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Not What You'd Expect - chapter 1

Hi all.

Another one of my old stories, which Ellie helped beta back then...

Not What You'd ExpectCollapse )

Chapter 9

Even after only hours on the road, Jimmy already knew he was not going to find Buck. Lou sent him searching for someone both of them knew they weren’t going to find. Buck was too much of a master for them to be able to track him. Especially for Jimmy, who never cared much about tracking. But his heart wouldn’t let him stop his search just yet. He owed it to Lou to keep on searching. At least for another day. He just prayed he was making the right decision by leaving her like that for another day.

Lou was standing with her back to the kitchen door, making sandwiches for lunch. She looked out the window at her children, not letting them out of her sight. She jumped when she heard a noise behind her, but relaxed when she saw it was Kid and rushed to his side, helping him sit down. "You shouldn’t be out of bed yet." She scolded.

"I feel fine." He muttered.

She looked at him for a few seconds, then returned to the counter to finish preparing lunch.

Kid watched her back. "Jimmy hadn’t come back yet?" he asked.

Lou shook her head.

"Louise…" Kid stood up and walked to stand behind her, ignoring his trembling legs and the searing pain in his body. Lou turned to find herself in his arms, his face only inches from hers. "We need to talk." He said.

Lou closed her eyes and looked down, unable to meet his eyes. "What about?" she asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

"About us." He answered her, his voice husky with emotions.

Lou turned her back to him, still standing in the circle of his arms. "I have to go get the kids back in for lunch." She said and moved away from him, walking outside.

Kid sunk back into the chair and sighed. His head was spinning and he cursed himself for coming down. His headache only grew worse when the children came rushing in.

Emma tried to climb onto his lap but Lou was quick enough to catch her and move her away from her father. "You’re father needs his rest." She scolded and served the food to the table.

Jed stared at his father, feeling uncomfortable with him, knowing all that happened between his parents. "Are you going to stay here?" he was surprised to see his father looking at him intently and only then realized that he spoke out loud.

Kid looked at Lou and then back at his son, "What brought that up?" he asked with a smile, trying to look innocent.

"Mama said you will stay here when you wake up." Jed answered.

Kid shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "We’ll talk about it later. Okay?"

Jed looked hurt and lowered his eyes. "Don’t you like us anymore?" he asked. The tears choking him.

Kid’s own eyes filled with tears as well. "Of course I like you. I love you. Don’t you know that?"

Jed stood up and run upstairs. Lou called after him, but he wouldn’t stop. "I’ll go talk to him." She said and rose but Kid held her hand, stopping her.

"What will you tell him?" he asked. "We need to talk before you go up there." He stood and led her to the parlor, leaving their daughters with tears in their eyes.

"Kid…" Lou started when they were alone. "Why didn’t you answer him? Why didn’t you tell him you are staying?"

"Am I staying, Lou?" he asked. "And what will happen the next time we would argue?"

Lou turned her back to him. "We won’t." she said simply.

"Louise…" he sighed and dropped into a chair. "You know better than this. At times it seems all we do is argue and fight." When she looked at him with hurt in her eyes he quickly explained. "I’ve never stopped loving you. But we do argue a lot more lately. A lot more than we used to." He stopped before his next sentence, which he knew would be definite. "I don’t want to come back if you will tell me to leave the next time we would disagree on something."

Lou took a step back and looked at him unbelievingly. "You don’t mean it." She said shakily. "Kid, tell me you don’t mean it."

Kid looked at her, tears rolling down his face and then lowered his eyes to his hands, unable to look at her anymore.

Lou fell on the floor by him and grabbed his hands in hers. "Please, Kid." She begged. "I was wrong. I thought I was strong enough to live my life without you, but I was wrong. Kid, I’m not strong enough. I can survive and beat a thousand men, but I won’t be able to live without your love."

"You will always have my love, Lou." Kid said.

"It’s not enough." She said and took his face in her hands. "I want you here. Forever. This is your home and your family. I will never doubt your love and your devotion to us. Just, please, say you will stay here." She kissed him, not stopping until she felt him returning the kiss, his arms enfolding her.

Kid broke the kiss when they were both breathless. "I will never leave you again, Lou." He promised. "I’ll go up now and tell Jed that."

She took his hand in hers and helped him stand. "Lets tell him that together." She said.

Jimmy stopped his horse as he saw the house. He sighed, fearing what he was going to find there. Had the men come back? Were Lou and the children okay? And Kid?

He shook his head. Of course they are all fine, he thought and spurred his horse forward.

He found Kid sitting on the porch swing, watching his children playing in the yard. Jimmy dismounted and hugged Kid who came down the steps to greet him. "I couldn’t find him." He answered the unasked question.

"I didn’t think you would." Kid said. "It’s a good thing, though. Means no one else would find him either."

Jimmy nodded. "How are you feeling?"

Kid shrugged. "Like I’ve been shot." He smiled. "I feel better now. Lou and I talked about our problems…"

At that minute, as if on signal, Lou ran out of the house and into Jimmy’s arms. She hugged him tightly and then let go. "Well?" she asked. "Have you found him?"

Jimmy shook his head.

"Lou," Kid started and put an arm around her shoulders. "Buck is far away from here by now. I’m sure he’s safe." He kissed her forehead. "I want to go to town to check on a few things. Jimmy will stay here with you."

"I don’t need a babysitter, Kid." Lou turned to face her husband. "And I don’t want you to go there. You’re not well yet and the murderer is probably still out there. And Shuster…"

"Damn, Kid," Jimmy cried suddenly, interrupting Lou, "I forgot to tell you." Both Kid and Lou were staring curiously at him now. "When I was in town to get the doctor I found him in the telegraph office. The clerk asked me to tell you that the lawyers telegraphed Shuster saying he will inherit all his wife’s money."

Lou gasped and clenched her husband’s arm. "Kid, that’s the proof we needed. That’s the motive."

"He killed her for the money." Kid stated the obvious. "He must’ve attached Buck on his way back here and killed his wife, blaming Buck." Kid stopped for a second and looked at Lou and Jimmy, trying to see through their thoughts. "I’m going to Shuster’s place." He said finally and started toward the stable.

"Kid, wait…" Lou shouted after him and looked at Jimmy, pleading with him to stop her husband.

"Sorry, Lou." Jimmy said and walked after Kid.

The both of them emerged from the stable after a minute, Jimmy riding Lightning, figuring his horse was tired after the last couple of days.

Lou watched them ride, knowing why they had to go, but fearing for their safety.

She ran back into the house to fetch the gun and returned to the porch to watch over her kids, the gun held tight in her hand.

