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

Yankee Hill


by Debby K

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Yankee Hill
by Debby K

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

Dorothy and Michaela were enjoying a morning cup of coffee at Grace's Cafe. With Katie on her lap drawing letters on some paper, Michaela was enjoying the fresh air with her friend.

"Michaela, look at this," Dorothy pointed to an ad in a newspaper. "In the Rocky Mountain News, it says here the town council in Yankee Hill is lookin' for a new marshal."

Grace brought by a fresh pot of coffee and joined in the conversation, "I heard tell they been through three marshals in the last three months over there."

"Three marshals," Michaela was amazed. "Why?"

Grace sat down to rest, "Seems they got some men who prefer t' live outside the law there."

Michaela shook her head, "I suppose that's a result of the gold rush, with men coming and going in their quest for riches."

She smiled at Katie's attempts to write.

"Isn't Sully out that way Michaela?" Dorothy asked.

Katie recognized her father's name and looked up, "Papa come home?"

Michaela stroked her daughter's head, "Soon, Sweetheart." Then turning to her friends, she replied, "Yes, he was in Georgetown. He's due back tomorrow tonight." She blushed slightly, "He's been gone two weeks."

Dorothy smiled, "Nothin's quite the same for ya when he's away."

Michaela nodded, "I do miss him... and worry about him."

Her mind trailed off to their last night together before he had to leave. The tender touches, the loving words, the magic of their love making.

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

The Gold Trail toll road ran through Yankee Hill, Colorado. The town had a short, but fascinating history. In 1858, pay dirt was struck in the Colorado Territory around Pikes Peak. As word spread, a gold rush began. By 1866, hundreds of small mining camps had sprung up. Among these was Yankee Hill, situated about 25 miles west of Denver. Located between Georgetown and Central City, Yankee Hill flourished. By 1874, it had several hundred permanent residents and a few hundred more transient prospectors.

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

As Sully rode the toll road, his thoughts turned to Michaela and the children. He smiled with pride at the knowledge that Katie would have learned some new words in his absence, Matthew was becoming so well versed in the law, and Brian would soon be as tall as he. He missed Colleen but knew she and Andrew were happy. And Michaela, how he missed her. Two weeks from her seemed like two years. He could see her smile, which filled him with joy; her eyes, which captured his soul; her beautiful hair, which...

Suddenly, his horse reared up, spooked by a snake. Sully fell back off the animal and landed on his side. He fought to remain conscious, but the pain was too intense. Soon he fell into unconsciousness.

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

Michaela sat at her desk updating her patient files. Katie's crying roused her from her work. Quickly, she ascended the steps to her daughter. The little girl was sitting on the wooden floor, tears streaming down her cheeks. Michaela lifted her into her arms.

"There, there, Sweetheart," Michaela kissed her. "Mama's here. Did you have a bad dream?"

Katie's sobs were ebbing, "I fall."

"You fell out of bed?" Michaela regretted allowing the child to nap in a recovery room. "Show me where it hurts."

Katie pointed to her elbow. The doctor examined the child's limb and found nothing broken.

"It huwt, Mama," Katie's tears were beginning to dry.

Michaela kissed her daughter's elbow, "Tell you what. Let's go over to Mr. Bray's. Maybe he has a piece of candy for a little girl's sweet tooth."

Katie smiled, and off they went to the Mercantile.

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

Willie Kennard was a gangly 42 year old black man. A veteran of the War, he was on his way to Yankee Hill to apply for the position of marshal. Along the route, he spotted someone lying in the road up ahead. Kennard looked around, suspicious that it might be a ploy to distract him. He knew that was how robbers lured their victims.

Kennard approached cautiously and turned the man over. Sully groaned.

"What happened, Mister?" Kennard asked.

"Wha... I... My horse threw me," Sully winced in pain.

"Looks like he didn't stray too far," Kennard spotted the animal grazing nearby. "Can ya sit up?"

Sully attempted to rise but felt as if a knife was plunging into his side, "I think I broke a rib."

"I best get ya into Yankee Hill t' see a doctor," Kennard offered. "That's where I'm headed."

"I wanna get home t' Colorado Springs t' my wife and kids," Sully was able to stand. "My wife's a doctor. She can tend t' me when I get home."

Kennard helped him onto his horse, "If you say so. I'll ride with ya into Yankee Hill. My name's Willie Kennard."

"I'm Sully," the mountain man smiled.

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

Arriving in Yankee Hill, they pulled up in front of Glen Ritchey's blacksmith shop. Ritchey came over to meet them.

"What kin I do fer ya?" the muscular blacksmith asked.

"Been ridin my horse most o' the night," Sully held his side. "I need t' rest him an' see that he's fed."

"Easy enough," Ritchey replied.

"Ya got a doctor?" Kennard asked as he helped Sully off his horse.

"Our doc left last week," Ritchey grabbed the reins of the horses.

Realizing he could not continue on with his side in such pain, Sully turned to Kennard, "I better send a telegram to my wife an' tell her I been delayed."

"I'll take ya to the telegraph office," Kennard spotted the building.

"Thanks," Sully smiled.

Before leaving the blacksmith shop, Kennard asked, "Know where I can find the town council?"

Ritchey pointed, "Fat Sarah Palmer's Cafe. They'll be sittin' around there drinkin' coffee."

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

Michaela sat Katie on the counter of Bray's Mercantile. Loren's face lit up when he saw her.

"How's my Katie, girl?" he beamed.

"Huwt arm," she held it closer for him to see.

"Did ya, now," he examined it. "What does your Ma say about it?"

"Candy!" Katie grinned.

Loren felt his heart melt as he saw the little girl's smile.

"Candy, eh?" he put his hands in his vest pockets. "I don't recall Dr. Mike ever prescribin' that before."

As Michaela attempted to distract the child, Loren brought her a piece of candy.

"This should do it then," he handed it to her.

Katie quickly put the sweet treat in her mouth and smiled.

"How much do I owe you, Loren," Michaela asked.

"No charge, Dr. Mike," he touched Katie's nose. "Seein' her face is payment enough."

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

As they walked from the telegraph office, Sully commented on the two revolvers strapped low on Kennard's thighs. "Looks like ya know how t' use those."

Kennard nodded, "Had a lot of experience in the War. I was a corporal in the 7th Illinois Rifles, a unit of black volunteers. They made me an instructor at the Montrose Trainin' Camp. After the War, job prospects weren't too good, so I enlisted in the 9th Cavalry. Went t' Fort Bliss, Texas for five years, then t' Fort Davis in the Arizona Territory. My enlistment ran out a few months ago, and I saw this ad for a marshal."

They reached the cafe and walked in. Sitting at one of the tables was a group of men who looked like the more solid citizens of the mining camp town. Among them was Matt Borden, the well-dressed owner of the Square Deal General Store and mayor of Yankee Hill. Bert Corgan, the town's only lawyer, sat next to him. Harry Landers, the hefty proprietor of the town's bank was opposite Borden. Sully sat down at a table to observe as Kennard approached the men.

Putting the ad down at their table, Kennard spoke up, "You men on the town council?"

Borden answered, "We are. What business is that of yours?"

Kennard replied, "I read your ad for a marshal, an' I'm here to apply."

Landers smirked, "You mean you can read, boy?"

Kennard clinched his jaw but did not reply.

Mayor Borden laughed, "We got a little test for ya before we consider hirin' ya full time."

Kennard eyed him warily, "What's the test?"

Borden explained, "We got a notorious criminal named Barney Casewit, who at this very moment is across the street playin' poker at Gaylor's Saloon. Arrest him."

Fat Sarah stopped at Sully's table to pour his coffee. He looked up and pointed to the councilmen, "Who's this Casewit fella?"

She nearly spilled the coffee, "He's a vile creature if ever there was one. Fast with a gun and lacking any morals or conscience. Barney Casewit is loathed by most of the townsfolk. He's bullied and terrorized this town for the past two years."

Sully shook his head, "Can't the law do anythin' about him?"

She sat down beside Sully, "You ain't from around here, are ya?"

"No," he replied. "I'm from Colorado Springs."

"Well, let me tell ya what it's been like for us," she began. "We've gone through three marshals here in the past three months, all on account of Barney Casewit. He's got no qualms about killing or committing any other crime. A few months ago, he raped a 15-year old girl, Birdie Campbell. Her Pa's a bookkeeper at the bank. When he tried to avenge his daughter's rape, Casewit shot him dead. Marshal Craig went to arrest him, and Casewit killed him, too."

"What about the next marshal?" Sully could not imagine such a man.

"Ben Reed?" Sarah shook her head. "Marshal Reed was outgunned by him, too. And the next lawman turned in his badge and shipped out of town one night after watching Casewit gun down two saddle tramps."

Sully could not stop thinking about young Birdie Campbell and what Casewit had done to her. He thought about how he would act if something so heinous happened to one of his daughters. Then he saw Kennard pin on a star and calmly head toward the saloon. The town councilmen followed at a safe distance to watch.

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

Horace knocked on the Clinic door and opened it.

"Dr. Mike," he removed his hat. "Got a telegram here for ya. It's from Sully."

Michaela rose from her desk and with some trepidation opened the paper. She read to herself:

"Michaela. Fell off horse just outside Yankee Hill. Hurt ribs, but do not worry. Be home as soon as possible. Love, Sully."

She looked up, "Horace, if I went by train as far as possible, then by horse, how long would it take me to get to Yankee Hill?"

"Next train's leavin' for Denver in an hour, Dr. Mike," he rubbed his chin. "Then ya could... I s'pose ya could be there before nightfall, but it's awful dangerous out that way for a lady by herself."

"I'll be careful," she smiled. "Thank you, Horace."

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

Sully, his ribs still in pain, rose from his table at Fat Sarah Palmer's Cafe to follow the crowd over to Gaylor's Saloon. Willie Kennard entered the bar and calmly observed the table where Barney Casewit sat playing poker.

Town councilman and lawyer Bert Corgan, watching the black man approach the killer-rapist, whispered to Mayor Matt Borden, "Either that darky's an impetuous bunghead or as cold-blooded a gunslinger as ever I saw."

A hush fell over the normally rowdy place. Sully stood at the door to take in what happened next.

Kennard moved to Casewit's table and stood tall, "Which one o' you is Barney Casewit."

Casewit put down his glass of whiskey and grinned, "I am. What's it to you?"

"You're under arrest," Kennard informed him coolly. "Come with me."

Casewit and his two pals, Ira Goodrich and Sam Betts, burst into laughter.

"Come with you?" Casewit slid back from the table. "Where are we supposed t' go?"

Kennard did not blink, "Your choice. Jail... or hell."

Casewit rose to his feet, but made no movement to go with the Kennard.

The would-be lawman spoke again, "This is your last chance t' go peacefully."

Casewit reached for the Colt .45's at his sides. In less than a second, Kennard pulled his revolvers and fired into Casewit's still holstered Colts. The impact of the bullets knocked the butts out of the outlaw's hands. The shots almost ripped the holsters from his gun belt and rendered his guns totally useless.

Goodrich and Betts, Casewit's partners in crime, made their move to protect their friend. Kennard dropped both of them with clean shots between the eyes as they drew, their guns barely clearing leather. Casewit immediately raised his hands in surrender.

The entire bar stood in stunned silence. Kennard walked to Casewit and escorted him from the saloon, with the town councilmen following in amazement. As they passed Sully, he eyed the criminal with a look of disgust. In fact the entire scene had sickened the mountain man. Some men stepped forward to remove the bodies and take them to the local undertaker.

One of the "ladies" at the bar noticed Sully and approached him.

"You look like you could use a drink," the buxom brunette put her hand on his arm. Around 30 years of age, she was quite attractive but heavily made up.

"No thanks," he was still in pain. "I could use a hotel room, though."

