Title: Out of the Blue

Fan Fiction: Peacemakers™ USA Networks

Author's Name: Aimee L. DuPré

Comments to:my email at Yes, at Aimee DuPré's Homepage located at http/aimee-dupre. or you can go directly to this story at http/aimee-dupre. new scenes; new story; new characters

Rating: PG-13

Status: completed July 22, 2005.

Pairing: none

Spoilers: none

Summary: Marshal Jared Stone's actions in the Civil War come back to haunt him as he trails a serial killer in Silver City.

Warnings: This story contains some violence.

Cast of Characters (original series): Portrayed by:

Marshal Jared Stone Tom Berenger

Larimer Finch Peter O'Meara

Katie Owens Amy Carlson

Twyla "Scoop" Curry Bellamy Young

Mayor Malcolm Smith Bob Gunton

Charles Curry Kevin McNulty

Luci Prescott Barbara Tyson

Chipper Dunn Colby Johannson

New Characters (in order of appearance) (created by Aimee L. DuPré)

Mrs. Robert Richmond

Bobby Richmond, Jr.

Mrs. Lougenia Sullivan

Cade Sullivan

Dr. Patrick Michael Ramsey

Sarah the telephone operator

Hotel clerk (unnamed)

Silas Andrews

Margaret Hesler

"Old Man" Edwards

Sheriff Cheyenne Gabriel Moore

Disclaimers: The original characters in this story (Marshal Jared Stone, Larimer Finch, Katie Owens, Twyla "Scoop" Curry, Mayor Malcolm Smith, Charles Curry, Luci Prescott, Chipper Dunn) are the sole property of Peacemakers™ USA Networks in association with Michael R. Joyce Production. This is a work of fan fiction that intends no infringement on any copyright or trademark.

New characters of Mrs. Robert Richmond, Bobby Richmond, Jr., Mrs. Lougenia Sullivan, Cade Sullivan, Dr. Patrick Michael Ramsey, Sarah the telephone operator, the unnamed hotel clerk, Silas Andrews, Margaret Hesler, "Old Man" Edwards, and Sheriff Cheyenne Gabriel Moore are the sole property of Aimee L. DuPré, ©2004.

Out of the Blue

By Aimee DuPré

Synopsis: Out of the Blue (actions in the Civil War come back to haunt Stone)

Chapter Four

Later that night while making his rounds, Stone thought about all that the doctor had told him. He recalled that Patrick Ramsey was questioned as a suspect in a case in Denver but had been released for lack of evidence. Stone had considered him a suspect at one time. Now he was positive it was not the doctor.

Nearing the stables, Stone heard the frightened whinny of a horse, and he hurried to investigate. He stopped when he reached the door beside the barn's main entrance. He carefully listened to more whinnies and the stomping of hooves. Placing his left hand on the latch, he quietly pulled his gun and cocked it. He threw the door open, and it banged against the wall as he crouched and somersaulted into the darkness. He pointed his gun toward the commotion in the stall.

There was just enough light from the moon through the cracks in the barn siding and the open door to be able to see a dark shape leading a horse, bucking and rearing, into the stall. The small-framed man was having great difficulty keeping the horse under any semblance of control; and when Stone had rolled into the barn, the interruption caused the man to release the reins. As the frightened animal jumped towards where Stone lay concealed in the darkness, the figure ran towards the rear of the barn.

Stone hurried to his feet to avoid being trampled as the horse ran past him and through the opened barn door. By that time, the man had made his escape. Stone started to holster his gun and leave the barn to tell Isaac he had a runaway when he heard a low moan come from the stall. He warily peered into the stall and saw Doctor Ramsey prone in the straw. He was conscious but dazed, and Doc's hand went to his head and came away bloody.

Stone holstered his weapon and knelt beside Doc. He had to leave his leg outstretched as he squatted. His knee gave him more trouble all the time, and he kept forgetting the emu oil.

More importantly, Doc's head was bleeding from a gash in the back. Stone took his handkerchief and held it against the wound.

"Marshal, you're here just in the nick of time."

"What happened?"

"First, how bad's my head?"

Stone lifted his blood-soaked handkerchief. The flow of blood was coming to a stop, but there was a small flap of skin and hair that probably needed some stitches.

"You need Doc Gates to sew you up, but the ladies will still find you attractive," Stone quipped. Doc gave him a broad grin as he gingerly felt the gash with his fingers.

"Doctor Gates is away right now, but maybe Miss Owens can give me stitches."

"You never answered my question," Stone told him sternly. "What happened?"

"Oh, well, you see, it's a little embarrassing. I was walking by the stables and I needed something out of my buggy. Out of my medical bag. I accidentally left it in the buggy after my last trip. As I was reaching in for it, I heard a woman whisper my name. The next thing I knew, I was hit over the head so hard I saw bright blue lights. I guess a blacked out for a moment. I felt myself being dragged into a stall."

"So your attacker was a woman?" Stone asked, recalling the slight build of the man he had seen. It was all fitting together.

"It was our murderess, but once again I failed to see her face. It seems like I'm always one step behind her. But I did get a look at what she knocked me over the head with."

