Chapter 10: Peace of Mind
Michaela walked down the long corridor at the prison in Denver. Her husband and children waited outside for her. Sully had insisted on going in with her, but she told him she needed to do this for her own peace of mind as well. She had to face David, because it wasn't as if he was going to be able to take her from her family again. David was behind bars for the rest of his life, and he couldn't hurt anyone again, regardless if he meant to or not.
"Dr. Quinn, are you certain you want to do this?" the warden asked as they passed through a barred door into another section of the jail.
"I have to do this," Michaela insisted. "I have to let him know that his wife didn't die in an accident. He's believed it all along, so much in fact, that he went mad with grief and began to think I was his wife."
"I'll be close by, so if you need anything, just call."
"Thank you, warden, but I doubt it will come to that." The warden stopped in front of a cell and Michaela sucked in a deep breath when she saw David Luther sitting on a cot, staring at the wall.
"Mr. Luther, you have a visitor," the warden spoke up. Michaela swallowed hard as David looked up. The warden left to give Michaela some privacy with the prisoner.
"Hello David," she whispered. David stood up, his eyes lighting up and smile spreading across his face.
"Millicent!" he exclaimed. "It's you!"
"David, I have some news."
"What are you doin' here? I don't want ya to see me like this. Oh, Millicent . . ."
"I'm not Millicent."
"What are you talkin' about?"
"David, I'm not your wife. I just happen to look like her. I am a doctor, and I came to Denver to examine the remains of your wife." The look in David's eyes was one of bewilderment.
"What?" he asked quietly. "Millicent, don't be silly."
"Listen to me!" she exclaimed. "I am not who you think I am!"
"Millicent, why are you tryin' to deny me?" Michaela sighed heavily. She slipped a newspaper through the bars of the jail, stepping back as he reached a hand out. She pulled her hand back before he could touch her. She knew he was harmless, but memories of her kidnapping were flashing through her mind. He read over the newspaper, and his eyes looked up to search for hers. "Why are you doin' this? Don't ya wanna be with me?"
"David, my name is Dr. Michaela Quinn-Sully. I have a husband and five children. After what happened in the woods, I returned home and I looked into your wife's death. I found a photo of her in the paper, and I realized she looked just like me. I needed to find out more. I requested the case files, and the doctors from her case were generous enough to share them with me. After further investigation, we've determined that your wife's death wasn't an accident. She was murdered."
"You're makin' this up!"
"Keep reading," Michaela urged. David looked back at the article, and tears streamed down his cheeks. She passed the drawing of Millicent into his hands. "Your wife had a freckle on her cheek, remember? She pointed to her own cheek. You see? I'm not her."
"Oh Millicent," he sobbed. Michaela sighed, wondering how she was ever going to convince this man that she wasn't his dead wife. Perhaps he could never be convinced. Maybe he was better off believing she was alive. "She's really gone. She's really dead."
"Yes, I'm sorry," Michaela whispered, breathing a sigh of relief that David was beginning to come to his senses. David swallowed hard, everything coming back to him.
"Why did you research my wife's death?"
"Because I was curious. You must have loved her very much, and that alone sent me into curiosity. When I found out what she looked like, I had to find out more about it. That's when I discovered that the fire was a cover-up for a murder."
"Who did it?" he demanded.
"We don't know," she admitted.
"She's dead," he whispered. Michaela swallowed hard, her heart breaking for this poor, grief-stricken man. "Now two men are dead 'cause I thought you were her."
"I know more than anyone that you can't go into the past and bring back a life. I'm a doctor, and I deal with death a lot. It always hurts, and I've made mistakes too."
"You never killed somebody on purpose," David replied quietly.
"No," Michaela replied. She didn't know what else to say to this man, but she could try something. "David, we're looking into all possible suspects. I'm sure someone will be here to question you about your enemies." David nodded.
"Thank you for tellin' me," he whispered. "I'm sorry I took ya away from your family."
"That's the past David. We're all safe now," she replied simply. She gave him a weak half-smile before turning to leave, knowing she'd never see this man again. She'd never have to look into the eyes of the man who had taken her from her family and nearly killed her husband. Though she was glad to put this all behind her, her heart couldn't help but go out to who that man used to be.
Holly had just brought over a picnic basket of lunch for herself, Horace, and Mary, and now that the food was gone, she was taking the basket back to Grace's. Mary was at the café too, because she loved spending time with Grace and Myra, and helping them set the tables.
Horace saw Hank walking over to the saloon, and he remembered a letter had come for him earlier that day.
"Hey Hank?!" Hank turned abruptly
"What?" he shouted across the street.
"Ya got a letter!" Hank wouldn't have bothered to read his mail before Myra had come along, but now that she was there, she had taught him how to read. He figured he might as well find out who wanted to get in touch with him so bad that they had to write a letter to him.
"Who's it from?"
"It's from that special school your boy's in."
"What?" Hank asked. "Let me see this." Hank ripped the letter open and began to read it. Myra, who was taking a break from Grace's, came walking across the street when she saw her husband and former beau.