Kid and Jimmy rode fast the few miles that separated the McCloud’s house from the Shuster’s.

Kid jumped off Katy at the house steps and reached for his gun. "Shuster!" he yelled toward the house. "You’re under arrest for the murder of your wife!"

Kid looked around at the deserted yard, taking a glimpse of Jimmy carefully entering the small barn.

"Shuster!" he yelled again.

"Kid!" Jimmy came running toward him. "He’s not here. All the horses are gone and there are some fresh tracks heading south."

Kid, hearing this, broke the door open and entered the house. He re-holstered his gun and run up the stairs to the bedroom, the scene of crime. He looked around the room, while Jimmy watched him from the door, but found nothing new.

"Kid," Jimmy started, walking to stand by his friend in the middle of the big room. "We’d better head after him. He’s probably already far from here."

Kid nodded. "We have to pass at the house first. I want to tell Lou."

An hour later they were mounted on their horses again, their bags filled with food Lou arranged for them to take.

"Take care." She said, standing by Katy. "Remember you promised to stay here. So come back safely."

Kid leaned down to kiss her. "We will both come back." He said. "I love you."

With that, the two men started their ride after Shuster.

Being the expert riders they were, they were able to gain speed and by noon the next day, they finally reached Shuster and his two friends. They weren’t wearing the hoods now, and Kid, seeing as he couldn’t identify the other two, figured they were from out of town.

"Well," Jimmy started. "What do you want to do?"

Kid shrugged. "We still need to get down this slope."

"We can get them from here." Jimmy noted.

"I’d rather get them alive, Jimmy, so they can stand trial. I can’t just shoot them."

Jimmy nodded. "Yeah, I know. I’m wearing the same badge, Kid."

Kid looked at him and smiled. "It sure is surprising."

Jimmy smiled at that. "Yeah, well…"

"Come on." Kid started toward the valley below them. Jimmy followed immediately.

They followed the three men for a few miles longer, deciding to surprise them when they made camp. By nightfall Shuster and his friends stopped at a clearing and dismounted. Kid and Jimmy stopped their horses and came closer on foot.

"Shuster!" Kid yelled when they were close enough. "You’re under arrest for the murder of your wife! Drop your guns and hold your hands up where I can see them!"

Before Kid could continue a shot rang and he ducked. "Shuster!" he shouted again. "Don’t force me to kill you!"

More shots followed and Kid and Jimmy were forced into a gunfight.

Suddenly Kid heard a shot coming from a new direction, directed at Shuster. He looked questioningly at Jimmy but got only a bewildered shrug in response.

After a few more minutes the shots stopped. Shuster was dead and his wounded friend held his good arm up, surrendering himself.

Kid and Jimmy emerged from behind the trees, looking around for the mysterious shooter.

Their faces broke into grins as Buck came out of his hiding place. "Your gun." He said to the Kid, giving it back to him.

Kid hugged his friend tightly. "I’m sorry, Buck." He said.

Buck pulled away and shook Kid’s hand. "It’s okay." He said. "I am free now." He looked at the dead men. "Shuster?" he asked.

Kid nodded. "He was after Melissa’s money." He sighed. "The poor woman…"

Jimmy walked closer to them, after securing the wounded man to a saddle. "I’m sure Lou would be very happy if you came with us." He told Buck.

The Indian shook his head. "Not today." He said. "Tell her I’m alright and that I will come back, but not today. I think it’d be better if I stayed away from town for awhile longer."

Kid and Jimmy nodded understandingly.

"You’re always welcome." Kid said, taking Buck’s hand in his.

Buck smiled. "I know. Send my love to Lou." With that he turned and disappeared between the trees.

Jimmy looked at Kid and patted his shoulder. "Let’s go home." He said.

Kid nodded and after a few more seconds followed toward the horses.

They reached the town by late afternoon the next day. Jimmy stayed in the jail, watching over the prisoner, and sensing Kid needed some time alone with his wife.

Kid dismounted and led Katy to the stable, stalling, a bit intimidated at seeing Lou. She surprised him, however, by coming to the stable after him. She looked at him, patting Katy absentmindedly. "Where’s Jimmy?" she asked.

"In town, we have a prisoner."

"Shuster?" Lou asked.

Kid shook his head. "He’s dead. One of his friends."

Lou nodded.

They looked at each other awkwardly. "Are you okay?" Kid asked her.

She nodded, finding it impossible to talk. She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply, tears of relief falling freely from her eyes.

"I was so worried." She said when they broke the kiss.

"I told you I’d come back." He said.

"So you did." She kissed him again.

"We saw Buck." Kid said after they kissed for a few moments.

"How is he?" Lou asked, fearing the worse.

Kid saw all the emotions running trough her head and smiled. "He’s fine. He promised to come visit sometime, when the town’s people cool off."

Lou nodded and hugged her husband tightly. "Thank you." She said. "For setting him free."

Kid kissed her forehead. "I finally saw the truth. I’m just glad I wasn’t too late."

Lou kissed him deeply. "You’re a good man, Kid McCloud."

Kid laughed at that. "Thank you for giving me your name."

"You deserve it." She said and kissed his nose.

After they held each other awhile longer, Lou backed away toward the door, taking Kid’s hand in hers. "Come on, let’s get something to eat."

They walked together, hand in hand, toward the house with a promise for a happy future.

A Question of Priorities - part 8

Chapter 8

Lou ran out of the house as soon as she had a chance, Jimmy right behind her. She knelt by her husband, taking his head and cradling it on her lap. She looked questioningly at Jimmy, who was examining Kid, but he just shrugged. “I can’t tell, Lou.” He said as he continued his examination.

Lou looked up when she heard the house door open. Jed’s face appeared at the entrance, looking scared and confused.

Lou lay Kid’s head softly on the ground and went to her son. “Are you alright?” she asked.

The boy nodded. “Mary and Emma are scared.” He said. “How’s daddy?”

“He will be okay.” Lou promised, even though she had no indication he was going to be okay.

Jimmy came to stand by them. “I’d better go get the doctor, Lou. I don’t want to move him, so stay by his side.” He turned to get his horse from the stable.

“Ride safe.” Lou called after him. They didn’t know who the men were and didn’t know whom they should be aware of. She returned to her husband side, after she sent Jed inside to sit with the girls. “Please wake up, Kid.” she cried. “Please...”

Jimmy went straight for the doctor’s. He pounded his fist on the door, calling for the doctor. The doctor’s wife opened the door. “He ain’t here.” She said, angry for the intrusion. “He went to send a telegraph.”