"What?" Stone asked.

"A flatiron."

Stone stiffly got to his feet and helped Doc up.

"I'm getting' too old for this," Stone complained, bending down to rub his bruised knee.

"Here," Doc said. "Have a shot." He reached into his inside coat pocket and discovered his flask was missing. "Well, I'll be. Do you think she took it?"

"We can add theft by unlawful taking to the murders," Stone said.

"Marshal, that is one thing the authorities withheld from the press -- the fact that all the victims were missing some personal object, jewelry, scarf, watch, ring. There was a theft from all the murdered men."

"I'll need a list of stolen items," Stone softly said as a reminder to himself.

Doc said, "She used a gun on two or three victims. She also strangled some and knifed, slit throats, and garroted others."

"Now she tries to make your murder look like an accidental death from a spooked horse."

"Because I do not fit her pattern for selecting her victims."

"You didn't ride with Sherman. You may be the only man that she's failed to kill."

"Therefore, her desire for my death may not have been strong enough or she would have succeeded."

"Doc," Stone said, unsure of how to put his next question. "Someone secretly left an envelope on my desk. Inside was a paper that had your name printed at the top with a list of cities that you recently visited."

"You don't say!"

Stone just came right out and asked him. "Doc, what are you hiding?"

Ramsey bit his lower lip. "I gave up my practice to stay on the trail of this murderer, Marshal. That was not the only reason, but it was a deciding factor. At first I just wanted to catch her, to help her. I suspect she has delusions. Now that the murders are totally out of hand, I must stop her."

"So she's insane?" Stone asked.

"Absolutely. And madness does not fail to give itself away. The unbalanced mind is guilty of extravagances which betray it," Doc explained. "Any long-tortured spirit can eventually abandon sanity."

Stone asked, "So why didn't you go to the law with this information before this?"

"I was afraid."

Stone's eyebrows raised, surprised that the surgeon would admit his fear.

"No," the doctor continued. "Not for myself. I was afraid if I came forward too early, before I had enough forensic evidence, that I would scare her off. She'd be on to me, then, and be even more careful."

"Might even try to kill you," Stone dryly commented.

"Obviously a correct assumption," he agreed, gingerly touching his wounded head.

The next morning, Stone stormed into the newspaper office, a rolled-up "Sentinel" is his left hand. Lou was seated behind the desk nearest the door.

He jabbed at the paper with his right index finger and demanded, "Do you really believe this, this . . . dribble . . . you wrote in today's paper?"

She almost laughed at his incredulous expression, but she hid it well. She was partly afraid he was going to hit her with the rolled up paper just as she had trained puppies in her younger years.

Gently, she asked, "Would you like a cup of Arbuckle's, Marshal?"

"I didn't come for coffee. I came for answers," was his terse reply.

"Would I write something I didn't believe?" she softly answered.

He spread his legs apart in a defiant stance. "You would," he said. "Just to get a rise outta people."

She sweetly smiled. "You know me far too well, Marshal Stone. What kind of reaction should I anticipate?"

"More work for me," he grumbled, "tryin' to keep the Ladies' Society lynch mob away from Finch. This," he threw the paper on her desk and it unrolled itself in front of her, "is just about the most stupid thing you've ever done."

The headlines were upside down from her, but she well knew what they read:

Serial Murderer

on Rampage

The letters took up half the front page. Beneath them, in a smaller point,

Detective Warns Vets

of Female Avenger

Inside, on page two, was an ink drawing of a knife-wielding woman chasing after a bearded man.

She had used the article to focus on the teamwork between the marshal, the detective, and the undertaker – the investigation, clues, leads, suspects, questions and interviews, autopsies, detective work, law enforcement, lab work – how they all fit together.

She had explained the difference between clues and leads, how a clue was something that served to guide or direct in the solution of a problem or mystery -- something that guided one in anything of a doubtful or intricate nature or gave a hint in the solution of a mystery. A clue was evidence that helped solve a problem.

Conversely, a lead showed the way to a solution by going in advance, guiding or directing in a course; something serving as a tip, indication, or clue in the murder investigation.

"Marshal, you cannot presume to know all the stupid things I have ever done in my life. Trust me, this is not the most stupid, by far."

He gave a low throated "humph" sound. "Mind tellin' me just when Mr. Finch gave you this … uh, 'prime revelation of investigative analysis'?" He quoted from her article in a mocking tone.

"When we were talking yesterday."

"Ah!"

He placed the palms of both his hands on her desk and leaned towards her. Under other circumstances, she would have preferred to be close to the man, but in his anger she appreciated the small feeling of safety provided by the desk between them.

"As I recall, Mrs. Sullivan, you are the one who said it might be a woman."

"But Mr. Finch agreed, Jared."

It was the first time she had called him by his first name, but he didn't seem to notice or mind. She realized Stone was mad because she used a lot of things he had said to other people in her article as if he had said those things to her.

"Why don't you stick to writin' stories about Mayor Smith's first automobile in Silver City?"

She tried to explain it to him. "I keep my ears open, that's all."

"Well, you'd hear a lot more if you'd keep your mouth shut!"

"In other words," she asked, "write what you know, but never tell everything you know?"

