Debby K's Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman Fan Fiction



Due Process


by Debby K



Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Due Process
by Debby K

************
Chapter 1
************

Sully looked in the mirror, adjusting his tie. In frustration, he undid it and started anew. Michaela entered their bedroom and smiled.

"Would you like some help?" she offered.

"I can't get it right," he sighed.

She stepped forward to assist him, "Here."

He fidgeted.

"Hold still," she mused. "You're worse than Josef."

"Ain't you nervous?" he slid his arms around her waist as she worked.

She tingled at his touch, "A bit. But I know that Matthew has prepared well for this case."

"It's the biggest he's ever had," Sully knew. "An' it could have far reachin' effects."

She agreed, "Never before has the federal government acknowledged Indians as citizens." Finishing with his tie, she was satisfied with the outcome, "There. All done. You look very handsome, Mr. Sully."

He grinned impishly and cast a glance toward the door, "Where are the kids?"

"Finishing their breakfast," she noted.

Sully locked his eyes on his wife and drew her closer for a kiss, "Hope's been fed."

"Yes," she was melting at his ministrations. "I'm glad she's taken to the bottle so well. Her Papa seems to enjoy feeding her."

"Yep," he smiled with a gleam in his eye. "He does."

She interrupted his amorous overtures, "Sully, we're all dressed. There's no time."

"You're right," his tone was one of disappointment.

She caressed his cheek, "Perhaps another time?"

"Sure," he kissed her sweetly. "We best get downstairs."

She clasped the lapels of his suit coat and gently pulled him back for another kiss, "Tonight at the hotel in Denver."

He tilted his head against hers, "Tonight."

************

"Hold still," Emma adjusted Matthew's tie.

"It's hard," he squirmed. "There's so much ridin' on this case."

She kissed him, "You'll do a wonderful job, Matthew. You always do."

He lifted his legal brief, "I never had t' go up against the federal government."

"The law is on your side," she reminded.

"It's on the white man's side," he agreed conditionally. "But not where the Indians are concerned."

Emma poured another cup of coffee for him, "I've listened t' your arguments, and if I was on the jury, I'd favor you."

He pointed out, "That's 'cause you're my wife. Besides, there won't be a jury.... just a federal judge."

She assured, "As I said, you'll be wonderful."

He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

"Believe in yourself, like I do," she assured. "Like your Ma an' Pa do, too. And most of all, Cloud Dancin' believes in you."

"If I could win this case...." he paused. "It would mean so much t' the Cheyenne.... t' all the tribes that our government has devastated. My whole life, I've seen what's happened t' them, an' now I can finally do somethin' about it."

"I can't think of anyone I'd rather have fightin' for me," she kissed him again.

************

Dorothy rested her hands on Cloud Dancing's shoulders, "You sure ya wanna wear your Cheyenne clothes?"

"Yes," he adjusted his apparel. "I will stand tall in the clothing of my people."

She broached the subject, "You don't think the judge might prefer seein' ya in a suit an' tie? I mean, since you're tryin' t' be treated as the white man, it stands t' reason, ya oughta look like one in his court o' law."

"Does the law tell you what to wear?" he looked at her.

"'Course not," she shook her head.

"Because you are a citizen," he stated.

"Well, I still ain't treated like a man," she countered. "Maybe when Matthew wins this case, I'll set him t' work on gettin' more rights for women."

The medicine man smiled.

************

The townsfolk had gathered at the Cafe to discuss the latest edition of The Gazette.

Jake spoke up as he perused the news, "I can't believe Dorothy would let Brian put this in the paper."

"Why can't ya believe it?" Hank spoke up. "She's practically married t' an Injun."

Preston smirked, "It will be an interesting display of American jurisprudence."

Horace added, "An interestin' trial, too."

Preston rolled his eyes, "I almost wish I could go to Denver to watch it."

"You're too busy collectin' mortgage payments from ol' widows," Hank jabbed.

Preston eyed him sternly, "Sometimes lawmen are overdue in their payments, as well."

Jake returned to the topic as he read aloud, "Listen t' this part. 'Why are the Indians imprisoned when they committed no crime? Why are they not free t' live where they wish? Why do the same laws not apply t' Indians as apply to whites? Why would it not be better for the United States t' permit the Cheyenne t' farm an' raise their own food, instead of providing rations for their subsistence on a reservation? The Indians were hunters, but they are forced t' become farmers. They were not consulted in matters that pertained t' their welfare an' t' their very survival, an' the government policy should be directed t' grantin' land to each Indian. Their claim t' that land should be protected. We should help the Indians become expert farmers an' provide for the education of young Indians the same way that provision was made for white children.'"

Preston shook his head, "Can you imagine what would happen to property values if the Indians were to be given their own land to farm?"

Robert E spoke up sarcastically, "The same argument was made when Grace an' me bought our house here in town."

Loren frowned, "Awe, that was different. You ain't Injuns."

Grace put her hands on her hips, "Prejudice is prejudice, Loren. These folks have been treated terrible, an' it's about time someone stood up for 'em."

Preston commented, "The Indians have some powerful allies. I hear that many prominent newspapers in the East have picked up on this story. Helen Hunt Jackson and other like-minded individuals are fueling the movement to give Indians more rights."

The Reverend added his opinion, "Still, Matthew has his work cut out for him."

Hank contributed, "The Injun kids got a school already, that one Michaela gave 'em. That oughta satisfy 'em."

Robert E remarked, "An' they ain't allowed t' leave it without permission from the Army. What kinda freedom is that?"

Hank folded his arms, "Mark my words. You give 'em an inch, an' they'll take a mile."

************

Sully and Michaela talked as they rode their surrey into town. He noted her quiet demeanor.

"You miss the kids already," he knew.

"It's the first time I've been away from Hope," she wiped the tear on her cheek.

"It's only for a few days," he assured. "But if you'd rather stay home, I'm sure Cloud Dancin' an' Matthew would understand."

"No," she affirmed. "I want them to know that I support them."

He placed his hand on hers, "They know that already, Michaela. Nobody's done more than you."

"I want to go," she said. "The baby will be fine for a few days."

He joked, "Ya packed enough for a month."

She raised an eyebrow, "I want to look my best. My son is about to make history."

He kissed her cheek, "You always look your best."

************

Matthew paced at the Depot, "Ma an' Sully should be here by now."

Cloud Dancing remained calm, "They will be here. Do not worry."

Dorothy saw the surrey and pointed, "There they are."

Sully stopped the carriage and helped Michaela down. Horace assisted him in depositing their trunk in the luggage car.

"I'll be right back," Sully mentioned. "Gotta take the surrey over t' Robert E's."

Michaela watched her husband depart, then felt Dorothy's hand on her shoulder.

The redhead drew her aside, "It's always hard leavin' your baby for the first time."

Michaela felt another tear welling, "Yes, it is.... But.... this time, it's particularly difficult."

"Why's that?" Dorothy wondered.

Michaela looked down, "It's my last child."

She probed, "You can't have more?"

"Well...." Michaela hesitated. "Physically, I could, but it's not likely."

"You an' Sully doin' somethin' t' prevent you gettin' pregnant again?" she was curious.

Michaela confided, "No, but...."

"Then it could happen," Dorothy knew. "Now, if ya don't want more, ya know what t' do about it, don't ya?"

"Certainly," Michaela answered. "After all, I'm a physician. That is, I know there are methods, somewhat unpleasant, that we could employ. However, recently I've learned that the Indians have success with wild carrot seed. I was waiting until Hope was weaned before discussing it with Sully."

"Wild carrot seed?" Dorothy raised an eyebrow. "Ya mean you can still enjoy your husband's.... full attention an' not get pregnant just by eatin' some seeds?"

"Yes," Michaela began to blush.

Though Dorothy was her closest friend, and she had often confided to her about such matters, Michaela still found it embarrassing to admit how much she enjoyed her conjugal relations with Sully.

Dorothy put her arm around her shoulders, "It's perfectly natural t' like bein' with the man ya love, Michaela. In fact, I think it's healthy."

Michaela shyly agreed, "It's wonderful."

Her friend beamed, "It must be. You still got the blush of a new bride."

"Sully makes me feel like a bride," she admitted.

When Sully returned, Matthew noticed his mother deep in conversation, "Is Ma okay? She seems upset about somethin'."

Sully assured, "She's fine. She's just feelin' a little guilty about leavin' the baby."

"I'll understand if she'd rather stay here, Sully," the young man stated.

Sully placed his hand on his son's back, "There's no place she'd rather be than in that courtroom with you."

He took a deep breath, "I can sure use the support."

"You'll do real good, Matthew," Sully commented. "No matter what the outcome, we're proud of ya."

"Thanks," he smiled. "That means a lot."

At that moment, the train conductor called, "All aboard!"

One by one, Michaela and Sully, Cloud Dancing and Dorothy, Matthew, Emma and Brian boarded the train. They settled into their seats and began the journey into history.

************

Matthew stood outside of the federal courthouse scanning the Denver skyline.

Michaela approached him, "It's certainly a bustling city."

"Yea," he agreed. "They got lots o' things Colorado Springs don't."

"We'll have them in due time," she mentioned. "Do you know what I would truly love to see one day?"

"What?" he smiled.

"An opera house," she returned.

"If I know you, you'll build one," his grin widened.

Michaela raised an eyebrow, "I just might."

They stood in silence for a few moments.

Then Michaela patted her son's back, "I'm very proud of you, Matthew."

"Thanks," he swallowed hard.

"I know that you're well prepared for this case," she added. "And I'm certain that the government will have its hands full in trying to win against Matthew Cooper."

He chuckled, "I got a trick or two up my sleeve."

"Oh?" she was intrigued.

He extended his arm for her, "Shall we go in?"

************

Judge Elmer Dundy called the courtroom to order. Matthew assembled his papers and, taking a deep breath, was ready to step onto the stage in the most important case of his short career.

"You may make your opening statement, Mr. Cooper," the judge nodded to him.

"Thank you, your honor," he acknowledged. "I stand before you today as a representative of a people who were once numerous in our land. T'day, they are seen as a weak, insignificant, unlettered an' generally despised race. On the other side, we have the representative of one of the most powerful, most enlightened, and most Christianized nations of modern times. In this national tribunal, I am the representative of this beleaguered race askin' for justice and liberty to enable them to adopt our boasted civilization, and to pursue the arts of peace, which have made us great and happy as a nation."

He paused to gauge the reaction of the judge. The older man's countenance was one of sympathy.

Matthew gestured toward the opposite table, "On the other side, we have this magnificent, if not magnanimous, government, resistin' this application an' determined t' confine these people back to perpetual imprisonment in their own native land. In a country where liberty is regulated by law, it follows that this case must be examined and decided on principle of law. On behalf of the Cheyenne nation, I filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus, askin' why the Cheyenne are denied their liberty when they haven't committed a crime an' don't know the reason for their arrest an' confinement. That is what has brought us to this courtroom today.

Matthew stopped to take a sip of water, then resumed, "The government returned the writ statin' that the Cheyenne had fled or escaped their reservation without permission from the authorities. At the request of the Secretary of the Interior, an order was issued requirin' General George Crook t' arrest and return the Cheyenne t' the Indian Territory. The Cheyenne committed no crime. To the contrary, it's their rights, under the Constitution, which have been violated. They were not protected by our government. They were not fed, clothed or provided medical attention. I ask that the Court consider the rights of all our people, who must be protected if democracy is t' endure."


The government representative, District Attorney G.M. Lambertson, rose to his feet. He was a thin, skeletal figure with sunken eyes and a large graying mustache which covered his upper lip.

"Your honor, I respectfully disagree with the account of Mr. Cooper," he began. "A treaty was made with the Cheyenne people in which they agreed to go to the Indian Territory. As with any contract, the agreement must be adhered to, or the law has no relevance. The United States, for its part, agreed to protect the Indians during their good behavior. Good behavior? That includes obeying the federal officials who oversee their well being."

Matthew smiled to himself, certain that Lambertson would take this tact.

Lambertson rested his palms on his desk, "Your honor, a writ of habeas corpus applies to the free citizens of the United States. I must point out to the Court that the Cheyenne are not citizens of this nation. Citizens are not authorized to make treaties with their own government. In the tradition of English law, non-citizens cannot sue for a writ of habeas corpus against the realm. And so, I request that the case be dismissed by the federal court."

Judge Dundy folded his hands and looked earnestly at Matthew, then Lambertson, "The case is not dismissed. It will be heard. Mr. Cooper, you may proceed with your first witness."

Matthew stood up, "Thank you, your honor. I call Mr. Byron Sully."

************
Chapter 2
************

Michaela looked at her husband with an expression of surprise, "Why didn't you tell me you were going to testify?"

Sully gently squeezed her hand, then stepped forward to take an oath of truth before the court.

Matthew began, "Would you state your name and connection t' the Cheyenne people, please."

He answered, "Byron Sully. Former translator, negotiator and Indian Agent."

"Thank you," Matthew folded his arms. "Would you tell the Court how you became an Indian Agent, Mr. Sully?"

He responded, "I was appointed t' that position by then President Ulysses Grant."

"President Grant himself wanted you t' represent the United States government in its dealin's with the Cheyenne," Matthew reworded.

"I guess ya could say that," Sully modestly agreed.

Matthew lifted a piece of paper from his desk and handed it to Sully, "Could you tell the Court what this is?"

Sully perused it, "Looks like a list of treaties between the United States and the Cheyenne."

"Were you affiliated with any of these, Mr. Sully?" he probed.

"Some of 'em," Sully nodded.

"And what happened after each treaty?" he tilted his head.

"The government broke its word," Sully said in a controlled voice. "That was usually followed by the Indians tryin' t' leave the place the government had confined them to. Then there was violence and massacres."

"In your expert opinion as a translator, negotiator an' government agent, did the Cheyenne have every right t' leave these reservations when the government broke its word? In other words, when the government broke the contract?"

"Yes, they had that right," Sully agreed.

"Did you ever witness first hand, the government's treatment of the Cheyenne people?" Matthew inquired.

"Yea," Sully swallowed hard.

"Would you describe for the Court what you saw," he queried.

Sully's eyes saddened, "I saw Indians robbed of their religion, traditions an' culture. I saw 'em starved an' beaten. I saw white man's diseases deliberately introduced ont' the reservations so women an' children would die."

Sully stopped.

Then steeling himself, he went on in a softer voice, "An' I arrived at Washita just after Custer an' his men had massacred Cheyenne women, children an' elders."

"Thank you, Mr. Sully," Matthew concluded. "I have no further questions of this witness at this time."

Lambertson stood tall and placed his index fingers in his vest pockets, "Mr. Sully, you testified that you're a former government negotiator and agent. Could you tell the Court why you no longer hold those positions?"

"No reason to go on holdin' 'em," Sully eyed him sternly. "There's no more Cheyenne here t' negotiate with."

The attorney continued, "Did you ever become personally involved with the Cheyenne insurrections against the government?"

There it was. Sully knew he would be asked.

Sully remained calm, "I became personally involved in tryin' t' see that they were treated fairly an' humanely."

"Did you break the law in your attempts to see that they were treated.... uh, fairly and humanely?"

Sully defended, "I took action t' prevent the deaths of more Indians."

"And in your action, sir, is it not true that many were killed, both among the Cheyenne and the soldiers of the United States Army?" Lambertson did not relent.

"People died, yes," Sully looked down ruefully.

"Were you accused of aiding and abetting an Indian insurrection, an act of treason against the United States?" he added. "And were you a fugitive of the law for some seven months, during which time the Army searched for you?"

"That's true," Sully tensed.

"I have no further questions, your honor," Lambertson returned to his table.

Matthew stood again, "I'd like to re-direct, your honor."

Judge Dundy nodded his approval.

Matthew spoke again, "Mr. Sully, were you cleared of any wrong doin' in the incident Mr. Lambertson just referred to?"

"Yes," Sully said.

"Thank you," Matthew sat down.

Lambertson rose again, "Were you cleared or pardoned, sir?"

Matthew protested, "Objection, your honor. Counselor is splittin' hairs here. In either case, he was convicted of no crime."

"Splitting hairs is something Courts do quite well, Mr. Cooper," the judge smiled. "The witness will answer the question."

Sully cleared his throat, "I was pardoned."

"Thank you," Lambertson returned.

************

Preston entered the barbershop as Jake was finishing dusting off the hair clippings from Loren's shoulders.

"Be with ya in a minute," Jake looked up.

"Take your time," the banker allowed as he sat and removed his hat.

Loren handed Jake a coin, "So, has Horace heard any word about the trial in Denver?"

Preston corrected him, "It's not a trial. It's a hearing, Loren."

"What's the difference?" the older man challenged.

Jake interceded, "We don't have time t' hear the difference. You here for a shave an' a cut or just a cut, Preston?"

The banker strode forth, "Both, please. You know, gentlemen, Michaela's absence due to this court case presents us with a unique opportunity."

Both men became more attentive.

"What kinda opportunity?" Jake folded his arms.

Preston leaned forward and kept his voice low, "Ever hear of eminent domain?"

"Naw," Loren frowned. "But if it's in a catalog, I can get it for ya."

Preston rolled his eyes, "It's not in a catalog, Loren. It's the right of the government to take over private property if it's to be used for public purpose."

"So what private property would the government wanna take over?" Jake tilted his head with interest.

"That Indian School," Preston revealed.

Loren frowned, "That's Dr. Mike's land. What use is it t' the government?"

"It's prime real estate, gentlemen, for a railroad line between our fair town to the top of Pikes Peak," he explained.

"A railroad line t' the top of Pikes Peak?" Jake was astonished. "That's too steep."

"For a conventional train, yes," Preston admitted. "But not for a cog railroad."

"Cog?" Loren was puzzled.

Preston raised an eyebrow, "They use them in Switzerland. Can you imagine the revenue that could be generated by such a venture? It would be run by the town, of course, but with great opportunity for wealth to the investors."

"Of course," Jake sat down. "Tell us more."

Preston offered each a cigar, "Better yet. Why don't you join me tomorrow afternoon for lunch at the Chateau? I've invited a group of interested investors to meet the man who has the vision to build it."

"Sounds good," Jake smiled.

"Count me in," Loren consented.

************

"Your honor," Matthew resumed. "We would like to call General George Crook."

The Army officer stood over 6 feet tall, with blue-gray eyes. He wore his hair closely-cropped and his beard parted at the point of his chin.


Michaela was surprised that her son would choose this Indian fighter to help his case, not to mention that Crook was the respondent in the case. She had mixed feelings about the general from the stories Sully had told her. He was an Indian fighter but never an Indian hater.

Matthew began his questioning by asking Crook to summarize his background and career as a Union Army officer in the War, Commander of the Department of Arizona, then the Department of Platte during which time he engaged in many battles with the Sioux and Cheyenne. The most famous of these was at Rosebud Creek. Using Indian scouts, he had many successes in his military engagements against the Indians, yet managed to earn their respect as Chief Gray Wolf.

Matthew gazed down at his notes, then went on, "General, would you tell the Court about your dealings with the Indians as a commander for the US military?"

Crook testified, "When the Indians were pushed beyond endurance and would go on the warpath, we had to fight, even though our sympathies were with them. I do not wonder, and you will not either, that when these Indians saw their wives and children starving and their last source of supplies cut off, they went to war. And then we were sent in to kill them. It is an outrage."

Through careful questioning, Matthew brought him to the topic Dull Knife and the treatment of the Northern Cheyenne who attempted to leave the Indian Territory and return to their homeland in Montana.

Crook responded, "In 1878, Dull Knife and Little Wolf led what was left of their people and traveled more than 400 miles, managing to defeat or avoid the various Army units sent to bring them back to Oklahoma. They broke up into two groups, one led by Dull Knife and the other by Little Wolf, but both were eventually caught. Those led by Little Wolf were allowed to remain in Montana, but Dull Knife and his group were imprisoned at Fort Robinson. When they refused to return to Oklahoma, an attempt was made to starve them into obeying."

Matthew probed, "Tell us more about that attempt, sir."

Crook folded his hands, "Because Dull Knife and his people refused to return to the Indian Territory, the government began to deny them the most basic supplies. It was terrible. In the midst of winter and blizzards, they were locked in their barracks and given no food or wood for the stoves."

Matthew guided him, "What did the Cheyenne do then?"

Crook detailed, "By the night of January 9, 1879, the impasse had come to a point of crisis, and the Cheyenne broke out of the barracks in a daring escape. Weapons they had hidden earlier were used to shoot the guards, and while some of the men held off the soldiers, the remaining Cheyenne fled in the dark. A running fight ensued along the White River Valley between the fleeing Indians and the pursuing Army. At least twenty-six Cheyenne warriors were killed that night and some eighty women and children were recaptured. Those still on the run eluded the soldiers until January 22."

The general paused and took a drink of water. Then with a lump in his throat, he went on, "The cavalry hunted down 32 of the remaining 38 Cheyenne who had escaped, catching up to them at the Last Hole in a deep buffalo wallow near Hat Creek Bluffs. There they emptied their rifles, reloaded, and emptied them again and again until no Cheyenne remained. In all, sixty-four Cheyenne and eleven soldiers lost their lives during the escape attempt."

Michaela looked at Sully. She saw tears streaming down his cheeks. She clasped his hand, then returned her attention to the proceedings.

Matthew swallowed hard as he looked around the stunned courtroom, "I have no further questions of this witness."

The district attorney stood up and cleared his throat to break the spell.

Then he addressed Crook, "General, isn't it true to say that these Indians were being sent to the Indian Territory for a reason?"

"Yes, sir," he nodded.

Lambertson went on, "And would you tell the Court what that reason was?"

Crook informed them, "After Little Big Horn, the government decided to confine the Northern and Southern Cheyenne tribes to the Indian Territory, but when Dull Knife's band arrived and saw how the Southern Cheyenne were dying of starvation and malaria, he determined to not stay."

"Little Big Horn," Lambertson returned. "Isn't that where hundreds of American soldiers were brutally killed and their bodies desecrated by these savages?"

Matthew stood up, "Objection, your honor. The topic of Little Big Horn is irrelevant t' this case."

"To the contrary, your honor," Lambertson stated. "I am attempting to establish why these Indians were being held by the government in the first place."

It took every ounce of self-control Sully possessed to not speak up, but he held his counsel.

"Objection overruled," Judge Dundy proclaimed. "You may continue, Mr. Lambertson."

Matthew sat down.

Lambertson continued his line of questioning, "I believe you were at Little Big Horn shortly after the massacre. Isn't that correct General?"

"Yes, sir," Crook nodded.

"And would you tell the court what you saw?" he requested.

Crook took a deep breath, "I had a column of men moving north from Fort Fetterman, but we were met in fierce battle against Crazy Horse at Rosebud and did not arrive at our prearranged rendezvous point with the other columns. By the time we got to Little Big Horn, it was too late. Custer had ignored his orders, divided his men and attacked."

