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

Circumstantial Evidence


by Debby K

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Circumstantial Evidence
by Debby K

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

"Mornin'," Sully knelt beside the bed and kissed Michaela's cheek.

"What are you doing up so early?" she opened her eyes and looked toward the darkened window.

"Brian an' me are goin' fishin' with Cloud Dancin'," he lifted a lock of her hair from her face.

"Let me fix you something to eat," she started to rise.

"Don't have to," he gently pushed her back. "Ya need your rest. Baby does too," he rubbed her belly.

A little over three months into her pregnancy, the baby was was just beginning to show on her petite frame.

"I am rather tired," she smiled. "Is Katie still asleep?"

"Yep," he grinned.

"When will you boys be home?" she touched his face.

"Early afternoon with any luck," he kissed the palm of her hand. "I'll miss ya."

"I'll miss you, too," a tear formed in her eye and ran down her cheek.

"What's this?" he touched it.

"Nothing," she turned away.

"Michaela," he tenderly returned her glance to him.

"I worry about you," she confessed.

"Ya worry about me when I go fishin'?" he chuckled. "Sometimes I actually catch fish."

"No," she could not help but smile at his attempt to cheer her. "I worry when you're away."

"I ain't been away in a long time. You know that," he held her hand. "And going fishin' for a few hours ain't like goin' on a job for the Interior Department." He fluffed her pillow, "Now why don't you try to get some more sleep 'fore Katie wakes up."

"You're right," she ran her hand across his cheek. "I suppose I'm just overly sensitive because of the pregnancy. I'm sorry."

"No need t' be sorry. You can be overly sensitive any time ya feel like it," he said. "I'll see ya later."

"All right," she said.

Sully leaned forward to kiss her, "Love you."

"I love you, too," she smiled.

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

Sully, Cloud Dancing and Brian rode for an hour to the fishing hole that the Cheyenne Medicine Man recommended. Their luck was good, and they caught an abundant supply of fish. True to his word, Sully led them back to town by early afternoon. Brian jumped off his horse and ran into the Clinic before the others could even dismount from their horses.

"Ma! Ma!" he burst into the examining room. "Look what we caught!"

"Goodness!" Michaela exclaimed. "That's enough to feed an army."

"Cloud Dancin's takin' some of 'em over t' shantytown," Brian told her.

Sully entered the Clinic, "We had good luck."

Michaela put her arms around him, "So I see."

Katie, who had been napping in her crib in the corner was awakened by the excited conversation.

Standing up and holding the railing, she called, "Papa! Up!"

"How's my sweet girl?" Sully lifted her into his arms.

"Ya fishin'?" Katie disliked the thought.

"Afraid so," Sully nodded.

Cloud Dancing entered and greeted Michaela, "It is good to see you, my friend."

"And you," Michaela hugged him.

"You are looking well, Dr. Mike," the medicine man smiled.

"Thank you," she rested her hands on her abdomen.

Turning to Brian, Cloud Dancing asked, "Would you like to come with me to sell the fish at shantytown?"

"Can I?" Brian looked to his parents.

"May I?" Michaela corrected him. Looking up to Sully who nodded, she said, "Yes, you may go."

Cloud Dancing informed them, "I shall return with him by dusk."

"Why don't you and Dorothy join us for dinner?" Michaela asked.

"I would like that," his eyes spoke his gratitude. "I shall ask her before we leave. Come, Brian."

The two departed. Sully sat at Michaela's desk and lifted his daughter high into the air, an act that never failed to elicit laughter from the little girl.

"Were ya a good girl for your Ma?" he kissed her.

"I good," she nodded.

"She's become quite my little helper," Michaela placed a patient file in her cabinet. "She assisted me in cleaning up the Clinic today."

"That's good, Kates," Sully smiled.

He set the child down and she promptly ran to her play area to check on her new doll from Washington. When Michaela returned to her desk, Sully pulled his wife onto his lap.

"Sully!" she was caught off guard.

"How ya feelin'?" he rubbed her tummy. "Still overly sensitive?"

"I feel fine," she cleared her throat. Looking toward Katie, she whispered, "Little eyes and ears sometimes repeat what they see and hear."

He grinned mischievously, "So she'll tell everyone that her Ma an' Pa love each other. Not much of a secret in town, Michaela."

"But...." her words were interrupted with his kiss.

She could not resist him and wrapped her arms around his neck. Sully's wayward hand began to stir her until she was losing herself to him. Suddenly she felt a tugging at her skirt.

"Mama," Katie looked up. "You an' Papa bweathin'?"

"Well," she was quite flushed. "We, ah...."

"We're breathin' just fine, Kates," he touched her nose. "We're just lovin' each other."

"Ya do that a lot," Katie shook her head.

"Ready t' go home?" Sully grinned.

"We're ready," Michaela straightened her hair.

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

Sully put Katie down for a nap, since the child had not gotten much rest at the Clinic earlier. As Michaela prepared dinner, he came down the steps and put his arms round her.

Michaela leaned her head back against his chest and sighed, "What you do to me, Byron Sully."

He touched her in a provocative way, "What I'd like t' do to ya."

She rotated in his arms to face him, "Well, we do have a little time before our dinner guests arrive."

"What are ya suggestin'?" he pretended not to know.

"Suggestin'?" she imitated his dialect. "Perhaps a little nap?"

He raised his eyebrows, "What a good idea. I was up awful early this mornin'."

"I know," she massaged his shoulders. "And I had such a busy day at the Clinic."

"Ya sure we got time?" he winked.

"I think we can make time for one another," she leaned closer to kiss his ear.

Sully took her hand and led her up the steps. They quietly passed the nursery and entered their bedroom. With the door closed, Sully quickly pulled her into his arms. Michaela raised her hands to caress the hair above his ears.

Their kisses became hungrier, and soon they removed their clothing. Sully pulled her onto the bed and tenderly aroused her passion. Michaela lovingly invited her husband to complete the romantic advances that he had made. The enthusiasm of their love brought both of them to a fever pitch. Finally, they lay back, spent from the experience.

Sully stroked her arm, "I think I oughta go fishin' more often."

"You've hooked me," she smiled coyly.

The sound of a horse's arrival outside roused them from their encounter.

"They're here!" they said in unison.

They quickly, if not awkwardly, dressed and descended the steps to find Brian, alone.

"Where's Cloud Dancin' an' Dorothy?" Sully tried to be nonchalant.

"Ma! Pa!" the boy was out of breath.

Sully held his son's shoulders, "What's the matter, Brian?"

"Ya gotta come t' town right now," the young man had a look of panic.

"What is it?" Michaela hurried to her son.

"Cloud Dancin' an' me found a man dead!" his eyes filled with fear.

"A dead man?" she asked. "Where?"

"In a cabin right outside shantytown," he answered. "The door was locked, so we removed some chinking from the logs and poked his boot with a stick. I could see he was dead."

"Sit down, Brian," Michaela guided his shoulders.

"I'm all right, Ma," he assured her. "But ya better get over there. The town's in an uproar."

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

Brian remained at the homestead to take care of his little sister. On their way into town, Sully and Michaela met up with Matthew, who turned and accompanied them to shantytown. Just beyond the rundown shacks, in a wooded area near a creek sat a cabin, the home of a black farmer named Willie Robinson.

With lit torches, a crowd of blacks and whites had gathered outside. Sully pushed his way to the front of the mob, where Jake Slicker, Hank Lawson and Robert E were about to break down the cabin door.

"Wait!" Sully stopped them.

"What for?" Jake pushed back his hat. "The door's locked, an' there ain't no windows t' get in."

Sully showed them a place near the door where the chinking had already been removed, "Brian said this here's how he an' Cloud Dancin' saw the man lyin' on the floor."

"So?" Hank put his hands on his hips.

"So, if we remove some more of it, this log here will slide out, an' we can reach around t' open the door."

"Makes sense," Robert E nodded.

"Go ahead," Jake motioned.

Michaela made her way to the door just as they removed the log. The stench of the corpse hit them when the door was opened. Covering their mouths, Sully, Jake, Hank, Robert E and Michaela entered.

Swiftly, the doctor knelt beside the body. Inspecting it, she observed two bullet holes. One in the back and one in his chest. She noted the bloated condition of the corpse and blood around his nostrils and back.

"He's been dead approximately a week," she concluded.

"A musket ball," Hank held up an object which he retrieved from the floor of the wall opposite the fireplace.

"He must've been eatin' when he was shot," Jake speculated. "There's food on the table an' a fork in his hand."

"But how'd somebody shoot him when the door was locked an' no key t' be found?" Robert E wondered.

Michaela began to feel nauseous.

Sully noticed and went to help her up, "Let's get you outa here."

"No,' she waved him off. "I'm fine. I'll need to perform an autopsy."

"Michaela," Sully was concerned. "We can get somebody else t'...."

"No," she asserted. "I can do it."

Matthew entered the house, having been outside interviewing people about the crime.

"There's a fella out here named John Norton who claims an Indian killed him," Matthew informed them.

"Yea?" Hank was quite interested. "Bring him in."

Matthew motioned from the doorway. A short white man, dressed in black and reserved in his manner, came to the door. He covered his mouth as he looked on the scene.

"Tell 'em what ya know," Matthew instructed him.

"Indians," Norton said. "I saw some Indians fishin' near here 'bout a week ago. I figure one o' them did it."

"What tribe?" Sully turned to face him.

"How should I know?" Norton answered. "All Injuns look alike." Norton walked in and eyed the room, "Whoever done it stole some o' Willie's things, too."

Jake was curious, "Like what?"

Norton took a quick survey, "His double barrel shot gun, a chest that he kept right there by the hearth, an' his axe. Looks like maybe some clothes, too."

"How'd ya know so much about what's missin'?" Matthew was skeptical.

"Cause I used t' visit Willie," he replied. "He'd sell me grain. We'd go huntin'."

Hank turned to Sully, "You said Brian an' Cloud Dancin' found the dead man. How'd they know he was dead?"

"They poked his foot with a stick, and he didn't move. Brian told us that they came back to town immediately," Michaela looked up.

