THE STARS IN THEIR COURSES
(NOTE: For over a year and a half I've been thinking of doing a story based on the Inspector
Javert-Jean Valjean dynamic from Les Miserables. I wrote a Ben Wade story earlier that I
called A Little Fall of Rain, based on Marius and Eponine but delayed writing this one due
to my concentration on doing my Civil War book, All That's Left of Me, which is now finished.
In the last month, it has been announced that Russell has signed to play Javert in the new
movie version of Les Miserables, to begin filming in 2012, which leaves me smilingly amazed
as well as feeling I should finally get this story written BEFORE he does the movie so it will
be in its proper place in things. Again, I have taken the setting out of France and put it in the
American West in the mid 1870's.)
He lay back, lifting his arms into the night, closing his eyes in utter trust. In their multitudes,
they were there, filling the darkness, keeping watch. Lowering his arms, he let them rest, his
hands above his head, lying on the old quilt he used as his bedroll. Slowly he opened his eyelids,
letting the full panoply of stars reappear, enjoying his controlled gradualness of their
reappearing. He sighed in satisfaction, lying perfectly still, only his eyes moving as they
roamed the familiar heavens. How silent, how sure the stars were and his lips curved slightly
upwards in acknowledgement and appreciation of their timeless order.
For Franklin Javair, lying on his back a day's ride north of Phoenix in the Year of Our Lord
1877, the star-laden night brought reaffirmation of everything he believed in, everything upon
which he based his entire life. He was right and the stars were proof of his rightness. His eyes
moved from Orion's belt to the dusty cluster of the Pleiades comprised of the Seven Sisters in
the constellation Taurus, then on to the dependable North Star. Dependable, yes. The stars
were that. Each of them knew its place in the sky, each held its course, and in its season
returned and was always the same. That was how life should be lived, orderly, following the eternal rules. It was how he lived, how he found meaning in his living. Disorderliness, the breaking of the prescribed pattern of behavior, all that was an abomination to him, not to
An intelligent man, he had examined his mind thoroughly on this matter, and was aware that
it was how he dealt with his own parentage. He had come into this world channeled through
a mother and a father who were both criminals. Indeed, he had been born in prison, but
taken from his maternal cell and placed in an orphanage run by nuns. There he had thrived
in the strictest of upbringings, developing an unshakable passion for the beautiful precision
of the law. Not once had he ever needed reprimanding for misbehavior, never been punished
for any sort of misdeed. He could not remember a time when he had not been utterly
scrupulous about keeping every rule and it was this he found so clearly reflected in the stars.
His hand moved from his side to his chest, his fingers trailing over the star he wore there. It
was only fitting he wore it, the symbol of all his foundations. Franklin was a United States
Marshal and on his way to Black Canyon, Arizona to take over the job from the previous
marshal, who had been killed last week in an attempted bank robbery. There was not a doubt
in his mind but that he would bring order to the town.
Franklin had begun his career in the law some years ago as a guard at Yuma Territorial
Prison. He had, of course, been entirely blameless in the circumstances of his birth, but in
his careful guarding of those rightly convicted, he found a further expiation, needed or not.
Something deep in his soul must have needed it. Over the years, he increased, magnified
the distance between himself and the guilty. He, law-abiding, righteous, would ever be
found so. Thusly, those who had been duly pronounced guilty would also ever so remain.
It was the way things worked, the immutable law of life. He believed it with all his heart.
Once or twice a convict had escaped from Yuma but Franklin had always tracked them down.
Not always did he return them to the prison. The guilt of their crime had been multiplied by
the guilt of their escape. Justice, yes, was a saner thing than mercy. Justice was neat, orderly,
and deserved. His God was a God of Justice and he was himself a reflection, an instrument
of that God. He thought of himself, indeed, as the hand of God, keeping order here on earth
as God kept order in the heavens. A criminal act created disorder and disorder must be
dealt with severely so it did not have opportunity for repetition. A man who had offended
the order of things was permanently guilty of the disruption, would never change, could
Somewhere in the far distance a coyote howled its loneliness to the moon. Franklin, though
he had no family, did not consider himself a lonely man. He was alone, yes, always alone, yet
wrapped in his sense of orderliness that, for him, filled all need for belonging. He was a part
of, belonged to, the great order of the universe and that was enough. He believed that, too,
with all his heart.
Tomorrow he would arrive in Black Canyon, bringing order with him. It was what he did. It
was who he was, Marshal Franklin Javair, forty-three years of age, preserver, restorer, of
the way things were meant to be. Tipping his black hat down over his face, he crossed his
boots at the ankle and fell asleep.
The afternoon was just beginning to wane toward evening when Javair rode down the single,
dirt street along whose edges Black Canyon was built. Hawk-like, his eyes scanned the
buildings, and he quickly found the marshal's office.
He stopped in front of it, remaining in the saddle, letting his horse drink from a trough, continuing his appraisal of the town. It had begun as a stage stop on the Phoenix to Prescott
line but thanks to the Agua Fria River that ran through its center, had gradually attracted settlers. He'd ridden past some of their small homesteads as he approached the town. Lining
the street was the usual array of businesses, a small hotel, a doctor's office, bank, stable, fairly good-sized saloon. The largest building was at the far end of the street, a two-storied plank structure whose roof sign identified it as Peterson's Mercantile. It wasn't much of a town, but now it was his town.
Dismounting, he hitched his black to the rail, and stepped up on the low boardwalk, observing
a poor specimen of manhood, his spindly chair tipped back against the wall of the office, sound
asleep, a disgusting drool of chaw ambure running down his chin. He shook his head, sighing,
because the man had a deputy marshal's badge pinned to the front of a dirty shirt. With a
swipe of his black boot, he sent the chair to its side, the deputy flailing his arms as he woke
to his fall. The man hit hard, his mouth flying open, his chaw wad spurting out, landing atop
the toe of Javair's left boot.