"We got rooms upstairs," she motioned. "My name's Dolores. But you can call me Dolly."

"Dolly, I just need a place t' stay the night," he made his way to sit down at an empty table.

"Looks more like you could use a doctor," Dolly sat beside him. "What's the matter with you?"

"Hurt my ribs in a fall from my horse," he was perspiring. "Could ya arrange that room for me?"

"Sure thing," she stood up. "What's your name?"

"Sully," he said simply.

"That's it?" she raised her eyebrows. "Just Sully?"

"Just Sully," he nodded.

"Where ya from?" Dolly inquired.

"Colorado Springs," he was finding it difficult to concentrate.

"Okay, 'Just Sully' from Colorado Springs. Sit tight, and I'll get you a room," Dolly turned and left him.

Sully leaned back and tried to take his mind off his aching side. He closed his eyes and thought of Michaela. He could see her lying in their bed, her arms reaching out for him. He was kissing her lips, her neck, her...

"Got ya that room," Dolly returned. "I'll help ya upstairs."

Sully handed her his saddle bag, and followed her up the steps. As they passed each room along the hall, sounds of an intimate nature emanated. She opened the door to an empty room at the end of the hallway.

"The room's a dollar a night, paid in advance," she informed him. "A little extra if I'm included," she raised the hem of her skirt, revealing a garter belt.

Sully pulled the coins from his jacket and handed her the exact amount for the room.

"There is one thing ya could do for me," he lay down on the bed.

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

Michaela hastily made arrangements for the children's care. She told them that she was going to help Sully somewhere near Yankee Hill but did not know how long she would be gone. Matthew insisted that he should go with her, but finally he agreed to stay and watch his siblings. Boarding the train in time, she was soon on her way.

Michaela could not explain it, but she felt a strong compulsion to be with her husband. She sensed that he needed her. After three years of marriage, she had learned to follow her instincts where Sully was concerned. Closing her eyes, she could see his face. His strong, handsome face with its curled up grin, his piercing blue eyes, his way of looking at her and without saying a word, communicating his innermost thoughts to her. She would be with him soon.

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

Michaela went as far as she could on the train and was soon traveling by horseback at the fastest speed the animal could muster. By late afternoon, she was on the Gold Trail toll road. The closer she got to Yankee Hill, the more certain she became that Sully needed her. Abandoning all caution, she could focus only on seeing her husband.

As she rode along, fearful thoughts began to fill her head. She remembered the day he fell off the cliff in the fight with Sgt. O'Connor; the ache in her heart when she found his medicine pouch; the terror when they found him days later, and his breathing stopped. Michaela knew that with each breath she put into his lungs to revive him, was her life. If she ever lost Sully...

Reality came back to her with a crash. Suddenly, she found herself surrounded by four men. They forced her from the horse and demanded all of her cash. The leader of the group was a forty year old fugitive from the Colorado Territorial Prison named Billy McGeorge. With his tall and husky build, the criminal, along with his gang, had been preying on freight wagons and passengers that traveled the route for the past few weeks.

"What's a pretty lady like you doin' out here all by yourself?" McGeorge leaned closer to her while two of his men held her arms.

Repulsed by his appearance and his odor, Michaela answered, "I've given you all my money. Now may I go?"

"Where ya wanna go in such a hurry?" he eyed her in a manner that spoke more than robbery on his mind.

"To help my husband," she steadied her voice. "I'm a doctor."

McGeorge laughed, "A lady doctor! Well, maybe you can fix what ails me."

"If you're ill, I can suggest some remedies," she knew that was not what he had in mind.

"Maybe you're the remedy I need," he began to loosen his belt buckle.

One of his comrades started to lift her skirt.

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

Dolly leaned closer to help Sully remove his jacket.

Revealing a bit more cleavage to him, she whispered, "What did you want me to do for you?"

Sully clenched his side, "In my saddle bag is a pouch with some tea leaves, called Willow Bark. Could ya brew it up in some hot water for me?"

"That's all?" she sounded disappointed.

"If ya don't mind," he looked so helpless.

"Sure," she found the tea. "If you need a little more than this, just holler."

Dolly left him alone, and Sully closed his eyes. The pain in his side was subsiding somewhat, and sleep began to overtake him.

There was Michaela in her wedding dress walking across the meadow to become his wife. He never thought he could or would love again after Abigail's death. The loss of his first wife and child had been devastating. But the lady doctor from Boston had captured his heart the first moment he saw her falling face first into a puddle of mud. They had fought their attraction initially, but the more time they spent together, their differences seemed unimportant. And there she was becoming his wife, saying vows to spend the rest of her life...

A knock at the door wakened him from his daydream.

"Come in," Sully called from the bed.

It was Dolly, returning with his tea.

Setting it on the stand beside the bed, she smiled, "I never met a man who drank tea."

Sully raised his head slightly to sip it, "It's more than that. It's a medicine."

"That's what a lot of my customers say about what they drink, too," she winked.

"Thanks for the help," he smiled. Then he looked toward the window, "What's gonna happen to Casewit?"

"I heard they're gonna put him on trial tomorrow morning," she could not take her eyes off of Sully. "Bert Corgan's gonna be the judge. He's our town lawyer. I imagine they'll hang Casewit, and good riddance."

She sat down on the edge of the bed. Placing her hand on his side, she asked, "Is it feeling any better?"

Sully took her hand and set it on her own lap, "A little bit, thanks."

Dolly reached up and pushed a stray lock of hair from his face, "You are without doubt the most handsome man I've ever seen. I could help you forget all about that pain in your side if you'd let me."

Sully smiled, "Dolly, I'm a married man."

She laughed, "So?"

He tried to be polite, "So, I love my wife, an' I'm faithful t' her."

Dolly leaned closer lightly touching her bosom to his chest, "There's always an exception."

Sully was suddenly filled with a chill. He gasped.

"What's wrong?" Dolly pulled back. "Does your side hurt?"

"My wife," his heart raced. "She's in danger."

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

McGeorge slowly moved toward Michaela. She tried to pull away from the men who were holding her.

"Please don't," her voice quivered.

"But you're gonna like this," McGeorge leaned in to kiss her.

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

"How do you know your wife's in danger?" Dolly asked.

Sully gently pushed her away, "I just do."

She eyed him quizzically, "You're sure acting strange."

Sully tried to get up from the bed, but he felt woozy, "I gotta help Michaela. I... don't feel so good..." He slumped back into the bed and quickly was unconscious.

After removing his shoes, Dolly pulled a blanket up to his shoulders, "Sorry 'Just Sully,' but I slipped a little something into your tea to help you rest."

She went to his saddle bag and began to search through it. There was a small wedding photograph. "Humm," she assessed the picture. "So that's your wife. She is a pretty one." Then she found his money pouch. "Should I, or shouldn't I?" she wondered to herself. She started to open it but then shook her head and put it back untouched.

"I'll let you rest now, but I'll be back." She opened the door to leave. "I'll not let you get away until we've become much better acquainted."

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

Michaela screamed. McGeorge put his grimy hand over her mouth, and she bit it.

"Oohh, she's a lively one," he laughed.

Suddenly four men on horseback approached. Michaela prayed that it would be the law. It was not.

McGeorge's attention was diverted from Michaela as he greeted the men, "What'd ya find out?"

"They got a new marshal, a Negro named Kennard," Cash Downing informed him.

"Is that so?" McGeorge laughed. "Looks like marshal number four won't be long for this world either."

"Boss," Cash added. "He got Casewit."

"What?" McGeorge was surprised. "Well, ain't that good news. Undesirable elements like that got no place bein' in Yankee Hill."

Michaela could feel that the men were loosening their grips on her as they listened to news about this Casewit person.

"They're fixin' t' have a trial tomorrow mornin' and hang him by noon," Cash added.

"That's good news for us." McGeorge shouted to one of his men, "Andy, watch her while the boys an' me talk a spell." Leering at Michaela he added, "I ain't finished with you."

The other men left Michaela alone with Andy as they went out of sight to talk. She sized up her new captor as a man who merely took orders but otherwise seemed harmless enough. He could not have been more than 20. Around Matthew's age, she thought.

"What do you think they're planning?" she hoped to read his intentions.

"Don't know," Andy replied. "But the Boss takes good care o' us."

"Why doesn't he include you in the planning?" she fished.

"'Cause he doesn't, is why," Andy became terse. "You ask too many questions."

"Sorry," Michaela looked down. Then she requested, "Could you not hold me quite so tightly, please? I'm not going anywhere."

He loosened his grip on her.

"Would you mind if I get something from my medical bag?" she pointed.

"What?" he was suspicious.

"Just some medication for my... condition," she lied.

He nodded, "Go ahead, but don't try nothin'."

Michaela lifted her medical bag and turned her back to her captor. She quickly applied a strong quantity of ether to a cloth.

"Andy," she turned to face him. "Could you give me your opinion on something?" Approaching him with the cloth, she held it up. "This doesn't smell right to me. Take a deep whiff, and tell me what you think.

An unsuspecting Andy did as she wished, "Does smell kinda funny."

"Take another deep breath," she requested. "Do you think I should throw it out?"

Soon he went under. Grabbing her bag, she quietly mounted her horse and took off for Yankee Hill. Thankfully, her captors did not seem interested in pursuing her.

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

Michaela arrived in the mining camp town just before dark. She saw a sign for the marshal's office and pulled up in front of it. Walking in, she observed a black man wearing a badge on his vest and sitting at the desk. In the jail cell sat a shady looking character not unlike the men who had attacked her on the Gold Trail.

The lawman stood when she walked in, "Evenin' ma'am. Can I help you?"

"Yes, thank you," Michaela removed her hat. "I'm Dr. Michaela Quinn, I'm looking for my husband Byron Sully. I have reason to believe that he's in town. Can you help me?"

"You're Sully's wife?" Kennard smiled.

From his jail cell, Casewit sarcastically said, "Why don't ya come on over here an' give me some o' your medicine, doctor."

"I was not addressing you," Michaela turned her back to the cell. Then to the marshal, she spoke, "You know Sully?"

"Yes, ma'am," Kennard nodded. "Met him this mornin' on my way into town. He was hurt fallin' off his horse. Might have a broken rib, but there's no doc in town at the moment."

"There is now," Michaela asserted. "Do you know where I can find my husband?"

"Last time I saw him was at Gaylor's Saloon earlier today," the marshal answered.

"Saloon?" she was surprised. "Sully doesn't drink."

Casewit spoke up from the cell, "Bet he was there with the rest of the town t' see the new marshal here arrest me."

"Before I go, Marshal, I would like to report that I was attacked and robbed at gunpoint today on the Gold Trail by a gang of eight men," Michaela informed him.

Kennard reached for a drawing on his desk and showed it to her, "This look like the man who was leadin' them?"

Michaela studied the drawing, "Yes, that's the man."

"That's Billy McGeorge," he took back the drawing. Pointing to Casewit, he added, "After we hang this one tomorrow, I'll be goin' after the McGeorge gang."

"You're going to hang him?" Michaela felt her stomach churn.

"After the trial, yes," Kennard answered.

"I see," she thought it best to not express her opinion in the matter. "Could you direct me to Gaylor's Saloon then?"

"Just down Front Street," the marshal pointed. "Can't miss it for all the noise."

"Thank you, Marshal...?" she did not know his name.

"Kennard. Willie Kennard," he sat back down.

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

Sully was awakened by the noise from downstairs. Forgetting where he was, he tried to get up. The pain in his side had lessened, but he was still in no condition to ride a horse yet. Glancing toward the window, he discerned dusk descending upon the town. He was hungry and worried about Michaela.