"Cloud Dancin' an' his people know how easy it is t' blame the Indians for what goes wrong," Sully added.

"Where is Cloud Dancin' anyway?" Hank asked.

"I assume he's with Dorothy," Michaela stood. "Now, if you're done inspecting things here, I'd appreciate it if you could remove the body to my Clinic for the autopsy."

"We'll get him t' town for ya, Dr. Mike," Robert E nodded.

"I'll take ya t' the Clinic, Michaela," Sully took her arm.

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

As Michaela readied her examining room for the autopsy, Sully walked in and observed her meticulous preparations.

"Ya sure you're up for this?" he took her hands.

"Of course," she tried not to let him feel her tremble. "I'm a doctor. I'm perfectly capable of doing this."

"You're also expectin' a baby," he noticed her shivering. "An' this is an awful gruesome thing t' have t' do."

"I can do it, Sully," her voice was certain. "Did you find Cloud Dancing?"

"No," he shook his head. "The Gazette's all locked up. Matthew went out t' look for him."

"Whom do you think could have done this?" she sat down at her desk.

"Someone who wanted his belongin's maybe," he speculated.

At that moment, there was a knock at the door, and Robert E stepped in.

"Where ya want the body, Dr. Mike?" he removed his cap.

"On the table," she motioned.

Positioning a handkerchief over her mouth and nose, Michaela looked up at her husband.

"I'll stay," he nodded.

Jake and Hank decided to observe the autopsy, as well. After an hour of macabre work, it was concluded. Michaela sat down at her desk and concluded her notes.

"We'll take him over to Robert E's," Jake told her. "He oughta have the coffin made by now."

"Thank you," she was exhausted.

Sully put his hand on her shoulder, "Let's go home, Michaela."

"But what about Cloud Dancing?" she spoke low.

"Matthew'll find him," he assured her. "I wanna get ya back t' the homestead now."

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

It was quite late when they arrived home, but their younger son was waiting up for them.

"Do ya know who killed him?" Brian was curious.

"No," Michaela shook her head.

"Brian, did Cloud Dancin' say where he was goin' when you two came back t' town?" Sully asked his son.

"Said he was gonna tell Miss Dorothy what happened," Brian replied. "Why, Pa?"

"I just wondered," Sully told him. "Any supper left?"

"The fish spoiled," the young man sounded disappointed. "Katie an' me just had some soup."

"I'm sorry, Brian," Michaela's voice shook.

"That's okay, Ma," Brian sat down. "It was real good."

Sully looked, "There's some left, Michaela. I'll fix it for ya."

"But you haven't eaten either," she was hungry.

"I ain't eatin' for two," he smiled.

"Let's share it," she stood up to slice some bread.

"Matthew ain't home either?" Sully asked.

"Nope," Brian sat beside his mother.

Matthew entered the house just as Sully finished pouring his wife some soup, "No luck."

"Where could Cloud Dancing be?" Michaela was anxious.

"I think I might know," Sully lifted his jacket from the wall peg.

"You're not going out at this hour, are you?" Michaela worried.

"I'll be back soon," Sully kissed her and dashed out the door.

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

Michaela made certain that her children were tucked in for the night, then went to her bedroom. Katie was showing some symptoms of developing a cold, so she left her bedroom door ajar in case the little girl needed her. She tried sitting in the rocker to relax, but the thought of Sully out there looking for Cloud Dancing ensured that she would not rest. She began to pace. Where could he be?

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

Sully arrived at the old cave where he had hidden from the army for months. Upon entering, he saw them. Cloud Dancing and Dorothy.

"My friend!" Cloud Dancing greeted him.

"I thought if ya felt the need t' hide, ya might come here," Sully shook his hand.

"I fear I shall be a wanted man soon," Cloud Dancing replied.

"Why?" Sully's eyes spoke his concern.

Dorothy held up an object, "This."

"An axe?" Sully looked at it. "That's causin' ya t' hide?"

"I left a travel pouch at the Gazette when Brian and I went to shantytown," Cloud Dancing explained. "When I returned, this was in my bag."

"Where'd it come from?" Sully observed its unusual handmade handle.

"I do not know," Cloud Dancing replied.

"Wait a minute," the mountain man recalled. "A man we talked to at Robinson's cabin said he thought an Indian killed him, an' an axe was missin' from the dead man's belongin's."

"Someone's tryin' t' frame Cloud Dancin'," Dorothy placed her hand on the Cheyenne's.

"You two better wait here until I can find out more," Sully walked to the cave entrance. "I gotta get back t' Michaela. You'll be safe here."

"Thank you, my friend," the medicine man acknowledged.

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

Sully entered the bedroom quietly. Michaela was lying on their bed, her hand draped across his pillow.

He knelt down and whispered, "Michaela."

She turned and embraced him, "Did you find him?"

"Yep," he removed his beads and medicine pouch.

"Where is he? Is he safe? Is Dorothy with him?" she sat up.

"She's with him, an' they're fine," Sully removed his shirt.

"Where are they?" she persisted.

"Michaela," he slid into bed beside her. "We think Cloud Dancin's gonna be framed for this murder."

"What!" she was incredulous.

"He found an axe planted in his travel pouch," he slid his arm beneath her shoulders.

"An axe?" she did not understand.

"Remember that Norton character who thinks an Indian killed Willie Robinson?" he mentioned.

"Yes," she nodded. "Wait! He said an axe was missing."

"Right," Sully answered. "I wanna find out more about Robinson's missin' axe an' what it looked like. Meanwhile, Cloud Dancin' an' Dorothy are hidin' out in the old cave."

"What if the axe is the same one that's missing?" she speculated.

"Then it's Norton's word against Cloud Dancin'," he spoke low.

"What can we do, Sully?" she turned to rest her hand on his chest.

"Nothin' tonight," he kissed her forehead. "How ya feelin'?"

"I'm all right," she closed her eyes at the touch of his lips.

"Baby okay?" he slid his hand down to her belly.

"Yes," she smiled. "Are you going to speak with Mr. Norton tomorrow?" she put her hand atop his.

"Yep," he pulled her closer. "I'll get t' the bottom o' this."

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

In the middle of the night, Katie's coughing and crying wakened her father. He rose from the bed and went to her nursery.

"What's wrong, sweet girl?" he lifted the toddler.

"I sick, Papa," her breathing was labored.

"Where are ya sick?" he picked her up and sat down in the rocking chair.

"Here," she pointed to her throat.

Michaela, having heard their daughter's cries, appeared at the doorway.

"Are you not feeling well, Sweetheart?" she went to them.

Katie extended her little arms upward, and Michaela embraced her.

"You're soaking wet," Michaela felt the child's head. "Sully, she's running a fever."

He swiftly rose from the chair and felt Katie's head, "Could it be from cryin'?"

"No," Michaela kissed Katie's forehead. "Would you lower the railing to her crib?"

He did so, and Michaela placed the child down to remove her damp clothing.

"Did ya hear her coughin'?" he felt helpless.

"Yes," she nodded. "Sully, would you get my medical bag?"

"I scared, Mama," the toddler's labored breathing was frightening.

Sully quickly returned with her doctor's bag. Michaela opened her daughter's mouth and depressed her tongue. Then she lifted Katie and wrapped her in a blanket.

"What is it, Michaela?" Sully put his hand on his child's back.

"The croup," she answered. "I need you to go down and get our largest kettle. Fill it with water and bring it to our bedroom."

Without another word, he swung into action. Michaela carried Katie to their bedroom and sat down in the rocking chair.

In a calm, soothing voice, she told the toddler, "Everything's going to be all right, Katie. We're going to help your breathing."

The little girl trembled in her mother's arms, "It hurt, Mama."

"I know, Sweetheart," she kept her voice calm.

Sully arrived with the kettle.

"On the fire, Sully," she pointed. "We need to fill the room with steam. It will relieve her breathing."

The commotion awakened Brian and Matthew, who appeared in the doorway.

"What's wrong, Ma?" Brian rubbed his eyes.

"Katie has the croup," Michaela replied.

"Anythin' we can do?" Matthew was concerned.

"Not at the moment, boys," she smiled. "Thank you."

"If ya need us, holler," Brian told her.

They returned to their rooms, as Sully continued to add logs to the fireplace. Soon the room was filled with a misty air. Katie's breathing improved somewhat, but her barking cough persisted, as did the child's anxiety.

"What can we do, Michaela?" Sully became more alarmed.

She reached for her husband's hand, "It's very important that Katie not see us upset. That would frighten her and further constrict her breathing."

"Stay calm, then," he nodded.

"Right," she squeezed his hand. "Now, I'm going to bundle her up, and I want you to take her outside for about 15 minutes."

"What?" he was shocked.

"Sometimes the burst of colder air helps the breathing," she assured him.

"If you say so," he got dressed.

Lifting Katie into his arms, he smiled, "Wanna go for a walk, Kates?"

"In dark?" the child was surprised.

"Sure," Sully widened his grin. "We can hear all sorts o' things out there at night."

"Close the bedroom door to keep in the steam while you're gone," Michaela kissed Katie's forehead. "She'll need to stay in here with us tonight."

"See ya soon," he headed out with the bundled child in his arms.

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

Katie's breathing improved almost immediately as Sully began their stroll on the porch. While he listened carefully to her, the wheezing diminished.

He kissed her forehead and spoke low, "How ya feelin', Kates?"

"Okay," her little voice replied weakly. "I sleepy."

"Then go ahead and sleep," he tucked her under his coat.

Within minutes, she was out, and Sully carried her back to a waiting Michaela.

"That didn't take long," she opened the door.

"She's got a good doctor," he smiled and laid her down on their bed. "Should I bring in her crib?"

"No," she removed the blankets from the child. "Let's keep her in bed with us. I want to monitor her through the night. Does the kettle have enough water to last until morning?"

Sully walked to the fireplace and stoked the flames, "Yep."

They climbed into bed, placing their daughter between them. Each gently laid a hand on the little girl, and secure in the sound of her more relaxed breathing, drifted off to sleep.

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

Katie sat up in bed at the sound of a rooster's crow. She felt her parents' tender touches on either side of her. The toddler was energized and ready for the day.