Jimmy didn’t even thank her and just ran across the street to the telegraph office. “Doc, the marshal is hurt badly.” Jimmy said, out of breath.

“What are you talking about, son?” the doctor asked.

“The marshal... at his home... been shot.” Jimmy tried again, still trying to get his breathing under control.

“I’ll get me horse.” The doctor said and, wasting no time, ran back to his office.

Before Jimmy could follow, the clerk called him. “Mrs. McCloud asked me if Shuster got any mail or sent anything out...”

Jimmy looked at him, trying to figure what’s the importance with this, now that his friend could be dying.

“He got a telegraph from those lawyers, saying his wife inheritance of three-thousand dollars will be given to him, when he’d get to their office.”

Jimmy pondered that for only a second, before a little smile formed on his lips. This might be the break they needed for Buck, he thought. “Thank you.” He said. “I’ll make sure to tell Mrs. McCloud about it.”

“And tell her I hope her husband will be okay.” The clerk called after Jimmy who ran out to mount his horse and get back to his friends.

Lou was still by Kid’s side when Jimmy came back with the doctor. They both quickly dismounted and ran to her side. Kid’s shirt was already open, showing his bleeding wound under Lou’s pressing hands. “Please help him, doctor. He’s losing so much blood.” She cried.

“Can we move him, doctor?” Jimmy asked.

“Yes. Help me get him inside.”

“No.” Lou suddenly cried. “The children...”

“Go and get them into their room.” Jimmy instructed her.

Lou did as he told her, not quite able to think for herself. She couldn’t remember ever feeling like that. She saw him getting shot at numerous times before, when they were riding for the express and now when he was the marshal, and it frightened ever time. But nothing like what it did to her now. She was scared this was the end, this was the final time. She ran into the house, taking Emma in one arm and Mary’s hand in the other. Jed followed her silently, sensing now was not the time to ask any questions.

She put the kids in the girls’ room, leaving Jed in charge and ran to the bedroom, where Jimmy and the doctor were now lying Kid on the bed. He let out a moan, but didn’t wake. The doctor removed Kid’s shirt, trying to move him as little as possible. Jimmy watched Lou carefully, hoping she would gather her wits together and help the doctor. She knew more than he did about fixing up wounded people and he really wished to get away from that room, but first he had to make sure she could handle it.

Lou wiped the tears from her eyes and sat at Kid’s head, caressing his curls. “He’s going to be alright, Doc. Isn’t he?”

The doctor looked at her. “I just started, ma’am. Can you please boil some water for me?”

Lou looked at Jimmy, begging him with her eyes.

“I’ll be right back.” He said, leaving the room and heading for the kitchen.

Lou stayed sitting on the bed, her husband’s head in her lap. “Don’t you die on me.” She whispered. “Don’t leave me like this.”

When Jimmy brought the water the doctor cleaned the wound. “The bullet is still inside.” He said. “I have to take it out or it will cause an infection.”

Lou nodded. “How can I help?” she asked, trying with all her might to be strong again and help out.

“Marshal, I will need you to hold him down, in case he wakes up” the doctor told Jimmy. “And I need you, ma’am, to help clean the wound as I look for the bullet.”

Lou nodded and got in position next to the doctor. She took a cloth in her hand and cleaned the blood that continued to gush from the wound as the doctor pried for the bullet inside the hole it made in Kid’s stomach.

Kid stayed still throughout the whole procedure, which made Lou even more worried. Throughout the whole thing, up until when the doctor pulled the bullet out, a part of her prayed for him to wake up, while another part wished for him to stay unconscious, so he won’t suffer.

But now, she became worried. What if he will never wake up? She thought as tears welled up in her eyes again.

The doctor finished bandaging Kid and motioned Jimmy to follow him out. Before the young man could ask any question, the doctor held his hand to stop him. “I don’t know.” The doctor answered the unquestioned question. “He lost a lot of blood and the fact that he hasn’t woke up yet is not a good sign. However,” the doctor continued, “he is a young and strong man. I’ve seen him pull through much more difficult situations. He needs a lot of rest, even when he will eventually wake up. Don’t let him back in town for at least a month. I’ll come to check on him tomorrow, but in the mean time I want you to make him as comfortable as possible.”

Jimmy nodded his acknowledgment and the doctor left. Jimmy checked on Lou and found her sitting next to her husband, holding his hand in hers, speaking her love for him. He silently closed the door behind him and went to check on the children. He found them on Mary’s bed, cuddled together. Emma was sleeping with her head in Jed’s lap, while he stroked her hair. Jimmy smiled at the way she sucked her thumb in her mouth, looking so innocent and angelic. Jed and Marry looked at him when he walked in, their faces watery with tears. Mary climbed off the bed and ran into her uncle’s open arms. “Don’t worry, sweetheart.” Jimmy tried to ease her mind a bit. “Your father is going to be alright.”

“Is mama with him?” Jed asked from the bed.

Jimmy looked at him and nodded. “The doctor just left. He said your father is strong and that he will pull through this.” Jimmy saw the boy’s intelligent eyes, a combination of both his parents’ wisdom and knew the he needed more than that. “Your father has been shot,” He admitted, “But the doctor said he believes he will be okay. We just have to be patient.”

“Can I see him?” Jed asked, satisfied with Jimmy’s honesty, but still wanting to see for himself.

Jimmy nodded. “But be quiet.” He added just before Jed disappeared behind the door.

Jed peeked into the room, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. He saw the silhouette of his mother, holding what he knew was his father’s head. He walked in, trying to be as quiet as he could. Lou noticed him and smiled weakly, motioning him to come closer. “Did you eat supper?” she asked.

Jed shook his head. “Not yet. But I ain’t hungry.”

Lou could see the tears in Jed’s eyes and she collected them with her finger as they rolled down his cheeks. “Everything will be alright. You’ll see.” She said in a shivering voice.

“Why hasn’t he woken up yet?” the boy asked.

“He’s been shot, and he hit his head on the stair. But he will wake up. He’s just resting after the last few days.” Lou tried to sound hopeful.

“Mama...” Jed had one other thing on his mind. “Is daddy coming back to live with us here now?”

Lou looked at her son, obviously surprised. “What made you ask that?”

“I know daddy slept in his office the night we left for Uncle Jimmy and the night before. I know you had a fight.”

Lou felt renewed tears in her eyes. “Daddy’s going to stay with us.” Lou promised. “Once he wakes up we’ll tell him how much we all love him and he will stay with us.”

“Didn’t he want to?” Jed asked. “Is that why he hadn’t come for my party?”