He managed to pull himself up and saw the cup of cold tea sitting on the table. From the groggy feeling he had, Sully became suspicious of what he had drunk earlier today. He picked up the cup and smelled its contents. He was angry at himself for not noticing the aroma when Dolly gave it to him.

Then came a faint knock on the door. He did not respond. The knob turned, and in stepped Dolly. In the fading light, he saw that she was dressed even more provocatively than earlier today. She noticed that Sully was sitting up and came in to light a lamp.

"Well, you're awake, I see," she sat down quite close beside him on the bed.

"No thanks t' you," Sully sounded angry. "Why'd ya put somethin' in my tea?"

"I wanted to see that you got a good rest," she put her hand on his knee.

He took her hand and removed it from his knee, "Look, Dolly, I told ya before. I ain't interested in cheatin' on my wife. Nothin' against ya, it's just..."

"I know," she put her fingers to his lips. "You love her."

"Is that so hard t' understand?" Sully tried to move away from her.

"Well," Dolly smiled and slid closer to him again. "Lots of men love their wives but enjoy a little... entertainment on the side."

She raised her arms to his neck, but he found the strength to stand up before she could complete her gesture.

"How 'bout we change the subject?" Sully held his side.

Dolly stood and went to him, "To what?"

"Dinner," he answered. "I gotta get somethin' t' eat."

"I'll bring you dinner," she started for the door.

Not trusting her from her earlier tampering with his beverage, Sully stopped her, "No, thanks. Maybe you could help me down the steps, though. I'll get somethin' from Fat Sarah's."

Dolly sounded frustrated, "If you insist."

Sully went to his saddlebag and pulled out his money. Then he managed to make it to the door. Dolly put her arms around his waist for support. With his arm resting across her shoulders, they headed out the room and down the hallway toward the steps.

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

Michaela entered the smoke filled saloon and looked around at the assorted drunks, gamblers, and ladies of ill repute. She shook her head and walked over to the bar.

"You sure you're in the right place, lady?" the gruff looking bartender asked.

"I'm looking for a man named Sully," she shouted over the noise. "Have you seen him?"

He pointed to a couple coming down the steps, "That him?"

Michaela turned to see her husband descending the steps in the arms of a prostitute.

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

Michaela's heart sank as her thoughts swirled, "What is Sully doing with a prostitute? Coming down the steps of a saloon? Her arms wrapped around him?" Quickly she shook off those notions, "You know he would never betray you. He's the most honorable man you've ever met. He loves you. You love him. Go to him!"

"Sully!" Michaela ran to him as he reached the bottom of the steps.

Dolly removed her arms from his waist as his wife embraced him.

"Michaela," he was incredulous. "What are ya doin' here? How'd ya get here?"

"I thought that you needed me," she helped him to a chair.

He smiled and held her hand, "I always need ya."

Dolly rolled her eyes and cleared her throat.

"Oh," Sully held Michaela's hand. "Ah, Dolly, this is my wife, Dr. Michaela Quinn."

"Pleased to meet you," Michaela was embarrassed. "I won't tell you what ran through my mind when I saw your arms around my husband."

A slight grin came to Sully's face, "Um, jealousy?"

"Well..." Michaela hesitated, then changed the subject. "How badly are you hurt? I want to examine your ribs." Turning to Dolly, she asked, "Is there somewhere private that I could take my husband?"

"Back up to his room," Dolly responded. "I was just helping him over for a bite to eat, but as long as you're here, why don't I get you both something and bring it up? Then I gotta get to work." She looked around the room.

"Ah," Sully raised his hand to protest.

"Don't worry," Dolly assured him. "This time, just food. Nothing added."

Michaela looked at him quizzically.

Sully whispered to his wife, "Could ya help me back upstairs."

"Of course," she smiled.

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

Michaela settled Sully back onto the bed. Then she sat down beside him, and her doctor mode took over. She began to unbutton his shirt to assess the condition of his ribs.

"Hey," Sully cupped his hands around her face.

She stopped, captured by his eyes.

"I'm really glad t' see ya," he pulled her closer.

"And I, you," she returned to her wife mode.

They kissed lightly at first, then more deeply.

Michaela slowly pulled back, "Much as I would like to continue this, I think I had better check your condition first."

He grinned, "Some parts o' me weren't hurt in the fall."

She smiled, "Sully!"

"Okay, go ahead an' check me," he pretended to be serious.

"Show me where it hurts," she continued to unbutton his shirt.

He pointed to his side and turned slightly so she could examine it more fully.
Michaela began to press lightly. He winced.

As she continued to feel his ribs, he reached up and started to unbutton her blouse. Sliding his hands under the material, he fondled her.

Slightly out of breath from his caresses, she smiled, "You're badly bruised... but nothing's broken. I think after a couple days rest... you should be able to travel."

"That's good," his hands slid her blouse from her shoulder. He pulled her closer and kissed her neck.

"I've never given an examination to someone who... examined me back," she was becoming excited by his movements.

"No one else better examine ya like this, or they'll have t' answer t' me. Stay with me while I get that rest?" he slid his hand down to her thigh.

"I do want to let the children know that we're fine, but of course, I'll stay," she closed her eyes at his touch.

"Glad you found me," he kissed her neck.

"I am, too," her blood raced.

Their intimacy was interrupted by a knock at the door. Michaela sat up with a start and began to rebutton her blouse, not quite successfully matching the buttons in the right holes. She rose from the bed and opened the door. It was Dolly with a tray of food.

"Oh, thank you," Michaela tried to sound normal. "Could you set it on the table, please." Then turning to her husband, she was embarrassed, "I'm afraid I don't have any money, Sully."

He pulled his money pouch from his buckskins and handed it to his wife.

Seeing Michaela's mismatched blouse buttons and perceptively realizing what she just interrupted, Dolly grinned, "That's okay. You can pay me later."

Then winking at Sully, she turned and departed.

Michaela blushed, "Sully, do you think she knew what we were..."

He chuckled and pointed to the front of her blouse, "Should we let that bother us?"

"Well, I was only.... " Michaela looked around the room.

The sounds emanating from the saloon below and the room next door made her slightly uncomfortable.

"Michaela, why didn't ya bring any money?" Sully wondered, as she handed him a plate of food.

She left her plate untouched for the moment, "I... I was robbed."

"What?" he started to sit up.

"Calm down," she gently pushed him back. "I'm all right. It was a group of men just outside of town. I used ether on one of them and was able to escape." She became quiet and pensive as she nibbled at her food and remembered what McGeorge had almost done to her.

"Michaela," Sully took her hand. "Did they hurt you?"

"No, Sully," she squeezed his hand. "I... I reported it to the marshal when I arrived." She did not want to tell him any more than that right now.

"You sure you're all right? I had an awful feelin' earlier that you were in trouble," he swallowed hard. "It was too dangerous for you to come by yourself."

"Well," she stroked the side of his face, "I had the same feeling that you needed me. Besides I'm here now, and we're both fine."

They quickly finished their meal, and she turned down the lamp. Silently, he stroked her arm, communicating in his special way, his desire for her. She stood up and walked to the door.

"Where're ya goin'?" Sully asked.

"To lock the door," she did so. "I would prefer to not be interrupted again."

He turned up the corner of his mouth in a grin.

"Sully," she sat down on the bed. "I feel almost wicked doing this here."

"Wicked?" he grinned. "But we're married."

"I know," her cheeks reddened slightly. "But listening to the sounds in this place. Knowing what's happening in all of these rooms..."

"There's a big difference 'tween what's happenin' in those rooms, and what's happenin' in here," he reached up to caress her face. "We're in love, we're married, an'...," he paused to pull her down beside him, "I ain't payin' ya afterwards."

She laughed, "Well, I don't have any money."

"What's mine is yours," he began to unbutton her blouse again.

She sat up and completed the removal of her own blouse. Then she slowly pulled his shirt from his buckskins and removed it. Leaning over to his injured side, she gently kissed his bruises. She looked up at his face with a sultry expression. Her kisses continued up his chest to his neck and face. Then she unbuttoned the top of his buckskins and slowly removed them.

Sully slid his hand down her leg, and began to touch her in ways that stirred her further. She slipped out of her skirt quickly. They kissed, tasting each other's desire. Their love making began carefully, tentatively, as she did not want to hurt his side. But as passions ignited, more basic instincts replaced reason. Their movements intensified until at last they had satisfied one another's yearnings... yearnings that had been unfulfilled these past two weeks.

Steeped in perspiration, Sully's breathing was returning to normal as he held his wife close to his heart. They quietly lay together, while he gently stroked her hair and back.

She touched his side in concern, "Did it... Did I hurt you?"

"No," he spoke low. "I've missed ya so much, Michaela," he sighed. "I think about ya all the time."

"I miss you every second," she stood and walked to the basin and pitcher of water.

He gazed at her form and felt his desire anew. She took a towel and dampened it in the water. Then she returned to him. With the cloth, she began to blot the perspiration from his body. Slowly, tenderly, she cooled him.

Smiling at his physical reaction to her tender touches, she slid back down beside him.

"Again?" she whispered.

He kissed her forehead, "If you're willin', I'm ready."

"I'm willin'," she imitated his dialect.

And so they made love again, this time slowly, more deliberately, but still with the same burst of unimaginable delight for both. Afterwards, exhaustion began to overtake them.

As he cradled her in his arms, Sully whispered, "Still feel wicked?"

"No," she sighed. "Just loved. Loved beyond any ability to put into words."

He kissed the top of her head, "Never knew ya t' be short on words."

She did not reply. Tilting his head to look at her face, Sully realized that she had drifted off to sleep. His thoughts turned to the men who had robbed her earlier in the day. His jaw tightened at the thought that she had been attacked. Tomorrow, he thought... tomorrow he would speak to Marshal Kennard and do something to catch these men.

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

Just before dawn, Michaela began to toss and turn. She awoke with a start. At first disoriented, she did not know where she was. Sully pulled her closer and kissed her head.

"Shhh, Michaela," he assured her. "It's all right."

As her mind cleared, she felt her flesh against his. She was grateful for the warmth of his body and the safety of his arms.

"You were talkin' 'bout someone named McGeorge in your sleep," he whispered. "Is he one o' the men that robbed ya?"

"Yes," her anxiety continued. She knew she had to tell him the truth, "He was going to ..."

Sully felt her body tense, "Goin' t' what?"

She could not bring herself to say the words.

He pulled their blanket up higher, "Tell me, Michaela. It's all right. You're safe now."

"He was going to ... rape me," she choked out the words.

Sully felt a knot in his stomach, "Why didn't ya tell me this earlier?"

"I got away before ... " her eyes moistened. "I... didn't want to worry you. When I found you, I was just so glad to see you, I ..."

She turned her face away from him.

He gently turned it back toward him again, "You didn't do anythin' wrong, Michaela. Nothin'."

"I was ashamed to tell you," her tears flowed more heavily now.

"It's all right," he wiped them away and kissed her face. "I won't let anyone hurt you."

He sensed her fears begin to subside, and she finally drifted back to sleep. But Sully was now wide awake. Michaela had risked everything to come to him, and he would not rest until he found this man.

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

When Michaela finally awoke after dawn, Sully was fully dressed.

"Why did you let me sleep?" she started to get up. "Let me help you."

He smiled, "I'm all right."

"But your side," she began to dress. "How do you feel?"

"Much better, thanks t' my doctor," he pulled her into his arms. "How 'bout you? You had a rough time."

"I'm better," she nodded. "But I want to examine your ribs again."

"Michaela," he caressed her cheek. "Ya sure you're all right?"

Her gentle smile told him, "I am, Sully. Really. It was a frightening experience, but I feel much better now, here, safe with you."

"If ya feel upset at all... If ya need t' talk, promise me you'll tell me?" he gently urged her.

"I promise," she nodded.

"You up for a little sight seein'?" he opened his shirt for her to examine him.

