Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
How Do I Love Thee?
by Debby K
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..." Before Sully could continue reading the poem to Michaela, a mighty cry from little Katie interrupted the moment.
"I'll check on her," Michaela rose from the rug by the fireplace in their bedroom, where she and her husband had sat in the late hours of the night.
Michaela quickly made the trip to Katie's room and brought their daughter lovingly back to join them by the firelight. She sat down by her husband, who still held the book of poetry in his hands.
"What's the matter Kates?" Sully brushed a tear from the little girl's eye.
The child was calmer now in the loving comfort of her mother's arms. He slid closer to his wife and daughter, setting the book on the floor. He put his arms around them both, as Michaela gently rocked Katie back and forth. Her cries had subsided now to an occasional whimper.
"I wonder if it was a good idea to put Katie in her own room so soon?" Michaela offered to Sully.
He looked puzzled, "So soon?"
"Yes," his wife replied, "so soon after your return. We've been without you in the house for over six months. She's slept in our bedroom since her birth, and I just don't know if she's ready so soon after your return to be in her own room."
Sully nodded in understanding and concern for his daughter, "I see."
Katie had settled down completely now, and reached out for her father. Sully smiled and leaned over to kiss her forehead.
"Papa," her little voice spoke to him. It never failed to melt him. He gently lifted her from Michaela's lap and held her to his heart.
"Okay, okay. Now, what if Papa tells you a story?" The child grinned broadly exposing several new teeth. She leaned her head into Sully's chest and said again, "Papa."
He laughed, "Hum, I guess I better think of a story."
Michaela rose to put another log on the fire, as Sully began his tale to Katie. Mike rejoined them on the rug and leaned on her husband's arm. Within a few minutes the toddler had nodded off.
"I guess she don't like my story all that much," he grinned to his wife as Katie soundly slept in his arms.
"Well, I'm somewhat amazed that she could fall asleep just as you were getting to the good part."
He grinned, "The good part?" She stood and urged him to stand up beside her, Katie still in his arms fast asleep.
"Yes, the good part, the happily ever after part," she kissed his cheek.
He rocked the child back and forth to ensure continued sleep, "How'd you know it would end happily ever after?"
Mike kissed Katie's head, "I just know you."
"Maybe we better keep her in here with us just one more night," he whispered into Michaela's ear.
Michaela felt a chill of wonderful sensations at his voice so close to her. She flashed him that slightly upturned smile and whispered, "On second thought, I think she'll be all right back in her own room."
They took Katie into the small room beside theirs. Sully had built a fourth bedroom when he constructed the homestead, just in case a little someone came along. He placed the sleeping child in her crib, and Michaela placed Katie's favorite stuffed rabbit down beside her. Both parents looked lovingly at their daughter.
"It's hard to believe. She's growin' so fast, and I wasn't here to see so much of it," he lamented.
Michaela heard the slight falter in his voice. "Let's not regret the past, Sully. You're home with us now, a free man. Our baby adores you. I adore you, and we'll never be apart again."
He placed his arms around her waist and leaned over to draw her nearer. "Let's just think about tonight, Michaela" he whispered.
That was her undoing. When he spoke her name in that voice, even if she was angry with him, she melted. She pushed back gently from him and took his hand, leading him down the hallway the short distance to their bedroom. He closed the door behind them and walked over to toss a few more logs on the fireplace.
"I guess the poetry'll keep until tomorrow," he spoke as he moved toward his wife. She was standing by the bedside unbuttoning her robe.
"Let me help you with that," he whispered in her ear. He leaned in to kiss her while removing the robe. She returned his kiss and unbuttoned his shirt.
Their lovemaking that evening was even more passionate than they ever imagined or experienced. The next morning, the sun wakened Sully first. He rolled over to see Michaela still asleep. He sweetly brushed his
finger across her cheek and whispered into her ear, "How do I love thee?"
Michaela gradually opened her eyes and yawned, "Good morning."
"Mornin'," Sully smiled, "How'd you sleep?"
"Let me count the ways," she surprised herself with a seductive reply.
"Michaela, we gotta talk about somethin'," he kissed her.
She responded to his kiss, and rolled over to totally face him, "Talk? When there are so many other ways to pass the time?"
Sully laughed, "My, my, if your prim and proper Bostonian family could hear you now."
Her face flushed a bit, "Mother would have a stoke."
"Hey," he kissed her gently, "as I told ya before, I appreciate your enthusiasm."
She pulled back after a lingering kiss. "You, ah... still want to talk?"
Sully smiled, and looked more serious. He sat up in the bed. She drew herself up beside him and placed her hand on his arm.
"Michaela," he began. "I received a telegram yesterday from the Interior Department. There's some politicians comin' from Washington to Denver. They're goin' on to Yellowstone. I've been instructed to meet them in Denver and escort them part of the way through the Colorado Territory. We'll meet up with some other agents who'll see them safely the rest of the way there."
"I see," she put on a brave face. "When do you have to leave?"
"Well," he explained, "it seems the telegram was delayed gettin' to me. The politicians are due in Denver tomorrow."
"Tomorrow? Sully, you only just told them you would take this job. I never thought..." Michaela stopped herself. It was she who had encouraged her husband to take this job. It was she who so clearly saw the potential in Sully to serve as a voice for the land. She felt a tear well up and lowered her head, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have."
He lifted her chin with his hand, "Michaela, I always want ya to be able to speak to me whatever's in your heart." He saw the tear and kissed it.
Mike looked into his blue eyes and took a deep breath, "How long will you be gone?"
"I figure 'bout eight days, but I'll try to be back sooner if I can," he stroked her hair.
She kissed his cheek and realized this was just as hard for him, "Let's do something special when you return."
"I got an idea," he grinned. "Let's do somethin' special now."
As Sully pulled his wife closer and began to deepen their kiss, an idea came to him of how he could help those eight days pass more painlessly for them both. He would implement his plan tomorrow before he left for Denver. But for now, his mind was on other plans.
The whole family gathered at the train depot the next day to say farewell to Sully. Even Loren and Dorothy made an appearance.
As he supported Katie with his left arm, Sully extended his free hand to Matthew, "I know you'll keep an eye on things while I'm gone."
"You don't have to worry," Matthew smiled, nodded and shook his hand.
Next came Colleen. She presented him with a basket full of some goodies that she had baked. Sully hugged her and joked, "I'll put on ten pounds 'fore I get to Denver. Thanks, Colleen."
"We'll miss you, Pa, but now we don't have t' worry about your coming home," she kissed his cheek.
Brian took off his hat, "Don't worry, Pa, we'll watch over Ma and Katie. Me 'n Matthew will do all the chores, too."
Michaela corrected her younger son, "Matthew and I.."
Misunderstanding her intention, Brian frowned, "Matthew 'n me will do it, Ma. You'll be at the Clinic."
Sully laughed, "Thanks, Brian. Look after Wolf, too." He tousled the boy's hair.
Sully had already said goodbye to Robert E and Grace at the Cafe. Now, he walked the few feet over to Loren and Dorothy. "Thanks for bein' here. I appreciate your friendship. It means a lot. Maybe I can give ya some stories for The Gazette when I get back."
Dorothy gave Sully a hug and felt a tear welling up. Loren chided her, "Here, now, don't go gettin' all weepy. Sully'll be back before we know it. The town will survive." Loren nodded toward Michaela, "and we'll keep an eye on Dr. Mike and the youngsters for ya. Just be careful out there, ya hear?"
Sully and Loren had mended their fences several years ago, and he appreciated the older man's support now. "I will, Loren, Miss Dorothy." The couple turned back toward town.
Finally, Sully made his way to his wife. Katie had been playing with the beads around his neck, sometimes sucking on them, sometimes shaking them to make noise.
Michaela spoke, "Sully, I have something I want you to take with you. I've kept it with me so I could hold on to something that was always near your heart."
Sully gently took the beads from Katie's mouth and asked, "What is it, Michaela?"
She pulled from her coat pocket the medicine bag that had come off of Sully's neck when he fell from the cliff with Sergeant O'Connor several months ago. His eyes opened wide, "Where'd you find that? I thought it was gone forever."
"I found it at the bottom of the ravine on the rocks near Sergeant O'Connor's body. I kept it, but now I know it must go with you to keep you safe again."
Sully swallowed hard as she placed it around his neck. "Michaela, thank you." Katie discovered this new toy.
Sully gently pulled the medicine bag from his daughter's fingers and stroked her hair with his hand, "Here now, Kates, Papa's gotta say good bye for now. But I'll be home real soon." He kissed her little blond head and gave her a last hug. Colleen stepped forward to take her young sister and distract her so she didn't cry.
Sully took Michaela's hand and they strolled a few feet away from their children. He pulled some letters out of his pocket and handed them to her. "Here, Michaela, I have somethin' for you to do while I'm away."
She poked his rib gently, "Chores? You're giving me mail to post?"
"No," he smiled, "nothin' so demandin' as that." Then he pointed to the letters. "On each of these envelopes is a location that I want ya to go to. There's one for each day that I'll be gone. I want ya to go to the place written on the envelope, and when ya get there, open it. Inside will be a special message from me t' you for that day. Then, 'fore ya know it, I'll be back."
She lifted her heels up slightly from the wooden depot platform and kissed him. "I'll follow the directions to the letter, pardon the pun," she smiled, turning the side of her mouth up slightly.
He traced her mouth with his finger, "No cheatin' now. Only one envelope each day."
"I promise," she began to initiate a final kiss, "and you promise to be extra careful for us."
He deepened their kiss. Then he leaned toward her ear and whispered, "I promise, too. I love you."
She tilted his head so that she could whisper into his ear, "How do I love thee?"
He kissed her a final time, pointed to the envelopes, and smiled, "Here. Ya can count the ways. Now, if I don't get on that train, I'm gonna be fired 'fore I can even start my new job."
The train whistle blew and the conductor called for "All aboard!" Sully picked up his traveling bag and Colleen's food. He ran for the train, jumped on, and stood at the end of the railroad car waving until his family was out of sight.
Michaela lovingly looked at the envelopes and counted. There were eight. One for each day that Sully would be away. She felt a tear running down her cheek. She pulled out the one that read "Day 1, at the Train Depot" and placed the other envelopes in her pocket.
"Well," she spoke low to herself, "he knew I wouldn't have to travel far for this one." Realizing that her children were watching her, she felt a bit embarrassed.
Matthew approached, "You okay, Dr. Mike?"
She smiled at her elder son. "Fine, Matthew, I'm fine." She motioned for the others to join her, as she sat at the Depot bench. She cleared her throat, "Children, we know that from time to time, Sully will have to be away from us. But you need to understand that he has a wonderful opportunity to play an important part in preserving the land for you and the generations to come."
Brian sat down beside her, and Katie wanted to sit in her mother's lap. Colleen let the child toddle over to Michaela, who picked her up and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
"Papa," Katie pointed to where the train had last been spotted.
Michaela kissed her little fingers. "That's right, Sweetheart. Papa will be home soon. In the meantime, I want you to know that Sully has instructed me to go to a specific locale for a brief time once a day and read a message from him. Can you watch out for one another while I take my leave each day? Can you help out?"
Brian chimed in, "Sure, Ma, but where're you goin'?"
She smiled, "Well, it's different every day. Today, I'm going to stay at the Depot for a few minutes, then I'll head over to the Clinic."
Colleen reached for Katie, "Well, then, how about Katie and I go there first and get things ready for ya?" Katie giggled and went willingly into her sister's arms.
Matthew took the hint and poked Brian's arm, "Come on, little brother, you an' me have chores to do."
Not quite getting Matthew's meaning, the sensitive boy looked at Michaela, "You sure you're okay, Ma?"
Matthew was a bit more adamant this time, "Brian! Dr. Mike wants to be alone right now. Remember she has a message from Sully?"
The light finally dawned on Brian, "Oh, right. Sorry, Ma. We'll head on back t' the homestead. See ya later for dinner." The boy kissed her cheek and stood. The four children departed, leaving her alone on the bench.
Michaela wondered why Sully chose this spot as the place to open the first envelope. She looked around and saw that for the moment she was alone. Holding up the first envelope, she opened it.
Sully closed his eyes and leaned his head against the passenger window beside his seat. The rhythmic movement of the locomotive made him drowsy. He smiled and remembered why he was so tired. He had been up late the night before, planning the surprises in the envelopes that he left his wife. Just about now, he thought, Michaela will be opening the first one. He fell asleep, dreaming of her.
At the train depot, Michaela unfolded the paper that she had pulled from the first envelope. Somewhat nervously, she began to read, "Dear Michaela..."
"Morning, Michaela," a voice interrupted. It was town banker Preston A. Lodge III. "Are you going to camp out here and wait for Sully to return?"
Michaela quickly folded the letter and put it in her pocket. "No, Mr. Lodge, I was just catching up on some mail."
Preston smiled, "Your husband certainly has an aversion to staying at home with his family, doesn't he?"
She bristled. Preston had such an ability to rile her, but she would not let that happen today. "Well, Mr. Lodge, I think that's my husband's business."
He laughed, "Business? I dare say he knows nothing of business, and his ability to hold down a steady job is sadly lacking, as well." Preston was still bitter over the fact that Sully had not done the work to complete his homestead.
Michaela remained calm, "Did you have anything else that you needed to say?"
The banker tipped his hat. "No, I suppose not. Good day, Michaela."
He departed, and she returned to her letter.
I'm real sorry that I have to be away from you for a while. The other night, while I was reading poetry by our fireplace, I got an idea. I ain't always good at speaking fancy words, which is why I love poetry. The words of the poets say what's in my heart when I think of you. So, I thought I'd remind you each day, in a special place, what you mean to me, using the words of a poet.
Today, I asked you to stay at the Depot because it reminds me of trains. Trains have been special for us, Michaela. It was on a train in Boston that I first confessed that I love you. I don't know where I found the courage to do that, but I'm sure glad I did. And it was on a train, on our honeymoon, that we first came together as man and wife. How beautiful and willing you were, as I pulled down the window binds."
She paused from her reading and blushed a bit, remembering that moment. Certainly she could not hear the word "darker" without thinking of that treasured train ride. Sully was so gentle with her and aroused passions that she never knew existed within her. Then she continued the letter.
"In the book, I saw these words by Christopher Marlowe and I thought of you. He wrote:
'Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That valleys, groves, or hills or fields,
or woods or steepy mountains yields.'"
Michaela felt the tears on her cheeks. Then, she read the letter's final lines from her husband.
"How do I love thee? There has not been one day since I met you that I don't appreciate all that you are. You give me courage, hope, and most of all, love. I am yours, Sully."
She was breathless. How could she be so blessed to have a love like this, she thought. How could...
"MA! Come quick!" It was Colleen's voice. Michaela quickly folded the letter and jumped to her feet.
Running to her daughter across the railroad tracks, she reached her, "What is it, Colleen? Is it Katie?"
"No, Katie's with Miss Dorothy. It's Robert E. Come quick. He's hurt. He's at the Clinic." Michaela rushed down the street to check on the town blacksmith.
Sully arrived in Denver, and as he stepped from the train, was met by three distinguished looking gentlemen in dapper suits.
"Mr. Sully," one of them extended his hand. He was a tall fellow, graying at the temples, and spoke with a slight New England accent. Sully was used to that. Massachusetts, he figured.
"My name is Lowell Bradford, and these are my associates, Mr. Isaac Thompson, and Mr. William Anderson. We're representatives from the Interior Department." Sully shook hands with each.
Thompson was a short man, perhaps in his late twenties. He spoke very fast, almost nervously, "Glad to meet you, Mr. Sully. We've heard a lot about you. The Interior Secretary, Mr. Delano, is very pleased that you'll escort us."
Anderson was more reserved. In fact, he merely grunted when introduced to his new guide.
Sully stared at their outfits, "Ah, gentlemen, I think that we're gonna have to get some different clothin' for on our journey. You can take care of that while I line up some horses an' supplies for us."
Thompson clapped, "I can't wait, Mr. Sully. Out here in the fresh air, away from the politics of Washington, it's going to be quite an adventure!"
Anderson rolled his eyes, "We're not here for an adventure, Thompson. We're here to log all that we see so that the Interior Department will have a detailed account of the land, minerals, wild life and inhabitants."
Sully prepared to take his leave, "I'll meet ya back here in an hour. Remember t' get clothes that will keep ya warm and dry. An' good boots for hikin'. Even though it's spring, the night's can get pretty cold, and we ain't gonna have a lot of comforts of home."
"Just a moment, Mr. Sully," Bradford stopped him, "I think you'll be needing this. It half of your pay in advance."
Sully accepted the envelope, and for an instant smiled as he thought about Michaela opening hers. "Much obliged," he spoke and turned to walk toward the livery.
Anderson faced Bradford, "Why didn't you tell him, Lowell?"
Bradford raised his hand, "He'll be told the more important reason for our being here, soon enough. Let's go get those clothes and supplies."
Michaela had Colleen apply a tourniquet to Robert E's arm to slow the bleeding. Thank God her daughter was home on break from college, she thought. Michaela worked feverishly to apply pressure to the large gash on his forearm. Blood steamed down her hands and onto the wooden floor of the Clinic. Grace was wringing her hands in worry.
"Perhaps you'd better step outside, Grace." Michaela spoke to her friend.
"If you don't mind, Dr. Mike, I'd rather stay," replied the worried wife of Robert E.
"Then ya better stop pacin' the floor so much, Grace. Yer gonna wear a trench in it," Robert E tried to reassure her with the calm sound of his voice.
Michaela lifted the cloth that she had been using on the wound. "The bleeding appears to be subsiding. I'll need to disinfect the area, and then I can stitch it."
"Thanks, Dr. Mike. I can't believe I was so careless," Robert E shook his head.
"How did this happen?" the doctor carefully began to stitch the cut.
"Well, I was shoddin' a horse and got too close to another one. The second horse kicked me an' knocked me clean into one of the saw blades I had out t' sharpen," he related.
Michaela continued, "You're quite lucky, Robert E, that we were able to get the bleeding stopped so quickly. There'll be a slight scar, and we'll have to keep an eye out for infection."
Finally finished with the delicate work, Michaela wrapped Robert E's arm with a bandage. She instructed him, "It's extremely important to keep it clean."
"Thanks so much, Dr. Mike," Grace seemed calmer. "How much do we owe ya?"
Michaela smiled. "How about a catered dinner when my husband gets home? I'm sure he'll be ravenous after a week away from my cooking."
Colleen laughed, "Ma, no offense, but Sully will probably eat better in the woods. You are gettin' better, though."
The tension of earlier had abated, and all could relax a bit. After a warning from the doctor to take it easy, Robert E and Grace left. Mother and daughter commenced the meticulous clean up and sterilization procedures that Michaela always observed. Shortly after they finished came a knock at the door and a child's call.
Dorothy opened the door and entered, with Katie toddling along in the lead.
"Baba," Katie seemed to enjoy the sound of her own voice.
"Hello, Sweetheart," Michaela crouched down. Then frowning, she looked at her daughter's hands, "What's this?"
"I'm afraid it was my fault, Michaela. It's ink." Dorothy's cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
"Ink!" Michaela was incredulous. "This little one manages to get into everything, I'm afraid." Picking up the child, Michaela said, "Come, now, let's see if we can find something to get that off of you." Katie laughed and clapped her ink stained hands.
Sully was waiting with four horses when the Washington trio returned to the Denver station. Their attire was much more appropriate for the trek ahead, and they had enough supplies to last a fortnight.
Sully looked them over, "I guess that'll do. I was told that I'm t' escort ya just west of Central City, where the other agent'll meet ya."
Anderson nodded, "That's correct, Mr. Sully. To be more specific, you should know that we are on a fact finding mission. We want you to show us everything between Denver and Central City ...plant life, animal life, and most importantly mineral resources."
Sully rubbed his chin with his gloved hand, "Mineral resources?"
Bradford added, "Mr. Sully, surely you know that Colorado is rich in mineral resources. We need to know specific locations for our records, as well."
As they mounted the horses, Sully asked, "You gentlemen wouldn't be lookin' for gold now, would ya?" He smiled slightly, suspecting their response.
Thompson could not contain his excitement, "Gold, Mr. Sully! Why, of course, that's one of the minerals in which we would take great interest."
Sully nodded, "'Course there's plenty o' minerals in that area. But I thought your main interest was gettin' to Yellowstone."
Anderson quickly agreed, "Oh, indeed it is. But we have much to record on our way there."
Sully turned the trio west to head out of town. Bradford spoke up, "We have many interests and goals for this trip, Mr. Sully. And you're just the man who can help us."
Sully silently pondered their intentions as he encouraged his horse. They passed down Denver's main street, and Sully smiled. There was the hotel in which he and Michaela had spent their honeymoon. He thought he might like to bring her there again sometime. He sighed and felt a slight ache in his heart at having to be apart from her for even one night. He raised his hand to touch the medicine bag around his neck and felt her love run through his body.
All in the homestead had gone to bed early that night. Michaela was alone with Katie in the bedroom, rocking the tired little girl to sleep. The ink stains were not entirely gone, but at least they were not as noticeable, she thought. Mother hummed softly to child as they rocked. Michaela stared at the fire and the flickers of light that danced on the bedroom wall.