Lou caressed her son’s cheek and took his hand in hers. She smiled as she realised that she was probably watching the image of Kid when he was that age. “Your father and I had a little disagreement, but everything’s going to be fine now.”

“Was it about that Indian friend of yours?”

Lou nodded. “Remember when dad and I told you about your uncles?”

“Uncle Jimmy and Uncle Cody.” Jed said.

“Yes. But remember we told you that there were others you haven’t met?”

“Like Uncle Ike and Uncle Noah?” Jed asked.

“And Uncle Buck.” Lou said. “He was the one you saw at the jail.”

“Did he kill Mrs. Shuster?” Jed asked.

Lou shook her head. “We don’t know yet who killed her, but it wasn’t Buck. Do you know what framing someone means?” Lou asked, trying to explain everything to the seven year old young man.

Jed shook his head.

“It’s when someone is doing something and then say someone else did it.” Lou said, always the teacher, she thought.

“So someone else killed her and said Uncle Buck did it?” Jed asked. “So why did daddy put him in jail if he didn’t do it?”

Lou looked at her son sadly. It was time to stand by her husband, she decided, not against him. “We didn’t know it wasn’t him. We needed a proof.”

“So now you know who did it?” Jed asked.

“Not yet.” Lou said, turning around as she heard someone opening the door. Jimmy stood at the door shyly. “I thought I’d make the kids something to eat...” he said.

Lou nodded. “Jed, why won’t you help your uncle, so he can find the things he needs.” She said, pushing Jed gently toward the opening.

A couple of hours later, after Jimmy put the kids to sleep, he knocked on the door to Kid and Lou’s bedroom. When he received no answer, he opened the door. Lou was still sitting by Kid’s head, her head hanging low, obviously asleep. He touched her shoulder gently, wanting to help her into a more comfortable position. She stirred and opened her eyes, immediately looking for a change in her husband’s state. “He hasn’t woken up yet.” She stated.

Jimmy shook his head. “We have to wait.” He told her, his hand still on her shoulder. “Why don’t you get some sleep, Lou. I’ll watch him.”

Lou shook her head furiously. “I can’t, Jimmy. I owe him at least that much. I’ve sinned against him by not trusting him more and not knowing him better. I hated him, Jimmy. For all he did to Buck – what I thought he did. I have to tell him how sorry I am.” She said, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I have to see if he still loves me...”

“He does.” Jimmy assured her, but it seemed she didn’t hear him.

“Cause if he doesn’t, I don’t know what I’ll...”

“He does.” Jimmy said again, more firmly now, lifting her chin with his fingers so he could look her in the eyes. “He still loves you. He told me so.”

Lou’s eyes brightened some. “He did?” she asked, her voice trembling.

Jimmy nodded. “When we came here we had a talk about everything that has happened and he told me how sorry he was for not being with you lately as much as he should and as much as he wanted. He told me about you not living together anymore and he said how much he missed waking up with you in his arms.”

“Oh, Jimmy...” Lou sighed. “If only he wakes up...”

“He will.” Jimmy told her. “But I want you to be able to see that. And if you keep on sitting here like that you will fall asleep eventually and miss it. You go and lie for awhile in the other room.” He said. “I’ll stay here with him.”

Lou nodded and rose to her feet. She kissed Kid’s forehead and then his lips. She hugged Jimmy and whispered a thank you in his ear before she left the room.

When she woke up in the morning, it took her a few seconds to remember where she was and everything that happened the day before. She rushed out of bed and across the hall to Kid. He was still unconscious and she fell to her knees by the bed, sobbing in her hands. When she finally relaxed a bit, she looked around but saw no sign of Jimmy. She walked to the kitchen where she found him making breakfast. “Sleep well?” he asked, not mentioning her breakdown of only several minutes before.

She touched his arm, wanting him to look at her. “I want you to do something for me, Jimmy.” She said.

“Anything, Lou.” He waited for her to name it. He’d fly to the moon if she only asked him.

“I want you to go look for Buck.” She said.

“What?” He exclaimed. “We have no idea where he is right now, and I don’t want to leave you here alone.”

“I’m not alone, Jimmy.” She said.

“Lou...” Jimmy started, frustrated. “You are alone here with the children and Kid like that. What if these men came here again?”

“It’s very important to me, Jimmy. And I know Kid would like to know about Buck when he wakes up.”

“Lou,” Jimmy took her hand and sat her on a chair by the table. “He might not make it.”

“Don’t say that!” Lou yelled at him. “Kid didn’t do this for nothing. Buck has to make it!”

“I didn’t talk about Buck.” He said in a low voice.

Lou felt the tears well in her eyes. “Don’t you ever say that, James Hickok. He has to make it. I have to see his blue eyes once again, to tell him how much I love him.” She was sobbing now, and Jimmy could do nothing but take her in his arms and promise to go look for Buck.

“I’d better go check on Kid.” Lou said when she calmed down and the sobbing subsided.

Jimmy nodded. “Is there any food I can take with me?” he asked.

Lou pointed at one of the cupboards. “Take what you need.” She said as she walked upstairs.

She entered the room and noted nothing has changed. She sat on the bed, taking her husbands hand in hers. “Please wake up, Kid.” she whispered. “Jimmy is going away now and I’m scared of being here alone.”

A sharp noise woke her up a couple of hours later. She cursed herself for falling asleep and quickly checked on Kid. No change. In the kitchen, she found Jed collecting the pieces of what was once a glass, while her daughters were giggling as they watched him. She made them something to eat and sent them outside to play. Feeling it has been too long since she left him, she returned to the bedroom.

She gasped and rushed to the bed as Kid tried to rise into a sitting position. Her hand on his shoulder, she forced him to lie on his back. “You need to rest.” She whispered.

“Water.” He mouthed and she let him sip some from the glass that waited for him to wake.

Lou felt no words were enough to express her emotions at the moment and so she just sat by his head, caressing his curls and lightly kissing his forehead and his brows.

“How are the kids?” he asked after a few minutes.

“They’re fine. We’re all fine, Kid. You too. We were just waiting for you to wake up. The children miss you.”

“What about these men?” he asked.

“Some of them are dead.” She said. “Three ran away.”

“Who?” he asked.

“We could only identify the dead ones, but I couldn’t recognize them. I don’t think they live here.”

“What about Shuster?” Kid asked.

“He wasn’t one of the dead, Kid.”

Kid nodded and immediately regretted it as a major headache hit him.

“The doctor should be here later today.” Lou said as she noticed his discomfort.

“How bad is it?” Kid asked.

“The doctor said the wound will heal just fine if there won’t be an infection. He wasn’t sure about you because you hit your head on the step.”