"What's wrong, darlin'?" when she saw the look on his face as he was reading it.
"Dammit," he muttered.
"They decided not to release Zack' from the school 'cause he ain't makin' any improvements. They want me to come visit him first thing next week."
"I'll come with ya," Myra offered. "You are gonna go ain't ya?"
"Yeah," Hank replied. "He's my son. I gotta go talk to him. He needs me."
"Maybe we can convince 'em to let Zack come home."
"I guess that'll be up to Zack." Myra nodded. She and Hank walked off as Holly and Mary started up toward the telegraph office again.
"Mama, I want to go play in the snow in the meadow," Mary insisted.
"Alright, sweetheart. Run into the clinic and put on your gloves and scarf. Make sure to bundle your coat up tight."
"I will," Mary promised. She rushed off toward the clinic, and Holly smiled at Horace.
"She's getting adjusted to bein' here."
"Sure is," Holly replied. "I'm so glad she's doing better. The children aren't being so rough on her, and I'm glad."
"Well, she's your little girl, and she deserves to be treated with respect."
"I'm glad you think so," Holly whispered.
"Come inside," Horace said quickly.
"Just come in." Holly stepped into the office and Horace pulled the shutters. "I was gonna wait till Christmas to do this."
"What?" Holly asked, her eyes growing wide. Horace kissed Holly's hand and got down on one knee. "Oh Horace. You don't have to do this."
"I want to," he whispered. "I want to give Mary a family like she deserves. I love you, Holly, and I love Mary like she was my own." Tears sprang to Holly's eyes.
"I love you too, Horace. I want to give my daughter everything she deserves," she whispered. "And I'd be honored to be your wife." Horace's face lit up, and he slipped a dainty ring onto Holly's equally dainty finger. "Oh Horace! It's beautiful."
"Not as beautiful as the lady that's wearin' it." He pulled her up, and they embraced one another happily.
"Oh! I can't wait until Michaela gets back. I'm going to ask her to be my maid of honor!"
"She'll like that," Horace replied.
"Oh, I have to go start making plans," Holly said with a grin. "I'm going to bring Mary here and we can tell her together." Horace grinned and kissed his bride-to-be. "I'm so happy, Horace! You've made me so happy!" Horace smiled from ear to ear as his love practically bounced out of the telegraph office, happy to be making plans for the rest of her life; their life. Horace couldn't wait to start his life with a new wife and daughter. Everything was going to be perfect.
Michaela and Sully had decided to wait until the next morning to start back to Colorado Springs. Right now, the children were resting for the trip in the morning, and Michaela was sitting on the bed, removing her shoes. Sully was rocking Connor in his arms, trying to soothe the baby into a deeper sleep.
"I think he's sleeping."
"That's what ya said last time. Then I put him down, and he started cryin' again." Michaela smiled and yawned a little. She put her shoes beside the bed and pulled her dress off. Sully put Connor down.
"Can you help me unlace this?" Sully nodded and walked over to stand behind his wife. He began to work with the laces of the corset.
"I still don't see why ya insist on wearin' this with your fancy dresses. Ya look so beautiful without it. Ya ain't got a bit of fat on ya."
"You're so sweet," Michaela chuckled. "I'm lucky to have a man like you."
"Not as lucky as I am to have a woman like you." He kissed her neck, and Michaela leaned into him.
"Pa!" Brian called out. Michaela giggled as Sully finished unlacing the corset.
"You had better go see what he wants."
"Alright," Sully replied. "I'll be back in two seconds." Michaela smiled at him suggestively and removed her corset. She pulled her nightgown on and walked over to the bed. She pulled back the covers and crawled between them. She closed her eyes, imagining what romantic gesture Sully would make now.
She settled in against the pillows, sighing with relief that it was all over now. David, though he was in prison, could finally have some closure to his wife's death. She only hoped that the officials would have enough courtesy to tell him if they did ever find the real killer.
Michaela yawned and hoped Sully was dealing with Brian quickly. She couldn't wait to spend the rest of the evening in his arms.
By the time Brian had gone to sleep, Sully was exhausted. It was only about six in the evening, but he had had a long day with the children while Michaela had been at the jail. He knew Michaela was exhausted, because her day had been rather emotionally draining.
Sully shut the door to the children's room, and he turned around toward the bed. He slowly walked over to see that Michaela was sleeping soundly.
"Michaela?" he asked, hoping she was just pretending. He spoke up a bit. "Michaela?" She only yawned a little and rolled onto her back." Sully sighed and shook his head. He crawled into bed and kissed his wife's lips softly. "I love you." He rolled onto his side facing Michaela and fell right to sleep next to his heartsong.
Holly wasn't back with Mary yet, but Horace knew that she had probably stopped to play in the snow with Mary. He had learned over the past few weeks that Holly loved snow, and he'd even caught her making snow angles out in the meadow after the first heavy snow.
Hank and Loren were sitting inside of the saloon. Dorothy, Grace, and Myra had gone to look for Holly and Mary since it was getting late. Well, that had been their excuses anyway. They just wanted to go have fun for once and play in the snow like they did as children.
