Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Sins of the Father
by Debby K
"Sully, it's time to get up," Michaela urged her husband.
He rolled over and squinted, trying to focus, "Wha..? What time is it?"
"It's nearly 6 a.m.," she began to make up her side of the bed.
"What time is she comin' here?" he yawned.
"We're meeting with the young woman at 9," she gently prodded him to rise.
Sully rolled over onto his back and smiled, "Michaela, that gives us three hours yet."
Fluffing her pillows, she concentrated on her chore, "I know, but I'm anxious to have everything just right when we meet her."
He repositioned onto his side to face her, "I'm sure she'll work out just fine for watchin' Katie two or three days a week."
Sitting down on the edge of the bed next to him, Michaela sighed, "I'm afraid our daughter is just too active for me to watch and treat patients at the same time. And I hate to always impose on Grace or Dorothy. I'm so glad that the Reverend suggested this new girl in town."
Sully yawned and rubbed her arm, "I know you're gonna wanna ask her a million questions."
"Do you think I'm being overly protective?" she put her hand atop his.
"Nope," he smiled. "Just bein' you." He ran his hand up and down her back, "The children up yet?"
"No," she closed her eyes, enjoying his attention.
"Ya ain't washed up and dressed yet," he noticed she was still in her nightgown.
"No, not yet," she melted at his touch.
"An' I have been gone a whole week," he sat up and began to massage her shoulders.
"I know," she nodded. "And you didn't get home until after midnight."
"An' I missed ya," he whispered in her ear. He slowly began to unbutton her gown. Then sliding it off her shoulder, he added, "Really missed ya."
The nearness of him, his voice, his scent, everything about him was stirring her. She lay back on the bed and pulled him closer.
"Sully," she spoke his name.
His heart began to race. When she spoke his name like that, his desire knew no bounds.
"Ya still wanna make the bed now?" he kissed her cheek tenderly.
"Um," she hesitated. "No, not at this moment."
He nuzzled her neck, "You smell good."
"So do you," she ran her fingers through the hair at the base of his neck. "I have missed you so much, Sully."
He smiled and cupped her face in his hands. Slowly he leaned forward, not quite touching his wife's lips with his own. He lowered his hand to caress her body. Then he stopped.
She wondered, "What are you doing?"
"Just thinkin' about makin' the bed," he grinned.
"Oh, no you don't," she turned up the side of her mouth in a smile.
"No, I don't what?" he feigned ignorance.
"No, you don't stop just when you're making me feel all..." she blushed.
"Makin' ya feel all what?" he felt her responsiveness to his tantalization.
Her breathing quickened, "Sully, I don't want to make the bed right now."
"But I thought that's why ya woke me up," he ran his finger along the outline of her chin.
"I did, but now..." her desire for him intensified.
Deciding to turn the tables on her husband, she began to caress his face, his chest, his body. His reaction was immediate.
"You're right," she whispered.
"I am?" he had no idea what she was talking about.
"Yes," she slid her leg over his. "We really should make the bed now."
Sully cleared his throat. "Michaela...," it was her undoing when he spoke like this.
"Umm?" she moved her leg up and down his.
"Are we done talkin'?" he cut to the heart of the matter.
"I think so," she grinned.
He fully embraced her. Michaela closed her eyes as he began to complete the task of removing her gown. She seemed to float at his touch. As they began to rhythmically move together, she thought about the first time they had made love, on their honeymoon train. And the second and the third, and how each time was so magical. Sully tenderly found all of the places in her that elicited such pleasure.
She turned her attention to reciprocating his thoughtfulness. Fulfilling his needs and wants became her highest wish at moments like this. Moments which seemed all too rare, as their work and children commanded so much of their time.
He appreciated her movements and her undivided attention as she made love to him. How far they had come since those first tentative acts of intimacy. They were close to the mutual fulfillment of their physical desire now, and neither wanted to hold back. Then it came. With a blinding burst of passion, they were joined together in a oneness that touched the other's very soul.
They did not want to move. With such closeness, they could feel their hearts beating as one. They lay speechless, unaware of the outside world. Tenderly, they touched one another, reveling in the warmness of their union.
"Sully," she finally whispered. "I love you."
He raised her chin for a kiss, "I love you, too."
She sighed, "I can't imagine my life without you."
"Ya don't have to," he hugged her. "We got all the time in the world."
She sat up with a start, "Time!" Looking at the clock, she reacted, "It's time to get up!"
Sully kissed her shoulder, neck and chin. As he worked his way around her face with his loving attention, she settled back down into his arms.
He smiled, "All right. Let me help ya make the bed."
At precisely 9 a.m., there was a knock on the homestead door. Michaela held Katie, as Sully opened the door. Before them stood a raven haired young lady of about 24 years of age. Her beauty was noticed by both Matthew and Brian as Sully invited her in.
"Won't you come in," Michaela shifted Katie's weight on her hip.
"Mr. and Mrs. Sully," the young lady extended her hand. "I'm Julia Cavendish."
"Pleased t' meet ya," Sully nodded. "You can call me Sully."
"And I'm Michaela," the doctor smiled. "These are our sons, Matthew and Brian, and this is Katie our daughter."
Matthew smiled, "Have a seat."
"Thank you very much," the girl replied. "The Reverend told me such wonderful things about your family. I'm thrilled that you invited me."
Michaela detected a Southern accent. The girl entered the living room and sat down. Brian was speechless and simply stared at her. Matthew nudged his brother to waken him from his daze.
"Would you like some tea?" Michaela offered.
"No, thank you," Julia removed her gloves. Dressed in a light blue dress, trimmed in lace, she looked as if she were a delicate flower. Her dress brought out the blue of her eyes, but it was her dark hair that was her most noticeable feature. It was so black, it shone like coal.
"You're from the South?" Michaela smiled.
"Yes," Julia replied. "Originally from Georgia."
Sully questioned. "What brings ya out west?"
"As strange as it may seem," she smiled, "I wanted a new beginning. My family has all passed away under... not very pleasant circumstances."
Brian finally found his voice, "What kind o' circumstances?"
Michaela quickly interjected, "You don't have to tell us, Julia, if you're uncomfortable discussing such matters."
"No, no," the young woman raised her hand. "I want you to know all about me. After all, I may be taking caring of your precious little girl here."
Julia leaned forward and smiled at the toddler. Katie was subdued as she assessed this newcomer. Normally, she was not shy around strangers, but this one seemed to mesmerize her.
Michaela stroked Katie's head, "She is usually more vivacious than this. I think she was up too late waiting for her Papa's return last night."
"Oh, you were away, Sully?" Julia wondered.
"Sometimes my work takes me away for days at a time," he explained. "That's one reason why we need someone t' watch Katie here a few days a week, while Michaela tends t' her patients."
"That's right," Julia beamed. "The Reverend told me you're a physician."
"You can imagine the difficulty in running after a two year old and treating a clinic full of patients," Michaela acknowledged.
Brian brought the conversation back to Julia, "So ya came west t' get away from unpleasant circumstances?"
Julia glanced down for a moment, then composing herself spoke, "My father was killed in the War. My mother turned to the bottle, I'm ashamed to say, and drank herself to death. My brother just recently..." She stopped, finding it difficult to continue.
"Let me get ya a glass of water," Matthew jumped up.
"I'll help," Brian ran to the kitchen.
Sully grinned, perceiving that his sons were smitten with the young lady.
"You don't have to tell us, Julia," Michaela patted her hand.
"No, no..." she replied. "I sometimes have difficulty accepting that he's gone."
"Your brother?" Sully said.
"Yes," Julia accepted the glass of water from Matthew. "Thank you."
Her look caused a flutter in Matthew's chest. He had never seen anyone so beautiful.
He managed to utter, "You're welcome."
Brian spoke with a sympathetic voice, "What happened t' your brother, Julia?"
The girl steeled herself well enough to continue, "He killed himself six months ago."
Michaela touched her hand, "I'm so sorry."
Julia fought to hold back her tears, "He... shot himself. He was never quite right after Father died in the War. He was left to run the family business, and found the responsibility too much."
"The War took its toll in so many ways," Michaela remembered.
Sully cleared his throat and patted his daughter's back, "Have ya had much experience with little children?"
"Oh, yes," Julia was happy for the change of subject. "I spent a great deal of time with children back home. I trained to be a teacher."
"You gave it up?" Michaela asked.
"Well," Julia smiled. "Not entirely. It's just that when my brother Lyman died, I could no longer face my home. I needed a change of scenery."
"That's understandable," Sully smiled.
Julia leaned closer to Katie, "Hello, there. You are a very pretty little girl."
Katie turned away from her and buried her head in her mother's bosom. Reaching into her purse, Julia pulled out a piece of candy.
"I brought this along just for you, Katie," Julia spoke softly to the little girl.
Katie looked to her mother for approval. Michaela nodded, and the toddler reached for the candy.
"What do you say to Miss Julia?" Michaela whispered.
Katie spoke tentatively, "Tank you."
The child turned more fully to face the young woman whose offering was such a tasty treat. Katie grinned.
