Corpus delicti - The body of a crime
"Get away from me! Go away!" Nola screamed frantically as she backed herself against the wall. Four grizzly men stood around her in a misshapen semi-circle, each with a look of cruel intent on their faces.
"And why would we do that?" the one drawled mockingly, earning a dark chuckle from his partners.
"I'll...I'll kill you!" she blurted out, though by the tone of her voice it did not appear that the statement had any sort of backing.
"Really now?" another said, taking a few steps closer. Nola's body shook. Nervously, she grabbed the fabric of her dress with balled fists.
Nola stopped thinking about the men in front of her for a moment. A dress? She hadn't worn a dress since Christmas Eve. Slowly, she lifted her hand, and upon further inspection, realized something with a shock.
That wasn't her hand.
Her hands were not as smooth as these hands, and the nails didn't have dirt underneath them as hers usually did.
Hesitantly, she pulled down a lock of her hair, and gasped.
She had blonde hair...not brown!
What on earth was going on?
Suddenly, it clicked.
Those were Ginny's hands, and Ginny's hair!
She was Ginny!
"Now, come here missy, we're gonna have us some fun."
Menacingly the four men approached, and Nola screamed.
Nola awoke with a start, looking around desperately for help.
"Nola, what's wrong?"
Johnny Ringo, who was lying across from her in her bed, held onto her gently and looked her over with concern-filled eyes.
Immediately she broke into sobs and Ringo pulled her into him, placing her head in the crook of his neck.
"Shhhh Nola, it was just a dream." He said, trying to soothe his love as she shook uncontrollably in his arms. He was alarmed himself; he'd never saw her fall apart like this.
Gently, he began to rub small circles on her back while whispering soft words of comfort into her ear. He would do anything to see her stop crying.
Within a few moments Nola had stopped, and now just lay in Johnny's arms, holding onto him as though he were her lifeline.
"What did you dream about?" He asked soothingly.
She sighed, and inhaled his sweet, calming scent.
"I...I was Ginny, like I was seeing through her eyes...and the men, they were so big, and she was all alone..."
Ringo stopped her from continuing and carefully pulled himself away from her so he could see her face. Lovingly, he pressed his lips to her forehead and then to her lips.
"I'm here, Nola. I won't let you fall."
She smiled sadly as she snuggled back into his embrace.
"I just wish I wouldn't have let Ginny fall."
For the rest of the morning Ringo and Nola laid in bed, his arms always holding her close to him. It seemed like it was going to be the perfect day for relaxing. They'd both agreed to stay just like they were for as long as the world would let them. Nola wished the world would just leave them alone for the rest of eternity.
"What was that?" Nola cried, sitting upright. Johnny followed, staring out the window in the direction the shots had been fired from.
"It sounded like it was coming from the livery." Ringo added, as he got up and began pulling on his clothes.
"What are you doing?" she asked, nervous at the prospect of her love going out there during a gunfight, even though she knew he risked the chance on a daily basis.
"What if that was Curly Bill, or one of the other Cowboys? Gotta check it out."
Nola nodded and rose to begin pulling on her clothes.
"Thanks, world." She muttered
The gunshots had, indeed, come from the O.K. Corral, as presumed by Ringo. He was also correct in assuming that Cowboys had been involved.
When the couple arrived at the scene, only a handful of people where there. Shouts of "Doctor!"' where called out simultaneously as the women began pulling their children away from the gruesome sight.
Nola and Ringo pushed through the mob of stunned onlookers to the reason for all the gasps and cries.
"No…." Nola whispered.
Lying in the dirt, a look of pure anguish across his face was Billy Clanton. A few men, who were currently trying to lift his broken body, surrounded him.
"Give me more damn cartridges, all I need are more cartridges...and...and…I'll get those pimps!" He choked out, reaching a hand towards the man on his right.
"Billy!" She finally cried after snapping out of her moment of shock. She rushed to his side, skidding in the dirt.
"N-Nola, give me a bullet!" he said as soon as he saw her. She bit her bottom lip and desperately tried to will her tears away.
"Honey, you don't need to worry about that right now..."
"I need to kill those d-damn pimps who killed my f-friends!" He howled, gripping onto his bleeding wounds desperately.
"Shhhh, just calm down, it's going to be okay..." She whispered, her tears distorting her voice. What had they done to him?
Ringo knelt beside her, placing a hand on Clanton's shoulder.
"Cool it Billy, you'll make it worse." He tried to reason, only to receive another howl of pain and more begging for cartridges and curses on the Earps. Nola noticed that each time he spoke his rapid panting increased.