Michaela smiled. How she loved those fire flickers when she and Sully made love. They engulfed them in a blanket of light. Seeing Katie was now fast asleep, Michaela rose with her precious daughter and walked down the hallway to the child's room. Safely tucked in, Katie continued to sleep. The concerned mother left the door ajar in case the little girl awoke in the night.
Michaela removed her robe, pulled back the covers on her bed, and slid in. She tried to read her new medical journal, but could not concentrate. She gazed out the window to see a few sparkles of light in the night sky. She closed her eyes for a moment and envisioned Sully looking up at those same stars. Was he thinking about me, she wondered. Michaela then touched his pillow, and felt a flutter of her heart. She sensed a rush of his love course through her body and knew he was, indeed, thinking of her, too. She rolled back to extinguish the low glow from the lamp on her night stand. There on the table sat the envelopes which Sully had given her that morning, before he left for Denver. She picked up the one marked Day 2 and read the location written on the cover. Why would he want her to go there, she smiled. Tomorrow, open it and find out. Sleep came soon.
Sully already had breakfast cooking by the time his Washington contingent awoke. "You gentlemen hungry?"
Thompson, the younger of the three, spoke excitedly, "Oh, yes, Mr. Sully. It smells delicious. What are you cooking?"
Sully smiled, "Best not t' go into specifics with what you're eatin'. City folks don't always enjoy it as much if they know."
Bradford, the elder of the trio, stretched and held his back, "Well, one thing I do recognize is coffee. I'll start with some of that."
Anderson seemed grumpy, "I, for one, am not willing to experiment with eating food out here that I've never tasted before."
Sully thought for an instant how much Anderson reminded him of Preston. He shot back, "Then, I reckon we'll have to bury you in a few days 'cause you'll starve to death."
Suddenly a thunderous noise shook the ground. The city gents began to jump up, grab their belongings and run around in near panic.
Bradford shouted, "I think we're having an earthquake!"
Michaela had gone into town to the Clinic before sunup to check on a patient. Then began a rush of minor medical emergencies, so many that she scarcely had time to think about Sully's letter for Day 2. When the last patient had left, she finally had time to rest. Colleen chose that moment to arrive with Katie.
"Sorry I took so long to get here, Ma, but Katie was real tired and fussy," Colleen said.
Michaela's face brightened, "Well, hello, sleepy head." Katie grinned broadly.
"Then I found her tryin' to climb out of her crib," Colleen sounded concerned.
Michaela lifted the toddler, "It's not the first time, Colleen. She's climbing and getting into everything. Yesterday, it was the ink in the Gazette's office."
Katie clapped her little hands, and both mother and sister couldn't help but laugh.
"Ma, do ya mind if I ride out to the Chateau for an hour or so to see Andrew?" Colleen asked.
"Go right ahead, Colleen. When you get back, I'd like for you to watch Katie, so that I can pay a visit to a special place," Michaela smiled.
Colleen nodded in understanding, "I'll make it half an hour then."
Michaela sat at her desk with Katie, who was attempting to put the stethoscope in her mouth. "No, Katie, not that," Michaela smiled and placed the device out of reach.
"Here, Mama wants to teach you some new words." Michaela positioned her daughter so that they were face to face. Of course, Katie spoke many words, but none were understandable other than "Mama" and "Papa."
With her daughter's attention for the moment, Michaela told her, "We're going to learn something new to tell Papa when he gets home."
Katie smiled in recognition, "Papa." With that, Michaela began the lesson.
At Sully's camp, the men were becoming more hysterical as the thunder roared louder. Sully kept hold of the reins of their horses and tried to still the animals. The Washington dandies finally decided to lie on the ground and cover their heads. At last, the sound subsided, and the ground began to calm.
Thompson sprang to his feet, "An earthquake! I've only imagined what one would feel like."
Sully helped the other two gents up, "Well, ya can keep imaginin', 'cause that ain't no earthquake."
Bradford brushed himself off, "What was it then, Mr. Sully?"
Sully walked a few paces over to get a clearer view of what he knew had caused the sound. Sure enough, there they were, running to beat all. "Here," Sully motioned them to join him. "It's a stampede of wild horses."
Anderson shook his head, "I can't believe that they caused the ground to shake like that."
Sully returned to the fire, the others following, "Would've been a lot shakier if we'd been in their path."
Thompson shook his head, "I can't believe that horses run free out here. Why, back east, something terrible has been happening to the horses."
Sully looked concerned, "What'd ya mean?"
Thompson sounded calmer, "It started last September, Mr. Sully. Horses began to die. The epidemic seemed to hit the urban areas the hardest. In New York City alone, they were losing 200 horses a day. No one can explain it. They even had to stop the horse races. In Washington, we had to discontinue mail service for awhile and close down our street railways."
Bradford took another sip of coffee and added to their tale, "My home town of Boston was hardest hit. Last November, there was a fire downtown. Only a few horses were available to move the fire-fighting equipment to the blaze because over 2/3 of our horses were hit by this strange epidemic. The Great Epizootic, it's called. After three days of burning, the fire ended up destroying close to 600 buildings."
Sully's concern grew, "Is the epidemic still goin' on?"
Thompson answered quickly, "It seemed to come to an end in December, Mr. Sully. Some people think maybe the cold weather caused it to ebb."
Anderson added, "I can't believe that you didn't read about this."
Sully turned to watch the wild horses disappear from sight. "I've sort o' been out of touch for awhile. 'Sides, we were hard hit with our own epidemic around that time. Only it was people who were dyin'." He began to put out the fire, "Come on. Time to be on our way. There's lots to show ya." They began to pack up and ready for the day's journey.
Michaela had finally been able to get away from the Clinic and go to the location where Sully had instructed her. Then she began to open up the Day 2 envelope.
Michaela arrived at her destination in the woods. She followed the landmarks which Sully had specified, but when she reached the spot, she could not fathom why her husband had chosen it. She did have a sense that they had been there before, however. To the right of the creek bank stood some wooden posts, leaning against one another. She spread a blanket and sat down to open the envelope. Then, she read:
Have you figured out why I asked you to come here? The wood that you see standing here once framed a very important structure on our road to the altar."
Michaela looked up from the letter, and then it dawned on her why he had chosen this spot.
As Sully led his entourage through a difficult mountain pass, he told them in great detail about each plant, animal, rock formation and feature of the land. Bradford seemed interested, especially in the route that they were following. He asked many questions. Sully was impressed at his knowledge of plant life. They discussed the medicinal qualities of some of the them, and Sully related the knowledge and wisdom that had been shared with him by the Cheyenne medicine man, Cloud Dancing.
Thompson quickly jotted down notes on each detail of Sully's narration. At one point, Sully glanced over and could not discern a single word in the man's journal. He pointed to the words and asked, "Ya think you'll be able to read that when ya get back t' Washington?"
Thompson laughed nervously, "Oh, certainly, Mr. Sully. My handwriting is virtually impossible to read for anyone but me. But I'll transcribe it when we return home."
Sully kept an eye on Anderson. He wrote nothing and spoke little. Sully wondered at the motives of these men. In some respects they seemed knowledgeable and sincere, but something just didn't sit right. Sully had an uneasy feeling that they were holding something back from him.
They came upon the remnants of an old Indian village. Sully stopped to explain to the trio what it had once been like when the Indians lived free.
Michaela smiled at the memory of what had happened beneath those tall wooden posts. She thought back to when Sully had been suffering from terrible headaches, and she had come to his lean-to to care for him. How helpless she had felt in trying to lessen his pain. They had decided something in his system was out of balance. Perhaps a sweat lodge ceremony would make things right. Under those covered posts, Sully had prepared and chanted the words. Then, suddenly as she waited outside, he had desperately called out her name. She had gone inside, and that's when he spoke those words to her. Michaela looked back down at the letter and continued to read.
"Do you remember the sweat lodge? I called out to you during the ceremony, and you came running in? You knelt down in front of me to assure me that you weren't going anywhere. I told you that I needed and wanted you. Then it was on this spot, Michaela, where I asked you to marry me. You said yes. You said that you'd be my wife, even though I had nothing to offer you except my heart.
'For thy sweet love rememb'red such wealth brings
That I scorn to change my state with kings.'
How do I love thee? Michaela, there is no man on earth that I would trade places with. You are the greatest treasure that my heart could hold. I am yours, Sully."
Michaela rose and walked over to touch the wood that had once framed the sweat lodge and again felt his love.
When Sully finished his explanation of the Indians' plight, the three men were quiet. Bradford broke the silence, "You certainly are a compassionate spokesman for the Indians, Mr. Sully."
Sully turned to him, "That's 'cause they cared about me when no one else did."
Thompson asked, "How much further until we make camp for the night? We don't have much daylight left."
Sully looked up at the sky then around at the ground, "This here'd be a good place. Better unpack the horses. I'll start a fire."
As they finished their meal and prepared to retire for the evening, Thompson spoke, "You know, Mr. Sully, you're somewhat of a hero in some Washington circles."
Sully looked up from the fire, "Why's that?"
Anderson had a rare moment of speech, "Oh, come now, Mr. Sully. Why so modest?"
Bradford joined the conversation, "Because you saved the President's life."
Sully prepared his sleeping area, "An' he saved mine."
"Oh, that's right. He gave you a full and unconditional pardon." Thompson contributed.
Sully nodded and said, "Twice. But that don't make me a hero. Just lucky."
Anderson spoke slowly, "You know, President Grant has made a lot of mistakes, and he's made a lot of enemies."
Sully watched the flickers of the campfire and smiled. Then he returned to the conversation bluntly, "Are you one of 'em?"
"Why, Mr. Sully! Where would you get an idea like that?" Anderson acted surprised.
"I, for one, really like the President," Thompson spoke enthusiastically.
Anderson's rolled his eyes, "I have no doubt you do, since you got your job because of your father's friendship with the President."
Bradford stopped the potential argument, "Gentlemen, please. We all have a job to do. Now let's get some rest, shall we?"
As each man settled in to sleep, Sully looked up at the night sky and imagined the fireplace in their bedroom, with its flickers of light that danced on the walls and ceiling. He felt warm at the thought.
Thompson made sure that Sully could not hear and whispered to Bradford, "Maybe it's time we told Mr. Sully what our job really is."
Bradford silenced the younger man, "Shhh. Tomorrow. We shall tell him tomorrow."
Michaela had put Katie to bed after practicing the new words. Poor child, she thought. Maybe she's too young to say them correctly, but she certainly does try. As she brushed her hair, Michaela noticed one of Sully's shirts hanging on a peg on the wall.
She spoke low to herself, "I better set that by the door so I'll remember to take it down for the washing."
As she lifted the shirt, she smiled at the corner of her mouth. Then she moved the clothing closer to her face to inhale the scent of her husband's cologne. She lovingly rubbed the shirt along her cheek. Michaela took it over to the bed and placed it on Sully's pillow. As she climbed into bed, she saw the stack of envelopes on her night stand. She read where he wanted her to go for Day 3. What was so special about that location, she wondered. Then she rolled over. There was his shirt. Michaela maneuvered it lovingly and fell asleep in Sully's arms.
Katie's cries awoke the household just before dawn. Michaela reached her first, followed closely by Matthew, Colleen and Brian. There was Katie sitting on the floor of her nursery with blood on her mouth.
Sully had the Washington dandies up early the next morning. He shook them and said, "You gents plannin' on sleepin' the day away?"
Bradford turned over to look at him through squinted eyes. "But, Mr. Sully, it's not even daybreak yet."
"Will be by the time ya eat your breakfast," Sully told him.
"Why the rush?" whined Thompson. He rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.
"A storm's comin', and I want us t' move further ahead so we can make camp at a better location t' weather it," was Sully's reply.
"I heard no thunder. I saw no lightning. How do you know there's a storm coming?" Anderson's sarcasm shone through.
"By the time ya hear thunder and see lightnin', the storms already on ya," Sully stoked the fire to heat some coffee. "There's other ways o' tellin', if you know what to look for ...the way the animals act, smell o' the air, look at the plants."
Thompson, now awake, chimed in, "My grandmother swears by her bunion as a weather indicator."
Sully chuckled. "There's that, too."
Bradford took his guide's prediction seriously, "So, how far away do you think this storm is?"
We got time to finish eatin' and move on a ways," Sully replied, not wanting to give them any firm answer.
Thompson sipped his coffee and opened his journal, "Tell me what exactly you look for to know a storm is coming, Mr. Sully."
Sully looked sternly, "How 'bout first you tellin' me why you're really here."
Michaela quickly sat on the nursery floor and lifted Katie into her arms, "Mama's here, Sweetheart. Mama's here."
Katie's cries began to calm, as her brothers and sister encircled her attentively. Michaela wiped away the blood with a cloth. "Nothing too serious, thank goodness."
Katie began to reach for her mother's mouth and babble something indistinguishable. Michaela felt Katie's limbs and torso to see if anything might be broken. Then her face took on a serious expression, "Katherine Elizabeth Sully, did you climb out of your crib?"
Katie's little face frowned with a sorrowful expression. Her lower lip began to quiver. Michaela could tell that a crying outburst was near, and she held the toddler closer. As her mother began to rub her back, Katie calmed.
"I guess we should get started on the mornin' chores before the storm hits," Brian looked out the window. The day was just coming to light.
"There's a storm coming?" Michaela picked up Katie.
Colleen doubted her brother's prediction, "How do ya know that, Brian? The sun's on the horizon, and it looks like a beautiful day."
"Pa taught me what t' look for. I'll be more certain when I get outside, though," Brian explained.
"Well, if Sully taught you, then I say we'll be having rain today," Michaela smiled.
"Matthew, could you saddle up Flash? I'd like to get into town as early as possible," Michaela requested.
"Sure thing. You got another patient at the Clinic?" Matthew rubbed the back of Katie's head.
"No, I have a special place I'd like to visit before the storm comes," she winked.
"What do you mean, Mr. Sully? We've already told you why we're here," Anderson sounded insulted.
"Sometimes what folks say ain't backed up by what they do," Sully eyed him.
Bradford cleared his throat, "Ah, gentlemen, why don't we discuss this after we get on our way. Mr. Sully thinks that we should move on to better ground to weather this approaching storm. So let's not tarry."
Anderson blinked in his staring contest with Sully. The men began to saddle their horses.
"We ain't done with this," Sully informed them.
Thompson became even more nervous, "I'd like to think you trust us, Mr. Sully."
"Trust is earned," Sully mounted his horse.
"Well, I certainly trust you, Mr. Sully," the voice of Thompson shook slightly.
"Sully. It's just Sully. You don't have to call me Mister all the time."
Bradford tried to change the subject, "Ah... Sully, you're quite a cook. Where did you learn to prepare such culinary delights?"
Sully didn't respond. They began the day's travel in silence.
Michaela reined in Flash upon her arrival at the Clinic. She had left her family at home, but they would be coming into town later. As she pulled up, Hank eyed her from across the street at the Gold Nugget. She dismounted her horse.
"Mornin', Michaela," he spoke in measured tones.
Michaela turned to speak, "Good morning, Hank."
"Sully gone again, I hear," Hank smiled.
Michaela felt a bit awkward, "He'll be home soon."
"Guess when ya know the president, ya can do pret' near anythin' an' still come 'n' go, as ya please," he spoke in a voice tinged with some bitterness.
Michaela turned to cross the street, "Hank, for your information, my husband..."
He raised his hand to interrupt her, "I ain't in the mood fer one o' yer lectures, Michaela. 'Sides, lettin' ya blabber on out here like this might hurt my business." He winked and motioned upstairs.
"I'm merely trying to point out that..."
Hank stopped her in mid sentence, "Okay, okay. I was jest tryin' to give ya a friendly greetin'. Ya, know, a little small talk. No need t' get carried away."
Exasperated, Michaela turned and began to walk toward the bridge leading to the meadow by the church.
Hank couldn't help but get in one more word, "Plannin' on gettin' the reverend t' help ya look fer Sully?"
She stopped mid step and turned with a glare.
Hank smiled a wide grin and blew a circle of smoke with his cigar, "Have a good day, Michaela."
Michaela returned to her mission at hand and reached the destination. She pulled out the envelope marked Day 3 and began to read.
Byron Sully was not one for small talk. He felt uneasy speaking with these three men, especially Anderson. Sully was hired to be their guide and to inform them about the terrain and animal life on their journey. He was a man of his word, but he was also a man who could tell when things were out of balance.
As they rode along, Bradford finally broke the silence, "Sully, I think that perhaps you have the wrong impression of us." The older man cleared his throat awkwardly, "I have a sense that you don't trust us."
Sully sat a little straighter on his horse, "You sense right."
"But why? What have we done to leave this impression?" Thompson inquired.
"It ain't so much what ya done," Sully spoke, looking at Anderson. "It's what ya ain't done."
Michaela had arrived at the meadow by the town church as per her
husband's instructions. His letter marked Day 3 now open in her hands, she began to read.
Right about now you can bet that I'm missing you something awful. I told you to come to the meadow because of all of the wonderful times we've shared here. There have been picnics, games, fireworks, the circus, and lots more in this meadow. But the time I'll never forget and will always be grateful for was the day that we got married here. When I saw you walk toward me in that beautiful gown, I thought, how could I be so blessed? I never thought I'd find love again."
Michaela looked up and glanced over at the town graveyard. There, were buried Sully's first wife Abigail and his baby daughter Hannah. There was a time, Michaela thought, when she felt threatened by Abigail's memory. Had she been the town doctor then, perhaps Sully would not have lost his family. Perhaps... She stopped herself. But that was his past. She and the children were his present and future. Michaela looked back at the letter and continued to read.
Sully stopped his horse. The others came to a halt, as well.
Looking at the sky and surrounding land, he informed them, "Best we make camp here. Not much time 'til the storm hits."
"I think it's incredible how you know these things," Thompson spoke admiringly. "It's like you are connected to nature."
"I wouldn't expect Washington politicians to understand any o' this," Sully motioned to their surroundings.
"You're wrong about us, Sully. Very wrong," Bradford dismounted his horse.
The four travelers prepared for the oncoming storm and secured the horses for the onslaught. Sully showed the men how to construct a lean-to for protection from the storm. As the sky darkened with clouds, the men sat under it and expected the worst.
Thompson tried to converse with Sully, "I understand a lot about this land. I've read quite extensively about what it's really like out here. I just finished Bret Harte's 'Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches.' What a colorful array of characters with shady reputations." In rapid time, the younger man began to describe the short stories. "My favorite was called 'Tennessee Partner.'"
Sully looked at him with half seriousness, "Do ya ever take a breath between sentences, Mr. Thompson?"
As Bradford laughed, Thompson continued, and the storm clouds gathered, "It's about a miner who runs off with his partner's wife. I must say, though, his stories are full of prostitutes, gamblers, lawless miners, robbers and cheaters."
Sully nodded, pulled out some jerky to chew on and with a deadpan expression on his face said, "Sounds just like somethin' I'd like t' read."
Michaela read on:
"When you were stepping forward to become my wife, I could hardly speak. I was so lost in the sight of you. Lord Byron (good name) wrote:
'She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes,
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.'
How do I love thee? As we grow old together, my eyes will always see you as you looked on our wedding day. My heart is aching as I write this, because I know I won't be there beside you while you read it. I know that you're worried and frightened that I'll be okay. I wish I could protect you from everything that frightens you and hold you safe in my arms forever. I am yours, Sully"
Michaela saw a drop of water hit the page. It was too big to be one of her tears, which were now streaming down her cheeks. She quickly folded the letter and put it in her pocket. Now, more drops of water began to fall, with greater frequency. Concerned that the children might be on their way into town from the homestead, she rushed back to the Clinic.
Robert E hurried to meet her, "Looks like a bad storm comin' up, Dr. Mike. Want me t' take Flash over to the livery for ya?"
"No thank you, Robert E. I think I can make it back to the homestead before the storm gets too bad," she mounted the horse. "I want to get home before the children start for town."
With that, she turned and quickly encouraged Flash to a gallop. As the town disappeared to her back, the rain intensified. Suddenly, a blinding bolt of lightning struck Bray's Mercantile. With a loud crash and a bright flash, the store was hit.
Sully and the three travelers tried to remain dry as the downpour began. Nestled under the hastily constructed lean-to, Thompson filled the time with his incessant talking. Finally, the rains began to lessen to a drizzle. Sully was first to crawl out of the safe haven. He was concerned that the horses had weathered the storm. They had. He walked a short distance toward a clearing and gazing up, saw a rainbow.
The storm had kicked up tremendous gusts of wind and walls of water. Flash was giving Michaela all that she possessed in the way of speed. She sensed the fear and uncertainty that Michaela would not find her children safe at home. As they rounded a bend in the road, her worst fears were realized. There was their wagon over tuned by the dirt road, one of the wheels still spinning. The horse that had been pulling it was not in sight. Michaela dismounted quickly and ran over to the wagon. Where were the children?
While admiring the beauty in the colors of the rainbow, Sully looked down at his medicine bag and touched it. He had a sudden chill. Something was wrong with Michaela. He sensed her fear.
Bradford joined Sully in the clearing and cleared his throat, "Everything all right?"