The town was winding down for the evening, and the only sounds were that of the horses snorting and trotting along, mixed with the sound of laughter and drunken chitchat from the saloon. Robert E. was finishing up a horseshoe, so the sound of his hammer against the anvil ran out every once in awhile.
Jake Slicker walked out of his barbershop wearing his hat, gloves, and a coat. It was amazing how incredibly cold Colorado Springs could get in the winter. Even the simple job of sweeping off a porch required bundling up from the biting cold.
He looked around, watching as a few children in the streets threw snowballs at each other. He never had the chance to do that as a boy. His mother never let him play, and perhaps that was why it took him a long time to get used to children and their antics. He had never had a good childhood.
Holly was holding Mary's hand as she and the other women walked into town. She smiled as the women as Grace and Myra went to their husbands while Dorothy went to the mercantile. Holly was getting ready to tell Mary about her engagement to Horace, but she decided to wait for a few minutes.
"Sweetheart, why don't you go into the telegraph and convince Horace to close up."
"Alright mama," Mary replied. She rushed off, and Holly bent to gather up some snow into her hands. She balled it up, and as Jake was looking off into the distance, she threw it at him, hitting him square in the chest.
"Hey what's the big idea?!" Jake asked angrily. His expression softened when he saw Holly standing in the snow with a grin on her face.
"You looked like you wanted to join in on that snowball fight."
"Yeah, well, I ain't a child."
"Did you ever have a snowball fight as a boy?"
"Sure," Jake lied. "All the time." He turned his back and Holly fired another one at him. A moment later, Jake was pulling snow up into his hands, letting himself engage in a childish game for the first time in his life. Pretty soon he was laughing and throwing the snowballs just as hard as Holly was.
Horace heard the ruckus and rushed out to see what was going on. He was jealous when he saw his bride-to-be playing around with Hank, but as soon as a snowball was hurled in his direction, he and Mary joined in on the fun,
"What in the world?!" Grace asked, rushing out from the livery with Robert E.
"Come on, Grace," Holly invited. "How long as it been since you've acted like a child?" Grace laughed and Horace threw a snowball at her. Soon, several of the townsfolk were doing this, and anyone coming into town would have probably thought they'd all gone mad. Even Dorothy got Loren in on the game. It took a bit of convincing and a few snowballs on Myra's part to get Hank into the game. But after catching a few with his face, he finally broke down and threw one in his wife's direction.
Pretty soon, the town was practically falling to their knees with laughter. A few snowballs were still being tossed, but for the most part, everyone was just enjoying the feeling of being young again brought on by Holly's snow ball game.
Eventually, everyone started off toward home, children running along behind their parents. Mary over to the mercantile to visit with Dorothy and Loren as Holly and Horace stood in the midst of the empty battlefield. Horace pulled Holly into his arms and kissed her.
"I love you," he whispered.
"I love you too," Holly replied. She and Horace started toward the mercantile when she realized that her scarf was missing.
"Oh! I must have lost my scarf in the meadow. I'm going to go get it."
"I can go get it."
"Oh no. You go see Mary. I'll be along in a minute, and we'll tell her together." Horace gave Holly another kiss before she mounted her horse and started off toward the meadow.
"Holly, wait!" Myra called, mounting one of Hank's horses. "I'll ride with ya." The two women started off toward the meadow. Soon, the street was cleared and everyone was winding down from their game, much like the town was winding as the evening settled in.
Loren, who had adjusted to having Mary around a lot, was sneaking her some candy like he did for Brian. Horace came in and Mary hurried over to him.
"Your ma went to get her scarf."
"Okay," Mary replied. "Don't tell her Mr. Bray gave me candy. She'll get mad 'cause she'll think I'm spoilin' my dinner."
"Your secret's safe with me," Horace said with a chuckle.
At the saloon, Hank was pouring himself a whisky. Jake was sitting at the bar, and the rest of the men had gone home to their families. Hank had just been telling Jake about how his son was stuck at that school and how he had to go visit.
"Are ya gonna go?"
"'Course I am. He's my son. Myra's comin' with me."
"Well, maybe it's for the best if he stays in that school, Hank. Ya tried lettin' him live here before, and it didn't work out."
"Nobody gave him a chance," Hank replied. "He was different from them other kids, but that don't matter none. Mary's different too."
"Don't talk about her."
"Just because you're in love with her ma?"
"Shut up, you hear me?" Jake asked.
"Sorry, but it looks like she's not givin' up on Horace any time soon."
"She loves him. I respect that."
"But you love her."
"A real man would fight for the woman he loves."
"What if a man came into Myra's life and wanted to be with her?"
"I'd kill him!" Hank shouted.
"Well, what if he made her happy? Wouldn't you want Myra to be happy?" Hank swallowed hard and took a shot of whiskey. Of course he wanted Myra to be happy. What the hell kind of question was that?
Just as Hank was about to answer, a blood-curdling scream echoed through the town. One single, shrill shriek chilled the men right to the bone.