Stranger's No More

Sequel to The Stranger

By Michelle Denson

Chapter 1

The cold was impenetrable, the freezing misty air was sure to cause sickness in the healthiest of men. For the cold at heart though, the climate was perfect. It gave him the inspiration for his plans of revenge. Soon darkness fell over the small cell and Jed found solace in his nightmare formed dreams, or in his case, future fantasies. His cellmate Charlie seemed to spend more and more of his time on the opposite side of the cell, farther away from his friend as possible. Life with his friend had taught him it was never a good idea to be near the man when he became happy with his sadistically thoughts. A cold shiver ran down his spine when he saw the smile lift on Jed's face and he couldn't help but wonder if his days were numbered. Black circles had formed around his eyes over the past few weeks since the sentencing. He ended up with only a year but Jed would be spending many more. Tomorrow the transport that had been delayed because of the bad weather would be here to bring them to their new prison cells. After time exhaustion took it's toll and Charlie fell into a fitful sleep. His friend's smile though had continued to grow in a wicked fashion. Only time knew what was in store for each of these men. For now though sleep and peace rained over the Virginia City jail.

Life on the Ponderosa Ranch had been a bustle of activity since the sentencing, of course with the future wedding of Adam and Christy, plans for the big affair were being set in motion. Now with the ceremony only a week away family and friends were starting to come in and ready for the biggest party Nevada has ever seen. Ben couldn't be happier for his eldest son, already he had visions of the many grandchildren they would be running around the family homestead. He knew of course that they would only be visiting, Adam had spent all of his and his brother's free time building a small cottage by the lake. It always brought Ben pleasure to watch his sons work as a unit. Three boys so different, yet so much alike. Ben settled back in his red chair and continued to smoke on his pipe. To him life couldn't get much better then it does right now. He took in the sounds of his two younger boys engrossed in a battle of checkers and his eldest singing his heart out to his love. Just seven more days Ben thought and he would have a daughter in his life for the first time.

Roy Coffee sat back on the precariously balanced chair with is feet propped up on the desk. Anytime he could find a moment to relax on a Friday night he knew he should take it. It wasn't often that the rough and rowdy cowhands weren't causing trouble and he was sure to take advantage of that pleasant atmosphere. Perhaps it was everyone was just too busy and tired from the planning and prepping for the big day next week. He'd heard the buzz from the young ladies now down trodden that the stunning Adam Cartwright was officially off limits. It was a good thing Ben had two more boys otherwise he was afraid he might have a riot on his hands. Soon the three occupants could all be heard snoring softly in the dark hour, one a look of contempt, another worry and a third sinisterly happy.

Chapter 2

The abandoned streets in the early morning only intensified the sound of the squeaky wheels slowly making their way to the center of town. The driver sat beside his long gun companion, while two additional guards kept watch in the rear. The coach stopped by the jail and each occupant departed in synchronized fashion. All were professionals, they knew that their lives depended on the professionalism they kept while transporting such dangerous criminals. Everyone knew that one little mistake could result in disaster, and none of them wanted to that to happen on their trip.

"Sheriff Coffee?" the tallest of the four men called out to the dozing man behind the desk.

Roy looked up to see the gentlemen dressed in prison official uniforms. "You here for the prisoners I suppose. Charlie's pretty easy to handle, but keep an eye on that Jed I wouldn't put nothing over him."

"Yes sir, I'm Sam, my point man John, driver there is Thomas and my other escort is Jimmy. We just wanted to stop in and inform you of our arrival. We'll be back in about an hour to ready the prisoners for transport. It will be the last day for a week before we can get a decent meal and trail dust cleaned off again." Sam smiled as he reached out a hand and shook the sheriff's hand.

An hour later the small group arrived back and escorted the prisoners to the traveling cell they would call home for the next seven days. A shiver ran down Roy's back, he had a feeling it wasn't the last he would see of Jed or Charlie, he just hoped that he was wrong. The four guards didn't even notice the look of malicious joy radiate through Jed as they led him into the small wagon, but his buddy Charlie shuddered involuntarily with a sense of dreaded unease. By mid-morning the wagon was just leaving the city of Virginia City and back towards the prison.

"You realize that this wagon will take us right to the Ponderosa?" Jed smiled with glee.