"What a lovely smile you have," Julia charmed the little girl.
Katie's smile broadened even more.
"Looks like ya won her over, Julia," Brian observed.
"I love children," she replied. "I hope to have many of my own someday."
Their conversation continued for several hours. The entire family was quite taken with Julia. Brian was impressed to learn that she was related to Lyman Hall, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Matthew was charmed by her intelligence and wit. Katie was soon sitting on the young woman's lap, enjoying her little rhymes and songs.
Finally, Julia announced, "Well, I am indeed sorry to have to leave you, but I asked the driver at the Chateau to come for me at noon."
"I can ride ya back," Matthew tried to mask his enthusiasm.
"Why don't ya stay for lunch?" Brian added.
"I don't mean to impose," Julia replied. "I'm sure you all have many things that you would rather be doing than entertaining me."
"Actually, I do have some patients this afternoon," Michaela explained.
"An' I gotta meet some politicians at the Depot," Sully added.
"Why don't you stay here with Katie until we return?" Michaela smiled. "Our sons will be here to show you where everything is."
"Oh, I'd love to," Julia's eyes gleamed.
On the ride into town, Michaela slid her arm through Sully's.
"Well, what do you think?" she inquired.
"'Bout Julia?" he turned to her. "She seems real nice, and sure won Katie over."
"I know," Michaela acknowledged. "And the boys, too."
Sully laughed. "They couldn't take their eyes off her."
She nudged him, "She is quite striking."
"I didn't notice," he put his arm around her. "I only got eyes for my wife."
"Glad to hear it," Michaela teased. "So, if all goes well this afternoon, should we employ her services with Katie?"
"Sounds good," he nodded.
At dinner that evening, the boys could not stop talking about Julia.
"An' she showed Katie how t' draw a butterfly," Brian beamed.
Michaela looked at the little girl, "Is that right, Sweetheart."
Katie nodded, "I dwaw butterfwy."
Sully winked at his daughter, "Do ya like Miss Julia, Kates?"
Katie smiled broadly, "Yep."
"What do you think of her, Matthew?" Michaela turned to her older son.
"She's had a rough time," he sympathized. "But she's good with Katie, an'..."
Brian finished his brother's thought, "An' she's real pretty!"
"Well, it seems unanimous, then," Michaela took Katie's hand. "Miss Julia is hired."
"Can I ride out t' the Chateau in the mornin' an' tell her, Dr. Mike?" Matthew asked.
"Thank you, Matthew, that will be fine," she replied. "And tell her we'll be in need of her services tomorrow. Sully has to do some surveying, then ride to Manitou, and you and Brian will be tied up most of the day. Ask her if she could be here by noon."
In bed that evening, Michaela read from a medical journal while Sully poured over some paperwork from the Interior Department. Katie's voice could be heard from her room, first talking, then singing to herself.
"What's that tune?" Michaela turned to her husband.
He listened more intently, "Sounds like... 'Dixie.'"
Michaela set aside her reading, "Our daughter amazes me."
Sully put his papers on the night stand, "She takes after her Ma."
She lifted slightly as he slid his arm around her shoulder, "I think Julia is going to work out just fine."
"Me, too," he kissed her temple, as the refrains of "Dixie" began to fade.
A slit of sunlight in her eyes caused Michaela to waken at dawn. Feeling her husband's body next to her, she rolled over to face him. His eyes were still shut. Her lips turned up in a smile as she admired his handsome features.
Pushing back a stray lock of his hair from his eyes, she wondered how she could be so lucky to have this man. At that moment, something caused Sully to turn up his nose. The expression that crossed his face reminded Michaela of Katie's look when she did not like something. She had to laugh.
Sully opened an eye, "What's so funny?"
She was startled, "I thought you were asleep."
"How's a man supposed t' sleep when a beautiful woman's in his bed laughin' at him?" he opened his other eye.
"You looked like Katie just now," she ran her finger across his chin.
"I did?" he was more awake.
"Um-hum," she nodded. "Something must have tickled your nose."
He rubbed his nose, "Ya think Katie looks like me?"
"Definitely," Michaela replied. "Particularly when she smiles."
"An' here I was thinkin' she looks like you when she smiles," he grinned.
"There," she pointed quickly. "Just now, you looked like her. Those dimples."
Sully looked toward the window, "Sun's up, I see."
Not really wanting to rise yet, she was enjoying the simple conversation with her husband this morning.
"Sully, do you think we're doing the right thing by having someone new watch Katie," she wondered.
"Ya ain't gonna start feelin' guilty, are ya?" he was concerned.
"No, not guilty," she thought about it. "It's more like a feeling of caution."
"Don't ya trust Julia?" he asked.
"I trust her, but we don't really know her very well," she reasoned.
"I can delay my surveyin' an' trip t' Manitou if ya think we should wait," he stroked her arm.
"No," she smiled faintly. "I'm certain Julia will work out just fine. I am the overprotective mother, remember?"
"I think you're the perfect mother," he reached over to kiss her.
"A high compliment coming from the perfect father," she stroked his cheek.
Matthew brought Julia to the homestead at noon. Brian ran to the door to welcome her.
"Good morning, Brian," the raven haired beauty smiled.
Brian almost forgot to speak, "Goom dormin'."
"Pardon me?" she giggled.
Brian turned several shades of red, "I mean, good mornin'. Come on in, Julia. Ma's gettin' Katie dressed. She'll be down shortly."
The woman removed her hat and set it on the table, "And what are you two handsome gentlemen going to be doing today?"
"I'm gonna help Miss Dorothy at The Gazette," Brian volunteered. "I'm thinkin' 'bout bein' a writer some day."
"I am certain you'll be a fine one," Julia announced.
"An' I'm goin' t' Denver t' observe some court cases," Matthew smoothed his hair back.
Sully descended the stairs carrying his daughter. "Mornin' Julia."
She stepped forward, "Good morning, Sully." Reaching out for Katie, she added, "And here is that pretty little Katie. How are you?"
The child clung to her father but smiled at their new friend.
"We sometimes go through this when I gotta go away," Sully explained his daughter's reluctance to let go of him. "If you'll excuse us for a minute..." He carried Katie into the living room and sat down with her on his lap.
While Julia and the boys made pleasant conversation in the kitchen, Sully spoke to his little girl.
"I'll be back t'morrow," he rubbed Katie's back.
"Stay, Papa," she begged. Little tears began to run down her cheeks. "Why you always go?"
Her words stung his heart, "I need t' work so I can make money to take care o' you, and your brothers, an' Ma."
"I no need money," Katie pointed out.
"Ya know what's good about goin' away?" Sully hugged her.
Katie's mouth turned down in a frown, "Nothin'"
"There's one VERY good thing about leavin'," he repeated.
"What?" Katie was curious.
"When I come back, I get t' come home t' you," he smiled.
"Not go," she pouted.
Sully sensed the presence of someone over his shoulder. He turned to see Julia.
"May I try, Sully?" she sat down beside them.
"Go ahead," he nodded.
"Katie," she spoke in her soft Southern accent. "When I was a little girl and my father had to go away, I used to close my eyes. Then I would think about him, what he looked like, how he'd hold me, and do you know what? With my eyes shut, I could see him there beside me. Let's try it." Julia took Katie's hand. "Close your eyes, and think about your father. Now, tell me who you see."
"I see Papa," Katie grinned.
"See? It works," she told the little girl. "Just close your eyes any time you want to see your Papa."
Sully smiled. "Did your Pa have t' go away very often?"
"Before the War," she remembered, "he'd have business trips. And after the War started, we sometimes stole visits with him..."
Her hesitation brought sympathy from Sully, "Was he in the infantry?"
"No, he was an officer. Sometimes Mother, Lyman and I were allowed to visit his camp before they would go off to battle," her voice weakened. Then she sounded stronger, "But I do recall that when Father had to leave, I would simply close my eyes, and I could picture him with us again."
"Sounds like ya loved him a lot," Sully caressed Katie's head.
Brian and Matthew joined them.
"He was my hero," she smiled faintly. "And my best friend."
"That's a lot t' lose," his voice softened.
Michaela's footsteps could be heard approaching. In her hands was a piece of paper on which she was making notes.
Julia stood up and went to her, "Good morning, Michaela."
The doctor looked up from her writing and smiled, "Good morning. I've made you a list of some things to help with Katie's routine today. Now, she will be ready for lunch shortly after we leave, and..."
"Oh, good," Julia said. "I believe that children should have established procedures."
Sully stood up and winked at Katie, "Let's make sure Mama wrote in some time for playin'."
He carried her into the kitchen. Katie reached out for her mother.
"Mama go?" her little voice sounded sad.
"Just for a little while, Sweetheart," Michaela took her into her arms. "But Miss Julia is going to watch you, and I'll be home before you know it."
"We sing?" Katie looked at Julia.
Julia picked up Michaela's pencil, "Let me add that to the list. Would you like to look at your mother's list with me?"