"Not sure," Sully looked up. "I got a funny feelin' my family might be in danger."
The elder man softened in his voice, "Tell me about your family, Sully."
Sully eyed him more closely, "Ya got a reason for wantin' to know?"
"Just curiosity," Bradford assured him. "I have a wife, seven daughters and 10 grandchildren, myself."
"I got a wife an' four children," Sully began, starting to feel a more trusting of Bradford. "My wife, Michaela, she's a doctor. Came out West from Boston. She adopted three older children 'fore we got married. Their ma had died. Then we had a baby girl of our own almost two years ago."
Bradford confided, "I miss my family. I hate having to be away from them, but my job and my desire to serve our country necessitates my having to leave periodically. I sincerely want the beauty of this land to be preserved for my grandchildren and their children."
Sully nodded in understanding. Motioning to Thompson and Anderson, he questioned, "What about them? Why are they out here?"
The town of Colorado Springs was still reeling from the lightning strike. Town mayor, Jake Slicker, ran out of his barbershop the short distance to Bray's Mercantile. Other town folk soon joined him. "Loren!" Jake screamed as he entered the store, "Are ya all right?"
Loren lay unconscious on the wooden floor of the general store. Goods from the shelves were strewn about. Dorothy joined Jake in the store and knelt down beside Loren. She felt his chest. "He's still breathin'."
Jake responded quickly, "I'll run for Dr. Mike."
Robert E, standing in the doorway, held up his hand, "Ain't no use, Jake. Dr. Mike rode out o' here 'fore the storm hit. She was ridin' home mighty quick."
"Okay, then," Jake replied. "I'll ride t' get her." He exited the store and looked up at the sky. Slowly it was clearing. Jake ran to the livery, saddled his horse and took off for the homestead.
Michaela felt a chill. Where could the children be? Perhaps they crawled to safety somewhere. She searched the brush and trees by the creek bank. As she peeked over an embankment, her boots gave way in the soft wet soil. She slid down. Michaela reached for a seedling to stop her descent, but it was not rooted strongly enough, and she continued to slide. The momentum of her fall made controlling her direction impossible. Her slide became a roll and suddenly her head struck a rock. She lay unconscious.
Sully asked again, having no response the first time from Bradford, "Why are those two with you?"
Bradford was about to answer when Anderson approached, "Ready to move on, gentlemen?"
Jake arrived at the wagon and saw that it was overturned. He also spotted Flash tied to a tree.
He called out, "Dr. Mike!"
No response. "Matthew! Colleen! Brian!" Still no answer. Jake swallowed hard and began to think the worst.
Sully looked at Anderson, "'Fore we move on, I got a question for ya. Why are ya on this trip, anyway? Ya don't ask any questions. Ya don't write anythin' down. Ya act like ya don't even wanna be here."
Thompson quickly ran over to join them, "Sully, is it safe to move on now?"
Anderson looked directly at Sully, then pointing to Thompson, said, "Why don't you ask him. He loves to talk."
He walked back to the lean-to.
"Ask me what?" Thompson innocently inquired.
Sully shook his head, "Maybe I'll ask ya later. Come on. Let's get goin'."
The foursome mounted their horses to continue on their journey.
Loren stirred. "Wha.. What happened?"
"Thank goodness!" Dorothy sighed in relief. "Loren, the store got struck by lightnin'. Ya must have fainted."
The older man sat up with her help, "Lightnin'! Last thing I remember, I was closin' my cash box when..." He stopped and looked around at the mess. "Who's responsible for this?"
"Loren, ya darn near got killed! Don't worry about a little mess," she reminded him.
"A little mess? I almost wish I'd been struck by the lightnin'. Would've killed me faster. As it is, I'll prob'ly have a heart attack tryin' t' get this store back in order."
Dorothy assured him, "We'll help ya, Loren."
Jake spotted boot prints to the right of the overturned wagon. He followed them and was shaken at what he saw. There was Michaela at the bottom of an embankment, unconscious. Jake grabbed a rope from his horse and anchored it solidly to a tree. While holding the rope, he was able to lower himself to the injured doctor. There was blood on her temple.
He bent down and spoke, "Dr. Mike? Dr. Mike! It's Jake. Can ya hear me?"
There was no response. Jake leaned in closer to determine if she was still alive.
He heard a soft moan from Michaela, so he tried again, "Dr. Mike? It's Jake. Ya fell down an' hit your head. Can ya talk? Can ya move? I'm gonna try to get ya home."
Michaela felt a sharp pain in her head, but opened her eyes, "The children. Where are the children?"
As the quartet of travelers continued on their way, Thompson kept the conversation going with his nonstop questions. "When do you think we might see some gold, Sully?"
"Truth is, most o' the gold 'round here's been pretty well mined. Silver's more valuable."
As Sully discussed the various rushes for the precious minerals, Thompson wrote feverishly. Even Anderson seemed more attentive to this topic.
Then the conversation turned to the subject of President Grant.
So, ya got your job 'cause your Pa's a friend of the President," Sully stated.
"Well, I wouldn't say that's the only reason I got the job," Thompson sounded defensive. "I am qualified for what I do."
Anderson chimed in sarcastically, "Yes, there's a big calling in Washington for fast talkers."
"Never did trust politics or politicians," Sully eyed Anderson skeptically.
Thompson changed the subject, "As I told you earlier, I really do like the President. My family has known the Grants for years. My uncle had a friend who tried to get President Grant to learn the game of golf. It's becoming very popular. Anyway, the president agreed to go to a golf course as an observer. As they arrived, the friend stepped up to the ball and began swinging furiously with his golf club. Dirt and grass flew all over the place, but the golfer could not connect with the ball. Then President Grant turned to the friend and said, 'That does look like very good exercise, but what's the little white ball for?'"
Bradford chuckled, but no one else responded.
Sully finally said, "Sounds a little like baseball."
Thompson shook his head, "Oh, no, they're very different. Maybe someday I could teach you how to play golf, Sully."
"Thanks, but it don't sound like a game that'd ever catch on," Sully shook his head. The foursome continued their journey.
At the homestead, Matthew ran down the steps when he saw Jake arrive with a semiconscious Michaela. "Dr. Mike! Ma!" he cried.
Colleen joined him and helped to carry her into the house. After putting Michaela on the dining room table, Colleen began to examine the extent of her injuries.
Jake cleared his throat, "She's got a cut on her head. I found her by the roadside down an embankment. It was near your overturned wagon. What happened?"
Colleen grabbed the medical bag and quickly sprang into action. She sterilized the cut and saw that it would not need stitches. A nasty looking bump was appearing.
"Just as we were gettin' the wagon ready t' ride int' town," Matthew explained, "thunder spooked our horse, and it took off with the empty wagon. The horse came home 'bout 20 minutes ago, but without the wagon."
"How's Dr. Mike?" Jake looked concerned.
"Mama," Katie called from her high chair.
"I'm fine," Michaela opened her eyes. "Hearing your voices is the best medicine for me."
"I came lookin' for Dr. Mike 'cause the general store got hit by lightnin'," Jake informed them. "Loren's unconscious."
Michaela started to sit up, "I'll get my medical bag and..." She stopped as she felt a little woozy.
"Just a minute, Ma. Mr. Slicker can go get Andrew t' check on Mr. Bray. For now, you need to take it easy." Colleen asserted, "Doctor's orders."
Jake nodded, "I best be gettin' out to the Chateau then t' fetch Andrew. I'll get some men t' help ya with the wagon tomorrow." He put on his hat and left.
Still feeling a bit ignored, Katie made her presence known again, "Mama."
Brian lifted the child, "Ma can't hold ya right now, Katie. How 'bout we find your rabbit t' play with?"
The little girl giggled and clapped her hands.
"If you feel like it, Matthew and I can help ya up to your bed, Ma," Colleen told Michaela.
Michaela nodded, and they began the climb up the steps. Brian assured his mother, "Don't worry 'bout Katie, Ma. We'll take good care o' her."
As dusk approached, Sully informed the men that it was time to make camp for the night. "Tomorrow, we oughta make Central City."
After their meal, the men each began to fall asleep. All except Sully. He watched the embers of the camp fire and felt an ache of loneliness for his wife and children. His sensation of fear for her earlier in the day had eased. Right about now, he thought, Michaela'll be gettin' ready for bed and lookin' at the next envelope. Day 4. She'll really be puzzled 'bout that one.
Michaela fell asleep quickly. She dreamed about Sully. Her dreams were always about him when he was away. In this one, she was reliving the evening on the old homestead porch when Sully had read poetry to her. She had felt awkward at the suggestive nature of Whitman's words back then, spoken in Sully's soft, warm voice.
"I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul."
Then she felt Sully's arms around her, loving her, assuring her. They began to kiss, and he moved his hands to unbutton her blouse. She arched her head back as he kissed her neck tenderly.
It was morning when Colleen carried Katie quietly into Michaela's room. Placing the child on the bed, Colleen examined the bump on her mother's head. There was discoloration, but the swelling was down some.
Katie crawled over to her mother and gently kissed her cheek. Still dreaming of her husband, Michaela stirred, "Sully?"
Katie clapped, "Papa!"
More fully awake at the sound of her daughter's voice, Michaela felt a flush of embarrassment. "Katie," she reached out to kiss her daughter's tiny hand, "good morning, Sweetheart."
Colleen sat on the edge of the bed, "How ya feelin' this mornin', Ma?"
Michaela began to sit up, "A bit stiff, but otherwise fine. Seeing my two pretty girls here beside me is good medicine."
Matthew and Brian knocked on the door and entered.
"Some men from town helped me get the wagon back home, Dr. Mike," Matthew assured her. "Nothin's broke."
"That's good," Michaela smiled. "And now I have my two handsome boys beside me, as well."
"Where are ya goin' today, Ma?" Brian asked.
Michaela saw her son glance at the letters on her night stand, "Only to the Clinic today, Brian."
"You need to take it easy, Ma," Colleen became the doctor.
"I shall," Michaela smiled. "I won't stay long, and I promise to come right back home when I'm finished."
Thompson, ever the inquisitive one, asked Sully if he could help prepare breakfast that morning.
"Reckon so," Sully nodded.
He handed the young man some utensils and began to skin a rabbit which he had trapped.
"Excuse me, one moment," Thompson quickly ran several feet from the camp and threw up.
"Told ya, it's best if ya don't know what you're eatin'," Sully called to him.
"I'll be fine," Thompson waved. "This is certainly different from the dinners of Washington's high society."
"I been t' some fancy affairs in Boston," Sully informed him. "Dressed up like a peacock, struttin' around. That ain't what I feel comfortable doin'."
Thompson rejoined him and tried to calm his stomach. Sully handed him a root to chew on, and that seemed to help.
He asked, "Then why did you go all the way to Boston to go through that, Sully?"
"Sometimes, a man's gotta show the woman he loves how far he'd go to please her. Turned out, she loved me for who I am." Sully smiled.
"I'm engaged to be married," Thompson contributed.
Sully turned to him and smiled, "Hope she's a good listener."
Handing Thompson the rabbit to cut, Sully put the coffee pot on to heat.
Thompson spoke even more rapidly as he worked, "The biggest social gala I ever attended was at the White House. It was a reception for Grand Duke Alexis, third son of Russia's czar Alexander II."
Sully pretended to be interested, as he guided the young man in preparing their breakfast. Anderson and Bradford did not stir.
Thompson continued, "It was November of 1871. Many of us stood on the portico to watch the Grand Duke's arrival. All of the Cabinet was there with their spouses. In fact, Secretary Delano and his wife were the first to arrive. The military men were dressed in full uniforms and the ladies in stunning gowns..."
As he spoke, Sully thought back to the days in Boston, before he confessed to Michaela that he loved her. The receptions and galas, the dinners, the opera. She was incredibly beautiful. His heart was so full of love that he had not yet expressed to Michaela.
Sully's reverie was interrupted by Thompson's voice, "Sully, did you marry this woman?"
"Sure did," he smiled. "When ya find a woman like that, ya never wanna let go."
"Sometimes I think my fiancee just loves me for my social connections," Thompson completed his work.
"Then, that ain't love," Sully told him. He silently thought of the moment he fell in love with Michaela, as she fell face first into a puddle of mud. And he remembered other firsts.
Michaela's initial destination, upon arriving in town, was Bray's Mercantile. She wanted to check on Loren. Standing behind his counter, the older man, greeted her, "Mornin', Dr. Mike. I reckon ya come to see if I'm still among the livin'."
She smiled, "Well, I am quite pleased to see that you are."
Spotting the bump on her head, his voice grew concerned, "Jake told us he found ya 'long the road down an embankment."
"I'm afraid I fell and hit my head on a rock," she opened her medical bag.
"Don't look too good," he pointed to her head. "Now, you don't need t' go pokin' me with yer medical equipment. Dr. Cook says I'm fine. Only fainted when the lightnin' struck."
She closed her bag. "If you're certain, then, I'll say goodbye. I'm stopping in at the Clinic and then going home to rest."
"Ya take care o' yerself, Dr. Mike," he replied.
Michaela opened the Clinic door and pulled from her pocket the envelope that Sully had prepared for Day 4. She went upstairs to one of her recovery rooms, sat on the empty bed and began to read his letter.
Michaela was curious as to why Sully would send her to this recovery room of the Clinic. As she sat on the bed, she began to read his letter.
I reckon you're really confused about why I'd want you to come in here. This room holds an important memory for me. The first year you came to Colorado Springs, we had an epidemic. It was real bad, and you did your best to help everyone.
Then you got the grippe, and we feared you might die. They brought you here into this room. While you were burning up with fever, they were sponging you off. You were laying on your stomach, and they were cooling off your back. I never told you this before, but I stood at the doorway and watched them, Michaela. I saw your beautiful back. I thought to myself, I shouldn't be watching, but I couldn't take my eyes off of you. You were so soft and sweet looking, and yet at the same time, so desirable."
Michaela felt a combination of embarrassment and excitement. She thought back to the cattle drive when Sully had begun to give her a sponge bath. She closed her eyes and cherished the memory of his gentle touch and the kisses before Matthew had interrupted them. She smiled at this confession of her husband, and read on.
Thompson woke Bradford and Anderson, "Breakfast's ready!"
The two stirred.
Bradford smiled at the mountain man, "Smells delicious again, Sully."
"Ain't me that done the cookin'," he motioned to Thompson. "It was Thompson, here."
Anderson shot back, "How on earth did he keep quiet long enough to prepare breakfast?"
Thompson replied, "I can do more than one thing at a time."
"Eat up, gentlemen," Sully informed them. "We ain't stoppin' today until we make Central City."
Michaela returned to Sully's letter:
"That day, I promised Brian that I wouldn't let you die. Cloud Dancing and I carried you out of the Clinic so that he could perform a healing ritual to make you well. I asked him if you would live, and he said that was up to me. I wanted you to live, Michaela. I wanted you to live for the children. But also for me. I would have given my life for yours at that instant.
Cloud Dancing's medicine worked, and I brung you back to the Clinic, to this room. Just after you regained consciousness and saw that the children were okay, you went to sleep. I stayed in the room after they'd gone. I never told you this before either, but as you slept, I leaned over and kissed your forehead. That was really the first time I ever kissed you. Milton wrote:
'My heart, why by a secret harmony still moves with thine,
join'd in connection sweet.'
How do I love thee? During your illness, when I thought I might lose you, I could hardly stand it. I was so desperate to make you well. I know now that a love, unspoken but growing inside of us, gave you the strength to live. Now, stronger than ever, our hearts beat as one. I am yours, Sully."
Michaela lay back on the bed and held the letter to her heart. How could she bear another day, another night without him? She fell asleep, and soon dreams of Sully came to her.
Sully motioned westward, "We're almost t' Central City."
Anderson moved his horse ahead of Bradford and Thompson to catch up with their guide, "Mr. Sully, do you know anything about outlaws in this area?"
"What kind o' outlaws?" he asked.
Suddenly, the mysterious and sarcastic man was full of conversation, "Robber kind of outlaws."
"I know that with gold and silver minin' comes towns and banks, an' with banks come robbers," Sully logically answered.
"But have you heard of any specific gangs of robbers in this vicinity?" Anderson pursued the topic.
"What're ya gettin' at?" Sully cut to the heart of the matter.
"Mr. Sully, have you ever heard of Allan Pinkerton?" Anderson inquired.
"Little bit," Sully acknowledged. "I know he protected President Lincoln when he was goin' t' Washington for the first time. I know he hires out his men to break up labor unions. Why?"
"I work for Pinkerton," Anderson finally confided. "That's why I'm here."
Sully was truly surprised. He looked at Anderson, "You work for Pinkerton?"
"That's right, Mr. Sully," Anderson acknowledged.
"So, what're ya doin' out here?" Sully was skeptical.
"I asked you about gangs of robbers. Mr. Pinkerton hires out his agents to various groups who are in need of protection from robbers. And, as you say, our men have broken labor union strikes at times. We have also smashed several Western gangs. One of Mr. Pinkerton's bigger cases out here involved catching the Reno Brothers gang of train robbers five years ago. He established an outstanding crime fighting organization with the largest collection of his innovation, mug shots, in the world. We even employ women private detectives under our logo, the all seeing eye. For that reason, we're sometimes called private eyes."
"That don't explain why you're here now," Sully eyed him suspiciously.
Anderson continued, "Shortly after the Civil War broke out, at President Lincoln's request, Mr. Pinkerton helped to organize a federal secret service, of which he became chief. Of course, the most important person needing protection is the President of the United States."
"Well, he ain't here. So why are you?" Sully was growing impatient.
Michaela was alone in the Clinic recovery room when Sully finally returned to her. He found her lying front down on the bed asleep. He quietly approached the bed, sat down beside her, and pulled her hair back from her neck. She stirred. He began to sweetly kiss her neck and shoulders. Then he gently pulled the camisole straps down to expose her back. He took a wet sponge and slowly ran it across her shoulders, kissing her after each pass of the sponge. Lower and lower he went. She could feel her passion igniting. How he could arouse her so quickly and completely. She started to turn over. She reached out to caress his face. He leaned in to whisper in her ear.
"DR. MIKE!" Horace called from downstairs.
Michaela awoke from her dream of Sully.
"I'll be right down, Horace," she called back.
After straightening her hair and dress, the doctor became all business and exited the room to go downstairs.
"What can I do for you, Horace?" Michaela smiled.
"It's my gout again, Dr. Mike. Been actin' up somethin' awful. Can ya help me?"
"Of course, I'll do everything I can, Horace. Just sit up here on the examining table and remove your boot and sock," Michaela fell into her medical routine, still a little flushed from her dream.
Anderson explained, "I am here to protect the President of the United States, Mr. Sully. Grant will be making a trip here shortly. As he will be passing through this area, I am here in advance to see that his trip is a safe one. He will, in fact, be the first president to visit Colorado. Our men have heard some rumors that a gang in this vicinity is plotting to kidnap the president to hold him for ransom. I am scouting out these rumors and looking for any suspicious characters. It is my specific job to make sure that Central City is secure for his visit." Anderson pulled some papers from an inside pocket of his coat. "This is the President's tentative itinerary, where he is to travel and when. If I cannot secure this area for his visit, I must notify Pinkerton immediately."
"Why didn't ya just say that in the beginnin'? Why have me lead this little expedition through the wilderness when none of ya cares about it at all."
Bradford spoke up, "You're wrong there, Sully. We do care. Thompson and I really do work for the Department of Interior, and we genuinely are here to log all that we can."
Anderson picked up the story, "I came along undercover to scout out these rumors about potential dangers to the President. You were recommended to us as both a guide and a man who might be trusted."
"Why'd ya have to be undercover? Ya could have just told me who ya were," Sully wondered.
"Not until we could truly trust you. Not until we could ascertain your sincerity and character. I know that you saved the president's life once, but I also know that you have operated outside the law, Mr. Sully." The men exited one wooded area into a clearing about 500 yards long. Sully, seeing another wooded area ahead, felt a strange chill, as if something were out of balance.
Sully looked around, "Well, we ain't seen any gangs out here. So what now?"
"Now?" said Anderson. "Now we..."
A shot rang out. Anderson slumped in his saddle. He had been hit by a bullet and fell hard to the ground.
Before another shot was heard, Sully had slipped from his horse and yelled at Bradford and Thompson to do the same. Sully lay on the ground, determining the shooter's direction. All around them, even the animals of nature, fell silent. Bradford crawled to Anderson to see how bad his injuries were.
Sully slowly got up, "Whoever it was is gone now."
He carefully and quietly traversed the wooded area ahead, from which he suspected the shots originated. Soon he found the sniper's nest and tracks leading west. After a quick survey of the scene, he ran back to his traveling companions.
Thompson spoke even faster than usual, "Who could have done this? Indians?"
Sully joined Bradford beside Anderson. The man was bleeding profusely from his chest. "Wasn't Indians that done this."
Bradford tried to stop the bleeding. Anderson, with labored breathing, motioned for Sully to come closer. Sully leaned down to the dying man.
Anderson gasped for air and spoke, "Mr. Sully, you must protect the president. Get word to Pinkerton in Chicago that..."
He spoke no more, as his last breath was expended.