"Mama," she turned to Michaela. "I up."

Michaela and Sully opened their eyes.

"So I see," she felt the child's forehead. "No fever."

"Feelin' better, Kates?" Sully rubbed her back.

"I better," she nodded. "We get up?"

Michaela felt a wave of nausea, "I... think I'd better get to the privy."

She bolted for the door. Sully's heart went out to his wife. Her morning sickness had been rather mild with this pregnancy, but lacking a good night's rest, it hit her hard this morning.

"Where Mama goin'?" Katie's mouth dropped at the speed of her mother's departure.

"Let's go check on her," he lifted the child.

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

Michaela stepped out of the privy as they reached the bottom step. Sully placed Katie in her high chair and went to his wife.

"Ya okay?" he touched her arm.

"Yes," she still felt queasy. "I haven't experienced morning sickness like this in some time. I thought I was past it."

"Ya sure it's the baby?" he was concerned. "Maybe you're comin' down with somethin'."

"No, I'm feeling better now," she walked to Katie. "Can you eat something, Sweetheart?"

"I hungwy," Katie agreed.

"I'll fix you breakfast, then," Michaela smiled.

Sully offered, "Why don't ya let me fix it?"

"You just sit down," Michaela patted his arm. "Let me spoil you a bit."

He winked and slipped his hand to her waist, "I love it when ya spoil me."

"Sully," tingled at his touch. "I have to tell you about a theory I have."

"What's that?" he wondered.

Michaela looked to see that Katie was out of earshot, "I think that when we make love, I..."

"Yes?" he grinned. "You what?"

"I feel better," she came out with it.

His smile broadened, "I know I sure do."

She tapped his chest, "I mean less severe morning sickness. I hesitate to say this."

"Why?" he pulled her closer. "I want ya t' share things with me."

"Well," she played with the button on his shirt. "I find myself... desiring you even more of late."

His voice became raspy, "Funny, I was just thinkin' the same thing about you."

"But..." she hesitated. "I... get this way at the strangest times. I'll be in the middle of work or writing something down, and suddenly feel... well, amorous."

"Just feel free t' call me at those times," he smiled.

She lifted up to speak in his ear, "This is one of those times."

"Now?" he was surprised. "After ya just got up?"

"The... urge is often quite strong in the morning, after I've rested," she blushed.

Sully looked over at Katie, "I reckon we oughta feed Kates now, but do me a favor."

"What?" she began to prepare Katie's breakfast.

"Hold that thought," he winked.

They consumed breakfast and were soon joined by their sons. Sully informed them of the situation with Cloud Dancing. Matthew quickly offered his legal expertise in defense of their Cheyenne friend.

"I wanna go talk t' John Norton t'day," Sully informed them. "I wanna hear more about the Indians he saw fishin' near Robinson's house, an' I'd like t' hear his description of the missin' axe."

"I'll go over t' shantytown an' talk t' some more folks," the young man wiped his mouth.

"Ya think Miss Dorothy will be back at the Gazette t'day?" Brian stood up.

"Yep," Sully answered. "If she's not around too much longer, it'd draw attention."

"Good," Brian smiled. "I'll ride int' town with ya, Matthew."

"I'll meet ya at Grace's around noon, Sully," Matthew went to the door.

Both sons soon departed. Sully looked at Katie. The child had fallen asleep in her chair.

The doting father lifted her up and whispered, "I'll take her up. I reckon she needs some more rest."

"Sully," Michaela stood up. "Do you have to leave right away?"

"No, why?" he turned.

"I... I was just wondering," she looked down.

"Still feelin' amorous?" he lifted her chin.

She looked into his eyes and melted.

He raised his eyebrow, "Meet ya upstairs."

When he entered their bedroom, still quite humid from the previous night, he removed his shirt in anticipation of his wife's arrival. He walked to the window and gazed out upon the land that he loved.

Michaela checked on Katie, then came to him. The sight of his broad, bronze shoulders made her heart leap. She closed their door and slid her robe off. Clad only in her nightgown, she walked to him. She touched his back, lightly running her hand across the perfectly shaped muscles.

"How lucky I am," she said nearly to herself.

He heard her, "I'm the lucky one." Turning, he pulled her into his embrace, "When's the last time I told ya how beautiful ya are?"

She pondered the question, "I think it was last week."

"Last week?" he feigned a shocked expression. "We can't have that."

He slowly raised his hands to unbutton her nightgown. Sliding it off of her shoulders, he leaned in to kiss her neck. Then he pulled her against his body.

"Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright," he whispered.

"I know that one," her eyes shown.

"Who?" he lightly lifted the gown from her and let it fall to the floor.

"Shakespeare," she began to unbutton his buckskins.

Sully swept Michaela into his arms and carried her to the bed. He positioned himself beside his wife and gently began to awaken her every pore. Michaela closed her eyes and felt herself let go of all reserve. He ran his hand over the slight mound of her belly and kissed her. Noticing the changes in her more rounded figure, he was aroused further.

"Sully," her voice was urgent.

"Michaela," his answer told her everything.

They soon gave into their desire, then lay back in one another's arms.

"Ya all right?" he was breathless.

"Quite," she smiled. "I must say I am somewhat surprised."

"'Bout what?" he chuckled. "We've done this before, ya know."

She kissed his chest, "No, I mean I'm surprised how agreeable this is in my condition."

"Agreeable?" he smiled.

"Most agreeable," she sighed.

"I love the way ya say things," he stroked her arm.

"How would you say it?" she raised an eyebrow.

"I'd say... we only get better an' better," he smiled.

They were silent for a few moments, cherishing the other's touch. Sully looked down to see that she had fallen asleep. He closed his eyes to relish the feel of her next to him, needing him, secure beside him. Each time they made love was truly better and better, and her enthusiasm was a pleasant surprise that they had not experienced when she was expecting Katie. An amazing woman, he thought as he stroked her hair. He kissed her one last time before rising and getting dressed. Securing the covers around her, Sully touched Michaela's face, then left.

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

"I'd like t' talk t' ya, Norton," Sully stood at the farmer's doorway.

"What about?" the skeptical little man asked.

"About the Indians ya saw before Robinson's death," Sully tried not to sound confrontational.

"They... they were fishin' by Bluff's Creek," he answered.

"Bluff's Creek?" the mountain man pondered his reply. "That's at least a couple miles away from Robinson's cabin."

"So?" Norton was becoming defensive.

"The night we found his body, ya said the Indians were fishing nearby," Sully recalled. He decided to change the subject, "What about Robinson's axe? Ya said it was missin'. Could ya describe it?"

"Yeah," he seemed more cooperative. "Had an oak handle, hand made by Willie. An' it was heavier than most axes. Must've weighed seven or eight pounds."

"I see," Sully pictured the axe planted in Cloud Dancing's belongings in that exact way. Returning to the Native Americans, he queried, "Can ya describe what any o' the Indians ya saw were wearin'?"

He responded, "I'd know 'em if I ever saw 'em again."

"Thanks for your time, then," Sully returned to his horse, uneasy with the answers he had heard.

He headed for town to meet with Matthew. Maybe he had found out something that could put the pieces of this mystery into place.

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

Michaela thought it best to keep Katie home, as the child's cold-like symptoms persisted. She sat by the fire in the living room reading, while the little girl played with her new doll.

"Mama, Swirl wanna be doctor when she gwow up," Katie arranged the doll's hair.

"A doctor?" she smiled.

"Yep," Katie walked to her mother's knees.

Michaela lifted her and felt her forehead, "Why does she want to be a doctor?"

"Help sick people," her daughter replied.

"What about you, Sweetheart?" Michaela smiled. "What would you like to be when you grow up?"

"Like Papa," Katie answered.

Michaela grinned, "If you turn out like your father, I would be most pleased."

Katie nodded and leaned against her mother, "Mama an' Papa help people."

"We care about people," Michaela softly rocked her. "Especially our little girl."

Katie sat up and touched her mother's abdomen, "An' new baby?"

Michaela stroked her child's back, "And the new baby, and Matthew, Brian, Colleen...."

"An' Wolf," Katie pointed to the animal sleeping by the hearth.

"And Wolf," Michaela pulled Katie against her.

Mother and daughter became silent, and soon, secure in the loving contact they felt, they fell asleep in the chair.

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

Sully and Matthew met up at Grace's.

"I talked t' a lot o' folks at shantytown," Matthew informed him.

"An'?" Sully was curious.

"An' I found no reason why anyone would wanna kill Willie Robinson," the young man replied. "He was a harmless man, lived by himself, farmed, hunted." Matthew looked at some notes he had made, "Oh, an' the last time he was seen alive was at church the week before he died."

"So he was a loner," Sully absorbed the information.

"Sometimes folks would bring him supplies, an' he'd trade for 'em," Matthew added.

"Hard t' see a motive, Matthew," Sully commented.

"Gotta think about who might benefit from his death," the young lawyer contemplated.

"Did he have any family?" Sully asked.

"I can check," Matthew made some more notes.

A commotion in the street interrupted their conversation.

"What's that?" Sully stood up.

Then he saw. Cloud Dancing, hands tied, was being dragged into town. Sully and Matthew ran to the aid of their friend. Two men on horseback had found the medicine man and brought him to the jail, as the town gathered to watch. One man was gray haired and rough in his appearance. The other was reserved and did not even look up. The older one dismounted and held a gun on the Indian.

Cloud Dancing spoke to Sully and Matthew, "It is over, my friends."

Sully leaned down to help his Cheyenne brother, but was met with a kick by a boot to his midsection from the older stranger. The mountain man fell back, the breath knocked from his lungs.

"Why'd ya do that?" Matthew angrily demanded.

"This Injun's wanted for murder," the man declared.

"Who are you?" Matthew did not recognize them.

"Bittancourt," the older man answered. "Estalon Bittancourt. This here's my brother Manuel."

Sully rose to his knees and turned to Estalon. He reached up to the man's belt and forcefully yanked him. Bittancourt tumbled to the ground.

Then Sully stood up and kicked the man's midsection, "Nice t' meet ya, Estalon."