She carefully inspected his side, "I am, but you're still not able to ride a horse yet. Where are we going?"

She concluded her exam, and he tucked his shirt back into his buckskins.

"We're goin' t' see Marshal Kennard about McGeorge," he informed her.

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

The trial of Barney Casewit was underway at Fat Sarah Palmer's Cafe when Sully and Michaela arrived. Bert Corgan, the only man in Yankee Hill with knowledge of the law, acted as judge. In less than an hour, Casewit was found guilty of raping 15-year old Birdie Campbell. Corgan sentenced him to hang.

Michaela turned to Sully and motioned toward the young victim, "I want to check on Birdie."

He nodded, "I'm sure she could use a lady doctor t' talk to."

Corgan issued the punishment, "Barney Casewit, you are hereby ordered to be taken out and hanged until dead. The sentence will be carried out immediately."

Down came his gavel. Marshal Kennard cuffed Casewit's hands behind his back. The convicted rapist began to beg for his life. Swiftly, he was led out of the Cafe and down the street to Glen Ritchey's blacksmith shop, where the entire town assembled to watch. There, on an old pine tree, Kennard nailed a crossbar.

Michaela and Sully stood apart from the crowd.

"Ya sure you want t' watch this?" he held her hand.

"As a doctor," she tried to sound detached, "I think I should be here just in case they need me."

"Ya don't have t' feel obligated to stay for scum like him," Sully shook his head.

"I know you oppose capital punishment, Sully so if you want to leave...." she said.

"I'm more concerned about you right now," he squeezed her hand.

Kennard put a noose around Casewit's neck. The man began to scream for mercy. Then Kennard pulled him up by the neck about ten feet off the ground. Casewit tried to delay his demise by wrapping his legs around the tree trunk and shinnying up it.

Michaela and Sully turned away, but could hear the crowd begin to cheer at Casewit's failed attempts to stay alive. After twenty minutes, the strength in his legs gave out. Releasing his grip, Casewit could only dangle helplessly as the rope slowly strangled him to death. Kennard then lowered the rope.

Corgan approached Kennard and patted him on the back. Then Mayor Matt Borden came over.

"Kennard..." Borden said. "Marshal Kennard, you're hired at a salary of $100 a month."

The marshal tipped his hat and smiled. Most of the townsfolk came up to him to offer thanks and congratulations. Except Reese Durham, that is. Sully overheard as Durham, proprietor of the Butterfield Stage Station, said under his breath, "Ain't gonna let no Negro be marshal o' this town."

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

Michaela and Sully finally were able to speak with Kennard alone.

"Marshal, my wife was robbed yesterday on the Gold Trail toll road," Sully began.

"I know. She reported it yesterday," he nodded. "I got an idea about how to stop the McGeorge gang."

"He nearly raped her," Sully tensely added. "If you don't find him, I will."

"I'll find him, Sully," Kennard replied. "Let me handle it."

While they spoke, Michaela watched young Birdie Campbell walking away from the crowd. She touched her husband's arm to indicate that she was going over to speak with the girl.

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

"Birdie?" Michaela spoke softly.

The shy redhead turned, but did not speak.

"My name is Michaela Quinn," she offered. "I'm a doctor."

Birdie remained silent.

"I just wanted to tell you that if you'd like to talk about... what happened, I'll be here to listen," Michaela touched her arm. Somewhat embarrassed, she added, "My husband and I are staying at Gaylor's Saloon."

The girl turned and walked away without acknowledging her words. Michaela's compassion went out to her. She watched Birdie enter the boarding house at the edge of town, then she returned to her husband's side.

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

Kennard was explaining his plan to catch McGeorge and his gang, "Rather than chase him up and down the trails of the Colorado Territory, I figure I can make him come to me."

"How can ya do that?" Sully was curious.

"I'm gonna nail up posters offerin' a $50 reward for his capture 'Dead or Alive,'" the marshal responded.

"$50?" Sully was astonished. "He's worth more 'n that!"

"I know," Kennard nodded. "That's the bait."

"What do ya mean?" Sully wondered.

"Other marshals in the territory are offerin' $300 or more," Kennard explained. "When he sees my posters, he'll be mad. I figure, he'll ride here just to up the price."

"It sounds like a very dangerous plan, Marshal," Michaela spoke up.

"Yes, ma'am," Kennard agreed. Then putting his hands on his pistols, he added, "But I'll be ready for him."

"If you say so," Sully seemed skeptical. "I got my own ideas o' how t' deal with him."

Michaela put her hand on Sully's arm. He patted her hand reassuringly, and they turned to leave.

"One more thing," Sully turned back. "There's a fella I overheard earlier who's not too happy 'bout you bein' the Marshal. I saw him headin' over t' the Stage Station.'

"Thanks for the warnin'," Kennard tipped his hat.

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

Hand in hand, Michaela and Sully walked to the telegraph office to send a wire to the children, letting them know where they were and when to expect them home. Sully's movements were made gingerly, but his side was starting to feel much better. After sending the wire, they strolled to a bench under the shade of a tree near the Cafe and sat down.

"What's Katie's latest escapade?" the proud father wondered.

Michaela smiled, "Aside from dragging all of the pots and pans into the living room, nearly poking Wolf's eye out with her finger, and continuing to get into my patient files to write her letters? She fell out of bed yesterday and hurt her elbow."

Sully worried, "Hurt bad?"

"No," she assured him. "We went to the Mercantile, and Loren gave her a piece of candy. That seemed to heal her injury quite nicely."

"She's got Loren wrapped around her little finger," he grinned.

"I think the same could be said about her father," she looked lovingly into his eyes. "You'll never believe what she was doing the other night before I tucked her in."

"What?" he was anxious to know.

"Well, she insisted that I put our wedding picture in her room on her dresser. Before I came in to say good night and hear her prayers, she pulled a chair over to the dresser so that she could be eye level with the photo."

"And?" his interest increased.

"And, as she looked at the picture, she started talking to you, telling you about her day," Michaela felt a tear on her cheek.

Sully swallowed hard and looked down, "My little girl has t' say good night t' my picture."

Michaela lifted his chin and whispered, "Sully."

"I know, I know," he tried to shake off the guilt. "It's just, I hate bein' away from her. She's growin' so fast an' doin' so many things that I don't wanna miss."

"She loves you and in her own way understands that you sometimes have to be away from us," Michaela assured him. "Besides," she teased. "She really enjoys your reunions. Her mother does, too."

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

Loud voices in the street interrupted their conversation. Marshal Kennard was arguing with Reese Durham, whom Sully had overheard making threats earlier in the day. Michaela stood up to see what the commotion was about, but Sully pulled her back and out of sight.

Emboldened by several glasses of whiskey, Durham shouted, "You ain't no marshal, boy."

Kennard held his hands at this side, "Maybe you oughta go home and sleep this off."

"I don't need no Negro tellin' me what t' do," Durham was now in the street facing the lawman.

"Look, just go home and go to bed," Kennard repeated.

"Oh, just go home?" Durham nodded and turned as if to leave. Then, quickly, he drew his gun and turned back to face the lawman.

Before he could complete his pivot, Kennard felled him with a single shot. Durham lay still in the street. Michaela ran to the man, and saw the bullet hole in his head.

She shut his eyes, then looking up at Kennard and announced, "He's dead."

"I know," the marshal put his revolvers back in their holsters.

Sensing her emotions, Sully put his hand on Michaela's shoulder. Then he led her to the Cafe. They did not speak at first, just holding on to the life and love communicated in their touch.

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

They sat down at a table in Fat Sarah's Cafe. Sully knew his wife was upset.

"What kind of place is this, Sully?" she shook her head.

"It's a minin' camp, Michaela," he squeezed her hand. "This town ain't here for families an' people who wanna settle down. It's for men who come t' strike it rich, an' soon as the gold's gone, they'll be gone. It's every man for himself. Stake your claim, mine it, then move on. They make their own laws, an' it ain't always the kind o' justice we know. Minin' camps attract all races an' with them, prejudice."

"These people are so hardened to violence," she tried to understand.

"Not all of 'em," his voice softened. "Look at Birdie Campbell."

"I couldn't even reach her," Michaela felt helpless. "She's closed down completely."

"Why don't ya try again," he patted her hand. "You been in a dark place like her," he remembered his wife's breakdown after being shot.

Marshal Kennard approached them.

"Mind if I join you?" he removed his hat.

Sully motioned for him to sit.

"I got a tip that McGeorge will be comin' into town later today," he informed them. "I just wanted to alert you."

"Thanks, Marshal," Sully acknowledged. "I'll..."

"Sully, I'll take care of this gang," Kennard interjected.

"Long as you make sure McGeorge is locked up," Sully's jaw stiffened.

"He's wanted on more charges than robbery and attempted rape," the marshal went on. "He's a cold-blooded killer. He murdered an immigrant family from Ohio. When I catch him, he'll hang."

Kennard stood and tipped his hat, "Afternoon."

He left them in silence.

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

Sully and Michaela returned to their room at Gaylor's Saloon. He lay on the bed and closed his eyes to rest. Perhaps he had overexerted himself this morning.

Michaela stood at the window looking out at the street below and wondering when the next gunfight might soon erupt. The activities in the room next door were becoming more vocal and embarrassing to her. She sighed, wondering if it ever quieted in this place.

Sully opened his eyes, aware of her uneasiness, "I'll ask about a room for us at the boardin' house for tonight."

She turned and smiled, "I think I can survive one more night here." She walked over and sat down beside him. Lovingly stroking his side, she asked, "Did you get any rest?"

"A little," he took her hand and pulled it up to his lips. "Care t' join me?" he patted the empty side of the bed.

"I'd love to, thank you," she stretched out beside him.

Holding her hand and staring at the ceiling, he observed, "Bet ya never thought we'd spend a couple o' nights in a place like this."

"No," she grinned. "I can't say that I did. On the other hand, it's certainly not boring."

The sounds of passion from the room next door intensified, and they laughed.

"What would Mother say?" she chuckled.

"I doubt if your Ma would even set foot in a place like this," he kissed her hand. "I'm sorry you...."

"For you, I would walk through fire," Michaela's voice took on an intense resolve.

She rolled onto her side and rested her head on his shoulder.

He whispered, "Two souls with but a single thought, two hearts that beat as one."

"What poet?" she smiled.

"Keats," he replied.

They lay in silence for several moments, comforted by the other's nearness.

"Sully," she sighed. "I don't know what to do about Birdie Campbell."

He stroked her hair, "You'll know when the time comes."

They drifted off for a nap.

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

A knock at their door roused Sully. He carefully rose, so as not to waken his wife. When he opened the door, Dolly was standing there. She peeked around him and noticed a sleeping Michaela.

"Goodness, you two at it again?" she sarcastically asked.

"What did ya want, Dolly?" Sully ignored her implication.

"I got a note for your wife," she handed him a folded paper.

"Thank you," he started to shut the door.

She placed her foot to stop it, "If the Mrs. there is asleep on ya, I can offer my services to keep you occupied."

"The Mrs. and I do just fine, thanks," he managed to shut the door.

Michaela was awake, "Dolly certainly is enamored with you."

"She don't give up easily," he returned to the bed. "She delivered this note for ya."

Michaela opened it and read, "It's from Birdie. She wants me to stop by her boarding house at 4 p.m. while her mother is out."

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

At the requested hour, Michaela knocked on the door of the boarding house. The girl invited her in. With freckles and curly red hair, Birdie looked like any normal teenager, but Michaela knew that, for this girl, life was very different.

"Dr. Quinn," Birdie's voice was soft. "I... I wanted t' talk with ya 'bout what happened."

Michaela nodded, "I'd like to help you."