Anderson lay still and quiet on the ground. There was hardly a sound from any living creature. The sun broke through the clouds and warmed the men a bit. What they had witnessed made them temporarily speechless.
"Ya know if he got any kin?" Sully finally broke the silence.
"I can't say," Bradford shrugged.
Sully opened the victim's coat and shirt. He found identification papers and a faded photograph of several Civil War soldiers in uniform, along with President Grant's itinerary. Then he looked at the wound. He wiped away the blood to carefully examine the chest area and shape of the bullet hole. Sully pulled out his knife."
"In heaven's name, man, what are you doing?" Bradford was shocked.
"I'm removin' the bullet," Sully looked at him. He proceeded to delicately cut the bullet out of Anderson's chest. He held it up to the light to get a better look at it. Then Sully put it, along with Anderson's belongings, into his own buckskin jacket pocket.
"My, God! Sully, what are we going to do?" Thompson was almost crying.
"First thing we're gonna do is look all around that sniper's nest," Sully began. "We need t' find anythin' that looks out of the ordinary. I saw boot prints over by that tree. He escaped by horse. Based on the depth of his prints, I figure he's about 180 pounds. Chews tobacco, too." Sully tried to focus and think. "We'll need to take Anderson's body int' Central City t' their sheriff."
Bradford shook his head, "Sully, this is an awfully long distance for a sniper to have hit someone with such accuracy. It must have been blind luck. What could we possibly find over there? We're not detectives. How will we know what to look for?"
Sully replied, "With as much as I been tellin' ya about nature and the balance of things, ya oughta be able t' notice what don't look right."
The men lifted Anderson up onto his horse. They draped him across the animal, and secured his body. Traveling the 1500 yards or so to the shooter's hideout, they began to eye their surroundings very carefully.
Sully warned them, "An' listen to the sounds, too. I should've suspected somethin' was wrong back there when we came int' the clearin'. Didn't feel right. We need t' be on guard that whoever done this, don't come back."
Michaela's head still ached from the fall, but the nap had made her feel a bit better. Until Horace's interruption, she smiled. She decided drop by the barbershop to thank Jake for what he had done. The door was locked. She assumed he was at the Gold Nugget. Turning to walk there, she noticed Dorothy at the door of the Gazette.
"Michaela!" Dorothy called. "Jake told us what happened to ya. Are ya feelin' all right now?"
The doctor walked the short distance to the Gazette office and greeted her friend.
"I'm fine, thanks. Just a little bruised." Michaela nodded. "I was looking for Jake to thank him for rescuing me, but he's not in the barbershop."
"I think he might be out with Mrs. Moral... I mean, with his new wife." Dorothy brushed back a strand of her red hair.
"I'm so happy for Jake. Love is a wonderful thing," she sighed.
"Why do I have a feelin' you're not just talkin' about the Slickers," Dorothy smiled.
Michaela blushed a bit, then confided,"Sully left me some special gifts in his absence."
"Well, whatever he did, I can't ever remember seein' you so relaxed durin' one of his absences," Dorothy began to set up her printing press.
"I wouldn't say I'm relaxed exactly," Michaela told her. "It's more like having a feeling that he's still with me. It helps to ease the loneliness."
"I know 'bout loneliness," Dorothy looked down.
"I'm sorry, Dorothy," Michaela touched her arm. "I know you miss
Cloud Dancing. We all do."
"As long as he's safe, I can deal with it," Dorothy gave her a hug. "Now, ya best be gettin' back home to rest. That bump on your head tells me you're not fully recovered."
"You're right," Michaela nodded. "I am still a little dizzy at times. I'll talk to you later." She turned to exit.
"'Bye, Michaela," Dorothy returned to her work. "Take care of yourself. And enjoy those 'special gifts' from your husband."
The more extensive search by Sully and the other two men produced not much new. Besides the remnants of tobacco chew, they found tracks. One man and one horse, they concluded.
"Looks like he waited here awhile 'fore we arrived." Sully bent down to examine the prints more carefully. "An' looks like he rode toward Central City after he shot Anderson."
"How could he have known we'd be coming this way?" Thompson asked.
"That's hard t' say," Sully shook his head. "Might have been followin' us. Might've even heard some of our conversation. I think we've found 'bout all we're goin' to here. Let's get movin', so we can get to Central City 'fore nightfall. We can tell their sheriff what happened, an' let him handle things from there."
Bradford spoke as they mounted their horses, "But Sully, what about his dying words to you?"
After dinner, Michaela rested on one of the white wing back chairs near the fireplace. Katie, who had been playing with her toy rabbit on the floor with Brian, toddled over to her mother. The little girl placed a tiny hand on Michaela's knee.
Her sweet look of concern made Michaela smile, "Hello, little one. Would you like for Mama to read to you?"
Understanding that her mother had asked her something that sounded like fun, Katie climbed up into her lap.
"You're getting awfully good at this climbing, young lady," Michaela smiled at her daughter.
"Brian and I are goin' out to the barn to check on the animals, Dr. Mike. Do ya need anything?" Matthew called from the front door.
"No, thank you, boys, we're fine," she replied.
"I got a paper to work on, Ma. I'm goin' up t' my room," Colleen spoke from the steps.
"All right, Colleen," Michaela turned to answered. "Don't work too long in that light. It will strain your eyes."
Colleen smiled and climbed up the stairs.
"Well, Miss Katherine Elizabeth Sully," Michaela clapped her daughter's hands together. "It's just you and I. How would you like to practice our new words for Papa?"
Recognizing the word for her beloved father, the young one gleefully nodded. Their lesson began.
The Sully party rode into Central City, Colorado just after dusk.
Sully directed them, "Bradford, ya best deliver Anderson's body over t' the undertaker. An' be sure t' tell him the sheriff'll be needin' t' look at him. Thompson, you go over t' the Teller House Hotel an' get us some rooms for the night. I'll go t' the sheriff's office an' let him know what's happened."
Bradford was exhausted, "Fine. Then let's meet at the saloon near the hotel, because what I need now is a good stiff drink!"
Thompson agreed, "Me, too. Sully, will you join us?"
"I ain't a drinkin' man, but I'll meet ya there," he concurred. "Let's say in 'bout half an hour."
The three men split up with their various missions to accomplish.
Michaela and Katie fell asleep in the chair. Brian tiptoed over to them, after finishing his chores.
He whispered to his older brother, "Matthew, come here a second, an' look at this."
Matthew quietly joined Brian and spoke low, "What is it, little brother?"
Brian smiled at the sleeping duo, their faces almost angelic in the glow of the fireplace.
"Look how much Ma an' Katie look alike," he pointed.
Matthew pondered that for a moment, "I think you're right. 'Specially, now that Katie's hair's startin' to grow. I can see a lot of Sully in her, too. When she raises her little eye brows like she's gonna ask a question."
"Or when she smiles and has those little dimples," Brian added.
They decided to wake Michaela, rather than risk her having even stiffer limbs from sleeping in the chair all night. Matthew took Katie upstairs.
Brian woke up Michaela, "Ma, let's get you up to bed."
A bit disoriented, Michaela asked, "Where's Katie?"
"Matthew's puttin' her t' bed. Why don't you turn in, too. Ya need lots of rest after that fall."
Michaela held out her hand to request his arm, "Yes, sir. Thank you for your concern and help, Brian." She stood and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "I know you're almost a grown man now, but I hope you won't mind an occasional hug from your mother."
Brian grinned, "I don't mind."
Warmly nestled in bed, Michaela was ready to turn out her lamp, but first looked at the envelope for the next day. Day 5, it read. She smiled at the location. This one, she definitely recalled as memorable.
At the designated time, the trio regrouped in the saloon. Smoke, loud conversation, and piano sounds filled the air. Bradford and Thompson were seated at a table for four when Sully entered. The two Easterners were feeling a little more relaxed as the alcohol began to work.
Sully sat down beside them, "Sheriff wasn't around. His office was locked up tight. Don't make sense for the main lawman in town to be gone when the President..." Sully looked around and lowered his voice to a whisper, "when the President is due to visit."
Thompson quickly jumped in, "It's no secret that President Grant is coming, Sully. When I was getting our rooms at the Teller House, that was all the talk! This may be a territorial town, but you wouldn't believe the lavish preparations. They're even laying silver bricks from the street to the hotel door for the President's arrival."
Bradford changed the subject, "Sully, Anderson's dying request was for you to contact Pinkerton in Chicago."
Sully raised his hand, "I'd rather let the law handle this. If the sheriff's back by tomorrow, I'll leave things in his hands. If he ain't back, then I'll wire Pinkerton. I also wanna send word t' my wife that I'm okay."
Three prostitutes at the bar had been eying Sully and his companions. They sashayed over to the strangers' table to make pleasant conversation and drum up some business.
"Evenin' gents," the oldest of the three winked. Beautiful, but heavily made up, she was dressed in red. It did not take long for Bradford and Thompson to notice her arrival.
Sully ignored her, but Thompson smiled nervously, "Good evening to you, too, ladies."
The youngest of the three women, not more than 18 years old, was dressed in white. She lifted her leg onto the empty chair at their table to adjust her stockings.
"You fellas look like ya just arrived in town. Can we help ya relieve some of that built up tension that travelin' men sometimes feel?" she asked them with an alluring smile.
Bradford cleared his throat uncomfortably, "Sorry ladies, no thanks. We're fine."
The third woman, with the most revealing low-cut lavender outfit, began to wrap her boa around Sully's neck. She was the most beautiful of the three, with blonde, curled hair piled atop her head and big brown eyes. She reached to run her fingers through Sully's hair.
"I'm real fond of mountain men," she whispered.
Sully politely took the boa from around his neck and looked up with his piercing blue eyes, "No, thanks, ma'am."
The ladies in red and white shrugged and left to apply their wares at another table, but the lavender gal persisted with Sully.
She leaned down closer to him, revealing even more of her anatomy, "Come on now, honey. Can't you even buy a gal a drink? My name's Annabelle. You look awfully lonely, and I'm real enthusiastic when it comes to companionship."
"Meanin' no disrespect, Annabelle," Sully stood firm. "I got a wife who's the most enthusiastic woman I could ever want. An' I ain't lookin' beyond her."
Disappointed, but spotting another potential customer standing at the end of the bar near the door, Annabelle walked away.
Sully cleared his throat to get the attention of Bradford and Thompson. They were both staring at the ladies, so recently departed from their table.
Sully stood up to leave, "I'm goin' over t' the hotel now. Think I'll get me some dinner an' go t' bed. Tomorrow, I'll take care of business and finish up escortin' you two t' the next agent. Then, I'm headin' home t' my family."
He reached the saloon door, when a voice at the end of the bar caught his attention. The man standing there, conversing with Annabelle, had a Southern accent and wore an old, beat up Rebel cap. Beside him leaning against the bar was his rifle.
Sully pretended to get something out of his shoe as he eavesdropped on the Southerner's talk. The man was obviously drunk and slurred his words as he spoke. Sully could only pick up bits and pieces of the conversation, without being obvious. As he listened, he heard the man slur only portions of his dialogue, "There was 8,000 of us in there," "gold an' silver," "but not s'much anymore."
Sully resumed his exit, deciding that he needed to get some rest from the day's stressful events.
The rooms at the hotel were quite nice. Sully even bathed for the first time in days. He smiled as he thought about the cologne Michaela loved on him. Finally, in the soft bed, he closed his eyes and thought about the children. How much he missed them. He hoped they understood his reasons for being out here, to preserve the land. But this trip had given him more than he bargained for. The shooting, the contents of Anderson's pockets, the bullet wound, the sniper's nest were all etched in his mind.
Then he thought about his sweet Katie, with her pretty little features. How she's startin' to look like Michaela, he said to himself. A dream come true, havin' a little girl so precious and loving. Then he thought about the woman who had given him this family. How he adored her. He closed his eyes and saw every feature of Michaela's face and body.
Sully smiled and drifted off to sleep. Late into the night, so deep in dreams of Michaela, he did not hear the door to his room start to open.
Sully was lying stomach down on the bed. Michaela was massaging his broadly muscular and tanned shoulders. Every once in awhile, she would pause and kiss his neck.
"Mm, that feels so good," he said.
She whispered in his ear, "Why don't you turn over, and we can try this from another angle?"
He enjoyed it when Michaela initiated their lovemaking. As he turned over, she began to kiss his chest, his neck, his mouth. He loved the scent of her perfume, and... Sully sat up with a start. He couldn't believe his eyes!
Michaela was up at daybreak, getting dressed and preparing breakfast before her family awoke. She wanted to get an early start for Sully's assigned destination today.
Colleen was the first to join her mother, "Smells good, Ma. Why are ya up so early, though? You should still be takin' it easy."
"I'm fine, Colleen," Michaela assured her. "Really, I am. It's been so wonderful, having you here. I wish you didn't have to go back to school so soon."
Katie's calls for her mother from upstairs could be heard .
"I do, too, Ma, but if I'm gonna be a doctor like you, I have t' study hard." Turning to run up the steps, Colleen said, "I'll get Katie."
"What the h...," Sully was shocked. "What are you doin' in here?"
It was Annabelle! She had crawled onto the bed, beside Sully.
"I saw how you looked at me last night at the saloon before you left," she whispered. "I know you were just pretending that something was in your shoe. What you were really interested in was a little company."
Sully realized that he was still in bed with this woman, and he jumped up, wrapping the bedspread around his waist. "Ya got the wrong impression! I wasn't lookin' to sleep with ya. How long have ya been in here anyway?" He was embarrassed.
"Long enough to hear you respond to my kisses," she smiled.
"Kisses!" Sully hastily went to the lamp and turned it up for more light. He looked in the mirror. There was lip rouge on his chest, neck and face. He used his dirty shirt to wipe it off quickly. Then he turned to Annabelle, "I was dreamin' about my wife. I thought she was kissin' me. I can't believe this."
Still fully clothed, Annabelle got off of the bed. "Don't worry, sweetie, nothing happened... yet." She started to move toward him, but he motioned for her to stop and shook his head no.
"I guess my feelings should be hurt," she smiled. "I'm not used to being rejected."
"I love my wife," Sully stated firmly. "I ain't even tempted to look at, let alone be with another woman."
"She's one lucky lady," Annabelle sighed. "I'll guess I'll leave you now. Sun's coming up, and I gotta get some beauty rest for this evening."
She started to open the door, when Sully stopped her. "Wait. Don't go."
Michaela rode to the Day 5 destination, their waterfall in the woods. She dismounted Flash and sat on the grassy bank beside the rippling water. Before even opening the letter, she closed her eyes. She smiled, remembering the night that Sully had "kidnapped" and brought her here. All evening, they had made love by the campfire. The next morning, she came to the pond by this waterfall to bathe. Sully joined her, and in loving fun, pulled her under the falling water with him. What an adventure in the woods that was. Back to reality, she anxiously opened the letter from her husband.
Well, I reckon you figured out pretty quick why I told you to come here. I remember when I woke up from our night of love and saw that you weren't lying beside me. I searched and found you here. When I gazed down at you, I was again reminded of how beautiful you are. Sitting here on the water's edge, inviting me with your eyes to join you. Those eyes that I love.
So many things remind me of you. Every time I look at Katie, I see you. Every time I look at the stars, I see you. When I close my eyes at night, I see you.
Robert Burns wrote:
'To see her is to love her,
and love but her forever."
How do I love thee? The surging energy of this falling water is like our enthusiasm for each other. Its steady flow is a reminder of our unending love. And though water can cool things off, nothing could ever extinguish the fire in my heart that burns for you. I am yours, Sully"
Michaela shook her head, as a tear began to edge down her cheek. "How can that man think that he lacks a way with words?" she whispered. Folding the letter, she put it in her pocket and mounted Flash. Only three more days until he returns, she thought. Then she heard something that startled her.
Annabelle stopped, "You change your mind, darling?"
"No," Sully said. "Not about that."
"I was wonderin' if ya might think about helpin' me." He stepped behind a folding screen and began to get dressed in a fresh shirt and buckskins.
She started toward the screen, "Sure, honey, you need some help getting dressed? That's not usually what I'm asked to do, though."
Sully poked his head out from behind the screen, and frowned. "I don't need help gettin' dressed. I need help with somethin' much more important, and you might be just the person who can give it."
"What do you have in mind?" she winked.
Fully dressed, Sully came out from behind the screen. "That fella you were talkin' to at the bar last night, what do ya know about him?"
"The Reb? He's a regular of ours at the saloon. Always reliving the War. He calls it 'The War of Yankee Aggression.' He's from South Carolina, I think. Joined the Confederates when the war began. Later, he was captured and taken to a Yankee prisoner of war camp. Douglas, I think. Yes, Camp Douglas. The Reb's real bitter about it. Half crazy. Being in that camp made him that way. He came west looking for gold and silver. He did real well in the beginning, but lost most of his wealth. Sometimes, he'll win money in a poker game and disappear for awhile. He's been gone for about four or five days and just got back into town last evening."
Annabelle looked at the sun rising higher in the sky, "So what are your friends going to think when they see me come out of your room?"
"That don't bother me at the moment. Ya got any idea where the Reb lives?" Sully inquired.
"Boarding house at the end of Eureka Street," she replied. "Any other questions before I go?"
"Yea," Sully nodded. "Where's the sheriff?"
"Seth? He's one of my regular customers," she laughed. "He rode over to Golden with a prisoner that was wanted there. Should be back today."
"Seth what?" Sully wanted to know the sheriff's last name.
"Seth Wilson," she answered. "Why are you so interested in all of this, anyway? The Reb in some kind of trouble?"
"Thanks for your help," Sully smiled.
"I'd be real willing to help you a lot more , darlin'." she moved toward him.
"Actually, ya done plenty. Now, have a good beauty sleep," he escorted her to the door and closed it behind her. Then he realized that he had neglected to lock the door last night. Better not make that mistake again, if he has to stay another night, he concluded.
Without checking to see if Bradford and Thompson were up yet, Sully headed toward the sheriff's office. The office was still locked up. He stopped a passerby to ask for directions to the boarding house at the end of Eureka. He decided he'd pay a visit to the Reb, after sending a telegram to Michaela.
Michaela heard the sound again. She turned around, and there stood Cloud Dancing. Shocked, Michaela got off of her horse and ran to him, "Cloud Dancing! What are you doing here?"
"The Spirits have sent me, my friend," he said.
"Why?" Michaela worried.
"The spirits speak to me of danger," he warned.
"What kind of danger?" Michaela's heart sank.
"The Spirits do not say what kind of danger, but it involves your family," Cloud Dancing related to Michaela. "I have come to help. Where is Sully?"
"He's escorting some federal agents through part of the Colorado Territory west of Denver," she informed him. "Is he in danger?"
"I do not know. You and the children are all right?" the Cheyenne medicine man asked.
"I had a fall and bumped my head a couple of days ago when we had a terrible storm. Do you think that's what your dream was about?" Michaela wondered.
"Perhaps, but I still fear for my brother's safety. I should go to him." Cloud Dancing told her.
"But it's too dangerous for you," Michaela asserted. "I'll go."
"It could be dangerous for you, too, my friend," Cloud Dancing warned her.
"I'll get help," she assured him. "Now you must go back where you'll be safe."
"Before I go, would you do one thing for me?" he smiled.
"Anything I can, Cloud Dancing," Michaela replied.
"Would you ask Dorothy to meet me at our usual location? If she is not there within two hours, I shall assume that it was not possible for her to get away, and I shall leave. Can you do this for me?"
"Yes," she hugged him. "I'll ride back to town right away to tell her."
"Thank you. Please be careful," he said, his voice lower with concern.
Michaela replied, "And you be careful, too. Thank you for the warning."
Michaela quickly got on her horse and departed. Her heart pounded faster as her mind concluded that Sully was in danger. How could she find him? Could she get to him in time? As these worries filled her head, she raced for town.
Having sent off a telegram to Michaela, Sully headed for the Reb's boarding house. Upon arriving at the two story building, he realized that what Annabelle said was true. The Reb did not have much money, if this was where he lived. The building was barely held together, from the looks of it. Sully knocked at the door, hoping it would not fall over.
A graying woman, wearing a dirty apron, opened the door.
"'Mornin', ma'am," Sully began. "I was wonderin' if I could speak t' one of your boarders? He's called the Reb."
"Ya ain't some debt collector, are ya?" she demanded.
"No, ma'am," Sully said. "Just want to talk with him, 's all."
"He's upstairs. Only room on the right. Prob'ly passed out drunk. Ya can go up." She motioned to him.
"Thanks," Sully said. As he began to climb the steps, its creaks and movements had an unnerving effect. Reaching the Reb's door, he knocked. No answer. The woman said he was home, Sully thought. He knocked a little harder. Still no response. Placing his hand on the knob, Sully turned it and opened the door.
Michaela tied Flash to a post in front of the Clinic. She ran next door to the Gazette to find Dorothy. She was not there. Next, Michaela tried Grace's Cafe. There sat Dorothy at a table with Reverend Timothy Johnson.
"Dorothy, Reverend," Michaela greeted them, out of breath.
"Dr. Mike," the reverend smiled. "How are you feeling? I've been wanting to come out to the homestead to check on you since your accident."