"At least not at first. Look, Mrs. Sullivan, you gotta learn to work with the law. Sometimes that means keepin' quiet about certain things."

She realized she was saying nothing to calm the marshal, so she put her hands on the desk and leaned towards him. Their faces were so close together that she could smell the coffee and tobacco on his breath, could see those sharp blue eyes widen in surprise, and his full red lips part slightly as the tip of his tongue flicked out to wet them. Her heart pounded so hard in her breast that she was sure he could hear it, and although she tried not to do it, she felt her tongue wet her own suddenly dry lips.

"Jared?" she softly queried. His name sounded good on her tongue and she savored it for a while as she swallowed hard.

"What!" he said with irritation, not moving a muscle. His mouth was so dry that he couldn't even work up a good swallow. Time seemed to stretch as they stared at each other, paralyzed, his sharp blue eyes and her daggers of green, until someone just had to say something to break the spell. It was Lou.

"Shall I print a retraction?"

He stood up straight and the spell was broken. He blinked a few times as she took a deep breath and centered herself, standing defiantly before him.

"Won't be necessary," he said as he licked his lips again and swallowed. "This time. But I'd sure appreciate it if you'd run your material by me before you go to press. I do not want this investigation compromised. Your article is upsettin' our citizens, not to mention warnin' the murderer that we're close on his trail."

"Her trail."

"Maybe it's a her; maybe not."

"And just for your information, Jared, I do not print everything I know. I know Paddy was seriously hurt last night and that you saved his life, thank God. Katie telephoned me to help her stitch up his head. And I did not print that!"

She batted her eyes at him without even knowing she did it.

"Well," Stone told her, "don't you look at me with those cow eyes, either." He tried to be gruff because he felt his heart melting. "If you can't stand the heat, get outta the kitchen. You understand?"

Part of her wanted to tell him off right then and there – "cow eyes," indeed! -- and remind him how he had no right to tell her what to do. But one look at his expression and she could not do it. He was genuinely concerned for the safety of the citizens of Silver City. He wanted to catch this murderer as much as anyone did.

So she conceded with a soft, "Yes, sir. I'll do as you say."

His eyes again widened in surprise and he gaped at her in disbelief when she backed down. "Scoop" never would have done that.

"Thanks," was all he said, and as he left her office, he looked over his shoulder and tipped his hat at her.

Later that afternoon, Stone and Finch shared a drink at the end of the bar in the Velvet Cushion. Finch recounted his conversation earlier that morning with Mrs. Richmond.

"Mrs. Sullivan's article stirred my thoughts towards women who might be vengeful of war atrocities, Marshal," Finch told him. "Therefore, Mrs. Richmond was under suspicion, and I left for her home after sunup. I informed her how a man was viciously murdered, stuck over the head by a blunt, heavy object.

"Then I carefully examined her iron, simultaneously informing her, in an attempt to lull her wariness into cooperation, that the electric flatiron was invented in 1882 by Henry W. Seeley, a New York inventor."

Stone rolled his eyes as Finch continued nonplussed.

"I then commented that her iron must weigh almost 15 pounds, to which she replied, 'And it takes a long time to warm up.'

"I noted to myself that, indeed, it would take a long time to warm up considering the fact that the electrical lines do not run out as far as the Richmond place yet."

Stone pursed his lips to hide a grin, then nodded at the bartender and motioned for him to bring him another beer. Finch's glass still sat untouched.

"Then I proceeded to take her iron, for evidence, against her protests. I was unable to determine if she had tried to clean off any blood or hair that might have remained, if it was the murder weapon. I did promise her I would return it soon because she informed me that she had ordered it from Sears and Roebuck, especially for her Robert who is coming back on the train, and he'll need his clothes pressed."

Stone explained, "Her son Robert wrote her after each battle – from Vicksburg, from Fredericksburg, and from Manassas. He had assured her that the war would soon be over. His last letter was from Second Bull Run. He told her he'd be home on the train real soon. Robert Richmond was killed at Gettysburg on July 1st, 1863."

"I had inferred that not only from our conversation at the train station and but also from the date of his death engraved upon his headstone," Finch said with his usual aplomb.

"Finch, that woman is perfectly harmless," Stone said, exasperated at the detective. "She's gone loco from grief, but she's no killer."

"Non compos mentis, I believe is the phrase," Finch added. "Afflicted with or exhibiting irrationality and mental unsoundness."

"She's not accountable for her actions, Finch," Stone said.

"We are all held accountable by the sovereign God."

"Well, the mayor, for one, ain't gonna wait to let God sort it all out," Stone retorted as he downed the last of his beer and left the saloon.

As Stone exited the Velvet Cushion on his way back to his office, he happened to walk by Margaret Hesler's dress shop. He glanced over at the front window and noticed a blue silk dress with matching hat on display.

He barely slowed his steps as he wondered to himself how Mrs. Sullivan would look in something like that instead of her black mourning clothes. A smile crossed his lips as he pictured the perky feathered hat perched atop her deep red curls. Then he came to an abrupt stop. He slowly turned and walked back to the window. Those feathers on the hat! Ostrich feathers.

