since you have gotten older." Ava is so excited, a little mad, and amazed.
     Red is in shock. He thought that if Ava knew who he was for sure that she could not have been so close to him and let him kiss her or make advances to her.
     "Besides the pictures and the painting, how could you be sure it was me? He asked.
     "I had just found the pictures and painting this week before along with the scrapbook from the attic. I heard you speak that day then saw your pics but the name you have didn't fit. I was very curious to find out who you really were. I wasn't sure that's why I continued to play detective until I found out for sure."
     "Do you know how dangerous it could have been if I hadn't been Red Maclain. I'm not sure how we fit into each other's lives. Maybe this scrapbook of the past might have some answers." He said.

     "Aye, you're right but we are not blood related. I felt a little bad about being so attracted to you after finding out who you were. I still feel like we are family even if there is no blood relation. I was adopted into the MacDonnell family. My mother now was my birth mother's sister. My real mother died giving birth to me so her sister and new husband took me in to live with them. My grandmother told me that I was a Maclain and wanted my name to remain Maclain. There was a lot of resentment towards the name MacDonnell and mine not being changed to it. I think that is  why my adopted mother and dad split up. I love my adopted father but to this day I do not know who my real father is. Do you think I would have continued to make advances towards you if we were related? I knew that I was adopted at a very early age. I overheard them figting one night before we left for Scotland. That's why when we were very young, I told you that I wanted to marry you. It was because I could." Red said.

     "I'm so glad for the part that I'm not related to you because I was falling in love with you. I have a lot of questions to ask? I just don't know where to start. I have only been told that your last name was Maclain. I don't know much about the MacDonnell name either.There isn't any connection with Mark McDonald is it or a problem? Ava has a smile on her face that has been long overdue.       

     She didn't know that the information on Mark that Red was going to tell her about was a real problem. For the first time Ava reachees over gently touches Reds face with her hand and then told him that she had missed him so.
     "Let's read this book and maybe it will give both of us some answers." Red smiles and crawls up in the bed with Ava and pulls her close to him.
     One of the family members had complied information on the Buidhe's and the Maclain's. It told of their connection with each other for centuries. This book had disappeared years ago. Ava found it in an old cedar box that was so old and broken that she was amazed anyone would have stored anything in it. Boxes and crates had been pilled up on the cedar box.
     "Ava's mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother never threw anything away hoping that it would be worth something someday. For Ava, it had been proven correct because most of her antique shop was full of old things from the attic and cellar. It started the business for her and Paul.

     They began to read the book and look at the old pictures of Ava's family. Red explains things as they read, to fill in the places that are not written about his life and his family's life connected with hers. 

     Ava is so touched by the gentleness and kindness of his voice. She could be getting a part of her life back through him. Red tries to explain why he didn't tell her who he was as soon as he realized who she was.

     Red didn't want to tell Ava at this time about Mark MacDonnell and that he had something to do with the barn fire. He wanted to protect her as much as possible.
     "According to mom and dad, you didn't have a good childhood. At least it wasn't a happy one. How did you turn out to be so compassionate?" Ava ask.
     "I met a Christian doctor while I was in the military and he showed me a different way of life. He was so compassionate towards people. He loved them even if they didn't love him. Some how it changed me and I wanted to be like he was or at least I have been trying to be." Red tried the best way he coulld to explain it to her.

     "It sounds like you might have excepted Jesus into your heart." Ava was silent.
     "That's what my friend tried to do but I told him I wasn't ready." Red tells Ava.
     "I think you are ready, you just don't know it." Ava is patient not to push him.
     She changed the subject for now until he was ready and it was his choice. Ava moves on with her questions.
     "So you came to Natchez to find out what happened to my family?" She ask.
     "Sid and I did not believe that the automoble accident was an accident either. So I'm here to investigate it. I plan to go to Baton Rouge, alone and talk to the investigator on the case. I don't know how long it will take to get a lead  but I am staying until I find out what happened." Red reassures her.
     "Please let me go with you. I'm good at investigating. Just look I've been investigating you since you got here and I found out about you, didn't I?" Ava insisted. 