Katie nodded and leaned forward for the young woman to carry her into the living room. As they chatted with Brian and Matthew, Michaela and Sully stole a few private moments in the kitchen.
He drew her into his arms and pulled her close, "I'll be back t'morrow night."
"You will be careful," she slid her hands up his strong arms.
"Sure," he grinned. "But surveyin' ain't exactly dangerous."
"I know," she smiled. "It's just that when you're away, I worry, and I miss you."
"Do what Julia told Katie t' do," he leaned forward to whisper.
"What's that?" she melted at his nearness.
"Close your eyes, an' picture me with you," he spoke low. "Holdin' ya, lovin' ya..."
She tapped his arm, "I do that even when you're not away."
He laughed, "Well, keep on picturin' us, and when I get back tomorrow night, maybe we can make some more memories."
"I can't wait," she lifted up to kiss him.
Their kiss deepened, and his movements began to excite her. But a voice interrupted from the next room.
"Ya 'bout ready t' leave, Ma?" Brian called.
Quickly straightening her blouse, Michaela shyly backed away from her husband. Sully smiled and winked.
"Ready, Brian," she tried to sound normal.
With the family gone, Julia sat beside Katie at the kitchen table to help her work on the letters of the alphabet.
"That's wonderful, Katie," she observed. "But I think it's about time for lunch. Are you hungry?"
"I hungwy," Katie nodded.
"Good," Julia smiled. "I have something very special planned for you to eat. Can you sit here quietly while I make it?
Katie nodded and went about her drawing. Julia went to the counter to prepare the little girl's lunch. Pulling out a small pouch from her sleeve, she sprinkled something on the sandwich. Then turning to the toddler, she announced, "I hope you like it."
Michaela had not been at the Clinic long when Matthew burst through the door carrying Katie.
"Ma! Quick!" he called out.
"Matthew! What..." she saw the heaving, ashen body of Katie in his arms.
Michaela felt a chill as he laid the little girl on the examining table. Quickly removing Katie's clothing, she began to check her vital signs.
"What happened?" her voice shook.
"I stopped back at the house 'cause my train was delayed for repairs," he explained, still out of breath. "When I got there, Katie was throwin' up, and Julia was gone!"
"Gone!" she was incredulous. Some coloring began to return to the little girl as her mother treated her. Michaela spoke soothingly to Katie, "Mama's here, Sweetheart. You'll feel better soon."
"Is she gonna be all right?" Matthew caressed Katie's head.
"I don't know," Michaela worked to insure that Katie had expelled whatever was in her system, "She's obviously ingested something harmful. I can't believe that Julia would leave a sick child. Perhaps she went for help."
"Dr. Mike," Matthew pulled a paper from his pocket.
"That looks like my list from this morning," Michaela observed.
"It is," he unfolded the paper. "But look what she wrote at the bottom." He read aloud, "Exodus 21:24."
"Mama," Katie's weak voice spoke. "I sick."
Michaela fought back tears, "I know, my darling. I know. Can you tell Mama if you ate something that you shouldn't have? I won't be mad, Sweetheart, but did you?"
"I eat sanmich," Katie said.
"A sandwich?" Michaela kissed her forehead. Thinking for a moment, she asked her son, "Matthew, would you please ride after Sully? He's surveying just north of town near the lake. And ask Brian go to the homestead. Tell him to see if there are any remnants of Katie's sandwich. If so, have him wrap it up and bring it to me. Oh, and would you also ask him to bring the family Bible?"
"Sure, Ma," Matthew touched his sister's cheek, then headed toward the door to fetch his brother.
"Matthew," Michaela's voice softened.
He stopped, "Forget somethin'?"
"Yes," she reached for him. "Thank you. You saved her life."
She hugged her son, then he turned and departed.
Michaela sat down and began to rock Katie. The child managed a weak smile and reached up to grab some of her mother's hair. Michaela recalled how her daughter used to do that as an infant. She took Katie's hand and kissed it.
"Are you feeling better, little one?" the teary eyed mother asked .
Katie nodded. Michaela sighed, finally able to relax.
"Papa come home?" Katie wondered.
"Yes, Katie," she caressed the child's hair. "Papa will be home soon. Matthew will find him. Sweetheart, did Miss Julia say or do anything mean to you?"
Katie shook her head weakly, "No, Mama."
Soon Katie was asleep. Michaela held her close, not wanting to let go.
Matthew finally pulled up to the Clinic with Sully and Wolf. The mountain man jumped from his horse and ran in. He gasped. There was Michaela holding the still body of their daughter. Immediately, his thoughts flashed back to the death of Hannah. Falling to his knees before them, he choked back tears.
"Michaela, is she?" a tear trickled down his cheek.
"Asleep," she reached to touch his face. "She's resting."
He closed his eyes and swallowed hard.
"Can I?" he held out his hands.
Michaela nodded as her husband lifted their child in his arms. She remained asleep as he held her close to his chest.
He spoke low, "Is she gonna be all right?"
"I believe so," she nodded. "She ate something that was quite harmful. We still don't know what it was, but apparently she didn't consume enough for it to be..."
"Fatal?" he finished her sentence.
Matthew cleared his throat, "Ain't Brian back yet?"
"Not yet," Michaela shook her head.
No sooner had she spoken than Brian pulled up and ran into the Clinic.
"Here, Ma," he handed her the wrapped sandwich.
Then he went to Sully and gently touched Katie's head.
Michaela opened it and found only a small bite missing from the edge of the crust. She took it apart and smelled it. Then she ran her finger across it. There appeared a strange residue.
"I can't be certain," she looked up. "But I think it's poison."
"What?" they spoke in unison.
"Judging from the location of the residue on the sandwich in relation to where Katie took a bite, it appears that she only ingested a minute trace of it. We'll have to keep a close eye on her, but it looks as if she's one lucky little girl," the doctor concluded.
Sully hugged his daughter even tighter, "Why would Julia do this? Poison an innocent child?"
"Why'd ya want me t' bring the Bible, Ma?" Brian still held it.
"Oh, I almost forgot," she took it from her son. "At the bottom of my list from this morning, Julia had written Exodus 21:24."
Quickly, Michaela found the reference and read it silently.
"What's it say, Ma?" Matthew wondered.
"It says, 'An eye for an eye,'" she closed the book.
"An eye for an eye?" Brian asked. "Why would Julia write that?"
"For revenge of some kind," Matthew reasoned.
Sully gently touched Katie's head, "Revenge against a child?"
Michaela shook her head, "I cannot imagine something so heinous."
"What if she was usin' Katie for revenge against one of us?" Matthew put his hands on his hips.
"Matthew has a point," Sully nodded. "Cavendish. I don't recognize the name, but then I doubt if she used her real name. Michaela, can ya look through your patient files?" Sully asked his wife. "Meantime, she couldn't have gotten too far. Matthew an' me will go after her. Brian, I need ya t' stay here an' take care o' your sister an' Ma."
"I will, Pa," Brian agreed.
"I want ya t' stay in town where there's lots o' folks around," he tenderly placed Katie on the examining table.
"Boys, would ya go check that the horses are ready?" Sully turned to his sons.
"Sure, Pa," Brian grabbed his hat. Matthew and he quickly exited.
"Oh, Sully," Michaela reached for him. "I've never been so frightened in my life."
"I know," he held her head against his chest. "When I came in an' thought Katie was.... I couldn't bear it if somethin' happened to you or the children."
"We didn't lose her," Michaela sighed. "But we must find this insane woman."
"I won't rest 'til I do," he promised.
Before departing, he commanded Wolf to stand guard on the front stoop of the Clinic.
Sully and Matthew began their search by returning to the homestead. There they discovered two sets of horse hooves tracks.
"Looks like she had an accomplice," Matthew concluded.
"This is gettin' stranger by the minute," Sully shook his head. "Who is this woman? Who helped her? And why would she try t' poison a little girl for some kind o' revenge?"
"She probably thinks that she succeeded in killing Katie," Matthew observed.
"An' figured she'd have plenty o' time for a getaway since she didn't anticipate one of us comin' home so soon," Sully continued to examine the area of tracks. Then looking up to his older son, he smiled, "Thank you, Matthew, for savin' Katie's life."
"Thank God I came back when I did," Matthew's voice cracked slightly.
"Let's get goin' then," Sully was ready.
All of Colorado Springs soon knew of the attempt on Katie's life and came to call at the Clinic. Jake offered to organize a search party, but Michaela suggested that they hold off until they heard from her husband. Horace sent out wires to neighboring communities to watch for the young woman with the distinctive black hair. A search of the patient files proved fruitless.
Michaela was particularly anxious to speak with the Reverend to find out what he knew about Julia. When he came by to check on Katie, the opportunity presented itself to find out more.
"I can't tell ya how sorry I am for recommending her," the minister shook his head.
"You couldn't have known, Reverend," she touched his arm. "She deceived all of us. Can you tell me what she told you about herself? Any information might provide us with a clue."
He sat down to ponder her question, "She told me that she was from Georgia."
"Did she say where in Georgia?" Michaela asked.