Lambertson pressed, "And isn't it true that the Indians then stripped and mutilated the bodies of all the uniformed soldiers?"

Crook was barely audible, "Yes, sir."

"I have no further questions, your honor," Lambertson sat down.

Matthew rose to his feet, "General Crook, could you tell us, in your professional opinion, what caused the Battle of Little Big Horn?"

Crook explained, "It was the encroachment of whites onto the Indians' land in the Black Hills."

Matthew specified, "Isn't it true that the Black Hills are sacred t' the Indians, General?"

Lambertson rose, "Objection, your honor. Counselor is asking the witness to testify about the religion of these people. He is an officer in the United States Army, hardly qualifying him as an expert on their beliefs."

"Your honor," Matthew countered. "General Crook has employed many Indian scouts an' served as a negotiator. In that capacity, he has amassed a great deal of first hand knowledge on the cultural an' spiritual beliefs of the Indians."

"Objection overruled," Dundy agreed. "Continue, Mr. Cooper."

Matthew spoke again, "The Black Hills are sacred t' the Indians. Correct, General?"

"Yes," he affirmed.

"So," Matthew paused. "The encroachment of the white man ont' their sacred land would be perceived by them as an act of sacrilege. Is it reasonable for the Indians t' try an' stop the intruders in defense of their religion?"

"That's correct," Crook replied.

"No more questions at this time," Matthew sat down.

The judge glanced at the clock, "Due to the hour and another commitment, I am going to call for a recess until ten o'clock tomorrow."

With the hammering of his gavel, the judge stood and exited the room.

************

When Hank glanced out the window of the sheriff's office and saw Myra leaving the bank for the day, he rose from his chair. Then he crossed the street, checking that no one noticed his proximity to the bank. He did not see Preston at the door.

"Something wrong, Sheriff?" Preston said.

Hank wiped his upper lip, "Nah, just makin' sure there's no robbers lurkin' around."

Preston was doubtful, "Would you like to check inside the bank, as well?"

"Sure," he stepped inside.

Preston removed his watch from his pocket, "It's closing time, but if there's something you need, I'd be happy to stay a few more minutes."

Hank became more uncomfortable, "Yea, there is somethin' I need."

"What might that be?" the banker queried.

Hank took out a cigar, "Care for one?"

"No, thank you," Preston replied. "I prefer my brand. Is that what you needed?"

"You ain't makin' this any easier," he sighed. "Ya know damn well why I'm here."

"Your loan?" Preston assumed.

"I need more time between payments," he came out with it. "That whore I bought was murdered. She cost me plenty, an' now...."

Preston interrupted, "And now you must find a way to recover your loss since you were anticipating she would pay off your debt."

"Yea," Hank admitted.

"I have a suggestion," Preston smiled pleasantly. "Why don't you take out another loan, purchase the services of another girl, and...."

"An' owe you even more money?" Hank was incredulous.

"You admit that you cannot pay me back without the services of such an.... exotic employee," he pointed out.

"What about collateral?" Hank mentioned. "I already used the Gold Nugget on my first loan. I don't have anythin' else."

Preston mentioned, "There's the ranch."

Hank's brow wrinkled, "That's Lexie's."

"It became yours when she married you," he stated.

Hank was uncertain, "I.... I don't know."

Preston goaded, "I suppose you should talk it over with the little woman and get her permission. What is it about marriage to strong, independent women that reduces men around here to eunuchs? Look at Sully."

"I ain't no eunuch!" Hank protested.

Preston grinned, "I should hope not. Now, are we agreed that the ranch will be used as collateral for another loan?"

Hank swallowed hard, "I guess so."

Preston handed him a pen, "If you'll just sign here, I'll complete the rest of the paperwork."

************

Matthew shook Sully's hand, "I know it wasn't easy for ya t' testify like that. But ya really helped."

Sully smiled and returned the handshake, then stepped aside for his son to accept the congratulations of his family and friends. As everyone prepared to head back to the hotel, Michaela noticed that Sully was standing off to the side.

She approached her husband, "Why didn't you tell me you were going to testify?"

He shrugged, "I figured you were nervous enough about Matthew. I didn't want ya worried about me, too."

She smiled, "You did well. Very well. Shall we go with the others?"

"I think I'm gonna take a walk first," he replied.

"Sully?" she sensed he was troubled.

"Go on ahead," he smiled. "I'll catch up with ya."

"I think I'll walk with you," she linked her arm in his.

He gazed into her eyes, awash in the love he felt for her. Silently, they strolled from the building and onto the walkway. While Michaela was attune to the bustle of traffic and trolleys, Sully seemed to be lost in his own world.

"Care to talk about it?" she squeezed his hand slightly.

"About the hearin'?" he assumed.

"No," she waited. "About what's bothering you."

He returned, "What makes ya think somethin's botherin' me?"

"Ten years of marriage," Michaela smiled. "I believe I know when you're troubled."

He took a deep breath, "Just lots o' old memories stirred up. Lots o' battles we didn't win."

************
Chapter 3
************

Michaela stopped and rested her palms on Sully's chest, "Do you remember what you said to me after Washita?"

His brow wrinkled, "I said a lot o' things."

"It was at the old homestead," she recalled. "I was overwhelmed by guilt. I blamed myself for insisting that the train would bring progress to Colorado Springs. Instead, it brought death and destruction to the Cheyenne. I felt I had let it all happen to them."

"I remember," he nodded.

She stroked his arm, "You told me that I didn't let the massacre at Washita happen and that Cloud Dancing didn't blame me. What happened to the Cheyenne, Sully.... no one blames you, and no one did more than you to try to stop it. You've been the truest and most loyal friend to them."

He shrugged, "But in the end, it didn't matter."

She touched his cheek with the palm of her hand, "I think it matters a great deal. Look at our son. You instilled this passion for justice in Matthew, Sully. You're the reason he's standing in a courtroom arguing a landmark case on behalf of the Cheyenne."

He swallowed hard, moved by her words. Michaela knew her point was well taken.

"Thanks," he grinned.

"I love that smile, Byron Sully," she returned. "And I love what a caring man you are."

He took a deep breath, "I reckon we should join the others for supper."

************

Hank entered the ranch house to the succulent aroma of supper. That was one thing he definitely enjoyed about marriage. He was eating well.

"Lexie," he beckoned.

"I'll be out in a moment," her voice came from the bedroom.

"I gotta talk t' ya," he removed his hat and sat at the table.

"Welcome home," she greeted as she put her hands on his shoulders.

He lifted up to kiss her, "Somethin' smells good."

"I've been working on my cooking," she remarked. "What did you want to talk about?"

"Uh...." he hesitated as she set the dishes in front of him. "I reckon it can wait 'til after we eat."

************

Michaela and Sully retired to their hotel room for the evening. She went to the window and opened it to allow a breeze to bring in fresh air.

"Feels good," Sully removed his tie.

"Yes, it does," she agreed as she watched the street lamps being lit below. "Remember when Katie called them 'sweet lamps?'"

He chuckled, "Uh-huh."

She fell silent as she continued to look out the window.

He came to her and placed his arms around her waist, "The baby's fine."

"How did you know I was thinking of her?" she mused.

"Ten years o' marriage," he grinned.

"Sully," she pivoted to face him. "I'd like to speak with you about something.... of a rather sensitive nature."

"What is it?" his brow wrinkled.

She avoided looking at him, "It's about our.... being together."

"Bein' together?" he was still clueless.

She whispered, "You know.... when we make love."

"Oh," he played along. "What about it?"

"Well...." she hesitated. "Has the thought crossed your mind about.... what could happen."

"What're you tryin' t' say?" he encouraged. "Just come out with it."

She took a deep breath and sighed, "It could lead to pregnancy."

"'Course, I know about that, but...." he felt his heart stop. "Michaela, you tryin' t' tell me you're pregnant again?"

"No," she walked away from him toward the bed. "No, I'm not pregnant.... But, there is a chance it could happen again, if we let it."

"We talked about not havin' more kids before, but then we never did anythin' t' prevent another pregnancy," he pointed out. "We just figured if another baby came along, it would be welcome."

"Yes," she became teary-eyed. "They have been most welcome. But, after Hope.... after the circumstances of her delivery.... and given my age.... well, I think.... that is, I wondered what you thought about.... preventing another pregnancy."

He studied her face, "Sure, Michaela, if that's what ya want. Ya know I'd never force ya t'...."

She interrupted, "No, please don't misunderstand or misinterpret why I'm bringing this up, Sully."

He tilted his head, "I figure you're bringin' it up so we don't have more babies."

"Yes," she nodded. "But, I don't want you to think that I wouldn't love to have more."

He scratched his head, "I thought ya said ya don't want more."

"Only if that's all right with you," she amended. "I would try to give you more, if that's what you wanted. But, honestly, at my age...."

He stopped her, "Michaela, I'd never ask ya t' do somethin' that would jeopardize your health or your life. You've given us five beautiful children. That's more than I ever dreamed. How could I not be grateful t' ya?"

"So, we're agreed?" she paused.

"Agreed on what?" he was uncertain.

"That we won't let another pregnancy occur," Michaela clarified.

"Sure," he nodded.

They stood in uncomfortable silence for several moments.

Then Sully went to the stuffed chair in the corner of their room, "I reckon we best turn in."

Michaela watched as he placed a pillow on the chair. Then he sat and elevated his feet.

"'Night," he spoke before closing his eyes.

"What are you doing?" she placed her hands on her hips.

************

Lexie watched Hank finish his supper and prepare to go back to the Gold Nugget.

"I thought you had something you wanted to talk about," she saw him put on his gun.

"I did," he checked his revolver.

"Well...." she waited. "What is it?"

"Uh...." he hedged. "It'll keep 'til t'morrow." Leaning forward to kiss her, he smiled, "Don't wait up for me."

She closed the door behind him, uncertain as to what was on his mind. But after a day of repairing the fence and preparing supper, she was tired. It could wait until morning.

************

Sully looked up at his wife, "What d' ya think I'm doin'? I'm goin' t' sleep."

"On the chair?" Michaela raised an eyebrow.

He explained, "I thought ya don't want us t'.... be t'gether."

"I'm not kicking you out of my bed, Byron Sully," she mused. "There are other ways that we can prevent another pregnancy."

"I know that," he defended. "But any time we talked about it in the past, we decided we didn't wanna use those kinds o' things. So, I figured this was the only...."

She interrupted, "I have another way."

He was intrigued, "Ya do?"

She went to her medical bag and withdrew a pouch, "This."

"What is it?" he was curious.

"Wild carrot seeds," she said. "I'll eat them."

He sat up, "Where'd ya hear that?"

"Through my research," she smiled. "The ancient Greeks and Romans even used it."

"So, you been thinkin' about this for a while?" he interpreted.

"You know I'm always doing research, but.... well.... recently, I've been thinking about this, yes," she admitted.

"Why didn't ya tell me?" he was concerned. "We been t'gether several times since ya healed from your surgery. Were ya thinkin' about it then?"

She stroked his arm, "I never think about such things when we're together, but.... afterwards, lately, the thought has crossed my mind."

"I'm sorry," he looked away. "I didn't even consider...."

"No, Sully," she drew his gaze back to her. "You haven't done anything wrong, and there's certainly nothing for which you should apologize. We're married, and we've come to expect that aspect of our marriage to be something mutually desirable and.... frequent."

He countered, "But if I knew you were afraid o' gettin' pregnant again..."

She lightly placed her fingers on his lips to silence him, "There are rare occasions, Mr. Sully, when you talk too much."

He could not help but smile.

"How much o' that stuff do ya have t' eat?" he queried.

She informed him, "A heaping teaspoon should do it."

"That's all?" he was amazed.

"Yes," she withdrew a spoon from her bag.

Michaela measured the proper amount of the small seeds and began to chew them thoroughly. She turned up her nose at the taste, but it was tolerable. After swallowing, she drank a glass of water. Throughout this procedure, Sully looked on with interest.

"There," she concluded. "That wasn't so bad."

"How often do ya have t' eat 'em?" Sully questioned.

"Right before or after we're together," she returned. "But not more than once a day."

An impish grin appeared on his face.

"Why are you looking at me that way?" she noticed.

He stood up and drew his wife into his arms, "I think ya might have t' eat 'em every day."

She tingled at his touch, "Then I shall."

He leaned closer to kiss the lobe of her ear, then trailed his kisses along the line of her jaw to her lips.

Michaela's heart raced at his overtures, "Oh, Sully, I could never imagine our not being together."

"Mmm," he savored the scent of her. "Me either, but.... Michaela, you sure this'll work? I don't want ya t' do this if...."

She toyed with the hair at the base of his neck, "In all likelihood, I'll never conceive again, even without preventative measures. But this is for added insurance since we have been rather.... fruitful."

He grinned, "I never dreamed we'd have the family we got."

"Nor did I," she began to unbutton his shirt. "By the way, did I tell you how handsome you looked in your suit today?"

He frowned, "If ya knew how it felt havin' t' wear that tie."

"Would you rather wear a corset?" she smiled.

"I'm glad ya ain't wearin' one right now," he grinned. "I hate gettin' ya in an' out o' that gear."

"But you like how I look in one," she pointed out.

He drew her closer and ran his hands tantalizingly down her sides, "I like how ya look without one even better."

She stroked his temple, "May I recite something to you tonight?"

He kissed the tip of her nose, "I'd love it."

She quoted:

"My heart is a fount welling upward forever!
When I think of my true-love, by night or by day,
That heart keeps its faith like a fast-flowing river
Which gushes forever and sings on its way.
I have thoughts full of peace for his soul to repose in,
Were I but his own wife, to win and to woo;
O sweet, if the night of misfortune were closing,
To rise like the morning star, darling, for you!"

"Mmm," he unbuttoned the top of her bodice. "Was that Bradstreet?"

"No," she caught her breath. "Ellen Mary Patrick Downing."

"That was real nice," he warmed her as he continued to remove her apparel.

"Sully," her voice trembled slightly.

"Mmm?" he knew the effect he was having.

"I love you," she locked her gaze on him.

He felt as if his heart would pound out of his chest, "I love you, too, Michaela. An' I'm real glad I wooed ya."

"I am, too," she framed his face in her hands. "You know, this is our first time back in Denver since our tenth anniversary."

He raised an eyebrow, "Maybe we could relive some o' that honeymoon magic."

"I can't imagine being happier than I am right now," she stroked his cheek. "We have it all, Sully. Everything."

"An' the one who gave me everythin' is right here in my arms," he lifted her and carried her to the bed.

Gently, he set her atop the mattress. Their kisses became more probing. Then without taking his eyes off her, he began to undress. Michaela felt awash with anticipation as she watched him. When he at last was ready to join her, she shyly looked away. With his finger on her chin, he tenderly brought her gaze back to him. Her body reacted to the sight of him.

He lightly ran his hand along her lips, then down her neck to her breasts. The pleasure he evoked in her was electric. She yearned for more intimate contact and drew him down to her. His bare chest pressed against her as he continued his kisses. Michaela gasped with anticipation as she sought to bring his hips closer to her. His soft groan indicated his anticipation as well.

With his hand massaging her thigh, Sully continued to kiss her. They both shivered as the intensity of their contact began to build. Unable to control their instincts any longer, they finally consummated their desires. The fulfillment of their passions reached dizzying heights as each responded to the other's body with the power of their abiding love. Ultimately, the flow of energy between them began to ebb.

He enfolded her in his arms, "I think those carrot seeds might've made things even better."

"You mean things weren't good before?" she raised up slightly.

He teased, "Just wanted t' see if I could get a rise outa you. You know better than that. What we got, Michaela, it's incredible."

She rested the side of her head on his shoulder and stroked the hair on his chest.

"You speechless?" he joked.

"Perhaps," she smiled.

Sully began to drift off, but Michaela's mind wandered back to the children. Ensuring that her husband was sleeping, she rose from the bed and donned her robe. Then she returned to the window. She gazed up at the stars, then closed her eyes to offer thanks for her blessings. These ten years with Sully had been an unimaginable journey, with so many stressful times. However, their joys far surpassed the difficulties.

Her thoughts turned to her oldest son. She had never seen him work harder to prepare for a case. At that moment, she felt Sully's hand on her shoulder.

"You thinkin' about Matthew?" he yawned.

"Yes," she leaned back against his bare chest. "I thought you were asleep."

He countered, "If you're gonna be up, I am, too."

"Sometimes being a parent creates such feelings of helplessness," she confided. "I want so much for Matthew to succeed, but it's not within my power."

"He's got a good head on his shoulders," Sully assured. "I can't think o' anyone who could handle a case like this any better."

"He's come so far," she turned to slide her hands around his waist. "When you were in hiding from the Army, Matthew would spend countless hours buried in those law books trying to find something, anything that would free you. He told me he wouldn't rest until you were free to come home to us."

"I'm much obliged t' him, an' t' you for my freedom," Sully swallowed hard.

She tilted her head against his chest, then sweetly kissed it. Sully cupped her head between his hands, and kissed her fully.

Then he whispered, "Why don't we go back t' bed?"

"I'm afraid I'm not sleepy," she returned.

Sully grinned, "Who said anythin' about sleepin'?"

************

Matthew sat at the desk feverishly writing, then scratching out what he had written.

"What are you doin'?" Emma sat up in bed.

"I can't get this right," he exhaled in frustration.

"Maybe I could help," she offered.

"No, thanks," Matthew's independent streak shone forth.

Emma commended, "I'm real proud of you, Matthew. I sat in that courtroom today and thought about how far you've come."

"I haven't come very far if I lose," he voiced his concern.

"Yes, ya have," she countered. "Who'd have ever thought someone could help the Cheyenne in a federal court?"

"I haven't helped 'em yet," Matthew returned to his writing.

"You will," Emma smiled. "I know ya will. Now, come on to bed. Ya need a good night's sleep."

He knew she was right. He rose from the chair and doused the lamp. Enfolded in his wife's arms, he began to relax.

"Better?" she stroked his arm.

"Thanks for believin' in me, Emma," Matthew whispered.

"I always will," she kissed him.

************

Loren set his empty beer glass on the bar, "So are ya comin' t' the meetin' t'morrow, Hank?"

Hank responded, "Lemme see if I understand this. Preston says we can make a lot o' money if we invest in this cog railroad?"

"That's right," Loren nodded.

Hank said to himself, "I could sure use the money."

************
Chapter 4
************

Loren stopped his buggy at the Sully homestead and climbed down with a box of groceries.

"Hey, Loren," Robert E waved from the barn. "Beautiful mornin', ain't it?"

"I reckon," Loren acknowledged. "You helpin' with the chores while the men folk are away?"

"Yea," the blacksmith nodded.

Loren gestured, "I best get these food staples inside or they're like t' starve."

Robert E chuckled and went about his work.

When Loren reached the top step, he was greeted by Wolf, tail wagging.

"Now, I know Sully tolerates you," Loren frowned. "But ya won't get any pettin' from me. So, step aside."

Wolf put his head down.

"Awe, all right," Loren balanced the groceries. "Come here. Just a little bit of pettin'."

Wolf wagged his tail again and closed his eyes to savor the attention.

The door opened.

"Misser Bway!" Josef's eyes lit up. "Did ya come t' see us?"

"No, I come t' check on Robert E," he frowned. "'Course I came t' see ya. Where's Miss Bridget?"

The nanny appeared at the door, "Right here. Josef, let's not keep Mr. Bray waitin' at the door."

Josef looked up, "You can come in, but ya gotta be quiet. Hope's asleep."

Loren was careful to not make any noise as he entered the home.

He kept his voice low, "Any word from Denver?"

"Not a peep," Bridget shook her head.

Loren noticed, "Where're the other kids?"

Bridget gestured upstairs, "Katie's readin' a story t' the twins, an' the leprechaun here is helpin' me clean up from breakfast."

Josef retrieved the broom and began to sweep. He bumped into the kitchen table and nearly knocked over a chair.

Loren assessed, "Looks like he's doin' more harm than good."

The little boy spoke up, "I get a pokle if I do good, Misser Bway."

"Well, then, ya best do good," he chuckled.

Bridget motioned, "Have a seat. I'll get ya a cup o' coffee."

"I can't stay long," he complied. "I got a business meetin' at the Chateau at noon."

"Business meetin'?" she set a cup of coffee in front of him. "What kinda business?"

Loren took a sip as Josef crashed into the high chair.

"Easy, lad," Bridget cautioned.

"Sowwy," he sighed. "Ya think I could have that pokle now?"

Bridget sighed, "For the sake o' the dishes an' cups, aye. I'll get ya one."

"Thanks," Josef set the broom in its proper place. "I'll go listen t' Katie finish the stowy."

Bridget returned to the subject, "So what kinda meetin' is it?"

Loren informed her, "Somethin' about eminent rain."

"Eminent rain?" she tilted her head. "It don't look cloudy out."

************

At Grace's Cafe, Preston spoke to anyone who would listen, "So you see, gentlemen, this is an opportunity of epic proportions."

Horace was intrigued, "An' ya say this cog railroad will bring money t' anyone who invests in it?"

"That's right," Preston nodded. "If you buy stock in the company, you'll be part owner in the railroad. As the venture makes money, the stockholders will be paid dividends. Understand?"

Horace scratched his head, "Kinda."

"So," Preston looked around. "Which of you men can I count on for that meeting today?"

Several men raised their hands.

"What about women, Mr. Lodge?" Teresa questioned.

Preston answered, "I'm afraid the opportunity is not open to the fairer sex, Mrs. Slicker."

Grace put her hands on her hips, "Well, the fairer sex might not feed you anymore if that's the case."

Preston frowned, "Perhaps an exception can be made for ladies who can provide the necessary quantity of cash."

"How much we talkin'?" Grace asked.

"One hundred dollars per share," Preston specified.

************

"Sully," Michaela turned her back to him. "Could you do up the buttons on my dress?"

"Sure," he stepped closer. "If you'll fix my tie again."

Michaela tilted her head forward, and he kissed her neck.

"Mr. Sully," she tingled. "Let's stay focused on our tasks."

He grinned, "You make it hard t' stay focused, 'specially after last night."

She warmed at the memory, "It was rather magical. Wasn't it?"

"Mmm," he kissed her neck again when he finished the buttons. "Magical."

She pivoted to do his tie, "There. You look quite handsome."

He kissed her sweetly, "Thanks. You look pretty good, too."

"Pretty good?" she raised an eyebrow.

He kissed her more deeply, "Real good."

"Thank you," she drew back slowly.

She handed him her necklace to latch around her neck.

Her sudden quiet prompted him to remark, "What's on your mind?"

"I've been thinking about Josef's not wanting to go to school when it starts next week," she revealed.

"He's just scared 'cause it's somethin' new," Sully noted.

"He does shy away from change," she admitted.

Sully chuckled, "Katie jumps right in with both feet, but Joe's more cautious."

"Do you think that's bad?" she feared.