Dorothy broke through the mob and fell to her knees to tend to Cloud Dancing.

"No, Dorothy," Cloud Dancing did not want to involve her. "You must not."

Dorothy desperately searched the faces of the crowd for help.

Jake stepped forward, "Why'd ya bring in Cloud Dancin'?"

"Found him out huntin' with this," Bittancourt pointed to an axe on his saddle.

"So?" Jake put his hands on his hips.

"We heard that Willie Robinson had an axe like it, an' it was missin'," came the reply.

"How'd ya know that?" Matthew spoke up.

"My neighbor told me," Bittancourt replied.

"Who's your neighbor?" Hank joined in.

"John Norton," the stranger answered.

"What makes ya think this axe is the one that's missin'?" Hank folded his arms.

"It's Robinson's all right," John Norton suddenly appeared through the crowd.

As the mob began to shout angrily for the jailing of Cloud Dancing, Sully stood in disbelief. His friend was being railroaded, and he felt helpless. He knelt down again to the Cheyenne medicine man.

"I'm gonna get ya out o' this, Cloud Dancin'," he pledged.

"Sully," he shook his head. "It will mean great danger to you and your family. It is best that you do not involve yourself."

Matthew leaned down, "I'll represent ya, Cloud Dancin'."

"Matthew," Cloud Dancing closed his eyes. "Do you think there will be a trial?"

"Yes," the young man asserted. "And I'll see that it's fair."

Brian worked his way through the mob and ran to his family, "Pa! What's happened?"

Sully put his hand on his son's shoulder, "Cloud Dancin's bein' arrested for murder."

"What?" Brian could not believe it. "He wouldn't murder anyone!"

"That's what we're gonna prove, little brother," Matthew replied.

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

When Sully and Brian arrived home, they filled in Michaela on the disturbing events of the day. Matthew decided to stay in town to ensure Cloud Dancing's safety. Michaela insisted on going to check their friend's condition, but Sully assured her that he had been tended to.

With their family in bed, Michaela and Sully retired to their room. When he removed his shirt, Michaela noticed the bruise on his stomach.

"Sully!" she was alarmed. "What's this?"

"Nothin'," he took her hands.

"No, it's not," she touched the area. "What happened to you?"

"Got int' a little scuffle," he said.

"Come over here, and lie down," she went to the bed. "I want to examine you."

He knew that he would not win this argument, so he complied. Michaela pressed different areas around his stomach.

"Nothing's broken," she assessed his condition. "I'll give you something for the pain."

Sully pulled her back, "Michaela, I'm all right. Ya don't need t' go fussin'."

"Doctor's orders," she left the room.

Sully stood up and walked down the hall to Katie's room. The sleeping child was wheezing. He felt her forehead. Warm again. Then he heard Michaela coming up the steps.

"She's warm," he whispered as she passed the door.

"Here, drink this," she handed him the tea and went to Katie's crib. Bending down, she felt their daughter, "She has a slight fever. This may be another restless night for her."

"I thought she was better," he sipped the tea.

"Symptoms of the croup often lessen during the day, only to return at night," she answered. "The kettle's still in our room in case we need to bring her in again. Come," she took his hand. "Let's let her sleep while she can."

They quietly left the nursery and returned to their room.

"Is the tea helping?" Michaela guided Sully to sit on the bed.

"I feel fine," he smiled.

Michaela removed her robe, "Do you know what your daughter told me today when I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up?"

"What?" Sully pulled her closer and positioned her between his legs.

"Like Papa," Michaela turned up the corner of her mouth.

"She wants t' be like me?" he was surprised.

"Yes," she nodded and ran her fingers through his hair.

"Why?" he raised his hands to stroke her abdomen.

"Because you help people," she answered.

Sully leaned over and kissed her belly, "Baby bother ya much t'day?"

"No," she smiled. "He was most cooperative. We had a very restful time."

"Don't ya mean 'she' was cooperative?" Sully teased.

"He," Michaela repeated. "You have your little girl. I'd like my little boy."

Sully stood up and kissed her, "I'd better put some more logs on the fire in case Katie needs the kettle again."

"Good," she nodded.

Climbing into bed, Michaela fluffed her husband's pillows. Soon he joined her and they slid close. Wrapping her in his arms, Sully was silent.

Sensing his reason, Michaela looked at him, " We'll find a way to prove his innocence, Sully."

"I know," he softly replied. "But it ain't gonna be easy."

"I do hope that Katie grows up to be like you," Michaela kissed him.

Katie's crouping cough broke the quiet of the house.

"I'll get her," Sully rose from the bed. "Guess it's gonna be a long night."

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

Sully came down to breakfast, having left Michaela and Katie still sleeping following a restless night for the little girl. Brian was already up and sitting at the table writing.

Sully poured himself some coffee, "Thanks for fixin' this. What ya writin'?"

"An article about Cloud Dancin'," the young man responded. "Is Katie all right?"

"We got her t' sleep real late," he answered. "Your Ma thinks she's turned the corner now, an' should be doin' better in a day or two."

"That's good," Brian returned to his writing.

"Mind if I look at what ya wrote?" Sully pointed to the paper.

"Sure," Brian offered.

Sully read silently, then set the papers down.

Placing his hand on his son's shoulder, he smiled, "That's real good, Brian."

"Do ya think it'll help?" he asked.

"Hard t' say," Sully shook his head. "But you're puttin' the truth out there for folks t' read, an' that's important. I'm proud o' ya."

Brian's face lit up, "Thanks."

At that moment, Matthew entered the homestead.

"Somethin' wrong?" Sully suspected.

Matthew removed his hat, "They got a statement from an eyewitness."

"What?" Sully was incredulous. "Who?"

"An Indian who claimed t' be with Cloud Dancin' an' saw him kill Robinson," Matthew sat down.

"That's impossible," Sully ran his hand across his chin. "Who is this Indian? How'd they find him?"

"His name's Runnin' Horse," Matthew answered. "A prosecutor came from Denver this mornin' with his statement."

"Cheyenne?" Sully wondered about the witness's tribe.

"I think so," Matthew nodded. "I haven't seen the statement yet."

"This is bad," Brian wrote down what his brother had told them.

"I'll be gettin' back t' town now," Matthew said. "I wanna see what I can find out about this statement."

"Can I come with ya, Matthew?" Brian stood.

"Sure, little brother," he replied.

"I'll be in later," Sully told his sons. "I wanna tell your Ma what's happened."

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

"Michaela," Sully whispered. "Sorry t' wake ya, but I need t' tell ya somethin'."

"What?" she woke and quickly touched Katie.

"Step int' the hall with me," he helped her up.

"Sully," she saw the concern in his eyes. "What is it? What's happened?"

"It's more bad news about Cloud Dancin'," he held her shoulders. "They found a witness who claims he saw him kill Robinson."

"That's impossible," she declared.

"I had the same reaction," he agreed. "Matthew's tryin' t' find out more about him, an' I'm goin' int' town t' talk with Cloud Dancin'."

She turned to look back at their sleeping daughter, "I know that Dorothy must be in agony over this."

He gently pulled her chin back to look at him, "She'll understand that ya can't be there right now 'cause o' Katie. I'm leavin' now."

"Where's Brian?" she asked.

"Went with Matthew back t' town," Sully responded. "Ya oughta see what he's written about all this. It's real good."

She sighed, "I feel so helpless."

He caressed her cheek. "You're needed here at the moment. Your time t' help Cloud Dancin' will come."

"Please tell him...." she could not think what to say.

"I'll tell him how much ya believe in him," Sully smiled.

"Thank you," she hugged him.

"Any nausea this mornin'?" he rubbed her abdomen.

"No," she placed her hand on his. "I think he senses that his mother needs to take care of his big sister right now."

"That's how I know it's a girl," he raised his eyebrow. "My little girl knows when her Ma needs her t' be good. A boy would be too ornery."

"Not my little boy," she patted his arm.

"I love ya," he kissed her.

"I love you, too," she hugged him. "Be careful."

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

"Cloud Dancin'," Sully stood at the jail cell to speak with his Cheyenne brother. "Do ya know this Runnin' Horse?"

"Yes," he answered. "He was a Dog Soldier."

"He got any reason t' wanna see you blamed for this?" Sully grasped the bars.

"I cannot read what is in his heart," Cloud Dancing said.

Matthew came into the sheriff's office, "I got it. A copy o' the statement." Then he began to read excerpts aloud, "Runnin' Horse said he went with Cloud Dancin' t' Robinson's cabin. Robinson was cookin' food, an' Cloud Dancin' sat down by the fire. Speakin' in Cheyenne, Cloud Dancin' told him that if he shoots Robinson, look through his things. Then Runnin' Horse said he was afraid an' left the cabin, but he came back when he heard a shot. He saw Robinson lyin' on the floor dead, blood runnin' from his nose an' back."

"An' that's how he was found," Sully found it interesting.

Matthew continued. "Then he says Cloud Dancin' told him t' get Robinson's things, but Runnin' Horse refused. Cloud Dancin' took his axe, gun, saw, auger, coat, an' a box. He locked the door o' the cabin an' threw the key in a stream."

Sully exhaled, "Where's Runnin' Horse now?"

"I don't know," Matthew answered.

"Maybe I can find out," Sully thought out loud.

Dorothy entered the jail as his words were spoken, "Find out what?"

"Find out where the Indian is who claims he was with Cloud Dancin' when Robinson was killed," Sully turned to her.

"No need lookin'," she set down a tray of food. "I just heard he's disappeared. Story is that his life was threatened."

"If we can prove Cloud Dancin' wasn't anywhere near the scene o' the crime when Robinson was murdered...." Matthew turned to the Indian.

"I cannot prove where I was," he looked down. "I was in the woods, alone."

"Then we gotta prove that the axe was planted in Cloud Dancin's belongin's an' that Runnin' Horse was lyin'," Sully walked to the door. "Where's the axe now?"

"Locked up in Preston's safe," Dorothy answered.

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

"I cannot let you have a piece of evidence in a criminal investigation that has been l....," Preston suddenly found his coat lapels in Sully's grasp.