"Near Savannah," he replied. "Her family has been there for generations. She told me about the deaths of her family. I felt so sorry for her."
"We were very moved by her story, as well," Michaela agreed. "What did she say about the deaths of her parents and brother?"
"Brother?" he was puzzled. "She didn't mention a brother, only her mother and father."
"Strange," she commented. "She told us that her brother had committed suicide."
"No," he recalled. "She said nothing about that to me. Only that her father had been killed in the War, I believe she said by a sniper. And her mother became an alcoholic. She was institutionalized and died. Julia told me that she had studied to be a teacher but left to come out west."
Michaela, said, "Thank you Reverend. I'm going to have Horace wire the authorities in Savannah to see if they can tell us about this woman."
Sully and Matthew had tracked the duo a few miles when they heard the voices of a man and woman arguing. Quietly, they crept toward a clearing in a wooded area.
There was Julia with a young man of around her age. He had the same dark hair as she. Their voices were raised in disagreement, and Sully and Matthew had no trouble hearing the debate.
"You weren't supposed to kill the child!" the young man spoke in a Southern accent.
"What better way to get our revenge?" she said coolly.
"But a little girl," the man shook his head. "You were supposed to set it up for us to kill her father, find out where he was going."
"I wanted him to suffer as we suffered," she answered.
Sully sat down and turned away from the clearing. He looked at Matthew with tormented eyes.
Then he whispered, "She was out for revenge against me?"
"But why, Sully?" Matthew sat beside him. "Are ya sure ya don't know either of them?"
"I never seen 'em before," he was perplexed.
They continued to eavesdrop on the duo.
"We've been searchin' for Lieutenant Byron Sully for years," she spoke with bitterness in her voice. "An' right about now, he's cryin' for the loss of his child, as we cried for Father."
Sully felt a shock of recognition at that instant. "No," he whispered. "It can't be."
"What is it Sully?" Matthew put his hand on his shoulder.
Sully swallowed hard, "I killed their Pa in the War."
"Ya did?" Matthew was stunned.
"When I was a sniper. That's why I deserted," he spoke low. "Right after I shot him, his wife an' children came runnin' to his side. A boy an' a girl he had, both with raven hair." Then Sully was puzzled, "But that major's name was Hall."
"Hall..." Matthew repeated. "Wait a minute. Julia told Brian that she was a descendant of Lyman Hall, and told us her brother's name was Lyman!"
"My God," Sully shut his eyes. "They came after me all these years later, an' nearly killed Katie for what I did."
Matthew put his hand on Sully's shoulder, "What are we gonna do?"
"We gotta take 'em in," Sully answered.
They turned back to look at the clearing, but the young man was gone.
"Where'd he go?" Matthew looked around.
"Damn!" Sully hit his fist to the ground. "You get her, an' I'll look for him."
Matthew pulled his gun and cocked it. Then he stepped into the clearing.
"Julia?" he aimed at her. "You gotta come back with me t' town."
She was clearly flustered, "Matthew! What are... I thought you were in Denver."
"Change in plans," he replied. "Your attempt on my sister's life failed. I'm taking ya back to Colorado Springs."
"Attempt on your sister's life? Whatever do you mean?" she lied. "Katie took sick and I... I went looking for help. Thank God you happened by here and found me."
"I didn't happen by," he was repulsed by her now. "Let's go."
Michaela continued to monitor Katie's condition. The child was improving with each hour. Soon she was able to drink water. Mother and child had a mutual need to hold one another after the ordeal of earlier today. Katie's coloring was practically normal now, but her stomach was still quite unsettled.
Michaela held the little girl and told her that she loved her. She assured her that she would never let her out of her sight again.
"Mama," Katie asked faintly. "When Papa come?"
"I'm not sure, Sweetheart," Michaela took her hand. "Papa went to find Miss Julia."
"He find her," Katie was certain.
Matthew entered the Clinic and quietly went to his mother and sister. Kneeling down before her, he looked at Katie.
"Mattew!" Katie's eyes widened.
"Hey, there, little sister. How ya feelin'?" he touched her nose.
"I sick," the child said matter of factly. "Mama make me better."
"I know that feelin'," Matthew looked at Michaela with love.
"Did you find her?" Michaela was anxious.
Matthew exhaled heavily. "We found her. I brought her in and locked her up in the jail. Wired the authorities in Denver, too."
"You brought her in?" she became concerned. "Where's Sully?"
"Ma, Julia had an accomplice," Matthew stood up. "Her brother. He got away, an' Sully went after him."
"I suspected that her brother was still alive from what the Reverend said earlier," she commented. "Did you find out why she did this?"
"Remember when Sully was imprisoned back in Washington for desertion?" he began.
"Of course, but what does that have to do with Julia?" she was confused.
"Do ya remember why he deserted?" her son said.
"He had been set up to assassinate a Confederate major," she recalled.
"Apparently that major's wife an' children were there when Sully shot him," Matthew explained. "All these years later, those children, Julia and Lyman Hall, decided t' take revenge against Sully. We overheard 'em talkin'. The brother wanted t' kill Sully, but Julia decided that he'd suffer more if his child was killed."
Michaela lifted Katie to her chest.
She felt a chill, "Thank God she didn't succeed."
Sully was in emotional agony, and his tracking skills were hampered by it. To make matters worse, he did not have Wolf to guide him. His feelings of guilt for killing Major Hall were resurfacing. Over and over in his mind, he began reliving that day. Etched in his memory was the sight of the major's wife and children hovering over their loved one, a loved one who was dead because of him.
Those feelings mixed with his anger over Julia's attempt to poison his daughter. He had known the loss of a wife and child. He had tasted the bitterness and the helpless rage. He had held his most precious ones in his arms as their lives slipped away. His stomach tightened in at the notion that someone could poison his child. His Katie. He would find this man.
Michaela spent a sleepless night at the Clinic with the children. By morning, Katie was continuing her recovery, and she was able to keep down some broth brought over by Grace and Dorothy. After eating, the little girl fell asleep on her mother's lap. Grace and Dorothy stayed to offer their support to Michaela, while Matthew and Brian journeyed out to the homestead to attend to the animals. At their mother's urging, they took Wolf along.
Grace rubbed her growing abdomen, "The baby's startin' t' kick up a storm, Dr. Mike."
Michaela smiled, "That's a good sign." She held Katie to her bosom. "It's very important in this stage of your pregnancy to continue a healthy diet and get plenty of rest."
"Oh, Robert E makes sure I do," she laughed. "I been havin' some strange cravin's though."
"Like what?" Dorothy smiled.
"Like rhubarb pie an' onions," Grace told them.
Michaela rubbed her daughter's back, "For me it was apple pie and pickles."
Dorothy's face flushed as she confided, "With each of my children, it was somethin' different. I'd have t' say that Tommy's was the most unusual
"Well?" Grace wondered.
"Rabbit stew an' chocolate cake," Dorothy grinned.
She and Grace burst into laughter, but Michaela sat in silence.
Dorothy touched her friend's arm, "Sully can take care of himself, Michaela. You know that."
"I do," she smiled. "But I thought he would return last night."
"Ya know he won't rest 'til he's found this man," Grace tried to reassure her.
"But I also know that he's in a state of anguish right now," Michaela felt tears welling up. "I know that he's feeling guilty for killing their father, but anger for what they tried to do to Katie out of revenge. Sully rarely gets angry, but when he does..."
Dorothy stood up, "Maybe Cloud Dancin' can help."
"Help?" Michaela asked.
"You know he's helped Sully through the worst times of his life," the red head replied. "I'll speak t' him about it. Meantime, Michaela, ya look like ya didn't get a wink o' sleep last night. You go upstairs an' take a nap. Take Katie with ya, an' we'll watch over things down here."
"You will tell me the moment Sully returns?" she lifted Katie.
"'Course we will, Dr. Mike," Grace smiled.
Soon mother and daughter were tucked into bed resting.
When Sully entered the Clinic, his haggard appearance startled Dorothy and Grace.
"Sully!" Dorothy stood up. "Did ya find him?"
He shook his head no and sat down in silence.
"Could ya use a hot meal?" Grace touched his shoulder. "Let me..."
"No, thank ya, Grace," he raised his hand. "Where's Michaela?"
Dorothy pointed up, "She an' Katie went for a nap. You look like you could use one yourself."
"I came back t' check on Katie an' t' get more supplies before headin' out again," he stood up. "I'll go look in on 'em now."
Sully stood at the doorway of the recovery room staring at his wife and daughter. He could think of no more precious sight than the two of them lying there. Michaela sensed his presence and opened her eyes.
"Sully!" she sat up.
He came to her and sat beside her on the edge of the bed. They shared an intensely emotional reunion, burying themselves in each other's embrace. Pulling back, Sully held her face in his hands and tenderly kissed her. With his thumbs he wiped away the tears that were streaming down her cheeks. Then he looked over at their daughter and gently placed his hand on her back.
"How's she doin'?" he spoke low.
"Much better," Michaela assured him. "She was able to eat some broth earlier."