"Not necessarily," he assured. "They're just different. Maybe we could talk t' Teresa.... see if Joe can go t' school the first few days t' see how he handles it."

Michaela informed him, "I told him he wouldn't have to go if he didn't want to."

"I'll talk t' him," Sully pledged. "Meanwhile, we got another son who's facin' a bigger challenge. Matthew'll have his hands full t'day."

************

Lexie finished preparing breakfast and started toward the bedroom to wake up Hank.

She was surprised to see that he was already dressed, "You're awake."

"Yea," he shrugged. "I got a busy day t'day."

"Oh?" she was curious.

"I.... uh, got a meetin' with some fellas at the Chateau," he stated.

"Is that what you wanted to discuss with me yesterday?" she wondered.

"Uh, no," he rushed to the door. "I gotta go."

"Hank!" she called after him. "What about breakfast?"

It was too late. He was gone.

************

Matthew stood before Judge Dundy and called his next witness, "Your honor, I would like Cloud Dancing of the Cheyenne people t' take the stand."

Cloud Dancing stepped forward. The Bible was held up, but the Judge said, "That won't be necessary."

Cloud Dancing sat down, and Matthew began his questioning, "Would you tell the Court about your background?"

"I am a medicine man of the Cheyenne people," he began. "I learned this medicine from my father. Once my people were as numerous as the buffalo. Here we were born, lived and died. Then the white man came with his railroad and his buffalo hunters. My people were put on reservations, and we were put to death."

"When the white man put you on reservations," Matthew paused. "Were you compensated for the loss of your land?"

"We were told there would be compensation," Cloud Dancing nodded. "We were told we would be cared for, but this did not happen."

Matthew summarized, "So, in other words, you lost your property, your health an' your lives without due process of law. Is that right?"

Lambertson stood up, "Objection, your honor. Counselor is asking the witness to make an interpretation of the law."

"Your honor," Matthew countered. "Cloud Dancin' is a well respected man among his people. He has passed judgments in tribal councils, an' he has settled disputes. He understands the importance an' interpretation of laws."

Dundy nodded, "The witness may answer the question."

Cloud Dancing replied, "I have read the Constitution. My people did not have due process."

"No further questions," Matthew sat down.

************

Preston was in his glory as he stood up to speak with the men who had assembled at the Chateau, "Gentlemen, I'd like to introduce the distinguished businessman and philanthropist, Mr. Zalmon Simmons."


The man rose. His white beard was neatly trimmed. He removed his black Lincoln-style stove pipe hat.

Then he began, "Gentlemen, I recently visited your beautiful mountain, Pike's Peak. My trip was part business and part pleasure. You see, I was here to check on one of my inventions, an insulator for the telegraph wires that run the Army Signal Station at the summit. And who could pass up the opportunity to see the magnificent sight? Unfortunately, I had to make the arduous two-day trek by mule."

The men chuckled.

Simmons went on, "I was so in awe of the scenery, I thought, others should be able to enjoy this view, as well. But who would want to endure such a climb? There should be a more civilized and comfortable way to experience Pike's Peak. So, as I was sitting in the hot springs at Mr. Lodge's Chateau, I mentioned this dilemma, and he brought up the idea of a railroad to the top."

Preston's smile broadened at the mention of his idea by such a noted industrialist.

Simmons continued, "Mr. Lodge has assured me that he can acquire the land through eminent domain, given the Army's interest in the concept. So, what remains is the formation of the Colorado Springs and Pike's Peak Railway Company." Then the shrewd businessman added, "It is the busy dollar that earns a profit."

"I can assure you, Mr. Simmons," Preston interjected. "Our town is very interested. Isn't that right, gentlemen?"

They erupted into rousing applause for his remark.

************

Lambertson addressed the Cheyenne medicine man, "Could you tell us, Cloud Dancing, when was the last time you voted in an election for a federal, state or even local official?"

"I have not voted for these officials," Cloud Dancing stated.

"I see," Lambertson nodded. "I suppose that's because only citizens can vote."

Cloud Dancing tilted his head, "I believe women are citizens, yet cannot vote."

"Your honor," Lambertson frowned. "Please advise the witness that he is to speak only when asked a question."

The judge agreed, "The witness is so informed."

"So," Lambertson returned to his inquiries. "Do you own any land?"

"No," Cloud Dancing replied simply.

Lambertson resumed, "Do you own any private property?"

"No," the medicine man answered.

Lambertson persisted, "Do you go to church?"

"I do not go to the white man's church," he stated.

"Do you wear the white man's clothes?" Lambertson gestured toward the medicine man's garb.

"I have been forced to wear his clothing when I lived on the reservation," was his reply.

"Then, you do not adhere to the white man's dress, religion or duties of citizenship," Lambertson stated. "The government sees no reason why you or your people should be subject to the protection of its citizens. No further questions, your honor."

Judge Dundy looked at his watch, "The court will take a recess for lunch, then return at one o'clock."

************

Hank watched from the sheriff's office across the street as men lined up to buy stock in the newly formed railroad company. While he was looking out the window, he noticed a wagon stop nearby. A woman got down from it. It was Lexie.

She entered the office and set a basket on his desk, "Well, Sheriff, since you didn't eat breakfast, I thought I'd bring you lunch."

"You didn't have to," he lifted the cloth napkin. "Smells good, though."

"I don't want you to lose your strength," she mused. "Your sleep habits won't be the same after the baby's born."

"That's what I hear," he broke off a piece of biscuit.

She sat on the corner of his desk, "How was your meeting?"

"Meetin'?" he said.

"At the Chateau," she specified. "You said you had a meeting."

"Oh, yea," he shrugged. "You know Preston. Lots o' talkin'."

Lexie gestured, "What's going on at the bank? A panic?"

"Preston's sellin' stock in a new company," he stated. "They're gonna build a cog railroad up Pike's Peak."

"Pike's Peak!" her eyes widened. "That's awfully far up."

"Yea," he dipped the remainder of his biscuit in the gravy Lexie had brought. "Prob'ly just a waste o' money."

"I don't think so," she reasoned. "Lots of tourists will want to go up once it's built."

Hank pondered, "You think I oughta invest? I mean, with the kid comin', we'll need the money."

"We could take out a loan," she suggested.

"Uh," he became uncomfortable. "That ain't such a good idea."

"Why not?" she questioned. "Between the Gold Nugget and the ranch, we certainly have the collateral."

Hank swallowed hard, "No, we don't."

"What do you mean?" she tilted her head.

"We can't use them for collateral," he restated.

"Why not?" she posed the question.

Hank became more uncomfortable, "Uh, 'cause.... it's too risky."

"We wouldn't be risking everything," she noted. "Think about it."

"Yea, I will," he suddenly was not hungry.

"Well, I have some things to get at the Mercantile," she stepped closer to kiss him. "Will you be home for supper?"

"Uh, maybe," he was noncommittal.

She slid her hand beneath the material of his shirt and kissed him more deeply. Hank's reaction was immediate.

Lexie whispered, "I don't have to go right this minute."

His heart began to race, "I ain't never done this in a jail."

"Me either," she grinned as she stepped to the door to bolt it shut.

Hank drew the curtains closed, "I reckon there's a first time for everythin'."

************

Michaela approached Matthew, "I think things are going very well, Sweetheart."

He bit his lower lip and looked at his notes, "I need t' establish one more point, but I need someone.... Ma, do ya think you could take the stand for me?"

"Me?" Michaela was taken aback. "What can I do?"

Matthew stated, "I want ya t' tell about things Cloud Dancin' has done for you an' for our town."

Without hesitation, she replied, "Of course, I will."

"Thanks," he kissed her cheek. "It's almost one o'clock. We best go inside the courtroom."

When all were present, Judge Dundy entered the room and called the court into session.

Matthew stood up, "Your honor, I'd like t' call Dr. Michaela Quinn t' the stand."

Lambertson objected, "Your honor, this witness was not on the list provided to the district attorney's office."

Matthew defended, "Your honor, Dr. Quinn's credentials are impeccable. Certainly, the government would not object t' hearing from a witness of such stellar reputation."

The judge looked at Lambertson, "Do you rescind your objection?"

Lambertson sighed, "Yes."

Michaela was sworn in, and Matthew reached for his notes.

He began, "Would you state your name an' occupation for the Court?"

"Yes," she spoke formally. "My name is Michaela Quinn Sully, and I'm a physician in Colorado Springs, Colorado."

He probed, "Have you ever had any professional or personal dealin's with the Cheyenne Medicine man Cloud Dancin'?"

"Numerous dealings," she folded her hands. "I have employed his herbal treatments on many occasions, and I have learned a great deal about Cheyenne medicine from him. In addition, he has saved my life and those of my family and town."

"Saved your town?" Matthew questioned. "How so?"

"During times of natural disaster and even when our townsfolk have been lost, he and his people have come to the rescue of Colorado Springs," she detailed.

"This in spite of the fact that some in the town considered the Cheyenne to be savages?" he inquired.

"Yes, there are some who believed that," she nodded. "But once they got to know the Cheyenne people, Black Kettle, their chief who so desperately wanted peace, Snow Bird, the gracious and kind wife of Cloud Dancing...."

Lambertson slammed his hand down on the desk, "Objection, your honor. We don't need a list of their names."

Matthew's face reddened, "Why not, Mr. Lambertson? They had names. They were human bein's who married, had children and held spiritual beliefs. I think they at least deserve t' be recognized by name."

The judge pounded his gavel, "Both counselors are reminded that this is a Court of law, and no further outbursts will be tolerated. Doctor, you may continue to answer the question."

"Thank you, your honor," Michaela returned. "As I was saying, the more our townsfolk got to know these people, the more we realized our differences were not so great."

Matthew resumed, "Was there ever a time, Dr. Quinn, when Cloud Dancin' participated in town activities, as a citizen would?"

She smiled, "One that comes to mind was when Colorado Springs played a baseball game against the American All Stars. The mayor himself, Jacob Slicker, acknowledged that Cloud Dancing was a member of our town."

"No further questions," Matthew sat.

Lambertson rose, "Mrs. Sully, this baseball game.... under what circumstance did Mayor Slicker concede Cloud Dancing's status as a member of the town?"

"Well," she hesitated. "It was so he could play in the game, but he DID acknowledge it."

"Going back to the town's feelings toward the Cheyenne," he queried further. "Could you tell me how the town felt about the insurrection led by your husband, Byron Sully, in May of 1872?"

Matthew jumped to his feet, "Objection, your honor. That's irrelevant."

Lambertson folded his arms, "It is relevant in that Mr. Cooper broached the subject in order to portray the Cheyenne as a peace-loving people who wanted nothing more than to help the people of Colorado Springs and play baseball."

"Dr. Quinn will answer the question," Dundy ruled.

Michaela hesitated. She could not lie. Yet telling the truth could have devastating results for her son's case.

************
Chapter 5
************

Michaela looked at the judge, "Your honor. May I answer this question in the way of an explanation?"

Lambertson protested, "Sir, the witness needs to respond to...."

Judge Dundy raised his hand to silence the attorney, "Dr. Quinn, you may proceed with your explanation."

Michaela eyed Lambertson, "You asked how the town felt about the insurrection on the reservation. My words cannot adequately convey to you the conditions under which I have treated the sick and dying on these reservations. They are deplorable and abhorrent to anyone with a sense of decency. In May of 1872, I was summoned to the Palmer Creek Reservation to treat Cloud Dancing after he had been beaten, nearly to death, by the Army. His infraction? He was slightly late in returning to the reservation from his day pass."

Michaela looked at the judge with tears in her eyes.

Then she went on, "If they remained there, these Indians had no hope for survival. My husband took action to save their lives. The resulting violence to our town did not come from those who were freed. It came from the Dog Soldiers, a renegade group of Cheyenne."

Lambertson accused, "Was this group responsible for the death of General Wooden?"

"Indirectly," Michaela qualified.

"Mrs. Sully, I recall reading that the Indians blew up a saloon in Colorado Springs, and the general was mortally wounded from the blast," he asserted.

She contradicted, "In my professional opinion, the General would have recuperated from his injuries. It was his insistence on continuing to drink alcohol that caused his death."

Lambertson did not relent, "So, merely consuming alcohol killed this officer of the United States Army?"

She conceded, "In his condition, yes."

"And his 'condition' was caused by drinking alcohol?" he probed.

"No," she lowered her head.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Sully, I didn't quite hear your answer," Lambertson frowned.

"I said, no, it did not cause his original condition," she lamented.

"No further questions," he returned to his seat.

************

Loren knocked on the Sully homestead door.

When Bridget opened it, she smiled, "'Afternoon, Loren."

"'Afternoon," he removed his hat. "I was thinkin' I might get the boys outa your hair by takin' 'em fishin' with me."

"Well, come on inside, an' we can ask," she stepped back.

"Josef, Noah," Bridget beckoned. "Mr. Bray's here t' see ya."

Josef arrived first, followed by his little brother.

Loren invited, "Wanna go fishin'?"

"Yea!" Josef's eyes widened.

"Yea!" Noah imitated.

Loren put his hands on his hips, "Well, then get your poles, an' let's go."

"Noah don' have a fishin' pole," Josef pointed out.

"He can just use a stick," Loren acknowledged. "Come on. Them fish are waitin'."

Josef paused to look at the nanny, "We bring back supper, Miss Bwidget."

"I'll count on that, boy-oh," she mused as she tussled his hair. "Off with ya, now."

As they departed, Annie toddled closer, "I go."

Bridget lifted her, "No, darlin'. This is just for the boys."

Annie's brow wrinkled, "I go."

Katie came to the rescue, "Why don't we go out on the swing, Annie?"

The little girl quickly forgot her upset, "'Kay."

************

Matthew stood to redirect, "Dr. Quinn, in your professional opinion, are Indians human bein's?"

She was surprised, "Why.... yes, of course they are."

"What makes you conclude that?" he tilted his head.

She qualified, "Do you mean anatomically?"

Matthew smiled, "In language we can all understand, why do you say Indians are human bein's?"

Michaela did not hesitate, "Because they are the same as you and I."

"Thank you," he returned. "Your honor, we rest our case."

"Mr. Lambertson," the judge eyed him. "You will now have the opportunity to present the government's case."

"Your honor," he stood. "The government once more moves that this case be dismissed on the grounds that Mr. Cooper did not prove that an Indian is a human being or a citizen."

"Your request is denied, Mr. Lambertson," Judge Dundy ruled.

Matthew closed his eyes in relief.

"Proceed, Counselor with your case," the judge nodded.

Lambertson lifted a piece of paper, "I would like to call Dr. Cassidy."

Michaela looked around, stunned to see the physician enter the courtroom.

When the doctor was sworn in and identified, Lambertson began, "Dr. Cassidy, how long have you been practicing medicine?"

Cassidy rubbed his chin, "Going on 40 years."

Lambertson continued, "And in that 40 years, have you ever treated an Indian?"

"No, sir," he quickly replied.

"Used Indian medicine?" the attorney added.

"Never," he frowned. "That would be highly unethical of me."

"Why is that?" Lambertson inquired.

"Because they are far inferior to the white race," he smugly answered.

"Thank you, Doctor," Lambertson sat down.

Matthew rose up, "Dr. Cassidy, if you have never treated an Indian or used their medicine, how can you say that they are not human?"

"Because, young man, I went to medical school and studied anatomy," he answered.

"So, goin' t' medical school qualifies one t' make this judgment?" Matthew smiled.

"Yes, of course," he nodded.

"What was your class rank in medical school?" Matthew challenged.

Lambertson jumped to his feet, "Objection, your honor. That's not relevant."

Matthew defended, "Sir, I would assume that the higher the rank of a student who graduates from medical school, the greater their comprehension an' understandin' of such subjects as Anatomy would be."

Judge Dundy ruled, "The witness will answer."

Cassidy cleared his throat, "I graduated last in my class."

"I see," Matthew nodded. "And what was your grade in Anatomy?"

He kept his voice low, "D."

Matthew looked at the judge, "Your honor, if the government wishes, I can recall Dr. Quinn t' testify as t' her medical training and thus her expertise in Anatomy, or I can simply tell the court her level of achievement."

Dundy glanced at Lambertson, "Do you wish for Dr. Quinn to be called to the stand again?"

Lambertson's shoulders slumped, "No, sir, the government will accept Mr. Cooper's statement of her grade."

Matthew smiled, "Dr. Michaela Quinn graduated first in her class in medical school with straight A's. So, I would think that given her extensive education AND experience with Indians, includin' their medicine, she is more qualified t' give testimony on whether or not they are human bein's."

Lambertson continued to parade several doctors to the witness stand to testify on the anatomy of Indians. Matthew handled each cross-examination with aplomb. Finally, the government rested its case and made an impassioned plea to the judge to dismiss the case.

Then it was Matthew's turn. He cleared his throat and stepped up to speak. Michaela and Sully clasped hands, never prouder of their son than at this moment.

"Your honor," Matthew began. "I'm sure that you expect me t' make a speech an' repeat all of the evidence I've presented in this case. However, I would like t' depart from the expected, an' ask someone else t' sum up this case in my place."

The judge tilted his head in interest, "Whom might that be, Mr. Cooper?"

"Cloud Dancin'," the young man replied.

"Very well," the judge accepted.

The Indian stood up and returned to the witness box.

Matthew swallowed hard, "Cloud Dancin', would you explain t' the Court why the laws of the white man's Constitution should apply t' your people?"

The medicine man looked at the judge as he lifted his arm, "My hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. I am a man. The same God made us both. A man bars the passage... I... must obey orders. If he says that I cannot pass, I cannot. The long struggle will have been in vain." Then he paused and looked directly at the judge, "You are that man!"

Then something astounding occurred, never before happening in a court of law. General Crook leaned forward and, with tears in his eyes, shook Cloud Dancing's hand. Michaela and other women began to cry. Even the judge was in tears, as the whole courtroom stood and shook Cloud Dancing's hand.

************

Loren sat back and chuckled at Josef and Noah in their fishing efforts. Josef took it very seriously and did everything the older man suggested. Noah, on the other hand, attempted to eat the worms and preferred to pound the creek water with his fishing stick.

"Noah," Loren lifted him onto his lap. "I never did see a boy resist learnin' like you."

Josef contributed, "Mama says he's a hamful."

"Handful," Loren amended. "That he is."

Patiently, Loren stuck a worm onto the fishing hook for Noah, then tossed the line into the water for him.

"Now," Loren handed him the pole. "Ya sit real still an' wait for the fish."

"Shhh," Josef placed his index finger to his lips. "Ya gotta be quiet, Noah."

Noah frowned, "Dig."

Loren responded, "We already dug for worms. Now, we fish."

Noah restlessly pointed, "Dig more."

Josef suddenly noticed, "Look, Noah, ya got a bite."

Sure enough, a fish was struggling to loosen itself from Noah's line.

"Hold tight, boy," Loren helped to steady his grip on the pole. "Now, draw him in."

Noah had no idea what he was doing, but with Loren's guidance, he was able to lift the pole from the water.

Loren exclaimed, "Look at him, boys! He's tremendous!"

Noah's eyes widened in wonder at the squirming foot-long trout he had caught.

"Good job, Noah," Josef patted the toddler's back.

"Home," Noah stood up and wiped his sleeve across his nose.

"Home?" Loren scoffed. "Not when there's more like that one in the creek. Come on, let's catch some more."

************

Michaela and Sully held back while others congratulated Matthew on a job well done. Finally, they approached their son.

Michaela embraced him, "You were magnificent, Matthew."

He hugged her in return, "Thanks, Ma. You bein' here helped a lot."

Brian spoke up, "Folks are comparing you to Abraham Lincoln in the way you conducted yourself and argued the case."

Sully shook his hand, "What now?"

Matthew sighed, "Now, we wait. The judge could take a day, a week, or even longer t' hand down his decision."

Michaela stepped toward Cloud Dancing, "Your words were so moving."

Dorothy added, "Simple, yet eloquent."

Sully commended his friend, "It took a lot o' courage t' stand up like ya did."

The medicine man grinned, "It felt good to be able to stand up and speak for my people."

Michaela added, "I was also impressed with General Crook."

At that moment, Dr. Cassidy stepped forward, "Well, Dr. Quinn, I see we find ourselves on opposite sides again."

She pointed toward him, "And you, sir, are on the wrong side. As for working in my hospital, you can...."

"Michaela," Sully interrupted. "Could I speak with ya for a second?"

She knew that her husband was attempting to calm her temper.

Sully drew her aside, "Don't go burnin' any bridges, Michaela."

"But his testimony, Sully," she countered. "It might have imperiled Cloud Dancing's chances."

"He just gave his opinion," he pointed out.

"But, you know he's wrong as well as I," she protested. "I don't want someone like him practicing medicine in my hospital. What if an Indian is brought in for treatment?"

Sully stroked her back, "Just think on it a while before ya do anythin'."

She sighed and returned to the others. Cassidy bid a hasty retreat.

Matthew put his hands on his hips, "Well, Emma an' me are gonna stay in Denver for another day or two in case the judge makes up his mind quickly."

"I'm going back to Colorado Springs," Brian patted his older brother's back. "I can't wait to write up everything for The Gazette, so I'll take the last train."

"Cloud Dancin'?" Sully wondered what he would do.

"Dorothy and I must return to the school," he said. "We will take this train, too."

"At least let us treat all of you to dinner this evening," Michaela offered.

"I never pass up a free meal," Matthew rubbed his stomach.

As they walked toward the hotel, Dorothy and Michaela conversed.

"Well," the redhead kept her voice low. "Did you discuss.... you know, that topic with Sully?"

Michaela's cheeks flushed, "Yes. We're in agreement."

"Good," Dorothy smiled.

Michaela broached the subject, "Lately, you and I have not discussed something that I've wondered about."

"What's that?" Dorothy tilted her head.

"You and Cloud Dancing," Michaela mentioned. "I was wondering if you have considered making your relationship more permanent."

"Ya mean marriage?" Dorothy's cheeks flushed this time. "No. We ain't discussed it in a long time."

"You're content with the way things are?" Michaela was curious.

"I suppose," Dorothy looked down. "We're more like brother an' sister now. It's easier that way."

"There's no.... romance?" Michaela questioned.

"Don't get me wrong," she stated. "I'd love for there t' be more. But.... Cloud Dancin' wants it this way. I know he has strong feelin's for me, but there's somethin' that holds him back. It's like a burden that never lifts."

Michaela assessed, "He carries the burden of what his people have been through. Perhaps this experience will lift that."

"I think it's more personal," Dorothy sighed. "I think he still mourns Snow Bird."

"Their's was a powerful love," Michaela sympathized.

"You're lucky Sully gave up his feelin's for Abigail an' let himself fall in love with you," the redhead stated.

Michaela disagreed, "He's never given up his feelings for Abigail, nor would I want him to. He loved her very deeply, and there are times when I see a look in his eyes that tells me he's thinking of her."