"Quickly, bring him into Fly's."
Dr. Goodfellow had arrived on the scene, carrying his medical bag and looking slightly flustered. Who could honestly blame him?
Gently, the men, including Ringo, lifted the badly wounded youth and carefully carried him into Fly's Photography Studio, where he was placed on one of Mr. Fly's lounges usually used for his photographs.
Nola stayed by his side, tears falling as she watched one of the very first Cowboys she'd ever met slowly begin to loose the battle raging inside him.
Dr. Goodfellow, after doing an examination of his badly bleeding patient, gave a grim shake of his head and reached toward his bag.
"All I can do is try and make him comfortable..." He practically whispered as he began filling a syringe with what Nola guessed was some kind of sedative.
It only took a few minutes after the medicine was delivered for Billy Clanton to breathe his last breath. Nola made a slight choking noise and bit dangerously on her knuckles. Ringo cleared his throat and gently gripped onto the hand that was currently not in Nola's mouth.
"He's gone." The good doctor concluded, as he replaced his stethoscope in his bag.
"He's not the only one; they got the McLaury brothers, too." One of the men growled.
Nola gasped. Frank and Tom were dead, too?!
By the next morning, the Tombstone Epitaph was filled with information on the street battle. As soon as Nola read the headline; "Three Men Hurled into Eternity", she threw the paper down and let the bitter tears slide down her cheeks.
Ringo walked up to her from behind and pulled her back into his chest, gently resting his chin on her head.
"Don't worry, Nola, we'll make them pay." He whispered, tightening his arms around her.
"Damn right we will." She hissed, before turning around and burying her head into Johnny's shoulder.
Fireworks blazed in the sky has the three elaborate caskets containing the bodies of the recently murdered made their slow procession down the street. Onlookers, clad in black, watched with long faces as one by one the final beds of the dearly departed made their somber parade towards the cemetery. Behind them was every one of the Cowboys; all dressed their best, their red sashes fluttering in the slight breeze of the evening.
Nola and Ringo, both adorning the mourning colors, walked broken-heartedly behind their friends. Nola clutched a bouquet of simple flowers in one hand while Ringo clasped the other.
Upon arriving at 'Boot Hill', Ringo left Nola's side to assist in the unloading of the caskets from the hearses and into the freshly dug graves. She watched as a very shaken Ike Clanton lifted his brother Billy onto his shoulder. For once, she thought with a grimace, she could relate to him.
The funeral was short and sweet, the cemetery crowded with the wild band of rogues and the townspeople who came more for the excitement than to mourn. During the reading of the Bible, one of the local whores let out a heart-wrenching sob. Nola sent her a look that could have sent her tumbling into the grave.
As the preacher closed the Book and stepped back, all the men gathered around their past friends and gently lowered them into the ground. Ringo let out a deep sigh as he felt Billy's casket touch bottom. Poor kid didn't deserve to end like this, he thought.
Shovels were passed about and dirt immediately began littering the once beautiful tops of the caskets. Nola, forgetting her rightful position as a mourning woman in the back, stepped up and retrieved a shovel. Ringo sent her a sad smile as she too helped bury the friends they had shared.
"Frank was one hell of a singer." she whispered as she tossed another shovel-full of dirt in the hole, pushing her black skirts out of the way. Ringo nodded, gently tugging the end of her dress out of the dirt. "He really was."
After the last shovels of dirt had been deposited and the last tears shed, all the Cowboys wandered off to try and dull the recent pain of the loss with hard liquor. Ringo and Nola were about to do the same when Nola, turning to send one last goodbye, noticed a crestfallen Ike knelt in the dirt by his brother's grave.
Ringo looked back to see what had stopped his girlfriend, to find that she was staring at Ike. "What's wrong?" he asked.
Nola pulled her eyes away from the heart-breaking sight and turned to Johnny. "I'll be right behind you...I think he needs to talk to someone." she whispered. He nodded and after a gentle kiss, departed, sending glances back to her as she took cautious steps towards Clanton.
Nola grasped the front of her dress nervously as she walked towards Ike. Sure, they had never gotten along, but she couldn't just leave him like these, especially when she could possibly offer some comfort.
"Hey, Ike." she greeted gently.
Not even bothering to spare her a glance, he growled. "Go away, Nola."
Not heeding the dangerous sound in his voice, Nola carefully lowered herself onto the dirt beside him. He sent her a quick look before focusing fully on Billy again.