"That's good," he rubbed Katie's back.
Michaela asked him, "Did you find Julia's brother?"
"No, I lost his trail," his voice sounded so disheartened. "Not even a trace. They did this 'cause of me, Michaela." His voice trailed off.
She lifted his chin to see his eyes, "Sully, please don't do this. Don't blame yourself." Running her hand across his face, she changed the subject, "You need to rest."
"I can't rest with him out there," he shook his head. "You an' the children will be in danger 'til I catch him."
"But with Julia in jail, don't you think he'll come back for her rather than run away?" Michaela reasoned.
Sully had not thought of that. He realized that his thinking was impaired by his deep emotions and fatigue.
"Maybe you're right," he said.
"Sometimes I am," she smiled.
"Where're the boys?" Sully questioned.
"They took Wolf out to the homestead to tend to the animals," she answered. "Just lay down for a little bit," she patted the bed beside Katie and herself. "Until Matthew and Brian get back."
Sully took off his jacket and belt. He sighed heavily as he lay down and shut his eyes.
"We gotta take precautions now," he warned. "With Lyman on the loose, none of us is safe."
Matthew and Brian finished feeding the animals. Just as they stepped across the threshold of the barn to head back to the house, a voice startled them.
"Don't take another step," Lyman said.
His rifle pointed at them. Quickly he closed and secured the barn door, leaving Wolf inside.
"Now, nice and easy, lay down, and put your hands behind your backs."
He tied them, "All right, stand up, and get into the house."
The brothers obeyed.
Sully napped beside Michaela. With Katie tucked between them, his arm rested across both of them. Suddenly, he felt something on his face. Opening an eye, he saw his daughter squeezing his nose.
Katie smiled, "Papa back."
"Yep," he kissed her. "How's my sweet girl feelin'?"
"Good," she felt his whiskers and turned up her nose. "Eww."
He ran his hand along his facial stubble, "Don't ya like my beard?"
"Nope," she looked so serious. "Scwatches."
"Scratches?" he pulled her closer and gave her a bigger kiss.
Her giggles wakened Michaela, "Hey, you two."
Katie continued to laugh, "Papa kiss scwatch me."
She eyed her husband, "Don't you like it when Papa kisses you?"
"Not with that," she pointed to his beard.
"I guess I better shave then," he smiled.
"Would you mind scratching me before you go?" Michaela sounded suggestive.
Sully grinned, "Um, where'd you have in mind?"
She pointed to her cheek, "Right here, please."
As he leaned over, she turned quickly so that her lips met his. With their daughter between them, the kiss was sweet.
Katie shook her head, "Mama like that?"
"Very much," Michaela blushed slightly.
"I'll go get washed up," he rose from the bed. Then looking at his daughter, he added, "And shave. Be right back."
"Sully," Michaela's voice spoke of concern. "Brian and Matthew should have returned by now."
The boys sat at the kitchen table, while Lyman paced back and forth.
"Why don't ya give yourself up?" Matthew fished for a reaction. "Your sister's already in jail, but maybe the judge'll go lightly since there was no homicide involved."
"The child is still alive? Well, I am glad to hear that. You sound like you know something of the law," the young man sat down beside him.
Matthew tentatively answered, "A little bit."
"Well, tell me this then. What is the penalty for cold blooded murder?" Lyman leaned forward.
"Usually hangin' in these parts," Matthew felt uncomfortable.
"Hanging?" Lyman stood up again. "Yes, that sounds reasonable."
Brian interjected, "But you don't have t' hang cause nobody's dead."
"On the contrary," the young man responded. "Someone is very dead, and it was your father who committed the deed."
"It was durin' wartime," Matthew tried to reason with him. "He was followin' orders."
Lyman laughed, "Orders? Orders to kill an innocent man, not even in battle? An innocent man who was merely shaving? Shot in the back? And in the presence of his wife and children?"
"You don't know my Pa," Brian was becoming angry. "He ain't like that. He felt real bad about what he done. He even left the army."
"An eye for an eye," Lyman punctuated each word.
In another recovery room, Sully stood before a mirror shaving. Just as he ran the first stroke of the blade across his beard, his mind flashed to that day in Georgia, the day he killed Major Hall. With one shot, one bullet, he had forever altered the lives of so many people. The haunting guilt that he thought long buried had surfaced again. He closed his eyes and steadied his hand.
Then a voice brought him back to the present, "You are troubled, my friend."
Sully turned to see Cloud Dancing at the door. He resumed his shaving, "I guess ya know what happened."
"Dorothy has told me. Katie is well?" the medicine man entered the room.
"She's gonna be all right," Sully said. "No thanks to her Pa."
"You cannot blame yourself, my friend," Cloud Dancing shook his head. "There is anger and bitterness in the children of the man you killed. Just as there was once anger and bitterness in you."
"I can, an' do blame myself, Cloud Dancing," Sully lowered his blade. Wiping the excess lather from his face, he added, "An now my family's in danger."
"What do you intend to do?" Cloud Dancing asked.
"I intend t' protect my family an' find this man," he answered.
"What do you intend to do about what's in here?" Cloud Dancing pointed to Sully's heart.
"I don't know," the mountain man replied. "I gotta do one thing at a time."
"I will help you if you wish," the Cheyenne put his hand on Sully's shoulder.
"Your family ought to be returning soon," Lyman looked impatient.
"They're stayin' in town," Matthew informed him.
"But why?" asked the young man.
"Cause o' you bein' on the loose," Brian spoke out.
"Well, then I suppose we're going to have to go to them," Lyman indicated for the boys to rise. "Perhaps an even trade might be in order."
"What are ya talkin' about?" Matthew looked over his shoulder at him.
"An exchange. Your lives for my sister," Lyman said. Then after pausing, he added, "And for one Lieutenant Byron Sully."
Sully returned to the recovery room containing his wife and daughter, "Michaela, I'm goin' out t' check on the boys now. Cloud Dancin's ridin' with me."
She smiled at their friend, "Thank you."
"I wish to help my brother," the medicine man replied.
"And watch over him," she added.
Leaning her head against his chest, she embraced her husband. Then she looked up at him with her two tone eyes. He smiled and kissed her. A final kiss for Katie, and they left.
At the door of the Clinic, they ran into Jake. "Just want ya t' know we'll be guardin' the woman in shifts."
"Good," Sully nodded. "We'll be stayin' here 'til I find this man. No tellin' what he'll be up to."
"Don't worry, Sully. We'll post a man out here, too," Jake turned to leave.
On the ride to the homestead, Sully spoke not a word. Cloud Dancing waited patiently for his friend to pick his moment. Then it came.
"I thought I'd buried those feelin's in me," Sully began.
"Nothing is ever truly buried when it has shaped who we are," the medicine man replied.
"Ya remember how I was when I came back from the War?" Sully reflected.
"I remember," the older man nodded. "Unforgiving of yourself for killing this man. Broken in heart and spirit."
"It's all comin' back," Sully's eyes reddened.
"You are not that same man," Cloud Dancing spoke with certainty. "You have overcome tragedies that were unbearably heavy in your heart."
"So have you," Sully reflected.
He replied, "The Spirits guided me, as they have guided you. Only they know why these things happen. Sometimes they speak to us and tell us. Sometimes they show us in other ways. But the Spirits have forgiven you. You have proof of that, my friend."
"I have?" Sully looked at him.
"Yes. Your heart was granted love again, and a child was born of that love," Cloud Dancing explained. "Perhaps the Spirits have brought these children of Major Hall to you for a reason. It may be to help them heal, or perhaps it is to help heal you, so that you may forgive yourself."
"I don't see how that's gonna happen, Cloud Dancing," he dismissed the comments.
"Sully, I never met a man more unlikely to live and love again than you, and now look at you," the Cheyenne said. "The Spirits will tell you what to do, if you listen."
At the jail, Hank was overseeing security to ensure that there would be no escape by Julia. She made every effort to charm him, but the barkeeper found the willpower to resist. However, a little flirting was okay in Hank's mind.
He propped his feet up on the desk and lit a cigar, "Ya know, I got a fondness for Georgia girls."
"Do tell, Mr. Lawson," she seemed so prim and proper.
"But don't ya go gettin' any ideas 'bout escapin'," he warned.
"Oh, I wouldn't dare," she smiled demurely.
As they approached the homestead, Sully sensed that something was not right.
"They ain't here," Sully felt a strange sensation.
"Maybe they have returned to town by a different route," Cloud Dancing offered.
"No," Sully shook his head. "Somethin' ain't right."
They entered the homestead. Nothing seemed out of place. But there was no sign of Matthew or Brian. Then they heard Wolf's cries from the barn. Opening the door, the animal burst out and began to lick his master's face.
"Where's Brain an' Matthew, boy?" Sully stroked Wolf's back.
The animal whined.
Sully reacted, "We gotta get back t' town right now!"
Lyman had bound and gagged his hostages, as they waited at the outskirts of town for darkness to descend.