    "No, absolutely not. You won't have pictures and a painting to identify someone this time for your investigation like you did on me. The day I go, I plan on you staying with Sam the entire day. I'll be back before the day is over." Red frowns.
     "You know, you are still as stubborn as you always were. Wait a minute, you know who might have done this don't you?" Ava turned around to him and looked him in the eyes.
     "How could I have known that this early in the investigation? I've been here with you the entire time that I arrived." Red knows Ava is a smart woman.
     "I know that look and the way you turn your lip up when you lie about something. You are not being honest with me." Ava said.
     "I told you about the name Mark MacDonnell." Red says.
     "Yes. Why?"
     "How well do you know him?" Red urgently asks.
     "About five years ago, he bought out one of the local banks. My family's attorney said that he was okay and our money would be safe." Ava looks on with a little apprehension.
     "I guess your family's attorney suggested you drop anymore ideas of your family being murdered too. Look Ava, Mark has been in a lot of trouble and is a very wicked man." Red tells her.
     "You are scaring me." Ava moves even closer to Red.
     "The night of the fire, I heard a truck leave quickly. It returned to leave quickly again. One of the men told me who it was. It was Mark MacDonnell. I didn't know how well you knew him but I just know that he is dangerous." Red tells Ava and she begins to cry.
     "I wish father was here to explain things to me. There are so many unanswered questions about all that has happened. When I was young, I felt there was more going on in his life. He shared with me some of it when I was older but nothing that made sense to me. What he shared with me had nothing to do with Mark. Did he know that something like this would happen someday and try to prepare me?" Ava sadly says.
     "Aye, I think he probably did know something like this may happen. Our family was to keep a promise. We were to keep watch over your family because of the MacDonnells. Something happened to the last few generations of MacLains and we didn't keep a close watch." Red sighs.
     "What happened? Tell me." Ava looks on with concern.
     "My great-great-grandfather, Neil MacLain left Natchez in the 1800's, he returned years later. His son Malcolm married and after his father's death, he moved back with his family to Scotland." Red said.
     "I know that name. My great-grandmother told me the sweetest love story of her mother and a man she was not able to marry. It was because he had to leave this area many years ago. Go on please." Ava said.
     "Well, we didn't return until my mother came back with her sister. Her sister met Edwin MacDonnell here in Natchez and married him. After mother's death they adopted me. We left here as you know when I was 6 years old. They had a son seven years later and named him Mark." Red pauses.
     "You are related to Mark MacDonnell? I'm sorry to interrupt. Go shead." Ava says.
     "See I should know how bad Mark is because we were in the same house until he got so difficult to handle. I really think he was the cause of his father and my aunt's divorce. I had to move to my grandparents house to live. I don't know why she married a MacDonnell anyway. No on believed my great-grandfather when he tried to warn everyone that something bad was going to happen again. I guess, he waited to long before he told anyone and he was so old that no one believed him. If I had realized how serious he was I would have returned to Natchez when Mark did. I should have known that he was up to no good again. I didn't think he knew anything about your family. I'm sorry." Red drops his head in sorrow of what all has taken place.
     "You couldn't have known what would happen. This is a lot to take in all at one time. Do you know what I am thinking of now? Ava raises her eyebrows up and grins.
     "No. What?"
     Ava reaches over, pushes Red down on the bed and passionately kisses him. Forgetting for the moment that her hands are injured, she gets carried away a little bit with Red. Ava pulls back up and uses the excuse of her injuries to cool things off between them.
     "Do you know what you do to me? But I'm cool. Would you like for me to run some water for a bath or something?" Red is getting a little vervous sound in his voice.
     "Yes, I know what I do to you? Yes, I would like bath water run. Thanks." She tells him.
     "I'll be downstairs so you can have some privacy. If you need me, just call out" Red said.
     "Thank you." She replied.
     Red starts her bath water, picks up thee breakfast tray, and starts downstairs.



Chapter Six

     Red knew Ava needed time to sort things out as well as he did. They had spent several crazy days together. Ava had dealt with enough for now.
     Ava gets a bath, dresses, and starts down the stairs to check the answering machine and the mail. Red sees Ava is unsteady coming down the stairs and helps her sit at the bottom of the stairs for a few minutes.
     "I told you to call me if you needed anything. You have no business out of bed wandering around." Red was furious with her.
     "I'm sorry."
     Ava tries to get up again to take a step and falls back onto the bottom step. Red then picks her up and starts back up the stairs.
     "No! I need to check the answering machine. Just put me on the couch. Please!" She pleads with him.
     "Okay, but not for long. You're going back upstairs lassie after you check the machine. Doctor's orders." Red scolds her.
     "Doctor's orders or yours?"
     "Watch it." Red says, as he walks off to get the medicine and gauze.
     "I am watching. I am." Ava smiles, then she turns back to the answering machine and turns it on.
     "Hi! This is Susan. I haven't heard from you in a few days. Checking to see if you're okay. A package came to you with no return address. Wanted to see if you want me to open it. Talk to you later."
     "Hi! This is Sam. Red is everything okay? Haven't heard from you this morning. I put someone on Mark to follow him so we will know if he tries anything or not. Talk to you later."
     Red hears the message from Sam, walks to the phone to then ask Ava,
     "May I?" As he reaches for the phone.
     "Yes. I'm going to call Susan after I go through the mail. I'm a little concerned about the package. Besides she will talk forever." Ava laughs.
     "Sam, this is Tim." Still keeping his identity unknown to Sam for now. "You need to call off this man of yours because it's too dangerous. Too many people have already been hurt. I'll take care of this myself for now. Thanks"
     Sam agrees and tells him to tell Ava that he loves her. Red hangs up the phone and turns around to Ava.
     "Sam told me to tell you that he loves you and that he will come by in a few days to see you." Red raised his eyebrows.
     "You're not jealous, are you?" Ava smiles.
     "No. Should I be?"
     Red takes the bandages off of Ava's hands and arms. He is silent for a minute.
     "The doctor came by earlier this morning and said that the wounds needed to air out now. We will keep them covered at night and keep them clean." Red is still not talking with too much enthusiasm.
     "Sam is just a brother to me, that's all. When I started working for him, he has watched over me ever since. Sam knew my Mother and Dad but I didn't make the connection until I met him. He thinks he's my protector or something."
     "I guess you would have felt all alone if he wouldn't have come along when he did." Red now feels more comfortable about the relationship with Sam and Ava.
     "Yes. Ouch. That hurts." She said.
     "I'm sorry. This has to be done." Red hated to see her in pain.
     Red takes the old bandages, throws them away, and tells Ava that he is going upstairs to get cleaned up. He ask her if she would be okay on the couch. She tells him that she would. Then he takes a pillow and blanket out of the closet and places it on the couch in case Ava needs it. As Red starts up the stairs, Ava says,
     "Make yourself at home. There are more of Paul's clothes in the closet in the guestroom. I haven't had the heart to get rid of them."
     "Okay, but are you sure?" Red stops.