Javair eyed it as though it were snake guts, ignoring the swearing man who couldn't quite
seem to scramble to his feet. Taking two steps to the semi-prostrate man, he wiped the brown
gunk off on his pants leg.
"Damnation!" howled the man, lifting his head to see who had attacked him.
Javair narrowed his eyes. "On your feet!" he hissed through his teeth.
Grasping a window sill, the man hauled himself upright, patting his hip for his revolver. The
weapon had fallen out of its holster when Javair had tipped the chair and lay ineffectively off
near the front edge of the boardwalk. He found himself facing a man dressed almost entirely
in black with green eyes that glittered menacingly in a shaft of late afternoon sunlight. Aware
now of his empty holster, he made a move for his gun, but the stranger set a boot firmly down
atop it. Only then, did he notice the silver badge on the man's chest. He gulped, then let his
mouth hang loosely open, lost for words.
Javair studied the deputy's face, his own lip slightly curled in disgust. The man's teeth were
brown from years of chewing tobacco, each of them outlined in darker brown. His eyes were
blue, very pale blue, and in them Javair read surprise, discomfort, embarrassment. The
deputy saw clearly in the stranger's eyes that his own measurement had been taken and he
had been found wanting.
Javair shook his head slowly, not bothering to introduce himself. "You are...?"
The man bobbed his head up and down a couple of times. "Willy, Sir. Um, William Spatts,
Javair sighed again, then without another word went through the door into the office with
its small section of cells just behind. Immediately he saw that the cells were all unoccupied.
To his mind, a cell was made for the single purpose of having an occupant. The office itself
was generally untidy and he frowned. Spatts had come in behind him and he was aware of
the man standing not far from his back. He didn't like men standing close to his back, so he
turned, fixing the man with a gaze much in the same manner that a hawk looked at a rabbit.
Spatts hunched his shoulders, leaning away, though his feet remained in the same spot. "You...
you the...the new..."
"I am the marshal here now, yes," Javair acknowledged with one brief nod, then turned and
walked around the desk, sitting in the chair and opening the top drawer. A few papers he'd
check later, two sets of handcuffs, some keys, a pencil. He looked up at Spatts. "You the only
deputy I got?"
"Yes...yessir. Me, that's it. Ain't much trouble in this town. No call for much in the way of
"No call?" Javair repeated. "Wasn't the marshal gunned down just a week ago or am I...
"No, nosir. You ain't misinformed. Marshal Betts sure 'nuf got hisself kilt Tuesday week."
"And where were you at the time?" Javair smiled grimly.
"Me? I...I was...well, I was...I was..."
"Not with him, were you? Not where you should have been."
"Nosir, I...I...warn't with the marshal. Not...not at the...the time."
"So," Javair's grim smile continued, "you have been all the law this town's had for the last
week. Is that right?"
"Um, yessir, I reckon that's right."
"Is there a mayor?"
"Well, yessir, we got ourselfs a mayor, sure 'nuf."
"I would like to meet him. You will take me to him now, Deputy Spatts."
Spatts looked over his shoulder then back at Javair, chewing his lip.
"Is there some problem with my request, Deputy Spatts?"
"No, nosir. It's just the mayor, he's kinda busy right about now."
"A mayor should be busy, Deputy Spatts. It is his job to be busy. Nevertheless, I wish to meet
the man since he is mayor and should know of my arrival. You will take me to him now."
He followed Spatts back out onto the boardwalk, pausing to let two middle-aged women
pass by. Taking off his hat, he tipped his head to them. "Afternoon, ladies."
"Down thisaway, Sir, toward all that hammerin'."
"And what is being hammered, Spatts, and why would the mayor have anything to do with it?"
"The church, Sir. They's buildin' us a church just past the mercantile an' the mayor, he's
helpin' with the work."
Javair cocked an eyebrow. A mayor with a hammer in his hand. An interesting, if unusual,
concept. "What is the mayor's name?" he asked as they walked along.
"Sullivan, Sir. Michael Sullivan."
"And has he been the mayor of Black Canyon long?"
"Since afore I come here, Sir. Been close to ten year, I guess. I...I'll go on ahead an' let him
know you want to see him."
Spatts hurried diagonally across the street, his boots kicking up little puffs of dust. Javair
had been standing on the boardwalk in the shade of the small porch of the doctor's office,
but now stepped out into the street. All these towns smelled alike...dust, old wood, new-sawn
planking, horse sweat, manure. He waited in the midst of it for the mayor to come to him.
"Mr. Sullivan?" Spatts said, coming up behind a man who'd taken off his shirt as he worked,
now just the top of his longjohns showing above his dusty pants.
The dark-haired man turned with a smile, wiping his forearm across his sweaty brow.
"Afternoon, Deputy Spatts. How can I help you?"
"We...we got ourselfs a new marshal, Mr. Sullivan, an' he says he wants to make your
acquaintance now that he's got hisself to town." He turned and gestured toward where
Javair waited in the street just past the mercantile.
"Ah, good! I've been hoping it wouldn't take too long for someone to come up from Phoenix."
Laying down his hammer, he wiped his hands on his pants leg and turned to follow Spatts.
"You catch the marshal's name?"
"Nosir, he never told me it."
"Well, that's all right. I expect he'll introduce himself soon enough."
The mayor and the deputy walked side by side toward the figure in black who was waiting
for them. Sullivan already had an anticipatory smile on his face but as he got closer, suddenly
stopped, his forehead creasing. Under his breath, he mumbled, "Oh, my God. Javair!"
ON TO CHAPTER 2
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