Pointing his weapon at them, he whispered, "As long as your father does what I say, you two have nothing to fear. I never favored harming his children, you see. Actually, I am quite sympathetic to your plight. You know in advance what's going to happen to your father. That must be much more agonizing."
The brothers could not respond, but looked at one another in fear.
Lyman secured their ropes and tied them to a tree. Then, as he prepared to leave, he informed them, "Well, I am off to rescue my sister. Oh, and take very good care of that tree. It appears to be ideally suited for a hanging."
Sully and Cloud Dancing returned to the Clinic. The Cheyenne medicine man bid farewell, and Sully entered to tell his wife the disturbing news. She greeted him, then saw that he was alone.
"Where are they, Sully?" her voice quivered.
"He's got 'em," he picked up Katie.
"My God," she sat down.
"I don't think he'll hurt 'em, Michaela" he assured her.
"But they tried to kill Katie! Why would they not harm Matthew and Brian?" she shook her head.
"It was Julia who wanted t' kill Katie," he explained. "Lyman wants me, an' I gotta feelin' he'll be comin' soon."
The hour was late, and the town of Colorado Springs was asleep. Tunes from the Gold Nugget were silent now. At the Clinic, Michaela and Katie were upstairs in bed. Sully, with Wolf at his feet, sat guard in the examining room. Apprehensive thoughts ran through his mind... about Brian and Matthew... about what happened to Katie... about long ago when he wore a Union uniform.
A faint voice from above him roused him from his thoughts. It was Katie softly calling for him at the top of the stairs. He rose from the chair and went to her.
"Hey, you," he whispered. "Can't ya sleep?"
"Nope," she rubbed her eyes. "Hold me, Papa."
Sitting down at the top of the steps, he lifted her to his heart. Sully closed his eyes and choked back the emotions he felt holding this cherished child.
"Sad Papa?" Katie looked at him with her mother's eyes.
"No, my sweet girl," he smiled. "I'm just real glad you're my daughter."
She grinned and simply said, "Me, too." Then remembering why she woke up, she informed him, "I hungwy."
He opened his eyes wide, "Hungry? That's good! Let's go down and see what we can find for you."
Descending the steps, he noticed the back door of the Clinic ajar. Wolf looked inquisitively through the slit.
"Katie," he held her close to whisper in her ear. "We're gonna play a little game right now."
She whispered back, "Oh, good, Papa."
"Listen careful," he continued to speak softly. "I'm gonna put ya in your crib over there in the corner, an' I want ya t' be so quiet, no one'll know you're here. Can ya do that for me?"
"I do," she nodded.
"Real quiet," he reminded her. "Not a sound, not a movement, 'til I tell ya to."
Gently kissing her, he placed the child in her crib and covered her, "Remember Papa will always love you."
When he turned to explore the door, it opened full. There stood Lyman, gun in hand. Wolf growled.
"Good evening, Lieutenant Sully," he aimed his rifle. "Please silence your mangy mutt there."
"Quiet, boy," Sully commanded. "Where are my sons?" Sully clinched his teeth.
"Oh, they're perfectly fine," he replied. "But you and I are going on a little trip."
"Where to?" Sully tried to assess his chances for jumping the young man.
"To the jail," he waved his gun. "And we're taking your pretty little girl there with us."
Sully swallowed hard. "I know ya want me, but don't harm her."
Lyman nearly laughed, "Please, Lieutenant, I am not as cruel as my sister. I have no intention of hurting the child... as long as you comply with my instructions. Now," he motioned to Sully, "Remove that quaint little belt full of toys and put it down on the desk. Then get your daughter, and come with me."
Sully obeyed the man, seeing no opportunity to escape without endangering his family. He walked to Katie's crib and gathered as many blankets as he could.
"Lieutenant, what are you doing?" Lyman started toward him. "It's still summer. You'll smother the poor child."
"She's been sick thanks t' your sister," he fought to maintain control of his temper. "I wanna make sure she don't get worse."
"Very well, then," he motioned toward the door. "Oh, and let's leave the dog or wolf, or whatever that thing is, here. Come on. Let's go."
Horace had relieved Hank as guard at the jail. The telegrapher was sound asleep, his head planted firmly on his folded arms. A snoring sound could be heard as Lyman, Sully and his precious cargo arrived via the back alley.
"Is there a sick animal somewhere nearby?" Lyman wondered at the noise.
Then he realized it was the guard at the jail. Hall had Sully led the way into the jail. Horace did not stir but continued his annoying snorting sound. Quickly, Julia was free, and they were ready to depart. Sully cleared his throat in the hope that the telegrapher would stir, but it did not work.
Lyman put his gun near Sully's head, and warned, "Do that again, and your daughter won't be spared."
Sully nodded. Soon, they made their getaway and headed for the tree where Brian and Matthew waited.
The boys, having managed to loosen the gags around their mouths, were asleep. The sound of horses approaching wakened them with a start.
Brian saw who it was, "Pa!"
Sully dismounted, "Are ya all right?
"We're fine," Matthew nodded.
"Why'd ya bring Katie?" Brian noticed.
Lyman answered first, "I wanted Lieutenant Sully's children to be present for the same distinct honor which I had as a child-- watching my father's execution."
"Look, Hall," Sully turned to him with pleading eyes. "I know what I did was terrible. I wish I could do or say somethin' t' change my sin, but please don't make my children pay."
"Poor Sully," Julia asserted. "It is a shame that my brother and I did not have a chance to make the same plea to our father's executioner."
"He does make a rather pathetic plea, don't you think, Julia?" Lyman smirked.
"Indeed he does," she laughed. "Do you think that we should wait for dawn to hang him?"
"I believe that would be appropriate," Lyman nodded. "After all, we want the children to have a good view by the light of day, and of course, Father was shot at around that time."
He shoved Sully toward his sons, then after securing his hands, returned to his sister.
Sully whispered to the boys, "I'm gonna get us out o' this, but..." He hesitated. "If somethin' goes wrong, I want ya t' promise me somethin'."
"What?" Brian sounded scared.
Sully calmed his voice, "Promise me you'll close your eyes an' not look at me if it happens."
"But Pa," Brian choked his words.
"Promise me!" Sully asserted.
"We promise," Matthew pledged.
"They won't hurt ya," Sully stiffened his jaw. After a long pause, he added, "There's somethin' else I want ya t' do."
"What is it?" Brian was fighting back tears.
"Take care o' your Ma an' Katie," he closed his eyes. "Tell 'em I love 'em."
"Pa, we can't let this happen!" Brian tasted the salt from his tears.
"If I spot any chance, I'll get us out o' this," Sully lowered his voice. "I'm just tryin' t' prepare for..."
"What's all the whispering about over there?" Lyman shouted. "Julia, do you remember our last night with Father? Did we have the chance to say our goodbyes or to tell him we loved him?"
The words stung Sully's already tormented heart. But his anger at their cruelty to his children overshadowed any further feelings of guilt.
"No, we had no such chance," she shook her head.
"I think we should make an exception for Lieutenant Sully," Lyman said in mock sympathy. "I would not want him to believe that we were entirely callous to his situation."
Hall looked up at the predawn sky and assessed the situation, "I'd say you have about an hour until dawn, Lieutenant," he warned. "Make your peace and say your goodbyes now."
Michaela was awakened by Wolf's whimpering. She rolled over to check on Katie. Her daughter was gone. Perhaps Sully took her downstairs, she thought. Making her way down the steps, an odd coldness filled her body. Upon entering the examining room, she saw a very distraught Wolf. In fear, she turned and saw Sully's belt on the desk. She called out frantically, "Sully! Katie!"
It was nearly the appointed hour for his hanging. Sully pondered the words of Cloud Dancing. Perhaps he should talk with his executioners. Specifically, he thought Lyman might be his best chance.
After whispering his intentions to Matthew and Brian, he cleared his throat, "Lyman, can I speak t' ya?"
"Of course, Lieutenant," the young man walked to him.
Sully looked at Brian, then Matthew. "Alone?" he requested.
Hall helped him stand and took him further from the boys for privacy.
"I know that ya hate me. I know that I'm responsible for the death o' your Pa," Sully chose his words carefully.
"Well, I'm delighted that you have a firm grasp of the obvious," Lyman could not resist the sarcasm.
"I was just wonderin' if, in my final hour, I could talk t' ya about some things," Sully continued.
"A last confession?" Lyman was curious.
"If ya wanna call it that," Sully replied. "How'd ya find out I'm the one who shot your father?"
"It was not all that difficult," Lyman explained. "Particularly since our family has connections in government. Some inquiries with the Department of War, and we were able to track down your name. The pardon by President Grant and your honorable discharge gave us more information, and we were able to discover where you lived."
"I wanna talk about your Pa," Sully's voice cracked slightly.
"What about him?" Hall was skeptical.
"What he was like, how ya felt about him," Sully began. "Julia told me he was her hero and best friend."
Lyman was quiet, then sensed that Sully was being sincere. "He... he was those things to us. He always cared about our interests, encouraged us." Forgetting who he was talking to, the young man went on, "As a child, I loved horses. Father bought me a horse and then made certain I learned to ride properly."