Dorothy wondered, "Don't that make ya jealous?"

She looked down, "There was a time when it bothered me, yes, but not now. How could I possibly ask him to forget her? She's a part of making Sully the man I love."

"You've come a long way, Michaela Quinn," Dorothy smiled.

"Sully's been my guide," she mused. "But that doesn't resolve your situation."

Dorothy sighed, "I'll just have t' be happy with what we got."

************

Hank waited until the last man had departed from Preston's bank. He stepped toward the door of the Sheriff's office and donned his hat. Nonchalantly, he crossed the street.

Then he entered the bank, "Ya got any o' that stock left?"

Preston grinned, "As a matter of fact, I do, but it's selling quickly."

"A hundred dollars each, huh?" Hank verified.

"That's right," the banker sat at his desk.

Hank queried, "When would it start payin' them dividends?"

"When the company begins to make a profit," he explained.

"I don't got any more money or collateral," Hank folded his arms. "I already signed for the Gold Nugget and ranch."

Preston offered, "I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll let you have one share."

"What's the catch?" Hank frowned.

Preston leaned back, "No catch. Let's call it a good will offering."

"That's all?" Hank was skeptical.

"Well, there is one small favor I'd like in return," Preston held up his index finger.

Hank rolled his eyes, "Let's hear it."

"Help me convince Michaela to not fight the eminent domain takeover of the Indian School land," Preston stated.

Hank scoffed, "Ya must be jokin'. She wouldn't listen t' me. Besides, I thought this eminent domain thing is a sure shot."

"Oh, it is," he nodded. "But I'd that prefer Mr. Simmons and the other investors not have to worry about any legal challenges or unpleasant publicity."

Hank put his hands on his hips, "I'll see what I can do."

Preston offered his hand, "Shall we shake on it?"

"Sure," Hank reciprocated.

************
Chapter 6
************

After dinner, Sully invited Michaela to take a walk. Linking her arm in his, they strolled toward the park where they had come during their honeymoon.

He smiled, "Lots a dreams we had back then."

"Yes," she agreed. "I was thinking about a new dream."

"What can I do t' help?" he paused.

She stroked his arms, "It's just like you to wonder what you can do to help before you even know what it is."

He grinned, "Well, unless it's divorcin' me, I figure I should help your dreams come true."

"Divorce you?" she was aghast. "Never. You're stuck with me, Byron Sully."

They resumed their walk.

He broached the subject again, "So, you gonna tell me?"

She looked up at him, "I'd like for Colorado Springs to have an opera house. Wouldn't it be wonderful for the children to grow up with the culture and...."

He interrupted and gestured in another direction, "Let's go this way."

"What?" she was puzzled. "I thought we were going to the park."

He gently guided her, "Just takin' a different route. So tell me what kind of opera house you'd like t' build."

She described, "Well, I think it would have to be at least three stories tall, and...."

"Why'd ya stop?" he questioned.

"Are you serious about helping me?" she queried.

"'Course, I am," he nodded. "I think it's a good idea. Go on."

As they walked, Michaela described in detail how she envisioned the structure. Eventually, Sully stopped her and told her to close her eyes.

"Close my eyes?" she was puzzled.

"Trust me," he invited.

She went along with his request as he led her the remaining few steps around a street corner.

"Okay, open," he said.

Michaela opened her eyes and beheld the fabulously opulent $700,000 newly opened Tabor Grande Opera House.

"Sully!" her mouth dropped. "It's magnificent."

"Yep," he agreed. "So, was this what ya had in mind?"

"Well...." she watched the opera goers entering the building. "Nothing on such a great scale, but this is similar."

"Then, I think we oughta get started on it, soon as we get home," he smiled.

She lifted up to embrace him, "I love you, Sully."

"I love you, too," he kissed her sweetly.

************

Matthew loosened his tie and leaned back to savor a shoulder massage from his wife, "Sure was a nice dinner Ma an' Sully arranged."

Emma kissed his neck, "You deserve it. I don't see how the judge can rule against you, Matthew."

He closed his eyes, "It's hard t' say. No judge has ever ruled in favor of the Indians before."

Emma went on, "I watched Judge Dundy's face when Cloud Dancin' made those final comments. He was definitely moved."

"I know," he clasped her hand. "I'm sure glad you came with me."

She drew him up to stand, "I wouldn't have missed it."

"Thanks," he kissed her sweetly. "I love you, Emma."

"I love you, too," she replied as their contact became more passionate.

************

At the Sully homestead, Brian sat back after finishing a story for the children.

"That was good, Bran," Josef complimented.

Annie tapped her older brother's knee, "Hold me."

Brian reached down and drew her onto his lap, "I heard I missed a good supper. Miss Bridget said it was the most fish she ever cleaned."

Noah pointed to himself, "I do it."

"You caught all the fish yourself?" Brian pretended to not know.

"Yep," Josef nodded. "Misser Bway say he never seed nothin' like it."

Brian grinned, "I remember when he used t' take me fishin', too."

Katie broached the subject, "You said Mama an' Poppy will be home on the mornin' train?"

"Yep," he smiled. "I came home early so I could write up my story for The Gazette. You'd have been real proud of Matthew."

"We are," Katie spoke for her siblings.

Brian felt Annie lean her little head against his shoulder, "I reckon this one's ready for bed."

"Not yet, Bran," Josef protested.

Bridget stepped closer, "All right, you wee ones. Your folks would have my head if I let ya stay up any later."

Josef was in awe, "What they do with your head, Miss Bwidget?"

************

Snugly in bed, Michaela spooned herself against her husband's chest and began to review the day's events in her mind.

Sully sensed she was still awake, "You did fine."

"How did you know what I was thinking?" she smiled.

His breath was warm on her ear, "I know."

"Sully," she turned to look at him. "Have you wondered about the relationship between Cloud Dancing and Dorothy?"

"It's none o' my business," he noted.

"But have you wondered?" she repeated. "I mean, they've been together for seven years, and yet...."

Sully replied, "He lost the love o' his life, Michaela. Sometimes a man don't get through that."

"Don't you believe he loves Dorothy?" she pondered.

"Sure, he does," he answered.

"Then don't you think they should be together?" she posed the question.

"Ya mean get married?" he assumed.

"Yes," she nodded.

He smiled and ran his finger along the line of her jaw, "Did Dorothy say somethin' about wantin' t' get married?"

Michaela remarked, "She seems content with the way things are."

"Then we should be, too," he advised.

She caressed his cheek, "I don't know what I would have done if you...."

He kissed the palm of her hand, "It was different for us."

"How so?" she questioned.

He snuggled closer, "'Cause I'd have moved heaven an' earth t' marry you."

She turned up the corner of her mouth, "You were very patient, Mr. Sully."

He mused, "I had a lot o' competition."

She assured, "If you're speaking of David, you know that I was confused and overwhelmed by his return. I thought he had been killed in the War, and...."

He sweetly kissed her, "That's all past us, Michaela. We got ten years o' happiness t' be grateful for."

"And I am eternally grateful," she nodded. "I simply wish Dorothy and Cloud Dancing could be as happy."

"I don't know if most folks could ever be as happy as us," he considered. "Look at Colorado Springs. There ain't many couples I consider happily married."

She pointed out, "Matthew and Emma, Robert E and Grace, the Reverend and Isabel...."

He ran his hand tantalizingly down her thigh, "Not as happy as us."

She stirred at his gesture, "Well, now that you mention it.... You're right."

"I am?" his eyes widened.

"You're right most of the time," she caressed his cheek.

He smiled, "Does that include about Cloud Dancin' an' Dorothy not bein' our business?"

"Sully, they're our best friends," she pointed out.

"Which is an even better reason t' leave 'em be," he noted. "If they're meant t' be t'gether, it'll happen."

"I suppose," she sighed.

He slid his arm beneath her shoulders, "Think you can get some sleep now? We gotta be at the Depot early."

"Yes," she closed her eyes.

At that moment, she felt his warm lips on her cheek.

When she opened her eyes, she saw him smiling, "What?"

He kissed her again, "I forgot t' say I love you."

She toyed with the hair at his temple, "You say it every day in more ways than I can count. I love you, too."

With that, they both closed their eyes and drifted off to sleep.

************

The morning train from Denver arrived on time in Colorado Springs. After disembarking, Dorothy headed for The Gazette office, and Cloud Dancing departed for the Indian school. While Michaela gathered their mail, Sully crossed to the Livery.

Sully greeted his friend, "Hey, Robert E."

"Hey, Sully," he shook his hand. "I saw Brian earlier this mornin'. He said Matthew done real good in provin' his case."

Sully nodded, "He sure did. But you know judges. I ain't gonna get my hopes up. We miss anythin' while we were away?"

Robert E chuckled, "Loren took your boys fishin'. Noah caught six big trout."

"Noah did?" Sully was amazed. "He's only two years old."

He shook his head, "I reckon you better get him a real fishin' pole. No tellin' what he could do with that."

Sully laughed, "We might have t' open a fish market for him."

Robert E gestured toward the bank, "A lot goin' on with Preston."

He frowned, "What's he up to now?"

The blacksmith explained, "Some big company he's in on t' build a cog railroad up Pikes Peak."

"Just like him t' wanna do somethin' t' ruin the land," Sully shook his head.

Robert E informed him, "Well, he's got a lot o' folks interested in makin' money off it. I'll have the surrey for ya in no time."

Sully patted his back, "Much obliged. An' thanks for takin' care o' things at the homestead."

"You're welcome," he smiled.

"How's Abraham doin'?" Sully queried.

His grin widened, "Walkin', talkin', gettin' int' everythin'."

At that moment, Michaela arrived, "Good morning, Robert E."

"Dr. Mike," he tipped his cap. "How was your trip?"

She linked her arm in Sully's, "Quite enjoyable."

Sully smiled, "She's still anxious t' get home though."

Hank spotted Michaela and Sully at the Livery. He quickened his step to catch up before they departed.

"Hank," Michaela greeted. "How is Lexie?"

"Fine," he replied. "You two have a good trip?"

Sully was suspicious, "Yea, why?"

"Just wondered," he returned. "Folks was talkin' about Matthew."

"He was superb," Michaela's face beamed.

Hank remarked, "Helps t' have a good lawyer in the family, I reckon."

"Are you in need of some legal counsel?" Michaela retorted.

"No," he folded his arms. "But...."

Sully wondered why he stopped, "But what?"

Hank changed the subject, "Looks like your surrey's ready. I'll see ya."

With that, the Sheriff left them.

Michaela turned to her husband, "What was that all about?"

Sully shook his head, "I don't know, but I got a feelin' there's more to it."

Brian saw his parents and approached them, "Welcome back."

Michaela embraced her son, "Thank you, Sweetheart. Did you complete your article?"

"Yep," he grinned as he handed her the paper. "I brought ya the first copy."

Michaela perused the headline, "Local Lawyer Argues Landmark Case. Could we have a young Lincoln in our midst?"

Sully patted his back, "Congratulations, Brian. Can't wait t' read it."

The young man shrugged, "I didn't do anything but write about it. Matthew's the one who deserves the congratulations."

"You both do," Michaela commended.

Preston saw the Sullys at the Livery and decided to cross the street to see them. When Sully noticed his approach, he tensed. Michaela stroked her husband's arm to calm him.

Preston tipped his hat, "Well, I see the parents of the famous lawyer have returned."

Michaela smiled, "Mr. Lodge."

Sully eyed him suspiciously, "What's this new company I hear tell you're sellin' stock in?"

Preston smirked, "I don't want to bore you with something as complex as business, Sully."

He countered, "Only thing that's complex when you're involved is makin' sure it's legal."

"Oh, it's entirely legal," Preston tipped his hat. "Zalmon Simmons would not be involved if it weren't. Good day."

"That man," Michaela sighed.

Sully folded his arms, "That man's up t' no good."

"Surrey's ready," Robert E returned to them.

"Much obliged," Sully paid him.

Michaela turned to Brian, "Will you be home for supper?"

"I should be," he acknowledged with a kiss to her cheek. "I'll see ya later."

************

The children swarmed around their parents when Sully and Michaela walked into the homestead. The parents gave each a kiss. After Michaela embraced them, Sully soon found himself on the living room floor with the four little ones piled on top of him.

"Be careful not to hurt Papa," Michaela cautioned as she lifted Hope from Bridget's arms. "How did this little one get along?"

Bridget stroked the baby's dark hair, "She fussed a bit, but she's takin' t' the bottle well."

Michaela examined Hope's mouth, "This might be the reason for her fussing. She's teething."

Giggles continued from the living room.

Bridget remarked, "I heard Matthew was grand, lass."

"He was," Michaela's eyes lit up. "He argued the case with great skill. He and Emma are staying in Denver a little longer in case the judge hands down his decision. They deserve the getaway, as well."

The nanny recalled, "That's where you an' Sully spent your honeymoon. Isn't it?"

Michaela's cheeks flushed, "Yes, we did."

************

After an evening of dinner and discussion about the court case, Sully sat on the edge of Josef's bed, "There's somethin' I wanna talk with ya about, Joe."

"I didn' do nothin' wrong, Papa," the child anticipated.

Sully smiled, "I know ya didn't. This is a man t' man talk."

"I watched our girls good," Josef added.

"I appreciate it," Sully stroked back his hair. "What I wanna talk about is you goin' t' school."

The little boy frowned, "No, Papa. Mama say I don' have t' go."

"Shh," Sully assured. "Ya don't have t' go. I just wanna talk about it. Ya see, I didn't get much schoolin'."

Josef interrupted, "You know lots, Papa."

Sully answered, "Most o' what I know, I learned the hard way, Joe. I wish I could've gone t' school."

"I go next year," he replied.

"I was thinkin'...." Sully paused. "What if ya tried school for say, a week?"

"Go a whole week?" he pondered.

"Just t' see what ya think," Sully nodded. "Then, if ya like it, you can keep goin', an' if ya don't like it, you can stay home 'til next year."

Josef considered, "Can I sleep on it?"

Sully chuckled, "Sure, big boy."

At that moment, they were interrupted by a terrible scream from the twins' room.

************
Chapter 7
************

"Stay here, Joe," Sully ran out the door.

He reached the twins' room to find Annie sitting up in her crib, screaming at the top of her lungs. Her arms were flailing. Noah was standing up in his crib calling to his sister. The instant Sully lifted his daughter, Michaela entered the room.

"What's wrong?" she questioned.

"I don't know," Sully's heart was pounding out of his chest. "I thought they were asleep."

Brian and Bridget arrived.

Michaela lifted Noah from his crib, "Brian, would you take Noah and make sure Katie and Josef remain calm, please? Bridget, would you stay with Hope?"

They complied with her wishes.

In Sully's arms, Annie was still crying. The little girl was steeped in perspiration and breathing rapidly.

"Michaela," he looked to his wife with pleading eyes. "Is she hurt?"

She began to feel the child's limbs for any broken bones, "She appears to be fine physically."

"A bad dream?" Sully stroked Annie's back.

Michaela brought the lamp closer, "Her pupils are dilated, yet she appears to be still sleeping."

Sully kissed the toddler's damp forehead, "Annie, shhh, darlin'. You're okay."

Annie wiggled more as if trying to escape.

"Michaela?" Sully grew more alarmed.

"Let me try," she took Annie into her arms.


The little girl began to kick and scream louder.

"Annie," Michaela spoke calmly. "Sweetheart, it's Mama. You're all right. You're safe."

"She acts like she can't even hear ya," Sully was baffled.

Michaela directed, "Sully, would you get another lamp to light the room more?"

He bolted out and returned shortly with another lit lamp.

"Look, Annie," Michaela stroked the little girl's back. "It's light. Nothing can harm you, my darling."

Brian appeared at the door, "Ma. The other kids are scared. What should I tell them?"

"Tell them...." she finally felt Annie begin to relax. "Tell them she's having a bad dream."

He nodded and left them.

"Is that what it is?" Sully stepped closer.

Michaela kissed Annie's cheek, "I'm not certain."

Finally, the little girl calmed. Sully reached out to cradle her in his arms. Gently, he rocked her back and forth until she resumed a totally calm demeanor.

"Should I put her in her crib?" he whispered.

"Yes," she nodded. "I'll stay in here with her tonight."

"Me, too," he did not want to leave.

"I'll go tell the others that she's resting peacefully now," Michaela said.

"For how long?" he worried.

Michaela walked down the hallway to Katie's room, where Josef and Noah had joined Brian.

"Mama!" Noah lifted his arms to his mother. "Annie ky."

Michaela sat down to embrace him, "She's fine, Noah."

"Bran say it's a bad dweam," Josef repeated.

Katie was skeptical, "She sounded real scared, Mama."

"Papa's with her, and she's sleeping now," Michaela forced a smile. "I think you can all go to bed. Noah, I'd like for you to sleep with Josef tonight."

"No," he squirmed. "Annie."

"Sweetheart," she framed his face in her hands. "Papa and I will stay with her."

Katie wondered, "If she's okay, why do ya have t' stay with her?"

Josef reasoned, "In case she has 'nother bad dweam?"

Michaela nodded, "That's right."

"No," Noah insisted. "Skawed."

Brian tousled his youngest brother's hair, "How 'bout ya sleep in with me? Then ya won't be scared."

Noah's eyes widened, "Yea."

"It's settled, then," Michaela rose from the bed. "Let's all try to get some rest."

She tucked in each of the children, then entered her own bedroom to check on Hope.

Bridget stopped rocking the cradle, "The babe slept through it all, Dr. Mike."

"Thank goodness," she sighed.

The nanny queried, "Was it a bad dream?"

"I'm not certain," Michaela remarked. "Did she experience anything like this while we were away?"

"Heavens, no," Bridget returned.

Michaela probed further, "Did she eat normally, go to bed at her usual time, seem frightened about anything?"

"Nothin' out o' the ordinary, Dr. Mike," she shook her head.

Michaela informed her, "Sully and I will stay with her in the twins' room tonight. I'd like her to waken in her own bed. Brian has Noah."

"I'll bring Hope in with me then," she offered.

"Thank you, Bridget," Michaela acknowledged.

When she returned to the twins' bedroom, Michaela found Sully still holding the toddler.

"I thought you were going to put her in her crib," Michaela set the pillows on the floor.

He looked up with the blue eyes she adored, "I didn't wanna let her go just yet."

She ran her fingers through his hair, "I think it's all right, Papa."

With all of the tenderness that he possessed, Sully set his sleeping daughter in her crib.

Turning back to Michaela, he offered, "Why don't you go ahead an' sleep in our bed. No use both of us sleepin' on the floor."

"No," she replied. "I'd rather keep watch over her.... just in case."

Sully reached out to help her down, "I felt so helpless, not bein' able t' comfort her."

"I know," she caressed his cheek.

Sully positioned himself on the floor beside his wife. They used the pillows to elevate their heads enough to watch their sleeping daughter.

"Michaela," Sully paused. "Please tell me the truth."

"Of course I will," she turned to look at him.

"There's nothin' wrong with her?" he voiced his concern.

She hesitated, "I don't believe so."

With that, they fell silent, each harboring fears that there could be more to their daughter's outburst than they knew.

************

It was going on two in the morning when Hank finally got home. He was quite inebriated, and staggered to undo his holster.

"Are you okay?" Lexie awoke.

"Fine," he swayed, then fell face down onto the bed.

"Hank," she shook him.

"Mmm?" he attempted to lift his head.

"Nothing," Lexie sighed.

"Don't worry about the ranch, Lex," his words were slurred.

"Why would I worry about the ranch?" she questioned.

"It's all taken care of," he patted his pocket.

With that, he passed out.

By the low lamp light, Lexie saw two papers sticking from his shirt pocket, and reached over to remove them. One was an agreement with Preston for a loan using the ranch as collateral. The other paper was a stock certificate for the Colorado Springs and Pike's Peak Railway Company.

"So, Hank," she said to herself. "You took my advice and bought the stock."

************

At dawn, Sully awoke to the sound of a child's giggles. Opening his eyes, he felt Michaela next to him, still sleeping in his arms. Then he yawned and looked up toward Annie's crib. The little girl was staring down on her parents with a broad grin. Then she giggled and pointed to them.

Sully sat up and swiftly went to her, "Hey, there."

"Papa," she reached up her little arms to him.

Lifting the toddler from her crib, Sully sweetly kissed her cheek, "How ya feel, honey?"

"Good," Annie leaned her head against his shoulder.

"Sully?" Michaela awoke. "Is she all right?"

He pivoted to show his wife, "Seems like it."

Michaela rose stiffly from the floor and went to them, "Good morning, my darling."

Annie reached for her, "Morn', Mama. Noah?"

"He slept with Brian," Michaela explained as she took her into her arms. "Do you remember anything about last night, Sweetheart?"

Annie paused as if in deep thought.

Then she answered, "Nope."

Sully probed, "You don't remember wakin' up?"

Annie frowned and pointed toward the door, "I wan' Noah."

"Shhh," Michaela kissed her daughter's fingertip. "He'll be up soon. Would you like some breakfast?"

"Yah," Annie nodded. "Hungy."

As Michaela started toward the door, Sully touched her arm, "She don't remember?"

"I'm glad," Michaela cupped Annie's head to her shoulder.

************

Matthew arrived at the federal courthouse in Denver to check on the status of Cloud Dancing's case. He was informed that the judge would not be handing down a decision this day. After consulting Emma, the young man decided to head home.

************

Jake cleared his throat, straightened his tie and knocked on the door of the Sully homestead. He heard the sounds of children talking and laughing. When no one answered the door, he tapped louder.

Michaela opened the door, "Jake? Good morning. Is something wrong?"

He removed his hat and reached into his pocket, "I got somethin' for ya Dr. Mike. Now, before ya look at it, I just want ya t' understand, it ain't personal."

From the barn, Sully spotted Jake standing on the front porch and wondered why he had paid a visit. He saw Michaela reading a piece of paper, then covering her mouth.

Quickly, the mountain man headed for his house.

When he reached the front door, he questioned, "Michaela? Somethin' wrong?"

Michaela's eyes narrowed in anger, "This is an outrage, Jake Slicker. You're not going to get away with it. That land has a school on it, for goodness sake."

Sully grabbed the paper and read it, "What's this about? Eminent domain?"

Jake defended, "I'm just deliverin' the news. Ya gotta understand. It's business. It's progress."

Michaela countered, "I'll fight this, Jake."

He insisted, "Ya can't fight progress. You know that better 'n anyone."

"Get out," Michaela asserted. "Get off our land right now."

Jake hesitated.

Sully's jaw tensed, "You heard my wife. Get out."

Jake's shoulders slumped, "I'm sorry."

"No you ain't," Sully eyed him sternly.

With that, Jake mounted his horse and departed.

Sully put his arm around Michaela's shoulders, "What's this all about, Michaela?"

She clasped the paper again, "Eminent domain. It's the right of the government to take over land for public purpose. Unfortunately, it's usually for the benefit of private developers."