He smiled again as he noted the sign hanging on the inside of the front door window:

Closed.

Please come back.

Stone whispered, "I'll be back."

Later that same evening, the Marshal tried the third skeleton key in the back door lock of the dress shop. It did not turn, and removing it from the lock, he dropped the large ring full of keys on the ground. They clattered and clanged against each other in the dust of the alley.

"Shhh!" Finch loudly whispered. "Must you be so loud, Marshal?"

As Stone reached down to retrieve his keys, he muttered something under his breath.

"What did you say?" Finch inquired.

"You don't want to know," Stone grumbled. He fit another key in the lock, and this time the lock turned and he opened the door with a big smile. "I reckon I've got a key that'll fit any lock in town," he said, generously omitting the "I told you so."

As Finch entered the dressmaker's shop behind him, he commented, "I am eternally grateful that you are on our side, Marshal."

The back door had opened into a small room in the back of the shop. There was an ornate treadle Singer sewing machine, bolts of material on shelves that went from floor to ceiling on one wall, a table used for cutting out patterns, an ironing board, and in the corner nearest the doorway into the front shop, a small cast iron stove.

"You know what we're looking for, detective?" Stone asked.

"I may have found it already, Marshal," he answered as he went directly to the stove. On top was a flatiron, which Finch gently placed in a sack he carried.

"Try this one, too, Finch," Stone said. From the ironing board, he picked up and felt the weight of a newer model electric iron. "This is definitely heavy enough to do some damage."

"What made you think of Mrs. Hesler, Jared?" Finch asked as he bent down to open the lid of a trunk.

Stone explained, "I just never tied in ostrich feathers with a dressmaker. All that talk about millinery – hats -- confused me. Then it dawned on me: you iron dresses, not hats!"

"Speak for yourself, Marshal," Finch joked with a smile. "Well, look at this!" he said and suddenly straightened up from the trunk.

Stone walked to his side. In her trunk were a variety of strange objects, seemingly unrelated and not something a woman would or should have. Stone recalled the list Denver had just sent him of missing objects and the associated murder victim.

Finch held up a pair of eyeglasses, lenses cracked.

"The eyes are the second thing to go," Stone told Finch. "I forget the first." Then he laughed aloud.

"Shh!" Finch urged.

The marshal immediately became serious. "Sorry, Finch. It's just that you have no sense of humor."

"Are these on the list?" Finch asked, his excitement unmistakable.

Stone looked at them. "I'm pretty sure I recall prescription glasses missing from one of the victims."

Finch continued digging around in the trunk. "All these objects are in some way broken or torn. She appears to have a marked antagonism towards men."

"Finch?" Stone asked. "Aren't you getting your fingerprints all over our evidence?"

Finch scowled at a lawman and took his hands out of the trunk. "You are absolutely correct, Marshal," he admitted. "My fascination got the best of me. It is hard to understand that her theft of personal objects is how she gets caught."

Stone grumbled his agreement as he took his handkerchief from his coat pocket and reached down into the trunk. He came out with Ramsey's flask, complete with his initials "PMR", all scratched and dented.

"Melior est conditio possidentis," Stone told him.

"Better is the condition of the possessor," Finch translated. "Why, Marshal, I didn't know you knew Latin," he added with surprise.

"I don't, but I do know some things about the law, and possession is nine-tenths of it."

Finch took the flask, wrapped it in his own handkerchief and put it in his pocket. "I guess we've caught our serial murderer." He handed Stone back his handkerchief.

"Not quite so fast, Finch. I need you to get as many of her fingerprints from these stolen items as you can, plus compare the flatiron to the three head wounds, Mr. Andrews', Old Man Edwards', and Doc's."

"But we can already infer that Margaret Hesler is the murderer," Finch argued. "That's enough for you to arrest her."

Stone sighed deeply. "We need evidence, not inference," he said. "Let me tell you what I've come up with, Finch. There have been two murders in Silver City: Mr. Silas Andrews, a Denver businessman and old man Edwards. We've gotta tie up all the loose ends."

Finch added, "And since Doc Ramsey had provided Silas Andrews with emu oil, we have to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that he had nothing to do with the murders."

Stone smiled. "Exactly."

"Marshal, I never asked you, but since the first victim had intimate relations prior to his death, did the second also? Did the other murdered men in other towns?"

"Not all of them by any means. And I questioned Luci about Andrews. She asked around about any relationships her girls might have had with him. He did not frequent her girls. So our murderess used whatever means were required to gain the trust of her victims. Then she killed."

"And Mrs. Sullivan? I mean, she was the one who found Andrews in his hotel room. What was her relationship to the victim?"

"Lou had wanted to interview him for a story she was doing on new businesses in Silver City. She dropped it after his death or she might have picked up on the connection between new dressmaker shops in the cities that Doc had visited."

"So Doc has definitely been crossed off as a suspect?" Finch asked.

"Just as Mrs. Richmond is crossed off," Stone replied.

"Marshal, why have you been withholding information from me?"

Stone set his jaw and looked away from Finch before answering. "Because of Lou getting information out of you and printing it in the newspaper."