Sully could see Lyman's demeanor soften.
Lyman continued, "I think my favorite memories of him were when he took me fishing. Funny how something as simple as that can hold such a special place in your heart. Father was away so much, I treasured those serene moments alone with him."
Sully smiled, "My boys here lost their real Ma 'bout six years ago. An' their Pa deserted 'em before that."
"You're not their real father?" Lyman raised his eyebrow.
"No, not their blood kin," Sully shook his head. "But I've tried t' be a father t' 'em. When their Ma died, she asked my wife Michaela t' take care of 'em. Since then, we've been their only family."
"You took in another man's children to raise as your own?" Lyman looked at him with a new interest. "I'm surprised an assassin could show such compassion."
"I wasn't... didn't mean t' be... an assassin," Sully fought his emotions. "Before the War, my first wife and baby girl died. I had no reason t' live, so I joined the army. After I... did what I did in the War, I was a lost soul."
"Your wife and child died?" Lyman said. "So you've had a taste of such loss?"
"Loss that grips ya so deep ya only wanna die," Sully said to him in earnest. "Anger an' bitterness for losin' the only good things ya ever had, then...."
Hall suddenly shook his head, "This really does not affect me, as woeful a tale as it is."
"Do ya think your life would be different today if someone had come int' your life t' do things with ya like your Pa done?" Sully sensed he was getting to the young man.
"No one could have replaced my father!" Lyman shook his head.
"Not replace him," Sully calmly stated. "Just t' do things with ya an' let ya know ya weren't alone."
"But we WERE alone," Lyman asserted.
"I know," Sully nodded. "Like my children will be."
"They won't be alone," Hall denied. "They'll have your wife."
"A widow tryin' t' take care o' her children alone," Sully looked down. "I'm glad o' one thing, Lyman."
The young man was surprised, "What's that?"
"I'm glad ya got memories o' your Pa, like ridin' horses an' goin' fishin'," Sully smiled faintly. "My daughter won't remember me. She's too young. Too young t' even get angry an' bitter 'bout what ya done t' her Pa."
"That's enough talk," Lyman cut him off.
Helping Sully stand, Hall escorted him back to Brian and Matthew.
"Ya all right?" Matthew asked.
"Fine," Sully answered. "An' you?"
Sully spoke quietly with the boys until Julia approached them and said, "Well, it's time."
Lyman had prepared a rope and slung it over a sturdy limb on the tree. Raising up to his knees, Sully looked at his sons. "I love ya," he swallowed hard. With his hands behind his back, the mountain man could not open the blankets for a farewell. He leaned down, closed his eyes and inhaled the scent of his daughter on the blankets. "Goodbye, my sweet girl," he whispered.
Half of Colorado Springs came running at the sound of Michaela's screams. She frantically informed them that Sully and Katie were missing, then sat down at her desk feeling faint. Grace and Dorothy knelt before her.
"Michaela," Dorothy put her hand on her friend's.
The doctor looked up, tears streaming down her cheeks. "They're going to kill my family. I have to find them. But... I don't know where to start."
"We'll all help ya, Dr. Mike," Grace's eyes welled up with tears.
Seeing her friend so devastated, so unsure of herself, reminded Grace of Michaela's reaction to the miscarriage. At that moment, an out-of-breath Horace arrived to sheepishly inform them that Julia had escaped.
Michaela stood up and firmly announced, "We have to find them!"
Everyone began to argue about the next course of action. With loud voices filling her office, Michaela looked down at Sully's belt on the desk, and ran her fingers across it.
Suddenly she heard a little voice over the sound of everyone's talking.
"Mama?" It was Katie!
Michaela quickly turned, "Katie?"
"Mama!" the frightened child called from her crib.
Michaela broke through the crowd and ran to her daughter. Lifting the little girl into her arms she hugged her tightly. "Katie! Katie! I thought you were... Why didn't you speak up before, Sweetheart?"
"I play game and hide," the child looked frightened. "Where Papa?"
Lyman forced Sully up onto a horse and looped the noose around his neck.
Sully closed his eyes, then shouted, "Now, boys!"
Suddenly Matthew and Brian jumped to their feet and took off running in different directions. Sully had only pretended that his own hands were securely tied behind his back, and he reached up to remove the rope from his neck.
"What..." Julia was stunned. "How did they get loose?"
Lyman quickly cocked his rifle and aimed at Sully. "I wouldn't, Lieutenant."
Sully made no further effort to escape. Continuing to hold tightly to the reins of the horse, Lyman said to his sister, "We still have one witness for the execution. Get the child."
"But why would they leave her behind?" Julia ran to the blankets. When she opened them, she found only a knife. Holding up the glistening blade, she told her brother, "Here's how they cut their ropes! While you were distracted speaking to Sully earlier, they freed their hands. This is what he had in the blankets, not Katie."
"Very clever, Lieutenant," Lyman looked at him with disgust. "Deceiving me with your lies while your sons prepared their escape."
"I wasn't lyin' to ya 'bout what we discussed," Sully saw the look in the young man's eyes. "I think ya can understand me not wantin' to endanger my children."
"Too bad your own escape was thwarted," Julia smiled.
"Very unfortunate," Lyman returned the noose to Sully's neck.
With a slap of the horse's rump, the animal lurched forward. At that instant, an ax came flying from nowhere and severed the hanging rope where it tightened against the tree branch. Sully was now free. He jumped from the horse and quickly disarmed Julia, but Lyman held up his rifle and aimed it at Sully.
"NO!" a young voice shouted from the woods. It was Brian. He ran forward into the clearing where Sully stood with his executioners.
"Brian!" Sully called. "I told ya t' run."
Brian hugged his father. "I couldn't do it, Pa."
"Me either," Matthew appeared and grabbed Julia.
Unseen by both Julia and her brother was the figure of a man with a rifle hidden behind the foliage . From the shadows, the rifleman aimed his gun at Lyman. Sully saw the glisten of the barrel, and fearing an errant shot, subtly indicated for him to hold his fire.
"Why do you call him Pa?" Lyman was curious. "He's not your real father."
"He's the' only Pa I've ever known," Brian's voice choked with emotion. "He took care o' me when I was sick, gave me a puppy an' a sled, tucked me in at night, held me when I was scared, took me fishin', an' lots o' other stuff. An' I ain't gonna let ya kill him!"
Sully tried to dislodge Brian's arms from his waist.
"Fishing?" Hall paused. "That means a lot to you, boy?"
"Sure it does! It's somethin' we do together, just the two of us," Brian looked at him in anger. "An' I'll hate you for the rest o' my life if you take away my Pa."
"Hate me?" Lyman was stunned. "I'm merely seeing that justice is done."
"I hate you!" Brian repeated even more vehemently.
Hall steadied himself to ensure his aim.
Sully quickly pulled Brian's arms from around his waist and pushed him toward Matthew. Holding his hands out from his side, the mountain man turned to face Lyman. Sully looked at his sons.
Lyman clinched his jaw and held Sully in his sight. Then he, too, looked toward Brian and Matthew. Slowly, he lowered his gun.
"What are you doing, Lyman?" Julia called out. "Shoot him!"
Lowering his rifle, his shoulders slumped, "I can't."
"You're so weak," she yelled. "Just like Mother."
Sully reached out and took the young man's gun. Cloud Dancing emerged from the woods, rifle in hand.
"Good aimin' with the ax," Sully smiled.
"I am a little out of practice," the Indian shook his head.
"Well ya aimed good enough for me," Sully patted his back.
"I did not expect Matthew and Brian to return, or I would have ...." Cloud Dancing began.
"No one got hurt," Sully interrupted. "That's all that matters. Thank you, my friend."
That evening, the family gathered before the living room fireplace. Matthew and Brian told and retold their versions of what had happened. Katie was wide eyed at every detail, but Sully sat holding his daughter, periodically resting his lips on the top of her fine blond hair.
Michaela smiled and sighed, grateful that the ordeal was ended and that her husband and children were safe. She had treated Matthew and Brian for some minor rope burns on their wrists, but otherwise they were in good condition.
Finally, Matthew poked Brian, "Come on, little brother, time for bed."
"I don't know if I can sleep yet," the younger brother responded.
Sully looked up at them, "Brian, Matthew?"
They turned to him.
"Thank ya for steppin' forward today. You're the ones who convinced Lyman t' spare me," Sully's eyes were moist. "Thank you for savin' my life."
Brian immediately hugged him, "We only did what you would've done for us."
Matthew added, "And have done for us many times."
The boys went up to bed.
Sully turned Katie around to face him, "You, too, my sweet girl."
"No," Katie asserted.
"Katherine Elizabeth Sully," Michaela tried to sound stern.
Katie buried her face in her father's shirt.
"Young lady," Michaela rose and walked to them. "It is long past your bedtime, and you have been a very sick little girl."
"Not sleepy, Mama," Katie mumbled from Sully's chest.
Sully gently turned his daughter's face up to look at him. "Kates, when Mama or Papa tell ya it's time for bed, ya know what?"