“Is Jimmy okay?”

Lou nodded. “He went to look for Buck. I told him you’d like to know how is he.”

“He’s not going to find him.” Kid stated.

“I was worried about you.” Lou changed the subject, eager to tell Kid what’s been on her mind since he told her the truth about Buck. “I was worried I won’t have the chance to tell you that I love you.”

“I know...” Kid whispered, wishing in his heart she kissed him, since he had no strength to pull himself up by himself.

“I’m sorry for not trusting you more.” She continued. “I want things between us to return to the way they were. I wouldn’t mind it if you decide to work long hours and only come home late at night, as long as you will come home eventually, come to me...”

Kid could wait no longer. “Kiss me...” he whispered, cutting her in the middle of her speech.

“What?” Lou didn’t quite hear what he was saying, her mind on the rest of her thoughts she didn’t yet verbalize.

“Kiss me.” Kid requested again.

Lou smiled and kissed his forehead.

Kid closed his eyes and closed his lips together, trying to explain better what he meant. Lou giggled and kissed his nose.

“Lou...” he growled, but was soon shut as her lips met his.

A Question of Priorities - part 7

Chapter 7

Kid came back only way after midnight. Lou was sleeping on the chair by his desk, but Buck was still awake, staring at the ceiling. “She wanted to apologize, but fell asleep about an hour ago.” He said.

“She was right, though, you know.” Kid spoke back.

“No she wasn’t, Kid. I already told you, I don’t think you could’ve done anything different. You are the marshal, and you did what you had to do as a marshal.”

“But I didn’t do what I had to as a friend, Buck. And I was that to you.” Kid said, looking at his hands.

“You still are, Kid. But not for long, I’m afraid.”

“Well, I thought about that when I wasn’t here, and I’ve come to a decision.” Kid said, reaching for his desk drawer.

“What decision?” Buck asked suspiciously, getting up from his bunk and moving toward the door.

Kid pulled a set of keys and opened the cell door. “I’m getting you out of here.”

“What are you talking about?” Buck couldn’t understand.

Kid moved closer to Buck and opened the handcuffs. “You’re getting out.” He said.

“You can’t do that, Kid. You’ll get in trouble. Think about your family. They need you.”

Your family needs you.” Kid said. “I’ll say you ran away. That you’ve managed to get a hold on my gun, and that I had to let you go. I’ll try to truck you tomorrow, but of-course you’ll be long gone and I wouldn’t be able to find you, and besides, being an Indian, you know how to cover your tracks, right?” Kid smiled sarcastically. “Just make sure to really be as far as you can and please do cover your tracks so Shuster and his men won’t find you.” Buck was speechless and Kid continued, handing him his gun. “Take it, so I will sound more truthful. And please don’t hit me too hard...”

Buck took the gun, then hugged his friend. “Thank you, Kid.” he said through tears. “You know this means I won’t be able to ever come back here.”

“It’s either that or you won’t be able to ‘come back’ to nowhere.” Kid answered.

“Just say good-bye to Lou and thank her for me, and please tell her I love her.”

“I will, Buck, but you’d better go.” Kid pushed him toward the door and turned his back on him.

“Thank you, Kid. For everything.” Buck said before knocking Kid out.

Lou woke up to the sound of groans. She stretched her stiff back and searched for the cause of it. Her eyes caught the sight of Buck’s cell, which was now open and empty. She looked for Kid and found him lying on the ground near the door. She ran to his side, helping him up. He held his hand on the back of his neck. “Damn, he hit me hard.” He muttered.

“Where’s Buck, Kid?” Lou asked dangerously.

“He’s gone, escaped. He must’ve hit me and escaped.”

“You mean you let him escape.” She whispered, not knowing who might be listening.

“What are you talking about?” he denied her accusations. “He got a hold on my gun and escaped.”

“You can tell me the truth.” She said.

“This is the truth, Lou. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to gather a posse to look for him.”

“Kid, you’re not going to bring him in again, are you?”

Kid looked into her eyes, searching for her love. Through the mask of anger, he couldn’t find it. He lowered his head and nodded. “I have to, Lou.” He said.

She only made it easier for him when she moved as far from him as she could within the boundaries of the small office and looked at him unbelievingly, tears welling in her eyes. “How can you?”

Kid had to suppress a smile. He must be even better than he thought, if she believed his act like that. But the situation was serious. He knew she would never forgive him for this. Even if he, in-fact, won’t ‘find’ Buck. “I’m sorry.” He mouthed and walked out.

Lou sank to her knees, sobbing. Only a week ago, her life was perfect. Of-course she had problems, her marriage needed some changes, some improvements, but she never, not in her most terrible nightmares, thought it will come to a point where she wouldn’t trust Kid. Even when Buck was his prisoner and he truly believed he was guilty, she knew it was his beliefs. But now... when he already admitted he was wrong and Buck was innocent...

Jimmy was sitting at his desk, teaching Jed how to play poker. He smiled as the boy won again. “You are going to be just like your mother.” He said. “I never could beat her in a card game.”

“Did you ever beat dad?” Jed asked.

“In cards? Yeah. Your father isn’t a big fan of cards.”

“Dad is good in being a marshal.” Jed said and Jimmy could swear he heard sadness in his voice.

“And you don’t like him being a marshal?” he asked.

Jed shrugged. “Are you a good marshal?”

Jimmy thought about that carefully. “I think your father is better at it than I am. Would you like to be a marshal when you grow up?”

“No.” Jed answered. “I would want to spend time with my kids.”

It finally dawned on Jimmy. “He’s not home a lot.” He said understandingly.

Jed shook his head. “Mama is pretty upset about it too. And dad wasn’t sleeping at home the night we came here.”

“Where was he?” Jimmy asked.

“He was staying in town. The night before as well.”

“You want me to talk to them?” Jimmy asked. “You know they love each other, and you and your sisters. Maybe if they knew how much it’s hurting you...”

“It will be okay. When the trial’s over.”

“Whose trial?” Jimmy asked. He was curious the first time Lou talked about it, and only now understood Jed knew something about it.

“I don’t remember his name, but he’s a friend of them. And he’s Indian.”

“Buck? He’s name’s Buck?” Jimmy asked excitedly.

“Yeah, that’s it.”

Just then a young man came in. “Marshal, you have a telegram.” He said, handing Jimmy a piece of paper.

“Well, Jed, looks like you’re going home. This telegram is from your mother and she asked me to bring you there.”

“Is everything alright there?” Jed asked.

“It doesn’t say, but we’ll be home tomorrow and see for ourselves.” Jimmy put his hand on the boy’s shoulder for reassurance. “Come, let’s tell your sisters. I’m sure Mrs. Brown will be just as happy as you are to see you go.”