He reasoned, "Ya said it was the Indian School land they wanna take over?"

She nodded, "That's right. They're going to build a railroad through it to the top of Pike's Peak."

Sully became suspicious, "I think I know who's behind this."

"Who?" she wondered.

"I'll take care of this," he took the paper from her and headed for the barn to saddle his horse.

"Where are you going?" she called after him.

************

Hank finished his cup of coffee.

Lexie offered, "Would you like more?"

"No, thanks," he stood and put on his holster.

"Hank," she placed her hands on his chest. "Is there something you want to tell me?"

He answered, "I got a share o' that new railway company."

"You used the ranch for collateral?" she assumed.

"Uh.... yea," he nodded.

She drew him closer, "Would you like for me to bring you lunch today?"

He smiled at the memory of their last encounter at the jail, "I might like that a lot."

"I'll be by around noon then," she raised an eyebrow. "In the meantime, I have some chores to tend to here."

He rubbed her growing belly, "Don't overdo it."

"I won't," she assured.

************

Sully stepped into the bank.

Myra looked up from her desk, "Hey, Sully. How ya doin'?"

"Good," he seemed preoccupied. "Would you do me a favor?"

"'Course," she agreed. "What?"

"Would ya step outside, an' make sure no one comes in the bank while I talk t' Preston?" he requested.

A puzzled expression crossed her face. Then she sensed the contained anger in his tone. Quietly, she rose from her desk and exited, closing the door behind her.

Through this hushed exchange, Preston had not looked up from his desk.

Sully slammed the eminent domain paper down on his desk.

Preston jumped, "What the.... Oh, Sully, it's only you."

Sully frowned, "What the hell d' you think you're doin'?"

"I think I'm looking over the charter of Colorado Springs' newest corporation," he answered smugly. "Now, unless you have some business with the bank, you may leave."

Sully came around to his side of the desk, prompted Preston to cower back into his leather chair.

"You ain't gonna get away with this," Sully threatened.

Preston smiled, "Losing your temper will not impress Michaela. As I told you before, this is all legal."

"Then we'll fight it in court," Sully countered.

"Don't you get tired of tilting at windmills, Don Quixote?" he smirked. "You won't win the case in Denver, and you certainly will not win this one."

Sully resisted the temptation to grab him, "Let me put it this way. There better not be one tree cut, one inch o' dirt touched or one railway tie laid on that land."

Preston was feeling braver, "Or what, Sully? Will you try to sabotage this, as you have so many other things? Doesn't Michaela get tired of bailing you out?"

Sully's heart beat faster, "Don't you get tired o' actin' like a jackass?"

"My, my," Preston's brow wrinkled. "I doubt if Michaela would approve of such language."

Sully pointed his finger into his chest, "You heard me, Preston. Stay off that land."

He repeated, "Or what?"

Sully ignored the question, grabbed the eminent domain notice and walked away. When he reached the door, a crowd had gathered. Jake and Loren were taking bets that a fight would ensue, but to their disappointment, Preston was unhurt. Sully surveyed the throng, then mounted his horse and departed.

Jake took a deep breath, "That ain't the end o' this."

Myra observed, "This new company's nothin' but trouble. I don't understand why they can't build the railway someplace else."

By this time, Preston was at the door, "Myra, I do not employ you to engage in idle gossip. Now, get back to work."

************
Chapter 8
************

Michaela smiled at Colleen, "I'm so glad you stopped by. I wanted to discuss something with you."

"A case?" she assumed.

"Not exactly," Michaela remarked. "It's Annie."

Colleen turned to look at the children playing in the living room, "She seems fine to me."

Michaela agreed, "Yes, she does. However, last night, a couple of hours after she went to bed, she awoke screaming. The spell lasted about ten minutes, and all the while, she never woke up."

"She was screaming and didn't waken?" Colleen was surprised. "It wasn't a bad dream?"

"I believe that would have wakened her," Michaela knew. "And she had no recollection of it this morning."

Colleen reacted, "That is unusual. I'll see if I can find out anything about it."

"I've looked through my journals," Michaela said. "I have found some information about sleep disruptions, but not like this. I don't know how to treat it."

"Maybe just a glass of warm milk," she smiled. "It used to work for Brian."

Michaela mused, "That was before he went to bed. The strange thing is, Annie was already peacefully sleeping. Then came this screaming episode, followed by a return to her normal sleep."

"I'm sure it's nothing serious, Ma," Colleen offered. "Now, I have an update for you."

"Oh?" Michaela was curious. "A patient?"

"Yes," Colleen answered. "Lexie stopped by the hospital while you were in Denver."

"I saw Hank in town," Michaela remarked. "He said she's doing fine. Is that true?"

"Yes," Colleen returned. "But she seems very large for being in her fourth month."

"You heard only one heartbeat?" she queried further.

"Right," Colleen nodded.

"Well, as you know, some babies are larger than others," Michaela observed.

************

Bridget set her basket on the counter top of the Mercantile.

Loren looked up from his ledger, "What can I do for ya?"

She handed him a list, "I need a few things."

He began to assemble the items for her, "I guess Sully was rip-roarin' mad t'day."

"Oh?" she feigned ignorance.

"He darn near beat Preston t' a pulp," Loren exaggerated.

"That don't sound like Sully," she noted.

"Well, he was mad as a hornet, I tell ya," Loren stated.

Bridget speculated, "Poor lad's probably tired. We was up late with Annie last night."

Loren's brow wrinkled, "Is she sick?"

"No," Bridget shook her head. "She was screamin' like a Banshee."

"Hmm," he speculated. "Probably ate somethin' that disagreed with her."

"I don't think so," the nanny shook her head. "As many years as I been around children, I never saw one carry on like her, an' all the while, she was asleep."

Loren rubbed his chin, "I wonder...."

"Wonder what?" she tilted her head.

He kept his voice low, "Ya ever hear about folks bein'.... possessed?"

Bridget nodded, "Aye, but...."

"But nothin'," Loren interrupted. "That's what it sounds like t' me."

************

Matthew and Emma headed for the old Clinic. As they reached the door, Brian spotted them.

The young man approached, "Hey, welcome back. Any word?"

Matthew sighed, "Nothin' yet. We decided t' come home an' wait it out here."

Brian handed them the latest edition of The Gazette, "Thought ya might like to read up. When ya get time, I wanna interview you."

Matthew put his hand on his back, "Come on in. For my little brother, I got time."

************

In the jail, Hank read the telegram from San Francisco. The new Chinese girl would be arriving within two weeks. Then he heard someone step into the jail. It was his wife.

"Hey," he was in good spirits.

Lexie set a basket on his desk and noticed the wire, "Good news?"

"Real good," he stood up to kiss her. Gesturing to the basket, he asked, "Wha'd ya bring?"

"Fried chicken," she drew back the napkin and held a piece temptingly under his nose.

"Smells good," he grinned.

She offered it for him to bite.

"Tastes good, too," he drew her closer.

She glanced at the single cell, "No prisoners, Sheriff?"

"Nope," he raised an eyebrow.

Lexie teased, "So you have that bed sitting there unused."

He chuckled, "Ain't exactly what I'd call luxury accommodations."

She stepped to the door and slid the bolt across to lock it.

Hank smirked, "'Course, ya don't always have t' have luxury t' be.... accommodated."

"You read my mind, Mr. Lawson," she smiled beguilingly at him as she returned to his side.

Hank began to unbutton her blouse, "It's gonna get awful warm in here with the door closed.

She turned, "Should I open it?"

He slid his hand beneath her camisole to caress her breast, "Depends on whether ya want folks t' watch us."

"That's a bit daring even for us," she mused.

He kissed her more deeply, "Mmm. I sure do love.... chicken."

************

Loren entered the church and removed his hat.

"Who's there?" the Reverend raised his head from the piano.

Loren answered, "Just me."

"Loren," he smiled. "What can I do for ya?"

"I wanted t' ask ya somethin'.... for a friend," Loren broached the subject.

"A friend?" his brow creased. "What is it they'd like to know?"

"You ever hear tell o' someone bein' possessed?" Loren queried.

"Well, yes," he nodded. "The Bible tells of...."

Loren interjected, "I don't mean in the Bible. I mean recent times."

The minister considered, "I recall a few years ago, that gal Brian Cooper knew. Esther. Yes, Esther Cox was her name."

The memory came to Loren, "Yea, that's right. All sorts o' strange things happened. Loud noises, things movin' on their own, thunder under her bed. That girl's skin started t' burn without even touchin' a flame. An'.... there was a threat t' kill her etched ont' the wall all by itself. Then pins an' a knife stuck in her."

The Reverend added, "I brought her here to the church, and it caught fire."

Loren nodded, "An' Preston got her convicted o' arson for it. But Esther was a woman. Annie Sully's just a little...."

"Annie Sully?" the minister raised an eyebrow. "Is she the one you think is possessed?"

Loren quickly denied, "No, no. I was just talkin' t' Bridget an' had Annie on my mind, is all."

"Loren...." he was skeptical.

"All right," he sighed. "I hear tell the poor child is possessed."

************

"Michaela," Sully stepped into the kitchen. "Could I see ya for a minute?"

"Of course," she wiped her hands.

"In your office?" he gestured.

"Katie," she called. "Would you watch your brother and sister while your father and I speak in my office?"

"Sure, Mama," the little girl agreed.

With the door closed behind them, Michaela looked at her husband, "What is it?"

"Do you think Annie's gonna be okay?" he inquired.

"She appears to be fine," Michaela assured.

He took a deep breath, "I been thinkin' about this eminent domain thing. I got an idea of how t' fight it."

"I was going to ask Matthew to file...." she was interrupted.

"If you're sure Annie's all right, I'm ridin' over t' Manitou," he stated. "I might be gone over night."

"Manitou?" she wondered. "Why?"

"Trust me," he drew her into his arms.

"Of course, I trust you," she rested her palms on his chest. "But.... Sully, you're not going to do anything illegal."

He was stung by her thought, "I guess I deserved that."

She regretted the accusation, "No, I'm sorry. I know you're as upset about this as I, but...."

He caressed her cheek, "But you worry I'll do somethin' rash. I promise, I won't."

Her heart filled with love for him, "I believe you."

"Meanwhile," he paused. "Go ahead an' talk it over with Matthew. I'll be home soon as I can."

With his wife in his arms, he kissed her sweetly. Michaela raised her hands to caress the sides of his face. Their contact began to deepen.

Knowing they could go no further, Sully pulled back, "I best go before ya tempt me t' stay."

After one more kiss, he opened the door and stepped into the living room.

"Papa, ya wanna go fishin'?" Josef queried.

"Not t'day, Joe," Sully touched the tip of his nose. "I gotta go over t' Manitou. You kids be good for your Ma an' Miss Bridget."

"I could come, too," Josef volunteered.

Sully knelt down, "I appreciate the offer. Maybe another time."

He hugged and kissed each child, spending extra time when he got to Annie.

Katie noticed, "You okay, Poppy?"

"Yep," he felt a lump in his throat. "I'll just go up an' pack a few things. I love you."

With that, he stood up and ascended the steps. He went directly to the cradle and lifted Hope.

Tenderly kissing the baby's cheek, he whispered, "I love you, my little girl. I'll he home soon as I can."

After retuning Hope to her crib, he began to stuff a few items of clothing into his travel pouch. Then he sat down to pen a letter to Michaela.

As he finished, she entered the room and handed him a note, "You forgot something."

He lifted it and inhaled the scent, "Smells just like you."

Then he handed her his note.

She held it against her heart, "I remember the first time you did this."

"Still feels good t' let ya know how much I love you," he returned.

She noticed his bag, "Did you pack enough socks?"

"Michaela, I might not be gone even overnight," he reminded.

She held up the note, "So, this is just in case?"

He put her letter in his pocket, "Just like yours."

She stepped closer and slid her arms around his waist, "I wish I could come with you."

"I do, too," he kissed the top of her head. "But...."

"I know," she turned up the corner of her mouth.

He touched the side of her lips, then pressed himself against her, "How 'bout you have them wild carrot seeds ready for when I get home?"

Her heart skipped a beat at the feel of him against her, "I shall."

************

Grace was in the midst of a brisk business at the Cafe when Loren showed up. He looked around and spotted Dorothy, the Reverend, Isabel and Wendell at a table with one empty chair.

Approaching, he queried, "Mind if I join ya?"

Dorothy responded, "'Course not. Have a seat."

Reverend Johnson asked, "Did you speak with your.... friend about their problem?"

Dorothy was curious, "What problem?"

Loren leaned closer to her, "Somethin' we shouldn't discuss in front o' little ears."

Isabel picked up on the remark, "Wendell, would you run over to the church and get my shawl? It's a bit chilly this evening."

"Chilly?" the little boy's eyes widened. "It's 90 degrees t'day."

Isabel frowned, "Do as I say, young man."

His shoulders slumped, "All right."

"Thank you," Isabel smiled.

When the child departed, the Reverend explained, "Loren thinks that a friend of his might have a problem with someone being possessed."

"Do you believe in such things?" Isabel challenged.

"I do," Loren nodded. "I've seen some strange things in my time. Remember Esther Cox?"

"Loren Bray," Dorothy questioned. "Who the devil do ya think is possessed?"

Loren hesitated, "Ya gotta promise t' not say anythin' t' anybody."

"Who is it?" Dorothy hedged.

"One o' the Sully kids," he revealed. "Little Annie."

"Annie Sully?" Dorothy's eyes widened. "What makes ya say that?"

"Bridget was tellin' me the child screamed like a Banshee in the middle o' the night," he told them. "It was a blood curdlin' scream, an' it went on for hours."

"Maybe she's cuttin' a new tooth," the redhead suggested.

Isabel added, "Or perhaps it was a bad dream."

"I tell ya, the child's possessed," Loren insisted.

************

Michaela was surprised to see Dorothy at the homestead. She welcomed her friend to sit, just as the children arrived to greet her. Dorothy took time for each, complimenting them and offering a special word.

Then she came to Annie.

Lifting the toddler into her arms, Dorothy smiled, "Cheyanne Sully, how are you?"

Annie smiled broadly, "Good."

"Land's sake, you're growin' more an' more beautiful each day," the redhead commented.

"What do you say?" Michaela encouraged her daughter.

"Tanks," the little girl recognized her mother's cue.

Dorothy looked at the child closely, "She's got your eyes, Michaela."

"Yes, she does," Michaela smiled.

Dorothy hedged, "Has she been feelin'.... all right?"

Michaela remarked, "Other than her sleeping habits, fine."

"I heard about that in town," she nodded.

"In town?" Michaela was puzzled. "From whom?"

"Loren," she replied.

"But how...." Michaela stopped herself. "Bridget must have mentioned it to him."

Dorothy broached the subject, "I gotta tell ya. Loren's been sayin' the child has more than just a sleepin' problem."

Michaela was curious, "What is he saying?"

Dorothy hesitated.

"What is it?" Michaela probed.

Dorothy took a deep breath, then came out with it, "He's sayin' she's possessed, like that Esther Cox."

Michaela chuckled, "Possessed? I'd hardly call it that. She woke up screaming last night. Nothing more than that. She went right back to sleep."

"My Tommy used t' do that," Dorothy recalled. "He went on every night for several weeks like that when he was only three years old. He never even remembered his spells when he woke up the next mornin'."

Michaela was interested, "What did you do to stop it?"

"Nothin'," Dorothy offered. "It seemed t' end when Marcus sobered up."

Michaela reasoned, "So it could be stress induced."

"What kinda stress is a two year old under?" Dorothy gazed at Annie.

"Perhaps she was upset when Sully and I were in Denver," Michaela theorized. "At any rate, as you can see, she's perfectly fine."

"That she is," Dorothy kissed the child's cheek and set her down.

Michaela cleared her throat, "I'm glad that you stopped by. There's something that's happened which you and Cloud Dancing need to know."

"Did the judge in Denver render his decision?" she speculated.

"No," Michaela went to the table and returned with a piece of paper. "Jake delivered this."

Dorothy read it, "Eminent domain? The Indian School? So that's where Preston wants t' build his railway line."

"Apparently so," Michaela returned. "I'm going to speak to Matthew about it. We won't let him get away with this."

Dorothy shook her head, "I don't understand why Preston can't let well enough alone. He's always gotta be up t' no good."

"You sound like Sully," she mused. "He doesn't trust Preston."

Dorothy's expression changed, "Ya know Preston's always been sweet on you, Michaela. He don't understand what you see in Sully. Your husband's got good reason not t' trust him."

"I know," Michaela acknowledged. "And unfortunately, Preston goads him. It takes everything Sully has to hold back."

"Ya both best be careful where he's concerned," she cautioned. "I think he'd stop at nothin' t' get what he wants, in business an' in love."

Michaela replied, "I certainly give him no encouragement. And my family will do everything we can to protect that school."

She rose, "I best tell Cloud Dancin' what's happened."

"About you and Cloud Dancing...." Michaela saw the opening.

"What about us?" she questioned.

"Is there anything I can do to.... encourage things between you two?" Michaela offered.

Dorothy chuckled, "Ya mean matchmakin'?"

"Well, I want you both to be happy," she explained.

Dorothy took her hand, "We'll never have what you an' Sully got, Michaela. But Cloud Dancin' cares about me. He helps me see things in ways I never thought about before. An' he's a dear, sweet man who treats me as an equal. I can't ask for more than that."

"That sounds like happiness to me," Michaela smiled.

************

Matthew and Emma came for dinner, and Michaela took the opportunity to fill him in on the eminent domain order regarding the Indian school. Matthew pledged to prepare a defense of the land and expressed his intention to file an injunction the next morning to prevent any action until a hearing could be held.

After supper, Brian and Bridget helped with the cleanup of the dishes and preparation of the children for bed. Then each retired for the evening. Michaela found herself exhausted from a lack of sleep the previous night, but she wanted to read Sully's letter before going to sleep. Pulling open her nightstand drawer, she lifted the note and read to herself:

"Dear Michaela,

I hate being away from you and the children. You have given me so many reasons to want to stay home. I don't want you to worry that I'll do something that could get me into trouble. I've hurt you and the kids too many times to ever want to do that again.

When Annie had her spell last night, I was reminded of how fragile things can be. She is so much the image of you. I felt helpless holding her and not being able to help. Everything on earth is fragile, most of all love. You make me want to be a better man, not only because your opinion of me matters so much, but because you have given me children who look to me for love, comfort and security. I cannot let any of you down ever again. I hope you can forgive me for placing doubt in your heart.

I wish my words were more eloquent, so I'll let the poet Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton speak what's in my heart:

'My body sleeps: my heart awakes.
My lips to breathe thy name are mov'd
In slumber's ear: then slumber breaks;
And I am drawn to thee, belov'd.
Thou drawest me, thou drawest me,
Through sleep, through night. I hear the rills,
And hear the leopard in the hills,
And down the dark I feel to thee.'

All my love,
Sully"

Michaela folded her husband's letter and touched it to her lips, "Good night, my love."

Finally closing her eyes, she let sleep claim her. It did not last long. She heard it again. Annie was crying. Michaela quickly made her way to the twins' room. Noah was standing in his crib, concerned for his sister.

"Not again," Brian arrived.

Then came Bridget, "I'll see t' the wee ones, Dr. Mike."

Michaela lifted her screaming daughter, "Shhh, Annie. It's all right, Sweetheart. It's all right."

Brian rubbed his sister's back, "Why's she doin' this, Ma?"

"I don't know," Michaela gently rocked the child back and forth.

Annie was oblivious to the attempts to calm her. Approximately fifteen minutes into her outburst, the child began to calm.

Brian was amazed, "How can she just stop like that, without even wakin' up?"

"I'm just as baffled by this as you, Brian," Michaela sighed. "I'll put her in with me for the rest of the night."

************
Chapter 9
************

In his boarding room in Manitou, Sully could not sleep. It was after two in the morning. Upon his arrival in town, he had made appointments to meet with the mayor and trustees, along with several wealthy businessmen the next day. He had also surveyed some land, all the while taking copious notes and suggested alternatives.

In the meantime, he hated waiting. He wondered how Annie was. Withdrawing his family's photograph from his pocket, he gazed at their faces with love. Then he pulled Michaela's letter from his pocket and began to read:

"Dear Sully,

I would like to begin by apologizing for my remark about your doing something illegal. You have more than earned my trust over the years, and my insecure comment was not only insensitive, it was inexcusable. The instant I said it, I saw in your eyes, a flash of pain, and it shot through me to think I put it there. I hope you can forgive me.

You are my heart and soul, Sully, and I would rather die than ever again put pain or hurt in those eyes I adore. Your heart beats with mine.

Know that I am with you in every sense for what you have chosen to do. My support is unwavering.

Your loving wife,
Michaela"

He inhaled the lilac scent, then refolded the letter and returned it to his pocket. Lowering the lamp, he leaned back, hoping to sleep and dream of her.

************

"Mama," Josef's voice wakened her.

She awoke, disoriented, "What's wrong, Sweetheart?"

He climbed into bed beside her as she raised the lamp.

Cuddling closer, he leaned on her pillow, "Is Annie gonna be okay?"

"Yes, my darling," she glanced over at the sleeping toddler.

Josef lifted up on his elbows to look at his little sister, "Ya know, I didn' want ya t' have them extwa kids."

She smiled, "I think that was a little jealousy, but you're past that now. You're a wonderful big brother."

Josef caressed Annie's hand, "I thinked she might need me t' not go t' school."

Michaela raised an eyebrow, "That's been on your mind, has it?"

"Uh-huh," he nodded. "Papa say t' twy for a week."

"And what do you think of that?" she waited.

"I don' know," he shrugged.

"Can you tell me what you think might be bad about school?" she drew back a stray lock of his hair.

"I won' be here with you an' the kids," he answered.

"I don't like to be apart from you either," she agreed.

"Then, let's stay here t'gether," he suggested.

She chuckled, "And never leave the house?"

He frowned, "I mean it, Mama. I don' like t' go 'way."

She kissed his forehead, "I know you don't, Josef. But think about the things we can accomplish when we go out into the world. Think about how Matthew is using our legal system to help the Indians. And Colleen is treating patients at our new hospital, saving lives that might have been lost. And look at Brian, informing and influencing opinions with his writing. They never could have done that if they had stayed in our house all the time."

He pondered her words, "But I don' know what I wanna do when I gwow up."

Her eyes brightened, "That's the wonder of education, Sweetheart. It shows us the many possibilities."

"Papa say he didn' go t' school much," Josef recalled. "He does good things."

"He certainly does," she agreed. "But Papa didn't have the opportunities we did. We both want you and your brothers and sisters to have the chance to do and to be whatever you want."

"I got idea," he considered.

"What?" she smiled.

"You an' Papa can teach me," he recommended.

"We do teach you many things," she was serious. "But because of our work, we can't spend as much time doing that as we would like. Mrs. Slicker and Mrs. Johnson help our community by teaching our children for us."