"Ike...I know it hurts. It hurts so bad inside...you just don't know what to do. You don't want comfort but in a way all you want is for someone to be there. You want to go back and change things; you want to switch places with him. I know Ike, I really do. I lost my sister pretty much the same way you lost Billy..." she whispered, swallowing hard. Tears fought to leak from her eyes as she finally looked up towards him.
Ike hadn't bothered to look her way, but she could tell by the look on his face that he'd heard every word she said.
"It should be me in that grave." he whispered hoarsely. Gently, Nola placed a hand on his forearm.
"I should have stayed...damn it, I shouldn't have even let him anywhere near here! I should have sent him home, should have had one of the boys take him away. He was so young, he hadn't even gotten a chance to live!" he cried, the tears that had glistened in his eyes the whole service finally falling down his wind-beaten cheeks. Nola tightened her grip on his arm, forcing him to look at her.
"Billy was loyal, Ike. He knew there was going to be trouble, and he would never have let you lead him away from a situation where he could possibly help you. He loved you, just like you loved him."
He nodded slowly and placed his hand on the dirt over the grave, his bitter tears sliding into the dry ground.
"But I should have been there..." he whispered, his shoulders shaking, "...I wasn't even there to say goodbye."
"I don't think he would have liked that, he was in no spirit to give up." Nola said with a slight smile. "He was a fighter."
"And a whole helluva lot braver than I am." Ike choked out. Nola, seeing he was about to break, leaned over and hugged him. Surprisingly, he hugged her back with much gusto, placing his tear-stained face in her hair, as though to hide his shame from the world.
"It's okay, Ike. It's okay..."
The next day, as though to honor the past days happenings, was gray and overcast, with a kind of slump hanging over the whole town. Nothing seemed...right. Everything seemed off.
Nola had elected to stay home and do some silent thinking while Ringo had wandered to the Crystal Palace with Curly Bill. She just wasn't sure if she really could stand hearing them talk about the murders anymore. It was beginning to wear on her.
Most of the day she sat at her window, looking out over the bleak town. The only people who seemed cheerful where the ones who sided with the Earp boys. Nola sneered. Those wretched pimps...who were they to think that they where the law of Tombstone, the good-doers and the righteous? She snorted as she rose from her seat.
Suddenly, a loud knock resounded off of her door and she trotted to answer it, her right hand instinctively resting on the butt of her gun. She slowly opened the door and peeked out. What she saw made her gasp.
There in front of her was Curly Bill and Barnes, holding up a bleeding and passed-out Johnny Ringo.
"Oh my God! What happened?!" Nola cried, rushing to Ringo and touching his face. The blood, she saw, was caused by a gash in his forehead. Quickly, she ushered them in before they could respond to her earlier question and helped them place him on the bed.
Curly Bill took off his hat before replying. "Johnny got a little kicked in the ass and decided to go try and coax the Earp boys and Doc Holliday into a fight. We stopped him before he could do any damage, but he put up a hell of a fight and knocked himself into a building."
"He knocked over some caskets, too." Barnes added.
Nola breathed in deeply before grabbing a bowl of water and an old towel and began cleaning off her love's face.
"We'll leave ya to your biddin'…call if you need any help with him."
She nodded and didn't even see them out, for all she could think about was Ringo; who was on the bed in front of her, looking so weak and helpless.
She cleaned and dressed the wound, relieved that it wasn't all that deep. Gently, she removed his jacket and effects and settled him in to the bed so as he could sleep off his drunken state.
Two hours later Johnny finally stirred, gripping his head and moaning. Nola was right at his side, gently brushing the hair from his eyes.
"It's okay, Johnny, I'm right here." she said reassuringly. He opened his eyes and stared up at her, looking slightly guilty and saddened. She smiled at him gently, hoping the act would ease his conscience and lovingly stroked his cheek with her hand.
"I just couldn't let them win like that." he stated after a few moments of silence. Nola nodded and lay down beside him, curling up against his side.
"I know I don't blame you one bit. But I think I have a better idea..." she trailed off, snuggling deeper into the covers.
"What idea do you have?" Ringo asked, now very interested in her plan.
Nola smirked slightly before closing her eyes.
"How about when you feel better we'll have Ike and Curly Bill over, so I won't have to keep repeating myself?"
"M'kay." Ringo mumbled, before letting the darkness of sleep slip over him again.
Nola sighed to herself, running her plan over to herself in her head.
It was time to fight fire with fire.
We're getting to the end!
Thank you, Betherz!
Please review, I love reading what you guys have to say and I really appreciate it!