"I'm fine, Reverend," Michaela told him. "Ah, would you excuse Dorothy and me for just a moment?"
"Certainly," the Reverend replied.
Michaela motioned for her friend to walk back toward the Clinic with her. "What is it, Michaela?" Dorothy looked worried.
"It's Cloud Dancing. I just saw him. He came to warn me that he had a dream. He believes my family to be in danger."
"What kind of danger?" Dorothy put her hand on Michaela's arm in concern.
"He didn't know, but it might be Sully. I'll take Flash and find him!" Michaela started to cry. They sat down on the bench in front of the Clinic.
"Michaela, ya can't go ridin' out int' the middle of nowhere lookin' for him." Dorothy said.
She was adamant, "I must! No one believed that I would find him when he fell off of the cliff! And I'll find him again. If he needs me, if he's injured or..."
"Dr. Mike!" Horace yelled. The tall telegrapher motioned to Michaela. "Got a telegram for ya. It's from Sully."
Michaela leapt from the bench and ran to him. "Thank you, Horace." She took the paper and unfolded it. As he turned to go back to the Depot, she began to read:
"Michaela. Trouble in Central City. One of agents killed. I am okay. Might take longer than I originally thought. Be home as soon as I can. Do not worry. Love, Sully." She read it again just to be sure that his words were real.
"What is it, Michaela?" Dorothy joined her.
"Sully's all right. One of the agents he was escorting was killed, however. Do you think that was the danger in Cloud Dancing's dream? Or is danger still in Sully's future?" Michaela's mind filled with concern.
"If Sully says he's okay, then you can stop your worryin'." Dorothy assured her.
"He's in Central City," Michaela poured over the telegram again. "If I leave now, I can..."
"Michaela, ya can't go ridin' that far by yourself," Dorothy interrupted. "Ya don't even know the way. An' there's mountain passes to worry about." Dorothy tried to calm her.
"I almost lost Sully once. If anything happened to him, I..." Michaela began to tear up again. A flood of emotions washed over her.
Dorothy put her arm around her friend's shoulder and walked her into the Clinic.
Sitting Michaela down at the desk, Dorothy calmly tried to reason with her, "Michaela, listen. After the bump on the head that ya suffered, you're in no condition t' do this. Sully can take care of himself. He sent word t' ya that he's all right. Now, try t' relax. If it would make ya feel better, why don't ya send him a telegram back?"
"Dorothy, thank you for your support," Michaela sounded a bit calmer. "Oh, I almost forgot! Cloud Dancing asked if you could meet him at your usual rendezvous place right away. You go to him. I'll be fine."
Dorothy turned to leave, "You won't go doin' anything foolish now?"
"I won't." Michaela assured her.
After Dorothy departed, Michaela put her head down at her desk. Her temple was throbbing again.
Suddenly, Matthew burst into the Clinic. "Ma! I come t' get ya, right away. Katie's missin'. We looked everywhere. Colleen's searchin' around the homestead, and Brian took Wolf t' look further out."
Michaela jumped up and ran out the door.
Michaela stood at the Clinic door directing her elder son, "Matthew, round up a search party. Meet us at the homestead as soon as you can. I'll ride out there right away. We'll find Katie."
Matthew started to ring the town bell, and residents of Colorado Springs responded. Volunteers to look for Katie came forward.
Jake began organizing the town folk. "Okay. Loren, Hank, Robert E, Horace, an' me will ride out now. We'll send word back to town if we need more help. We may have t' expand the search."
"I can't come t' help right now, Jake," Horace said. "Train from Denver's due in an' I got t' be here. I can come in a couple o' hours."
"I can come now," the Reverend raised his hand.
Hank couldn't resist, "Plannin' on lookin' fer the kid, too, Reverend?"
"Very funny, Hank," the preacher responded. "I can stay at the homestead to free up more folks to look for the baby and to lend moral support."
"That's true," said Jake. "Okay, you can come."
"I'll get some food out there t' feed the volunteers," Grace chimed in.
"I will help you, Senora Grace," Teresa Slicker offered.
"Anyone see Dorothy?" asked Loren.
"I saw her ridin' out o' town just as I was arrivin'," Matthew answered.
Jake barked more orders, "Okay then, let's get goin'."
The Reb was lying face down on the bed. Sully wondered if the man was even alive, but when he smelled the odor of whiskey and heard the snoring, he knew the drunk was still among the living.
Sully surveyed the scene as quietly as the creaky floor would permit. On a dirty table next to the bed sat an empty whiskey bottle, some tobacco chew, and a revolver. Sully wondered where the rifle was that he had seen last night at the saloon.
Moving aside some clothes on the floor, he saw the weapon. Beside it lay a telescopic sight. What was it? Sully strained to remember from his training as a sniper for the Union Army. Then it dawned on him. It was a Whitworth rifle of British manufacture, popular in the South during the war. Muzzle loading. Seeing the Reb begin to stir, Sully decided to leave.
The boarding house lady stopped him on the way out. "Ya talk t' him?"
Sully smiled, "No, ma'am. He was asleep, and I didn't wanna wake him."
"Figures he'd be passed out. I ought t' throw the no good, son of a ..."
Sully was out the door and out of ear shot by the time she finished her phrase. A quick pass by the sheriff's office proved fruitless. The lawman was still not back. Sully was beginning to feel frustrated. After what he had seen at the boarding house, he felt a greater sense of urgency to speak to the sheriff. Then he decided what his course of action must be.
Back at the Teller House, Bradford and Thompson were eating in the dining room. When they saw Sully enter, they motioned for him to join them.
"I just wired Pinkerton, you'll be glad to know," Sully sat down beside them.
Michaela was met at the steps of the homestead by a frantic Colleen. "Ma! We can't find Katie anywhere!"
"I know, Colleen. Matthew told me." Michaela tried to calm her daughter. "Now, tell me where she was last seen."
"I was hangin' clothes out t' dry," Colleen recalled. "Katie was sittin' on the grass playin'. I took my eyes off of her for not more than a couple of minutes. When I looked back, she was gone."
Michaela tried to remain composed for Colleen's sake. "So she couldn't have gone very far, then."
"I don't know, Ma. Brian and Matthew were in the barn," Colleen related. "When I called and Katie didn't answer, I ran t' get the boys. We've looked everywhere out here for her." Colleen was beginning to cry.
"All right, all right! We'll find her," Michaela hugged Colleen. "Matthew's rounding up a search party in town. Where's Brian?"
Almost on cue, Brian and Wolf came running down the hill behind the Sully home. "Ma! Me an' Wolf couldn't find Katie. I don't know where she could be."
Matthew and the search party arrived at that moment. Loren escorted the Reverend into the house. They gathered at the dining room table to quickly plan their strategy. They had brought several maps. As they talked, the Reverend familiarized himself with the floor plan and furniture location of the first floor of the homestead. Unspoken was the real fear on their minds. After a few minutes, they were ready.
"Now, don't ya worry, Dr. Mike," Loren touched Michaela's hand.
Hank got up to stretch and found himself looking out the window, "We'll find her, Michaela. Little kid like that couldn't have got very far."
"Well, time's wastin'," Jake reminded them.
"We'll be checkin' in with the Reverend 'bout ev'ry half hour," said Robert E.
They divided up into pairs of searchers and designated search areas. Then off the concerned friends and family rode to look for Katie. The Reverend, fairly familiar with the first floor now, sat at the table to wait and pray. He was startled by a strange sound coming from overhead.
Sully informed his Washington companions about the visit to the boarding house. "An' I wired all this information t' Pinkerton. Told him the sheriff's not around t' act on things, and he better do somethin' fast."
"So you think this Reb character might have been Anderson's assassin, Sully?" Thompson asked.
"Could be. He fits the build of the shooter, accordin' t' the tracks we saw. Chews tobacco, too." Sully answered. He pulled from his jacket the bullet that had killed Anderson. "See this? Look close at its shape."
Bradford took it into his hands, "It looks almost hexagon in shape, Sully."
Sully nodded, "It is. An' the Reb had a rifle that fires this shape bullet. 'The bolt' we called it in the War, a six sided bullet."
Thompson spoke up excitedly, "Hey, I remember reading something about 'the bolt' being the kind of bullet that killed Union General 'Uncle John' Sedgwick at Spotsylvania Court House. The story goes that he had just remarked to a frightened soldier that Confederate sharpshooters couldn't hit an elephant, when bang! He was shot by one."
Sully nodded, "Don't surprise me. That rifle was a favorite of Confederate snipers. With a telescopic sight, it could hit a target 1800 yards away with deadly accuracy. An' the Reb had a telescopic sight on the floor in his room."
"Okay," Bradford said. "The Reb fits the build and had a rifle that could do the job. He apparently chews tobacco, just like Anderson's murderer, but we lack two things. Motive and opportunity."
"Ya sound like a lawyer," Sully smiled.
A man approached their table. "Which one o' ya is Byron Sully?"
Sully raised his hand, "I am. Why?"
"Telegraph come for ya" the man replied. Delivering it into Sully's hands, the man left.
Sully opened the telegraph and read silently.
"Well?" Thompson couldn't resist.
"It's from Pinkerton." Sully looked up.
"What does Pinkerton's telegram say?" Thompson asked Sully.
Sully was still reading the lengthy wire. Then he looked up, "I think we found our man."
"Why?" Bradford queried.
Sully answered, "From what it says here, I think I figured out a motive for the Reb t' shoot Anderson."
The Reverend heard the noise from overhead again. Using his cane, the blind man felt his way to the steps. He began to climb slowly, feeling his way toward the sound.
When he reached the top floor, he tentatively walked down the hallway. The noise was becoming louder and more discernible to him. He found himself in a large bedroom, and knew he was almost on the sound. It was a child's cry. But it was muffled somewhat. Continuing to carefully move in its direction, he came to a cupboard. Feeling for the knob, he opened the door, and the wails of the child began to subside. There sat Katie.
"Katie?" he crouched down. He held out his hands and felt the little girl's head. She reached out to his arms, and he gathered her closer. "Katie! Praise the Lord! How on earth did you get in here?"
The child began to babble some words that he could not quite understand.
The minister smiled, "Let's get you downstairs and wait for the search party to return. There's gonna be some pretty happy folks to see you."
The day passed in Central City, with still no sign of the sheriff. There was a moment when Sully had an uneasy feeling about Michaela and the children. He sensed fear and uncertainty. But then the feeling faded.
Sully and company speculated about the murder.
Bradford wondered, "What reason could the Reb have had to kill Anderson? I seriously doubt if they ever even met."
Then Sully remembered what Annabelle had told him, "There is a connection between them. The telegram said that Anderson was one of Pinkerton's best agents. Durin' the War, Anderson was an undercover agent for Pinkerton at Camp Douglas. That's where the Union held thousands of Confederate prisoners of war. Anderson helped uncover a Confederate plot t' release the prisoners. I found out that the Reb was imprisoned at Camp Douglas durin' the War. What if they met each other in the camp, and the Reb knew Anderson was the spy responsible for the failed rescue? He would have had a big grudge against Anderson."
"But how could the Reb have known Anderson would be here? And in the wilderness, at that." Thompson wondered.
"The Reb's been gone a few days." Sully speculated, "If he was in Denver, he might've spotted us and recognized Anderson. He could've followed us and maybe been listenin' in on our conversations. It was right after Anderson told me why he was here that he was shot."
"Wait a minute," Bradford was alarmed. "If the Reb is bitter about the War, then he must also have a motive to want to kill the President. He's bound to know that the Grant will be here soon."
Michaela and Matthew were the first to return to the homestead. Michaela ran up the steps and opened the door. There, playing merrily on the floor were Katie and the man of the cloth.
"Katie!" Michaela rushed to pick up her daughter. "Reverend, who found her? Where was she?"
"I did," he smiled. "She was upstairs in a cupboard."
"A cupboard!" Michaela was incredulous.
Matthew caressed the back of Katie's little head, "I'll go check it out."
He ran up the steps, as Loren and Robert E rode up.
"I heard a noise overhead while I was waiting for everyone," the Reverend related. "I just followed the sound of her crying. When I opened the cupboard door, there she was."
Tears streamed down Michaela's face as she held her daughter closer, "I just can't believe this."
Loren was first to enter the house. "Katie! Where ya been, girl?" He pulled out a piece of candy from his jacket and gave it to the child. "Here, I bet ya like this as much as yer brother." He was choking back tears.
Robert E joined him and touched Katie's cheek. "How's my little godchild? Where was she?"
Matthew came down the steps, "She was lookin' for this, I'll wager."
He was holding Katie's stuffed rabbit. The child reached out for it, and Matthew handed it to her with a smile.
"I put that in the cupboard this morning," Michaela said. "She knows that's where I keep it. She must have walked into the house while Colleen's back was turned, climbed up the steps, and gone into our bedroom to get it. How she got stuck in the cupboard, only she knows."
Matthew added, "From the looks o' things, I think she fell asleep in there. When she woke up, she must've started cryin', and that's when the Reverend heard her."
"She climbed up them steps?" Loren pointed.
Michaela hugged Katie a bit tighter, "She's been climbing everywhere. I think when Papa returns, he's going to have to build some gates to keep this one corralled."
Hank and Jake came running in.
"Ya found her?" Jake was out of breath.
Hank strolled over to the little girl, "Now why ya wanna go scarin' everyone like that? Jus' like a woman."
Katie smiled at the barkeeper. Hank looked at her and grinned, "So who found her?"
Michaela, Matthew, Loren and Robert E spoke in unison, "The Reverend."
Hank rolled his eyes, "Figures. The blind man finds the missin' kid."
Finally, Colleen, Brian and Wolf arrived on the scene of laughter.
Colleen ran to Katie, who reached out to her sister, "Katie! Oh, Katie, I was so scared!" Michaela hugged both of her daughters.
Brian walked over and tickled Katie's side. She giggled, delighted with all of this attention.
Sully told the men, "I better keep an eye on the Reb 'til the sheriff returns." Then he pulled out of his pocket the blood stained itinerary of the President's visit. "The sheriff's due back today, and President Grant arrives Monday. That's just two days away. If I stay here t' watch the Reb, I ain't gonna get you two to the next agent on time. If I give ya directions, ya think ya can find your way t' meet him?"
"And miss all of this?" Thompson was excited.
"The agent has instructions to meet us in Central City, if we don't rendezvous with him on time," Bradford explained. "I would really like to stay here and see the President, Sully. And perhaps be of some help to you."
"If that's what ya want, fine," Sully said. "I'll go back t' the Reb's boardin' house t' keep an eye on things. How 'bout you two goin' t' the sheriff's office t' wait for his return. When he gets back, fill him in on what's happened."
Thompson liked the intrigue of all of this, "We could take turns watching the Reb, Sully. You know, in shifts."
Sully grinned, "It'll be nightfall soon. I'll take the first shift." He gave them directions to the boarding house. "Since it's on the edge of town, I can hide outside and watch things."
"I'll bring you some dinner, Sully." Thompson offered.
"And I'll wait for the sheriff," announced Bradford.
That evening, all in the rescue party gathered at the homestead to celebrate the safe finding of Katie. Grace, Teresa and Dorothy brought food out to the homestead. Andrew joined them and passed the time talking to Colleen. With laughter and conversation filling the house, Michaela took a moment to steal away to the front porch. The April evening was chilly, but she pulled her shawl around her shoulders.
Michaela looked up at the stars, "Oh, Sully," she spoke low. "I miss you so much."
She thanked God for her children's safety and prayed that her husband would return soon. Tomorrow, she would visit the locale that he had selected for Day 6 and maybe feel him a little closer.
Sully finished the dinner which Thompson had brought. The mountain man positioned himself in an area of bushes near the Reb's boarding house. Through the upstairs window, Sully could see the Reb staggering around. He appeared to be downing massive amounts of liquor. Sully thought, at least the Reb will be sleeping tonight.
His thoughts turned to his wife and children. Sully looked up at the starry sky and knew that Michaela, too, was beholding the same sight at that exact moment. He touched the medicine bag and sighed. Then he thought about the President's itinerary again. An idea occurred to him. He would send Michaela another telegram tomorrow.
Michaela ensured that her family was up and ready for Sunday church in the morning. Dressed in their finest, the Cooper-Quinn-Sully clan rode into Colorado Springs, with Flash tied to the back of the wagon. Town folk gathered at the little church to offer thanks for answered prayers. Katie was safe. Reverend Johnson enjoyed relating the tale of finding little Katie.
The preacher began to recite the gospel of Matthew, "'How think ye? If a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety nine which went not astray.' And so my friends, we rejoice today that Katie has returned to the loving arms of her family who thought her lost." The reverend went on to relate the importance of finding one's spiritual way, as well.
Following the service, Michaela pulled her older son aside. "Matthew, I need to leave for awhile. Will you see that everyone gets home safely? I should be back in time for an early supper."
"Sure, Ma," Matthew nodded. "Do ya want me t' come with ya?"
She kissed his cheek, "No, thanks. It's one of those special places."
Matthew realized that she meant Sully had asked her to go somewhere special, and the young man smiled. Michaela walked to the Clinic to change clothes. Then she mounted Flash and set out for the Day 6 destination.
Before sunup, Thompson had relieved Sully of watching the boarding house. Back at the hotel, Sully did not sleep much. His desire to see his wife was becoming overwhelming. He quickly dressed and went to the telegraph office. After wiring Michaela, Sully headed for Thompson at the lookout location. Upon his arrival, he found Thompson asleep!
"Thompson!" Sully shook him. "What're ya doin'? Ya fell asleep!"
"What time is it?" Thompson asked.
"Almost noon," Sully rolled his eyes. "I should never have let ya stay out here by yourself."
"I was only asleep for a few minutes," Thompson began a fast talking explanation. "No one in this town was even stirring all morning."
Sully was disgusted, "I hope the Reb's still sleepin' off his drinkin'."
He went to the boarding house and knocked on the door.
After what seemed an eternity, the same woman from yesterday responded, "Ya back again?"
"Yes, ma'am," Sully nodded.
"Well, ya jus' missed him," she shook her head. "He left 'bout 15 minutes ago."
Sully felt his stomach sink, "Ya know where he was headin'?"
"I don't," she replied.
Sully returned to Thompson, disgusted as much with himself as with the Washington bureaucrat.
"He's gone." Sully clinched a fist. "I got two choices now. I can try trackin' him down, or I can wait for him to return."
"Want to know what I think?" Thompson asked.
"No!" Sully walked away.
Sully headed for the sheriff's office, and to his pleasant surprise, the door was open. As he neared the building, Sully saw Bradford talking to the lawman.
Bradford noticed Sully approach and pointed him out the sheriff. Sully entered the office.
"Mr. Sully," the sheriff offered his hand. Seth Wilson was a tall man, with a handsome face and a sure voice. "I understand that you suspect one of our citizens of murder."
Sully acknowledged, "Yep. 'Cept now he's missin'."
"Missing?" Bradford was surprised. "I thought you were watching him."
Michaela arrived at the Day 6 destination, the old Indian reservation. A flood of painful memories overwhelmed her. The diseases and deaths. The confinement of the Cheyenne and other tribes here. The indoctrination into the white man's ways. Robbing them of their cultural identity. Why would Sully want her to come here? She opened the letter and read the Day 6 letter.
I know, at first, it might cause you some pain to be here again. But this is where you helped so many Indians. This is where you brought your doctoring skills and gave hope and compassion to so many. To me, there was something else that you gave here. You gave me the news that you were having our baby. Remember that Thanksgiving, when you were starting to think you might never be able to get pregnant? When you told me the news that we hoped for, I swept you up into my arms and whirled you around. Your words will always ring joyfully in my heart. Walt Whitman wrote:
'Fast-anchor'd, eternal, O love!
O woman I love!
O bride! O wife!
More resistless than I can tell,
the thought of you!'
How do I love thee? You are the anchor of our family. I remember your fears about being a mother, first to Charlotte's children, and later to our own. And I will never forget the pain that you went through to bring Katie into this world. Each labor pain nearly tore my heart in two. And then I saw our little miracle, a living symbol of our love. When you held her, kissed her, nursed her for the first time, I knew that the pain was worth it. You have given of yourself to so many, Michaela. The Indians, the children, me. Your strength and compassion inspire me every day. My heart is anchored in you. I am yours, Sully."
Michaela felt the tears welling up again. She sat down to collect her thoughts. How can this man reach so far down into her soul and touch her this way? She felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude that she had come to this town and met Sully. Her proper Bostonian upbringing taught her that a love like this only existed in books by romantic authors. She never even had time to read those.
But then she came west and met Sully. She resisted her attraction to him at first. She feared that she would be hurt or that she could not measure up to his passion. But each moment that she spent with him melted that reserve. He made her feel that there was no one else in the world but her. He looked into her eyes and saw directly into her soul.
Michaela wiped the tears, "Come on, Flash. Let's go home." She hoped for a quiet day with the children. Her fears for Sully's safety had eased a bit, as she headed back to the homestead.
"Thompson had the morning watch and fell asleep," Sully shook his head.
Sheriff Wilson spoke up, "Your evidence against the Reb rings true. I'll go look for him. There's a few places I can think of t' search. I doubt he got too far."