He sighed.

Her heart went out to him, "Josef, I told you before that we would not make you go to school this year if you truly oppose it. Papa and I thought perhaps you could try it to see what you think. But if it's going to upset you or cause you to lose sleep, then we won't ask you to do that."

"Good," he felt relieved.

"However, I want you to think about something," she added. "We are very, very proud of you. You're a bright and caring little boy. I don't want you to fear going to school because you think that you won't do well. We believe in you, Sweetheart, and we love you."

His mother's words soothed his anxiety, "Thanks, Mama."

"Now, do you think you could get some sleep?" she was feeling more weary.

"Could I stay in here with you an' Annie an' Hope?" he requested.

"Of course," she made room. "Good night, my darling."

"Night, Mama," he shut his eyes.

************

The next morning, Sully arrived at his meeting.

He shook hands with the mayor, "Mr. Sawin, it's nice t' meet ya. I appreciate you seein' me."

"It sounded important, Mr. Sully," he returned. Then the mayor gestured, "Have a seat. I've asked a few others to be present. I'd like to introduce David Desmond, our recorder, our trustees E.E. Nichols, Max Weniger, C.W. Barker and C. M, Leibold, Marshal Perry Robins and Dr. Isaac Davis, our justice of the peace.

Sully nodded to each, "Nice t' meet you gentlemen."

Mayor Sawin sat, "Go ahead. You have our undivided attention."

************

Preston spoke loudly so that all at Grace's Cafe could hear, "And I am pleased to announce that our telephone exchange is now in place. Not only has Colorado Springs completed one, but so have Boulder and Pueblo. We are indeed moving toward the twentieth century."

Grace put her hands on her hips, "Just who we supposed t' talk to on this telephone? Seems t' me, it don't do any good 'less ya know someone else who's got one."

"That's true," Preston acknowledged. "So, until everyone has a telephone, you'll have to go to a central location that has one, as will the person with whom you wish to speak."

Robert E spoke up, "Sounds like more trouble than it's worth. Why don't ya just go see the person ya wanna talk to?"

Preston rolled his eyes and sighed, "You're missing the point. With the telephone, you can have instant communication at your fingertips with people many miles away."

Horace countered, "Ya got that with the telegraph already."

Preston eyed him, "Ah, but how many of us understand those little clicks on the wire? With the telephone, that's unnecessary."

Horace frowned, "Then so am I."

Myra assured, "Awe, this won't put ya out o' work, Horace. Most folks will never have a telephone. Their wires take up more room than telegraphs."

************

Annie awoke in her mother's bed. The little girl was puzzled about how she got there.

"Mama?" she whispered near Michaela's ear.

"Annie," Michaela opened her eyes. "How are you, Sweetheart?"

"Bed," the child patted the mattress.

Michaela sat up and examined her eyes, "Do you remember anything about last night?"

Annie's expression was unchanged. Then she spotted Josef.

"Jo-jo," she smiled.

"Oh, Annie," Michaela embraced her. "If only I could understand what's causing this."

"Hungy, Mama," the little girl hugged her mother.

"We'll fix you something to eat then," Michaela lifted her daughter onto her lap.

************

Matthew stepped into the bank, "Mornin', Myra."

She looked up and smiled, "Mornin'. What can I do for ya?"

"I'd like t' speak with Preston," he gestured.

Preston overheard and approached, "Well, well, the distinguished counselor himself. To what do I owe the honor?"

Matthew handed him a piece of paper, "Just a little somethin' for you."

"For me?" Preston opened it and read. "I'm not surprised you're attempting to stop this. But you can't stop progress. The government is prepared to pay your mother a fair price for the land."

"Somehow the word fair an' government don't seem t' go t'gether," Matthew was sarcastic. "An' when you're involved, fair is an even less appropriate word."

Preston scoffed, "If you weren't such a fine lawyer, I might try to sue you for those disparaging remarks."

Matthew eyed him sternly, "Until the judge rules on this, you don't go near that school."

Preston raised his hands innocently, "I wouldn't dream of it."

************

"Hank?" Michaela was surprised to see him at the homestead door.

"Hey," he removed his hat. "Mind if I talk with ya?"

"Of course not," she stepped back to invite him in. "Is this about Lexie?"

"Not exactly," he looked around the room. "Where's all your kids?"

"Bridget took them for a surrey ride," she indicated. "What can I do for you?"

He hedged, then began, "It's about this railway company that wants t' use your land."

Her anger rose, "I shall fight that with all I possess."

Hank raised his hand, "I don't wanna start your harpin'. I just want ya t' think about it. You could always relocate that school somewheres else."

Her brow wrinkled, "Are you in on this company?"

He lowered his eyes, "I got stock in it, yea. But that don't mean it's a bad thing for Colorado Springs. Look at you, Michaela. You wanted progress, the railroad, a hospital."

"I was wrong about the railroad," she regretted. "It's caused far more harm than good."

"You're startin' t' sound like Sully," he accused.

She stood straighter, "I'm proud to share that view with my husband."

Hank pointed out, "The government's gonna take that land, no matter what. So why waste your time an' money fightin' it?"

Michaela inhaled deeply to calm herself, "Hank, you're about to become a father. When you look at your child and think about the kind of world you want for him, perhaps you'll reconsider your view of this sort of.... progress."

He countered, "I want my kid t' have all the things I never did."

"And do you want the good things you do have to still be here for him?" she wondered. "The beautiful land, the pure water, the blue sky?"

"Michaela," he paused. "We're talkin' about an Injun school. Now, I know ya got a soft spot in your heart for 'em, but...."

"This conversation is over," she interrupted.

"I ain't done talkin'," his volume rose.

"Well, I'm through listening," she stated.

At that moment, the front door opened, and Sully stepped into the house.

"What's goin' on?" Sully had heard the raised voices.

Michaela glared at Hank, "He was just leaving."

Hank put his hat on and stepped to the door, pausing to look at Sully, "I don't know how ya put up with her."

With that, he departed. Michaela approached her husband and embraced him.

Sully kissed her, "You okay?"

She sighed, "Sometimes I wonder who's worse, Preston or Hank."

Sully chuckled, "No contest. Preston's worse."

She pulled back, "How was your trip?"

"Real good," he acknowledged. "I gotta go out t' the Chateau t' see Mr. Simmons. Then, I think things will be in place."

"What do you have up your sleeve?" she raised an eyebrow.

From upstairs, Hope's cries could be heard.

"I'll fix her bottle," Michaela started for the kitchen. "Why don't you go bring her down? She missed her Papa."

"Love to," he smiled. "Where's Bridget an' the kids?"

"Bridget took them for a surrey ride," she said.

"Be right back," he bounded up the steps.

Within moments, he returned with the baby, now pacified in her father's arms.

"You certainly have a way with your little girls, Mr. Sully," Michaela mused.

He kissed the baby's soft dark hair, "I sure do miss 'em. How's Annie?"

Michaela's expression changed, "She had another spell last night."

His face paled, "Screamin'?"

"Yes," Michaela handed him the bottle.

Sully began to feed Hope, "Sounds like more than nightmares t' me."

"I have discussed it with Colleen," Michaela informed him. "We've both been researching the behavior."

Sully shook his head, "Annie don't remember anythin' about wakin' up?"

"Not a thing," she returned. "She's her pleasant little self."

He sighed, "Maybe Cloud Dancin' could help."

"I'll speak with him right away," she agreed.

************

At the Chateau, Preston was strolling from table to table in the restaurant, exchanging pleasantries. Then Sully entered the room. Preston froze. What was HE doing here?

"Sully," Preston confronted him. "Are you lost?"

"I have a meetin' with one o' your guests," Sully stated.

"Oh?" Preston was surprised. "Who might that be?"

"Mr. Zalmon Simmons," Sully gestured. "If you'll excuse me."

Sully passed Preston and headed for the Simmons table. Preston followed, hoping to catch their discussion.

"Ah, Mr. Sully?" Simmons stood up when he reached him. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"It's real nice o' you t' meet with me," Sully sat.

Simmons returned, "When I received your telegram about a business proposal, my curiosity was intense. Now, please tell me about it."

************
Chapter 10
************

Preston was appalled at what was unfolding before his eyes. There was HIS business partner meeting with that uncouth mountain man. The world was turning upside down, and he knew he had to act quickly in order to avert anything Sully was planning to do to sabotage his efforts.

Preston approached the table, "May I offer a bottle of champagne, on the house of course?"

"Mr. Sully?" Simmons raised an eyebrow.

Sully looked up at the banker, "No, thanks."

Preston ventured, "How nice of you to entertain Sully, Zalmon. His wife Michaela is our town's finest physician."

"A lady doctor?" Simmons was impressed.

"Indeed," Preston continued. "She recently opened a top rate hospital in Colorado Springs, as well. And like me, she comes from Boston." Then looking at Sully, he added, "She's a beautiful breath of fresh air amid the less refined elements of a town that once relied on mining and mountain men."

Simmons smiled, "Mr. Sully sounds like a most fortunate man."

Sully commented with a grin, "I am."

"Now, Mr. Lodge...." Simmons paused.

"Preston," he responded. "Please, call me Preston."

Sully spoke up, "I think what Mr. Simmons is tryin' to tell you... Preston, is that we'd like to continue our business meetin'. I'm sure you understand somethin' as complex as business."

Sully's sarcasm was not lost on Preston, "Yes, of course. If you need anything, please ask."

With that, he left them.

************

"It is good to see you, Dr. Mike," Cloud Dancing welcomed. "Dorothy told me about the government wanting to take over this land for a railroad. It seems that your association with the Indians is costing you a great deal."

"I don't want you to worry about that," she assured. "No one is going to touch this school."

He smiled, "That is good to hear. Please, sit down."

She did so, "Cloud Dancing, I've come here to seek your advice."

"I will do what I can," the medicine man offered. "What troubles you?"

"It's our daughter, Annie.... Cheyanne," she began. "For the past two nights, she has awakened a few hours after falling asleep. She screams at the top of her lungs, yet still appears to be asleep. I can find no cause for this among my medical books and journals."

"You keep the dream catcher above her bed?" he questioned.

"Yes," she acknowledged. "There is one above all the children's beds. But I truly believe that she is not dreaming. She remembers nothing about it when she wakes the next morning."

"She is the child named for my people," he speculated. "Perhaps the Spirits are sending a warning through her. Sully once told me he had a dream, before she was born, that this child was destined to do great things for the Cheyenne. With what is happening, between my people and the white man's government, this could be a sign."

Michaela had learned to never dismiss a more spiritual explanation for things, "What kind of sign?"

"I will see if I can interpret the meaning," he offered.

"Cloud Dancing," she paused. "The Spirits.... They wouldn't do anything to harm Annie, would they?"

He replied, "I do not believe that is their intention. I want you to watch her closely if she screams in the night again. Observe her every movement and any words that she might say, even if you do not understand them."

"We shall," she pledged. "Thank you."

************

Bridget finished peeling the last potato as she spoke to Loren, "An' the poor darlin' woke up screamin' again last night."

"Until ya get the Reverend t' have one o' them exorcisms, it's just gonna keep happenin'," he advised.

"You honestly believe she's possessed?" Bridget's eyes widened.

"Sure sounds like it t' me," he nodded.

"Dr. Mike knows best, Loren," she advised.

"It ain't the first time she's seen someone possessed," he told her. "Maybe she just don't wanna believe it 'cause it's her own daughter."

"Annie!" Bridget called. "Come here, darlin'."

Loren cringed, "What're ya bringin' her in here for?"

"I want ya t' see her," Bridget explained. "Then tell me ya think she's possessed."

Annie toddled into the room and smiled up at Loren, "Hey."

"Hey," he responded nervously.

"Tell Mr. Bray where we went this afternoon, darlin'," Bridget knelt beside her.

"Sorry wide," she replied and embraced the nanny. "Tanks."

"That's surrey ride, lassie, an' you're welcome," Bridget chuckled. "You still gonna be hungry for supper?"

"Yep," Annie rubbed her tummy.

"Okay," the nanny touched the tip of her nose. "You can go back t' playin'. We'll eat, soon as your Mama an' Papa get home."

Loren watched with interest, "No signs of it now."

"No signs of it ever," Bridget asserted. "Now, would ya like t' join us for supper?"

"No, thanks," he replied. "I got inventories t' do at the store."

************

That evening, as Michaela and Sully tucked in the children, the little ones pleaded for a story from their father. Sully gathered them all on Katie's bed and began the tale.

"A long time ago, the Cheyenne warriors hadn't learned t' use eagle feathers for their war ornaments," Sully told them. "One of the men climbed way up on a mountain an' laid down for five days."

Katie asked, "Was he on a vision quest?"

"Yep," Sully smiled as he drew Annie onto his lap. "While he was there, he started cryin' 'cause he had no food."

Josef queried, "Was he scared?"

"Uh-huh," Sully nodded. "He prayed that some powerful bein' would see him an' teach him somethin' that could help his people. Then he heard a voice tell him t' be brave, no matter what happens. The voice said, if ya do this, you'll bring great news t' your people an' help 'em."

Josef's eyes widened, "I wouldn' be bwave if I heard a voice!"

"Sure ya would," Sully avowed.

"I bave," Noah pointed to himself.

"Yes, you are, No-bo," Sully tickled his side. "You're our brave fisherman."

Katie encouraged, "Go on with the story, Poppy."

Michaela arrived on the scene holding Hope.

"Mama," Josef scooted over to make room. "Sit by me."

She entered the room and sat down next to her son, "Go on with the story, Papa."

He caressed Hope's head, "Well, next thing ya know, seven eagles appeared t' the warrior. At first he was scared. He closed his eyes an' started t' shake in fear, but then he remembered the words about bein' brave. By this time, the eagles had surrounded him. One of 'em started talkin' t' him, sayin', 'Look at how powerful I am with my strong feathers. I'm greater than any other animal in the world.'"

Annie leaned her head against Sully's shoulder and yawned. He looked at Michaela with concern. She handed the baby to her husband and took Annie into her arms.

"Where ya goin'?" Josef wondered. "This is gettin' good."

"I'm taking this one to bed," Michaela whispered.

"She's jus' gonna cwy in a little while," Josef said.

Sully looked at his son, "We hope not, Joe."

The little boy speculated, "Maybe Annie's seein' eagles an' hearin' voices."

Sully resumed his tale, "The powerful bird showed the man his wings an' tail, an' he spread his feathers way out. Next he showed him how t' make war head dresses out o' the feathers, explainin' that the Cheyenne would have t' use eagle feathers t' gain great victories. Then the seven eagles shook their wings so that loose feathers would fall t' the ground. The man picked 'em up an' took 'em back t' his people. From that time on, the Cheyenne wore eagle feathers with dignity an' pride."

"That's why Cloud Dancin' wears feathers?" Katie reasoned.

"Yep," Sully noted.

************

Michaela hummed softly as she continued to rock Annie to sleep. From the hallway, she could hear Sully putting their other children to bed. Then he appeared, holding Noah.

He kept his voice low, "Think I should put him in with Josef?"

"Perhaps, you should," she agreed.

When he returned, Annie was sleeping soundly.

Michaela sighed, "Poor darling. I don't want to let her go."

"She seems fine," Sully caressed the little girl's blonde tresses. "What did Cloud Dancin' say?"

She kissed Annie's cheek, "He said if it happens again, we must observe her actions and listen to her sounds very closely. It could be a sign."

"From the Spirits," he assumed.

"Yes," she rose with the child and took her to her crib.

Gently, she set Annie down. After gently rubbing her back several times, Michaela stood up and took Sully's hand. They strolled into their bedroom, where he closed the door and drew her into his arms.

"Michaela/Sully," they both spoke at the same time.

"Go ahead," he indicated.

She peered into his eyes, "I want to apologize for what I said before you left."

"No need t' apologize," he countered. "I'm the one who owes you one. If ya thought I was gonna do somethin' illegal...."

"No," her heart ached. "I know you wouldn't. There's no excuse for my...."

"Shhh," he touched her lips. "The most important thing is there ain't gonna be any railroad built through that land."

Her eyes widened, "How were you able to accomplish that?"

He grinned impishly, "It's a surprise. I'd love t' be there when Preston finds out."

"Sully...." she was overcome with curiosity. "Please tell me."

"You'll know soon enough," he built the suspense. "Meanwhile, I been thinkin' about what you said before I left."

"I told you I'm sorry for...." she was interrupted.

"No, what you told me about them wild carrot seeds," he winked.

She stepped toward her medical bag, "It just so happens, I have them right here."

"Good," he unbuttoned his shirt and stepped toward the basin to wash up.

Michaela watched him. How she enjoyed watching him. His muscular torso, his handsome face. She found herself tingling in anticipation as she chewed on the seeds. She had long ago stopped trying to analyze why she desired to be with him so often. It was a part of who she was, of who they were. It was as if they were two halves of a whole that constantly craved completion and renewal.

Sully turned to look at her. How he loved watching her. Her graceful figure, her beautiful face and eyes. He found himself stirring just gazing at her. He sensed from the moment she declared her love for him in the midst of the bustling streets of Colorado Springs, that her fiery zeal for justice and truth would translate into a burning passion for their relationship. And she had never let him down in that regard. He often pondered how he could be so lucky to have found his soul mate.

Then he slowly approached her. Goose bumps appeared on her flesh.

"You cold?" he noticed.

"No," her voice quivered slightly. "Just happy to see you."

"Feelin's mutual," he smiled.

Sully, stroked the sides of her face, as he recited:

"Melting joys about her move,
Killing pleasures, wounding blisses;
She can dress her eyes in love,
And her lips can arm with kisses;
Angels listen when she speaks,
She's my delight, all mankind's wonder;
But my jealous heart would break
Should we live one day asunder."

"Do I make you jealous?" she raised an eyebrow.

"You?" he smirked. "Never. But I get real jealous when I see how other men look at ya, especially Preston."

"You know better than to think my heart would ever stray from you," she pledged.

He drew her hand over his heart, "I know."

"Was that poem by Keats?" she ventured.

"John Wilmot," his hands slowly and sensuously ventured down the sides of her nightgown.

Michaela shut her eyes to enjoy the sensations he was provoking in her. She arched back to invite further contact. Sully took the cue, spreading sweet kisses along her form.

His lips were warm, "I love you, Michaela, an' I missed ya."

She earnestly spoke, "I love you and missed you, as well."

Michaela ran her hand lightly across the hairs on his chest, prompting an immediate reaction from her husband.

Locking his gaze onto her, Sully raised her hand to his lips and sensuously kissed the palm, "I love your soft skin."

With her finger, she slowly lifted his chin to peer into his eyes, "You're everything to me, Sully."

He leaned toward her neck and brushed his lips across her flesh, "I love how ya smell, too."

She stirred at his touch, feeling as if she were being transported.

Sully moved the top of his hands down the front of her shift, "I love you for bein' my best friend.... my wife.... the mother o' my children.... an' my lover."

The timbre of his voice made her nearly faint. Her desire for him was reaching a fever pitch. It was as if he were already making love to every part of her body. But this was merely the overture, and she quivered with anticipation that there was more to come.

With a twinkle in his eye, Sully grinned.

She struggled to speak, "You seem very pleased with yourself."

"Just thinkin' about us," his lips met hers.

Their passions began to intensify. Michaela stepped back slightly for him to lift the hem of her gown and bring it over her head. Casting the garment onto the floor, he took her hands in his and kissed each finger.

Then Michaela trailed her kisses down his chest until she came to the waist of his buckskins. She undid them and pulled them down. Sully stepped out of them and edged closer to her. Bidding her to stand again, he lifted her into his arms and carried her to their bed.

Placing her atop the bed, he positioned his form along hers. Peering into his inviting eyes, Michaela wanted nothing more at that moment than to give every part of her being to him.

Sully's body ached for her. Her gaze reached into his soul and bid him give all of himself to her. Every nuance of her body told him she was ready. Tentatively, he maneuvered above her.

Michaela rested her hands against his chest and moved her legs to entice deeper contact.

Sully smiled at her invitation. Slowly, he brought himself to her. How far she had come, this woman whose very breath he treasured. His hands traveled along the places he knew would please her.

She ran her fingers through his hair as her breathing quickened. With a fluidity born of familiarity, they commenced their rhythmic motions of love. The tempo increased. As they traveled toward the completion of their union, they wanted nothing more than to reach the desirable destination. Then it came. All that each had pent up and waited to share was released to the other.

Spent from the exertion, Sully rested his head against her shoulder.

Michaela kissed his cheek and whispered, "Perfect."

He turned his head to look at her. Without words, he grinned. She returned the smile. It was not long before sleep claimed them.

The Sully homestead was calm and quiet. Not far from their bedroom, their children slept, as well. Suddenly, Michaela awoke, as if a bolt of electricity had shot through her.

"Sully," she kept her voice low. "Are you all right?"

"Mmm?" he could respond no more than that.

It was not he who had wakened her. Could it be Annie again? Slipping from her husband's arms, Michaela stood up and put on her shift. She had heard something, but it was not Annie. Maybe it was Hope. She checked the cradle and found the baby sleeping peacefully. Perhaps it was Brian changing his mind about staying in town for the night, or it could have been Wolf responding to some nocturnal creature. But that was not it either.

Was she dreaming? She paused to allow her senses to tell her.

"Michaela?" Sully became more alert. "You okay?"

"Yes," she returned to his side. "I thought I heard something."

"Inside the house or out?" he sat up.

"I'm not certain," she replied.

"I can go check on things if you're worried," he offered.

"No," she settled back in his arms. "I'm sure it was nothing. I think I'm just a bit on edge because of what's happened to Annie around this time each evening."

He teased, "I thought ya might be more relaxed after what just happened between us."

She felt her cheeks warm, "Well.... actually, I find it rather invigorating."

"So ya can't sleep then?" he interpreted.

"I know you're exhausted," she stroked his chest. "Go back to sleep. I'm sorry I wakened you."

"That's all right," he slid his arm beneath her shoulders. "Want me t' tell ya a story?"

She chuckled, "Something about eagle feathers?"

"Nope," he responded playfully. "I could tell ya about the most beautiful woman I ever met."

She playfully tapped his side, "Do I know her?"

"You know her real well," he drew her closer.

"Then I'd like to hear your story, Mr. Sully," she closed her eyes and began to relax.

He toyed with a lock of her hair, "Once upon a time, there was a lonely mountain man, who lived a solitary life with nothin' t' keep him company but the earth an' sky."

"What about a wolf?" she interjected.

"Shh," he placed his finger to her lips. "One day, he was standin' in a meadow, when he saw the most beautiful woman in the world fall flat on her face in a puddle o' mud."

She sighed, "What you must have thought of me."

"I thought," he paused. "I thought if a woman like that was gonna live in Colorado Springs, maybe I oughta come t' town more often."