"You are right, again, Marshal," Finch agreed. "I trusted her too quickly, without knowing her journalistic ethics. But," he chastised, "I will be unable to help you in your investigation if you do not trust me with all the facts, leads, and clues, Marshal."

"Finch, I'll try my best. I reckon we've both got to learn to work with each other."

Stone reached down into the trunk once again with his handkerchief and pulled out a hairbrush. "See if Mrs. Hesler's fingerprints are on the handle of this," he said, "And you might try to compare this," he held up a long red hair from the boar's bristles, "to hairs found at the hotel crime scene."

Finch carefully took the brush, wrapped it in Stone's handkerchief, and stuck it in his pocket with the doctor's flask. "If those red hairs left at crime scene match up, then we have an important piece of evidence. We will go my laboratory immediately."

"Finch, I'm gonna run down another lead later this evenin'."

"Where are you going?"

Stone hesitated. He didn't want the detective to think he still didn't trust him; he just wanted to keep him out of harm's way. What Stone had in mind could be extremely dangerous.

"The Velvet Cushion," Stone answered. He was pleased to see he could still carry off a lie with finesse.

"Whom do you plan to see?" Finch asked, curiosity getting the better of him.

Stone's mouth drew back in a straight line. "Ah, Finch," he drawled.

"Don't worry, Marshal. I shall not get involved. I just want to know should I need to contact you. Regarding the case."

"I'm seein' Luci," Stone said. "Look, Finch. Let's just let this bird flutter around a little longer before we begin the hunt in earnest."

"Of course, Marshal," Finch agreed.

About nightfall, Finch went to Doc Gates' office in search of Patrick Ramsey.

The surgeon opened the door and welcomed the detective inside.

"Your regular doctor is off on a house call," Ramsey explained.

"I came to see you. I think I know who tried to kill you."

"You know her name?" he asked.

"Margaret Hesler," Finch bluntly stated.

Ramsey nodded his head. "The dressmaker -- an experienced seamstress. That's how she funded her travels. That's how she managed to blend in wherever she went. She just changed her name." The doctor motioned for Finch to sit as he absent-mindedly paced in front of him. "Now I recall how in several cities a dressmaker had just come to town, then vanished after the murders. Hesler?" he asked the air. "I think it was Nesler in one town." Then to Finch, he said, "She always kept to the larger cities or towns that were fast growing. Businesses came and went, and no one paid any attention to all the new people coming into or leaving town." Ramsey finally sat down, as if he had exhausted himself with his recollections. He laid his hand on his battered head as if touching the bruise would ease his headache. "I should have seen it before," he chastised himself.

"Doctor," Finch said. "Do not blame yourself. The number of unsolved murder cases in the west is simply unbelievable. I could not guess how many might be connected to serial killers. Such a killer might elude capture for decades."

Ramsey looked Finch directly in the eye. "One might wonder," he mysteriously commented, "just how many of our mild-mannered colleagues might harboring secrets of murder."

"I have a feeling many cases of serial murders will be solved strictly by luck. The good news in our case is that we have proof. I have analyzed hairs left at the crime scene. They match up with hair from the hairbrush of Mrs. Hesler."

"And the murder weapon? The oddly shaped, triangular bruises on Mr. Andrew's and Mr. Edward's heads?"

"And on your own head," Finch added. "They match a flatiron recovered from Mrs. Hesler's dress shop. I also found traces of blood and skin on the iron."

"Now what?" Ramsey asked as he stood up and went to the front window.

Finch looked at his watch. "Marshal Stone should be meeting with Luci Prescott about now. She had some information to give him. Some kind of lead he was checking up on."

"I don't think so," Ramsey said. "Look."

Finch arose and looked out the window to see Luci walking down the street beside Lou Sullivan, deep in conversation.

"Can't be Luci he's meeting," Doc said. "I fear Stone may be in danger. Where exactly was he supposed to be meeting with this 'lead'?"

"Obviously not where he told me," Finch intoned.

Meanwhile, Luci told Lou, "The abandoned silver mine. That's what Margaret was mumbling about. I bumped into her right in front of her dress shop. I was going to pick up my new ruffled petticoat, and she was in such a mad rush! She said she couldn't get it for me right now. She was late for a rendezvous, at the Silverton mine. Why, that mine's been abandoned for years, although the old shack the men used for a bunkhouse is still standing. I wonder whom she is meeting out there?" she asked.

"If I find out, I will let you know," Lou told her. "Thanks, Luci. You don't know how much you've helped me."

And as Finch and Ramsey watched, Mrs. Sullivan took off at a very fast pace towards the stables.

The two men looked at each other for a heartbeat, and then decided to follow the editor.

As Stone rode up to the Silverton Mine, he saw a buggy in front of the abandoned bunkhouse. She was there just as she had said she would be. He could see light streaming from the windows, so she must have had at least two or three lanterns lit. This choice of location had been her idea, Stone recalled. It appeared that she wanted to meet Stone somewhere out of the way so there would be no chance of witnesses when she killed him.

Stone was positive that was her intention, and he was edgy and wary as he dismounted and went inside.