"I ain't here t' take it," the mountain man said through clinched teeth. "I only wanna look at it."

"I still can't just...." Preston swallowed hard as Sully's eyes glared.

"Ya gonna cooperate, or do I have t' make things real uncomfortable for ya?" Sully was not leaving.

"Release me at once, or else," the banker demanded.

"Or else what?" Sully tilted his head.

"Or else I'll call for help," Preston was having trouble breathing.

"Ya can't call for help if you're unconscious," Sully warned.

"Are you threatening me?" Preston persisted.

"Humm," Sully pretended to think about it. "Yea, I reckon I am."

"What a woman like Michaela sees in a barbaric ruffian like you is beyond me. And her persistent efforts to have your child defy any civilized logic. Perpetrating your seed on...." Preston suddenly felt Sully's fist in his stomach.

Falling to the floor, Preston held his side, "I'll see that you're put in jail."

"Open the safe," Sully commanded.

Preston remained motionless.

"NOW!" Sully had no more patience.

Preston struggled to his feet and complied. He handed Sully the axe and sat down to catch his breath. Sully examined it carefully, particularly the handle. Then he placed it back on the shelf in the safe.

Turning to Preston, his angry eyes intimated, "An' if ya ever say anythin' about my wife or my children again, I'll see to it that talkin' at all becomes real hard for ya."

"You haven't heard the last of this," Preston shook his fist.

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

It was early evening when Sully and the boys returned. Michaela had dinner ready for them and sat listening to the developments in town in disbelief. Katie had experienced a good day, but after dinner, her cough returned.

Sully pulled Matthew aside in the living room, "I wanna take Katie an' your Ma someplace t'night that might help her breathin'. Will you an' Brian be all right?"

"'Course we will, Sully," Matthew smiled. "Where ya goin'?"

"To a hot spring that gives off a lot o' steam," Sully answered. "That oughta give Katie a better night's sleep."

"You go ahead," Matthew patted his shoulder.

"We'll be back t'morrow mornin'," the mountain man smiled.

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

"Sully," Michaela held a bundled Katie on her lap as they traveled along. "Where are you taking us?"

"You'll see," he stopped the wagon and helped them down.

He led them through a grove of trees, and by the glow of the moon, they saw the steam pouring up through the bubbling water. Sully built a fire and lifted their belongings from the back of the wagon.

Next he lifted his coughing daughter into his arms, "Come here, Kates."

He removed the child's blankets and nightgown. Taking off his own shirt, shoes and socks, he slipped into the warm water with her.

"We schwim?" Katie asked.

"Nope," he grinned. "We sit."

"Mama comin' in?" she looked up.

"I'll watch," Michaela sat on some rocks at the edge of the water. "Don't get her hair wet, Sully."

He gently rocked Katie, and the child relaxed in his arms. Her croup dissipated as she hugged his neck.

"I feel better, Papa," her face lit up. "We schwim now?"

"No, Kates," he patted her back. "Ya need t' get some rest."

He handed her up to Michaela who dried her and changed the child into dry clothing. Wrapping her in blankets, Michaela tenderly began to rock the little girl.

Sully stood up from the pool and wrapped a blanket around himself. Sitting beside them, he stroked Katie's head. Soon the little girl was asleep. Sully prepared a comfortable area for her, close to the warm steaming spring. Both parents sat holding hands and watching their child breath more comfortably as she lay there.

"This was a good idea," Michaela leaned her head against him. Feeling his shivers, she turned quickly, "Sully! You're cold."

"I know how t' warm up," he grinned.

"Sit closer to the fire?" Michaela did not pick up on his intentions.

He looked toward the spring, "It's real warm in there."

"You want to get back into the spring?" she still was clueless.

"Not by myself," he let the blanket fall from his waist.

Sully stood and undid his buckskins. Removing them, he walked back to the bubbling water. Blushing at her thoughts, Michaela felt flush at the sight of him.

Sully sat down in warm pool and extended his hand, "Care t' join me?"

"Oh, my," she grew warmer. "I believe I would."

She undressed, put her hair up and carefully descended into the warm liquid to Sully's waiting arms. He caressed and tenderly kissed her.

"Ya feelin' amorous t'night?" he spoke low.

"I certainly am now," she brushed her lips across his ear.

He raised his head to the sky, "Look at the stars t'night, Michaela."

She tilted her head, "Like a million eyes watching over us."

He held her chin and gazed straight into her eyes, reciting:

"The stars of midnight shall be dear
To her; and she shall lean her ear
In many a secret place
Where rivulets dance their wayward round,
And beauty born of murmuring sound
Shall pass into her face."

"Keats?" she stroked his face with her moist hands.

"Wordsworth," he turned to kiss her palm.

Taking the initiative, Michaela began to arouse her husband to the point that every nerve in his body tingled. He in turn touched the places on her body that stirred unimaginable delight. Sully derived further pleasure in exploring the changes in her shape that the pregnancy was bringing. Through his touches and kisses, he communicated that pleasure to her. They carried their heightened desires to an intensely pleasing conclusion.

He lifted her onto a blanket, and they began to dry one another. Slipping into fresh clothes, they bundled up and positioned Katie between them. Soon they fell blissfully asleep, warmed by the misty air, but unaware of events that were unfolding at their homestead.

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

Matthew thought he heard Wolf growl. Rising from his bed, he pulled on some pants and started down the steps. A sharp pain in his head caused him to tumble to the floor unconscious. The assailants then turned to go up the steps.

************
Chapter 7
************

Katie's giggling woke up her parents. On either side of the child, Michaela and Sully opened their eyes.

"What ya laughin' at, Kates?" Sully lifted up to his elbow and touched her nose.

"Bunnies playin'," she pointed.

Michaela glanced toward the hares and quickly realized that they were not playing. They were mating.

"Ah... Katie, would you like some breakfast?" Michaela reached for their belongings.

"Wanna watch bunnies," she laughed again.

"It won't hurt her t' watch," he rubbed the child's back.

"But Sully, do you realize what they're doing?" she lowered her voice.

He winked, "I realize."

The rabbits concluded their business, and Katie turned to her father, "We go schwimmin' again, Papa?"

"Not today, sweet girl," he pulled her into his arms and kissed her cheek. "We gotta get home."

Katie's lip turned down in a frown. She began to pout and crawled out of his lap.

"Oh, no, Michaela," Sully pretended to be frightened. "Look who's got our Katie."

Michaela played along, "Who could it be?"

"It's the Mean Lip Man!" Sully touched Katie's mouth. "Look what he's done. He's grabbed her lip right here."

Katie immediately snapped out of her snit, "Papa, my lip back now?"

He leaned down to take a closer look, "Whew! Yep, ya chased him off, Kates."

"Whew," she imitated his voice.

Sully and Michaela burst into laughter.

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

At the homestead, Matthew awoke from his painful ordeal, still lying at the bottom of the steps. He sat up, groggy. He rubbed the sore spot on his head.

Fearing that the same fate may have befallen his brother, he called, "Brian!"

There was no response. Matthew ran up the steps.

***********

When the wagon pulled up, Matthew ran out to his parents.

"Ma!" he helped his mother down. "Come quick! It's Brian!"

"What's wrong with him?" she lifted the hem of her dress slightly to move more quickly.

Sully took Katie into his arms and hurried into the homestead behind them. Brian was lying in his bed, beaten and bruised. Michaela ran to the boy and began to examine his injuries.

"Ma," Brian tried to smile.

"I'm here," her touch reassured him. "Just lie still."

"I put Katie in the nursery," Sully rushed in. Seeing his younger son, he stopped cold, "Brian!" He knelt at the bedside, "Michaela?"

"Two broken ribs," she continued to assess his condition. "Concussion. I'll need to stitch his lip."

"Matthew," Sully stood. "Are you all right?"

"Just a bump on the head," he rubbed it. "They got int' the house late last night. It was too dark t' see who they were."

"Didn't Wolf do anything?" Michaela asked.

"They locked him in the barn," Matthew answered.

"Was anything taken?" she began to clean and stitch Brian's mouth.

"Not that I know of, but ya gotta see somethin'," he left the room.

When he returned, he held up Brian's writings about Cloud Dancing. There was a tear in the middle of the pages.

"I found Brian's papers on the kitchen table, with this stuck int' them," Matthew held up a hatchet.

"Looks like a tomahawk used by the Cheyenne," Sully took it from him.

"But there's no Cheyenne around here anymore," Michaela stroked Brian's forehead.

"That we know of," Matthew asserted.

"Maybe someone wants us t' think it's from the Cheyenne," Sully speculated. He knelt down beside his younger son, "I'm sorry we weren't here for ya, Brian."

He touched Sully's arm, "Don't be sorry, Pa. It wasn't your fault. How's Katie doin'?"

"She wants t' see her big brothers," Sully smiled.

"I'll go get her," Matthew offered.

When Matthew carried the little girl in, she spotted Brian.

"Bran!" her eyes opened wide. "Ya fall down, or somethin'?"

"I got hurt, Katie," he reached out to touch her hand.

"Mama make ya better," she informed him.

"I know," he grinned. "Ouch!" he touched his sore mouth.

"Papa!" Katie quickly turned to him. "Mean Lip Man got Bran!"

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

Later that afternoon, the family gathered at the kitchen table.

"I gotta tell ya," Matthew ran his hand through his blonde hair. "I don't know what t' do next, an' the trial starts t'morrow."

Sully put his hand on his son's shoulder, "We'll think o' somethin'."

"I've been over Robinson's autopsy repeatedly in my mind," Michaela shook her head. "I can think of nothing that might exonerate Cloud Dancing."

"What if we could find the other missin' things?" Sully pondered. "The gun, the chest...."

"The prosecutor's got men searchin' already," Matthew shook his head.

"Then I gotta find this Runnin' Horse," Sully avowed. "Get him t' tell what really happened."

There was a knock at the homestead door, and Sully went to open it. A man wearing a business suit removed his hat.

"Are you Byron Sully?" the stranger inquired.

"I am," Sully nodded. "Who are...."