“They sure give her a hard time.” Jed laughed.

“It’s a wonder how your mother keeps up with those two...”

When Kid came back Lou was nowhere to be found. He searched the office and behind it, searched the grocery store and even the church. When he gave up on the town, he went home. He found her sitting on the porch, two carpetbags by her feet.

“I didn’t find him.” He said as he dismounted Katy.

“I’m sorry for you.” She said. “What will happen to your job now?”

“Nothing.” He said. “He escaped, I couldn’t find him, though I tried.”

Something in his tone alerted her. He wasn’t as disappointed of not finding him as she thought he would. He even sounded as if he was... happy?

“What’s with the bags?” Kid asked, bringing her back from her dreams.

“It’s your clothes.” She answered, drained of emotions. She spent the whole day crying. Crying in town, crying on her way home, crying when she packed his things.

“What do you mean?”

“You said you would be the one to leave.” She waited for him to understand. When she saw the recognition on his face, she continued. “So these are your clothes. I couldn’t put them all in those two bags, so there are some more left here.” She rose to her feet and started to go inside, when Kid grabbed her arm.

“Is this really necessary?” he asked.

Lou had tears in her eyes again. “Please, Kid...” she whispered. “It’s hard enough.”

“Hard, Lou?” he cried. “What was the hardest? Telling me you don’t want me in your life anymore or pack my things?”

She couldn’t control the tears any longer. He really thinks I enjoy this... she thought.

“Is this really necessary?” he asked again, lowering his voice.

She nodded and all he could do was let her go. It was pointless. He saw she made up her mind, and knowing how stubborn she was, there was no point in even trying to make her reconsider. He picked up the bags and went to sleep in the stable, not wanting to go back to the town, and not wanting to leave her all alone in the place.

What now? Kid thought when he heard someone outside calling for the marshal. He lazily rose to his feet and went out, just to meet his youngest daughter running into his arms. “Hey,” he laughed at her enthusiasm. “What are you doing here?” then his eyes caught the sight of Jimmy and his two other children.

“We got a telegram from Lou, asking us to come, so here we are.” Jimmy said as he approached Kid and hugged him. “We were at the house, but since no one was there we figured we’ll find you here.”

“Lou is not home?” Kid asked, getting worried.

Jimmy shook his head. “Is Buck still here?” he suddenly asked.

Kid looked at him surprised. Lou said she didn’t tell him about Buck. Jimmy saw the question on Kid’s face and explained. “Jed told me about him. Is he still here?”

“He ran away last night.” Kid said. “I couldn’t find him.”

Jimmy looked at him carefully, but said nothing. He sensed Kid wanted to say more, but couldn’t in front of the children. “Maybe we should take the kids home?” he said.

Kid fixed the children something to eat. He felt awkward in his own home, and he didn’t like this feeling. While the kids were eating, he motioned Jimmy to follow him outside. “I didn’t know she wrote you.” He said.

“Jed said you had problems.” Jimmy said.

“We don’t anymore.” Kid said bitterly. “I left.”

“What do you mean?”

“We don’t leave together anymore.” He said, his voice breaking. “Things aren’t as they used to be.”

Jimmy sat stunned for a few minuets, before he found his ability to talk again. “When did this happen?”

“A couple of nights before we sent the kids. But last night I finally understood how permanent it really is.”

“What about the kids?” Jimmy asked.

“They’ll stay here with her. I’m still working in town, so I won’t be too far from them.”

“So you just gave up?” Jimmy asked incredulously.

“Jimmy, too much had happened.”

“What happened, Kid? What’s so big that it can destroy your marriage? You two love each other. I don’t understand it.”

“With everything that happened... I wasn’t home a lot, going to work early, coming home only very late, and now with Buck...”

“What’s the story with Buck?” Jimmy asked, hoping to finally get an answer.

Kid looked at him before starting the story to its details, ever since Shuster brought Buck to him. He told him the truth about Buck’s escape, but didn’t forget to mention his earlier mistakes.

“You have to tell her the truth.” Jimmy said after Kid finished his story, and a rider figure could be seen heading in their direction.

Lou dismounted her horse, her face red and her eyes swollen. “What are you doing here?” she asked.

“I’m sorry...” Kid started. “I’ll go...”

“I didn’t mean you.” Lou said. “Jimmy, what are you doing here? Where are the kids?”

“You sent for us...” Jimmy started, but Lou didn’t wait to hear. She rushed into the house, to see her children.

Kid and Jimmy exchanged glances and went after her.

“I didn’t write you, Jimmy.” Lou said, looking up at the men, from where she was kneeling beside her daughters.

It finally dawned on Kid and Jimmy what it meant. They looked at each other, looking for answers, to questions they were both thinking of.

“What are we going to do, Kid?” Lou finally asked, her instincts making her turn first to her husband. He pulled her into his embrace and stroked her head as she buried her face in his chest.

“You’d better tell her the truth, Kid.” Jimmy said.

Lou looked at her friend and then at her husband. “What is he talking about, Kid?”

“Not here.” Kid said, leading her to the bedroom she now occupied by herself. He closed the door behind them and sat next to her on the bed. “Buck didn’t escape.” He said. “I let him go. It was the only thing I could think of. His only chance. I gave him my gun and told him to hit me.” He stopped, letting it all sink. “I gathered that posse so it will look as if he really ran, but I wasn’t really looking for him. I ignored tracks and led them in the wrong direction. I looked for men who doesn’t have the smallest clue about tracking, so they won’t see through it.” He looked at her, searching for her reaction.

Tears were rolling down her cheeks and she looked at her hands. “I’m so ashamed.” She whispered. “I should’ve known you better.”

Kid shrugged and was quite surprised when she threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. “I’m so sorry, Kid.” she whispered. “I should’ve known better.”

“It’s okay. I lied to you, and there was no way you could’ve figured it out. At least I hoped there wouldn’t be. It only made me trust my story more, seeing that you believed it.”

Lou looked at Kid’s eyes, seeing only love and affection shining through the deep blue, not anger or disappointment. “Kid,” she started, her hand cupping his face. “What is happening to us?”

Kid looked at her, but when he tried to say anything, he found it was impossible as his throat was choked with tears. A knock on the door saved him. “Come in.” he said, standing up and walking to stand by the window. Before Jimmy could speak, he already understood what it was that he wanted to tell them. “Lou...” he said in a hoarse voice. “Get the kids and stay in Jed’s room.”

Lou stood and walked to the window to see what it was, but he stopped her. “Lou, please do as I say.”