He opened the door and came face to face with a man with a horrific scar running right through his face. Stone tensed and had his gun halfway out of his holster when he realized it was his own reflection in a mirror. The old dresser hadn't been touched in years from the look of the dust and cobwebs, and the mirror had a large diagonal crack in it.

He allowed a smile to come over his face but his tension was only slightly relieved. He drew his weapon all the way out of the holster and held it at his side.

Funny, he thought, how the mind plays tricks when you're on your guard.

He looked at himself in the mirror, moving his face from one side of the crack to the other, when he caught a shadowy movement out of the corner of his eye.

He was just turning around when he saw the bright flash of metal. Intense pain seared through the muscle of his right forearm, and his gun fell from his fingers. He grabbed at the knife, but she was too fast for him. As she agilely jumped back, she accidentally kicked his gun. The weapon spun as it slid towards the still-open door, too far away for him to reach. He clamped his hand over his arm and watched as a thick red stain slowly seeped on his shirt and through his fingers.

Keeping a safe distance between them, and still holding the knife on him, Margaret Hesler finally spoke.

"Sherman's men have plundered with impunity for far too long."

He noticed she wielded the knife very expertly, and he estimated his chances at jumping her. Slim to none, he wryly thought, unless he wanted to be cut to ribbons by a dressmaker. He nearly laughed out loud at his play on words.

"What a stroke of luck," she continued. "When that doctor started following me. I got the great idea of pinning the murders on him. And you almost fell for it. Except for that reporter. She knew."

"Ma'am, mind if I ask what your intentions are?" The Marshal sought to get her talking and catch her off guard.

She laughed as if he'd just told her the funniest story she'd ever heard.

Smiling, she said, "Why, my intentions are hardly honorable, my dear Marshal Stone. I plan on giving you a taste of what was done to me. You see, during the war, Beast Butler assumed dictatorial powers as the military commander of New Orleans. He ordered that any New Orleans woman who should dare show contempt for a Federal soldier should be treated as a woman of the street. He ordered that a lady dared not show disrespect by word or gesture to any Union officer or enlisted man. Surely you remember when I emptied the chamber pot on your head, and how you and your men treated me as a practicing prostitute from that time on."

"Mrs. Hesler, ma'am, I was not in New Orleans with General Benjamin Butler."

At first, she looked startled, then as recognition set in, she appeared to compose herself.

"No, Captain Stone. I know you rode with that arsonist Sherman. I had family in Atlanta when you burned your way through. You and your men made me resort to murder. It is all your fault, you know."

Her statement was chilling. Obviously, she viewed all Yankees as the enemy. She had lived her life after the war with this in mind, planning and plotting various revenges and murders.

Stone glanced around the room, looking for something he might utilize as a weapon. He saw nothing he might use, but his eyes caught a reflection in the broken mirror on the wall. He tried to keep his expression deadpan, so the madwoman would not realize that Lou Sullivan stood to one side of the doorway peering in at them.

"Mrs. Hesler," Stone began, trying to keep her attention on him. "Some say a woman is the product of what the men in her life have made her. I can see how these men have driven you to killing."

She smiled sweetly at the marshal. "I am so pleased that you understand, Captain. You see, a forgotten enemy is the worst kind. Someone had to hand out justice."

Stone gave a quick glance sideways in the mirror and saw Mrs. Sullivan bending down. He hoped she could retrieve his gun near the doorway without alerting his captor.

"But, Mrs. Hesler, do you know when justice becomes revenge?

His mind was screaming, Lou! Do something now! Now!

"No, Marshal," Mrs. Hesler answered. "But you are about to find out." She expertly held the knife underhanded and started to rush into the lawman, as if she were going to embrace him.

A flash of fire from the muzzle, and a shot rang out. At almost the same instant, the knife Mrs. Hesler held flew out of her hand, and blood splattered on her dress. She grabbed her hand and sank wearily to the floor, as Stone kicked the knife out of the way.

Lou Sullivan had fired just in the nick of time.

She approached Stone and he took his gun from her and held it on the literally fallen woman, who seemed relieved to be captured. The marshal bent to look at the damage to her hand, and Mrs. Hesler showed him that the bullet had merely grazed her. The bleeding had nearly stopped.

"Mrs. Sullivan, you're mighty handy with a firearm," Stone told her.

She gave him a wry grin.

"You do not want to know where I was aiming," she said, and his eyebrows shot up in surprise.

Just then, Larimer Finch and Patrick Ramsey entered the doorway behind the editor.

"We heard the gunshot," Finch explained, taking in the situation and seeing that all was under control.

"Lou here just saved my life," Stone told them.

Lou blushed and added, "I just came for the story, not to get involved."

"I, for one," the doctor said, "am glad you did get involved -- this time," he added rather mysteriously, and gazed at her. She nodded as if to let him know it was all right to tell.

Doc looked at the marshal. "Lou has been thinking that she might have been able to have saved her late husband, Cade Sullivan, from the shootout in which he was killed, but she stood aside and did nothing, fearful of her own life." Looking at Lou, he gently added, "Perhaps this will help alleviate any guilt you may have lingering from that terrible experience."

Finch piped up, "Mrs. Sullivan, I commend you for your courage."