"This is for you," he handed the mountain man a folded piece of paper. "Good day."

Sully opened it and began to read.

Matthew looked over his shoulder, "Restrainin' order?"

Sully quickly wadded the paper, walked into the kitchen and threw it into the fire.

"Why were you served a restraining order?" Michaela put her hand on his arm.

"Just Preston bein' an ....," Sully clenched his teeth.

"He got a reason t' not want ya near?" Matthew fished for an explanation.

"Ya could say that," Sully did not wish to further elaborate. "Michaela," he rubbed her back, "Let's go through the autopsy again."

She sat at the table, "Well, the deceased suffered a back wound about two inches lower than the front bullet hole...."

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

The prosecutor looked at Michaela and then toward the jury, "What does that mean, Dr. Quinn? A back wound higher than the front."

"One could conclude, Mr. Shannon, that the shooter was sitting or in a low position," she replied.

The church, temporarily converted to a court room, was filled with the curious and the anxious, those interested in seeing that justice was served, and those hopeful that an Indian be convicted. Sully sat behind Cloud Dancing, but positioned himself to surveying the scene.

Prosecutor Albert Shannon returned to his questioning of Michaela, "Continue, Doctor."

"The back wound caused his vest to split open," she went on. "The bullet penetrated close to the spine, and a little below the shoulder blades. The impact of the shot appeared to have thrown Mr. Robinson back onto the floor toward the fireplace."

"I have no further questions of this witness, Your Honor," Shannon sat down.

Matthew rose to his feet, "Dr. Quinn, is it unusual for a gunshot originatin' from the back t' cause the victim t' also fall backward?"

"Objection, your honor," Shannon shouted. "This calls for conjecture on the part of the witness."

"Sir," Matthew spoke up. "Mr. Shannon asked Dr. Quinn to speculate on what a low back wound/high front wound meant. She's performed numerous autopsies. She's familiar enough with the human anatomy t' offer an educated opinion about this."

"I'll overrule the objection," Judge Henry Ackley, a graying, bearded and overweight jurist asserted. "Proceed, Mr. Cooper."

"Thank you, Hour Honor," Matthew felt a small victory. "So Dr. Quinn, is it unusual?"

"I would say that it is highly unusual," she replied. "A more likely result of a shot from the back would be that Mr. Robinson would fall forward onto the table."

"And how was the body positioned on the floor when you saw him?" Matthew resumed his questioning.

"When I entered the cabin, I found the deceased lying on his back in a pool of blood," she recounted.

"What about the bullet holes themselves?" Matthew referred to his notes.

"My autopsy revealed that the bullet entered Mr. Robinson's back and struck no bone as it passed through his body," she noted. "The front wound had practically closed.."

"Closed?" Matthew quickly glanced up.

"Yes," she nodded.

"Your Honor," Matthew turned to the judge. "For the record, I wish it to be noted that the deceased's clothing was buried with him and is not available for us to examine."

"So noted, Counselor," Ackley nodded. "Proceed."

"In your expert opinion," Matthew looked at this mother. "How long had the victim been dead?"

"I believe one week," she glanced at the jury.

"Can you add anything t' your testimony about the position of the victim's body on the floor?" Matthew asked.

She considered the question. "Apparently, he had been sitting on a box while eating. There was a fork in his left hand and food on the table."

"Were there any other eatin' utensils nearby?" he probed.

"None that I observed," Michaela answered.

"No further questions of the witness at this time," Matthew stated.

"You may step down, Dr. Quinn. Call your next witness, Mr. Shannon," Ackley jotted down something in his notes.

Michaela walked to her husband and sat down.

"How ya feelin'?" he placed his hand on hers.

"Fine," she meant it. "Matthew's quite good, don't you think?"

He smiled, "Sure is."

Shannon's voice was heard, "The prosecution calls Hank Lawson."

Hank was sworn in and took his place on the witness chair.

"Mr. Lawson," Shannon placed his hands in his vest pockets. "Would you tell us in what capacity you were at the cabin the night Mr. Robinson's body was discovered."

"In my capacity as an interested citizen," Hank replied smartly.

"And what did you find on the floor of the deceased's cabin?" the lawyer inquired.

"Found a bullet," Hank answered simply.

"Your Honor," Shannon held up the ball. "People's Exhibit Number 1. A lead ball found by Mr. Lawson in the Robinson cabin."

"So labeled," the judge nodded.

"Mr. Lawson, where exactly did you find this bullet?" the prosecutor continued.

"Found it over by the wall opposite the fireplace," Hank told him. "Looked like it struck the log edgewise about a foot above the table."

"Thank you, Mr. Lawson," Shannon sat. "No further questions."

Matthew cleared his throat, "Mr. Lawson, if the murderer was sittin' down an' shot Mr. Robinson in the back, an' the bullet, without striking any bones, exited his chest, wouldn't it strike the wall in a straight line, an' not at an angle edgewise?"

"Objection, Your Honor," Shannon shouted. "Mr. Lawson is not an expert on bullet angles."

"I'm an expert on all sorts o' angles," Hank grinned.

"I withdraw the question, your honor," Matthew smiled. "No further question at this time."

"The court will take a fifteen minute recess," Ackley pounded his gavel.


************
Chapter 8
************

In the afternoon session, the prosecution attempted to introduce the statement given by Running Horse against Cloud Dancing. Matthew's objection that it was impossible for the defense counsel to have the opportunity to cross-examine a missing witness, prompted Judge Ackley to recess for the remainder of the day in order to consider the young lawyer's arguments.

Cloud Dancing was carted back to the jail, with Matthew accompanying him. Sully and Michaela lingered in the church after all others had departed.

"We'll find a way, Sully," Michaela tried to reassure him.

"Somethin' ya said in your testimony t'day got me thinkin'," he looked out the window.

"What?" she was uncertain.

"Ain't sure yet," he shook his head. "I'll tell ya when I figure it out."

"Perhaps I can help you," she patted his hand.

"Can't help me when I got no idea what exactly it is," he grinned. Sully stood up and helped his wife rise, "Let's get home an' check on the kids."

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

Katie's croup was much improved, reminding Michaela of the remarkable recuperative powers of children. Brian's injuries still necessitated his staying home, but he, too, was on the mend. Matthew joined the family for dinner, but shied away from conversation.

Michaela touched her older son's hand, "Matthew, I'm very proud of you. You're doing a marvelous job."

He exhaled heavily, "All I'm doin' is stallin' for time, Ma. I don't have a clue what t' do next."

Katie spoke up, "I good giwl t'day."

Smiles crossed their faces.

"I know you were a good girl, Sweetheart," Michaela turned to her. "Brian said you helped him."

"I help," she nodded. "Bran need me."

Sully touched her nose, "We all need ya, Kates."

"I know," the child shook her head. "I busy giwl."

They laughed. Seeing that his daughter had completed her meal, Sully stood, wiped her hands and lifted her from her high chair. He kissed her cheek and began to stroke her back.

"Excuse us," he said to the family as he strolled over to the fireplace and sat down with her.

Michaela smiled as she watched him carry her. She knew that his heart was heavy with worry over Cloud Dancing, yet she also understood that their daughter was the best medicine for his ache.

Holding Katie on his lap, as he contemplated his friend's situation, helped Sully see things more clearly. Her simple and unconditional love filled his heart. There was a time in his life when solitude, found in the quiet of Nature, was his only respite from the burdens of life. Since becoming a father, however, he found in the company of his child a peace and perspective that he sometimes needed. Stroking her tiny hands, he sighed.

"What we doin', Papa?" Katie wondered.

"Just thinkin'," he gently kissed the top of her hair.

"What that?" Katie played with his shirt button.

"Thinkin's when ya wonder what t' do next," he smiled.

"Next we go t' bed," she answered.

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

Sully lay in bed as Michaela concluded her letter to her mother. When she turned toward her husband, she could not help but be stirred by the sight of him. Walking to the bed, she rested her hand on the bedpost. His eyes were closed and his breathing steady. He's finally asleep, she smiled to herself.

She quietly joined him, but the moment the bed moved, his eyes opened.

"I thought you were asleep," she snuggled next to him.

"Can't sleep 'til you're beside me," he spoke low.

Sully lowered his hand to her abdomen, "How's the baby treatin' ya?"

"He's behaving well," she smiled.

Sully silently played with a lock of her hair, "Michaela, I gotta tell ya somethin'"

"What is it?" she gazed into his eyes.

He began, "The night the boys were attacked... whoever did it stole the watch ya got me for our anniversary."

"Oh, Sully," her heart sank. But sensing his disappointment, she smiled slightly, "I'll get you another one. Things can be replaced. Our boys can't."

"I know," his voice trailed off.

She patted his chest, "Matthew thinks the prosecution will conclude its case tomorrow."

His voice was hushed, "Don't leave much time t' figure things out."

"We have to believe that justice will prevail," she tried to sound hopeful.

"You an' me both know that don't always happen," he rubbed her arm.

"Sully, if they find Cloud Dancing guilty...." she was thinking ahead.

He raised his finger to touch her lips, "We'll find a way."

"But what if...." she worried how he might react.

"I ain't gonna do anythin' that might separate us again," he assured her.

They fell silent. Then he felt Michaela suddenly jump.

"What's wrong?" he pulled back.

"I just felt something," her voice was excited.

"What?" Sully placed his hand on her belly.

They both waited for another sign of life. It came again, another faint fluttering movement. Both looked at each other in awe.

Sully could not contain his glee, "Feels pretty active."

"He is," she raised her eyebrow.

Sully pulled her closer, "I reckon ya best be gettin' some sleep."

"You're not tired?" she tried to gauge his mood.

He did not respond.

"Sully?" she turned more fully toward him.

Running her finger along the outline of his face, she could see that he was deep in thought.

"I love you," she spoke from her heart.

He looked down at her and kissed her temple, "I love you, too, Michaela."

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

The next morning, Michaela turned on her side to find Sully gone. She sat up. There he stood, looking out the window.

She spoke low, "Are you all right? Did you get any sleep last night?"

"Got all I needed," he came to her and sat on the edge of the bed.