She decided not to argue with him, seeing how serious he was. “Take care.” She said before stepping out of the room.

“Now what?” Jimmy asked.

Kid looked at him. “You have any suggestions?”

“Yeah, lets try and stay alive.” Jimmy said as the two of them headed downstairs. They walked out just as the men reached the house.

“We don’t want any trouble.” Kid said. “Now turn your horses and ride out oh here.”

“We’ve warned your wife to stop, but she wouldn’t listen to us. She thought we wouldn’t find your kids. It’s a shame they are going to witness their father being killed.”

Kid didn’t even flinch. With a calm voice, he spoke again. “This is your last chance to go away unharmed.”

“The only one that’s going to get hurt is you, Mr. McCloud. You ain’t even man enough to give your wife your name.” The leader of the group said, rising his gun. His men did the same. Though practiced Jimmy and Kid were too slow. “Now drop your weapons. Both of you.”

Kid and Jimmy hesitated at first, but seeing there was no other options they did as they were told.

The leader motioned the man in the rear to come forward. “Shoot him!” he ordered.

The man looked at his leader. “But...”

“No buts.” The leader shouted. “You will do as you were told.”

The man held his gun in a shaky hand, aiming at Kid.

“Shoot him!” the leader barked.

“Don’t do it.” Jimmy called. “Think for yourself. If you’ll murder the marshal you will be hanged.”

“Only if you catch him.” The leader said. “Don’t push your luck, marshal.”

“Don’t do it!” Jimmy said again.

Kid glanced up to see Lou standing at their bedroom window.

“Shoot him!” the leader said. “Shoot him now!”

Kid didn’t even see the gun fire. He only felt the bullet hitting him, sending him flying on his back, landing on the porch steps.

Jimmy dived for his gun and shot the man. The others started shooting at him and he ran inside taking cover and shooting from behind the door. It only took seconds to join him, even as tears were shimmering in her eyes.

“How bad?” she asked, shooting and dropping another man.

“I couldn’t see.” Jimmy answered, stopping to look at her. “Where are the kids?”

“Upstairs. I told them to stay there, but they are very scared.”

Jimmy shot and killed another man, and ducked back behind the door.

“I have to check on him, Jimmy.” She said, but he caught her before she could move.

“They will kill you and then what?” he tried to talk some sense into her. “Help me here and we will get to him as soon as possible.” He promised.

The shooting continued for another couple of minutes until the three members left of the gang, including their leader, retreated.

A Question of Priorities - part 6


Thanks to Laura I just found out that (for some reason) I never posted the whole story...

So, here is part 6 (the earliers parts can be found using the "tag" button.


Chapter 6

The saloon was packed in this noon hour, which was uncommon in this time of the day. No drinks being sold and no cards being dealt. A trial was going to take place and the people were thirsty for blood to pay for Melissa’s. Shuster kept yelling words of revenge and justice. Lou squirmed every time she heard his voice. Buck sat in front of her his back straight and high, staring ahead. Kid was sitting beside him. Finally, his deputy came in to announce the judge was coming. Lou put her hand on Buck’s shoulders for reassurance, hoping to pass him some of her strength, as they stood to greet the judge.

The judge took his seat and looked at Kid. “Marshal,” He started, “I understand this man is being accused of murder.”

“Yes sir,” Kid said. “However...”

“Who’s the prosecutor?” the judge cut him.

“I am!” Shuster jumped from his seat. “That man there,” he said, pointing at Buck, “killed my wife in cold blood. She did nothing to him and he raped her and then killed her.”

Buck jumped from his place. “I’ve never raped no one, and I haven’t killed your wife!” he cried.

“Quiet!” the judge ordered. “Sit down!”

Buck reluctantly sat in his seat. “I’ve never raped anyone.” He mumbled.

Kid leaned closer to him. “I know you didn’t,” he said, “but you have to stay focused.”

“This trial is not about rape, it’s about murder.” The judge reminded Shuster. “It won’t make any difference if I’ll find him guilty. Now who’s your first witness?”

“I am.” Shuster said as he took the seat next to the judge. “I came home and saw my wife... dead, in her bed... and this Indian in her room.”

“You have any questions, Marshal?” the judge asked.

Kid stood. “Was Buck conscious when you found him?”

“You will refer to the defendant as Mr. Cross, Marshal.” The judge reprimanded.

“Sorry, your honor.” Kid said. He glanced at Lou for support and she smiled at him, telling him with her eyes that she’s there behind him. “Was Mr. Cross conscious when you found him?”

“What do you mean?” Shuster said. “And what difference does it make? He killed my wife.”

“I want to know if it’s maybe possible that there was someone else in the room, before you made it there, someone that killed your wife and knocked Mr. Cross unconscious.”

“There was no one there beside him, when I came back there, and besides, his knife was found there, and you yourself said that was the weapon that killed her.”

“Is that true, marshal?” the judge asked.

“Yes, but...”

“That what is there to say? It’s obvious he did it.”

“Your honor,” Kid tried again, “there must have been someone else to knock Mr. Cross unconscious. And that someone could have taken that knife and use it...”

“You have to agree with me it’s highly unlikely.” The judge said, stopping Kid. “Is there anything else you want to say before I decide on the verdict?”

“Sir, your honor,” Kid started, knowing this was his last chance to save his friend. “I vouch for him.” The crowd started shouting and cursing at him.

“Quiet! Quiet!” the judge shouted. When the crowd was silent again, he ordered Kid to continue.

“Marshal Hickok will vouch for him too.” Kid said.

“You know ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok?” the judge asked.

Buck just nodded.

“Your honor, actually, I just got a letter from the marshal, saying Mr. Cross was staying with him, along with Mr. William F. Cody and marshal ‘Teaspoon’ Hunter.”

Lou looked at her husband, afraid he will trip over his lie. The judge, on the other hand, was quite impressed. “You know all these gentlemen?” he asked in awe.

Buck nodded again.

“Marshal Hickok also said that Mr. Cross helped him track some men...”

“When did you leave?” the judge asked, not letting Kid finish.

“I’m sorry, sir?” Kid asked.

“When did he leave the presence of these fine gentlemen?” the judge asked again.

Buck saw Kid hesitate. “Two days before the murder.” He said, seeing there was no point in saying anything else, since he was found at the scene.

The judge looked at him closely. “Then you could have done it.”

“I did not murder Melissa Shuster.” He said determinedly.

“That’s for me to decide.” The judge said coldly. “And I find you guilty.”

The crowd started mumbling and yelling at the verdict, and the judge continued. “You will be hanged by your neck ‘till death at dawn the day after tomorrow.”