"My Ma ain't easy t' talk to. She acts like nothin' happened t' me," Birdie began. "An' with Pa's death, she just cries most o' the time."

"Where is your mother now?" Michaela wondered.

"She's at the bank," the girl replied. "She goes over t' help 'em close up, each afternoon."

"What did you want to tell me, Birdie?" Michaela broached the subject.

"I... " she hesitated. "I don't know what t' do, Dr. Quinn. I feel so ashamed. I can't talk t' anyone. When I go outside, I feel like everyone's lookin' at me. An' no boy will ever wanna talk t' me."

"Let's take things one step at a time," Michaela's voice was calming. "Did a doctor examine you after... after this happened to you?"

"No," she replied shyly.

"Would you let me check you?" the doctor requested.

"Why?" the girl was fearful.

"This happened to you about two months ago according to what was said at the trial," Michaela chose her words carefully. "I just want to be certain that there is no... that your body is all right."

"I guess it would be okay," the girl nodded.

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

With Michaela at the boarding house, Sully decided to speak with Marshal Kennard about his plans to apprehend Billy McGeorge.

Kennard sat with his feet propped up on his desk.

"Look, Sully," he explained. "If you wanna help, just stay back outta the way."

"Marshal, there's at least eight of 'em, an' only one o' you," Sully told him.

"I know that," Kennard responded. "But I can handle it."

"I ain't tryin' t' tell ya how t' do your job," Sully looked out the window. "An' maybe ya feel like ya gotta prove yourself to..."

Kennard's feet came down with a thud. He angrily stood up, "You got no idea what it's like for me."

Sully was taken back by his reaction. "I only wanna make sure that ya don't end up the way the last three lawmen here did."

The marshal became less harsh, "I'm sorry, Sully. But let me do this my way."

Sully nodded and quietly left the office.

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

Michaela completed her examination of Birdie Campbell.

"What time is your mother due home?" the doctor wondered.

"She usually gets home about 5:15. Why?" the girl was nervous.

Michaela took her hand, "I think we should all talk about this together."

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

"Why do ya wanna talk to my Ma, Dr. Quinn?" Birdie's voice quivered. "I thought ya wanted t' help me."

Michaela took her hand, "I do want to help you. I have a daughter just a bit older than you, Birdie. And if something like this happened to her, I would want her to talk to me about her feelings. I would want to give her my love and support."

"But I told ya, Ma don't wanna talk about the rape," she was becoming more distraught. "Casewit's been hanged, and for Ma, it's over."

"I don't want to upset you further," Michaela tried to quiet the girl's fear. "If you don't want me to speak to your mother, I won't. But I do think that you should just try to communicate with her. I'm sure that she loves you, and deep down, needs to talk to you, too."

"I don't know," the girl was confused.

"Birdie, I was almost raped yesterday," Michaela confessed. "And while I can't possibly know the pain you feel, I do know that I had to tell someone I love about it. I needed the reassurance that I was cared about. Let your mother help you. Please?"

Birdie still sounded nervous, "What did you find when you checked me, Dr. Quinn?"

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

Sully sat at a bench near the boarding house, in part to wait for his wife, and in part to watch for the arrival of the McGeorge gang. He had studied the wanted poster, memorizing the man's features. Clinching his teeth, he felt a growing anger at the man who could commit such vile and despicable acts. The sound of distant horses' hooves indicated a group's arrival. Sully had a feeling it was not the stagecoach.

His hunch proved correct. At the end of Front Street, McGeorge and his gang pulled up in a flurry. Stopping in front of Gaylor's Saloon, they dismounted. Sully made his way across the street and entered the bar, as well.

McGeorge and his men demanded drinks in a loud and obnoxious manner. Then McGeorge grabbed Dolly and tried to kiss her. His hands were all over the woman as she struggled to get away. Sully could not stand by and wait for the marshal. He calmly walked over to McGeorge.

"Take your hands off her," the mountain man stated.

McGeorge laughed, "What are you gonna do t' make me, half-breed?"

Before the criminal knew what hit him, Sully had him in a head lock. The other men began to lunge for Sully to loosen his grip on their leader, but their attention was diverted by a loud gunshot from the street. Sully let go of the outlaw, shoving him toward his men.

Cash Downing, one of the gang members looked out the window, "Boss, it's that Negro marshal."

McGeorge's icy stare was directed at Sully, "We'll settle this, soon as I take care o' that boy out there."

The street cleared as McGeorge and his men came out of the saloon and lined up. Kennard stood before them, a double-barreled shotgun, loaded with buckshot in his hands.

The lone lawman shouted, "McGeorge, I'm Marshal Kennard. I want you an' your men t' put down your weapons."

Cash Downing decided to test the marshal's skill. He drew his revolver, and Kennard quickly felled him with a blast from the shotgun. The shot killed Downing, fatally wounded the outlaw behind him, and even shattered the glass at the Evans Hardware Store.

McGeorge and the remaining gang members raised their hands and dropped their weapons. Kennard began to round up their weapons before escorting them to the jail. As he bent over to pick up the last gun, one of the gang pulled a knife from his boot. Sully swiftly sprung into action. He hurled his tomahawk toward the man, knocking the knife to the ground.

Kennard turned to see who had saved his life as Sully stepped forward to retrieve his weapon.

"Thanks," Kennard smiled. "I guess I owe ya."

Sully shook his head, "Never hurts t' take extra precautions."

"I'll get even with you, Marshal," McGeorge spit out his words bitterly. Then eying Sully with a cold stare, he added, "An' you, too."

Sully walked straight up to McGeorge and within an inch of the convict's face, coolly informed him, "You're lucky I don't kill you on the spot. Nobody hurts my family. Nobody."

McGeorge was surprised at this mountain man who could not be intimidated. He muttered a curse as Kennard shoved him toward the prison.

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

Michaela and Birdie ran to the window at the sound of the gunfire. When it ended, Michaela could see her husband standing face to face with McGeorge. Her heart filled with fear for his safety. When she saw the convict being led toward the prison, she sighed in relief. Then she saw Sully position himself near the boarding house. She knew he was there to wait for her.

When she turned back to Birdie, the girl had begun to cry. Michaela put her arms around her, "Everything will be all right."

"I wish my Ma was like you," the young girl sobbed.

"Birdie," Michaela took her hand. "Please sit down. I have to tell you something about your... condition."

"Am I gonna die?" the girl feared.

"No," Michaela decided to tell her. "You're going to have a baby."

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

"A baby!" Birdie was in shock. "How could... Dr. Quinn! My Ma's gonna kill me!"

Michaela's heart went out to her, "You must give your mother the chance to help you, Birdie."

"No, No! I've shamed her," the girl was becoming hysterical. "I can't tell her. I gotta go away."

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

Sully sat at the bench near the boarding house to wait for his wife. His side ached from the altercation in the saloon with McGeorge. He closed his eyes and attempted to take his mind off the discomfort. His thoughts turned to Katie. He smiled thinking about Michaela's description of the child talking to his photograph. He envisioned her in one of her pretty little dresses that she was so quickly outgrowing.

He did not hear Dolly approach and sit down beside him. Reaching out and pushing back a stray lock of hair from his face, she spoke softly, "Dollar for your thoughts."

He quickly awoke from his reverie, "Don't ya mean a penny?"

"Not with prices in a mining camp," she grinned.

With her thigh touching his, Sully knew what Dolly had on her mind. He slid away, grunting at the pain in his side.

She made no effort to reposition herself, "I came to thank you for what you did in the Saloon."

"You're welcome," he replied. "I didn't wanna see that low life get away with hurtin' anyone else."

Dolly grinned, "Well, maybe I can return the favor some day."

Sully laughed, "I can only imagine what ya have in mind."

She folded her arms across her ample bosom, "You never did answer my question."

"What question?" he asked.

"When I came here and sat down beside you, what were you thinking about?" she wondered.

"I was thinkin' 'bout my little girl, Katie," he smiled. "How much I miss her an' my other children."

"Katie," she mused. "For Katherine?"

"Katherine Elizabeth," he nodded. "Named her after my Ma and Michaela's."

Dolly surprised him, "Katherine means pure. Elizabeth means God is bountiful."

"How'd ya know that?" he raised his eyebrows.

"It's a hobby of mine," she smiled. "Michaela. Now that's a hard one."

"Her folks thought she'd be a boy," Sully laughed.

"So it's from Michael," Dolly concluded. "Meaning gift from God."

Sully smiled at that. In his mind, the names perfectly suited them.

"How about your first name?" she pried.

"Never mind," he did not take the bait.

Dolly returned to the topic of his daughter, "So, what's she like, your little Katie?"

"She's beautiful," Sully began wistfully. "She's got the fairest blonde hair, just like silk. An' big brown eyes that gleam when she laughs. An' a soft little voice that calls me 'Papa.' She asks a million questions ... She's talkin' an' learnin' new things every day..." His voice trailed off.

"Why are you stopping?" Dolly sat up.

"I just miss her so much when I'm away," he felt his throat tighten.

"You are a strange man 'Just Sully,'" she patted his arm. "I never met a man so much in love with his wife and so devoted to his child. Does your wife know how lucky she is?"

"I'm the lucky one," he smiled.

"I'd say you're both lucky," she added. "You and the Mrs. will be going home tomorrow?"

"Yes," he answered.

"Well," Dolly stood up, "Maybe I can make tonight memorable for you."

Sully rolled his eyes, "Dolly..."

She winked, "See ya later." She left him.

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

Michaela prepared some tea for Birdie, "Here, drink this. It will make you feel better." She stroked the girl's long red hair.

As the teen finally calmed, the door opened. Mavis Campbell entered the room and removed her hat.

Surprised to see a stranger tending to her daughter, she stopped and stared.

"Mrs. Campbell," Michaela went to her. "I'm Dr. Michaela Quinn. I've been talking with your daughter."

"My daughter don't need a physician, Dr. Quinn," Mavis smiled politely.

Michaela was torn about what to say next. Birdie saved her the trouble.

"Ma," the girl began. "Dr. Quinn gave me an examination."

"Why, child?" the woman asked. "You're perfectly fine."

"No, I ain't," Birdie shouted.

"Yes, you are!" Mavis declared.

"Mrs. Campbell," Michaela pointed to a chair. "Maybe you should sit down."

"Dr. Quinn, maybe you should leave," the mother became more agitated.

"I don't want her t' leave, Ma," Birdie was tearing up. "I'm... I'm gonna have a baby!"

Mavis was stunned, "That's nonsense! You're just a child. You're my little girl. This can't be true."

She turned to Michaela with a pained expression on her face.

Michaela nodded, "I'm afraid it is true, Mrs. Campbell, and your little girl needs you more now than she's ever needed you in her life. Please, help her... talk with her."

With tears streaming down her cheeks, Mavis shook her head, "Oh, God, why? Why my little girl?"

Michaela put her arm around the woman's shoulder. Birdie stood up and reached out for her mother. Mavis looked at her daughter, then opened her arms. The girl ran to her. Mother and daughter began to weep uncontrollably.

Sensing that her presence was no longer needed, Michaela backed away from them. She glanced out the window. She noticed Dolly's walking away from Sully and felt an overwhelming need to be with him.

"I'll let you two alone now," she picked up her medical bag.

As she turned to leave, Mavis spoke up, "We'll talk later, Dr. Quinn?"

Michaela nodded. Opening the door, she quickened her pace to reach Sully's arms. He stood up and engulfed her in his embrace.

"Oh, Sully," her tears began to flow.

"Michaela," he turned her chin up to look in her eyes.

He gently pulled her closer and kissed her.

"Sully, I love you," Michaela leaned her head against his chest.

"I love you, too," he assured her. "What happened in there?"

She finally began to compose herself, "That poor girl and her mother... Sully, Birdie's pregnant."