She ran her hand up and down his arm, "Are you certain?"

"Yep," he bowed down to kiss her cheek.

Then he leaned his forehead against her's. They sat like that for several minutes.

"Sully?" she lifted his chin.

"Humm?" he responded.

"Do you remember your telling me to call upon you when I felt certain... needs?" she ran her hand down his chest.

"Sure," he smiled. "Ya feelin' amorous this mornin'?"

"See what I mean?" she chuckled. "I can neither explain, nor predict this feeling."

"No need t' explain," he winked. "An' I like bein' unpredictable."

"But...." she was interrupted by a kiss from him. "Sully," her desire for him was instantly triggered.

"I'm always happy t' oblige ya," he stroked her back.

"I am concerned, however," she was melting.

He pulled back quickly, "What? Is it the baby?"

"No," she ran her fingers through his hair. "It's my figure."

"Nothin' wrong with your figure," he returned to his light kisses.

"I mean that it will soon become difficult to...." she was feeling embarrassed.

"T' do this?" he began to unbutton her nightgown.

"No, that's not what I'm talking about," her blood raced at his touches.

Sully slid the nightgown from her shoulders and gently guided her back onto the bed, "T' do this?"

"No, it's not this that concerns me," she stroked the hair on his chest.

He continued to caress and kiss her in ways that she found incredibly gratifying. Then he stopped.

"Your figure's beautiful," he ran his hand lightly along her waist. "The way it's curvin' here."

He leaned down to kiss her.

"But I'll become bigger, Sully," she held his face between her hands. "It will soon be awkward for us to...."

"Michaela," he put his index fingers to her lips. "We don't have t'...."

Now she put her finger to his lips, "I want us to. It is so incredibly...."

"Agreeable?" he smiled, recalling her description of their intimacy.

"Most agreeable," she amended. "And I need you so much."

"Do ya wanna talk right now?" the feel of her was arousing him.

"Now that you mention it," she pulled him closer. "I don't want to talk at the moment."

They allowed their bodies to take over, and the results were unimaginably delightful. Giving and receiving of each other's love, sharing their innermost essences. Finally, their pulses returned to a more normal speed.

"Sully," she suddenly felt shy. "That was... rather different."

"I know," he raised an eyebrow. "Thought we might try a little somethin' different, allowin' for your changin' figure."

"I must say, I certainly enjoyed your experiment," she blushed.

He smiled at her flushed cheeks, "I'm glad."

Then she felt him leave her. Physically, he was still there, engulfing her in his arms, but his mind had turned from her. It was his concern for his Cheyenne brother, she knew. If only she could think of something that would shoot down the prosecution's case.

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

Judge Ackley convened the court with his gavel, "Both counselors approach the bench."

Matthew took a deep breath and walked up to the jurist in anticipation of his ruling on the admissibility of Running Horse's statement. This could make or sink his case.

************
Chapter 9
************

Judge Ackley leaned forward toward the two lawyers and rested his elbows on the table, "I have decided to permit the statement of Running Horse to be admitted into the record of the trial, and will allow the statement to be read to the jury at this time."

From Matthew's lowered his head, Michaela and Sully surmised the judge's decision. The judge then explained the circumstances of the Indian's testimony and disappearance to the jury. He instructed them to consider the fact that Running Horse was not present to answer questions.

As the statement was read, Sully, Michaela and Matthew attempted to read the jury's expressions. Matthew's heart sank. He knew the impact an eyewitness account would have, even an eyewitness who was not in the courtroom.

The prosecution paraded John Norton before the court and introduced his testimony about the missing items from Robinson's cabin. Then Prosecutor Shannon produced the missing axe, found in Cloud Dancing's belongings.

Finally, the prosecution rested its case. It was Matthew's turn. Rising to his feet, he called forward Cloud Dancing to testify. Suddenly, Sully bolted for the door. Michaela knew she could not catch up with him to ask where he was going, but she hoped that he had thought of something that might help their friend.

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

John Norton stopped at the sound of someone's calling his name, "What do ya want?"

"Wanna talk with ya 'bout the Robinson murder," Sully eyed him sternly.

"I said all I had t' say in court," the man replied.

"Ya can answer a question for me," Sully persisted.

"What?" Norton was curious.

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

Matthew concluded his questioning of the Cheyenne medicine man, and it was Shannon's turn. Sully returned to the courtroom and took the opportunity to pull Matthew aside. After their consultation, he headed for the telegraph office.

Matthew cleared his throat, "Your Honor, the defense would like to request a short recess for the purpose of investigating some new evidence in the case."

Ackley looked at his pocket watch, "It is approaching the lunch hour." With a pounding of his gavel, he asserted, "Court's adjourned until 2 p.m."

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

Sully approached Estalon Bittancourt, "Wanna word with ya."

"What?" the graying man blew cigar smoke into Sully's eyes.

"Outside," Sully pulled him from his chair at The Gold Nugget. Shoving him into the street, Sully came to the point, "Do ya know who's takin' over Robinson's land now that he's dead? Oh, an' if ya decide not t' tell me the truth, I'm waitin' for a telegram from Denver that'll give me the answer."

"Me an' my brother are takin' over his land," Bittancourt opted to tell the truth. "What of it?"

"The way I see it, that gives ya motive for murder," Sully's steel gaze shook the man.

"Don't prove nothin'," Bittancourt retorted.

"An' the only man who knows what was taken from Robinson's cabin is workin' for you," Sully added.

"Who are you talkin' about?" the man was starting to feel trapped.

"John Norton," Sully stated. "He works for you. I found out you own the land he farms."

"Ya still got nothin'," he turned to walk away.

Sully put his hand on the man's shoulder and turned him back. As he did so, something fell from Bittancourt's pocket. It was a watch. Sully's watch.

"Well, look here," Sully bent down to pick it up.

As he did so, Bittancourt kicked him and bolted for his horse. Sully jumped up and ran after him. In the middle of Colorado Springs' busiest street, the two men began punching and kicking each other. Bittancourt was no match for the mountain man, and Sully soon had the upper hand.

Striking him with all of his might, Sully raged, "That's for what ya did t' my sons."

Then he felt himself being dragged off the thief.

Hank held Sully's arms, "Wish you'd let me know when you're gonna fight, Sully. I'd like t' make some money wagerin' on the winner."

"Help me get him t' the church," Sully stood up and wiped blood from the side of his mouth.

Sully reentered the courtroom and shoved Bittancourt into a chair just as the court reconvened. Hank stood nearby to insure the man's continued presence. Then Sully approached Matthew. In hushed tones, he communicated with his older son. When their conversation concluded, Sully sat down beside Michaela. Before she could inquire about his disheveled appearance, Matthew spoke up.

"Your Honor," Matthew smiled. "It has come to my attention that some of the evidence presented against my client is not valid. I would like to call Mr. Estalon Bittancourt to the stand."

When Michaela saw Bittancourt's bruised face, she leaned toward her husband, "Were you fighting with him?"

He was silent.

"Sully," she persisted.

"Michaela, some things it's best ya don't know," he simply stated. Then he smiled and held up his watch, "I got this back."

"Mr. Bittancourt, would ya tell the court how ya know the deceased?" Matthew began.

"He...." the witness hesitated.

"The witness will answer the question," Judge Ackley looked at the man.

"He was my neighbor," Bittancourt replied.

"And did ya wish t' purchase his land?" Matthew asked.

"Yea," the man shot an angry glance toward Sully.

"What was Mr. Robinson's reply when ya asked him t' sell his land?" the young lawyer queried.

"He told me he didn't wanna sell," the graying man looked down.

"Is there as specific reason why ya wanted t' buy his land?" Matthew continued.

Bittancourt did not answer.

"Could it be that there was gold on the land?" Matthew punctuated his question.

"Yea," Bittancourt's voice was nearly inaudible.

"I'm sorry, I didn't hear ya," Matthew leaned closer.

"I said yea," the witness answered.

"And now that Mr. Robinson is dead, who gets his land?" Matthew folded his arms across his chest.

"Me an' my brother bought it," Bittancourt replied.

"No further questions of this witness, Your Honor, but I do wish to add that Mr. Bittancourt has recently confessed to entering my family's homestead a few nights ago, beatin' by brother an' me, an' stealin' our Pa's watch," Matthew raised an eyebrow.

Shannon shot to his feet, "Objection, Your Honor! Any such confession is not pertinent to this case."

"Oh, it's very pertinent," Matthew angrily spoke up. "He nearly killed my brother, an' it was all designed t' scare us off from helpin' Cloud Dancin'."

"Counsel offers no proof of that, Your Honor," Shannon put his hands on his hips.

Ackley pounded his gavel, "Order in the Court. We'll deal with this so-called admission later, gentlemen. Mr. Shannon, do you wish to cross-examine Mr. Bittancourt?"

"No, sir," the prosecutor replied.

Turning to Matthew, the Judge instructed, "Call your next witness, Counselor."

"The defense recalls John Norton," Matthew stated.

************
Chapter 10
************

"Mr. Norton," Matthew began his questioning. "On the night the body of Willie Robinson was discovered, ya told several folks at the scene that ya saw some Indians fishin' near his cabin about the time he was killed. Is that correct?"

"Yea, I said that," he felt uncomfortable.

"But ya couldn't identify their tribe, right?" Matthew was setting him up.

"Yea," he nodded.

"Do ya recall why ya said ya couldn't identify their tribe?" the young lawyer questioned.

Norton hesitated.

"Do ya recall, Mr. Norton?" Matthew went on. "I can call several witnesses who heard what ya said, if ya don't remember."

"I said 'cause all Injuns look alike," his response sent a buzz through the courtroom.

Judge Ackley pounded his gavel for quiet.

"So if all Indians look alike, it would be pretty difficult t' tell Cloud Dancin' from any Indians that ya saw fishin', correct?" Matthew persisted.

"Maybe," the farmer was noncommittal.

"Yes or no, Mr. Norton," Matthew was invigorated. "Could ya identify Cloud Dancin' as one o' the Indians ya saw fishin'?"

"No," Norton acquiesced.