Lou gasped as tears rolled down her face. Kid bowed his head, looking at his hands. Buck kept a straight face. He knew that will be the judge’s decision. In two days he will be dead. He just hoped Kid would tell his family about it. He was not angry nor disappointment. He was ready. Not that he wanted to die, but he already understood this was his destiny. At least he would die with dignity.

Kid looked at him and then at his crying wife, his own eyes glassy with tears. Lou reached to squeeze his shoulder. It seemed as if he was the one needing support and not Buck.

“Marshal, take him back to jail. This trial’s adjourned.” With that, the judge left the saloon.

Kid sat dumbly next to Buck.

“Come on, Kid.” Buck said.

Lou ran outside, needing to be alone as Kid and Buck walked back to the jail.

“It’s okay, Kid. Really.” Buck said as his friend closed his cell-door.

“It’s not okay, Buck.” Kid said. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am.”

“I know.” Buck said. “But right now I think your wife needs you, and I’d like to be alone for awhile.”

Kid nodded and went out to look for his wife. He found her sitting on a barrel just behind his office. She wasn’t crying, just staring ahead, not really seeing anything.

“We’re losing another one.” She said. “And now it’s all our fault.”

He moved closer to her. “We’re not going to lose him. And he’s not going to die.” Kid said earnestly. “I’ll find something.”

Lou looked at him. “I don’t want you to get yourself in trouble, Kid.” She whispered.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be okay.”

“How’s Buck taking it?” she asked.

Kid shrugged. “He asked to be alone, but it doesn’t seem to bother him as much as I thought it would.”

“I think he accepted it before the trial even begun.” She said sadly. “It’s like when we took Elias Milles to hang. He was so calm...”

“Buck is nothing like Milles.” Kid said angrily. “Milles did kill those people. Buck didn’t. See the difference?”

“He wasn’t such a bad person, Kid. You didn’t spend all that time with him...”

“But you and Jimmy sure had a lot of fun.” He said bitterly. He hadn’t think about that in years, but it cut through his heart exactly like the first time she told him about the kiss she shared with the man who was his best friend at the time.

Lou looked at him. “I’ve never regretted marrying you, Kid. Not ever.”

“I know, Lou. I’m sorry. But being so helpless...”

“I know. It’s okay. Kid, you’ve tried your best.”

“It wasn’t enough and it was too late.”

“But what counts is that you’ve tried.”

“Count by whom?” Kid asked sarcastically. “By the man who’s about to die or by the town’s people, whom I lied to?”

“By me.” Lou walked closer and pulled him into her arms. “We’ll find a way, Kid. We have to.”

They returned to the jail an hour later. They still hadn’t find a solution, but thought they should check on Buck. He was lying on his bunk, his eyes closed.

“Kid, what about his family?” Lou asked in a whisper, figuring Buck was asleep.

“They won’t make it in time for the hanging.” Buck said, not even bothering to open his eyes. “Just, please, tell them what happened and that I loved them.”

“Buck, don’t give up.” Lou said kneeling at the door of his cell.

“Shuster paid me a visit when you weren’t here.” He said. “He was happy to see another one of us ‘filthy pagans’ dying.”

“You’re not going to die, Buck.” Lou said. “And don’t take Shuster too seriously.”

“I think he knows something about what happened to me.” Buck said. “Something he said about my boy. Maybe he knows the murderer as well.”

“I still don’t understand why anyone wanted to kill Melissa.” Lou said.

“Shuster said was raped. Maybe that man didn’t want her to recognize him.” Buck suggested.

“She wasn’t raped.” Kid spoke. “I don’t know why Shuster said that, maybe he wanted to gain some more sympathy. She was found naked, but again, Shuster is the one who found her, so anything can be the truth, but the doctor said she wasn’t raped.”

“You think he killed her?” Lou suddenly asked.

Kid looked at her carefully. “Well, it is a possibility. The question is why.”

Lou looked at him for a long moment, then at Buck. Without saying anything, she stormed out, leaving the bewildered men.

She went to the telegraph office, putting on her most alluring smile.

“Oh, hello Mrs. McCloud.” The clerk said. “What can I do for you?”

Lou smiled again, leaning closer. “I was wondering if you could help me.”

“Sure. Anything you need.”

“Well, I was wondering... about Mrs. Shuster. She wrote to her sister, asking her something for me, and it’s pretty important. I was wondering if she got any mail after... well...”

“No, ma’am.” The clerk said. “Nor did Mr. Shuster.”

“Did he send anything?” Lou questioned. “Well, I mean, maybe she didn’t get to send it.”

The clerk shook his head. “The only telegraph he sent was to some lawyers back east to tell them she’s been killed.”

“Oh.” Lou said, needing more time to think. “And they didn’t send him anything?” she asked hopefully.

“No, ma’am, but if you want, I guess I can tell you when he will get any letters or telegrams. Of-course, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what’s in the letters...”

“I understand.” Lou said. “Thank you.”

“No problem, ma’am.”

Lou nodded and walked away, disappointed she couldn’t find answers.

She took her time walking back toward Kid’s office, not really wanting to see any one of the awaiting men. They knew it, when they saw her coming in. The disappointment and frustration were written all over her face.

“Where’d you go?” Kid asked for the both of them.

“I went to the telegraph office, but I didn’t find anything. It’s all for nothing. And it’s too late to find anything now.” She said.

At her last words Kid’s face fell even more and he excused himself. There was no need for her to say that. He already knew it was his fault. He said he was sorry. What else could he do now? He went to the livery stable, to take Katy. In order to think in a clear mind, he knew he had to get away from the town and from Lou. He rode about a mile out of town, until he got to a clearing. He found a log and sat on it, listening to the silence that surrounded him. He thought about his life and the course they took lately. He knew Lou was right. He was putting his job before his family. It wasn’t consciously. He still loved them as much as he did at the beginning, probably more, but he had more responsibilities now. They weren’t the family of three they used to be when they just left Rock-Creek. He had to take care of them, and even though Lou was working as well, he still was the man of the family, and he had to do his best for them. He wanted them to have all the possibilities, to have everything he didn’t have as a child, but in the process, he deprived them of their father. And now, this. He couldn’t help but feeling he was the reason Buck was about to die. If only he believed him, if only he’d listen to what Lou was trying to tell him, he wouldn’t be in this situation now. As Lou said, “now” was too late. They couldn’t find any more clues, as too much time has passed, but he knew he had to do something. He couldn’t just let them hang Buck. It took him only a moment to realise he will be the one to do the hanging, and he couldn’t stop the tears.