"Gentlemen, this is all well and good, but I do wish, Paddy, you would look at the Marshal's arm," Lou chastised.

Doc checked out Stone's arm, which had stopped bleeding, and Mrs. Hesler's wound, a graze. "I'll fix slings for both of you when we get back in town," he told them.

"And Jared?" Lou asked. "There is something I would like to know. Just when does justice become revenge?"

"When you begin to enjoy it," he answered.

Detective Finch helped Mrs. Hesler to her feet. "You'll have your day in court," he told her. "Your prosecution will be severe."

"So was the persecution," Lou commented.

"What do you mean?" asked Finch.

"Reconstruction suffocated the south," Lou explained. "I call it the raping of the south. Atrocities were committed in that terrible time of war that are now seen as despicable."

"After all is said and done," Stone said, "the history books are written by the victors."

"And," Finch added, "the truth is never decided by the sheer number of those who adhere to a premise."

Finch led the woman outside to her awaiting buggy.

"She became obsessed with her false beliefs," Ramsey commented, as the other three started towards to door.

"Maybe not all of them were false," Lou interjected. "The reconstruction of the south was a horrendous blow to an already defeated land. Southern pride kept the people strong and became their last remaining hope for the future."

"Nevertheless," Stone argued, "Mrs. Hesler was obsessed. She lost her sense of proportion and blamed every negative circumstance upon the Yankees."

"Bluejackets," Lou corrected, unable to disguise a derisive tone of voice. "In a sad way, she was enslaved – a prisoner of her own thoughts. How foolish it appears when we see that in others, isn't it, Doc?"

"Absolutely," he agreed. "She came out of the blue, in more ways than one. Her goal became to get even with everyone who had let her down. Her vindictiveness increased with her resentment."

Stone looked from one to the other. "You know, a lot of times if we really look at what we're angry at, we'll discover it's really hiding disappointment in some situation or someone."

"Or ourselves," Lou added. "It is a shame that her hatred controlled her. Although her actions were unconscionable, yet in a strange way I can feel sorrow for her. Her life had been destroyed. Nothing would ever be the same. Look at all it cost her."

"Look at what it cost her victims," Stone said succinctly.

Epilogue

The murderer was brought to justice

Marshal Stone took Margaret Hesler to Denver to be arraigned for the murders of Andrews and Edwards. Once there she was jailed, and before Stone could even get back to Silver City, Chip received a call on the marshal's telephone. Margaret Hesler had killed herself. She had hanged in her cell with a strip of material torn from her sling.

One week passed quickly as the weather turned colder. The sky was overcast, and there was the feel of a coming snowfall in the air.

"There is one good thing about the whole thing," Finch commented as he watched Mrs. Sullivan pack her trunk in the office of the Silver City Sentinel.

"What is that?" Lou asked.

"It's over."

"Maybe more is over than you know, Mr. Finch. Charles -- I mean, Mr. Curry -- has been offered quite a goodly sum of money for the newspaper here in Silver City. He is taking the offer. That means I'm out of a job."

"The new owners would not hire you as editor?"

"They probably would, but I am not available. There is another small newspaper in a little town that needs an editor. It is a nice, quiet little community newspaper with less strife and antagonism, which will greatly benefit my nerves. Mr. Curry thinks I will do well there."

"You do not act nervous," Finch told her. "Mrs. Sullivan, I think you are a mighty fine woman."

She looked down at the ground as she felt her face flush red.

"Even if you do write those silly dime western novels under the assumed name of C. Louis Sullivan," he added.

She looked up with a surprised smile on her face. "How do you know about those?"

"After all," he said in a superior tone, "I am a detective. When are you leaving?" he asked her.

"Tomorrow morning."

"Katie will be disappointed. She had planned a supper for the five of us. Sort of a celebration in anticipation of future collaborations."

"The four of you can enjoy your supper. This is what is best for me . . . and for you."

"I hope," the detective continued as he took her hand in his, "that you find what you are looking for." He gently brought her gray glove to his lips and touched them to the back of her hand.

"I am reminded of a verse of scripture," she told him. "Blessed are the peacemakers . . ."

". . . for they shall be called the children of God," Finch finished. "Matthew 5, verse 9." He gently released her hand. "Lou, may I offer you a ride to the station tomorrow?"

She nodded her assent.

Stone paced on the train platform, trying to huddle inside his coat against the distinct chill in the Colorado air. He looked very uncomfortable as he saw Mrs. Sullivan arrive in Finch's buggy. There was a lot he wanted to say, but he knew he'd keep most of it to himself.

Finch, having said his goodbyes already, busied himself seeing that the porters carefully loaded her trunk.

"Mrs. Sullivan," Stone greeted her and tipped his hat. "I've been meanin' to ask you, why'd you ever end up here in my little town in the first place?"

"This seemed as good a place as any to lose my soul. Guess I couldn't stand the heat," she said, slyly referring to their argument in the newspaper office.

Stone gave her a grim smile. "Seems I read somewhere that a ship is real safe in the harbor, but that's not what ships were built for."

"I've heard that, too."

"So, Mrs. Sullivan. Where are you off to?"