She noted, "That's certainly not how you acted. You continued to hide yourself away in remote locations."

"That's what a mountain man's supposed t' do," he joked. "Truth is, I couldn't keep my eyes off ya. I watched over the old homestead, makin' sure no harm came t' ya."

"You watched the old homestead?" she sat up slightly.

"Yep," he nodded.

"So that's how you always knew when I needed you," she deduced.

He caressed her cheek, "I've tried t' watch over ya ever since, Michaela. When I couldn't.... that's when.... we lost the baby after Katie."

The memory still pained him.

"Sully," she embraced him. "You can't watch over me all the time. It wasn't your fault. There was nothing anyone could...."

At that moment, they were interrupted by a scream.

"Annie!" they both bolted up in bed.

************
Chapter 11
************

The routine of comforting their other children while Annie screamed had become all too familiar in the Sully household. Both parents agonized as the little girl flailed her arms and yelled at the top of her lungs. They tried to make sense of her sounds but could only discern the cries of a child in restless anguish. Then, nearly as quickly as they began, the screams subsided again.


Sully cradled the toddler in his arms, "I'm gonna take her t' Cloud Dancin' t'night."

"Now?" Michaela stood in disbelief. "She's quiet. She'll sleep the rest of the night."

His eyes saddened, "I can't take seein' her like this, Michaela. I don't know if she's in pain or afraid. I'm her Pa. I oughta be able t' protect her from whatever this is."

Michaela noticed the tears welling in his eyes, "I know, Sully. Don't you think I'm in anguish over it, as well? But I honestly think she has no memory of what happens. She certainly doesn't act like it when she's awake. Physically, it has taken no toll on her."

Bridget returned after settling the other children back in their beds, "Maybe ya oughta think about an exorcism."

"Exorcism!" Michaela frowned. "Bridget, have you been listening to Loren?"

Sully was puzzled, "What are ya talkin' about?"

"Loren thinks Annie is possessed," Michaela informed him.

Bridget added, "He's talked t' the Reverend."

Michaela remarked, "And heaven knows who else. As if this weren't disturbing enough."

Sully's jaw tensed, "My daughter ain't possessed. But I'm gonna find out what's causin' this."

************

"Hey, Ma," Brian smiled as his mother entered The Gazette office.

"Good morning, Sweetheart," she kissed him. "Did you and your brother have a good evening?"

"Real good," he remarked. "I'm doin' a big feature on him in the next edition."

She touched his cheek, "I'm so proud of my boys."

He blushed, "Not boys anymore, Ma. What brings you into town so early?"

She sighed, "I have a favor to ask of you."

"Sure," he nodded. "What can I do?"

Michaela broached the subject, "Could you speak with Josef about starting school? He's very hesitant about going."

"But why?" Brian was surprised. "He loves learning."

"He has trepidations," she answered. "I've told him he doesn't have to start if he doesn't feel ready, but I want to be certain of his reasons. Sully thinks it's because he doesn't like change."

"But, you think somethin' else?" he assumed.

"I wonder if he thinks he won't measure up to Katie's achievements," she ventured. "As you know, Josef has often found himself in trouble for his mischief. Perhaps he thinks.... I don't know...."

"I know," he smiled. "I had the same feelings because of Colleen."

She looked at him, "Oh, Brian, I hope I didn't make you feel that way."

"No," he assured. "It's natural when you have an older sibling who does well. You want to measure up to her in your parents' eyes."

"Do you have any suggestions?" she queried.

He grinned, "I'll have a talk with him."

"Thank you," she smiled.

"Did Annie sleep through the night?" he hoped.

She answered, "No, and we're at wits' end trying to cope with that. To make matters worse, Loren is telling people she's possessed."

"Possessed!" his eyes widened.

"Sully's taking her to see Cloud Dancing this morning," she stated.

"I'll be home later to talk with Josef," he pledged.

"I appreciate it," she stepped toward the door.

At that moment, Horace spotted her, "Dr. Mike!"

"Hello, Horace," she greeted.

"I'm glad I run int' you," he tipped his cap. "Saves me the trip of comin' out t' the homestead."

"Is something wrong?" she worried. "Is Samantha all right?"

"She's fine," he assured. "I got a message here from Mr. Simmons for Sully. He's havin' a big meetin' at the Chateau this afternoon with all the folks who bought shares in that new railway company."

She accepted the envelope, "Thank you. I'll see that he gets it.

************

Sully gently placed Annie into the hands of Cloud Dancing.

The medicine man greeted her, prompting a smile from the little girl.

Sully stroked his daughter's golden hair, "She had another spell last night."

Cloud Dancing responded, "I have prayed to the Spirits about her."

"What'd they say?" Sully queried.

"Come," he invited. "We will enter my lodge."

When inside, they sat down before a fire the medicine man had prepared. From the hot coals, smoke emanated. Sully could tell that there had been herbs sprinkled on them. Cloud Dancing began to softly chant.

Annie looked to her father with curiosity. Sully gave an assuring smile that all was well. Annie smiled back and turned her attention to the medicine man.

Cloud Dancing spoke to Sully, "She is special, this little one."

He nodded, "Her Ma an' me think so."

The medicine man spoke, "Cheyanne, would you like some water?"

"Uh-huh," Annie replied.

Cloud Dancing poured the cool liquid into a small gourd and handed it to the child. Annie looked to her father. Sully took the gourd and held it steady for her to drink.

Then Sully asked, "Is somethin' outa balance? Does she need a sweat lodge ceremony?"

"I do not think so," Cloud Dancing replied.

Then the medicine man laid his hands on Annie's head and lips, chanting once more. Annie's eyes widened as she listened and watched. When Cloud Dancing concluded, he handed the child to her father.

Sully kissed her damp forehead. Annie leaned her head against his shoulder and began to fall asleep.

"Will this work?" Sully questioned.

Cloud Dancing returned, "Only the Spirits know."

Sully felt a lump in his throat, "I'd do anythin' t' help my little girl, but I don't know what else t' do."

His friend counseled, "The spirits who visit the little one at night might pass by her if you are with her. Talk to her the next time they come."

Sully tilted his head, "We can't talk t' her when she has the spells."

"Do not wait for the spell then," he advised.

"Ya mean wake her up?" Sully interpreted.

Cloud Dancing shared, "There once was a man who built a cabin and soon became sick. The medicine men, both white and Cheyenne, tried to cure him, but nothing worked. Then they discovered the problem."

"What was it?" Sully was curious.

"He had built his cabin in a line between two mountain peaks," Cloud Dancing explained. "Thus, it was located on the trail traveled by the spirits who lived in the mountains. Each night, when the spirits journeyed, they found his dwelling blocked their path. They were annoyed with him, and made him ill in order to punish him. When he moved his lodge, he became well again."

"You sayin' my house is the reason for Annie's spells?" Sully inquired.

The medicine man smiled, "I am saying that sometimes we need to outsmart the spirits. If they waken Cheyanne each night, then you must do it first. Soon, they will stop."

Sully considered his advice, "Thanks, Cloud Dancin'."

"You are welcome, my friend," he acknowledged.

************

Loren sipped a cup of coffee at the Cafe, "So, why ya think Mr. Simmons is havin' this meetin' t'day?"

Horace spoke up, "He wants t' talk with all the stockholders."

Jake speculated, "Could be things are movin' faster than we thought on startin' the construction o' the railway."

Hank raised an eyebrow, "That means makin' money faster than we thought."

************

As Noah sat on his lap, Brian settled back with his fishing pole and looked at Josef.

He smiled at his little brother, "Any luck?"

Josef leaned on his elbows, "Not yet, but this time I catch some."

"I know ya will," Brian encouraged.

"You know lots o' stuff," Josef eyed him with admiration.

Brian saw the opportunity, "That's 'cause I went t' school."

Josef reasoned, "You didn' learn t' fish in school."

Brian chuckled, "No, but I learned about the different species of fish and where they live."

"What's speshees?" Josef tilted his head.

"It means different kinds," he explained. "Like there's bass, and chub, whitefish and squawfish...."

"And twout," the little boy added.

"Right," Brian kissed the top of Noah's head. "And there's different species of birds, too. There's robins and hawks...."

"An' eagles," Josef contributed.

"Good," Brian commended.

"Mama an' Papa teached me," Josef informed him.

"They're real good teachers," Brian agreed.

"So why ya need school?" Josef queried.

"I went because there were things Ma and Pa couldn't teach me," he detailed. "Plus, they didn't always have time. That's why we have school."

"I thinked Mama an' Papa know everthin'," the little boy stated. "I learn from them."

"There's one thing I learned that they didn't teach me," Brian paused.

"What?" Josef was amazed.

"I learned what I could accomplish on my own," he answered.

Josef rejected, "I don' wanna do that."

"Why not?" Brian rubbed his back.

"I like doin' stuff with Mama an' Papa an' the kids," Josef noted.

Brian nodded, "I like that, too. And I like doing things for myself. You know what? When you do things on your own, it makes you feel real good inside."

"It does?" Josef was intrigued.

"Uh-huh," Brian smiled. "You can have both. You can do things with us, and you can do things on your own. Both ways can be good."

"Bite!" Noah suddenly screamed.

Josef's shoulders slumped, "Noah caught 'nother fish."

Brian smiled, "Then let's be happy for him."

"I'm happy," Josef sounded far from sincere.

The older brother winked, "When you can be happy for others, you'll be happy yourself."

Josef helped Noah with his fish.

"Hey, Josef," Brian suddenly pointed. "Look at your line."

Josef's eyes widened, "I catched one, too!"

************

At the homestead, Sully detailed to Michaela what Cloud Dancing had said and done with Annie.

"I don't know about this," she hedged. "I hate to waken her."

"Could it be worse than the screamin'?" he inquired.

"I suppose not," she agreed. Then she caressed Annie's cheek, "Well, my darling, Mama and Papa won't be getting much sleep again this evening."

Sully smiled, "Won't be the first time we've had t' be up with one o' the kids, an' it won't be the last."

"Oh," she reached into her pocket and handed him the note. "Horace gave me this for you. It's from Mr. Simmons."

Sully opened it and read to himself.

Then he looked at his wife, "Put on your green dress."

"What?" she was uncertain.

He clarified, "That dark green dress. I'm takin' ya t' the Chateau."

"Why my green dress?" she wondered.

He leaned closer to kiss her, "'Cause I like it."

************

Preston nervously paced before the growing crowd of people who were assembling at the Chateau.

Turning to Simmons, he queried, "I wish you would tell me why you've invited all of these people here, Zalmon."

"You'll find out when they do, Mr. Lodge," he stepped toward the podium.

Michaela leaned closer to her husband, "You know what he's going to say. Don't you?"

He winked, "Let's listen."

Simmons began, "Stockholders, I appreciate your coming here on such short notice. I invited you here today to present a revised plan for our new company."

"Revised?" Preston swallowed hard.

Simmons ignored him, "I have recently acquired information that has led me to redraw not only the company charter, but to revise the route the railroad will take, as well. I want to assure you that it will in no way affect your investment. If anything, it will enhance its value because of lower costs to construct the project. Since I have redrawn the charter, I pledge to you that for each share you own in the old company, you will receive a share in the new company."

"Mr. Simmons," Preston attempted to interrupt.

"Shut up, Preston," Jake shouted. "We wanna hear about this."

Simmons went on, "As of today, the Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak Railway Company no longer exists."

There were murmurs among the people gathered.

Simmons raised his hand to calm them, "The new company is the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway. My assistant will handle the paperwork of exchanging your stock, and please understand, this is an even exchange."

As the men lined up to receive stock in the new company, Preston pulled the businessman aside, "This is most unsuitable. What made you change your mind?"

"A survey of the land," Simmons noted. "I was provided with information that your proposal would disrupt a school."

"It's an Indian school," Preston countered.

"And the owner of the land got a stay to block the start of construction," Simmons reminded. "Besides, the new company will be of shorter distance and create less disruption of private property. That saves us considerable money, Mr. Lodge."

"But Colorado Springs will miss out on the revenue generated by the people who come to use the railway to go to Pikes Peak," Preston pointed out. "They'll go to Manitou instead."

"There already exists a railroad between Colorado Springs and Manitou," he stated. "Guests at your Chateau can ride that, or you could provide a carriage to take them. Their mayor and trustees have already voted to give the land for construction, so it can begin immediately without legal delays. As they say, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

"You can't do this," Preston was becoming frantic.

"I've already done it," he replied as he smiled. "Good day."

************

In the gardens of the Chateau, Sully and Michaela strolled.


She stopped and turned to gaze at him with adoration, "You're incredible."

He smiled, "Just did what I thought was right."

She rested her palms on his chest, "You saved the land and the school, not to mention the money for those stockholders."

He kissed her sweetly, "Did I tell ya how beautiful ya look in that dress?"

Preston approached, "Well, Sully, I guess you won this round. I believe I underestimated you."

"That's a mistake," Michaela cautioned.

"You're a more formidable opponent than I gave you credit for," Preston glared at him. "But I shall not make that mistake the next time."

"Next time?" Michaela raised an eyebrow.

Preston avowed, "I may have lost the battle, but I shall win the war."

Sully countered, "There's only a war when two sides wanna fight. I don't wanna fight ya."

"It's too late," Preston declared. "This is war."

************
Chapter 12
************

Michaela and Sully sat on the front porch swing, swaying back and forth and gazing at the night sky.

"Sully," she leaned against his shoulder. "What do you think Preston will do?"

"Nothin' t' worry about," he assured. "He's just blowin' hot air."

"He's a wealthy and powerful man," she reminded.

"An' he only knows how t' use those things for selfish purposes," he noted. "His greed is his downfall."

"But he wants a war," she worried.

Sully assured, "It's just his way of bullyin' folks. He tries t' scare 'em with words. I won't let him do anythin' t' us."

"He's already tried on numerous occasions," she remembered. "Perhaps if I spoke with him...."

Sully interrupted, "I don't want you talkin' t' him, Michaela. He's already got it in his mind that he deserves you. Talkin' t' him might encourage them thoughts."

"But...." she felt his fingertips on her lips.

"No buts," he whispered. "Just believe me, for once."

"I believe you all the time," she smiled.

He grinned, "All the time?"

"Most of the time?" she amended.

He countered, "How 'bout some of the time?"

"I don't want another war of words," she mused.

"Then let's change the subject," he suggested.

She agreed, "All right. How many times do you think we can eat fish for dinner?"

He chuckled, "Well, since we got two fishermen in the family, it's hard t' say."

"While they were fishing, Brian had a chat with Josef about going to school," she told him.

"And?" Sully anticipated.

"And.... I don't know," she sighed. "He didn't say if it had any effect. I'm growing more concerned because school begins next week, and I return to work right after that."

"No need t' be concerned," Sully's voice was soothing. "Joe will let us know when he's ready, Michaela."

She observed, "I think it's time to waken Annie."

He stood and extended his hand, "Come on, then."

They entered the house and ascended the steps to the twins' room. Sully leaned down and lifted Annie. As he carried her downstairs, Michaela followed with the child's stuffed elephant.

"Annie," Sully whispered.

Slowly, the child opened her eyes, "Papa, seepy."

"I know ya are, darlin'," he kissed her. "But your Ma an' me wanna talk with ya."

Michaela held up the toy, "Look who's here with us."

"El'pant," Annie pointed.

Tilting her head against Sully's shoulder, Annie closed her eyes.

He swayed a bit, "Not yet, honey. Ya gotta stay awake."

"How long do you think we should keep her awake?" Michaela queried.

"I don't know," Sully shrugged. "Maybe half an hour."

Michaela covered her mouth as she yawned, "All right. How shall we entertain a two year old for half an hour?"

"Wolf," Sully beckoned the animal.

Annie's face lit up, "Woof."

The animal wagged his tail.

"Here, Annie," Sully handed her a small piece of leather from the side table. "Toss this, an' Wolf will bring it back for ya."

Annie accepted the object and tossed it several feet. Within seconds, Wolf had retrieved it and brought it back, anxious for another challenge.

The little girl clapped her hands together and giggled.

"He wants ya t' do it again," Sully said.

Annie repeated the process, and Wolf did his part in return. Michaela watched with amusement. However, the game soon became boring for the little girl.

"What now?" Sully looked at his wife.

Michaela glanced at the clock, "We have another twenty minutes. Perhaps she'd like to look at one of the photograph albums."

"Good thinkin'," Sully nodded.

"I'll get one," Michaela left them.

"Mama," Annie pointed after her mother.

Sully kissed her fingertip, "She'll be right back, darlin'."

Michaela returned with the album and set it on the table. Sully positioned Annie so that she could look at the pages.

"Who's that?" Michaela pointed to one of the photographs.

"Papa," Annie responded.

Sully looked at the clock, "Good thing we got a big family."

************

When Bridget reached the lower level of the house to prepare breakfast, she paused at the steps to survey the scene in the living room. There was Sully fast asleep in one of the wing back chairs. Annie lay comfortably across her father's chest, also sleeping. Michaela slumbered in the adjoining chair with a stuffed elephant on her lap.

Bridget chuckled to herself, "No wonder I got a good night's rest. But I reckon them two didn't."

She entered the room and lightly touched Michaela's shoulder, "Dr. Mike, ya might be more comfortable in your bed."

"Mmm?" she opened one eye just a slit.

"You an' Sully slept down here with the wee one, lass," the nanny explained. "It's mornin'."

Michaela yawned and glanced across at Sully and Annie, "What time is it?"

Bridget noted, "Six o'clock."

"Annie didn't scream last night," she observed.

Sully awoke at the sound of their voices. He was stiff from the position in which he had spent the night.

Kissing the top of Annie's head, he kept his voice low, "It worked."

"But look at the cost," Bridget gestured. "You two look like ya haven't had a wink o' sleep."

Michaela stood up, "That's all right, as long as Annie did."

"Are ya gonna wake her up every night then?" Bridget questioned.

"Perhaps another night or two," Michaela assessed.

At that moment, Annie opened her eyes and whined, "Seep, Papa."

"I'll take her upstairs," Sully stroked the child's back.

"I'll come with you," Michaela offered.

"While you're up there, get some more sleep, the two o' ya," Bridget advised. "I'll keep the leprechauns quiet when they get up."

"Thank you, Bridget," Michaela smiled.

************

In their bedroom, Michaela promptly fell back to sleep, but this time it was Sully who remained awake.

He tossed and turned until Michaela finally sat up, "Sully?"

"I'm sorry," he apologized. "I guess I can't fall back t' sleep. I'll get up an' take care o' the chores."

"Brian can do that," she drew him into her arms. "You need to sleep."

He exhaled loudly, "I already tried."

"Well, perhaps I could tell you a story," she raised an eyebrow.

He grinned and settled back, "All right."

"Once upon a time," she began. "There was a lonely lady doctor, who threw herself into her medicine because she could never admit to herself that she was lonely."

"Do I know her?" he smiled.

"Shh," she touched his temple. "Close your eyes while I tell the story."

Sully complied with her wishes.

Michaela resumed, "One day, she was in the Mercantile when the most incredibly handsome mountain man walked in. She was stunned at his appearance, but he seemed gruff and aloof."

"Gruff an' aloof?" he opened his eyes.

"Shh," she caressed his cheek. "I'm getting to the good part."

"Oh," he snuggled closer to her.

Michaela continued, "It turned out that the gruffness and aloofness were merely a facade. As the woman got to know this mountain man, she quickly learned that he was kind, and generous, and warm and...."

Sully looked up at her, "Why'd ya stop?"

She felt a tear welling in her eye, "Because she fell in love with him."

Sully rose up to embrace her, "He fell in love with her, too."

He gently wiped away her tear.

"Did they live happily ever after?" he smiled.

"Oh, yes," she nodded. "Very."

He leaned back with her, "That was a real good story."

"Did it make you sleepy?" she queried.

"Afraid not," he sighed. "But I know somethin' that would."

"What?" she was curious.

"This," he kissed her.

"Sully...." she was melting.

"Mmm?" he kissed her more deeply.

She slid her arms around his neck, "If you insist...."

He paused, "I'd never insist."

She framed his face in her hands, "I know you wouldn't. It's our mutual desire."

"Mutual desire," he repeated. "I like that." Then he recited:

"Let the night-winds touch thy brow
With the heat of my burnings sigh,
And melt thee to hear the vow
Of a love that shall not die."

She ventured, "Was that Herrick?"

"Bayard Taylor," he corrected.

She stroked the side of his face, "My lonely mountain man."

"Not lonely anymore," he kissed her.

She lightly stroked his stubbled cheek, "I love you so much, Sully."

He kissed the lobe of her ear and spoke low, "I love you, too."

His fingertips began to explore her, "You're so beautiful.

Enfolded in his strong arms, she could feel the heat of his body, and it made her pulse race. Michaela gazed into his blue eyes. Their depth began to draw her in. She let herself sink into his arms, knowing there was no place she would rather be at that instant. The fire was building between them.

Sully's heart felt as if it would pound out of his chest. He maneuvered to share a more intimate position with his wife. Her scent was heightening his senses even further. Then he felt Michaela's hands on his back, encouraging, inviting.

There was no turning back, but then neither wanted to turn back. They released themselves totally and unconditionally to each other. And it was magic. Renewing. Regenerating. Rewarding.

Sully quickly fell asleep. Michaela rose from the bed to eat some wild carrot seeds. Then she stepped to Hope's cradle. The growing baby would soon need to be moved into a crib. Michaela leaned over to kiss her. The baby alertly watched her mother's facial expressions.

Then Michaela returned to Sully's side. She rested her hand atop her husband's heart, fulfilled in the affirmation of their love. Closing her eyes, she willed herself to dream of the man in her arms, her husband, her hero.

************

Alone in the bank, Preston leaned back in his leather chair. He read and reread the charter for the new company. Though he was a substantial stockholder in the new firm, his bank stood to lose potential profits from the change in location. He became more upset by Sully's coup.

He slammed his fist down on the desk, "Damn him! How could I be so foolish as to not watch my back? Father always warned me to beware of the little people."

Myra appeared, "You got somethin' against little people?"

"Of course not," he tried to regroup. "What I mean is, in business, you have to be prepared for the unexpected."

"I see," she went to her desk.

Preston stood and went to look out his window. He sighed, having tried every ploy he could think of to woo Michaela from that man. What could she possibly see in a mountain man? Was it purely physical? He grinned, even more intrigued by the notion that such a prim and proper Boston bred woman would be.... passionate.

"Think, Preston, think!" he told himself.

He attempted to apply the rules of logic that he had brought to business. Perhaps that was the problem. Sully didn't think like a businessman. Preston was loathe to imagine that Sully thought at all.

"I mistakenly believed he was all hair and buckskin," he mused silently. "But what Sully lacks in education and refinement, he makes up for in determination and bravery."

Preston sighed at the notion that Michaela could not see his own fine qualities. Well educated. Well traveled. Handsome. Wealthy. What woman would not find him attractive? But unfortunately, the only woman he had ever attempted to court since his arrival in Colorado Springs turned out to be a leper.