"Yea, so? It's not like were going to be able to get out and go exploring it" Charlie replied in sarcasm. His only answer was a broad smile painted across Jed's face.

"Morning Roy." Ben called as his weekly visit with Roy started while Ben and Hoss got supplies for the ranch.

"Hi Ben, coffee?" Roy already had the second cup in his long time friends hand before he even finished asking.

Some routines were relaxing, so every Saturday that he could Ben came down to visit his friend over coffee and a game of checkers. Today was no different and a quiet calm came over the two as the became engrossed of beating the other.

"Prison transport came today and picked up Jed and Charlie"

"Finally on their way. Good, Adam and Christy don't need to worry about those two and can focus on their wedding next week."

The soft sounds of an apology and a quick crunch were the last sounds that Charlie heard before the world grew black and nonexistent.

"Hey I need help man, my buddy's got sumthin wrong with um." Jed smiled as he felt the wagon slow to a stop. He painted a picture of concern on his face and continued to call for help until he heard the guards approach the door. He of course had place himself in the doorway so that when it opened the guards pulled him out of the wagon and away as they climbed inside. Jed almost laughed at the sheer stupidity of the situation. All four were so worried about their already dead prisoner, none were remotely aware of him as he removed the gun from the closest man and emptied a load into his head before taking aim at the next and firing.

Sam only had a split second before his gun was out and fired at the criminal, but that split second was enough for his buddy to receive a bullet to his chest.. Sam watched as he slowly slumped to the bottom of the wagon, dead before he even started his descent. He watched as Jed smiled at him before they both fired again. Sam descended into darkness, leaving Jed smiling as he cradled his injured arm.

"Now Mr. Adam Cartwright and my dear Christy, it is your turn."

Chapter 3

"Pa I've never had so many emotions through me at one time. One moment I'm thrilled the next terrified and every emotion in between."

Ben smiled knowingly as he helped repair the tie his son just couldn't seem to get tied correctly today.

"I just don't know how you could have gone through this three times."

Again he smiled, thinking of the three beautiful women that left him his three greatest treasures. Today his eldest was going to be married.

"Adam, I'd lie if I didn't tell you I was the same as you are today for each of my weddings. Each was the most frightening and wonderful day of my life. Today is going to be one of the most exciting days of your life.

"Thanks Pa, I guess we should get out there and meet my bride."

It seemed the whole state of Nevada showed up for the special occasion. There was a collective gasp as the bride to be stood at the back of the crowd. She was a thing of beauty and everyone was mesmerized by her angelic looks. The world seemed to stand still as she slowly made her way to her future spouse. The vows were exchanged and Adam placed the band over her finger. He felt the excitement grow as the ceremony began to become finalized. Then came the terrifying words that every couple dread to have answered before they are a pronounced couple.

"If there is anyone who feels that Adam or Christy should not be joined in holy matrimony speak now or forever hold your peace."

Everyone waited to long pause, praying no one would ruin such a beautiful day. Everyone started to breathe again as the reverend continued with the ceremony.

"By the power invested in me I now pronounce you, husband and.." there was an interruption of gun fire and the reverend chuckled. "Okay okay you boys jumped the gun a bit. I now pronounce you husband and wife, you may kiss the bride."

Again hoots and hollers followed by more gun shots celebrating the joining of the lovely young couple. Adam and Christy locked together and kissed until Adam felt a sharp sting in his arm. "Adam, I.." Christy spoke quietly and amazingly calm as she slumped against her new husband. Adam barely had enough time to respond before he felt a searing pain in his head and fell into darkness beside his wife.

"Pa he's starting to come around." Ben jerked awake when his youngest shook his shoulder. It had been a long night and would prove to be even longer shortly. Ben made his way over to his son's bedside as Adam fought his way back to consciousness.

"Pa" came the soft croak from his eldest. His eyes were twin pools of confusion and pain. He searched his father's face for an explanation for the pain he felt. In sudden realization he tried to jump up but only managed a slight movement that left his vision shifting and stars shining in his world. He tried to form her name but the look on his brothers and father's face was not the reassurance that all would be okay. "Nooooo" he wailed and the salty fluid found release from his eyes. "No" he cried softer as the sobs tore through his soul.

Ben reached out and gathered his son, "I'm so sorry Adam, I'm so sorry son."