"Yellow Dog. Another little town in which to lose my soul."

"How long will you be gone?"

"I expect a prolonged absence. I suppose we could write each other."

"I'm not much on letter writin'."

"Neither am I," she said with a smile.

Stone reached over and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. This was totally unexpected, and her green eyes beneath the spectacles grew wide. Stone tried to no avail to conceal the smile that pulled at his lips.

"Think you could call me Jared again?"

She smiled broadly. "Only if you promise not to kiss me goodbye like that again. People just don't kiss in public, not even a man and his wife. It makes me very uncomfortable."

"Yeah. Kinda like a woman winkin'."

"Yeah," she repeated. "Well . . . , goodbye, Jared."

She held out her hand, and he took it, looking at her fingers as if he were memorizing her gray glove. She thought for one wild moment that he was going to kiss her hand as Finch had done, but then Stone seemed to snap out of whatever deep thoughts he was thinking.

"I hate goodbyes," he admitted. "How 'bout we say 'til we meet again?"

"Until then," she agreed.

As he watched her board the train, he say Ramsey, a large carpetbag in hand.

"You leavin', too, Doc?" Stone called out.

"I am afraid so, Marshal. Doc Gates informed me that the doctor in Yellow Dog died last spring and they are in dire need of a physician."

"Not foul play?" Stone asked.

"Pneumonia."

"Elderly man?"

"Forties," Ramsey replied.

Stone winced. His age.

"Lou will be editor of The Yellow Dog Democrat." Doc laughed. "What a name for a newspaper! Since I'm going there, too, I'll be sure to keep an eye on her -- for you."

"Say hello to the sheriff there, a man named Gabe Moore. He's a good lawman. Good all around man."

"Is Gabe short for Gabriel?" Doc asked.

"Yeah. His real name's Cheyenne, but don't tell him I told you. He hates it, so he goes by his middle name. Tell him Jared sends his regards. We spent some time together a while back. About three years, to be exact. He'll remember me."

"I will do that, Marshal." Ramsey held out his hand, and Stone firmly grasped it. "She'll have two guardian angels looking out for her."

Stone's face showed that he did not understand the doctor.

"Gabriel, your friend's middle name. Gabriel was an angel of the Lord. My middle name is Michael, also an archangel."

"Maybe seein' as how you're named after an angel and all," Stone told him, "you'd better start watchin' how you mix your cough medicine and your whiskey."

Ramsey gave the lawman a smile. "Oh, I'm absolutely certain my cough is nearly cured."

"And how's my friend Gabe gonna protect her if he doesn't even know her?"

"Oh, I guarantee she will meet him. She appears to carry a torch for lawmen." He gave the marshal a wink and a wry grin.

"Lou's husband wasn't a lawman," Stone noted. "I thought he was a reporter or a journalist or something."

Doc set him straight on the facts. "Cade Sullivan was a writer, all right. When he gave up bounty hunting, he let Lou read his journal. Then Lou wrote about some of his escapades in dime novels. Heard they were quite popular, too."

Stone nodded his understanding.

The train's whistle blew loudly, startling the two men.

"Well, Marshal, it has been a great pleasure meeting up with you, sir."

Stone grinned. "Don't call me sir, Doc. Makes me feel old."

The doctor winked. "Absolutely! Lord knows we've seen enough water under the bridge, but we're not too old, yet, my friend."

"Well," Stone said, unsure of how to end their conversation. "I hope you find what you're lookin' for, Patrick Michael Ramsey."

The doctor gave a snort. "I won't. I've already lost that. Everything I held precious in this life was taken from me. Sometimes, I wonder if true love between a man and a woman is ever meant to be."

"We live our lives and then we die," Stone commented. "It's what we do in between that makes the difference."

Ramsey nodded. "It seems we yearn for the past and fear for the future. We must learn to treasure to moments of life God gives to us. Perhaps I can help someone else find her destiny. Life does go on."

"Absolutely," Stone said with a smile. "Be sure to drop in and say hello if you ever pass through Silver City again."

Doc smiled back at him and boarded the slowly moving train. Looking back over his shoulder, he called, "You never know when I might reappear, out of the blue."

Stone watched as the train gathered speed and pulled out of the station. He turned around to see Mrs. Richmond scurrying up the platform toward him.

"Have you seen my Bobby, Marshall?" she asked him. "Was he on that train just pulled out?"

"Now, Mrs. Richmond," Stone began with a sigh. He saw Finch coming towards him. "Mrs. Richmond," he continued, gently taking her by the arm. "Perhaps Detective Finch will be kind enough to drive you up to the cemetery before he takes you back home."

He smiled reassuringly at the elderly woman. Yes, the war had cost more than anyone could put a dollar price on.

The end

Visit http/aimee-dupre. for more stories, in particular,

the forthcoming serial

The Sheriff of Yellow Dog

which continues the exploits and adventures of Mrs. Lou Sullivan as she edits the Yellow Dog newspaper and helps solve crimes with the assistance of Doctor Patrick Ramsey and Sheriff Cheyenne "Gabe" Moore.

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Chapter Four The end The Sheriff of Yellow Dog