     "Yes. It's okay." Ava was not upset at him using the clothes.

     "I'll call Sam later and tell him to get someone to send over my luggage. I'm not leaving you until we find out what's going on."

     "You know, you can stay here. That room upstairs is yours until you decide to stay or leave. I hope you can stay for awhile." Ava tells Red.

     "Don't worry about time. I have all the time in the world."
     Red goes upstairs. Ava picks up the phone and calls Susan.
     "Hello! Dominques Antiques. Susan speaking."
     "Hi. It's me. What's the problem?" Ava says.
     "Where have you been. You always call me every morning. I've been worried. Are you okay? What's the deal?" Susan ask with concern.
     "Calm down. I'm okay. I was just in a little accident."
     "What happened? Are you really okay?" Susan listens.
     "Yes,I'm fine now. Thanks to a friend. He was.." Susan doesn't let Ava finish before iterrupting.
     "Hey! Go girl! Tell me everything." Susan excitingly said.
     "It's not like that."
     "I didn't imply anything. But while you think I am, go ahead tell me." Susan is patiently waiting for a response from Ava.
     Ava tells Susan how she met this mystery man of hers. She then tells about everything that had happened since they had been together in the past week.
     Ava didn't tell Susan that he was family because Ava knew Susan was Mark MacDonnell's niece. Ava hadn't told Red about who Susan was yet. Ava had no reason to believe Susan had anything to do with what Mark did. Susan had been working for Ava for about 5 years and she had never given her any trouble.
     "What does this mystery man look like?" Susan asked.
     "Drop dead gorgeous. Hot!!! You name it. The perfect package. Oh! Did I mention that he is rich." Ava laughs.
     "You have got it bad. I have never heard you talk like this." Susan was excited for Ava.
     "Shu...,I hear him coming downstairs." Ava whispers.
     "He is over at your house this early in the morning?"
     "Someone had to stay with me." Ava playfully replied.
     "Girl, you naughty girl."
     "Now Susan. What's the problem?" Ava is pretending to be having a serious conversation with Susan now since Red is in the room with her.
     "I'm enjoying this you know. He is in the room with you, isn't he?" Susan is laughing hysterically on the other end of the phone.
     "Yes. Okay." Ava is almost ready to bust out laughing.
     "You're going to kill me if I don't get serious, aren't you?" Susan gets back into control again.
     "You're right." Ava has kept her back to Red the entire time so he won't know something is going on.
     "Really, Ava. I'm serious now. A package came in today. It was addressed to you with no return address. Do you want me to open it?"
     "No! Just put it on my desk. I'll see what it is tomorrow." Ava said abruptly.
     "Is anything wrong?" Susan was concerned in the tone of voice Ava was talking to her in.
     "Yes! But can't tell you about it now. I want you to listen to me very carefully." Ava instructs her.
     "Okay." Susan listens carefully.
     "Go ahead and lock up for the day. Then I want you to take a week off. You will be paid extra and it's not a regular vacation. Just consider it a present from me." Ava tells Susan.
     "But I need to stock and clean up before I leave. I still think something is wrong."
     "No! Now leave. Okay. Please Susan. I'll be into the shop in the morning when I'm feeling better." Ava tried to keep Susan from questioning her too much about what was going on.
     "You are still scaring me. I know you don't act like this." Susan is not satisfied with Ava's excuse.
     "Now go and enjoy the time off. I just want time with my new friend. Love you. Bye." Susan hangs up the phone.
     "What was the problem with the package at the shop?" Red asks.
     "A package did come in today with no return address. Do you think it could be Mark doing something again? Like a bomb or something?"
     "Very possibly, but not his usual way of doing things. He may have recognized me the other night. By now, he knows that you will have someone close by to protect you." Red tells her.
     "Now look, it's time for you to go back upstairs and get some rest. The doctor said lots of rest for you."
     "I am beginning to get tired but I'm curious of the package." Ava said.
     "We will go in the morning and check. You should be feeling better and stronger then."
     Red reaches down and takes Ava into his arms. He gently picks up her tiny and precious body. She is fragile just like a porcelain doll. He takes her upstairs where she sleeps on and off until the next morning.