"I can come with ya," Sully volunteered.
"I think it might be better for you to wait here, Mr. Sully," Wilson said. "If the Reb comes back, I give ya permission to lock him up on my behalf. The President's life is definitely in danger if we can't find the Reb by tomorrow."
Colleen had supper cooking when Michaela came home. Katie was toddling around the room trying to verbally identify everything that Brian pointed to.
"Ma," Brian lit up. "Katie can almost say 'table.'"
Katie ran to her mother and begged to be lifted.
"That's wonderful, Brian," she lifted her daughter and gave her a hug.
Katie spoke, "taaba."
Michaela kissed the little girl, "Good, Katie."
The child wanted down again to continue this identification game with her brother.
Matthew entered the house and shouted, "Dr. Mike! Got a telegram from Sully here."
Michaela's hands shook as she opened it.
As she opened the telegram from Sully, Michaela was surrounded by the children. She read in silence.
The wire read: "Michaela. Meet me in Denver tomorrow. Bring formal clothes. Book a room at our hotel. Love Sully."
"What's it say, Ma?" Brian inquired.
"Colleen you're going back to school tomorrow. How would you like a couple of traveling companions?" Michaela smiled.
Colleen was confused, "Who?"
"Katie and I," she replied. Then, turning to Matthew and Brian, Michaela asked, "Will you two be all right for a day or so without us?"
"We'll be fine, Ma," Matthew hugged her.
Brian persisted, "Why're ya goin' to Denver? Is Pa all right?"
"He's wonderful, Brian! Simply wonderful!" she smiled.
Colleen volunteered, "I can watch Katie for ya in Denver, so you and Sully can have some time alone, Ma. My classes don't start for a couple of days."
Michaela sprang into action to prepare for her trip, "Matthew, please ride into town and book me a seat on the train to Denver for tomorrow." She wrote down the name of the hotel in Denver where she and Sully had honeymooned. Handing the paper to her older son, Michaela instructed, "And have Horace wire them to reserve this room at the hotel."
Matthew departed, and Michaela bounded up the steps to pack.
Sheriff Wilson left town to locate the Reb.
Sully felt rather useless. He was angry at himself for letting Thompson be the lookout. He was concerned for the President's safety, but most of all, he missed Michaela. He resumed his lookout post near the Reb's boarding house. Bradford joined him.
The two men sat on the ground as dusk approached.
"I took care of Anderson's burial," Bradford began. "Oh, and I wanted to give you this." He handed Sully an envelope.
"What is it?" Sully took it and began to open it.
"It's the balance of your pay," the older man informed him.
Sully stopped and handed it back. "I can't accept this. I didn't take ya t' your final destination."
Bradford insisted, "You did everything and more than was expected of you. The Interior Department will be well pleased with the notes and information we acquired. Besides, you have a family to support."
Sully smiled and put the money in his pocket, "Thanks."
"Want to talk, Sully?" Bradford said.
"Not 'specially," Sully pensively replied. There was silence for awhile.
"Thompson is truly sorry for what happened," the older man observed.
"I know he is," Sully responded.
Bradford sighed, "I get the feeling that the Reb's departure is not the only thing on your mind."
"Sometimes ya gotta accept what is, not what should be," Sully observed.
Bradford nodded, "True. Do you think that the Reb will be back?"
"My hunch is he will be," Sully said. "This time, I'll be waitin'."
Bradford allowed more silence to pass, then spoke again, "You miss your family, don't you, Sully."
Sully was somewhat surprised at the man's insight, "I do."
"I well know the feeling," Bradford nodded. "Five of my seven daughters were born without my being there. My travels took me from them too often. I missed so much. Watching them learn to walk, to talk, go to school, grow up, get married, have my grandchildren. Sometimes I think I've been more of a visitor in their lives. Now, I look back and feel regret."
"I was there when my little girl was born," Sully smiled. "An' when she learned t' walk. She's tryin' t' talk now." He turned serious, "But I ain't plannin' on missin' so much of her life. I told the Interior Department that I'd only be away from home for short spells at a time. I refuse t' miss her growin' up."
Bradford lamented, "I wish I would have realized that all those years ago."
Sully continued, "I lost my family twice in my life. First, my ma, pa and brother. Then my first wife and daughter. I'd die before I'd let anythin' happened to the family I got now."
It was dark now. The Reb's room was dark, too.
Bradford stood up to leave, "Well, I'll head back to the hotel now. If I hear anything from the sheriff, I'll let you know."
"Thanks," Sully acknowledged. "For everythin'." He returned to his thoughts. Tomorrow, President Grant would arrive. And tomorrow, he would see Michaela. He needed no further incentive to stay awake.
Michaela rocked Katie to sleep. She had completed the task of packing earlier. Humming softly to her daughter, Michaela went over a list in her mind of what she might be forgetting to take. She chose the gown that she had worn to the opera with Sully in Boston. For him, she packed the suit that her mother had brought for their wedding. She smiled with anxious anticipation at what her husband might be planning for them.
Katie was finally asleep. Michaela gently covered the little girl for the night. She uttered a silent prayer to keep her husband and children safe. Returning to her room, she saw the remaining two envelopes on her night stand. She picked up Day 7 and smiled. "I'll go there first thing in the morning," she whispered. Then she held up Day 8. For its destination, nothing was written.
Michaela was awakened by Katie's calls the next morning. She brought the little girl into her room for some tutoring in the new words which they had been working on for the past week.
"Come on, Sweetheart," Michaela cajoled. "Let's try again. We're going to see Papa today."
Katie preferred to put her hands up to her mother's face and wiggle her fingers into Michaela's mouth.
"I guess you'll say them when you're good and ready," Michaela laughed. "Katherine Elizabeth Sully, I don't know where you get this stubborn streak."
The aroma of food cooking and the sounds of conversation rose from downstairs. Michaela dressed Katie and herself quickly. A fast bite of breakfast, and she was off to her destination. The children sat at the table still.
"Do ya think Ma's okay?" Brian asked his siblings. "She keeps runnin' off to these mysterious places."
"She's fine, Brian," Matthew poked his shoulder.
"She's just in love," Colleen sighed, as she fed Katie.
Brian was amazed, "In love? After bein' married almost three years, she's still in love?"
Matthew observed, "I think even more now than three years ago."
Thompson joined Sully at his lookout position at around noon. Approaching from behind, he cleared his throat.
"I know you're there," Sully spoke without turning.
"Still mad at me?" Thompson nervously sat down beside him.
"I ain't mad at you," Sully tried to assure him.
"Bradford asked me to tell you that the sheriff just rode into town," Thompson told him.
Sully jumped up, "Did he have the Reb with him?"
Thompson stood as well, "No one was with him."
Sully put his hand on Thompson's shoulder, "Think ya could keep an eye out for the Reb for awhile? I wanna go talk to Sheriff Wilson."
Thompson's face brightened. "Sure! I'll watch for him as long as you want."
Sully turned to leave when Thompson spoke again, "Sully?"
Thompson grinned, "Thanks."
Sully headed for the sheriff's office.
Michaela climbed to the top of the mountain with its breathtaking vistas. She felt a chill, recalling the first time that Sully had shown her this view. It was shortly after they had begun to court. They had a fight and were not sure if the differences between them could be overcome. Sully told her that he had never shown anyone this mountain top before, not even Abigail. He said this was where he came to find his way when he was unsure of things.
Michaela looked at that view now through the eyes of a woman who had found her way... with him. She opened the envelope and read.
Remember this view? Here, I see the glories of this land and how much I want it to still be around for our grandchildren to see someday. Here, we realized that our differences were not insurmountable. Here, we saw the common love that we share for so many things. Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote:
'I love all that thou lovest,
Spirit of Delight!
The fresh Earth in new leaves dressed,
And the starry night;
Autumn evening, and the morn
When the golden mists are born.'
How do I love thee? I love all that you love. No matter what differences in viewpoint we might have in our marriage, there is one certainty. What I feel for you, like this mountain, stands strong and sure. I love you. Those three words contain my heart. I am yours, Sully."
Michaela shook her head. What did I ever do to deserve him, she wondered. She took one last look at the magnificent sight. Suddenly and inexplicably, she thought of the baby that she had miscarried a few months ago. Gazing at the majesty of this view, she felt a wonderful closeness to their lost child, and a peace. Today, she would see his father again, and her heart filled with love for them both.
Bradford and Wilson were talking when Sully came into the sheriff's office.
The lawman looked at Sully, "No sign of the Reb. I've been in touch with Pinkerton. The President's due to dine at the Teller House this afternoon. Best we can do is keep an eye out for the Reb."
Sully worried, "Is Pinkerton sendin' any agents?"
Wilson nodded, "He sent me an updated itinerary. He'll have some agents ridin' in the President's entourage. The group'll be passin' through Golden and Blackhawk first. Then, after dinin' here, they're goin' by carriage up to Idaho Springs. The President will return to Denver early this evenin'."
"I was plannin' on bein' in Denver today, too," Sully said, thinking of Michaela.
"Pinkerton wants you and me t' hook up with the President's group after he dines here. Since we know what the Reb looks like, Pinkerton wants our help keepin' an eye out, in case he shows his face."
Michaela, Colleen and Katie said their goodbyes at the train Depot. The doctor gave Matthew and Brian a list of things to remember.
"Ma, ya don't have to write all this down," Brian's shoulders sagged. "Me an' Matthew will remember."
"Matthew and I," she corrected.
"You won't be here," he smiled, teasing his mother for correcting his grammar.
After several hugs and kisses, they boarded the train to embark on their journey. As they pulled out, Michaela realized, this was Katie's first train ride. The little girl stood excitedly on her mother's lap looking out the window with her nose pressed up against the glass. Then Katie began to pull down the window shade. Michaela smiled. She's her father's daughter, she thought.
Soon Katie was asleep in her mother's arms. As they rode along, Michaela's daydreams drifted to her honeymoon. The movement of the train brought back stirring memories. She felt a flush of excitement, and then gradually fell asleep dreaming of that first night in Denver.
The President arrived with his family and friends on time. Waiting for them in the dining room were several of the town's distinguished citizens, the sheriff, Bradford, Thompson, and Sully. Grant recognized the mountain man immediately.
"Mr. Sully!" the President extended his hand. "So wonderful to see you again. You remember my wife, Julia, and our children."
Sully smiled, "Nice to see you again, sir. Mrs. Grant."
"How is that beautiful wife of yours?" Grant inquired.
"She's fine, Mr. President," Sully answered. "I'm meetin' her later in Denver."
"Splendid! I've been informed that you and Sheriff Wilson will be coming along with us back to Denver. There's a ball planned for late this evening, given by the Governor's Guards. I do hope that you and your wife can attend."
Sully grinned, "We'd love to. Thank you. By the way, sir, I want to tell ya how much I appreciate your givin' me a pardon. Seems you're always havin' to forgive me."
"It's the least I can do for you, son," Grant patted his shoulder. "You saved my life."
Sully excused himself to allow the President to greet others and to dine in peace. He found himself eying every window and doorway with great scrutiny. Then he felt the presence of someone behind him. It was Thompson.
"Isn't this wonderful?" the younger man spoke excitedly. "I'm so happy that the President can come and enjoy the great outdoors. He's had a rough start to his second term. All this Credit Mobilier business."
"Credit what business?" Sully scratched his head.
"Credit Mobilier," Thompson began to speak even faster. "Congress has been investigating charges made by a New York newspaper that there was corruption in building the Union Pacific Railway. Massachusetts representative Oakes Ames was involved in trying to bribe some Congressmen to look the other way about it. Thank goodness, Vice-president Colfax was cleared. However, there were rumors that Speaker of the House James Garfield might have been involved. It will probably ruin any hopes he has for higher office. Then there was the big salary grab that upset people."
Sully could not seem to slow the man down with his fountain of information. "Salary grab?"
Thompson nodded, "Yes, just last month, Congress passed an act to raise their salaries 50 percent and made it retroactive! That really has the public in an uproar."
Sully resumed his surveillance of the room, "Like I said, politics is a dirty business."
Thompson finally concluded, "Well, I guess I'll go over and pay my respects to the President."
"You do that," Sully was relieved. He stepped to the main doorway to get a breath of fresh air. He wondered where the Reb might be.
Michaela, Colleen and Katie arrived in Denver safe and sound. The naps had energized mother and younger daughter.
"I'll take my things over to my boarding house, Ma," Colleen said. "Then I'll stop by the hotel to visit and pick up Katie."
"That will be fine, Colleen," Michaela hugged her. "We'll see you later."
Michaela and Katie boarded a carriage to the hotel. Michaela's excitement grew as she found herself again in the hotel of her honeymoon. She left word at the front desk that her husband would be arriving later. Finally, checked in and bags delivered, she began to hang up their formal clothes for tonight. In a fanciful mood, Michaela began to hum and dance around the room, pretending Sully's jacket was really her husband. Katie sat on the bed and watched her mother intently, clapping and giggling occasionally.
Michaela laughed and picked up the toddler, "Shall we try those new words one more time before Papa arrives?"
Katie made a face to say no. Michaela gave her a hug, "Oh, Katie, I've missed Papa so much."
"Papa," the child smiled.
"Yes, Papa. If you only knew what joy Papa and Mama found here in this room," she stopped herself with a giggle. Katie joined her in laughter, and the two fell onto the bed trying to tickle one another.
Sully said his goodbyes to Bradford and Thompson at the Teller House.
"It has been an honor, Sully," Bradford shook his hand. "You're a fine man. I wish there were more like you in this world."
"You too," Sully modestly replied.
Next, Thompson stepped forward. "I'm so glad that I got to meet you, Sully. When I was talking to President Grant earlier, he told me how highly he thinks of you, too."
The young man then went off on one of his fast talking tangents, "And the President also gave me some bad news about Washington politics. My father has been lying to me about some things, it seems. The President said that Vice President Colfax was not cleared in the Credit Mobilier scandal, after all. He has retired from politics a ruined man. And, I'm ashamed to say, my own father has been implicated in all of this nasty business, as well. The President says that I can still keep my job though, and he doesn't fault me."
Sully tried to make his exit, "He's a very forgivin' man."
Thompson continued with his rapid paced comments, "He also told me about how Congress has started reporting all of its proceedings in something called the Congressional Record. Maybe I could get my journal information put into that when we report back to the Interior Department. And the President said that in the Slaughterhouse Cases, the Supreme Court has..."
Sully held up his hand to stop Thompson. "Why don't ya write all of this down, and mail it to me. I don't think the President's gonna wait for me."
Thompson returned to the farewell, "Thanks for everything, Sully. I've learned so much from you. Not just about the land, but about life. I wish I were more like you."
"You could try talkin' a little less," Sully smiled.
Thompson gave him a vigorous hand shake.
Bradford patted Sully on the back, "We'll see to the horses that you and Anderson rode from Denver. Take care of yourself."
Sully and Sheriff Wilson joined the Grant entourage as it left Central City. Sully hoped for an uneventful trip to Denver. He closed his eyes and felt a shiver of excitement at the thought of seeing Michaela.
Grant's train arrived in Denver by early evening. Crowds had applauded the President throughout the day. Nowhere had the Reb been seen. A reception for the President was planned for 9:30 p.m., with 4,000 guests expected. A formal ball was scheduled after that.
So anxious was Sully to see his wife that he practically jumped off of the train before it fully stopped. He picked up his bag and ran to the hotel. The front desk clerk eyed the scruffy looking mountain man suspiciously, but after some debate, was finally convinced that he was indeed Mr. Sully.
Colleen was already in the room to get Katie when Sully burst in. Without words, Michaela ran to him and threw her arms around his neck. He lifted her off of the floor and whirled her around. Their lips met in a deep and lingering kiss.
Colleen smiled at the scene and held Katie up.
Then a little voice spoke up, "Papa!"
Sully and Michaela parted lips. He put his wife down and smiled broadly. Colleen brought Katie over to them. He hugged both daughters firmly and kissed Colleen on the cheek. Katie extended her little arms to him.
Releasing Michaela's waist, Sully lifted his daughter high into the air and laughed, "Kates! I didn't expect to see you here!"
Michaela ran her fingers through his long hair, "With Colleen returning to school today, I decided to bring Katie. Colleen volunteered to watch her for us. I hope you don't mind..."
"Mind?" he lifted the giggling toddler into the air again, "I could never mind seein' my sweet girl!" Then he looked around at them, "All of my sweet girls."
Sully noticed the bruised bump on Michaela's head, "What's this?"
"Oh, it's nothing. I'll explain later. We're just so happy to see you," she hugged him.
Sully took off his jacket and plopped on the bed with Katie on his lap. He stretched out his legs, and she began to play with the beads and medicine bag on his chest.
Sully sighed, "You wouldn't believe what the past seven days have been like!"
Michaela smiled, "The same could be said for Colorado Springs."
"Oh," Sully added, "plans for tonight have been changed a little."
"I brought the formal clothes for nothing?" Michaela put her hands on her hips.
"No," he grinned. "We're goin' to a ball for President Grant tonight!"
"A ball!" Michaela and Colleen shouted in unison.
They began to fill each other in on the event filled past week. By the time they concluded with tales of the storms, the shooting, the bump on the head, the missing baby, the Reb, and the President's visit, Katie had fallen asleep on her father's chest. He kissed the top of her head and caressed it.
Colleen stepped forward, "I've made arrangements for Katie to stay with me at the boarding house tonight... if you two don't mind bein' all alone," she teased.
"Thank you, Colleen," Michaela smiled. Sully escorted his daughters down to the hotel lobby and called for a carriage to take them to the boarding house. He kissed them both goodbye, though Katie did not stir. Then he watched their carriage ride out of sight.
Back in their room, Michaela busied herself unpacking Sully's bag. She would arrange for the hotel to launder his dirty clothes. Lifting up one of his shirts, she saw red smears. At first glance, she feared it was blood. Had Sully been shot, too? It appeared so fresh. So red. A closer look, however, revealed something a bit more dangerous, a woman's lip rouge! Sully opened the door just as Michaela was holding up his shirt for closer examination.
Sully saw immediately that Michaela had spotted the rouge on his shirt. He thought he would have a little fun teasing her. He removed the beads and medicine bag from his neck and placed them beside his wife's hair brush on the dressing table . Grinning slightly, he moved across the room, pretending not to notice anything out of the ordinary. He came up behind Michaela and wrapped his arms around her waist. Then he gently pulled back her hair and began to kiss her neck.
"Sully!" she tried not to react to him and sounded quite serious.
"Humm?" he began to nibble on her ear.
She was faltering a bit, so he continued.
"What's this?" she held up his laundry.
He paused from his amorous pursuits. Resting his chin on her shoulder, he glanced at the object in her hands, "Ah, looks like my dirty shirt." He resumed his kisses to her neck. Then he began to unbutton the back of her blouse. Lower and lower his hands moved. She started to tingle.
She tried to keep her voice steady, "I know it's your shirt! What's this on it?"
He lifted her blouse out from her skirt and slowly began to push it forward off of her shoulders. Between kisses to her neck and back, he teasingly said, "Mmmm, looks like lip rouge."
Michaela dropped his dirty shirt just as her blouse slipped off. She turned to face him, "How did a woman's lip rouge get on your shirt?"
He moved closer and began to pull down the straps of her camisole. She raised her arms to hold his waist.
He began to tenderly kiss her shoulders, "I used my shirt to wipe the rouge off of my face."
"Sully!" With every fiber of her body beginning to react to his overtures, she tried to sound shocked. "What was a woman's lip rouge doing on your face to begin with?"
He slipped his hands around her waist and pulled her closer. She raised her arms to his shoulders and caressed the hair at the base of his neck.
Sully leaned toward her ear and whispered, "Michaela."
Now she was almost gone, "Mmmm?" She started to unbutton his shirt and untuck it from his buckskins. Then she arched her head back to give him easier access to kiss her neck.
He wanted to tease a little more, "The rouge was from Annabelle."
Michaela completed the unbuttoning of his shirt and slid her hands underneath the material to caress his chest. She looked up into his deep blue eyes for an instant. "Who's Annabelle?" She began to kiss his chest.
Sully could barely contain his delight, "She's a prostitute I found in my bed one morning."
He swept Michaela up into his arms and carried her to the bed. He set his wife down on the soft mattress and leaned in for a deeper kiss.
Michaela pushed him away for a moment, sighing, "A prostitute was in your bed?" She pulled him back down to resume the kiss.
Then he came up for air, "Umm-humm. She thought I had propositioned her." Back to their kiss.
Sully paused long enough to remove his shirt and lay down beside his wife. Their eyes locked onto one another, as he maneuvered onto his side to face her. Their mutual desire was intensifying. Michaela lifted slightly so that he could slide his arm beneath her shoulders. Skin touching skin brought shivers to both lovers. She shifted onto her side to face him and reached to pass her fingers through Sully's long wavy hair. He kissed the inside of her arm, then moved his finger across the outline of her chin. Tilting her head up to him, he initiated a hungrier kiss.
Michaela stopped for air, "Did you?" She returned the passion of his kiss.
Sully paused for a moment barely leaving her lips, "Did I what?"
Michaela brushed her lips across his ear and whispered, "Did you proposition her?"