"Pregnant?" he swallowed hard. Seeing his wife's angst, he put his arm around her waist, "Let's go back t' our room, an' you can tell me all about it."

"What about McGeorge?" she asked as they walked. "I heard a shot and saw you face to face with him."

"He's safe behind bars now. Kennard locked up him an' his gang," Sully told her. "Trial's tomorrow."

"And we go home tomorrow," she sighed.

"Our last night in Yankee Hill," he teased. "Can ya stand the excitement?"

Michaela teased back, "I saw you with Dolly. What did she want?"

"I'm sure we'll find out," he grinned.

************
Chapter 11
************

Dusk descended on the town of Yankee Hill. Michaela and Sully headed back to their room at Gaylor's Saloon to freshen up. But as they neared, they noticed the noisy ruckus which normally echoed from the bar was not there. Sully swung open the door, but the room was empty. In the corner, one table was set with a white table cloth, lit candles, plates and silverware.

"Sully, look," Michaela pointed to it.

They walked to the table and observed a note addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. 'Just Sully.'" He picked it up and read.

"What is it?" she tried to look over his shoulder.

"A gift from Dolly," he grinned broadly.

"But where is everyone?" Michaela could not believe the sight.

"The Saloon's closed t' everyone except us for the night," he folded the note.

"Why?" Michaela was amazed.

"Sometimes ya ask too many questions," he pulled out the chair for her to sit.

She complied, and he scooted his chair close to her's. The moment they sat down, Dolly appeared. She was dressed in a beautiful blue and white gown. Her beauty would have seduced most men in the territory.

"Hope you like the atmosphere," she looked around the room. "Oops, almost forgot something."

She walked over to a side door and looked in. Out from the side room emerged a man who sat down at the piano and began to play.

"Dolly, this is wonderful," Michaela smiled. "What's the occasion?"

"I guess your husband here didn't tell you what he did today," she answered. "He's modest as well as good looking."

Michaela smiled and put her hand atop his.

"Your husband saved me from that wretched creature Billy McGeorge today," Dolly explained. "And seeing as how he only has eyes for you, I thought maybe I could do a little something for the two of you tonight. What's the use in owning a saloon if you can't do what you want with it."

Sully raised his eyebrow, "YOU own the saloon?"

She put her hands on her hips, "Dolly Gaylor. That's me. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll get your meal, then leave you two alone." Pausing before she left them, she added, "Oh, and you'll be glad to know you're the only guests upstairs tonight, too."

"Quite a lady," Sully grinned.

"Yes, she is," Michaela agreed.

"I meant you," he took her hand. "Care t' dance before dinner?"

"What about your ribs?" she was concerned.

"I think I can manage, if ya hold me just right," he stood up.

Escorting her to the dance floor, he bowed. She curtsied. He slowly slid his arm around her waist and pulled her closer. The piano player began an unrecognizable waltz, but the tune did not matter to them. She leaned her head against his chest and reveled in the warmth of his movements.

Then she gazed up into his eyes, "Am I holding you just right?"

"Just right," he kissed the palm of her hand. Then he whispered in her ear, "Do ya remember the first time we ever danced?"

"Yes," she turned up the corner of her mouth in a smile. "It was the Sweetheart's Dance."

"Nope," shook his head. "It was in Boston."

"Oh, yes," she recalled. "At that elegant restaurant you took me to. You were so handsome in the formal attire."

"I felt like a fish outta water," he chuckled. "But I couldn't take my eyes off ya."

She amended, "But the Sweetheart's Dance was the first time you held me close while dancing."

"True," he nodded and held her closer. "Do you remember the first time we kissed?"

"Definitely," she smiled. "It was on my 29th birthday."

"Michaela..." he squeezed her gently.

"Okay, my 35th birthday," she stroked the hair at the base of his neck.

"How 'bout the first time we almost didn't stop with just kissin'?" his voice was becoming raspy.

"Goodness," she was surprised. Then she recalled, "It was when I discovered the headboard you were carving for our bed, and we were on the floor of the new homestead."

He agreed, "I didn't wanna stop."

"Neither did I," she confessed. "That was the first time I realized what... what you stirred in me." She turned the tables on him and asked, "Do you remember when you first told me you loved me?"

"Like it was yesterday," he grinned. "It was on the train when I was leavin' Boston."

"I was so frightened of you at that moment," she stroked the side of his face.

"Frightened of me?" he stopped dancing. "Why?"

She prompted him to resume their movements, "Because of how you made me feel. I was afraid I'd lose myself."

"And now?" he kissed her forehead.

"Now," she sighed. "I know that loving you enabled me to truly find myself."

"That's good," he rubbed his hand up and down her back and leaned closer for only her ears. "Do you remember when we first made love?"

"Sully!" she pretended to be shocked. "Of course, I do. It was on our honeymoon train."

He grinned, "An' the second, an' the third, an'..."

Michaela was melting in his arms, "You are being very provocative tonight."

He leaned forward to kiss her ear, "I think dinner's here."

She pulled back and saw Dolly's placing the meal on their table. Sully escorted Michaela back to the table. As they dined, their discussion turned to the events of the day. She filled him in on her meeting with Birdie and Mavis Campbell. He told her about how Marshal Kennard had apprehended the McGeorge Gang. The hour turned late, and it was time for bed.

Following their leisurely meal, Michaela and Sully went up to their room. Dolly had missed no detail there. The bed had clean sheets. There were fresh linens and vases of wild flowers around the room. A low golden glow from the lamp beside the bed created a surreal atmosphere.

When he closed the door behind them, Sully exhaled heavily, "Sorry I couldn't carry ya up the steps."

Michaela began to slowly unbutton her blouse, "I'd much rather you save your strength for other things."

"Now who's bein' provocative," Sully chuckled.

"Why were you asking all of those questions tonight about if I remembered things?" she
reached up to unbutton his shirt.

"'Cause when I'm away from ya, that's what I think about," he confided. "I relive every second of our time together."

She widened the opening of his shirt and began to plant kisses on his chest. He reached behind her back to unbutton her skirt, then let it slip down. Quickly all of their garments were on the floor. They climbed onto the crisp white sheets and for the moment were locked into one another's eyes.

Michaela lightly ran her hand across his bronze frame, lingering at his injured ribs. He gently pulled her closer as his physical need began to intensify.

Then he spoke low in her ear, "I'm sorry you were afraid t' love me."

She kissed his neck and chin, "I can assure you it's one fear that I have definitely overcome."

"You don't scare me anymore either," he lifted his hands to caress her neck.

"I scared you?" she stopped her movements. "When?"

"Well," he hesitated. "Before I first told ya I love ya, it scared me that I was falling for ya. I didn't wanna love someone again, but I couldn't help myself. The way ya looked," he stroked her hair. "The fiery way ya stood up t' fight for what ya believed in, the way ya loved the children..."

She slid her body to the contours of his, "Well, I'm glad that you overcame your fear, too."

"An' I'm glad we waited 'til our honeymoon," he kissed her sweetly. Then he cleared his throat, "A little Milton for my wife?"

She traced the outline of his mouth, "I'd love to hear from Mr. Milton."

He quoted:

"Hail, wedded love! Mysterious law, true source of human offspring,
Sole propriety, In Paradise of all things common else."

Michaela repeated the phrase, kissing him after each word, "Hail, wedded love! Now, could I hear from Mr. Sully?"

"How 'bout Mr. Sully speaks with his actions?" he grinned.

"I love a man of action," she slid her arms around his neck.

Their bodies began to move and meld into one. Afterwards, they slumbered peacefully for the first time in many nights.

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

At the jail, Marshal Kennard was trying to catch up on his sleep, unsuspecting that his prisoners were plotting their escape and revenge.

************
Chapter 12
************

At dawn came a frantic knock at their door. Sully quickly pulled on his buckskins and opened it.

"Dolly?" he wiped the sleep from his eyes. "What's the matter?"

"There's been a jail break," her voice quaked. "McGeorge escaped, and Marshal Kennard's been hurt."

Michaela pulled the sheet higher as she sat up to listen.

"Thanks for the warnin'," Sully told her. "We'll be down in a few minutes."

The Saloon owner departed, and Sully began to put on his shirt, "Let's get over t' the jail t' check on Kennard. Then you're goin' home on the first stagecoach outta here."

She rose from the bed and began to dress, "I am not leaving you."

"Michaela," his voice was commanding. "I ain't gonna have ya here where McGeorge can get another chance t' hurt ya."

"Sully," she finished buttoning her blouse, "I won't go without you!"

He held the sides of her arms, "I'm stayin' t' make sure this man is caught, but there's nothin' you can do here. I want ya home with our children, where I know you'll be safe."

"The marshal's hurt, Birdie and her mother may need my services, and you, Sully..." her voice reflected her distress. "You're not well yet."

"I'm well enough t' know that I don't want ya anywhere near this man again," he insisted. "You're goin', an' that's final."

Michaela held her counsel. She knew that she could not change his mind at the moment. As soon as they finished dressing, he helped her into her coat and opened the door. She silently picked up her medical bag, and they headed for the marshal's office.

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

Michaela examined Kennard's head injury and determined that he had a slight concussion. The marshal told them how McGeorge had jumped him when Fat Sarah brought their breakfast just before dawn. He managed to hold the other gang members at bay, but McGeorge broke out, grabbed two guns and disappeared before the lawman could go after him.

"He'll be back," Kennard asserted. "His men are still here."

"I'll leave you some Willow Bark tea, Marshal," Michaela informed him. "It will help with the headache you're going to feel for the next few days."

"Thanks, Dr. Quinn," he smiled.

Sully sat looking out the window of the office the entire time that Michaela was treating her patient.

"What time's the next stagecoach leavin' for Denver?" Sully asked.

Kennard pulled a paper from his desk and read it, "Leaves in about 15 minutes if it's on schedule. Why?"

"My husband insists that I be on it," Michaela uttered the words in a biting manner.

"If you're done here, Michaela, we best be gettin' ya on that stage," Sully shot back an angry look.

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

As Sully escorted his wife down the street to the stagecoach station, they did not speak. While Sully was buying her ticket, the attendant reached for her medical bag, but Michaela shook her head no and held on to it. Sully approached her with the ticket and silently handed it to the attendant.

Then he turned to his wife and cleared his throat, "Here's some money for your train ticket. You should be home by dinner."

"Thank you," she was curt.

She felt as if her heart would break. How could she leave him right now?

"I'll be home soon," he felt awkward.

"Fine," she coolly replied.

He turned to leave as the attendant helped her board the stage. A fleeting memory came to him of when she returned from Boston on the stagecoach and ran into his arms to confess for the first time that she loved him. He hesitated and turned, but the attendant had closed the door, and the team of horses pulled away.

"I love you, Michaela," his voice could not be heard.

She closed her eyes tightly and felt the tears begin to stream down her face. How could she leave him in anger? She did not even tell him she loved him. What if McGeorge hurt him, or even worse...

The stagecoach headed for the toll road and out of sight from Yankee Hill.

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

Sully took a deep breath, convinced that he had done the right thing, and walked toward the marshal's office. He found Kennard sitting on the front porch of the structure.

Sully cleared his throat, "Mind if we talk?"

"I don't mind," the marshal offered him a chair. Reaching into his pocket, Kennard pulled out some cash, "Almost forgot, I recovered your wife's money from McGeorge's gang. He handed it to Sully

"Thanks. Why'd ya leave the army for a job like this anyway?" the mountain man wondered.

"Well," Kennard began. "I got sick of bein' paid less than a white soldier, and I guess, more important, I didn't have the taste for goin' out and massacring Indians."

"You... you murdered Indians," Sully felt sick.