She hoped he would suggest a game, "What?"
"It means it's time for bed," he smiled.
She looked up at her mother who nodded and raised an eyebrow. Katie reluctantly extended her arms upward for Michaela. She lifted her and gave her a kiss.
"Mama?" Katie spoke contritely.
"Yes, Sweetheart," she replied.
"Tank you for savin' my life," Katie kissed her.
Both Sully and Michaela were amazed at how perceptive the child was. He stood up to embrace them.
"You're welcome," Michaela smiled.
"You good doctor," Katie held some of her mother's hair.
"We're both lucky t' have her, Kates," Sully winked.
"I'll take her up," Michaela glanced at her husband.
"Join ya soon," he hugged them. "Somethin' I wanna do first."
Michaela finally got Katie tucked in. After changing into her nightgown, she became curious as to her husband's whereabouts. When she descended the stairs, she found him. Sully had prepared a bath for himself in the kitchen. Michaela could see the back of his head as he sat in the steaming hot water. Quietly, she approached. She knelt beside him, but with his eyes closed, he was oblivious to her presence.
Michaela spotted the soap that had slipped from his hand onto the floor. She picked it up, and dipping her hands into the water, began to create a lather. When she touched him, Sully's eyes opened slowly.
"Hello, there," she smiled as she spread the lather across the hair on his chest.
"'Fraid I fell asleep," he yawned. "That feels good."
Michaela continued to distribute the soapy bubbles to his shoulders and neck. Then she gradually worked her way down to his legs and feet, caressing and lovingly working her hands over his body.
"I'm glad you like it," her eyes were locked onto his. "Now get your hair wet, and I'll wash that, too."
"Yes, ma'am," he dunked his head under the water.
He did not come up. More time passed, and still he did not raise his head.
"Sully!" she reached into the water.
She felt his lips nibbling on her hand and grinned in relief that he was still breathing. Finally, he emerged, still holding her fingers in his mouth. When he pulled up from the water, it splashed across the front of Michaela's nightgown.
"I hadn't intended to take a bath tonight," she slowly pulled her fingers from his lips and let them linger around his mouth. Then she splashed him back, "Now, are you ready for me to wash your hair?"
"Guess so," he smiled.
Michaela lifted the shampoo and poured some into her palm. After rubbing her hands together to distribute the substance, she moved closer to Sully's head and began to apply the lather to his hair. Slowly, sensuously, she massaged his head and scalp.
He closed his eyes and lost himself in her touches. She could sense his pleasure and continued to pamper him. He reached up and drew her hand down to his lips.
"Thank you, Michaela," he sighed.
"You're more than welcome. Time to rinse," she whispered in his ear. "But this time, don't stay under so long."
He chuckled and dipped back under the water. When he reappeared, his hair was slicked back. Michaela's heart skipped a beat at the attraction she felt for him at that instant. Softly, she ran her hand across his wet hair and smiled.
"Let's get you dried off now," she tried to sound unaffected by him. Unfolding a large towel, she held it open for him.
As Sully took his time rising from the tub, Michaela could not take her eyes off of his tanned body, shining in the candle light. Then she glanced down, embarrassed at what the sight of him was doing to her. He took the towel and began to wrap it around his waist, but before he finished, he pulled Michaela closer and engulfed her in his arms.
Getting her even wetter than his earlier splashing, Sully spoke low, "Looks like I should share this towel with ya. You need t' dry off, too."
"I... um...," she could not believe she was stammering.
"Are you blushin', Michaela?" he grinned.
"Of course not," she was flustered. "You're my husband. I've seen you... uh... I'm quite accustomed to.... It's just that..."
"Here," he slowly pulled away and handed her another towel. "Would ya mind dryin' my hair for me?"
He sat down on a kitchen chair.
Her breathing began to return to normal, "Certainly."
Unfolding the towel, Michaela placed it over his head and began to vigorously rub it all over his hair.
Sully was becoming light headed from the energetic drying method that she employed.
"Michaela," he laughed. "That's enough! You're makin' me dizzy!"
She removed the towel from his head, "Sorry. Was that too much?"
He took her hand, "It was fine."
He rose from the table and turned to her. Seeing the contours of her body through the wet night gown caused Sully to passionately desire his wife at that very instant. He put his arms around her waist and drew her closer. Slowly he glided his hands upward, tenderly touching and taking delight in her body's reaction.
Michaela's pulse quickened. Wondrous sensations were awakening in her, as he began to slide the straps of her nightgown from her shoulders. She knew where this was leading, and did not want him to stop. Abandoning all inhibitions, she wanted to make love to her husband on the spot.
Suddenly, Katie's cries could be heard from above, "Mama! Mama!"
Michaela closed her eyes and sighed, "Oh, Sully!"
He traced the outline of her mouth with his finger, "She needs her Ma now. My turn will come."
She smiled faintly, "I'm sorry."
"I'll be up in a minute," he released her from his embrace.
She turned to go up the steps, but stopped at the sound of his voice.
"Thanks for givin' me a bath," he winked.
She turned up the side of her mouth and in uncharacteristic boldness suggested, "I think there's a little more I need to give you. I'll see you shortly."
Before she could join her husband, Michaela was up and down several times with Katie. The little girl alternated between needing a drink of water, or a story, or the comfort of her mother's arms, but finally, she succumbed to sleep. At one point during her ministering to her daughter, Michaela was able to change into a dry nightgown.
Once Katie was resting quietly, Michaela slid into bed beside Sully. Tucking her body snugly against his, she pulled his arm around her waist. Then she felt his fingers move.
She grinned, but did not turn over to look at him, "I thought you were asleep."
"I was," he continued movements that began to excite her.
"I just got Katie to sleep," she put her hand atop his.
"Sorry I didn't help ya," he whispered.
"You need your rest," she turned to face him.
"Is Katie all right now?" Sully was concerned.
"Yes," she replied. "She's fine."
After lovingly running her fingers through his hair, she let her hand slip down his neck and chest. He stopped her hand, and raised it to his lips.
Kissing her palm tenderly, he gazed into her eyes and recited:
"There be none of Beauty's daughters
with magic like thee;
And like music on the waters
Is thy sweet voice to me."
"Shakespeare?" Michaela guessed.
"Nope," he grinned. "Byron"
"You wrote that?" she acted surprised.
"Very funny," he tickled her. "Lord Byron."
"Oh, Lord," she paused for effect, then whispered, "Byron."
"Ya know what?" he pulled her closer. "When you say my name, it don't sound so bad to me."
"Byron," she repeated, raising her eyebrows .
"But not in public," he added.
"Some things are best kept from the public," she agreed.
"Like what?" he teased.
"Like... things between a husband and wife," she spoke in a suggestive way.
"Oh, " Sully moved his hand up her back. Then he began to unbutton the top of her nightgown. "Tell me a little more 'bout these things between a husband and wife."
She responded to his advances, "Oh, you know, just the usual."
"Usual?" he laughed. "Michaela, if it's one thing you an' I ain't, it's 'usual.'"
"For that," she grinned, "I am very grateful."
"Me, too," he kissed her neck and shoulder.
"By the way," she was losing herself to him. "You smell quite delicious."
"Delicious?" he nibbled on her ear.
He made a soft growling sound that always aroused her. Soon, their tender touches led to more unrestrained gestures of love. Each evoked excitement from the other's caresses. They seemed transported from this world with their consuming desire for each other. Then came their unbridled surrender, the raptured culmination of their bodies' longings. The sweet satisfaction that followed was such bliss, it was some time before either spoke.
Finally, it was Michaela who broke the silence. "Sully," she sighed. "That was so wonderful. It's incredible to me how we can be like this. I never imagined..."
"I will always love you, Michaela. Always want you," his voice whispered. Then he teased, "You bring out the best in me."
"Your best is quite remarkable," she grinned.
"We make a remarkable team," Sully kissed her forehead.
She held his face in her hands, "Do you know that you own my heart, Byron Sully?" Her voice quivered slightly, "When I thought that I would never see you and the children again, I..."
"Shhh," he kissed her. Then stroking her long tresses, he smiled. "We made it through a rough time." Sensing her next thought, he tenderly spoke, "I don't want ya worryin' about who we'll get t' watch Katie when I'm away. We'll work it out."
She lightly touched his lips, "Are you all right? Seeing the Major's children brought back such terrible memories for you."
"It did," he caressed her face. "It was agony seein' how his children had grown up hatin' me. I never thought I could release the guilt I felt. But Cloud Dancing helped me t' see that I've been forgiven for my sins in the War."
"I'm glad," she could feel the salty taste of her tears.
He looked straight into her eyes, "I got a feelin' Major Hall's at peace now, an' finally, I can forgive myself."
Please sign my guestbook. Let me know what you think of my web site and stories. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.
Feel free to discuss my previous and new stories on the message board. Your feeback is greatly appreciated.
Click here to view Guestbook 1
Visitors to This Page Since December 31, 1999
© Copyright 1999-2000-All rights reserved by the author.