Her kisses continued down his neck and chest. He could not resist her much longer.
"What do you think?" he returned the whisper to her ear.
She rolled him over onto his back and lay on top of him. Pressing down his hands beside his head, she stared into his eyes, "I think... I think I am hopelessly in love with you."
He rolled her over onto her back, positioning himself lightly on top of her, "How do I love thee?"
"Let's count the ways," she smiled seductively.
With that, the teasing ended, and the love making began. So intense was their physical need for one another, they almost felt as if they were one being. Finally, the rhythmic and heated joining of their hearts and bodies reached an explosive peak.
Steeped in perspiration and passion spent, they quietly lay in each other's arms. Michaela rested against Sully's shoulder. She lifted the arm that he had lain across her breast and began to kiss his hand. He softly inhaled the scent of her hair.
"That was a lot of ways," he sighed.
She could not resist the question, "So, tell me about Annabelle."
Sully kissed the top of her head. "I think I'd rather do some more countin'."
She rolled over and looked up at him.
Then he lovingly stroked her face with his hand. "Michaela, you know nothin' happened with Annabelle."
She nodded and smiled, "With all of my heart, I know that, Sully." She paused and ran a finger over his chest. "However, I am a bit curious."
He grinned and explained, "I was eavesdroppin' on a conversation between the Reb and her at the saloon. She thought I was interested in somethin' more and snuck int' my room after I went to sleep. While I was dreamin' of you, she started kissin' me. I woke up and stopped her right away." He grinned, "Ya ain't jealous, are ya?"
"Always," she kissed his hand.
"It's one of the many things I love about ya," he smiled.
Then she became serious, "Sully, about your letters." Tears began to well up in her eyes. One overflowed and fell onto his bare chest. Her voice faltered a bit, "Your letters were beautiful. They made me feel so complete and loved."
"You are," he wiped away another tear and caressed her face.
Michaela continued, "I don't know what I ever did to deserve you or how I could ever live without you. I feel so blessed."
"That's exactly how I feel," he pulled her closer.
"Where did you learn to write so beautifully?" she teased him.
He grinned, "They say all great writers have a beautiful woman t' inspire them. I guess ya just bring out the best in me."
Michaela placed her head against his heart and sighed, "I think that I could stay here like this forever."
"And miss the ball?" he pretended to be surprised.
She sat up. "The ball! What time does it begin?"
"Eleven thirty. We got some time, yet." he kissed her forehead.
"It's nine thirty now," she said looking at the mantle clock. "Don't you think we should start to get ready?"
"Two hours t' get ready?" he chuckled.
She sat up, "Well, we have to bathe, get dressed, arrange transportation..."
He sat up, too. "Bathe?"
She poked his side gently, "Sully, don't you think we should bathe before we get dressed?"
"Uh-huh," he laughed and nibbled on her ear.
A knock at the door interrupted them.
Sully quickly pulled on his buckskins to answer the door, while Michaela slipped on her robe.
He opened the door. It was a bell boy.
"Evening, Mr. Sully," he tipped his hat. "Mrs. Sully asked us to have this pressed for you." He was holding up a formal jacket.
"Oh, thanks a lot," he took it.
Motioning for the young man to stay, Sully whispered something to him and handed him a tip. The bell boy nodded and departed. Sully closed the door.
"Well, I guess I have t' get dressed up again," he sighed, looking at the suit.
"I appreciate it," his wife smiled. "Katie and I got your coat a little wrinkled this afternoon."
"How?" he grinned.
"Well, I was dancing with it, and then I fell onto the bed, giggling with Katie, and..." she stopped herself, a bit embarrassed.
"You were dancin' with my jacket?" he raised his eyebrows. "Good thing I ain't a jealous man."
She laughed, "Do you think we should go over a few dance steps, just to refresh your memory?"
He took her into his arms and began to whirl her around the room. "One, two, three. One, two, three."
She laughed, "I think I like that other counting you do better."
"You mean countin' the ways I love ya?" he kissed her.
"Umm, yes," she returned the kiss. "By the way, I brought along your Day 8 envelope, but you didn't have a destination on it."
"Maybe, I knew I'd be back with you t' make some new memories," he smiled.
"May I open it?" she pleaded.
He shook his head and warned, "Not until Day 8."
Sully took her hand and walked to the window to view the Denver sky. She wrapped her arms around his waist.
Then he spoke, "Every night while I was gone, I'd gaze at the starry sky, thinkin' you were lookin' at it, too."
She hugged him tighter, "And I was."
He grinned, "And do ya know what the stars reminded me of?"
"The flickers from our fireplace," she knowingly replied. Changing the subject, Michaela said, "Sully, it's wonderful being back here in this room. And yet, I feel so different now."
"Different?" He looked into those distinctly dissimilar colored eyes that he adored.
She blushed slightly, "Well, when we came here on our honeymoon, I was..."
"Shy," he helped her.
"Yes," she smiled. "But now, after nearly three years of marriage, I wonder if something's wrong with me."
"What could be wrong with ya?" he worried.
Michaela tried to put her feelings into words, "After all of this time, I still just always want to ... be with you. I have an overwhelming need to be with you. You make me feel so... complete. Before we came here on our honeymoon, I never realized the power of such physical desire. And it has only gotten stronger, not lessened."
Sully hugged her tighter, "Ain't nothin' wrong with ya, Michaela. I feel the same way about you. We got a bond that very few folks'll ever know or experience. Havin' such a spiritual and physical connection is a special gift. We were meant to be together. I'd say it's natural for us to feel this way."
Wrapped in each other's arms in blissful silence, they stood at the window gazing at the stars for several minutes.
Their reverie was interrupted by a knock at the door. Sully greeted the bell boy again. The young man said something to Sully out of Michaela's hearing. Sully nodded, and the boy left.
"Got a surprise for ya," he reached out his hand to her.
"What is it?" She walked to join him.
"First pin up your hair." She quickly did so and took his hand.
"Now, close your eyes, and come with me down the hall," he beckoned. She obeyed. Grabbing his formal trousers, he began to lead her down the hallway.
"Sully, what if someone sees us like this! We're hardly even dressed," she whispered.
"That'll change soon," he whispered back.
Finally stopped, he reminded her, "Don't open your eyes yet."
"They're shut, but where are we?" She was becoming impatient.
Safely in the small room, Sully closed the door, hung up his pants, and instructed his wife to open her eyes.
"Sully!" she was breathless.
In the middle of the room sat a large bathtub, filled with steaming water. Around the room were vases of wild flowers and dozens of lit candles. The scent of the flowers, flickers from the candles, and steam from the water gave the room a dreamlike quality.
Through the light mist of the room, Michaela saw on a small table beside the tub two small bowls. One contained honey and the other berries.
He began to remove her robe, "Your bath, ma'am." He helped her into the tub.
She turned up the corner of her mouth slightly in a grin, "There's room for one more, I think."
"I was hopin' ya might invite me to join ya," he replied. Removing his buckskins, he stepped into the tub, too. They sat down in the steamy water.
Sully leaned Michaela's back against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her. All tension left their bodies.
Kissing his fingers, she said, "I missed you so much, Sully."
"I got that feelin'," he grinned.
She elbowed his rib.
Sully cringed, "Ouch! I missed you, too."
"Did I hurt you?" she glanced over her shoulder at him.
He teased, "Might have done a little more damage if you'd have aimed lower."
"Sully!" she laughed and splashed water toward him.
Then he leisurely reached his hand over to the bowl of honey and dipped his fingers into the gooey substance. He brought his hand back toward Michaela's mouth. She slowly licked the honey on his fingers, but left just enough for him to taste its sweetness, too. They repeated this ritual until honey was running down the sides of their mouths.
She reached for the bowl of berries. Taking some of the sweet fruit in her hand, Michaela turned to place a few berries in her husband's mouth. His lips held her fingers for more. With honey still on his lips, Michaela gently pulled her fingers from his mouth. She turned further to kiss his lips, then the excess honey that had run down the side of his mouth onto his chest. She looked up at him with a sultry gaze. Sully leaned down to kiss the honey on her chin, neck and breast. Then he turned her around so that her back faced him.
Sully reached for the soap and began to lather his hands. He ran his soapy, slippery hands around her back and shoulders, massaging as he went. Next he wrapped his arms around the front of his wife and caressed her with the lather on his hands. Michaela began to stir. The flickers of light from the candles danced around them.
"This is heaven," she cooed.
She turned fully around in the tub to face her husband. Michaela lathered her own hands, and rubbed her bubbly fingers through the hair on Sully's chest, his shoulders, his arms. Soon both lovers were covered. He leaned forward and cupped her face in his hands, tenderly kissing the bump on her head.
Next, Sully slid down into the water to rinse himself. She did likewise. He took a flower from one of the vases. Breaking off the petals, he began to sprinkle them across his wife as she lay back. He pulled her closer and lightly kissed her eyes, her cheeks, her nose, her lips.
She returned his kisses in kind, and soon Sully and Michaela were carried away to that special place that only they knew. Their lovemaking was sweet, and gentle and overwhelmingly satisfying.
Michaela lay back in his arms again. Then she thought about what had just happened, "In a bathtub!"
"I'm still countin' the ways," he whispered in her ear. They both began to laugh.
"We best be gettin' dressed now, or my Cinderella will be late for the ball," Sully stood up, extending his hand to help Michaela.
They quickly dried off and returned to their room to dress. Michaela was anxious to see the Grants again. But Sully silently worried that the Reb might be lurking around.
Sully and Michaela arrived at the ball at 11:45 p.m. Many a head turned to admire this handsome couple's arrival. The sounds of an orchestra playing a waltz greeted them. Arm in arm, they stepped into a huge ballroom, three stories high with balconies and gilded pillars. Ten large, glowing chandeliers lit the dazzling ballroom floor. Sully felt a slight chill as he looked up to see shadowed areas and doorways high above the dance floor. There was a reception line for the Grants to the left and couples dancing around the tiled floor. They strolled over to the reception line.
When at last they reached the Grants, the President lit up, "Dr. Quinn! We are delighted that you could join us. When your husband told me he was meeting you in Denver, I insisted that you come tonight."
Michaela smiled, "Thank you, Mr. President. It's our pleasure to attend. We're honored that you are the first President to ever visit our territory."
Sully tugged at his collar uncomfortably.
Grant motioned to his wife, "I believe you remember my wife, Julia."
"Indeed," Michaela smiled. Turning serious, Michaela spoke low to Grant, "Mr. President, I want to thank you with all of my heart for pardoning my husband. Our children and I appreciate it beyond words."
"And how are your children?" Grant inquired.
Sully beamed, "They're fine, Mr. President. And we added another since we last saw ya. Our Katie's almost two."
Julia Dent Grant shook her head, "Oh, I well remember our children at that age. Climbing and getting into everything."
Michaela nodded, "That's our Katie." Turning to Sully, she whispered, "Which reminds me, Papa's going to have to put up some gates to keep her contained when he gets home."
They concluded their conversation to make way for others in the line. Sully escorted his wife to the refreshment tables. He poured punch and offered Michaela a glass of the beverage. They toasted one another.
"To my favorite doctor," he sipped.
"To my favorite poet," she beamed.
Another couple approached their backs. The lady stopped and turned to adjust the hem of her gown, as the man tapped Sully on the shoulder.
Seth Wilson greeted, "Mr. Sully, good to see you again."
"Sheriff Wilson!" Sully smiled. "I'd like ya t' meet my wife, Michaela."
Wilson shook her hand. "Pleasure's mine, Mrs. Sully."
Sully informed her, "Sheriff Wilson here's from Central City." His expression turned more serious as he spoke softer to the lawman, "Any sign of the Reb?"
Wilson shook his head, "None. He's probably out somewhere sleepin' off a bender." Then he cleared his throat to get the attention of his female friend. She turned to join them. "And I'd like ya t' meet Annabelle."
Michaela raised her eyebrow, "Annabelle?" Michaela took Sully's arm and looked up at him with a slight grin. Then back to the woman, "Nice to meet you."
"So, this is your wife?" Annabelle glanced at Sully. He tugged at his collar a little more.
Michaela squeezed his arm a bit tighter, "Yes, I am."
Annabelle seductively gazed at Sully, "Lucky lady."
Sully smiled at Michaela, "I'm the lucky one."
She relaxed her grip on him.
"Mrs. Sully," Wilson said. "Would you excuse your husband for just a moment."
He pulled Sully a few steps away.
Wilson confided, "I really don't think that the Reb's around here, but until the President is safely out of town, I can't rest. I've described him t' all of the security agents here. They've been given drawings of his likeness, but keep an eye open just in case."
Michaela and Annabelle stood awkwardly.
Then Annabelle poured some punch and decided to break the silence, "So how long you been married?"
Michaela smiled tensely, "Almost three years. Are you and Sheriff Wilson..."
"Just real good friends," Annabelle finished the thought.
More uncomfortable silence followed.
"I wonder what they could be talking about," Michaela fidgeted with her glass.
"Probably the Reb. I told your husband about him. The Reb's one of our regular customers at the..." Annabelle stopped before revealing her profession.
"At the saloon?" Michaela finished her thought.
"Your husband told you how we met?" Annabelle was starting to like this woman.
"I believe it was in his bedroom," Michaela surprised herself at how blunt she could be.
"I misunderstood his intentions, I guess," Annabelle smiled. "You're a beautiful woman, refined and all. It's hard to compete with someone like you."
Michaela began to relax, "I consider myself the lucky one. Sully is the most wonderful man I have ever met."
"You're from back east, aren't you?" Annabelle sipped some punch and looked around at the dancing couples.
"Boston," Michaela nodded.
"You weren't in the business, were you?" Annabelle smiled.
"The business?" Michaela innocently asked.
"The business," Annabelle winked. "You know, working in saloons back in Boston. Come west looking to catch a husband and escape the past?"
The light dawned on Michaela, "Good heaven's, no! I was never in ... the, ah, business. I'm a doctor."
"A lady doctor? Go on, now. Really?" Annabelle was amazed.
"Yes," Michaela explained. "I came west in response to an ad for a doctor in Colorado Springs."
Sully and Wilson rejoined the duo. Sully took Michaela's hand, "May I have this dance?"
Annabelle extended her hand to Wilson, "Come on, Seth. I want to meet the President." They strolled over to the reception line.
"So what were you and Annabelle discussing?" Sully said as he led his wife onto the dance floor.
"She thought I was in the business," Michaela grinned.
"The business?" Sully pretended to not know.
Michaela put her hand upon his shoulder, "You know what I'm talking about, dear."
He took her hand in his, put his arm around her waist, and round the floor, they waltzed.
Sully peered deeply into Michaela's eyes. She felt her breathing quicken. He was doing it again, she thought. Looking into her soul with those eyes. She tilted her head down slightly and glanced up at him with a sultry grin. She was doing it again, he thought. Looking into his soul with those eyes. They could barely hear the music or see anything but each other.
Sully pulled her a little closer and lifted her gloved hand to his cheek. Turning it slightly, palm inward, he kissed it.
Then he leaned down to whisper in her ear, "Michaela."
She felt her heart jump. "Mmm?" she murmured, beginning to melt in his arms.
He whispered again, "I love you."
Her heart began to race. "And I you," she replied.
"We don't have t' stay 'til the end of the ball, if ya don't want to," he grinned.
"I am feeling a little tired," she lied.
He smiled, "Too tired t' do some countin'?"
"Counting?" she was mesmerized.
"Ya know," he squeezed her tighter, "Countin' the ways I love ya."
"Oh," she ran her fingers through the hair above his ear. "That kind of counting."
Suddenly a shot rang out. Women began to scream. Everyone jumped for cover, as security agents pulled their weapons to look for a shooter. Sully fell on top of Michaela on the floor.
Sully lay on top of Michaela, shielding her with his body. She could hardly breathe. Above her, she heard the sound of screams and scuffling feet.
"Sully!" she cried. "Are you all right?"
"I'm okay," he held her tightly. "You?"
"I'm fine," she cried. "What's happened?"
She tried to raise her head to look around, but he pushed her back down. Finally, the screams subsided, and order began to return.
A voice called out, "Is there a doctor in the house?"
Sully let Michaela look up. Convinced that it was safe, he helped his wife off of the floor.
"I'm a doctor," she shouted.
"Over here," a voice called from the President's direction.
Sully and Michaela ran toward the voice. They were sickened to think that Grant might be hit.
Security agents had swarmed around the President, who was unharmed. The Grants were whisked out of the room. A woman lay on the floor, blood oozing from her abdomen. As Sully and Michaela reached her, they saw. It was Annabelle! Wilson cradled her head in his lap.
"Sully, please run back to the hotel to get my bag," Michaela sprang into action and removing her gloves, knelt down beside the injured woman.
"No time for that," Annabelle uttered. Sully stopped and looked at his wife.
Annabelle's breathing was labored. The stain of blood on her gown was growing quickly. Michaela ripped open Annabelle's dress and undergarments to examine the wound. Her shoulders sank. Turning to Sully, she shook her head to indicate there was nothing she could do.
Annabelle grabbed Michaela's hand and squeezed tightly, "Thanks for wanting to help. You're one lucky la..." Her last word went unspoken.
Annabelle's grip on Michaela's hand loosened as she passed away. Wilson bent down and kissed his friend's forehead. Then he stroked a stray strand of blonde hair from her face.
Sully helped Michaela up and hugged her.
"What happened?" he looked at Wilson.
"We were just about to shake hands with the President when the shot was fired," the sheriff answered. "Annabelle was not more than a foot away from Grant. The bullet was meant for the President."
Police swarmed the area and began to question guests.
Sully pulled Wilson aside, "Was it the Reb?"
Wilson shook his head, "I'm not sure. I didn't see anyone."
Michaela put her hand on Sully's arm, "Do you think he's still here?"
"I doubt it," Sully put his hand on hers. "Michaela, I need ya to do somethin'."
"What is it?" she asked.
"I need ya to remove the bullet from Annabelle so we can compare it t' the one that killed Anderson back near Central City," he explained.
"I'll clear it with the authorities, Mrs. Sully," Wilson assured her.
Michaela performed the delicate work, and within a brief time, held up the bullet. It had six sides.
Back in their room, Sully removed his jacket, and finally was able to open his collar. Sitting at the dressing table, Michaela raised her hands to remove the pins that held her hair in place. Reflected in the mirror, she saw traces of blood still on her hands. She rose and went to the basin to pour some water. She washed and rinsed her hands. They were trembling.
Sully noticed and quickly went to her. He picked up a towel and began to dry her hands. Then, holding them between his own, tried to calm her. Taking Michaela by her shoulders, he led her back to the dressing table. Sully sat down and pulled her onto his lap. He completed the removal of the pins. Michaela's hair fell loose around her shoulders. She leaned her head against his and began to shake.
"Oh, Sully, I can't believe all of this happened," she choked back tears.
"It's okay t' cry," he stroked her hair and kissed her temple.
"There was nothing I could do. I felt so helpless. And the blood! I haven't seen that much blood since..." she stopped herself.
"Since when?" he gently asked.
She began to cry. He wiped away the tears, but she could not stop.
"What is it, Michaela?" Sully's voice choked in concern.
She tried to complete her sentence between sobs, "Since... I... lost our...baby."
She turned her head into his chest and let down all defenses. Her sobs tore into his heart. He wrapped his arms around her and felt the tears begin to flow from his own eyes, as well.
Michaela's sobs finally began to ebb. Sully could hardly breathe from the lump in his throat. This was the first time they had wept in each others arms for their lost child.
Sully's guilt over not being with her when she suffered the miscarriage was ever present. Michaela's guilt over losing their baby was overwhelming.
No deep conversation over their grief had taken place since it happened six months earlier. With all of the turmoil in their lives and only brief interludes of being together, they had not dealt with their loss. Until now, away from family and friends, in this place which had seen the start of their married life together.
Sully helped Michaela stand and undressed her. He gently slipped her nightgown over her head, then lifted her into bed. He undressed himself, turned the lamps down and crawled in beside her. Sully pulled his wife closer and wrapped his strong arms around her.
"I could see our son, Sully," Michaela caressed his arm and spoke in a voice filled with emotion. "I had such hopes for him. He would look just like you, so strong and handsome. I could see myself cradling him in my arms. I could see you, so proud of ... " She stopped and again felt the tears that she thought had run dry.
"After ya told me about the miscarriage, and I went away t' think, I never told ya where I went," he tenderly kissed her head and stroked her hair.
"I was so frightened, Sully," she quivered.
"I know. I know," he fought back his tears and held her tighter. "I'm so sorry, Michaela. I didn't mean to worry ya. You know I would never leave ya. Never. You're my life."
She kissed his hand, "Where did you go?"
He continued, "When I went away, it was to go to the mountain top. The one that I sent ya to today in my letter."
"To find your way?" she looked up at him.
"And ... to say goodbye to the baby," Sully confided. "I felt closer t' him there."
Michaela lifted her head and turned to look into his eyes. She wiped a tear from his cheek, "Sully, I felt him there, too. This morning after I read your letter, I looked out at those mountains, and I felt his presence."
"We'll always love him," he caressed her face lovingly.
"I know," she whispered and kissed his hand. Laying back against her husband's shoulder, she closed her eyes.