"Not directly," he explained. "But I trained men who did, and I couldn't stand that anymore. I'd rather go after men who deserve t' die. Besides, look what I got here now? Respect for what I can do with a gun... admiration of folks for makin' it safer in their town. I never had that in the army."

"Bein' a good shot can only bring ya grief," Sully recalled. "It's not usin' a gun that's the real measure of a man."

"Well, you got your thoughts on it, and I got mine," Kennard shook his head. "My main concern now is catchin' McGeorge, and bein' a good shot is necessary for that."

"Why don't ya deputize some men t' help ya?" Sully asked.

"Already got some volunteers out lookin'," he replied. "I figure he's gonna try to free his gang when they go on trial later this mornin'."

"I wanna help," Sully told him.

"You can," Kennard replied. "Keep your eyes and ears open. He'll be back."

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

Sully wandered over to Birdie Campbell's. He knocked at the door, and the redheaded girl shyly opened it.

"Birdie," he smiled. "My name's Sully. Dr. Quinn's my wife. She had t' leave this mornin', and I just wanted t' check t' see that you an' your ma were okay."

She invited him in as her mother joined them.

"Mr. Sully, would ya like a cup o' coffee?" Mavis offered.

"No, thank ya, ma'am," he shook his head. "I just didn't want ya t' think my wife deserted ya. I insisted that she go home to our children this mornin', and I also wanted t' warn ya t' be careful. Billy McGeorge has escaped from the jail. The marshal figures he'll show up an' try t' free his gang at their trial today. He's a real dangerous man. I'd suggest ya stay inside 'til he's caught."

"We'll do that, thank you," Mavis looked concerned.

"I'll be goin' now," Sully turned to leave.

"Wait," Birdie spoke up.

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

McGeorge had commandeered a horse for his escape and headed for the toll road. As he hid near the road, he could not believe his luck. There was a stagecoach approaching. The criminal in him could not resist the temptation to stop it and relieve the innocent passengers of their riches. Still bitter over the measly reward money on his head, he also contemplated turning his crime to a little more than robbery.

He soon stopped the coach and waved his gun at the driver to get down.

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

Kennard bound the hands of the five surviving McGeorge Gang members. As he prepared to escort them to trial, Mayor Borden burst in.

"Marshal," he was out of breath. "The stagecoach was just attacked. A miner heading out of town saw from a distance. It was McGeorge." Pausing, the Mayor choked out his words, "He shot the passengers and the driver as well! They're all dead!"

Kennard took a deep breath and felt his stomach tighten. He spoke low, "Sully's wife was on that stage."

************
Chapter 13
************

"I'd like ya t' tell Dr. Quinn somethin' for me, Mr. Sully," Birdie Campbell spoke softly. "Tell her... thanks for carin'. Ma an' me talked most o' the night. We're gonna leave this place."

Mavis added, "I have a sister in Oregon. We're gonna go live with her."

"It ain't gonna be easy," Birdie somehow seemed wiser than her years. "But tell your wife that she helped Ma an' me see that we still got each other. We'll get through this. An' my baby won't be born in this godforsaken town."

"I'll tell her," Sully felt a lump in his throat.

Birdie confided, "Tell her that she was right about everythin'."

Sully heard a commotion in the street and saw several of the town folk running toward the marshal's office.

"I'll be leavin' ya now," he nodded. "Take care t' stay inside, an' lock your door."

"We will, Mr. Sully," Mavis assured him. "Thank you."

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

When Sully stepped outside, he stopped a man running past, "What's happened?"

The passerby told him, "Stagecoach's been robbed an' all the passengers killed!"

Sully was stunned. Maybe it was a different stage. Not Michaela's. He ran to the marshal's office. Out of breath, the mountain man's look told Kennard he had heard the news.

"I'm sorry, Sully," the lawman said slowly.

"No!" Sully held on to the door frame. "She ain't dead!" He pointed to his heart, "I'd know if she was dead!"

"They just brought in the bodies," the marshal put his hand on Sully's shoulder. "It was Billy McGeorge that did it."

One of McGeorge's gang began to laugh from his cell, "Don't look like the half-breed's so brave now."

Sully could taste his anger. He jumped toward the cell. Reaching through the bars, he grabbed the outlaw by the throat.

"Sully!" Kennard pulled him off. "You'd better go over to the undertaker's t' claim your wife's body."

"This ain't happenin'," Sully shook his head. "Where... Where's the undertaker's? I'll prove t' ya she ain't dead."

"Behind the Saloon," Kennard indicated.

Sully ran out the door.

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

His eyes began to sting from the tears. Michaela could not be taken from him, not like this. Why did he make her go? He's the one who put her onto that deathtrap of a stagecoach. Sully shook his head. No! She's not dead. She's not... He walked behind the Saloon, passing several grieving town folk. There stood a man nailing together a coffin. Laid out on the ground were five bodies unceremoniously covered with bloodstained sheets.

Sully stopped and took a deep breath. He felt as if his life was being sucked away. Before he took another step, the undertaker spoke.

"You know someone on that stage?" Zeb Dowdell asked.

Sully numbly spoke the words, "My... wife."

"Four men and one woman," Zeb resumed nailing the box. "Shot in cold blood. I need ya to identify her body, if ya can recognize her. Their possessions are on the table there." He pointed.

Sully tried to swallow. He turned his attention to the belongings on the table. Some suitcases. Hats. A walking stick. A med... A medical bag. Her medical bag. He picked it up. Cradling it in his arms, he started to walk toward the bodies. The smallest corpse was on the end. A woman's body. Slowly he got down on his knees beside the petite frame. His hand shook as he reached to pull back the bloody sheet. But then he hesitated, not wanting to see.

As he knelt there, Sully felt a hand on his shoulder. Looking up, he saw Dolly.

"Marshal told me what happened," she simply stated. "I thought you could use a friend."

Sully's eyes were red from his tears.

His voice shook, "She can't be dead."

"If ya want, I'll look for ya," Dolly offered.

"No!" he insisted. "No one's gonna look at her except me."

"All right," she raised her hands. "Do ya want me t' hold the bag?"

Sully began to rock Michaela's medical bag in his arms, then leaned his head down to the ground, crying.

Dowdell walked over to them, "So is this your wife, Mister?"

Dolly glared at the undertaker, "Give him time, will ya, Zeb?"

He returned to his work. She reached down and touched Sully's head. As he raised up, he clutched some dirt in his hand.

His voice was angry, "Dirt. I ain't gonna put her in the ground an' cover her with dirt." The soil slipped through his fingers. "Not Michaela." Then looking toward the coffins, he added, "An' she ain't gonna be put in some box."

Dolly was now tearing up, "You have to let Zeb do this. You can take her back to Colorado Springs to... lay her to rest, but you know he has to put her... in the coffin."

He leaned over again, his shoulders shaking from his weeping.

He choked out the words, "Ya don't understand. She's my heart... my soul. I don't wanna live without Michaela."

"Why don't you let me identify her body?" she offered again. "Then you never have to have that memory."

He raised up slowly and reached out to touch the body, "Her head... It's all bloody." He felt a wave of nausea. "An' she's so still. It can't be Michaela, don't ya see? She's always movin' around, tendin' to her patients, runnin' after Katie..." He stopped. "Katie..."

"She's going to need you... need you to go on living," Dolly tried to make him see reality.

"She's all I have left of her Ma," Sully wiped his tears. "What am I gonna tell my little girl?"

"I don't know," Dolly was being frank. "I guess, just tell her you love her."

He shook his head, "I put Michaela on that stage, Dolly. She didn't wanna go. I was afraid McGeorge would... McGeorge," his voice took on a coldness. "He did this."

"The Marshal's got men out looking for him," she told him.

"I'll find him," Sully felt his rage building.

"I don't think that's such a good idea right now," she knew he was not thinking clearly. Then she said gently, "You have to look at her now. Zeb needs to get her ready."

"I know," his voice choked.

Sully's shaking hand reached out to pull down the sheet from his wife's body.

************
Chapter 14
************

Sully tried to steady his hand. How could he look at the corpse of Michaela? How could he gaze at the woman who meant life, love, the very world to him? He wanted to die. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and slowly lowered the sheet from her body.

Dolly gasped. He opened his eyes to see the woman on the ground. Quickly, he looked up at Dolly.

His voice spoke relief, "It ain't her! It ain't Michaela!"

Respectfully, he replaced the cloth over the deceased woman. He offered a silent prayer, grateful that this was not his wife, yet sorry that the woman before him had innocently lost her life to such a madman.

"But where could she be?" Sully stood up. "She was on that stagecoach... McGeorge! My God, what if McGeorge has her! I gotta find her!"

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

Michaela strove to remain calm as she briskly walked back to town. She knew Sully would be upset with her for making the driver stop to let her off the stage, but he would get over it. There was no way she was going to leave him alone. She had spent too many nights during his fugitive months worrying about his health and safety. She had left him this morning in anger. She had not told him that she loved him, and that bothered her more than anything.

Up ahead, she saw the now-familiar buildings of Yankee Hill. On Front Street, she passed by the hardware store, where the shattered window had not yet been replaced. Her first thought was that her husband might be at the marshal's office, but before she reached it, she spotted Sully coming from behind the Saloon with Dolly.

Steeling herself for his angry reaction, she called to him, "Sully!"

He dropped her medical bag, "Michaela!"

He ran to her and lifted her into his arms. Dolly grinned and retreated back to the Saloon.

"Please don't be angry with me. I just couldn't leave you like this," she wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. "Not without telling you I love you."

Lifting her up to the level of his still reddened eyes, his voice choked, "Michaela, I thought I'd lost you forever!"

"Forever?" she was buried in his kisses. "Sully, I would never leave you."

"No," he held her tighter. "You don't know, do you?"

"Know what?" she could hardly breathe from his embrace.

"McGeorge attacked the stagecoach an' killed everyone on it," he explained. "They had me go t' the undertaker's t' claim your body, I saw your medical bag, an'..."

"Oh, Sully, NO!" she held his face in her hands. "I asked the driver to let me off just before we reached the toll road, but in my haste, I forgot my bag. I had to come back to you."

"Michaela," he closed his eyes and buried his face in her bosom.

She caressed his head and whispered, "I'm here. I'm alive. Safe in your arms."

The intensity of his expression told of his anguish, "I'll never let us part when we're angry. Never again."

"Never," she wiped a tear from his cheek.

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

Retreating to their room over the Saloon, Sully began to kiss Michaela again. Deeper and with a hungrier appetite. She had never seen him like this before. An incredibly fervent desire for him ignited in her. Panting, he leaned her against the closed door and cupped her face between his hands.

"Michaela," his compelling voice asked. "I want... I need t' love you right here, right now."

"Yes, Sully," breathlessly, she consented. "I want you to."

Their hearts beat faster as they urgently began to make love. Their bodies took over, and raw passion led them blindly into a sudden and unquestioning oneness. Repeatedly gratifying their need, they finally fell back onto the bed. Out of breath, but still locked in each other's arms, their touches were tender.

"I never felt like that before, Michaela," he felt embarrassed at his ardor.

She stroked his face, "I needed you so much."

"My feelin's were... powerful," he choked. "I'm sorry."

"Sully," Michaela peered into his eyes. "You thought you had lost me. We had parted in anger. When we saw one another again, we needed to affirm our aliveness and the vitality of our love at that moment. It was overwhelming for us both." Then taking his hand and lifting it to her cheek, she added, "Don't ever, EVER apologize for loving me or wanting me."

"I do love you," he whispered. "An' want you."

"And I you," she brushed back the hair from his face.

He sighed and rubbed his hand across his chin.

"What's the matter?" she stroked his arm.

"The trial of the McGeorge Gang's gettin' started at Fat Sarah Palmer's Cafe. I wanna go over, but I need t' know that you'll stay here, safe inside."