All four of his brothers had married and fathered children. And all of the children were girls. The Lodge name was destined to end unless he found a wife and produced a male heir. In that regard, he feared Michaela might be past the child-bearing age. And yet, she had just delivered a baby four months ago.

"What a woman she is," he pined.

Sensing his anguish, Myra interrupted his reverie, "Preston, ya gotta let go."

"Pardon me?" he was taken aback.

"Let go," she repeated. "Dr. Mike's head over heels in love with her husband. There's no changin' that."

He muttered, "Not as long as he lives."

She had heard, "You think even if he died, Dr. Mike would just turn around an' marry you?"

"Of course not," he was flustered. "There would have to be a suitable period of mourning."

She eyed him in disbelief, "You ain't plannin' on doin' somethin' t' Sully!"

"Certainly not," he affirmed. "What kind of man do you think I am?"

She stated, "I think you're used t' gettin' your own way."

"Quite the contrary," he tensed. "It is precisely because of the losses I have sustained in my life, that I have become stronger and more intent on getting what I deserve."

Myra advised, "Ya gotta give this up. It'll only bring ya down."

"Perhaps you can tell me what she sees in him," he wondered.

Myra smiled, "I watched them two from the start. I never saw two people more different. But anyone who looked at 'em t'gether could see the sparks.... the fire that was there. They're the most romantic couple I ever saw."

"You sound like a dime novel," he scoffed.

"Sometimes dime novels ain't fiction," she added.

"You still haven't answered my question," he returned to the subject. "What does she see in him?"

She considered, then simply replied, "She sees her hero."

************

Hank finished fixing bacon and eggs. He put the plate on a tray and carried it into the bedroom for Lexie.

"Breakfast's ready," his voice wakened her.

"What's this?" she yawned as she sat up.

He noted, "I figure you could use some pamperin'. Ya been doin' everythin' for me."

"Hank Lawson," she raised an eyebrow. "What would people think if they knew you were making breakfast in bed for your wife?"

"Well, I ain't gonna tell 'em," he frowned. "Are you?"

She shook her head, "My lips are sealed."

He sat on the edge of the bed and watched her scarf down the food, "I reckon you were hungry."

She smiled, "Well, I'm eating for two. Remember?"

He stroked her abdomen, "I remember. Ya sure are gettin' big. So, I was thinkin' maybe ya oughta take it easy t'day."

"Take it easy?" she wondered. "Why?"

"Well...." he hedged. "With the baby showin' so much...."

"Hank," she interrupted. "If anything, I feel stronger and ready to work. Wilbur has been a big help."

"I never should've hired someone named Wilbur," he cringed.

"He's a sweet boy," she assured.

"He ain't the sharpest tack in the box," Hank scoffed.

She finished her meal, "That was delicious. I think you should cook more often."

"Don't count on it," he removed the tray from her lap.

She broached the subject, "You never did tell me what that meeting for stockholders was about at the Chateau."

He explained, "Turns out Preston lost out t' Manitou. The railway's gonna be built there instead o' here."

"So what happens to the stock?" she posed the question.

"I got an even swap," he answered. "One share in the new company."

"That's good," she was pleased.

"Plus, I ordered a new girl from San Francisco," he added.

"A new girl?" she tensed. "Where did you get the money for that?"

He stood up, "I take care o' the money. It ain't your business."

"Hank," she protested. "You don't need to be so defensive. It was an innocent question. I know you lost a lot when the other girl was murdered."

"I said I'll take care o' the money," he stormed out of the room.

************

Matthew sat at his desk in the office he occupied in one of the old recovery rooms of the Clinic. He sighed, unable to concentrate. Standing, he strolled over to the doors onto the balcony and stepped outside. He looked down upon the streets of Colorado Springs. Folding his arms, he leaned against the door frame.

"What ya thinkin' about?" Emma's voice caught his attention.

He slid his arm around her shoulders, "I'm thinkin' I hate waitin'."

"I know," she rubbed his side. "But the judge has gotta make up his mind soon."

At that moment, they heard Horace call from the street below, "Matthew! There's a telegram from Denver for ya."

Matthew bounded down the steps and opened the wire, "T'morrow mornin'.... he's gonna read his decision in the case t'morrow mornin'."

************
Chapter 13
************

Matthew and Emma joined the Sully family for dinner, where the young lawyer barely touched his plate.

"Matthew," Michaela noticed. "You should eat."

He sighed, "Sorry, Ma. I'm too nervous."

"I nervous, too," Josef patted his arm.

"What are you nervous about, little brother?" Matthew smiled.

"I stawt t' school next week," he announced.

Michaela's eyes widened, "You've decided you want to try it, Sweetheart?"

"Uh-huh," he nodded. "But only for a week. I'm weal young for this."

"I understand," Michaela smiled. "You know that Papa and I will take you each morning."

"I should hope so!" he exclaimed.

Katie commented, "You're gonna like school, Joey."

"We see," he sounded doubtful.

Michaela complimented, "Your father and I are very proud of you, Josef, for giving this a try."

Sully added, "Tryin' new things is part o' growin' up, Joe. Like a baby bird spreadin' its wings."

"I wanna learn 'bout speshees," the little boy announced.

"What?" Michaela was uncertain.

Brian chuckled, "Species. I told him he can learn all about species of birds and fish in school."

"Fish!" Noah shouted. "Go fish."

Sully grinned at his son, "Not t'night, No-bo."

Michaela returned to Matthew, "Sully and I will certainly be there to lend our support."

"I appreciate it," the young man smiled.

************

With their family in bed, Sully encouraged his wife, "Michaela, you go ahead an' turn in. I'll stay up t' waken Annie later."

"Are you certain you don't mind?" she was fatigued.

He kissed her sweetly, "Go on. You need your sleep. I'll join ya soon as I've had her up for a while."

"Thank you," she kissed him and climbed the stairs.

Sully poured a cup of coffee and took it into the living room. Lifting a book of poetry, he began to read. Soon, he nodded off to sleep.

************

"Poppy," Katie touched his shoulder. "What are you doin' down here? Did you an' Mama have a fight?"

"No, honey," he was startled. "What time is it?"

"It's almost five in the mornin'," she rubbed her eyes.

"What are you doin' up so early, sweet girl?" he rubbed her back.

Katie replied, "I have t' use the privy."

"Go ahead," he smiled. "I was gonna wake up Annie but fell asleep instead."

"Annie slept all night long," Katie informed him.

He stood up and ran his fingers through his hair. Then he stretched his arms wide and yawned again.

Katie paused, "Are you still gonna wake her up?"

"No," he replied. "I think she's gonna be fine now."

"I hope so," the little girl sighed.

Katie left him to go to the privy. When she returned, Sully was gazing out the window at the sunrise.

"Come here, Kates," he lifted her. "Look at the sky."

In her father's arms, she observed, "It's red, an' yellow, an' blue...."

He was moved to recite:

"Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of
beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturb'd,
Give me for marriage a sweet-breath'd woman
of whom I should never tire,
Give me a perfect child, give me away aside
from the noise of the world a rural domestic life...."

Katie looked inquisitively at her father, "Is that poetry?"

"Yep," he kissed her cheek. "Walt Whitman."

"I like it," she complimented.

"Another day dawnin'," he kissed her cheek. "Another day with my sweet girl."

She hugged him, "I always wanna be your sweet girl, Poppy."

"You will be," he stroked her blonde tresses. "You goin' back t' bed?"

"I don't think so," she declined. "I wanna tell ya somethin'."

"Sure, honey," he encouraged. "What is it?"

"I want ya t' know that I'll take care of Joey in school," she pledged.

"Thanks," he kissed her cheek. "I wonder who's gonna take care o' the teachers."

Katie giggled.

He set her down, "I best wake up your Ma. We gotta get ready t' catch the mornin' train t' Denver."

"Poppy," she paused. "What if Matthew doesn't win?"

"That's okay," he assured. "The main thing is he tried his best."

She smiled.

Sully touched the corner of her mouth, "Ya sure look like your Ma, Katherine Sully."

"Thanks," she acknowledged.

************

The federal courtroom in Denver was abuzz with conversation and speculation about what Judge Dundy would rule. There were newspapermen poised with their note pads and pencils. Several lawyers and lawmen were also present, along with General George Crook.

"All rise," the bailiff announced.

The judge entered the courtroom and assumed his position at his desk.

"Be seated," the bailiff stated.

The crowd silenced and the judge cleared his throat.

Setting several pieces of paper before him, he began to read:

"During the fifteen years in which I have been engaged in administering the laws of my country, I have never been called upon to hear or decide a case that appealed so strongly to my sympathy as the one now under consideration. I think it is creditable to the heart and mind of the brave and distinguished officer, General George Crook, who is made respondent herein to say that he has no sort of sympathy in the business in which he is forced by his position to bear a part so conspicuous; and, so far as I am individually concerned, I think it not improper to say that, if the strongest possible sympathy could give the relators title to freedom, they would have been restored to liberty the moment the arguments in their behalf were closed.

No examination or further thought would then have been necessary or reliant. But in a country where liberty is regulated by law, something more satisfactory and enduring than mere sympathy must furnish and constitute the rule and basis of judicial action. It follows that this case must be examined and decided on principle of law, and that unless the relators are entitled to their discharge under the Constitution or laws of the United States, or some treaty made pursuant thereto, they must be remanded to the custody of the officer who caused their arrest, to be returned the Indian Territory, which they left without the consent of the government.

The district attorney very earnestly questions the jurisdiction of the court to issue the writ, and to hear and determine the case made herein, and has supported his theory with an argument of great ingenuity and much ability. But, nevertheless, I am of the opinion that his premises are erroneous, and his conclusions, therefore, wrong and unjust. The great respect I entertain for that officer, and the very able manner in which his views were presented, make it necessary for me to give somewhat at length the reasons which lead me to this conclusion."

Michaela leaned over and touched Matthew's shoulder. The judge's introduction was indeed encouraging. Dundy continued to cite laws and statutes which supported his assumptions. Then he came to the heart of the matter. His judgment:

"The reasoning advanced in support of my views, leads me to conclude:

First. That an Indian IS a PERSON within the meaning of the laws of the United States, and has, therefore, the right to sue out a writ of habeas corpus in a federal court, or before a federal judge, in all cases where he may be confined or in custody under color of authority of the United States, or where he is restrained of liberty in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States.

Second. That General George Crook, the respondent, being commander of the military department of the Platte, has the custody of the relators, under color of authority of the United States, and in violation of the laws thereof.

Third. That no rightful authority exists for removing by force any of the relators to the Indian Territory, as the respondent has been directed to do.

Fourth. That the Indians possess the inherent right of expatriation, as well as the more fortunate white race, and have the inalienable right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," so long as they obey the laws and do not trespass on forbidden ground. And,

Fifth. Being restrained of liberty under color of authority of the United States, and in violation of the laws thereof, the relators must be discharged from custody, and it is so ordered."

Applause erupted in the courtroom. Sully and Michaela, Emma, Brian and Dorothy swarmed around Matthew and Cloud Dancing.

"Ya won, Matthew! Ya won!" Brian shouted.

"Oh, Matthew!" Michaela embraced him. "This is wonderful."

Sully shook his hand, then went to his Cheyenne friend, "Did ya ever think this day would come?"

His face shone with appreciation, "I did not."

District Attorney Lambertson made his way to Matthew's table and extended his hand, "Congratulations, Counselor. Of course, you know this will be appealed."

"I figured," Matthew nodded. "But for right now, Cloud Dancing and the Cheyenne are citizens whose right to due process has been upheld, an' I feel real good."

Lambertson smiled, "Enjoy it.... for the moment."

With that, he turned and departed.

General Crook approached Matthew with an extended hand, "Masterfully done, sir. You have done these noble people a great service."

"So did you, General," Matthew commended. "We couldn't have won without your testimony."

Crook glanced at Cloud Dancing, "I'm so sorry that it has taken our government this long to acknowledge what God in heaven has always known."

"Matthew," Michaela touched his arm. "I have arranged a celebratory dinner in honor of your victory at Grace's Cafe this evening."

"Thanks, Ma," he was overwhelmed by the accolades. "But how'd ya know we'd win?"

Michaela winked.

Emma threw her arms around her husband's neck, "Oh, Matthew. I'm so proud o' you."

He kissed her, "Sure feels sweet. I can't wipe this smile off my face."

Cloud Dancing grinned, "The spirits of our grandfathers are smiling, as well."

************

"Hank?" Lexie approached him. "Could I speak with you?"

"What do ya wanna talk about?" he took another sip of whiskey.

"I don't understand why you got so angry this morning," she explained.

He looked up at her, "'Cause I don't like bein' told what t' do."

"Have I told you what to do?" she was puzzled.

"Ya try an' tell me what t' do about money," he stated. "I married ya. I'll provide for you an' the kid. That's all ya need t' know."

"So, I am merely a possession?" she questioned.

"I didn't say that," he frowned. "Don't put words in my mouth."

"Hank, I have never been a submissive woman," she reminded.

"So, I noticed," he swallowed more whiskey.

"Would you rather be with one of your whores?" she accused.

He slammed his fist on the table, "Good God, woman, do ya ever shut up?"

His act stunned her. She folded her arms and returned to the bedroom. Hank lifted the bottle of liquor and stepped out onto the porch. He lit a cigar and leaned against the post.

There was nothing more frustrating to him than a woman who had to have her own way. So what if he had used the ranch for collateral on another loan without telling her? So what if she thought he had used it to by the stock? It was none of her business. Preston was right. The ranch became his property after he married Lexie, and he was not going to let her or ANY woman tell him what to do.

For years, he had tolerated Michaela Quinn's harping. He wondered how Sully endured it. Then he recalled something Sully had once told him when he asked the mountain man for advice about courting. Sully said, "If ya find the right woman, you gotta respect her."

Hank glanced down at the bottle in his hand. He felt a twinge of regret for his anger and his words toward Lexie. Taking a deep breath, he reentered the ranch and placed the bottle on the table.

"Lex," his tone was soft as he stepped into the bedroom. "I'm sorry."

She looked up at him, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Suddenly, Hank felt a pang in his heart. Her tears made him ache.

"What're ya cryin' for?" he touched the moisture.

"No reason," she wiped them.

"Come here," he enfolded her in his arms. "I don't wanna fight with ya."

With that, he kissed her.

************

Most of the town of Colorado Springs turned out for the celebration. It was not because they unanimously agreed with the judge's decision but out of respect for Matthew. Notably absent were Hank and Preston. However, that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the evening. There was music and dancing, games for the children and brief speeches of praise for Matthew.

Then it was his turn to speak. He modestly stood up and began:

"Friends an' family. I'd like t' thank everyone for bein' here t'night. It feels good t' be surrounded by folks ya love when you feel such joy. But the real celebration should be for the Cheyenne people. From my earliest times in Colorado, I have gotten to know this great people, embodied so nobly in Cloud Dancin'. I have seen them endure such hardship an' injustice, that it broke my heart. But now, at least for this one instance, I feel like good has been achieved, an' it fills me with more satisfaction than I can possibly describe t' think that I had a small part in it. It's the first step in a long journey for the Indians, but I'm seein' this journey through t' the end. Nea'eöe. Thank you."

They applauded his remarks, then resumed the celebration.

Sully approached his wife from her back and tapped her shoulder.

Leaning near her ear, he whispered, "May I have this dance?"

She smiled, "I thought you'd never ask."

He took her in his arms and began to sway to the music. Soon they were lost in each others eyes. Michaela smiled at him enticingly.

Sully drew her closer and sweetly kissed her, "You got yourself quite a son, Dr. Quinn."

She lovingly pulled his hand closer, "I got myself quite a husband, too."

As the evening drew to a close, the townsfolk meandered home. Sully loaded his family into the surrey for the ride home, while Loren offered to take Bridget back in his buggy.

With Hope cradled on her lap, Michaela smiled at her husband, "It's very quiet in the back seat."

Sully looked over his shoulder at their sleeping children, "Maybe t'night, we can all get a good night's rest."

"Oh, Sully," she sighed. "I don't think I've ever been happier."

He smiled, "Me either."

They rode the rest of the way in silence. Sully carried the children to their beds, while Michaela changed the little ones into their night clothes and tucked them in.

When she made her way to her own room, she was surprised to see candles aglow throughout the room. Sully stepped toward her holding a rose. Handing it to her, he smiled.

"What's the occasion?" she accepted the flower and inhaled its scent.

He grinned, "I figured I better do somethin' special for the mother of the most famous lawyer in the state."

She set the rose on her nightstand and inched closer to him, "Then I suppose I should do something to thank you."

"Hmmm," he looked at the ceiling. "I wonder what?"

She smiled and touched his cheek, "Perhaps a kiss?"

He leaned down to oblige, "How's that."

"That's good for a start," she teased.

He walked to his dresser and opened the top drawer. Withdrawing a piece of scrolled paper, he returned to her.

"This is for you, too," he handed it to her.

She opened it, "Is this what I think it is?"

"Depends," he mused. "What do ya think it is?"

She felt tears welling in her eyes, "It appears to be a drawing of an opera house."

"Then, it's what ya think it is," he teased.

"Oh, Sully," she felt a lump in her throat. "It's very impressive.... just as I imagined it."

He took the drawing back to the drawer, "Glad ya like it. We'll break ground for it real soon."

"I scarcely know what to say," her eyes shone with love.

"There's a first time for everythin', I reckon," he teased.

"I owe so much to you," she ran her finger along the line of his jaw. "You've saved my life more times than I can count. You gave me our beautiful family and home. You've enabled all of my dreams to come true."

He grinned, "You mean you're through dreamin'?"

"Not as long as I'm married to you," she smiled.

THE END

************

EPILOGUE

I would like to begin by cautioning about the use of wild carrot seeds, also known as Queen Anne's Lace, as a birth control contraceptive. While it is true that it has been used throughout history for that purpose, women should consult their physicians about its use and potential side effects before trying it, and never use it while nursing.

Regarding Annie Sully's sleep disorder, it is estimated that 2-3% of young children between ages 3-5, experience night terrors. It is more common among boys. In rare cases, girls and adults experience them. Children who have night terrors act like they are awake, but they are asleep. Night terrors are not nightmares. Nightmares occur during an early stage of sleep, and night terrors occur in later stages of the sleep cycle, generally between 1-3 a.m.

During a night terror, which may last anywhere from a few minutes up to an hour, the child is still asleep. Her eyes may be open, but she is not awake. When she does wake up, she'll have absolutely no recollection of the episode. Studies confirm that night terrors tend to run in families, as do other sleep disorders.

Doctors suggest waking the child about 30 minutes before the night terror usually happens. They advise getting the little one out of bed, and have her talk to you for 5 minutes, then let her go back to sleep. Night terrors can be frightening, but they are not dangerous as long as the child is supervised to remain out of harm's way. If they happen frequently or over a long period of time, however, a doctor should be consulted.


Zalmon Simmons was a multi-millionaire who earned his wealth from a variety of enterprises, making cheese boxes, railroad ballast and, most famous of all, mattresses. He provided a wide variety of philanthropic gifts to his community, ranging from a library and park to a Civil War monument. The story of how he was inspired to construct the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway is true.



In 1889, the company was founded, and track construction began. Top wages were 25 cents per hour. Six workers died in blasting and construction accidents. From Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, three engines were delivered in 1890. Limited service began that year to the Halfway House Hotel. These locomotives were eventually converted to operate upon the Vauclain Compound principle, and a total of six were in service during the "steam" era. The original three were named "Pike's Peak," "Manitou" and "John Hulbert," but they soon were assigned numbers. Of the original six, only #4 is still in operation, and along with a restored coach, makes infrequent trips short distances up the track. On June 30, 1891, the first passenger train, carrying a church choir from Denver, made it to the top of Pikes Peak.


Finally, the story of Cloud Dancing's suing the government for violating his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process is based on an actual 1879 court case. I substituted a true encounter between Dull Knife, Little Wolf, the Cheyenne and General George Crook, which while it truly occurred, did not lead to a court case. The actual Indian who did sue the government was named Standing Bear, and his tribe was the Ponca Indians. General Crook, Judge Dundy, District Attorney Lambertson were all real people involved in the case, which was really prompted by the actions of General Crook and a sympathetic newspaper man named Thomas Tibbles. The arguments put forth in my story were as they appeared in the federal court, and the judge's decision was as I depicted it. I had Cloud Dancing speak the actual words which Standing Bear had uttered in his emotional testimony. The real reaction by the courtroom was as I described it.

Within days of the decision, The Omaha Herald reported that "Judge Dundy's decision in the Ponca case goes a thundering through the press and awakening the people to a new sense of its importance." The paper added that "Many comments of eastern papers on Judge Dundy's decision indicating that its effects upon tribes living under treaties on reservations ... were misunderstood." Apparently, the eastern papers worried that all Indians would be free to leave their reservations, a source of great fear. The Cincinnati Gazette condemned the decision, calling it "impertinence." The Omaha paper went to great lengths to argue against those views.

Another paper which took up the cause was the St. Louis Republican: "Now let the courts grapple with the great problem whether an Indian is a citizen or an alien. Since the abolition of slavery, all human beings except the Indians have been classed as one thing or the other. But as our Indian policy is executed, the Indians are sometimes both and sometimes neither. We make treaties with them as we do with foreign nations, and we rule them as if they were citizens, yet it is ridiculous to say they are both citizens and aliens."

A government commission, appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes, investigated and found the Ponca situation to be unjust. They arranged for the return of the Ponca from Indian Territory and allotted land to them along the Niobrara River.

At the May term, 1879, Mr. Justice Miller refused to hear an appeal prosecuted by the United States, because the Indians who then petitioned for the writ of habeas corpus were not present, having been released by the order of Judge Dundy, and no security for their appearance having been taken.

Between 1879 and 1883, Standing Bear traveled in the eastern United States to lecture about Indian rights. He was accompanied by Tibbles and his wife Susette (Bright Eyes) LaFlesche Tibbles, along with her brother Francis LaFlesche. Standing Bear garnered the support of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and other prominent people. After he returned from the East, Standing Bear resided at his old home on the Niobrara and farmed his land. He died in 1908.

In 1993 a twenty-two foot statue of Standing Bear was commissioned. It is located south of Ponca City in northern Oklahoma, at Standing Bear Park. It was designed by Oreland C. Joe, a leading United States sculptor. The Statue overlooks the Arkansas River Valley.

Judge Dundy's decision in the case Standing Bear v. Crook was a milestone in the history of Indian-white relations. It established for the first time that Indians were more than just "Uncle Sam's stepchildren" to be regulated by the Interior Department as they pleased. Standing Bear and his followers were freed. But, the unanswered questions were -- Free to do what? Free to go where? They had no place to live, no food to eat, or clothing to wear. No opinion by a federal judge could supply these things.



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