Sully and Michaela fell asleep in each other's arms.
At dawn, a ray of sunlight shone on Michaela's face. She awoke, still blanketed in her husband's arms. Tucked against his body, her back to his chest, one of his hands lovingly touched her abdomen. With his breathing still heavy in sleep, Michaela lay still. She put her hand over his and closed her eyes. Maybe one day, we'll have another child, she thought. Maybe we've already made him.
Sully stirred at that instant, as if he heard her thoughts. He whispered into her ear, "You awake?"
"Mmm, just now," she replied.
"Did ya sleep okay?" he was concerned.
She rolled over to face him and ran her hand lightly across his chest. "I slept fine. And you?"
"Best sleep I've had in eight days," he smiled. "Every night while I was away, I dreamed of you."
He kissed her. Then there was silence between them. She exhaled heavily.
"Somethin' on your mind?" he asked.
Michaela decided to be direct, "Sully, would you like for us to have another baby?"
"I really enjoy tryin'," he rubbed her stomach.
"I'm serious," she tapped his arm.
"Do ya want us to?" Sully asked, raising his finger to her chin.
"I do, but I don't know if it will happen again," she looked down.
"Well, if it don't, we still got the most wonderful family we could ever ask for," he caressed her cheek. "And if it does happen, then we'll welcome that new baby into the circle of our love."
"I love you," she smiled.
"Hungry?" he grinned.
"What did you have in mind?" she suggestively answered.
"Breakfast, what else?" he laughed. "Our train leaves at 9:00. Let's go pick up our sweet Kates, eat, and head on home. What do ya say t' that?"
"The second honeymoon's over?" she sounded disappointed.
"Never!" he pulled her into his arms. "Actually, the first one ain't over yet!"
The sunlight started to brighten their room.
Sully looked over at the window, "Want me t' make it darker?"
"Mmm, how much time to we have?" she smiled.
"Enough for this," he leaned in to kiss her full on the mouth. She returned his passion, and for awhile, time didn't matter.
At the Denver train depot, there was a flurry of activity. The President and Mrs. Grant had arrived with family and friends to board their train. Sully and Michaela pulled up at the station with Katie, just as Grant was about to give a farewell speech to the cheering crowd.
Helping his family from their carriage, Sully felt a crushing uneasiness. There was the President out in the open, where anyone could have a clear shot at him. Sully's eyes scanned the scene. He was not looking at the crowd but at nearby warehouses.
"Sully?" Michaela sensed his uneasiness. "Is something wrong?"
"Don't know," his gaze at the buildings became more intense. "This ain't a safe place for the President t' be..."
Suddenly, he spotted something. In a window of the nearest warehouse, there was movement. He thought he discerned the outline of a man carrying a rifle, but could not be certain.
"Michaela," he took his wife's arm. "Take Katie int' the station. Don't come out 'til I come for ya."
Before she could say another word, he ran from her side. She watched him reach the warehouse, then took Katie into the depot.
Sully approached the warehouse entrance. The building appeared deserted, unused for years, he thought. Perfect place for a sniper. Using the quiet skills that he had learned from the Cheyenne, he entered the building and made his way up the steps. He reached the second floor. There, in a large room containing a half dozen boxes, sat the Reb next to a window. Beside him on the floor lay the Whitworth rifle with its telescopic sight.
The Reb was shimmying the sash of the stuck window to open it. Sully edged his way closer. The Reb finally got the window up. Just as he was raising his loaded weapon to his shoulder to fire, Sully let loose with his tomahawk. His aim was right on target, knocking the rifle from the Reb's hands. It fell to the floor.
Sully used the element of surprise to jump the former Confederate sniper. With the stench of stale whiskey on his breath, the Reb wrestled Sully to the ground and pulled a knife.
Michaela began to pace in the train station, holding her daughter closer to her breast. Then she spotted a familiar face, "Sheriff Wilson!"
He approached and tipped his hat, "Mrs. Sully! Where's your husband?"
"I'm so glad to see you," she cried.
Katie's eyes opened wide, sensing her mother's fear.
"Is somethin' wrong?" Wilson asked.
"Sully ran to the warehouse near the President's train," she explained. "I think he saw something there. He told me to wait in here with our daughter, but someone should warn the President that his life may be in danger. I'm afraid that Sully is in danger, too!"
Wilson bolted for the door. Michaela could see him speaking to a man, whom she assumed was with the President's security detachment. She held Katie even tighter. The little girl begin to whimper in fear.
Sully blocked the Reb's arms just as he was coming down full force with knife in hand. Twisting the sniper's arm and hitting it against his knee, Sully was able to knock the knife loose. It hit the floor and spun a good 10 feet from them. Sully struck the Reb across the head with his right fist . The Reb fell back against the floor, his lip bleeding.
Sully jumped up, but stopped cold. The Reb had aimed a revolver at him and was tightening his finger on the trigger. Sully raised his hands, fearing that the gun would go off any second. There was no escape. He closed his eyes for an instant and thought of Michaela. His heart beat faster as he whispered her name. Suddenly, the sound of a gunshot ricocheted through the large room.
The President had entered his train car. The sound of the whistle, as the locomotive pulled away from the station, masked the blast of the gunshot. No one even suspected a problem. Except Michaela. She jumped and felt her heart drop. Had she heard Sully say her name? Had she heard a gunshot? She looked out the depot window toward the warehouse, but saw nothing. She sat down, Katie in her lap, and prayed that her fears were unfounded. God, please let him be all right.
Sully opened his eyes to see the Reb falling face first onto the wooden planks of the warehouse floor. There, in the doorway, stood Sheriff Wilson, his gun still smoking. Wilson's aim had hit the Reb in the back.
Sully exhaled loudly, "Am I glad t' see you!"
He ran to take the revolver from the Reb's hand.
Wilson stepped forward and knelt beside the unconscious sniper. "Your wife was worried. She thought you were in danger. I warned Pinkerton's men t' get the President out of here, then ran up here to help you."
Sully and Wilson turned the Reb over onto his back.
"He's dead," the sheriff confirmed as he felt for a heartbeat.
"I owe ya my life," Sully thanked him.
"You saved President Grant's life," Wilson smiled. "I'd call that even."
Michaela glanced down, unable to think of anything but Sully. Katie gently patted her mother's head, "Mama."
Still looking at the floor, Michaela saw some familiar shoes come into sight and looked up.
"Oh, Sully," she jumped up, Katie still in her arms. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. I'm fine," he hugged them.
"Your hunch that he was in danger was right, Mrs. Sully," the sheriff smiled.
"Did you catch the assassin?" she hugged Katie.
"The Reb was just aimin' to shoot the President when Mr. Sully stopped him," Wilson explained.
Sully chimed in, "An' the good sheriff arrived just in time to stop the Reb from shootin' me."
Michaela put her arm around Sully, and Katie reached out for him to hold her. He took his wife and daughter into his arms, then breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thank you, Sheriff," she looked up at him.
"From both of us," Sully nodded.
"Taaba!" Katie burst out.
Sully laughed in delight and held her up to face him, "I think she's sayin' 'thank you,' too."
"No, dear," Michaela corrected him. "That's 'table.'"
"Sounds like 'thank you' t' me," he debated.
Wilson chuckled, "I'll let you folks be gettin' home. I'll take care of all arrangements here. If you ever need a job workin' as a lawman, Mr. Sully, just let me know. You did some mighty fine detective work."
"I'm happy as I am, thanks," Sully shook his hand.
The sheriff left them, and Michaela leaned her head against his arm, "Let's go home."
"Good idea," Sully smiled. Then he squeezed her, "Hey! Today's Day 8."
After returning from Denver, Sully and Michaela received a warm reception from their family and friends. True to her agreement for stitching up Robert E, Grace catered a dinner for them at the homestead. By late evening, everyone had gone home.
Brian and Matthew sat by the fireplace playing checkers, Michaela read a medical journal at the dining room table, and Sully attempted to give Katie her bath in the kitchen. Although his intentions were well meaning, Sully could not quite keep Katie contained long enough for actual bathing. The child splashed and babbled non-stop. He adored playing with her and trying to make soap bubbles float high into the air.
Sufficiently distracted by the noises emanating from the kitchen, Michaela put down the journal and walked in on the scene. There was water everywhere, on the table, on the floor and all over Sully.
"Who's bathing whom in here?" she laughed.
Katie splashed some more and giggled.
Sully shrugged, "Well, Michaela, I think I got her pretty clean."
He had a large towel handy and scooped the toddler from the bath water. Wrapping her in the towel, he combined drying her off with a game of peek-a-boo. Katie clapped. Soon he had her diapered and into her nightgown. Michaela looked on with love in her eyes.
"Time for bed now, Kates," he held her up.
Brian and Matthew came over to kiss the little girl good night.
"I think I'll turn in, too. 'Night Ma, Pa," Brian kissed Michaela and climbed the steps.
"Me, too," said Matthew. He kissed his mother, then followed Brian.
"Do you see that, young lady?" Michaela took Katie's hand in her own. "Your brothers have gone to bed before you!"
"She slept most of the way home on the train, so she's bound t' be wide awake, I guess," Sully acknowledged.
"Go ahead and take her up. I'll mop up down here," Michaela kissed them.
Sully carried their daughter up the stairs and into the nursery. He smiled at the sight of the dream catcher near her crib. Standing Katie on her bed, he removed his wet shirt and hung it on the door knob. Katie fussed and reached up for him.
"Okay, okay, my sweet girl, just a minute," he picked her up again. She began to play with the beads that lay against his chest. Sully kissed her as he sat down with her in the nearby rocking chair.
So focused was the child on her father's beads, the effects of Sully's rocking back and forth had a hypnotic effect. Soon Katie was asleep, her heart against his. He caressed her little head and softly inhaled the scent of her. He closed his eyes for a moment remembering her birth. Filled with love for this child, he felt total contentment and an overwhelming need to protect her.
Michaela climbed the stairs and peeked into the nursery. Seeing her husband and Katie with eyes closed, she smiled. How could she love them any more than this moment, she wondered. At that instant, Sully opened his eyes and saw her. He winked, and kissed the top of Katie's head. Michaela tiptoed over to them and knelt down beside the chair. She reached up and pushed back a lock of damp hair from his face. Then she rubbed Katie's back gently. Kissing Katie, she left them and crept down the hall. She soon slipped into her nightgown and began to brush her hair. Then he came to her.
Michaela and Sully were alone with their thoughts now in this, their favorite private place. They sat on the rug in their bedroom and warmed by the blazing logs of the fireplace. As flickers adorned their faces, she softly stroked his bare chest. Beyond words, their eyes spoke a profound connection. With hands intertwined, they shared tender kisses.
Michaela sighed and looked over her shoulder at the clock, "It's almost midnight."
"Mmm, you tired?" he leaned forward to nuzzle her neck.
"Sully!" she admonished. "It's Day 8, and I haven't opened the envelope yet."
He laughed, "Well, go get it."
Michaela jumped up and ran to the night stand to get the letter. Sully stoked the fire. In seconds, she rejoined him and curled up in his arms. Anxiously anticipating its contents, she started to open the envelope.
He stopped her and gently took it from her hands.
"I got a better idea," he whispered. "Let me tell ya what it says from memory."
She was impressed, "You memorized it?"
He squeezed her a little tighter, "I had a lot of spare time thinkin' about ya out there."
"Okay," she snuggled up closer. "Go ahead and recite."
Sully turned Michaela around so that he could look directly into her eyes as he spoke. Holding her hands in his, he gazed straight into her soul.
"Day 8. Location ... in my arms.
I brought ya here t' this place, in my arms, because I wanted t' tell ya face t' face what ya mean to me. All of my letters over the past seven days are ink on paper. They don't show ya how I look when I think about you. They don't show ya how I feel when I touch you. They don't show ya how empty I am when I'm not with you. For my final letter, I chose the poem I didn't get t' finish before I left. Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote:
'How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways.
I love thee t' the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee t' the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put t' use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed t' lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.'
I am yours, Sully."
A silence fell on the room. Sully raised her hands to his lips and kissed them. Michaela slid closer and ran her fingers gently around the outline of his face. Tears overflowed onto her cheeks.
"I don't know what to say," she whispered. "I'm speechless, breathless, and totally in awe of you."
Their daughter chose this intense moment of intimacy to cry out. They both smiled.
Sully kissed Michaela and stood up, "I'll check on her."
She stared into the firelight, warmed more by the flames of her heart than the flames of the hearth.
Sully entered, carrying the whimpering little girl in his arms. As her tears dried, Katie clung to her father's neck with one arm and clutched her favorite stuffed rabbit in the other. Sully sat down with her on his lap and edged closer to Michaela.
"I think this one's wide awake, Mama," he smiled to his wife.
Michaela leaned over and kissed her daughter's forehead, "At least she didn't climb out of bed this time."
"Maybe I should finish my story t' her from last week," he grinned. "That seemed t' put her t' sleep quick." To Katie, he opened his eyes wide, "Would ya like to hear the end of the story, Kates?"
She clapped her little hands together, and he cradled the child in his arms. "Okay, let's see. Where was I... oh, yea, now I remember." Clearing his throat, he spoke, "And ... they all lived happily ever after."
Katie turned around and looked up at her father, as if to ask, is that all?
Michaela leaned forward and kissed her husband, "I love you."
With their daughter tucked tightly between them, he returned the kiss. "I love you, too," he whispered.
Katie fidgeted, and they parted slightly to allow her freer movement. Sully rested his head against Michaela's, gently stroking their little girl's blonde curls. Both parents wished that they could hold on to this treasured moment forever.
Then Katie mumbled something low. Sully lifted her little chin with his finger.
"What'd ya say, Kates?" he asked tenderly.
Katie spoke up loud and clear this time, "I love Papa!"
His eyes widened in happy surprise.
Michaela was overjoyed, "She said it! After all these days of practice, she finally said it!"
They embraced their child and each other, happy to be loved in countless ways.
I was inspired to write this particular plot line by a photograph which I saw in the World Book Encyclopedia. It showed some men standing in the doorway of the Teller House Hotel in Central City, Colorado. The caption indicated that the stack of silver bricks standing before the men was used to line the street to the hotel door for a visit by President Ulysses Grant in 1873.
Upon further investigation of the town, I discovered that Central City later became quite famous for its opera house, which was built over a stream so that it would have natural air conditioning in the summer. When I looked up the location of Central City on a map, I thought that since series was having Sully take a job escorting Washington "suits" through the wilderness, why not have them show up there, just as Grant was about to visit?
It took a heck of a lot of research before I found anything on Grant's visit to Colorado. Finally, I was able to locate it in the New York Times, dated April 30, 1873. Page 1, column 5 reported his trip on the Colorado Central Railroad. Grant traveled through Colorado on April 28-29, 1873 (the first president to visit there), with stops in Golden, Blackhawk, Central City, Idaho Springs, and Denver (for a reception and ball). I have recreated the itinerary from their description. Of course, the shootings near Central City and in Denver were fictional.
The story and statistics told to Sully about the epidemic that killed horses, the Epizootic, really did happen in the fall of 1872, as did the fire in Boston. As a result of this devastating disease, in New York and Philadelphia, men were seen harnessed to carts and trolleys, pulling them along the streets. In Boston, the great fire in the downtown area wiped out almost $80 million worth of property.
An epizootic is a disease that is prevalent in one kind of animal. In this instance, an unknown equine virus had entered the country through Canada. It claimed almost 1/4 of the horses in the U.S., some 4 million in all, before running its course by winter. This helped bring on the Panic of 1873. Later, scientists learned that the cold weather killed the mosquitoes that had transmitted the deadly virus.
In a book about the history of the White House, I found many descriptions of receptions and parties hosted by various first families. The visit of Grand Duke Alexis, third son of Czar Alexander II of Russia, happened in November 1871. Among the first guests to arrive at this big affair, according to the description, was Secretary of the Interior Columbus Delano and his wife.
The information about Pinkerton was very interesting to me. Born in 1819, he arrived in the U.S. from Glasgow, Scotland with only 25 cents to his name. At his death in 1884, he was worth half a million. Before the Civil War, he was an abolitionist who assisted in the Underground Railroad. After uncovering a plot to kill Lincoln, he protected the president-elect on his journey to Washington. Some rumors circulated at the time that no plot had actually existed.
Pinkerton started the Secret Service, at Lincoln's request. During the war, he uncovered a plot to free 8000 prisoners of war at Camp Douglas, thanks to a spy. His agents were used extensively during the war to uncover conspiracies and plots. They also were employed in gathering information about Confederate troop strength. Supposedly his estimates were rather high, and this contributed to General McClellan's reluctance to engage the enemy. He used male and female agents.
Pinkerton also innovated the mug shot and by 1870, had the largest collection in the world. His detective agency adopted the slogan "We never sleep" and the logo "The All-Seeing Eye," hence the term "private eye." He was also responsible for apprehending the Reno brothers gang in 1868. His agency served as a de facto national police force until the F.B.I. was founded in 1908. Pinkerton agents were employed to protect the railroads from robbers and dishonest employees. His sons later expanded the operations to include banks.
Camp Douglas was a prisoner of war internment camp near the Chicago estate of Stephen Douglas, and was named for the late senator. Like all P.O.W. camps of its day, it was rife with communicable diseases - smallpox and dysentery. Conditions were so horrible, thousands died. A group of prisoners plotted to escape the camp and capture Chicago for the Confederacy, but were thwarted by Allan Pinkerton.
Dead prisoners were buried in the Chicago North Side's old City Cemetery. Later, the bodies were moved to new cemeteries - Rosehill, Graceland, Oak Woods. The federal government purchased a section of Oak Woods in 1867 to accommodate the 4200 known casualties of Camp Douglas. The coffins were placed in concentric circular trenches. Although the government only had 4200 names, cemetery records indicate that closer to 6000 coffins were buried there. In addition to the unknown number of Southerners, twelve Union soldiers (guards from the camp) were buried there. Their markers, reading "Unknown U.S. Soldier," stand in a single row behind one cannon.
A 46-foot monument was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1895. Over 100,000 people attended the ceremonies, including large numbers of men from both armies. President Cleveland and his cabinet were there as well. This is the largest Confederate burial ground in all the North.
The Whitmore rifle was manufactured by the British and used primarily by the Confederate Army during the Civil War. It was a muzzle-loading weapon with a 33 inch barrel and a .451 bore. It was so popular in the South because of its remarkable accuracy. Its long range precision was the best of all weapons used in the war. When the telescopic sight was used, the rifle had an effective range of about 1800 yards. The hexagon shape bullet was called "the bolt." It was a six-sided bullet that killed Union General Sedgwick at Spotsylvania on May 9, 1864, following his comment about Confederate sharpshooters not being able to hit an elephant.
The scandals about the Credit Mobilier affair and Congressional "pay grab" broke out before and during the start of Grant's second term on March 4, 1873. The damaging charges regarding Credit Mobilier were published in Charles Anderson Dana's "New York Sun." Bribes were offered to members of Congress by the Union Pacific Railroad in order to head off a congressional investigation. Rep. Oakes Ames (Mass.) was one of the founders of Credit Mobilier of America (a construction company that was building the railroad). Letters which Ames wrote to an associate, Henry McComb, were obtained and published by the Sun. They showed that Ames was going to make stock available to certain congressmen at par, even thought it was worth twice as much. As stock holding members of Congress granted construction contracts to Credit Mobilier, they were in essence, granting money to themselves. Credit Mobilier's investors made more than $20 million on subsidies granted by Congress. Eventually, Ames was found guilty and censured by Congress.
The Sun also exposed charges that Vice President Schuyler Colfax derived financial advantage from Credit Mobilier. After a concerted effort to clear Colfax, even worse charges of political misconduct emerged. He retired from politics in disgrace. Contrary to my fictional Thompson's prediction to Sully, Speaker of the House James Garfield did seek and win higher office. He was elected President of the United States in 1880 and became the second president to be assassinated (1881).
Grant's poor judgment in appointing unethical people to high government positions and in associating with unscrupulous financiers led to several other scandals in his two terms as President.
By the way, the golf story about Grant was true. Also, contrary to Sully's prediction, golf did sort of catch on.
Writer Bret Harte published short stories in his "Overland Monthly." He became famous throughout the country with his tales of mining camps. The emphasis was on local color and startlingly realistic morality. There were prostitutes, lawless miners, gamblers, suicides, murderers, adulterers, highway robbers, prim and proper school teachers, drunken vagabonds, and immigrants interwoven into his stories. A collection, published in 1870, was called "Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches."
Finally, the inspiration to use poetry in my story came from two sources. One was DQ itself, in the episodes about Sully's love for Whitman's poetry. The other inspiration was the wonderful television series, "Beauty and the Beast." At the conclusion of most episodes, Vincent would read poetry to Katherine. His voice was captured so enthrallingly on the tape "Of Love and Hope." No finer interludes of romance ever aired on network television than those poetry readings on B&B. I'd pay big bucks to hear Sully read poetry more often to Michaela.
The power of poetry to move and motivate is undeniable. I love a quote by John F. Kennedy, in a video which I saw:
"When power narrows the areas of man's concerns, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses."
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