She smiled, "I'll stay. But promise me that you'll be careful. Let Marshal Kennard handle everything."

"I will," he kissed her again. "I sure like it better when we don't argue."

"We don't argue that much, Sully," she smiled. "And wouldn't at all if you would simply realize that I'm always right."

"What?" he pretended to be shocked. "You're always right?"

"I was right in whom I chose to be my husband," she touched his cheek.

"I thought I chose you," he grinned.

"I only let you think that," she retorted.

"Well," he laughed. "There I was fightin' off all those other women, thinkin' I wanted only you, an' it turns out, I didn't even have a say in the matter."

"What other women?" her eyebrow raised.

"Are we arguin' again?" he smiled.

She pretended to think about that, then cupped his face in her hands, "You win."

"I do?" he pulled her closer.

"You do," she agreed.

"Just like that?" he wondered.

"Um-hum," Michaela ran her finger across his lips.

"Only one good thing comes from havin' a disagreement," Sully kissed her finger.

"Oh," she pulled back. "What's that?"

"Makin' up," he kissed her again.

"You do have a way about you where that's concerned," she caressed his cheek.

"So do you," he smiled. Then his expression turned serious. "I best be gettin' over t' the trial. I love you, Michaela."

"And I love you," she kissed him again.

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

As Sully exited the Saloon, he did not see McGeorge lurking in the shadow of the building. The mountain man stopped suddenly, sensing something... a danger. Quietly pulling his tomahawk from his belt, he turned quickly to face his nemesis.

************
Chapter 15
************

"Let's see," McGeorge aimed his gun at Sully. "Your little ax, versus this. Too bad ya can't stay an' enjoy the rescue of my boys."

Sully took a deep breath, "The marshal ain't gonna let ya get away with this. Shootin' me'll just bring him runnin'."

"But I'll have the satisfaction of knowin' you're dead," McGeorge defied reason.

"And I'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're dead, too," a woman's voice spoke behind McGeorge.

The outlaw looked over his shoulder. There stood Dolly with a rifle aimed at him.

"Now, put down your gun," she spoke calmly.

The criminal obeyed, and dropped his weapon to the wooden planks. Then turning quickly, he pulled another gun from beneath his coat and fired at her. The blast knocked Dolly back into the Saloon and onto the floor.

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

Michaela heard the shot and started for the door. She stopped, remembering her promise to her husband. But what if he was injured? Time could be of the essence. She paced, agonizing over what to do.

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

Sully grabbed McGeorge and wrestled the second gun from his hand. With all his might, he kicked the murderer in the stomach. Sully ignored the pain in his side and jumped onto McGeorge. Striking viciously at the outlaw's face, he was ready to beat him to a pulp. Then he felt himself being pulled off the man. It was Kennard.

"Let me take it from here, Sully," the lawman stated.

As Kennard picked up McGeorge and shoved him toward the trial in progress, Sully ran into the Saloon to check on Dolly.

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

Michaela was hovering over the injured woman, plying her medical skills. Sully knelt down beside them.

She confessed, "I couldn't stay upstairs when I heard the shot. I thought..."

"Is she gonna be okay?" Sully put his hand on his wife's shoulder.

"Yes," she replied. "She's a lucky woman. The bullet passed through her shoulder."

Dolly began to regain consciousness and looked up, "You okay, 'Just Sully?'"

He smiled.

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

McGeorge and his comrades were found guilty within the hour and sentenced to be hanged from the same tree that Barney Casewit had met his fate just a few days earlier. Neither Michaela nor Sully had the desire to stay and watch. Sully bid his farewells to Dolly and Marshal Kennard while Michaela paid her respects to the Campbells. Then they departed for home, their time in Yankee Hill gratefully over.

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

The hour was late when they arrived at the homestead, exhausted but happy to at last find themselves in the safe harbor of their world. Brian greeted them joyfully at the door, and they tried to answer his many questions.

"Where are Katie and Matthew?" Michaela hugged her son.

"Matthew's puttin' her t' bed," the boy responded. "She's missed ya both. So have I."

Sully patted Brian on the back, "We missed you, too, son."

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

In case their daughter was asleep, the anxious parents crept quietly up the steps toward her room. Pausing just outside, they overheard her sweet voice.

"Mattew, I say pwayers?" she asked.

"Sure, little sister," he held her in his arms.

She closed her eyes and clasped her tiny hands together, "God bless Mama, an' Papa, an' Mattew, an' Bran, an' Colween, an' Andwew." Pausing, she added, "An' Wolf." Then she commanded her older brother, "Show me picture."

He turned so that they faced the photograph of their parents.

"Mama, Papa, when you come home?" she whispered.

Sully's voice spoke from the other side of the wall, "How 'bout now, Kates?"

The child's eyes widened, "Mattew! Picture talk!"

Matthew laughed and carried her to the doorway. Katie jumped into her mother's arms and screamed in delight.

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

Descending the steps to join Brian, Sully and Michaela warmed in the presence of their children. Sully quickly filled in the boys on what had happened in Yankee Hill while Michaela tried to rock their restless daughter to sleep.

Katie called out to her father, "Papa, hold!"

He grinned and came to her. Lifting her into his arms, he felt his ribs pull and grunted.

"I too big?" Katie thought she was the cause of his discomfort.

"Never," he tenderly kissed her cheek. "Who's Papa's sweet little girl?"

She gleefully pointed to herself and proclaimed, "Me!"

Sully felt as if his heart would burst for the precious life in his arms.

"You stay for while?" the child hugged him.

"I stay," he inhaled her sweet scent. "But you need t' get t' bed. I want ya t' get lots o' rest so ya can grow up t' be a beautiful woman, like your Ma."

"I look like Mama?" she raised her eyebrows.

"Yep," he ran his hand down her soft cheek.

"You an' Mama here when I wake up?" Katie was concerned.

"We'll be here," he kissed her cheek. "Now, up t' bed."

He carried her up the steps. Michaela kissed the boys again before they retired to their room. She went to change for bed while Sully placed the sleepy little girl in her crib and offered her the stuffed bunny to hold. Katie took it from him, hugging it tightly. Sully knelt beside his daughter and stroked her fair hair for the several minutes it took Katie to tell the bunny a good night story.

"Now close your eyes," the loving father told her. "An' dream sweet dreams."

She shut her eyes, and a slight smile came to her face.

He softly whispered, "I love you, Katherine Elizabeth Sully."

He rose to see Michaela standing at the doorway smiling.

"You don't often call her that," she spoke low.

"Just felt right tonight," he put his arms around her waist and noticed her freshly washed scent. "Ready for bed?"

"I'll join you shortly," she kissed him.

He slipped out quietly. Michaela went to her daughter and kissed her forehead. Rubbing her back, the mother whispered, "Good night, Sweetheart. I love you." Katie grasped Michaela's finger until the child finally drifted off to sleep.

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

Michaela returned to their room. There was Sully lying in bed, cleanly shaven, washed, and nearly asleep. Pulling back the covers, she realized that he had nothing on.

"Sully!" she blushed at her tingling reaction.

He opened his eyes. Then she lightly touched his injured side.

Sully smiled coyly, "It don't hurt much."

"I'm glad," she quickly got over her initial embarrassment and curled up beside him.

He slid his arm under her shoulders, and she turned slightly to face him. She ran her hand down the side of his face. Then they clasped their free hands together. He raised her hand to his lips and kissed each of her fingers.

"Your beautiful hands," he whispered. "How I love 'em."

She turned up the side of her mouth in a grin.

"You know," he sighed. "I memorize every feature of ya so I can picture ya when I'm away." His eyes saddened, "But when I thought ya were dead, my mind couldn't see ya anymore."

"You were in shock, Sully," she comforted him.

"An' it was torture knowin' how we argued before I put ya on that stage. When they told me you were dead, I felt like I had died, too," his voice choked. "An' all I'd have left would be a few pictures." Then pausing, he added, "An' Katie."

"Katie?" she was uncertain of his thoughts.

"I'd have Katie to remind me of you," he explained. "She would be my constant picture of you."

Michaela ran her hand up to the base of his neck and pulled him closer. "Sully, we don't have to worry about that now," she kissed the sides of his mouth. "You can't be rid of me that easily."

"I never wanna be rid o' you. You're my blood... my breath... my being," he deepened their kiss.

She pulled back slightly, "Shakespeare?"

"Nope," he grinned. "That one's all mine."

"I'm all your's," she sighed, contentedly feeling the beat of his heart against her breast.

Her words stirred Sully's desire for his wife. He lifted her chin to look at her features. His eyes expressed such utter devotion to her, they totally captivated her. Michaela slid her hands up to his face and lightly touched his lips.

"Sully," she whispered her invitation.

He gently slid the nightgown from her body. Her heart began to beat faster, triggered by his titillating touches. She softly caressed her husband's body in ways that aroused unbelievable pleasure in him. Silently she communicated that she was ready for him. But he waited, still not letting himself give in quite yet.

"Sully," she invited again.

She thought she would explode with desire.

"Mmmm?" he continued to hold back.

"Please," she whispered. "Now."

"Now?" he pretended to be surprised.

She became lost in his movements and could speak no more. Then, he came to her in full fruition of their longing. So completely did they give themselves to one another, it almost seemed as if each no longer existed as a separate being. The two were one.

For Michaela and Sully, the physical expression of their love was such a unique union. They never took it for granted or dismissed what it stirred in the other. Born the instant they consummated their marriage, it only grew and became more fulfilling with each subsequent visit. It was a union which promised the eternity of their love, a union which pledged an undying fidelity to their vows, and a union which had conceived their cherished child. The pain and sorrow that they had known and would know were surmountable through their love.

Sully whispered, "An' I'm all your's." In those words, all things were possible. Soon blissful sleep overtook them.

THE END

EPILOGUE

The names and places of this story are taken from actual historic record. Of course, a few events and time frames were altered to accommodate the incorporation of Sully and Michaela. The criminals mentioned in this story were apprehended by the real Willie Kennard over a period of about three years. The town of Yankee Hill did exist, and in 1874, they actually advertised for a marshal, having gone through three in a span of three months. Willie Kennard was hired as I recounted, and his background was true, too.

The only main fictional character I created was Dolly, but there really was a Gaylor's Saloon along with the other buildings I mentioned in the town. Barney Casewit committed the crimes I described and was arrested and hanged in the manner I detailed. Birdie Campbell was his 15-year old victim, but I used a bit of literary license in making her pregnant. Billy McGeorge was another true outlaw who was caught and executed by Kennard. I also used the real names of most of the towns folk, including Bert Corgan. By the way, some of the historic accounts in this story came from the autobiography of Corgan, "Mining Camp Lawyer" (published in 1897 by Pruett Bros. of Los Angeles).

By 1877, Kennard had thoroughly tamed the once wild and wooly mining town. The population began to decline as the gold rush played out. Traffic through Yankee Hill dropped because mining in Central City and Georgetown had plummeted. Kennard, most likely Colorado's first black lawman, decided it was time to move back East to find a wife. Not much is known of his whereabouts or activities after he left Yankee Hill.

He surfaced for a time in Denver in 1884, working as a bodyguard for Barney Ford, a wealthy businessman and former slave who became known as the "Black Baron of Colorado." Where Kennard went after that remains a mystery, as does the date of his death. As for Yankee Hill, it is gone and all but forgotten. Only remnants of a few buildings remain.

Legendary lawmen such as Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and Wild Bill Hickock are well remembered today, but most Western lawmen, like Willie Kennard, toiled and died in obscurity after bringing law and order to an untamed land. Bat Masterson described them as "just plain ordinary men who could shoot straight and had the most utter courage and perfect nerve--and, for the most part, a keen sense of right and wrong." In Kennard's case, maybe he wasn't so ordinary.



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