"And, Mr. Norton, did ya tell Mr. Byron Sully that the place where ya saw the Indians fishin' was Bluff's Creek?" Matthew asked.

"Yea," he nearly mumbled.

"Could ya tell the court about how far away Bluff's Creek is from Mr. Robinson's cabin?" Matthew leaned closer.

"Couple miles," he responded.

"A couple o' miles?" Matthew pretended to be shocked. "That's hardly near his cabin then." The young man walked away as if finished, but then he turned back to face the witness, "Do ya know if Mr. Robinson was right- or left-handed?"'

"He was left-handed," came the reply.

"Your Honor," Shannon rose. "What does that have to do with anything? Counsel is simply stalling because he has no defense for his client."

"I'll allow the question to stand," Ackley ruled. "But I do expect to see some relevance very soon, Mr. Cooper."

"Thank you, Your Honor," Matthew smiled. "No further questions of this witness." Matthew glanced at his notes, "The defense calls Horace Bing t' the stand."

Horace stepped forward, took an oath to tell the truth, then sat down to await Matthew's question.

The young lawyer picked up the axe that had belonged to Willie Robinson, "Mr. Bing, have ya ever held an axe?"

"Sure," Horace nodded.

"Ever swing an axe?" Matthew continued.

"Yes," Horace fidgeted with the rim of his hat.

Matthew set the axe on the table beside the telegraph operator, "Would ya pick it up, please?"

Horace obeyed and held the instrument.

"Would ya pretend like you're choppin' somethin'?" Matthew requested.

"Your Honor," the prosecutor could tolerate no more. "What is the purpose of this?"

"Mr. Cooper," the judge frowned. "I must agree with Mr. Shannon."

Matthew raised his hand, "Mr. Bing is left-handed, just as Willie Robinson was. Notice how Mr. Bing is holdin' the axe. There are areas on the handle that are worn from use, Your Honor, but they don't match the markin's of someone who is left handed."

"Let me see," Judge Ackley leaned closer to Horace.

Sure enough, the worn areas were not where the telegraph operator gripped the handle.

"Your Honor," Matthew raised an eyebrow. "I suggest that this axe did not belong to a left-handed man."

"I agree with you, Mr. Cooper," the jurist nodded.

Matthew took a deep breath, "Your Honor, the alleged eyewitness t' the crime, Running Horse, is not here t' answer questions. The axe that was found in my client's belongin's can't be linked to the deceased. The two men who brought in Cloud Dancin' as the murder suspect are now in possession of the deceased's land. The man who said he saw Indians close t' the Cabin can't identify the defendant or place him near the scene of the crime. I suggest that the case against my client is based on flimsy circumstantial evidence and move that the case be dismissed for lack of credible evidence."

Before Shannon could argue, the judge pounded his gavel, "I concur. Case dismissed. Release this man at once." Then turning to Shannon, he added, "And may I suggest that you use your investigators on Mr. Bittancourt?"

"Yes, your honor," Shannon lowered his head.

Dorothy and Cloud Dancing joyfully embraced, as Michaela and Sully offered congratulations to their son.

"How did you do it, Matthew?" Michaela beamed.

"Sully did it, Ma," he grinned. "I just presented what he figured out."

"Sully?" Michaela wanted to know. "What led you to this conclusion?"

"Somethin' ya said in your testimony about the autopsy," Sully put his hand around her waist. "'Bout Robinson holdin' his fork in his left hand t' eat."

"I do not know how to thank you, my friends," Cloud Dancing was moved.

"No need t' thank us," Sully grasped his hand.

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

Katie toddled to her father, who was seated in a wing back chair watching the fire. She tapped his knee, awakening him from his daydream.

"What ya doin', Kates?" he smiled.

"Swirl needs brushin'," she held out a hairbrush to him.

"Don't ya know how t' brush her hair?" he lifted the doll.

"Want you t' do it," she crawled up into his lap.

Sully began to run the brush through the doll's hair. Michaela entered the living room, having completed the cleanup of their dinner dishes.

She smiled at the sight of her husband and daughter, "Swirl has beautiful hair, Katie."

"Papa good at brushin' hair," Katie looked up. "Like Mama's."

Michaela sat down beside her family and sighed, "I missed the boys at dinner."

"They got important work. Brian's gonna help Dorothy get out the Gazette early in the mornin', an' Matthew went t' Denver t' press charges against the Bittancourts," Sully reminded her.

"I know," she replied.

Katie slipped from her father's lap and ran to Michaela. Leaning her little head against her mother's abdomen, she held very still.

Michaela stroked the child's blonde tresses, "What are you doing, Katie?"

"Hearin'," she answered.

"What do you hear?" Michaela looked at Sully.

"Little baby," Katie replied.

"Would ya like a brother or a sister?" Sully wondered.

"Got brothers an' sister," she answered.

"Well, you're going to get another," Michaela rubbed her back.

"I know," Katie said matter-of-factly. "Mama growin'."

Michaela touched her belly, "That's the baby growing, Sweetheart."

"I do that?" the child tilted her head.

"Yes, you did," her mother responded. "I became quite big right before you were born."

"Papa not hug ya?" Katie thought about it.

Sully chuckled, "I still hugged her just fine, Kates." He stood up and reached out for his daughter, "Ya ready for bed?"

"No!" she asserted. "Not goin' t' bed!"

"Katherine Elizabeth Sully, that's no way to speak to your father," Michaela raised her voice.

Katie buried her head in her mother's lap and began to whimper. Michaela touched the fair head and waited. Soon, Katie raised up and looked at her father with red eyes.

"I sorry, Papa," she curled her lower lip.

He lifted her and kissed her cheek. Katie threw her arms tightly around his neck.

"Somethin' botherin' ya, Kates?" he sensed.

"Not want Mama gettin' big! Not want baby!" she blurted it out. "Already got me!" Katie pointed to herself.

Sully lifted her doll and handed it to Katie, "Let's get ya ready for bed now."

Michaela's worried expression was not lost on him. He carried Katie up, while Michaela locked up the house and turned down the lamps. When she arrived at the nursery, Katie was in her nightgown, sitting on Sully's lap. He was brushing her hair.

"Tell story, Papa," Katie requested.

Michaela lifted the child, and both sat down on Sully's lap on the rocker. Katie leaned her head against her mother's bosom, as he began the story.

"Once upon a time, there was a Mama an' Papa who had a little girl," he rocked back and forth.

"Like us?" the little girl put her finger in her mouth.

"A lot like us, Kates," he hugged them both.

"They loved their little girl more than anythin' in the world," he continued. "They even had extra love left over."

Katie pulled up with questioning eyes, "Extwa love?"

"Yep," Sully nodded. "They gave their little girl all the love she could want, an' they still had more t' give."

"What they do with extwa love?" the child was fascinated.

"They decided t' have another child t' share it with," he touched Katie's nose.

"Still give love t' first little girl?" she wanted to be sure.

"Yep," Sully smiled. "That's the good thing about love. The more ya give, the more ya have."

"New baby got lots o' love?" Katie took her mother's hand.

"Yep," Sully knew Katie was thinking now. "Two little children, an' their Ma an' Pa loved 'em even more."

Katie pondered what he had said.

Then she reached down to touch her mother's belly, "I love new baby, too?"

"We certainly hope so, Sweetheart," Michaela caressed her cheek.

"See how the love grows, Kates?" Sully put his hand on his wife's abdomen.

"Yep," she nodded.

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

Michaela rested her hand on Sully's chest as they curled up in bed, "I love how you brought Katie's mind around tonight. You are a very persuasive man."

An impish grin crossed his face, "I am?"

"I think you could charm our daughter into anything," she said.

"How 'bout her ma?" he joked.

"You charmed me a long time ago," she replied.

"Charm ya int' anythin'?" his eyes widened.

"Anything," she ran her finger along his chin. "And you saved your best friend's life today." Her voice cracked slightly, "I'm so proud to be your wife, Sully."

He felt a lump in his throat. Michaela's admiration meant everything to him.

"Proud," she kissed him. "And blessed to bring your children into this world, where each can learn to be the kind of person their father is."

For an instant, his mind flashed to the insult that Preston had hurled at him. Sully was awed by the feelings of love that he felt for his wife and children. Preston would never know such things, nor could he know the lengths to which a man would go to hold on to such precious gifts.

"Did I say something wrong?" she noticed his far away expression.

"Nope," he came back to her. "Ya said just the right things."

"I mean every word, Sully," her eyes captured his soul.

"I know," he tilted her face for a kiss.

The baby chose that moment to make its presence known with a barely detectable flutter. Sully felt it at the same time his wife did.

"Extra love?" she turned up the corner of her mouth in a grin.

"I got a lot t' give," he slid down to be eye level with her.

"Do you feel inclined to share some with me right now?" her voice sounded suggestive.

"I feel... inclined," he winked.

"Do you feel inclined to... do some of that experimenting?" she surprised herself with the request.

He grinned, "Ya wanna?"

"I wanna," she pulled him closer.

They were soon enraptured by loving kisses and caresses. The outside world with its Prestons and Bittancourts, disappeared. Their only focus became pleasing each other, and that they did intensely. When their intimate contact concluded, Sully kissed her and said,

"All love is sweet, given or returned.
Common as light is love, and its familiar voice wearies never."

"Byron?" she rested her hand on his heart.

"Shelley," he pulled her hand to his lips and kissed her palm.

"I know I'll never weary of your love," she said with certainty.

"We'll always have extra love t' go 'round," he smiled.

THE END
EPILOGUE

This is based on a true story. It happened in Salt Spring Island, British Columbia in March 1869. The description of Willie Robinson's death was mostly as I stated. The accused was a Chemainus Indian named Tom (Tshunahuasset), and the evidence against him was circumstantial, centering largely on an axe found among his belongings. The axe belonged to a right handed person, yet Robinson was left handed. The Bittancourts really did end up with Robinson's land, and John Norton did testify against Tom. Because of the account given by another Indian, who claimed he was with him when the murder occurred, Tom was convicted and hanged July 24, 1869. The other Indian never testified in court, having disappeared due to threats on his life.





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